Charles James Lever.

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The unjust and the cruel were held in reprobation, and the good and the
charitable had a fame as pure, although their deeds were not trumpeted
aloud or graven on marble. Believe me, sir, we are not by any means so
much wiser or better than those who went before us, and even if we were
both, we certainly are not happier. This eternal warfare, this hand to
hand and foot to foot straggle for rank, apd wealth, and power, that
goes on amongst us now, had no existence then, when a man's destiny was
carved out for him, and he was all but powerless to alter or control
it."

"That alone was no small evil," said Forester, interrupting him; "the
humbly born and the lowly were debarred from all the prizes of life, no
matter how great their deserts or how shining their abilities."

"Every rank and class had wherewithal to supply its own requirements,"
answered Daly, proudly, "and the menial had more time to indulge
affection for his master, when removed from the temptation to rival him.
That strong bond of attachment has all but disappeared from amongst us."
As he spoke, he turned in his saddle and called out, "Can we cross the
sands now, or is the tide making, Sandy?"

"It's no just making yet," said the servant, cautiously; "but when the
breakers are so heavy off the Point, it's aye safer to keep the road."

"The road be it, then," muttered Daly to himself; "men never are so
chary of life as when about to risk it."

The observation, although not intended, reached Forester's ears, and
he smiled and said, "Naturally enough, perhaps we ought not to be too
exacting with fortune."

Daly turned suddenly round, and, after a brief pause, asked, "What skill
have you with the pistol?"

"When the mark is a shilling I can hit it, three times out of four, at
twenty paces; but I never fired at a man."

"That does make a difference," said Daly, musingly; "nothing short of an
arrant coward could look calmly on a fellow-creature while he pointed a
loaded pistol at his heart. A brave man will always have self-possession
enough to feel the misery of his position. Had the feat been one of
vengeance, and not of love, Tell had never hit the apple, sir. But
there, - is not that a fire yonder?"

"Yes, I see a red glare through the mist."

"There's a fire on Cluan Point," said Sandy, riding up to his master's
side; "I trow it's a signal."

"Ah! meant to quicken us, perhaps; some fear of being surprised," said
Daly, hastily; "let us move on faster." And they spurred their horses to
a sharp trot as they descended the gentle slope, which, projecting far
out to sea, formed the promontory of Cluan.

It was at this moment the glorious panorama of Clue Bay broke forth
before Forester's astonished eyes. He looked with rapture on that
spacious sheet of water, which, in all the majesty of the great ocean,
came heaving and swelling against the rocky coast, or pouring its flood
of foam through the narrow channels between the islands. Of these, the
diversity seemed endless, some rich and verdant, teeming with abundance
and dotted with cottages; others, less fertile, were covered with sheep
or goats; while some, rugged and barren, frowned gloomily amid the
watery waste, and one, far out to sea, a bold and lofty cliff, showed
a faint twinkling star upon its side, the light for the homeward-bound
ships over the Atlantic.

"That's Clare Island yonder," said Bagenal Daly, as he observed the
direction of Forester's gaze; "I must show you the great cliff there.
What say you if we go to-morrow?"

"To-morrow!" repeated Forester, smiling faintly; "perhaps so."




CHAPTER VII. A MOTHER AND DAUGHTER

When speaking of Gwynne Abbey to our readers, we omitted to mention
a very beautiful portion of the structure, - a small building which
adjoined the chapel, and went, for some reason or other, by name of the
"Sub-Prior's house." More recent in date than the other parts of the
abbey, it seemed as if here the architect had expended his skill in
showing of how much ornament and decoration the Gothic was capable.
The stone selected was of that pinkish hue that is seen in many of the
cathedrals in the North of England, - a material peculiarly favorable to
the labors of the chisel, and when protected from the rude influence
of weather possessing qualities of great endurance. This building
was surrounded on three sides by a flower-garden, which descended by
successive terraces to the edge of a small river pursuing its course to
the sea, into which it emerged about a mile distant. A very unmindful
observer would have been struck at once with the aspect of greater
care and cultivation bestowed here than on other portions of the
abbey grounds. The trim and orderly appearance of everything, from the
flowering shrubs that mingled their blossoms with the rich tracery of
the architraves, to the bright gravel of the walks, denoted attention,
while flowers of rare beauty, and plants of foreign growth, were seen
blending their odors with the wild heaths that shed their perfume
from the mountain side. The brilliant beauty of the spot was, indeed,
heightened by the wild and rugged grandeur of the scene, like a diamond
glittering brighter amid the dark dross of the mine.

