Charles James Lever.

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

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conversant with that period, to look back to the newspapers of the time,
and see the amount of violence and personality with which every man
obnoxious to a party was visited; coarse invective stood in the place
of argument, a species of low humor had replaced the light brilliancy
of wit. The public mind, fed on grosser materials, had lost all appetite
for the piquancy of more highly flavored food, and the purveyors were
not sorry to find a market for a commodity which cost them so little
to procure. In this spirit was it that one of the most popular of the
Opposition journals announced for the amusement of its readers a series
of sketches under the title of "The Gallery of Traitors," - a supposed
collection of portraits to be painted for the Viceroy, and destined to
decorate one of the chambers of the Castle.

Not satisfied with aspersing the reputation, and mistaking the views of
any who sided with the Minister, the attack went further, and actually
ascribed the casualties which occurred to such persons or their families
as instances of divine vengeance. In this diabolical temper the Knight
of Gwynne was held up to reprobation; it was a bold thought to venture
on calumniating a man every action of whose life had placed him above
even slander, but its boldness was the warranty of success. The whole
story of his arrival in Dublin, his dinner with the Secretary, his
intimacy with Heffernan, was related circumstantially. The night on
which Heffernan entrapped him by the trick already mentioned, was quoted
as the eventful moment of his change. Then came the history of his
appearance in the House on the evening of the second reading: his
hesitation to enter, his doubts and waverings were all described, ending
with a minute detail of his compact with Lord Castlereagh, by which
his voting was dispensed with, and his absence from the division deemed
enough.

Gleeson's flight and its consequences were soon known. The ruin of
Darcy's large fortune was a circumstance not likely to lose by public
discussion, particularly when the daily columns of a newspaper devoted
a considerable space to the most minute details of that catastrophe. It
was asserted that the Knight had sold himself for a Marqui-sate and a
seat in the English peerage; that his vote was deemed so great a prize
by the Minister that he might have made even higher terms, but in the
confidence of possessing a large fortune he had only bargained for rank,
and rejected every offer of mere emolument; and now came the dreadful
retribution on his treachery, the downfall of his fortune by the villany
of his agent. To assume a title when the very expense of the patent
could not be borne, was an absurdity, and this explained why Maurice
Darcy remained ungazetted. Such was the plausible calumny generally
circulated, and, alas for the sake of charity! scarcely less generally
believed.

There are epidemics of credulity as of infidelity, and such a plague
raged at this period. Anything was believed, were it only bad enough.
While men, therefore, went about deploring, with all the sanctity of
self-esteem, the fall of Maurice Darcy, public favor, by one of those
caprices all its own, adopted the cause of his colleague, Hickman
O'Reilly. His noble refusal of every offer (and what a catalogue of
seductions did they not enumerate!) was given in the largest type.
They recounted, with all the eloquence of their calling, the glittering
coronets rejected, the places of honor and profit declined, the
dignities proffered in vain, preferring as he did the untitled rank of
a country gentleman, and the unpurchasable station of a true friend to
Ireland.

He was eulogized in capital letters, and canonized among the martyrs
of patriotism; public orators belabored him with praises, and
ballad-singers chanted his virtues through the streets. Nor was this
turn of feeling a thing to be neglected by one so shrewd in worldly
matters. His sudden accession to increased fortune and the position
attendant on it, would, he well knew, draw down upon him many a sneer
upon his origin, and some unpleasant allusions to the means by which the
wealth was amassed. To anticipate such an ungrateful inquiry, he seized
the lucky accident of his popularity, and turned it to the best account.

Whole "leaders" were devoted to the laudation of his character: the
provincial journals, less scrupulous than the metropolitan, boldly
asserted their knowledge of the various bribes tendered to him, and
threw out dark hints of certain disclosures which, although at
present refrained from out of motives of delicacy, should Mr. O'Reilly
ultimately be persuaded to make, the public would be horrified at the
extent to which corruption had been carried.

The O'Reilly liveries, hitherto a modest snuff color, were now changed
to an emerald green; an Irish motto ornamented the garter of the family
crest; while the very first act of his return to the West was a splendid
donation to the chapel of Ballyraggan, or, as it was subsequently and
more politely named, the Church of St. Barnabas of Treves: all measures
dictated by a high-spirited independence, and a mind above the vulgar
bigotry of party.

