Charles James Lever.

The O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago online

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Produced by David Widger



By Charles Lever


William Curry, Jun. And Company.

William S. Orr And Co. London.

Fraser And Co. Edinburgh.




Professor of Moral Philosophy In the University of Edinburgh, &c.

Dear Sir,

It is but seldom that the few lines of a dedication can give
the pleasure I now feel in availing myself of your kind
permission to inscribe this volume to you. As a boy, the
greatest happiness of my life was in your writings; and
among all my faults and failures, I can trace not one to
your influence, while, if I have ever been momentarily
successful in upholding the right, and denouncing the wrong,
I owe more of the spirit that suggested the effort to
yourself than to any other man breathing.

With my sincerest respects, and, if I dared, I should say,
with my warmest regards,

I am, yours truly,


Carlsruhe, October 18th, 1845.




In that wild and picturesque valley which winds its way between the
town of Macroom and Bantry Bay, and goes by the name of Glenflesk, the
character of Irish scenery is perhaps more perfectly displayed than in
any other tract of the same extent in the island. The mountains, rugged
and broken, are singularly fanciful in their outline; their sides a
mingled mass of granite and straggling herbage, where the deepest green
and the red purple of the heath-bell are blended harmoniously together.
The valley beneath, alternately widening and narrowing, presents one
rich meadow tract, watered by a deep and rapid stream, fed by a thousand
rills that come tumbling, and foaming down the mountain sides, and to
the traveller are seen like white streaks marking the dark surface of
the precipice. Scarcely a hut is to be seen for miles of this lonely
glen, and save for the herds of cattle and the flocks of sheep here and
there to be descried, it would seem as if the spot had been forgotten
by man, and left to sleep in its own gloomy desolation. The river
itself has a character of wildness all its own-now, brawling over
rugged rocks-now foaming between high and narrow sides, abrupt as walls,
sometimes, flowing over a ledge of granite, without a ripple on the
surface-then plunging madly into some dark abyss, to emerge again, lower
down the valley, in one troubled sea of foam and spray: its dull roar
the only voice that echoes in the mountain gorge. Even where the humble
roof of a solitary cabin can be seen, the aspect of habitation rather
heightens than diminishes the feeling of loneliness and desolation
around. The thought of poverty enduring its privations unseen and
unknown, without an eye to mark its struggles, or a heart to console its
griefs, comes mournfully on the mind, and one wonders what manner of man
he can be, who has fixed his dwelling in such solitude.

In vain the eye ranges to catch sight of one human being, save that dark
speck be such which crowns the cliff, and stands out from the clear sky
behind. Yes, it is a child watching the goats that are browsing along
the mountain, and as you look, the swooping mist has hidden him from
your view. Life of dreariness and gloom! What sad and melancholy
thoughts must be his companions, who spends the live-long day on
these wild heaths, his eye resting on the trackless waste where no
fellow-creature moves! how many a mournful dream will pass over his
mind! what fearful superstitions will creep in upon his imagination,
giving form and shape to the flitting clouds, and making the dark
shadows, as they pass, seem things of life and substance.

Poor child of sorrow! How destiny has marked you for misery! For you no
childish gambols in the sun - no gay playfellow - no paddling in the running
stream, that steals along bright and glittering, like happy infancy - no
budding sense of a fair world, opening in gladness; but all, a dreary
waste - the weariness of age bound up with the terrors of childhood.

The sun was just setting on a mellow evening, late in the autumn of a
year towards the close of the last century, as a solitary traveller
sat down to rest himself on one of the large rocks by the road-side;
divesting himself of his gun and shot-pouch, he lay carelessly at his
length, and seemed to be enjoying the light breeze which came up the

He was a young and powerfully-built man, whose well-knit frame and
muscular limbs showed how much habitual exercise had contributed to
make the steepest paths of the mountain a task of ease to him. He was
scarcely above the middle height, but with remarkable breadth of chest,
and that squareness of proportion which indicates considerable physical
strength; his countenance, except for a look of utter listlesness and
vacuity, had been pleasing; the eyes were large and full, and of the
deep grey which simulates blue; the nose large and well-formed; the
mouth alone was unprepossessing-the expression it wore was of ill-humour
and discontent, and this character seemed so habitual that even as he
sat thus alone and in solitude, the curl of the upper lip betrayed his

