Charles James Lever.

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

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an assurance that we are willing to surrender peaceable possession will,
I trust, be sufficient to prevent the indecency of a rapid flight from
our own house and home."

"There are legal forms of possession to be gone through, I believe,"
said the Knight, sorrowfully; "certain observances the law exacts, which
would be no less painful for us to witness than the actual presence of
our successors."

"Who can this be? I saw a carriage disappear behind the copse yonder.
There it is again, coming along by the lake."

"Daly - Bagenal Daly, I hope and trust!" exclaimed Darcy, as he stood
straining his eyes to catch the moving object.

"I think not; the horses do not look like posters. Heaven grant we have
no visitors at such a time as this!"

The carriage, although clearly visible the moment before, was now
concealed from view by an angle of the wood, nor would it again be in
sight before reaching the abbey.

"Your mother's indisposition is reason sufficient not to receive them,"
said Darcy, almost sternly. "I would not continue the part I have played
during the last week, no, not for an hour longer, to be assured of
rescue from every difficulty. The duplicity went nigh to break my heart;
ay, and it would have done so, or driven me mad, had the effort been
sustained any further."

"You did not expect any one, did you?" asked Lionel, eagerly.

"Not one; there's a mass of letters, with invitations and civil
messages, there on the table, but no proffered visits among them."

Lionel walked to the table and turned over the various notes which lay
along with newspapers and pamphlets scattered about.

"Ay," muttered the Knight, in a low tone, "they read strangely now,
these plans of pleasure and festivity, when ruin is so near us; the kind
pressings to spend a week here, and a fortnight there. It reminds me,
Lionel," - and here a smile of sad but sweet melancholy passed across his
features, - "it reminds me of the old story they tell of my grand-uncle
Robert. He commanded the 'Dreadnought,' under Drake, at Cape St.
Vincent, and at the close of a very sharp action was signalled to come
on board the admiral's vessel to dinner. The poor 'Dreadnought' was like
a sieve, the sea running in and out through her shot-holes, and her
sails hanging like rags around her, her deck covered with wounded, and
slippery with gore. Captain Darcy, however, hastened to obey the command
of his superior, changed his dress and ordered his boat to be manned;
but this was no easy matter, there was scarcely a boat's crew to be had
without taking away the men necessary to work the ship. The difficulty
soon became more pressing, for a plank had suddenly sprung from a
double-headed shot, and all the efforts of the pumps could not keep the
vessel afloat, with a heavy sea rolling at the same time.

"'The admiral's signal is repeated, sir,' said the lieutenant on duty.

"'Very well, Mr. Hay; keep her before the wind,' was the answer.

"'The ship is settling fast, sir,' said the master; 'no boat could live
in that sea; they 're all damaged by shot.'

"'Signal the flag-ship,' cried out Darcy; 'signal the admiral that I am
ready to obey him, but we 're sinking.'

"The bunting floated at the mast-head for a moment or two, but the waves
were soon many fathoms over it, and the 'Dreadnought' was never seen
more."

"So it would seem," said Lionel, with a half-bitter laugh, "we are not
the first of the family who went down head foremost. But I hear a voice
without. Surely old Tate is not fool enough to admit any one."

"Is it possible - " But before the Knight could finish, the old butler
entered to announce Mr. Hickman O'Reilly. Advancing towards the Knight
with a most cordial air, he seemed bent on anticipating any possible
expression of displeasure at his unexpected appearance.

"I am aware, Knight," said he, in an accent the most soft and
conciliating, "how indelicate a visit from me at such a moment may
seem; but if you accord me a few moments of private interview, I hope to
dispel the unpleasant impression." He looked towards Lionel as he spoke,
and though he smiled his blandest of all smiles, evidently hinted at the
possibility of his leaving them alone together.

"I have no confidences apart from my son, sir," said Darcy, coldly.

"Oh, of course not - perfectly natural at Captain Darcy's age - such a
thought would be absurd; still, there are circumstances which might
possibly excuse my request - I mean - "

Lionel did not suffer him to finish the sentence, but, turning abruptly
round, left the room, saying as he went, "I have some orders to give in
the stable, but I'll not go further away if you want me."

"Now, sir," said the Knight, haughtily, "we are alone, and not likely to
be interrupted; may I ask, as a great favor, that in any communication
you may have to make, you will be as brief as consists with your object;
for, to say truth, I have many things on my mind, and many important
calls to attend to."