Had O'Reilly stopped here; had he contented himself with the preliminary
arrangements for being a patriot, it is probable that Bagenal Daly had
never noticed them, or done so merely with some passing sarcasm; but
the fact was otherwise. Daly discovered, in the course of his journey
westward, that the rumors of the Knight's betrayal of his party were
generally disseminated in exact proportion with the new-born popularity
of O'Reilly; that the very town of Westport, where Darcy's name was once
adored, was actually placarded with insulting notices of the Knight's
conduct, and scandalous aspersions on his character: jeering allusions
to his altered fortunes were sung in the villages as he passed along,
and it was plain that the whole current of popular opinion had set
strong against him.

To spare his friend Darcy a mortification which Daly well knew would be
one of the greatest to his feelings, the early departure was planned and
decided on. It must not be inferred that because the Knight would have
felt deeply the unjust censure of the masses, he was a man to care or
bend beneath the angry menace of a mob; far from it. The ingratitude
towards himself would have called forth the least of his regrets; it was
rather a heartfelt sorrow at the hopeless ignorance and degradation
of those who could be so easily deceived, - at that populace whose
fickleness preferred the tinsel and trappings of patriotism to the acts
and opinions of one they had known and respected for years.

Long before day broke, Daly was stirring and busied with all the
preparations of the journey; the travelling carriage, covered with its
various boxes and imperials, stood before the door in the courtyard;
the horses were harnessed and bridled in the stables; everything was
in readiness for a start; and yet, save himself and the stablemen, all
within the abbey seemed buried in slumber.

Although it was scarcely more than five o'clock, Daly's impatience at
the continued quietude around him began to manifest itself; he walked
hastily to and fro, endeavoring to occupy his thoughts by a hundred
little details, till at last he found himself returning to the same
places and with the self-same objects again and again, while he muttered
broken sentences of angry comments on people who could sleep so soundly
at such a time.

It was in one of those fretful moods he had approached the little
flower-garden of the sub-prior's house, when the twinkling of a light
attracted him: it came from the window of Lady Eleanor's favorite
drawing-room, and glittered like a star in the gloom of the morning.
Curious to see who was stirring in that part of the house, he drew near,
and, opening the wicket, noiselessly approached the window. He there
beheld Lady Eleanor, who, supported by Helen's arm, moved slowly along
the room, stopping at intervals, and again proceeding; she seemed to be
taking a last farewell of the various well-known objects endeared to her
by years of companionship; her handkerchief was often raised to her eyes
as she went, but neither uttered a syllable. Ashamed to have obtruded
even thus upon a scene of private sorrow, Daly turned back again to the
courtyard, where now the loud voice of the Knight was heard giving his
orders to the servants.

The first greetings over, the Knight took Daly's arm and walked beside
him.

"I have been thinking over the matter in the night, Bagenal," said he,
"and am convinced it were far better that you should remain with
Lionel; we can easily make our journey alone, - the road is open, and
no difficulty in following it; but that poor boy will need advice and
counsel. You will probably receive letters from Dublin by the post, with
some instructions how to act; in any case my heart fails me at leaving
Lionel to himself."

"I 'll remain, then," replied Daly; "I'll see you the first stage out of
Westport, and then return here. It is, perhaps, better as you say."

"There is another point," said Darcy, after a pause, and with evident
hesitation in his manner; "it is perfectly impossible for me to walk
through this labyrinth without your guidance, Bagenal, - I have neither
head nor heart for it, - you must be the pilot, and if you quit the helm
for a moment - "

"Trust me, Maurice, I'll not do it," said Daly, grasping his hand with a
firm grip.