On the side nearest to the bay, and with a view extending to the far-off
Island of Achill, an apartment opened by three large windows, the upper
compartments of which exhibited armorial bearings in stained glass.
If the view without presented a scene of the most grand and varied
loveliness, within this chamber art seemed to have vied in presenting
objects the most strange and beautiful. It was furnished in all the
gorgeous taste of the time of Louis XV. The ceiling, a deep mass
of carving relieved by gold, presented masses of fruit and flowers
fantastically interwoven, and hanging, as though suspended, above the
head. The walls were covered with cabinet pictures of great price, the
very frames objects of wonder and admiration. Large vases of Dresden
and Sèvres porcelain stood on brackets of massive silver, and one great
cabinet of ebony, inlaid with gold and tortoiseshell, displayed an
inscription that showed it was a present from the great Louis XIV.
himself.

It is not, however, to linger over the objects of rare and costly
excellence which here abounded that we have conducted our reader to this
chamber, and whither we would beg of him to accompany us about two hours
later than the events we have narrated in our last chapter.

At a breakfast-table whose equipage was, in price and elegance, in
exact keeping with all around, were two ladies. The elder of the two was
advanced in life, and although her hair was perfectly white, her regular
features and finely pencilled brow bore, even yet, great marks of
beauty. If the expression of the face was haughty, it was so without
anything of severity; it was a look of pride that denoted rather a
conscious sense of position and its duties, than any selfish assumption
of personal importance. Habitual delicacy of health contributed to
strengthen this expression, lending to it a character which, to an
incautious observer, might convey the notion of weariness or ennui. The
tones of her voice were low and measured, and perfectly devoid of any
peculiar accent. If to those more familiar with the cordial familiarity
of Irish manner, Lady Eleanor Darcy might seem cold and frigid, such
as knew more of the world at large, and were more conversant with
the general habits of society, could detect, through all the seeming
impassive-ness of her air, that desire to please, that anxiety to make
a favorable impression, which marked the character of one who in early
life had been the beauty of her circle. Even now, as she lay back
indolently within the deep recess of a cushioned chair, her attitude
evinced a gracefulness and ease which long habit seemed to have
identified with her nature.

At the opposite side of the table, and busy in the preparation of the
breakfast, stood a young girl whose age could not have been more than
eighteen. So striking was the resemblance between them that the least
acute of physiognomists must have pronounced her the daughter. She was
dressed with remarkable simplicity; but not all the absence of ornament
could detract from the first impression her appearance conveyed, that
she was one of birth and station. Her beauty was of that character
which, although attributed peculiarly to the Celtic race, seems
strangely enough to present its most striking examples among the
Anglo-Irish. Rich auburn hair, the color varying from dark brown to
a deep golden hue as the light falls more or less strongly on it, was
braided over a brow of classic beauty; her eyes were of blue, that deep
color which, in speaking or in moments of excitement, looks like dark
hazel or even black; these were fringed with long dark lashes which
habitually hung heavily over the eyes, giving them a character of
sleepy, almost indolent, beauty. The rest of her features, in unison
with these, were of that Greek mould which our historians attribute to
the Phoenician origin of our people, - a character by no means rare to be
seen to this day among the peasantry. If the mild and gentle indications
of womanly delicacy were told in every lineament of her face, there were
traits of decision and determination when she spoke not less evident.
From her mother she inherited the placid tenderness of English manner,
while from her father her nature imbibed the joyous animation and
buoyant light-heartedness of the Irish character.

"And there are but two letters, Mamma," said Helen, "in the bag this
morning?"

"But two," said Lady Eleanor; "one of them from Lionel."

"Oh, from Lionel!" cried the young girl, eagerly; "let me see it."

"Read this first," said Lady Eleanor, as she handed across the table
a letter bearing a large seal impressed with an Earl's coronet; "if I
mistake not very much, Helen, that's my cousin Lord Netherby's writing;
but what eventful circumstance could have caused his affectionate
remembrance of me, after something nigh twenty years' silence, is beyond
my power of divination."

Helen Darcy well knew that the theme on which her mother now touched was
the sorest subject on her mind, and, however anxiously she might, under
other circumstances, have pressed for a sight of her brother's letter,
she controlled all appearance of the wish, and opened the other without
speaking.