His dress was a shooting-jacket of some coarse stuff, stained and washed
by many a mountain streamlet; loose trowsers of grey cloth, and heavy
shoes-such as are worn by the peasantry, wherever such luxuries are
attainable. It would have been difficult, at a mere glance, to have
decided what class or condition of life he pertained to; for, although
certain traits bespoke the person of a respectable rank, there was
a general air of neglect about him, that half contradicted the
supposition. He lay for some time perfectly motionless, when the tramp
of horses at a distance down the glen suddenly roused him from his
seeming apathy, and resting on his elbow he listened attentively. The
sounds came nearer and nearer, and now, the dull roll of a carriage
could be heard approaching. Strange noises these in that solitary
valley, where even the hoofs of a single horse but rarely routed the
echoes. A sudden dip of the road at a little distance from where he lay,
concealed the view, and he remained in anxious expectancy, wondering
what these sounds should portend, when suddenly the carriage seemed to
have halted, and all was still.

For some minutes the youth appeared to doubt whether he had not
been deceived by some swooping of the wind through the passes in the
mountains, when the sound of voices fell on his ear, and at the
same moment, two figures appeared over the crest of the hill, slowly
advancing up the road. The one was a man advanced in years, but still
hale and vigorous, in look-his features even yet eminently handsome,
wore an air of mingled frankness and haughtiness; there was in their
expression the habitual character of one accustomed to exert a degree
of command and influence over others-a look, which of all the
characteristics of temper, is least easily mistaken.

At his side walked one who, even at a passing glance, might be
pronounced his daughter, so striking the resemblance between them, She
did not seem above sixteen years of age, but through the youthful traits
of her features you could mark the same character of expression her
father's wore, modified by the tender beauty, which at that age, blends
the loveliness of the girl with the graces of womanhood. Bather above
than below the middle height, her figure had that distinguishing mark
of elegance high birth impresses, and in her very walk a quick observer
might detect an air of class.

They both stopped short as they gained the summit of the hill, and
appeared wonder-struck at the scene before them. The grey gloom of
twilight threw its sombre shadows over the valley, but the mountain
peaks were tipped with the setting sun, and shone in those rich
violet and purple hues the autumn heath displays so beautifully. The
dark-leaved holly and the bright arbutus blossom lent their colour to
every jutting cliff and promontory, which, to eyes unacquainted with
the scenery, gave an air of culture strangely at variance with the
desolation around.

"Is this wild enough for your fancy, Sybella," said the father, with a
playful smile, as he watched the varying expression of the young girl's
features, "or would you desire something still more dreary?" But she
made no answer. Her gaze was fixed on a thin wreath of smoke that curled
its way upwards from what appeared a low mound of earth, in the valley
below the road; some branches of trees, covered with sods of earth,
grass-grown and still green, were heaped up together, and through these
the vapour found a passage and floated into the air.

"I am wondering what that fire can mean," said she, pointing downwards
with her finger.

"Here is some one will explain it," said the old man, as for the first
time he perceived the youth, who still maintained his former attitude
on the bank, and with a studied indifference, paid no attention to those
whose presence had before so much surprised him.

"I say, my good fellow, what does that smoke mean we see yonder?"

The youth sprung to his feet with a bound that almost startled his
questioner, so sudden and abrupt the motion; his features, inactive and
colourless the moment before, seemed almost convulsed now, while they
became dark with blood.

"Was it to me you spoke?" said he, in a low guttural tone, which his
passion made actually tremulous.

"Yes - "

But before the old man could reply, his daughter, with the quick tact
of womanhood, perceiving the mistake her father had fallen into, hastily
interrupted him by saying, -

"Yes, sir, we were asking you the cause of the fire at the foot of that

The tone and the manner in which the words were uttered seemed at once
to have disarmed his anger; and although for a second or two he made no
answer, his features recovered their former half-listless look, as he
said -

"It is a cabin - There is another yonder, beside the river."

"A cabin! Surely you cannot mean that people are living there?" said the
girl, as a sickly pallor spread itself across her cheeks.