"I know that well," said the Knight, as his voice trembled with
agitation; "I never doubted the will, Bagenal, it was the power only I
suspected. I see you will not understand me. Confound it! why should old
friends, such as we are, keep beating about the bush, or fencing like a
pair of diplomatists? I wanted to speak to you about that bond of yours:
there is something like seven thousand pounds lying to my credit
at Henshaw's; take what is necessary, and get rid of that scoundrel
Hickman's claim. If they should arrest you - "

"I wish he had done so yesterday, - my infernal temper, that never will
let matters take due course, stopped the fellow; you can't see why, but
I'll tell you. I paid the money to Hickman's law-agent, in Dublin, the
morning I started from town, and they had not time to stop the execution
of the writ down here. Yes, Darcy, there was one drop more in the stoup,
and I drained it! The last few acres I possessed in the world, the old
estate of Hardress Daly, is now in the ownership of one Samuel Kerney,
grocer of Bride Street. I paid off Hickman, however, and found something
like one hundred and twenty-eight pounds afterwards in my pocket - but
let us talk of something else: you must not yield to these people
without a struggle; Bicknell says there are abundant grounds for a trial
at bar in the affair. If collusion between Hickman and Gleeson should
be proved, that many of the leases were granted with false signatures
annexed - "

"I 'll do whatever men of credit and character counsel me," said the
Knight; "if there be any question of right, I 'll neither compromise nor
surrender it: I can promise no more. But here comes Lionel, - to announce
breakfast, perhaps."

And so it was; the young man came towards them with an easy smile,
presenting a hand to each. If sorrow had sunk deeply into his heart, few
traces of grief were apparent in his manly, handsome countenance.

Notwithstanding the efforts of the party, the breakfast did not pass
over as lightly as the dinner of the previous day; the eventful moment
of parting was now too near not to exclude every other subject, and even
when by an exertion some allusion to a different topic would be made, a
chance question, the entrance of a servant for orders, or the tramp of
horses in the courtyard, would suddenly bring back the errant thoughts,
and place the sad reality in all its force before them.

Breakfast was over, and yet no one stirred; a heavy, dreary revery
seemed to have settled on all except Daly, - and he, from delicacy,
restrained the impatience that was working within him. In vain he sought
to catch Darcy's eye, and then Lionel's, - both were bent downward. Lady
Eleanor at last looked up, and at once seemed to read what was passing
in his mind.

"I am ready," said she, in a low, gentle voice, "and I see Mr. Daly is
not sorry at it. Helen, dearest, fetch me my gloves."

She arose, and the others with her. The calmness in which she spoke on
the theme that none dared approach, seemed also to electrify them,
when suddenly a low sob was heard, and the mother fell, in a burst of
anguish, into the arms of her son.

"Eleanor, my dearest Eleanor!" said Darcy, as his pale cheek shook and
his lip trembled. As if recalled to herself by the words, she raised her
head, and, with a smile of deep-meaning sorrow, said, -

"It's the first tear I have yet shed; it shall be the last." Then,
taking Daly's arm, she walked steadily forward.

"I have often wondered," said she, "at the prayer of a condemned felon
for a few hours longer of life; but I can understand it now. I feel as
if I could give life itself for another day within these walls, where
often I have pined with _ennui_. You will watch over Lionel for me, Mr.
Daly. When the world went fairly with us, calamities came softened, - as
the summer rain falls lighter in sunshine; but now, now that we have
lost so much, we cannot afford more."

Daly's stern features grew sterner and darker; his lips were compressed
more firmly; he tried to say a few words, but a low, indistinct
muttering was all that came.

The next moment the carriage door was closed on the party - they were
gone.

Lionel stood gazing after them till they disappeared, and then, with a
slow step, re-entered the abbey.




CHAPTER XXXV. BAGENAL DALY'S RETURN

Lionel Darcy bore up manfully against his altered fortunes so long as
others were around him, and that the necessity for exertion existed; but
once more alone within that silent and deserted house, all his courage
failed him at once, and he threw himself upon a seat and gave way to
grief. Never were the brighter prospects of opening life more cruelly
dashed, and yet his sorrow was for others. Every object about brought up
thoughts of that dear mother and sister, to whom the refinements of
life were less luxuries than wants. How were they to engage in the
stern conflict with daily poverty, - to see themselves bereft of all
the appliances which filled up the hours of each day? Could his mother,
frail and delicate as she was, much longer sustain the effort by which
she first met the stroke of fortune? Would not the reaction, whenever it
came, be too terrible to be borne? And Helen, too, - his sweet and lovely
sister, - she whom he had loved to think of as the admired of a splendid
Court; on whose appearance in the world he had so often speculated,
castle-building over the sensations her beauty and her gracefulness
would excite, - what was to be her lot? Deep and heartfelt as his sorrow
was for them, it was only when he thought of his father that Lionel's
anguish burst its bounds, and he broke into a torrent of tears. From
very boyhood he had loved and admired him; but never had the high
features of his character so impressed Lionel Darcy as when the reverse
of fortune called up that noble spirit whose courage displayed itself
in manly submission and the generous effort to support the hearts of
others. How cruel did the decrees of fate seem to him, that such a man
should be visited so heavily, while vice and meanness prospered on every
side. He knew not that virtue has no nobler attribute than its power of
sustaining unmerited affliction, and that the destiny of the good man is
never more nobly carried out than when he points the example of patience
in suffering.