"In the first place, then," said Hickman, assuming a manner intended to
convey the impression of perfect frankness and candor, "let me make
a confession, which, however humiliating to avow, would be still
more injurious to hold in reserve. I have neither act nor part in the
proceedings my father has lately taken respecting your mutual dealings.
Not only that he has not consulted me, but every attempt on my part to
ascertain the course of events, or mitigate their rigor, has been met
by a direct, not unfrequently a rude, repulse." He waited at this
pause for the Knight to speak, but a cold and dignified bow was all the
acknowledgment returned. "This may appear strange and inexplicable in
your eyes," said O'Reilly, who mistook the Knight's indifference for
incredulity, "but perhaps I can explain."

"There is not the slightest necessity to do so, Mr. O'Reilly; I have no
reason to doubt one word you have stated; for not only am I ignorant of
what the nature and extent of the proceedings you allude to may be, but
I am equally indifferent as to the spirit that dictates or the number of
advisers that suggest them; pardon me if I seem rude or uncourteous, but
there are circumstances in life in which not to be selfish would be
to become insensible; my present condition is, perhaps, one of them. A
breach of trust on the part of one who possessed my fullest confidence
has involved all, or nearly all, I had in the world. The steps by which
I am to be deprived of what was once my own are, as regards myself,
matters of comparative indifference; with respect to others" - here he
almost faltered - "I hope they may be dictated by proper feeling and
consideration."

"Be assured they shall, sir," said Mr. O'Reilly; and then, as if
correcting a too hasty avowal, added, "but I have the strongest hopes
that the matters are not yet in such an extremity as you speak of. It is
true, sir, I will not conceal from you, my father is not free from the
faults of age; his passion for money-getting has absorbed his whole
heart, to the exclusion of many amiable and estimable traits; to enforce
a legal right with him seems a duty, and not an option; and I may
mention here that your friend, Mr. Daly, has not taken any particular
pains towards conciliating him; indeed, he has scarcely acted a prudent
part as regards you, by the unceasing rancor he has exhibited towards
our family."

"I must interrupt you, sir," said the Knight, "and assure you that,
while there are unfortunately but too many topics which could pain me
at this moment, there is not one more certain to offend me than any
reflection, even the slightest, on the oldest friend I have in the
world."

Mr. O'Reilly denied the most remote intention of giving pain, and
proceeded. "I was speaking of my father," said he, "and however
unpleasant the confession from a son's lips, I must say that the
legality of his acts is the extent to which they claim his observance.
When his solicitors informed him that the interest was unpaid on your
bond, he directed the steps to enforce the payment, and subsequently to
foreclose the deed. These are, after all, mere preliminary proceedings,
and in no way preclude an arrangement for a renewal."

"Such a proposition - let me interrupt you - such a proposition is wholly
out of the question; the ruin that has cost us our house and home has
spared nothing. I have no means by which I could anticipate the payment
of so large a sum, nor is it either my intention or my wish to reside
longer beneath this roof."

"I hope, sir, your determination is not unalterable; it would be the
greatest affliction of my life to think that the loss to this county of
its oldest family was even in the remotest degree ascribed to us. The
Darcys have been the boast and pride of western Ireland for centuries;
our county would be robbed of its fairest ornament by the departure of
those who hold a princely state and derive a more than princely devotion
among us."

"If our claims had no other foundation, Mr. O'Reilly, our altered
circumstances would now obliterate them. To live here with diminished
fortune - But I ask pardon for being led away in this manner; may I beg
that you will now inform me to what peculiar circumstances I owe the
honor of your visit?"

"I thought," said O'Reilly, insinuatingly, "that I had mentioned the
difference of feeling entertained by my father and myself respecting
certain proceedings at law."

"You are quite correct, you did so; but I may observe, without
incivility, that however complimentary to your own sense of delicacy
such a difference is, for me the matter has no immediate interest."

"Perhaps, with your kind permission, I can give it some," replied
O'Reilly, drawing his chair close, and speaking in a low and
confidential voice; "but in order to let my communication have the value
I would wish it, may I bespeak for myself a favorable hearing and a kind
construction on what I shall say? If by an error of judgment - "

"Ah!" said Darcy, sighing, while a sad smile dimpled his mouth - "ah! no
man should be more lenient to such than myself."