"It is dated from Carlton House, Mamma, the 2d - - - "

"He is in waiting, I suppose," said Lady Eleanor, calmly; and Helen
began.

"'My dear cousin - '"

"Ah! so he remembers the relationship at least," muttered the old lady
to herself.

"'My dear cousin, it would be a sad abuse of the small space a letter
affords, to inquire into the cause of our long silence; faults on both
sides might explain much of it. I was never a brilliant correspondent,
you were always an indolent one; if I wrote stupid letters, you sent
me very brief answers; and if you at last grew weary of giving gold for
brass, I can scarcely reproach you for stopping the exchange. Still, at
the risk of remaining unanswered, once more - '"

"This is intolerable," broke in Lady Eleanor; "he never replied to the
letter in which I asked him to be your godfather."

"'Still, at the risk of remaining unanswered, once more I must throw
myself on your mercy. In the selfishness of age, - don't forget, my dear
coz, I am eleven years your senior, - in the selfishness of age - '"

The old lady smiled dubiously at these words, and Helen read on: -

"'I desire to draw closer around me those ties of kindred and family
which, however we may affect to think lightly of, all our experiences in
life tend to strengthen and support. Yes, my dear Eleanor, we are the
only two remaining of all those light-hearted boys and bright-eyed girls
that once played upon the terrace at Netherby. Poor Harry, your old
sweetheart at Eton, fell at Mysore. Dudley, with ability for anything,
would not wait patiently for the crowning honors of his career, took a
judgeship in Madras, and he, too, sleeps in the land of the stranger!
And our sweet Catherine! your only rival amongst us, how short-lived was
her triumph! - for so the world called her marriage with the Margrave:
she died of a broken heart at two-and-twenty! I know not why I have
called up these sad memories, except it be in the hope that, as
desolation deals heavily around us, we may draw more closely to each
other.'"

Lady Eleanor concealed her face with her handkerchief, and Helen, who
had gradually dropped her voice as she read, stopped altogether at these
words.

"Read on, dear," said the old lady, in a tone whose firmness was
slightly shaken.

"'A heart more worldly than yours, my dear Eleanor, would exclaim that
the _parti_ was unequal, - that I, grown old and childless, with few
friends left, and no ambitions to strive for, stood in far more need
of _your_ affectionate regard, than you, blessed with every tie to
existence, did of _mine_; and the verdict would be a just one, for, by
the law of that Nemesis we all feel more or less, even in this world,
_you_, whom we deemed rash and imprudent, have alone amongst us secured
the prize of that happiness we each sought by such different paths.'"

A heavy sigh that broke from her mother made Helen cease reading, but
at a motion of her hand she resumed: "'For all our sakes, then, my
dear cousin, only remember so much of the past as brings back pleasant
memories. Make my peace with your kind-hearted husband. If I can forgive
_him_ all the pangs of jealousy he inflicted on _me, he_ may well pardon
any slight transgressions on _my_ part, and Lionel, too. - But, first,
tell me how have I offended my young kinsman? I have twice endeavored to
make his acquaintance, but in vain. Two very cold and chilling answers
to my invitations to Netherby are all I have been able to obtain from
him: the first was a plea of duty, which I could easily have arranged;
but the second note was too plain to be mistaken: "I'll none of you,"
was the tone of every line of it. But I will not be so easily repulsed:
I am determined to know him, and, more still, determined that he shall
know me. If you knew, my dear Eleanor, how proudly my heart beat at
hearing his Royal Highness speak of him! - he had seen him at Hounslow at
a review. It was a slight incident, but I am certain your son never told
it, and so I must. Lionel, in passing with his company, forgot to
lower the regimental flag before the Prince, on which Lord Maxwell, the
colonel, the most passionate man in England, rode up, and said something
in an angry tone. "I beg pardon, Colonel," said the Prince, "if I
interfere with the details of duty, but I have remarked that young
officer before, and, trust me, he 'll come off 'with flying colors,' on
more occasions than the present." The _mot_ was slight, but the flattery
was perfect; indeed, there is not another man in the kingdom can compete
with his Royal Highness on this ground. Fascination is the only
word that can express the charm of his manner. To bring Lionel more
particularly under the Prince's notice, has long been a favorite scheme
of mine; and I may say, without arrogance, that my opportunities are not
inferior to most men's in this respect; I am an old courtier now, - no
small boast for one who still retains his share of favor. If the son
have any of his father's gifts, his success with the Prince is
certain. The manner of the highly-bred Irish gentleman has been already
pronounced by his Royal Highness as the type of what manner should
be, and, with your assistance, I have little doubt of seeing Lionel
appointed on the staff, here.