"Yes, to be sure," replied the youth; "they have no better hereabouts."

"What poverty - what dreadful misery is this!" said she, as the great
tears gushed forth, and stole heavily down her face.

"They are not so poor," answered the young man, in a voice of almost
reproof. "The cattle along that mountain all belong to these people - the
goats you see in that glen are theirs also."

"And whose estate may this be?" said the old man.

Either the questioner or his question seemed to have called up again
the youth's former resentment, for he fixed his eyes steadily on him for
some time without a word, and then slowly added -

"This belongs to an Englishman - a certain Sir Marmaduke Travers - It is
the estate of O'Donoghue."

"Was, you mean, once," answered the old man quickly.

"I mean what I say," replied the other rudely. "Confiscation cannot take
away a right, it can at most - "

This speech was fortunately not destined to be finished, for while he
was speaking, his quick glance detected a dark object soaring above his
head. In a second he had seized his gun, and taking a steady aim, he
fired. The loud report was heard repeated in many a far-off glen, and
ere its last echo died away, a heavy object fell upon the road not many
yards from where they stood.

"This fellow," said the youth, as he lifted the body of a large black
eagle from the ground - "This fellow was a confiscator too, and see what
he has come to. You'd not tell me that our lambs were his, would you?"

The roll of wheels happily drowned these words, for by this time the
postillions had reached the place, the four post-horses labouring under
the heavy-laden travelling carriage, with its innumerable boxes and

The post boys saluted the young man with marked deference, to which he
scarcely deigned an acknowledgment, as he replaced his shot-pouch, and
seemed to prepare for the road once more.

Meanwhile the old gentleman had assisted his daughter to the carriage,
and was about to follow, when he turned around suddenly and said -

"If your road lies this way, may I offer you a seat with us?"

The youth stared as if he did not well comprehend the offer, and his
cheek flushed, as he answered coldly -

"I thank you; but my path is across the mountain."

Both parties saluted distantly, the door of the carriage closed, and the
word to move on was given, when the young man, taking two dark feathers
from the eagle's wing, approached the window.

"I was forgetting," said he, in a voice of hesitation and diffidence,
"perhaps you would accept these feathers."

The young girl smiled, and half blushing, muttered some words in reply,
as she took the offered present. The horses sprung forward the next
instant, and a few minutes after, the road was as silent and deserted
as before; and save the retiring sound of the wheels, nothing broke the


As the glen continues to wind between the mountains, it gradually
becomes narrower, and at last contracts to a mere cleft, flanked on
either side by two precipitous walls of rock, which rise to the
height of several hundred feet above the road; this is the pass of
Keim-an-eigh, one of the wildest and most romantic ravines of the
scenery of the south.

At the entrance to this pass there stood, at the time we speak of, a
small wayside inn, or shebeen-house, whose greatest recommendation was
in the feet, that it was the only place where shelter and refreshment
could be obtained for miles on either side. An humble thatched cabin
abutting against the granite rock of the glen, and decorated with an
almost effaced sign of St. Finbar converting a very unprepossessing
heathen, over the door, showed where Mary M'Kelly dispensed
"enthertainment for man and baste."

A chance traveller, bestowing a passing glance upon this modest edifice,
might deem that an inn in such a dreary and unfrequented valley,
must prove a very profitless speculation - few, very few travelled the
road - fewer still would halt to bait within ten miles of Bantry. Report,
however, said differently; the impression in the country was, that
"Mary's" - as it was briefly styled - had a readier share of business than
many a more promising and pretentious hotel; in fact, it was generally
believed to be the resort of all the smugglers of the coast; and the
market, where the shopkeepers of the interior repaired in secret to
purchase the contraband wares and "run goods," which poured into the
country from the shores of France and Holland.

Vast storehouses and caves were said to exist in the rock behind
the house, to store away the valuable goods, which from time to time
arrived; and it was currently believed that the cargo of an Indiaman
might have been concealed within these secret recesses, and never a cask
left in view to attract suspicion.

It is not into these gloomy receptacles of contraband that we would now
conduct our reader, but into a far more cheerful and more comfortable
locality - the spacious kitchen of the cabin, or, in fact, the apartment
which served for the double purpose of cooking and eating - the common
room of the inn, where around a blazing fire of black turf was seated a
party of three persons.

