Charles James Lever.

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

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"The poor fellow has his own reasons - shallow enough, doubtless - for his
silence; but they have no spot or stain of guilt about them, Let me try
if I cannot unfathom this business - I'll go down to the boat-house."

The generous girl delayed not a moment, but hastened from the room as
she spoke, leaving Sir Marmaduke and Terry silently confronting each
other. The moment of his daughter's departure, Sir Marmaduke felt
relieved from the interference her good opinion of Terry suggested, and,
at once altering his whole demeanour, he walked close up to him, and
said -

"I shall but give you one chance more, sir. Answer my question now, or
never."

"Never, then!" rejoined Terry, in a tone of open defiance.

The words, and the look by which they were accompanied, overcame the old
man's temper in a moment, and he said -

"I thought as much. I guessed how deeply gratitude had sunk in such a
heart. Away! Let me see you no more."

The boy turned his eyes from the speaker till they fell upon his own
seared and burned limb, and the hand swathed in its rude bandage. That
mute appeal was all he made, and then burst into a flood of tears. The
old man turned away to hide his own emotions, and when he looked round,
Terry was gone. The hall door lay open. He had passed out and gained the
lawn - no sight of him could be seen.

"I know it, father, I know it all now," said Sybella, as she came
running up the slope from the lake.

"It is too late, my child; he has gone - left us for ever, I fear,"
said Sir Marmaduke, as in shame and sorrow he rested his head upon her
shoulder.

For some seconds she could not comprehend his words; and, when at last
she did so, she burst forth -

"And, oh, father, think how we have wronged him. It was in his care and
devotion to us, the poor fellow incurred' our doubts. His habit was to
sit beneath the window each night, so long as lights gleamed within.
Till they were extinguished, he never sought his rest. The boatman tells
me this, and says, his notion was, that God watches over the dark hours
only, and that man's precautions were needed up to that time."

With sincere and heartfelt sorrow Sir Marmaduke turned away. Servants
were despatched on foot and horseback to recover the idiot boy, and
persuade him to return; but his path lay across a wild and mountain
region, where few could follow; and at nightfall the messengers returned
unsuccessful in their search.

If there was real sorrow over his departure in the parlour, the very
opposite feeling pervaded the kitchen. There, each in turn exulted in
his share of what had occurred, and took pains to exaggerate his claims
to gratitude, for having banished one so unpopular and unfriended.

Alarm at the attack of the previous night, and sorrow for the unjust
treatment of poor Terry, were not Sir Marmaduke's only emotions on this
sad morning. His messenger had just returned from Carrig-na-curra with
very dispiriting tidings of Herbert O'Donoghue. Respect for the feelings
of the family under the circumstances of severe illness, had induced
him to defer his intended visit to a more suitable opportunity; but
his anxiety for the youth's recovery was unceasing, and he awaited the
return of each servant sent to inquire after him, with the most painful
impatience. In this frame of mind was he as evening drew near, and he
wandered down his avenue to the road-side to learn some minutes earlier
the last intelligence of the boy. It was a calm and peaceful hour; not
a leaf moved in the still air; and all in the glen seemed bathed in the
tranquil influence of the mellow sunset. The contrast to the terrific
storm which so lately swept through the mountain-pass was most striking,
and appealed to the old man's heart, as reflecting back the image of
human life, so varying in its aspect, so changeful of good and evil. He
stood and meditated on the passages of his own life, whose tenor
had, till now, been so equable, but whose fortunes seemed already to
participate in the eventful fate of a distracted country. He regretted,
deeply regretted, that he had ever come to Ireland. He began to learn
how little power there is to guide the helm of human fortune, when once
engaged in the stormy current, and he saw himself already the sport of a
destiny he had never anticipated.

If he was puzzled at the aspect of a peasantry, highly gifted with
intelligence, yet barbarously ignorant - active and energetic, yet
indolent and fatalist - the few hints he had gathered of his neighbour,
the O'Donoghue, amazed him still more; and by no effort of his
imagination could he conceive the alliance between family pride and
poverty - between the reverence for ancestry, and an utter indifference
to the present. He could not understand such an anomaly as pretension
without wealth; and the only satisfactory explanation he could arrive
at, to himself, was, that in a wild and secluded tract, even so much
superiority as this old chieftain possessed, attracted towards him the
respect of all humbler and more lowly than himself, and made even
his rude state seem affluence and power. If in his advances to the O'
Donoghue he had observed all the forms of a measured respect, it was
because he felt so deeply his debtor for a service, that he would omit
nothing in the repayment: his gratitude was sincere and heartfelt, and
he would not admit any obstacle in the way of acknowledging it.

