Charles James Lever.

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

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Forester - "

"Forester! - is that his name, sir?" interrupted Helen, as, in a hand
trembling with terror, she held out Lionel's letter towards her mother.

"A friend of my son's, - is he in the same regiment with Lionel?" asked
Lady Eleanor, eagerly.

Daly bowed, and answered, "The same, madam."

A low, faint sigh broke from Lady Eleanor, and, covering her eyes with
her hand, she sat for some moments without speaking.

"Has any one seen him, sir?" asked Helen, suddenly, and in a voice
that showed energy of character had the mastery over every feeling of
grief, - "is there a surgeon with him?"

"No, Miss Darcy," said Daly, with a certain haughtiness of manner. "I
believe, however, that, although not a professional person, my knowledge
of a gunshot wound is scarcely inferior to most men's. I have sent in
two directions for a surgeon; meanwhile, with my servant's aid, I have
succeeded in extracting the ball - I beg pardon, ladies, I think I heard
the noise of wheels; it is probably the doctor." And, with a deep bow
and a measured step, Mr. Bagenal Daly withdrew, leaving Lady Eleanor and
her daughter speechless, between grief and terror.


When Bagenal Daly reached the courtyard, he was disappointed at finding
that, instead of the surgeon whose arrival was so anxiously looked for,
the visitor was no other than old Dr. Hickman, the father of Hickman
O'Reilly, M. P. for the county, and grandfather of that very promising
young gentleman slightly presented to our reader in an early chapter.

If the acorn be a very humble origin for the stately oak of the forest,
assuredly Peter Hickman, formerly of Loughrea, "Apothecary and Surgeon,"
was the most unpretending source for the high and mighty house of
O'Reilly. More strictly speaking, the process was only a "graft," and
it is but justice to him to say, that of this fact no one was more
thoroughly convinced than old Peter himself. Industry and thrift had
combined to render him tolerably well off in the world, when the death
of a brother who had sought his fortunes in the East - when fortunes were
to be found in that region - put him in possession of something above two
hundred thousand pounds. Even before this event, he had been known as
a shrewd contriver of small speculations, a safe investor of little
capital, was conversant, from the habits of his professional life, with
the private circumstances of every family of the country where money
was wanting, and where repayment was sure; the very temperament of
his patients suggested to him the knowledge by which he guided his
operations, and he could bring his skill as a medical man into his
service, and study his creditors with the eye of a physiologist.
When this great accession of wealth so suddenly occurred, far from
communicating his good fortune to his friends and neighbors, he merely
gave out that poor Tom had left him "his little savings," "though God
knows, in that faraway country, if he'd ever see any of it." His
guarded caution on the subject, and the steady persistence with which he
maintained his former mode of life, gave credence to the story, and the
utmost estimate of his wealth would not have gone beyond being a snug
old fellow "that might give up his business any day." This was,
however, the very last thing in his thoughts; the title of "Doctor," so
courteously bestowed in Ireland on the humbler walks of medicine, was
a "letter of marque" enabling him to cruise in latitudes otherwise
inaccessible. Any moneyed embarrassment of the country gentry, any
severe pressure to be averted by an opportune loan or the sale of landed
property, was speedily made available by him as a call to see whether
"the cough was easier;" or "how was the gouty ankle;" if the "mistress
was getting better of the nerves," "and the children gaining strength by
the camomile." And in this way he made one species of gain subservient
to another, while his character for kindness and benevolence was the
theme of the whole neighborhood.

For several years long he pursued this course without deviating, and
in that space had become the owner of estated property to a very great
extent, not only in his own, but in three neighboring counties. How
much longer he might have persisted in growing rich by stealth it is
difficult to say, when accident compelled him to change his _tactique_.
A very large property had been twice put up for sale in the county Mayo,
under the will of its late owner, the trustees being empowered to make a
great reduction in the price to any purchaser of the whole, - a condition
which, from the great value of the estates, seemed of little avail, no
single individual being supposed able to make such a purchase.

At last, and as a final effort to comply with the wishes of the
testator, the estate was offered at ten thousand pounds below the
original demand, when a bidder made his appearance, the offer was
accepted, and the apothecary of Lough-rea became the owner of one of the
most flourishing properties of the West, with influence sufficient to
return a member for the county.