At one side sat the fat and somewhat comely figure of Mary herself, a
woman of some five-and-forty years, with that expression of rough and
ready temperament, the habits of a wayside inn will teach. She had a
clear, full eye - a wide, but not unpleasant mouth - and a voice that
suited well the mellifluous intonation of a Kerry accent. Opposite to
her were two thin, attenuated old men, who, for dress, look, age, voice,
and manner, it would have been almost impossible to distinguish from
each other; for while the same weather-beaten, shrivelled expression was
common to both, their jackets of blue cloth, leather breeches, and
top boots, were so precisely alike, that they seemed the very Dromios
brought back to life, to perform as postillions. Such they were - such
they had been for above fifty years. They had travelled the country from
the time they were boys - they entered the career together, and together
they were jogging onward to the last stage of all, the only one where
they hoped to be at rest! Joe and Jim Daly were two names no one ever
heard disunited; they were regarded as but one corporeally, and although
they affected at times to make distinctions themselves, the world never
gave them credit for any consciousness of separate identity. These were
the postillions of the travelling carriage, which having left at its
destination, about two miles distant, they were now regaling themselves
at Mary's, where the horses were to rest for the night.

"Faix, ma'am, and it's driving ye may call it," said one of the pair,
as he sipped a very smoking compound the hostess had just mixed, "a
hard gallop every step of the way, barrin' the bit of a hill at

"Well, I hope ye had the decent hansel for it, any how, Jim?"

"I'm Joe, ma'am, av its plazing to ye; Jim is the pole-end boy; he rides
the layders. And it's true for ye - they behaved dacent."

"A goold guinea, divil a less" - said the other, "there's no use in
denying it. Begorra, it was all natural, them's as rich as Crasis; sure
didn't I see the young lady herself throwing out the tenpenny bits to
the gossoons, as we went by, as if it was dirt; bad luck to me, but I
was going to throw down the Bishop of Cloyne."

"Throw down who?" said the hostess.

"The near wheeler, ma'am; he's a broken-kneed ould divil, we bought from
the bishop, and called him after him; and as I was saying, I was going
to cross them on the pole, and get a fall, just to have a scramble for
the money, with the gaffers."

"'They look so poor,' says she. God help her - it's little poverty she
saw - there isn't one of them crayters hasn't a sack of potatoes."

"Ay - more of them a pig."

"And hens," chimed in the first speaker, with a horror at the imposition
of people so comfortably endowed, affecting to feel any pressure or

"And what's bringing them here at all?" said Mrs. M'Kelly, with a voice
of some asperity; for she foresaw no pleasant future in the fact of a
resident great man, who would not be likely to give any encouragement to
the branch of traffic her principal customers followed.

"Sorrow one of me knows," was the safe reply of the individual
addressed, who not being prepared with any view of the matter, save that
founded on the great benefit to the country, preferred this answer to a
more decisive one.

"'Tis to improve the property, they say," interposed the other, who was
not equally endowed with caution. "To look after the estate himself he
has come."

"Improve, indeed!" echoed the hostess. "Much we want their improving!
Why didn't they leave us the ould families of the country? It's little
we used to hear of improving, when I was a child. God be good to
us. - There was ould Miles O'Donoghue, the present man's father, I'd like
to see what he'd say, if they talked to him about improvement. Ayeh!
sure I mind the time a hogshead of claret didn't do the fortnight. My
father, rest his soul, used to go up to the house every Monday morning
for orders; and ye'd see a string of cars following him at the same
time, with tay, and sugar, and wine, and brandy, and oranges, and
lemons. Them was the raal improvements!"

"'Tis true for ye, ma'am. It was a fine house, I always heerd tell."

"Forty-six in the kitchen, besides about fourteen colleens and gossoons
about the place; the best of enthertainment up stairs and down."

"Musha! that was grand."

"A keg of sperits, with a spigot, in the servants' hall, and no saying
by your leave, but drink while ye could stand over it."

"The Lord be good to us!" piously ejaculated the twain.

"The hams was boiled in sherry wine."