Reflecting thus, he was suddenly startled by the sound of wheels coming
up the glen - he listened, and now heard the low trot of a horse, and
the admonitions of a man's voice, delivered in tones of anger and
impatience. The moment after, an old-fashioned gig, drawn by a small
miserable pony, appeared, from which a man had dismounted to ascend the
hill.

"A fine evening, sir," said Sir Marmaduke, as the stranger, whose dress
bespoke one of the rank of gentleman, drew near.

The other stopped suddenly, and surveyed the baronet without speak ing;
then, throwing down the collar of his great coat, which he wore high
round his face, he made a respectful salute, and said -

"A lovely evening, sir. I have the honour to see Sir Marmaduke Travers,
I believe? May I introduce myself, Doctor Roach, of Killarney?"

"Ah, indeed! Then you are probably come from Mr. O'Donoghue's house? Is
the young gentleman better this evening?"

Roach shook his head dubiously, but made no reply.

"I hope, sir, you don't apprehend danger to his life?" asked Sir
Marmaduke, with an effort to appear calm as he spoke.

"Indeed I do, then," said Roach, firmly; "the mischiefs done already."

"He's not dead?" said Sir Marmaduke, almost breathless in his terror.

"Not dead; but the same as dead: effusion will carry him off some time
to-morrow."

"And can you leave him in this state? Is there nothing to be done?
Nothing you could suggest?" cried the old man, scarcely able to repress
his indignant feeling at the heartless manner of the doctor.

"There's many a thing one might try," said Roach, not noticing the
temper of the question, "for the boy is young; but for the sake of a
chance, how am I to stay away from my practice and my other patients?
And indeed slight a prospect as he has of recovery, my own of a fee is
slighter still. I think I've all the corn in Egypt in my pocket this
minute," said he, slapping his hand on his purse: "one of the late
king's guineas, wherever they had it lying by till now."

"I am overjoyed to have met you, sir," said Sir Marmaduke hastily, and
by a great exertion concealing the disgust this speech suggested. "I
wish for an opinion about my daughter's health - a cold, I fancy - but
to-morrow will do better. Could you return to Mr. O'Donoghue's tonight?
I have not a bed to offer you here. This arrangement may serve both
parties, as I fervently hope something may yet be done for the youth."

"I'll visit Miss Travers in the morning with pleasure."

"Don't leave him, sir, I entreat you, till I send over; it will be quite
time enough when you hear from me: let the youth be your first care,
doctor; in the mean while accept this slight retainer, for I beg you to
consider your time as given to me now," and with that he pressed several
guineas into the willing palm of the doctor.

As Roach surveyed the shining gold, his quick cunning divined the old
baronet's intentions, and with a readiness long habit had perfected, he
said -

"The case of danger before all others, any day. I'll turn about at once
and see what can be done for the lad."

Sir Marmaduke leaned towards him, and said some words hastily in a low
whispering voice.

"Never fear - never fear, Sir Marmaduke," was the reply, as he mounted to
the seat of his vehicle, and turned the pony's head once more down the
glen.

"Lose no time, I beseech you," cried the old man, waving his hand in
token of adieu; nor was the direction unheeded, for, using his whip
with redoubled energy, the doctor sped along the road at a canter,
which threatened annihilation to the frail vehicle at every bound of the
animal.

"Five hundred!" muttered Sir Marmaduke to himself, as he looked after
him. "I'd give half my fortune to see him safe through it."

Meanwhile Roach proceeded on his way, speculating on all the gain this
fortunate meeting might bring to him, and then meditating what reasons
he should allege to the O'Donoghue for his speedy return.

"I'll tell him a lucky thought struck me in the glen," muttered he;
"or, what! if I said I forgot something - a pocket-book, or case of
instruments - any thing will do;" and, with this comfortable reflection,
he urged his beast onward.