"'Now, I must hazard my reputation a little, and ask what is the name of
your second boy, and what is he doing?'"

Helen burst into a fit of laughter at these words, nor could Lady
Eleanor's chagrin prevent her joining in the emotion.

"This, he shall certainly have an answer to," said the old lady,
recovering her self-possession and her pride; "he shall hear that my
second boy is called Helen."

"After all, Mamma, is it not very kind of him to remember even so much?"

"I remember even more, Helen," interrupted Lady Eleanor; "and no great
kindness in the act either."

"Shall I read all the possible and impossible chances of pushing my
fortune in the Army or Navy, Mamma?" said Helen, archly, "for I see that
his Lordship is most profuse in offers for my advancement, - nay, if
I have a clerical vocation, here is a living actually waiting my
acceptance."

"Let us rather look for something that may explain the riddle, my dear,"
said Lady Eleanor, taking the letter in her own hand, while she lightly
skimmed over the last page. "No, I can find no clew to it here - Stay,
what have we in this corner? - 'Politically speaking, there is no news
here; indeed, in that respect, _your_ side of the Channel engrosses
all the interest; the great question of the "Union" still occupies all
attention. Virtually, _we_ know the ministry have the majority, but
there will be still a very respectable fight, to amuse the world withal.
How does the Knight vote? With us, I hope and trust, for although I may
tell you, in confidence, the result is certain, his support would be
very grateful to the Government, and, while he himself can afford to
smile at ministerial flatteries, Lionel is a young fellow whom rapid
promotion would well become, and who would speedily distinguish himself,
if the occasion were favorable. At all events, let the Knight not vote
_against_ the minister; this would be a crime never to be forgiven, and
personally offensive to his Royal Highness; and I trust Darcy is too
good a sportsman to prefer riding the last horse, even should he not
wish to mount the winner.'"

Here the letter concluded, amid protestations of regard most
affectionately worded, and warm wishes for a renewal of intimacy, only
to cease with life. Across this was written, with a different ink, and
in a hurried hand: "I have this moment seen Mr. Pitt; the Knight's vote
is very important. He may make any terms he pleases, - Pitt spoke of a
peerage; but I suppose that would not be thought advisable. Let me hear
_your_ opinion. Lionel has been gazetted to a company this morning, _en
attendant_ better."

Lady Eleanor, who had read these last lines to herself, here laid down
the letter without speaking, while the slight flush of her cheek and the
increased brilliancy of her eyes showed that her feelings were deeply
and powerfully excited.

"Well, Mamma, have you found the solution to this mystery?" said Helen,
as she gazed with affectionate solicitude on her mother's features.

"How unchangeable a thing is nature!" muttered Lady Eleanor,
unconsciously, aloud; "that boy was a crafty tuft-hunter at Eton."

"Of whom are you speaking, Mamma?"

"Lord Netherby, my dear, who would seem to have cultivated his natural
gift with great success; but," added she, after a pause, and in a voice
scarcely above a whisper, "I am scarcely as easy a dupe now as when he
persuaded me to take ash-berries in exchange for cherries. Let us hear
what Lionel says."

"As usual, Mamma, four lines in each page, and the last a blank," said
Helen, laughing: - "'My dear mother, what blandishments have you been
throwing over the War Office? They have just given me my company, which,
by the ordinary rules of the service, I had no pretension to hope for,
these five years to come! Our colonel, too, a perfect Tartar, overwhelms
me with civilities, and promises me a leave of absence on the first
vacancy. Have you seen Forester, of ours? and how do you like him? A
little cold or so at first, but _you_ will not dislike that. His riding
will please my father. Get him to sing, if you can; his taste and voice
are both first-rate. Your worthy relative, Lord Netherby, bores me with
invitations to his houses, town and country. I say "No;" but he won't
be denied. Was he not rude, or indifferent, or something or other, once
upon a time, to the ancient house of Darcy? Give me the _consigne_, I
pray you, for I hear he has the best cock-shooting in England; and let
my virtue, if possible, be rewarded by a little indulgence. Tell Helen
they are all giving up powder here, and wear their hair as she does; but
not one of them half as good-looking.