The murder was now out, and the next act was to build a handsome but
unpretentious dwelling-house on a part of the estate, to which he
removed with his son, a widower with one child. The ancient family of
O'Reilly had been the owners of the property, and the name was still
retained to grace the new demesne, which was called Mount O'Reilly,
while Tom Hickman became Hickman O'Reilly, under the plea of some
relationship to the defunct, - a point which gained little credence in
the county, and drew from Bagenal Daly the remark "that he trusted that
they had a better title to the acres than the arms of the O'Reillys."
When old Peter had made this great spring, he would gladly have retired
to Loughrea once more, and pursued his old habits; but, like a blackleg
who has accidentally discovered his skill at the game, no one would play
with him again, and so he was fain to put up with his changed condition,
and be a "gentleman," as he called it, in spite of himself.

He it was who, under the pretence of a friendly call to see the Knight,
now drove into the courtyard of Gwynne Abbey. His equipage was a small
four-wheeled chair close to the ground, and drawn by a rough mountain
pony which, in size and shape, closely resembled a water-dog. The owner
of this unpretending conveyance was a very diminutive, thin old
man, with a long, almost transparent nose, the tip of which was of a
raspberry red; a stiff queue, formed of his wiry gray hair carefully
brushed back, even from the temples, made a graceful curve on his back,
or occasionally appeared in front of his left shoulder. His voice was
a feeble treble, with a tremulous quiver through all he said, while
he usually finished each sentence with a faint effort content with
his opinion; and this, on remarkable occasions, at a laugh, a kind
of acknowledgment to himself that he was would be followed by the
monosyllable "ay," - a word which, brief as it was, struck terror into
many a heart, intimating, as it did, that old Peter had just satisfied
himself that he had made a good bargain, and that the other party was

The most remarkable circumstance of his appearance was his mode of
walking, and even here was displayed his wonted ingenuity. A partial
paralysis had for some years affected his limbs, and particularly the
muscles which raise and flex the legs; to obviate this infirmity, he
fastened a cord with a loop to either foot, and by drawing them up
alternately he was enabled to move forward, at a slow pace, to be sure,
and in a manner it was rather difficult to witness for the first time
with becoming gravity. This was more remarkable when he endeavored to
get on faster, for then the flexion, a process which required a little
time, was either imperfectly performed or altogether omitted, and
consequently he remained stationary, and only hopped from one leg to
the other after the fashion of a stage procession. His dress was a
rusty black coat with a standing collar, black shorts, and white cotton
stockings, over which the short black gaiters reached half way up the
leg; on the present occasion he also wore a spencer of light gray cloth,
as the day was cold and frosty, and his hat was fastened under his chin
by a ribbon.

"And so he is n't at home, Tate," said he, as he sat whipping the
pony from habit, - a process which the beast seemed to regard with a
contemptuous indifference.

"No, Docther," for by this title the old man was always addressed by
preference, "the Knight's up in Dublin; he went on Monday last."

"And this is the seventh of the month," muttered the other to himself.
"Faith, he takes it easy, anyhow! And you don't know when he'll be

"The sorra know I know, Docther; 't is maybe to-night he 'd come - maybe
to-morrow - maybe it would be three weeks or a month; and it's not but we
want him badly this day, if it was God's will he was here!" These
words were uttered in a tone that Tate intended should provoke
further questioning, for he was most eager to tell of the duel and its
consequences; but the "doctor" never noticed them, but merely muttered a
short "Ay."

"How do you do, Hickman?" cried out the deep voice of Bagenal Daly at
the same moment. "You did n't chance to see Mulville on the road, did

"How d'ye do, Mister Daly? I hope I see you well. I did n't meet Dr.
Mulville this morning, - is there anything that's wrong here? Who is it
that's ill?"

"A young fellow, a stranger, who has been burning powder with Mr.
MacDonough up at Cluan, and has been hit under the rib here."

"Well, well, what folly it is, and all about nothing, I 'll engage."

"So your grandson would tell you," said Daly, sternly; "for if he felt
it to be anything, this quarrel should have been his."