The night was falling as he once more ascended the steep and narrow
causeway, which led to the old keep; and here, now, Kerry O'Leary was
closing the heavy but time-worn gate, and fastening it with many a bolt
and bar, as though aught within could merit so much precaution. The
sound of wheels seemed suddenly to have caught the huntsman's ear, for
he hastily shut down the massive hasp that secured the bar of the gate,
and as quickly opened a little latched window, which, barred with iron,
resembled the grated aperture of a convent door.

[Illustration: 127]

"You're late this time, any how," cried Kerry. "Tramp back again,
friend, the way you came; and be thankful it's myself seen you; for,
by the blessed Father, if it was Master Mark was here, you'd carry away
more lead in your skirts than you'd like."

"What, Kerry? - what's that you're saying?" said the astonished doctor;
"don't you know me, man?"

"Kerry's my name, sure enough; but artful as you are, you'll just keep
the other side of the door. Be off now, in God's name. 'Tis a fair
warning I give you; and faix if you won't listen to my son, you might
hear worse;" and as he spoke, that ominous sound, the click of a
gun-cock, was heard, and the muzzle of a carbine peeped between the iron
bars.

"Tear-and-ounds! ye scoundrel! you're not going to fire a bullet at me?"

"'Tis slugs they are," was the reply, as Kerry adjusted the piece, and
seemed to take as good an aim as the darkness permitted; "divil a more
nor slugs, as you'll know soon. I'll count three, now, and may I never
wear boots, if I don't blaze, if you're not gone before it's over.
Here's one," shouted he, in a louder key.

"The saints protect me, but I'll be murdered," muttered old Roach,
blessing himself, but unable from terror to speak aloud, or stir frozen
the spot.

"Here's two!" cried Kerry, still louder.

"I'm going! - I'm going! give me time to leave this blasted place; bad
luck to the day and the hour I ever saw it."

"It's too late," shouted Kerry. "Here's three!" and as he spoke bang
went the piece, and a shower of slugs and duck-shot came peppering
over the head and counter of the old pony; for in his fright, Roach
had fallen on his knees to pray. The wretched quadruped, thus rudely
saluted, gave a plunge and a kick, and then wheeled about with an
alacrity long forgotten, and scampered down the causeway with the old
gig at his heels, rattling as if it were coming in pieces. Kerry broke
into a roar of laughter, and screamed out -

"I'll give you another yet, begorra! that's only a true copy; but you'll
get the original now, you ould varmint!"

A heavy groan from the wretched doctor, as he sank in a faint, was the
only response; for in his fear he thought the contents of the piece were
in his body.

"Musha, I hope he isn't dead," said Kerry, as he opened the wicket
cautiously, and peeped out with a lantern. "Mister Cassidy - Mister
James, get up now - it's only joking I was. - Holy Joseph! is he kilt?"
and overcome by a sudden dread of having committed murder, Kerry stepped
out, and approached the motionless figure before him. "By all that's
good, I've done for the sheriff," said he, as he stood over the body.
"Oh! wirra, wirra! who'd think a few grains of shot would kill him."

"What's the matter here? who fired that shot?" said a deep voice, as
Mark O'Donoghue appeared at Kerry's side, and snatching the lantern,
held it down till the light fell upon the pale features of the doctor.

"I'm murdered! I'm murdered!" was the faint exclamation of old Roach.
"Hear me, these are my dying words, Kerry O'Leary murdered me."

"Where are you wounded? where's the ball?" cried Mark, tearing open the
coat and waistcoat in eager anxiety..

"I don't know, I don't know; it's inside bleeding I feel."

"Nonsense, man, you have neither bruise nor scar about you; you're
frightened, that's all. Come, Kerry, give a hand, and we'll help him
in."

But Kerry had fled; the idea of the gallows had just shot across his
mind, and he never waited for any further disclosures about his victim;
but deep in the recesses of a hay-loft he lay cowering in terror, and
endeavouring to pray. Meanwhile Mark had taken the half lifeless body on
his shoulder, and with the ease and indifference he would have bestowed
upon an inanimate burden, coolly earned him into the parlour, and threw
him upon a sofa.




CHAPTER XII. THE GLEN AT MIDNIGHT.

"What have you got there, Mark?" called out the O'Donoghue, as the young
man threw the still insensible figure of the Doctor upon the sofa.