As if reassured by the kindly tone of these few words, O'Reilly
resumed: -

"Some weeks ago my father waited upon Lady Eleanor Darcy with a
proposition which, whether on its own merits, or from want of proper
tact in his advocacy of it, met with a most unfavorable reception. It is
not because circumstances have greatly altered in that brief
interval - which I deeply regret to say is the case - that I dare to augur
a more propitious hearing, but simply because I hope to show that in
making it we were actuated by a spirit of honorable, if not of laudable,
ambition. The rank and position my son will enjoy in this county, his
fortune and estate, are such as to make any alliance, save with your
family, a question of no possible pretension. I am well aware, sir, of
the great disparity between a new house and one ennobled by centuries of
descent. I have thought long and deeply on the interval that separates
the rank of the mere country gentleman from the position of him who
claims even higher station than nobility itself; but we live in
changeful times: the Peerage has its daily accessions of rank as humble
as my own; its new creations are the conscripts drawn from wealth as
well as distinction in arms or learning, and in every case the new
generation obliterates the memory of its immediate origin. I see you
agree with me; I rejoice to find it."

"Your observations are quite just," said Darcy, calmly, and O'Reilly
went on: -

"Now, sir, I would not only reiterate my father's proposal, but I would
add to it what I hope and trust will be deemed no ungenerous offer,
which is, that the young lady's fortune should be this estate of Gwynne
Abbey, not to be endowed by her future husband, but settled on her by
her father as her marriage portion. I see your meaning, - it is no longer
his to give: but we are ready to make it so; the bond we hold shall be
thrown into the fire the moment your consent is uttered. We prefer a
thousand times it should be thus, than that the ancient acres of this
noble heritage should even for a moment cease to be the property of your
house. Let me recapitulate a little - "

"I think that is unnecessary," said Darcy, calmly; "I have bestowed
the most patient attention to your remarks, and have no difficulty in
comprehending them. Have you anything to add?"

"Nothing of much consequence," said O'Reilly, not a little pleased by
the favorable tone of the Knight's manner; "what I should suggest in
addition is that my son should assume the name and arms of Darcy - "

The noise of footsteps and voices without at this moment interrupted
the speaker, the door suddenly opened, and Bagenal Daly entered. He
was splashed from head to foot, his high riding-boots stained with
the saddle and the road, and his appearance vouching for a long and
wearisome journey.

"Good morrow, Darcy," said he, grasping the Knight's hand with the grip
of his iron fingers. - "Your servant, sir; I scarcely expected to see you
here _so soon_."

The emphasis with which he spoke the last words brought the color to
O'Reilly's cheek, who seemed very miserable at the interruption.

"You came to take possession," continued Daly, fixing his eyes on him
with a steadfast stare.

"You mistake, Bagenal," said the Knight, gently; "Mr. O'Reilly is come
with a very different object, - one which I trust he will deem it no
breach of confidence or propriety in me if I mention it to you."

"I regret to say, sir," said O'Reilly, hastily, "that I cannot give my
permission in this instance. Whatever the fate of the proposal I
have made to you, I beg it to be understood as made under the seal of
honorable secrecy."

Darcy bowed deeply, but made no reply.

"Confound me," cried Daly, "if I understand any compact between two such
men as you to require all this privacy, unless you were hardy enough to
renew your old father's proposal for my friend's daughter, and now had
modesty enough to feel ashamed of your own impudence."

"I am no stranger, sir, to the indecent liberties you permit your tongue
to take," said Hickman, moving towards the door; "but this is neither
the time nor place to notice them."

"So then I was right," cried Daly; "I guessed well the game you would
play - "

"Bagenal," interposed the Knight, "I must atop this. Mr. Hickman is now
beneath my roof - "

"Is he, faith? - not in his own estimation then. Why, his fellows are
taking an inventory of the furniture at this very moment."

"Is this true, sir?" said Darcy, turning a fierce look towards O'Reilly,
whose face became suddenly of an ashy paleness.

"If so," muttered he, "I can only assure you that it is without any
orders of mine."