Immersed in such gloomy thoughts, he wandered on from room to room,
feeding, as it were, the appetite for sorrow, by the sight of every
object that could remind him of past happiness; nor were they few. There
was the window-seat he loved to sit in as a boy, when all the charm
of some high-wrought story could not keep his eyes from wandering at
intervals over the green hills where the lambs were playing, or adown
by that dark stream where circling eddies marked the leaping trout. Here
was Helen's favorite room, a little octagon boudoir, from every window
of which a different prospect opened; it seemed to breathe of her sweet
presence even yet; the open desk, from which she had taken some letter,
lay there upon the table, the pen she had last touched, the chair she
sat upon, all, even to the little nosegay of scarce-faded flowers,
the last she had plucked, teemed with her memory. He walked on with
bent-down head and tardy step, and entered the little room which,
opening on the lawn, was used by the Knight to receive such of the
tenantry as came to him for assistance or advice; many an hour had
he sat there beside his father, and, while listening with the eager
curiosity of youth to the little stories of the poor man's life, his
trials and his difficulties, imbibed lessons of charity and benevolence
never to be forgotten.

The great square volume in which the Knight used to record his notes of
the neighboring poor, lay on the table; his chair was placed near it;
all was in readiness for his coming who was to come there no more! As
Lionel stood in silent sorrow, surveying these objects, the shadow of a
man darkened the window. He turned suddenly, and saw the tall, scarecrow
figure of Flury the madman. A large placard decorated the front of his
hat, on which the words "Down with the Darcys!" were written in capital
letters, and he carried in his hand a bundle of papers, like handbills,
which he shook with a menacing air at Lionel.

"What is this, Flury?" said the youth, opening the window, and at the
same time snatching one of the papers from his hand.



"It's the full account of the grand auction of Government hacks," said
Flury, with the sing-song intonation of a street-crier, "no longer
needed for the services of the Crown, and to be sowld without resarve."

"And who sent you here with this?" said the young man, moderating his
tone, to avoid startling the other.

"Connor Egan, Hickman's man, gave me a pint and a noggin of spirits to
cry the auction, and tould me to come up here and maybe you'd like to
hear of it ye'selves."

Lionel threw his eyes over the offensive lines, where in coarse ribaldry
names the most venerable were held up to scorn and derision. If it was
some satisfaction to find that his father was linked in the ruffianly
attack with men of honor as unblemished as his own, he was not less
outraged at the vindictive cowardice that had suggested this insult.

"There'll be a fine sight of people there, by all accounts," said Flury,
gravely, "for the auction-bills is far and near over the country, and
the Castlebar coach has one on each door."

"Is popular feeling always as corrupt a thing as this?" muttered Lionel,
with a bitter sneer, while at the same time the door of the room was
opened, and Daly entered. His face was marked by a severe cut on one
cheek, from which the blood had flowed freely; a dark blue stain, as
of a blow, was on his chin, and one hand he carried enveloped in his
handkerchief; his clothes were torn besides in many places, and bore
traces of a severe personal conflict.

"What has happened?" said Lionel, as he looked in alarm at the swollen
and blood-stained features. "Did you fall?"