"Faix, and I'm glad he left it alone," said the other, complacently;
"'t is little good comes of the same fighting. I 'll be eighty-five if
I live to March next, and I never drew sword nor trigger yet against any

"One reason for which forbearance is, sir, that you thereby escaped a
similar casualty to yourself. A laudable prudence, and likely to become
a family virtue."

The old doctor felt all the severity of this taunt against his grandson,
but he merely gave one of his half-subdued laughs, and said, in a low
voice, "Did you get a note from me, about a fortnight ago? Ay!"

"I received one from your attorney," said Daly, carelessly, "and I threw
it into the fire without reading it."

"That was hasty, that was rash, Mr. Daly," resumed the other, calmly;
"it was about the bond for the four thousand six hundred - "

"D - - n me if I care what was the object of it! I happened to have some
weightier things to think of than usury and compound interest, as I,
indeed, have at this moment. By the by, if you have not forgotten the
old craft, come in and see this poor fellow. I 'm much mistaken, or his
time will be but short."

"Ay, ay, that's a debt there's no escaping!" muttered the old man,
combining his vein of moralizing with a sly sarcasm at Daly, while he
began the complicated series of manouvres by which he usually effected
his descent from the pony carriage.

In the large library, and on a bed hastily brought down for the purpose,
lay Forester, his dress disordered, and his features devoid of all
color. The glazed expression of his eye, and his pallid, half-parted
lips showed that he was suffering from great loss of blood, for,
unhappily, Mr. Daly's surgery had not succeeded in arresting this
symptom. His breathing was short and irregular, and in the convulsive
movement of his fingers might be seen the evidence of acute suffering.
At the side of the bed, calm, motionless, and self-possessed, with an
air as stern as a soldier at his post, stood Sandy M'Grane; he had been
ordered by his master to maintain a perfect silence, and to avoid, if
possible, even a reply to Forester's questions, should he speak to him.
The failure of the first few efforts on Forester's part to obtain an
infraction of this rule ended in his submitting to his destiny, and
supplying by signs the want of speech; in this way he had just succeeded
in procuring a drink of water, when Daly entered, followed by Hickman.
As with slow and noiseless steps they came forward, Forester turned
his head, and, catching a glance of the mechanism by which old Peter
regulated his progression, he burst into a fit of uncontrollable

"Ye mauna do it, ye mauna do it, sir," said Sandy, sternly; "ye are
lying in a pool of blood this minute, and it's no time for a hearty
laugh. Ech! ech! sir," continued he, turning towards his master, "if we
had that salve the Delawares used to put on their wounds, I wadna say
but we 'd stap it yet."

By this time old Peter had laid his hand on the sick man's wrist, and,
with a large watch laid before him on the bed, was counting his pulse

"It's a hundred and fifty," said he, in a whisper, which, although
intended for Daly's ear, was overheard by Forester; "but it's thin as a
thread, and looks like inward bleeding."

"What's to be done, then? have you anything to advise?" said Daly,
almost savagely.

"Very little," said Hickman, with a malignant grin, "except writing to
his friends. I know nothing else to serve him."

A brief shudder passed over Daly's stern features, rather like the
momentary sense of cold than proceeding from any mental emotion, and
then he said, "I spoke to you as a doctor, sir; and I ask you again, is
there nothing can be done for him?"

"Well, well, we might plug up the wound, to be sure, and give him a
little wine, for he's sinking fast. I 've got a case of instruments and
some lint in the gig - never go without the tools, Mr. Daly - there's no
knowing when one may meet a little accident like this."

"In Heaven's name, then, lose no time!" said Daly. "Whatever you can do,
do it at once."

The tone of command in which he spoke seemed to act like a charm on the
old doctor, for he turned at once to hobble from the room.

"My servant will bring what you want," said Daly, impatiently.

"No, no," said Peter, shaking his head, "I have them under lock and key
in the driving-box; there's no one opens that but myself."

Daly turned away with a muttered execration at the miser's suspicions,
and then, fixing his eyes steadily on Sandy's face, he gave a short
and significant nod. The servant instinctively looked after the doctor;
then, slowly moving across the floor, the nod was repeated, and Sandy,
wheeling round, made three strides, and, catching the old man round the
body with his remaining arm, carried him out of the room with the same
indifference to his struggles or his cries as a nurse would bestow on a
misbehaving urchin.