"Begorra, I wish I was a pig them times."

"And a pike daren't come up to table without an elegant pudding in his
belly that cost five pounds!"

"'Tis the fish has their own luck always," was the profound meditation
at this piece of good fortune.

"Ayeh! ayeh!" continued the hostess in a strain of lamentation, "When
the ould stock was in it, we never heerd tell of improvements. He'll be
making me take out a license, I suppose," said she, in a voice of half
contemptuous incredulity.

"Faix, there's no knowing," said Joe, as he shook the ashes out of his
pipe, and nodded his head sententiously, as though to say, that in the
miserable times they'd fallen upon, any thing was possible.

"Licensed for sperits and groceries," said Mrs. M'Kelly, with a sort of
hysterical giggle, as if the thought were too much for her nerves.

"I wouldn't wonder if he put up a pike," stammered out Jim, thereby
implying that human atrocity would have reached its climax.

The silence which followed this terrible suggestion, was now loudly
interrupted by a smart knocking at the door of the cabin, which was
already barred and locked for the night.

"Who's there?" said Mary, as she held a cloak across the blaze of the
fire, so as to prevent the light being seen through the apertures of the
door - "'tis in bed we are, and late enough, too."

"Open the door, Mary, it's me," said a somewhat confident voice. "I saw
the fire burning brightly - and there's no use hiding it."

"Oh, troth, Mr. Mark, I'll not keep ye out in the cowld," said the
hostess, as, unbarring the door, she admitted the guest whom we had seen
some time since in the glen. "Sure enough, 'tisn't an O'Donoghue we'd
shut the door agin, any how."

"Thank ye, Mary," said the young man; "I have been all day in the
mountains, and had no sport; and as that pleasant old Scotch uncle of
mine gives me no peace, when I come home empty-handed, I have resolved
to stay here for the night, and try my luck to-morrow. Don't stir,
Jim - there's room enough, Joe: Mary's fire is never so grudging, but
there's a warm place for every one. What's in this big pot here, Mary?"

"It's a stew, sir; more by token, of your honour's providin'."
"Mine - how is that?"

"The hare ye shot afore the door, yesterday morning; sure it's raal luck
we have it for you now;" and while Mary employed herself in the pleasant
hustle of preparing the supper, the young man drew near to the fire, and
engaged the others in conversation.

"That travelling carriage was going on to Bantry, Joe, I suppose?" said
the youth, in a tone of easy indifference.

"No sir; they stopped at the lodge above."

"At the lodge! - surely you can't mean that they were the English
family - Sir Marmaduke."

"'Tis just himself, and his daughter. I heerd them say the names, as we
were leaving Macroom. They were not expected here these three weeks;
and Captain Hemsworth, the agent, isn't at home; and they say there's
no servants at the lodge, nor nothin' ready for the quality at all; and
sure when a great lord like that - "

"He is not a lord you fool; he has not a drop of noble blood in his
body: he's a London banker - rich enough to buy birth, if gold could
do it." The youth paused in his vehemence; then added, in a muttering
voice - "Rich enough to buy up the inheritance of those who have blood in
their veins."

The tone of voice in which the young man spoke, and the angry look which
accompanied these words, threw a gloom over the party, and for some time
nothing was said on either side. At last he broke silence abruptly by
saying -

"And that was his daughter, then?"

"Yes, sir; and a purty crayture she is, and a kind-hearted. The moment
she heerd she was on her father's estate, she began asking the names of
all the people, and if they were well off, and what they had to ate, and
where was the schools."

"The schools!" broke in Mary, in an accent of great derision - "musha,
it's great schooling we want up the glen, to teach us to bear poverty
and cowld, without complaining: learning is a fine thing for the
hunger - "

Her irony was too delicate for the thick apprehension of poor Jim, who
felt himself addressed by the remark, and piously responded -

"It is so, glory be to God!"

"Well," said the young man, who now seemed all eagerness to resume
the subject - "well, and what then?"

"Then, she was wondering where was the roads up to the cabins on the
mountains, as if the likes of them people had roads!"

"They've ways of their own - the English," interrupted Jim, who felt
jealous of his companion being always referred to - "for whenever we

Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 1 of 41)