"Fall! no such thing, boy," replied Daly, sternly; "but some worthy folk
in Castlebar planned a little surprise for me this morning. They heard,
it seems, that we passed through the town by daybreak, but that I was to
return before noon; and so they placed some cars and turf creels in the
main street, opposite the inn, in such a way that, while seeming merely
accident, would effectually stop a horseman from proceeding. When I
arrived at the spot, I halted, and called out to the fellows to move
on, and let me pass. They took no heed of my words, and then I saw in a
moment what was intended. I had no arms; I had purposely left my
pistols behind me, for I feared something might provoke me, though not
anticipating such as this. So I got down and drew this wattle from the
side of a turf creel, - you see it is a strong blackthorn, and good
stuff too. Before I was in the saddle the word was passed, and the
whole street was full of people, and I now perceived that, by the same
manouvre as they employed in front, they had also closed the rear upon
me, and cut off my retreat. 'Now for it! now for it!' they shouted.
'Where's Bully Dodd? - Where's the Bully?' I suppose you know the
fellow?"

"The man that was transported?"

"The same. The greatest ruffian the country was cursed with. He came at
the call, without coat or waistcoat, his shirt-sleeves tucked up to his
shoulders, and a handkerchief round his waist ready for a fight. There
was an old quarrel between us, for it was I captured the fellow the day
after he burnt down Dawson's house. He came towards me, the mob opening
a way for him, with a pewter pot of porter in his hand.

"'We want you to dhrink a toast for us, Mr. Daly,' said he, with a
marked courtesy, and a grin that amused the fellows around him. 'You
were always a patriot, and won't make any objections to it.'

"'What is the liquor?' said I.

"'Good porter, - divil a less,' cried the mob; 'Mol Heavyside's best.'
And so I took the vessel in my hands, and before they could say a
syllable, drained it to the bottom; for I was very thirsty with the
ride, and in want of something to refresh myself.

"'But you did n't dhrink the toast,' said Dodd savagely.

"'Where was the toast? He didn't say the words,' shouted the mob.

"'Off with his hat, and make him drink it,' cried out several others
from a distance. They saved me one part of the trouble, for they knocked
off my hat with a stone.

"'Here's health and long life to Hickman O'Reilly!' cried out
Dodd, - 'that's the toast.'

"'And what have I to wish him either?' said I, while at the same time I
tore open the pewter measure, and then with one strong dash of my band
drove it down on the ruffian's head, down to the very brows. I lost no
time afterwards, but, striking right and left, plunged forwards; the mob
fled as I followed, and by good luck the carthorses, getting frightened,
sprang forward also, and so I rode on with a few slight cuts; a stone
or two struck me, nothing more; but they 'll need a plumber to rid my
friend Dodd of his helmet."

[Illustration: 424]

"And we used to call this town our own," said Lionel, bitterly.

"Nothing is a man's own but his honor, sir. That base cowardice yonder
believes itself honest and independent, as if a single right feeling, a
single good or virtuous thought, could consort with habits like
theirs; but they are less base than those who instigate them. The real
scoundrels are the Hickmans of this world, the men who compensate for
low birth and plebeian origin by calumniating the wellborn and the
noble. - What is Flury wanting here?" said he, as, attracted by Daly's
narrative, the poor fellow had drawn near to listen.

"'I 'm glad you put the pewter pot on the Bully's head, he 's a disgrace
to the town," said Flury, with a laugh; and he turned away, as if
enjoying the downfall of an enemy.

"Oh! I see," said Daly, taking up one of the papers that had fallen to
the ground, "this is the first act of the drama. Come along, Lionel, let
us talk of matters nearer to our hearts."

They walked along together to the library, each silently following
his own train of thought, and for some time neither seemed disposed to
speak. Lionel at length broke silence, as he said, -

"I have been thinking over it, and am convinced my father will never be
able to endure this life of inactivity before him."

"That is exactly the fear I entertain myself for him; altered fortunes
will impress themselves more in the diminished sphere to which his
influence and utility will be reduced, than in anything else: but how to
remedy this?"

"I have been considering that also; but you must advise me if the plan
be a likely one. He held the rank of colonel once - "

"To be sure he did, and with good right, - he raised the regiment
himself. Darcy's Light Horse were as handsome a set of fellows as the
service could boast of."

"Well, then, my notion is, that although the Government did not buy his
vote on the Union, there would be no just reason why they should not
appoint him to some one of those hundred situations which the service
includes. His former rank, his connection and position, his unmerited



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Knight Of Gwynne, Vol. I (of II) → online text (page 31 of 34)