[Illustration: 108]

When Sandy deposited his burden beside the pony-carriage, old Peter's
passion had reached its climax, and assuredly, if the will could have
prompted the act, he would have stamped as roundly as he swore.

"It's an awfu' thing," observed Sandy, quaintly, "to see an auld carle,
wi' his twa legs in the grave, blaspheming that gate; but come awa',
tak' your gimcracks, and let's get back again, or, by the saul of my
body, I 'll pit you in the fountain!"

Reasoning on that excellent principle of analogy, that what had happened
might happen again even in a worse form, old Hickman unlocked the box
and delivered into Sandy's hands a black leather case, bearing as many
signs of long years and service as his own.

"Let me walk I let me walk!" cried he, in a supplicating tone.

"Av you ca' it walking," said Sandy, grimly; "but it's mair, far mair,
like the step o' a goose than a Christian man."

What success might have attended Peter's request it is difficult to
say, for at this moment the noise of a horse was heard galloping up the
avenue, and, immediately after, Mulville, the surgeon sent for by Mr.
Daly, entered the courtyard. Without deigning a look towards Hickman,
or paying even the slightest attention to his urgent demands for the
restoration of his pocket-case, Sandy seized Mulville by the arm and
hurried him away to the house.

The newly arrived doctor was an army surgeon, and proceeded, with all
the readiness experience had taught him, to examine Forester's wound;
while Sandy, to save time, opened old Hickman's case on the bed, and
arranged the instruments.

"Look here, Mr. Daly," said the doctor, as he drew some lint from the
antiquated leather pocket, - "look here, and see how our old friend
practises the art of medicine." He took up, as he spoke, a roll of
paper, and held it towards Daly: it was a packet of bill stamps of
various value, for old Peter could never suffer himself to be taken
short, and was always provided with the ready means of transacting money
affairs with his patients.

"Here's my d - - d old bond," said Daly, laughing, as he drew forth a
much-crumpled and time-discolored parchment; "I'd venture to say the
man would deserve well of his country who would throw this confounded
pocket-book, and its whole contents, into that fire."

"Ye maybe want some o' the tools yet," said Sandy, dryly, for, taking
his master's observations in the light of a command, he was about to
commit the case and the paper to the flames.

"Take care! take care!" said Mulville, in a whisper; "it might be a

"It's devilish little Sandy would care what name they would give it,"
replied Daly; "he 'd put the owner on the top of them, and burn all
together, on a very brief hint;" then, lowering his voice, he added,
"What's his chance?"

"The chance of every young fellow of two or three-and-twenty to live
through what would kill any man of my time of life. With good care and
quiet, but quiet above all, he may rub through it. We must leave him

"You 'll remain here," said Daly; "you 'll not quit this, I hope?"

"For a day or two at least, I 'll not leave him." And with this
satisfactory assurance Daly closed the door, leaving Sandy on guard over
the patient.

"Here's your case of instruments, Hickman," said Daly, as the old doctor
sat motionless in his gig, awaiting their reappearance; for, in his
dread of further violence, he had preferred thus patiently to await
their return, than venture once more into the company of Sandy M'Grane.
"We 've robbed you of nothing except some lint; and," added he in a
whisper to Muiville, "I very much doubt if that case were ever opened
and closed before with so slight an offence against the laws of

Old Hickman by this time had opened the pocket-book, and was busily
engaged inspecting its contents.

"Ay, that's the bond!" said Daly, laughing; "you may well think how
small the chance of repayment is, when I did not think it worth while
burning it."

"It will be paid in good time," said Hickman, in a low cackle, "and the
interest too, maybe - ay!" And with sundry admonitions from the whip, and
successive chucks of the rein, the old pony threw up his head, shook his
tail crossly, and, with a step almost as measured as that of his master,
moved slowly out of the courtyard.

"So much for our century and our civilization!" said Daly, as he looked
after him; "the old miser that goes there has more power over our
country and its gentry than ever a feudal chief wielded in the days of


It was upon one of the very coldest evenings of the memorably severe
January of 1800 that the doors of Daly's Club House were besieged by
carriages of every shape and description: some brilliant in all the
lustre of a perfect equipage; others more plainly denoting the country
gentleman or the professional man; and others, again, the chance
occupants of the various coach-stands, displayed every variety of
that now extinct family whose members went under the denominations of
"whiskeys," "jingles," and "noddies."