Yours, as ever,

Lionel Darcy.

Hounslow, January 1st, 1800'"


"Is that Sullivan, there?" said Lady Eleanor, as her daughter finished
the reading of this brief epistle. "What does he mean by staring so at
the window? The old man seems to have lost his senses!"

"Ochone arie! ochone! ochone!" cried Tate, wringing his hands with the
gestures of violent grief, as he moved up and down before the windows.

"What has happened, Tate?" said Helen, as she threw open the sash to
address him.

"Ochone! he's kilt - he's murthered - cut down like a daisy in a May
morning. And he, the iligant, fine young man!"

"Whom do you mean? Speak plainly, Sullivan," said the commanding voice
of Lady Eleanor. "What is it?"

"'Tis the young officer from England, my lady, that came down the night
before last to see the master. Oh, murther! murther! if his honor was
here, the sorra bit of this grief we 'd have to-day - ochone!"

"Well, go on," said his mistress, sternly.

"And if he came down for joy, ''t is sorrow he supped for it,' the young
crayture! They soon finished him."

"Once for all, sir, speak out plainly, and say what has occurred."

"It's Mr. Bagenal Daly done it all, my lady, - divil a one of me cares
who hears me say it. He's a cruel man, ould as he is. He made him fight
a duel, the darling young man, - the 'moral' of Master Lionel himself;
and now he's kilt - ochone! ochone!"

"Can this dreadful story be true, Helen?" said Lady Eleanor, as the
faint color left her features. "Call Margaret; or, stay - Sullivan, is
Mr. Daly here?"

"That he is, never fear him. He's looking at his morning's work - he's in
the room where they carried the corpse; and the fine corpse it is."

"Go tell Mr. Daly that Lady Eleanor desires to see him at once."

"Go, and lose no time, Tate," said Helen, as, almost fainting with
terror, she half pushed the old man on his errand.

The mother and daughter sat silently gazing on each other for several
minutes, terror and dismay depicted in the face of each, nor were they
conscious of the lapse of time, when the door opening presented Mr.
Bagenal Daly before them. He was dressed in his usual suit of dark
brown, and with all his accustomed neatness. His long cravat, which,
edged with deep lace, hung negligently over his waistcoat, was spotless
in color and accurate in every fold, while his massive features were
devoid of the slightest signs of emotion or excitement.

For an instant Lady Eleanor was deceived by all these evidences of
tranquillity, but a glance at old Tate's face, as he stood near the
door, assured her that from such signs she had nothing to hope. Twice
had Mr. Bagenal Daly performed his courteous salutations, which, in the
etiquette of a past time, he made separately to each lady, and still
Lady Eleanor had not summoned courage to address him. At last he said, -

"Have I been mistaken, and must I apologize for a visit at an hour so
unseemly? But I heard that your Ladyship wished to see me."

"Quite true, Mr. Daly," interrupted Lady Eleanor, her habitual tact
supplying a courage her heart was far from feeling. "Will you be seated?
Leave the room, Sullivan. My daughter and I," continued she, speaking
with increased rapidity, to cover the emotion of the moment, "have just
heard something of a dreadful event which is said to have occurred this
morning. Old Sullivan so often exaggerates that we indulge the hope that
there may be little or no foundation for the story. Is it true, sir,
there has been a duel fought near this?" Her voice grew fainter as she
spoke, and at last became a mere whisper.

"Yes, madam," replied Daly, with an air of perfect calmness. "Two
gentlemen met this morning at Cluan Point, and both were wounded."

"Neither of them killed?"

"Wounded, madam," reiterated Daly, as if correcting a misconstruction.

"Are the wounds deemed dangerous, sir?"

"Mr. MacDonough's, madam, is not so. The inconvenience of using his left
hand on any similar occasion, in future, will be probably the extent
of the mishap. The other gentleman has not been equally fortunate, - his
life is in peril." Mr. Daly paused for a second, and then, perceiving
that Lady Eleanor still awaited a further explanation, added, with
gravity, "When taking his position on the ground, madam, instead of
standing half-front, as I took pains to point out to him, Captain



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Knight Of Gwynne, Vol. I (of II) → online text (page 6 of 34)