"How good!" said Daly, bursting into an insolent laugh; "why, Darcy,
when you meet with a fellow in your plantations with a gun in his hand
and a lurcher at his heels, are you disposed to regard him as one in
search of the picturesque, or a poacher? So, when a gentleman travels
about the country with a sub-sheriff in his carriage and two bailiffs in
the rumble, does it seem exactly the guise of one paying morning calls
to his neighbors?"

"Mr. O'Reilly, I ask you to explain this proceeding."

"I confess, sir," stammered out the other, "I came accompanied by
certain persons in authority, but who have acted in this matter entirely
without my permission. The proposal I have made this day was the cause
of my visit."

"It is a subject on which I can no longer hold any secrecy," said the
Knight, haughtily. "Bagenal, you were quite correct in your surmise. Mr.
O'Reilly not only intended us the honor of an alliance, but offered to
merge the ancient glories of his house by assuming the more humble name
and shield of Darcy."

"What! eh! did I hear aright?" said Daly, with a broken voice; while,
walking to the window, he looked down into the lawn beneath, as if
calculating the height from the ground. "By Heaven, Darcy, you 're the
best-tempered fellow in Europe - that 's all," he muttered, as he walked
away.

The door opened at this moment, and the shock bullet head of a bailiff
appeared.

"That's Mr. Daly! there he is!" cried out O'Reilly, who, pale with
passion and trembling all over, supported himself against the back of
a chair with one hand, while with the other he pointed to where Daly
stood.

"In that case," said the fellow, entering, while he drew a slip of paper
from his breast, "I 'll take the opportunity of sarvin' him where he
stands."

"One step nearer! one step!" said Daly, as he took a pistol from the
pocket of his coat.

The man hesitated and looked at O'Reilly, as if for advice or
encouragement; but terror and rage had now deprived him of all
self-possession, and he neither spoke nor signed to him.

"Leave the room, sir," said the Knight, with a motion of his hand to the
bailiff; and the ruffian, whose office had familiarized him long with
scenes of outrage and violence, shrank back ashamed and abashed, and
slipped from the room without a word.

"I believe, Mr. O'Reilly," continued Darcy, with an accent calm and
unmoved, - "I believe our conference is now concluded. I will not insult
your own acuteness by saying how unnecessary I feel any reply to your
demand."

"In that case," said O'Reilly, "may I presume that there is no objection
to proceed with those legal formalities which, although begun without my
knowledge, may be effected now as well as at any other period?"

"Darcy, there is but one way of dealing with that gentleman - "

"Bagenal, I must insist upon your leaving this matter solely with me."

"Depend upon it, sir, your interests will not gain by your friend's
counsels," said O'Reilly, with an insolent sneer.

"Such another remark from your lips," said Darcy, sternly, "would make
me follow them, if they went so far as - "

"Throwing him neck and heels out of that window," broke in Daly; "for I
own to you it's the course I 'd have taken half an hour ago."

"I wish you good morning, Mr. Darcy," said O'Reilly, addressing him
for the first time by the name of his family instead of his usual
designation; and without vouchsafing a word to Daly, he retired from the
room.

It was not until O'Reilly's carriage drove past the window that either
Darcy or his friend uttered a syllable; they stood apparently lost in
thought up to that moment, when the noise of wheels and the tramp of
horses aroused them.

"We must lose no time, Bagenal," said the Knight, hastily; "I cannot
count very far on that gentleman's delicacy or forbearance. Lady Eleanor
must not be exposed to the indignities the law will permit him to
practise towards us; we must, if possible, leave this to-night;" and
so saying, he left the room to make arrangements in accordance with his
resolve.

Bagenal Daly looked after him for a moment. "Poor fellow!" muttered he,
"how manfully he bears it!" When a sudden flush that covered his cheek
bespoke a rapid change of sentiment, and at the same instant he left the
room, and, crossing the hall and the courtyard, walked hastily towards
the stables.

"Saddle a horse for me, Carney, and as fast as may be."

"Here's a mare ready this minute, sir; she was going out to take her
gallop."

"I'll give it, then," said Daly, as he buttoned up his coat; and then,
breaking off a branch of the old willow that hung over the fountain,
sprang in the saddle with an alertness that would not have disgraced a
youth of twenty.

"There he goes," muttered the old huntsman, as he looked after him, "and
there is n't the man between this and Killy-begs can take as much out
of a baste as himself. 'T is quiet enough the mare will be when he turns
her head into this yard again."