A heavy fall of sleet, accompanied with a cutting north wind, did not
prevent the assemblage of a considerable crowd, who, by the strange
sympathy of gregarious curiosity, were drawn up in front of the
building, satisfied to think that something unusual, of what nature they
knew not, was going forward within, and content to gaze on the brilliant
glare of the lustres as seen through the drawn curtains, and mark the
shadowy outlines of figures as they passed and repassed continually.

Leaving the mob, for it was in reality such, to speculate on the cause
of this extraordinary gathering, we shall at once proceed up the ample
stair and enter the great saloon of the Club, which, opening by eight
windows upon College Green, formed the conversation-room of the members.

Here were now assembled between three and four hundred persons, gathered
in groups and knots, and talking with all the eagerness some engrossing
topic could suggest. In dress, air, and manner they seemed to represent
sections of every social circle of the capital: some, in full Castle
costume, had just escaped from the table of the Viceroy; others, in
military uniform or the dress of the Club, contrasted with coats of
country squires or the even more ungainly quaintness of the lawyers'
costume. They were of every age, from the young man emerging into life,
to the old frequenter of the Club, who had occupied his own place and
chair for half a century, and in manner and style as various, many
preserving the courteous observances of the old school in all its
polished urbanity, and the younger part of the company exhibiting the
traits of a more independent, but certainly less graceful, politeness.
Happily for the social enjoyments of the time, political leanings had
not contributed their bitterness to private life, and men of opinions
the most opposite, and party connections most antagonistic, were here
met, willing to lay aside for a season the arms of encounter, or to use
them with only the sportive pleasantry of a polished wit. If this manly
spirit of mutual forbearance did not characterize the very last debates
of the Irish Parliament, it may in a great measure be attributed to the
nature of that influence by which the measure of the Union was carried;
for bribery not only corrupted the venal, but it soured and irritated
the men who rejected its seductions; and in this wise a difference was
created between the two parties, wider and more irreconcilable than all
which political animosity or mere party dislike could effect.

On the present occasion, however, the animating spirit of the assemblage
seemed to partake of nothing less than a feature of political acrimony;
and amid the chance phrases which met the ear, and the hearty bursts of
laughter that every moment broke forth, it was easy to collect that no
question of a party nature occupied their attention.

At the end of the room a group of some twenty persons stood or sat
around a chair in which a thin elderly gentleman was seated, his fine
and delicately marked features far more unequivocally proclaiming rank
than even the glittering star he wore on his breast. Without being in
reality very old, Lord Drogheda seemed so, for, partly from delicacy of
health, and partly, as some affirmed, from an affectation of age (a more
frequent thing than is expected), he had contracted a stoop, and walked
with every sign of debility.

"Well, gentlemen, how does time go?" said he, with an easy smile. "Are
we not near the hour?"

"Yes; it wants but eleven minutes of ten now, my Lord," said one of the
group. "Do you mean to hold him sharp to time?"

"Egad, I should think so," interrupted a red-whiskered squire, in
splashed top-boots. "I've ridden in from Kildare to-night to see the
match, and I protest against any put-off."

Lord Drogheda turned his eyes towards the speaker with a look in which
mildness was so marked, it could not be called reproof, but it evidently
confused him, as he added, "Of course, if the gentlemen who have heavy
wagers on it are content I must be also."

"I, for one, say 'sharp time,'" cried out a dapperly dressed young
fellow, with an open pocket-book in his hand; "play or pay is the only
rule in these cases."

"I 've backed my Lord at eight to ten, in hundreds," said another, "and
certainly I 'll claim my bet if the Knight is one minute late."

"Then you have just three to decide that question," said one at his
side. "My watch is with the Post-office."

"Quite, time enough left to order my carriage," said Lord Drogheda,
rising with an energy very different from his ordinary indolent habit.
"If the Knight of Gwynne should be accidentally delayed, gentlemen, I,
for my part, prefer being also absent. It will then be a matter of some

Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe Knight Of Gwynne, Vol. I (of II) → online text (page 7 of 34)