Whatever Daly's purpose, it seemed one which brooked little delay, for
no sooner was he on the sward than he pushed the mare to a fast gallop,
and was seen sweeping along the lawn at a tremendous pace. In less than
ten minutes he saw O'Reilly's carriage, as, in a rapid trot, the horses
advanced along the level avenue, and almost the moment after, he
had stationed himself in the road, so as to prevent their proceeding
further. The coachman, who knew him well, came to a stop at his signal,
and before his master could ask the reason, Daly was beside the window
of the chariot.

"I would wish a word with you, Mr. O'Reilly," said he, in a low, subdued
voice, so as to be inaudible to the sub-sheriff, who was seated beside
him. "You made use of an expression a few moments ago, which, if I
understood aright, convinces me I have unwittingly done you great
injustice."

O'Reilly, whose ashy cheek and affrighted air bespoke a heart but ill at
ease, made no reply, and Daly went on, -

"You said, sir, that neither the time nor the place suited the notice
you felt called upon to take of my remarks on your conduct. May I ask,
as a very great favor, what time and what place will be more convenient
to you? And I cannot better express my own sense of regret for a hasty
expression than by assuring you that I shall hold myself bound to be at
your service in both respects."

"A hostile meeting, sir, is that your proposition?" said O'Reilly,
aloud.

"How admirably you read a riddle!" said Daly, laughing.

"There, Mr. Jones!" cried O'Reilly, turning to his companion, "I call
on you to witness the words, - a provocation to a duel offered by this
gentleman."

"Not at all," rejoined Daly; "the provocation came from yourself, - at
least, you used a phrase which men with blood in their veins understand
but one way. My error - and I 'll not forgive myself in haste for it - was
the belief that an upstart need not of necessity be a poltroon. - Drive
on," cried he to the coachman, with a sneering laugh; "your master is
looking pale." And, with these words, he turned his horse's head, and
cantered slowly back towards the abbey.




CHAPTER XXXIII. TATE SULLIVAN'S FAREWELL

The sorrows and sufferings of noble minds are melancholy themes to dwell
upon; they may "point a moral," but they scarcely "adorn a tale," least
of all such a tale as ours is intended to be. While, therefore, we would
spare our readers and ourselves the pain of this narration, we cannot
leave that old abbey, which we remember so full of happiness, without
one parting look at it, in company with those about to quit it forever.

From the time of Mr. O'Reilly's leave-taking, the day, notwithstanding
its gloomy presage, went over rapidly. The Knight busied himself
with internal arrangements, while Lionel took into his charge all the
preparations for their departure on the morrow, Bagenal Daly
assisting each in turn, and displaying an amount of calm foresight and
circumspection in details which few would have given him credit for.
Meanwhile, Lady Eleanor slept long and heavily, and awoke, not
only refreshed in body, but with an appearance of quiet energy and
determination she had not shown for years past. Great indeed was the
Knight's astonishment on hearing that she intended joining them at
dinner; in her usual habit she dined early, and with Helen alone for her
companion, so that her present resolve created the more surprise.

Dinner was ordered in the library, and poor old Tate, by some strange
motive of sympathy, took a more than common pains in all the decorations
of the table. The flowers which Lady Eleanor was fondest of decked the
centre - alas, there was no need to husband them now! on the morrow who
was to care for them? - a little bouquet of fresh violets marked her
place at the table, and more than a dozen times did the old man hesitate
how the light should fall through the large window, and whether it
would be more soothing to his mistress to look abroad upon that fair
and swelling landscape so dear to her, or more painful to gaze upon the
scenes she should never see more.

"If it was myself," muttered old Tate, "I'd like to be looking at it
as long as I could, and make it follow me in my dhrames after; but sure
there 's no knowing how great people feels! they say they never has the
same kind of thought as us!"

Poor fellow, he little knew how levelling is misfortune, and that the
calamities of life evoke the same sufferings in the breast of the king
and the peasant. With a delicacy one more highly born might have been
proud of, the old butler alone waited at dinner, well judging that his
familiar face would be less irksome to them than the prying looks of the
other servants.

If there are people who can expend much eloquent indignation on those
social usages which exact a certain amount of decorous observance in
all the trials and crosses of life, there is a great deal to be said



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Knight Of Gwynne, Vol. I (of II) → online text (page 29 of 34)