"Old Roach, of Killarney," answered Mark sullenly. "That confounded
fool, Kerry, must have been listening at the door there, to what we were
saying, and took him for Cassidy, the sub-sheriff; he fired a charge of
slugs at him - that's certain; but I don't think there's much mischief
done." As he spoke, he filled a goblet with wine, and without any waste
of ceremony, poured it down the Doctor's throat. "You're nothing the
worse, man," added he, roughly; "you've given many a more dangerous dose
yourself, I'll be bound, and people have survived it too."

"I'm better now," said Roach, in a faint voice; "I feel something
better; but may I never leave this spot if I don't prosecute that
scoundrel, O'Leary. It was all malice - I can swear to that."

"Not a bit of it, Roach; Mark says the fellow mistook you for Cassidy."

"No, no - don't tell me that: he knew me well; but I foresaw it all. He
filled my pony with water; I might as well be rolling a barrel before
me, as try to drive him this morning. The rascal had a spite against me
for giving him nothing; but he shall hang for it."

"Come, come, Roach, don't be angry; it's all past and over now; the
fellow did it for the best."

"Did it for the best! Fired a loaded blunderbuss into a fellow-creature
for the best!"

"To be sure he did," broke in Mark, with an imperious look and tone.
"There's no harm done, and you need not make such a work about it."

"Where's the pony and the gig, then?" called out Roach, suddenly
remembering the last sight he had of them.

"I heard the old beast clattering down the glen, as if he had fifty
kettles at his tail. They'll stop him at last; and if they shouldn't, I
don't suppose it matters much: the whole yoke wasn't worth a five pound
note - no, even giving the owner into the bargain," muttered he, as he
turned away.

[Illustration: 132]

The indignity of this speech acted like a charm upon Roach; as if
galvanised by the insult, he sat bolt upright on the sofa, and thrust
his hands down to the deepest recesses of his breeches pockets, his
invariable signal for close action. "What, sir, do you tell me that my
conveniency, with the pony, harness and all - "

"Have patience, Roach," interposed the old man; "Mark was but jesting.
Come over and join us here." At the same instant the door was flung
suddenly wide, and Sir Archy rushed in, with a speed very unlike his
ordinary gait. "There's a change for the better," cried he, joyfully;
"the boy has made a rally, and if we could overtake that d - - d auld
beestie, Roach, and bring him back again, we might save the lad."

"The d - - d auld beestie," exclaimed Roach, as he sprung from the sofa
and stood before him, "is very much honoured by your flattering mention
of him." Then turning towards the O'Donoghue, he added - "Take your turn
out of me now, when you have me; for, by the Father of Physic, you'll
never see Denis Roach under this roof again."

The O'Donoghue laughed till his face streamed with the emotion, and
he rocked in his chair like one in a convulsion. "Look, Archy," cried
he - "see now! - hear me, Roach," were the only words he could utter
between the paroxysms, while M'Nab, the very picture of shame and
confusion, stood overwhelmed with his blunder, and unable to say a word.

"Let us not stand fooling here," said Mark, gruffly, as he took the
Doctor's arm; "come and see my brother, and try what can be done for
him."

With an under-growl of menace and rage, old Roach suffered himself to be
led away by the young man, Sir Archy following slowly, as they mounted
the stairs.

Although alone, the O'Donoghue continued to laugh over the scene he had
just witnessed; nor did he know which to enjoy more - the stifled rage of
the Doctor, or the mingled shame and distress of M'Nab. It was, indeed,
a rare thing to obtain such an occasion for triumph over Sir Archy,
whose studied observance of all the courtesies and proprieties of
life, formed so strong a contrast with his own careless and indifferent
habits.

"Archy will never get over it - that's certain, and begad he shan't do
so for want of a reminder. The d - - d auld beestie!" and with the words
came back his laughter, which had not ceased as Mark re-entered the
room. "Well, lad," he cried, "have they made it up - what has Sir Archy
done with him?"

"Herbert's better," said the youth, in a low deep voice, and with a look
that sternly rebuked the heartless forgetfulness of his father.

"Ah! better, is he? Well, that is good news, Mark; and Roach thinks he
may recover?"

"He has a chance now; a few hours will decide it. Roach will sit up
with him till four o'clock, and then, I shall take the remainder of the
night, for my uncle seems quite worn out with watching."

"No, Mark, my boy, you must not lose your night's rest; you've had a
long and tiresome ride to-day."

"I'm not tired, and I'll do it," replied he, in the determined tone
of his self-willed habit - one, which his father had never sought to
control, from infancy upwards. There was a long pause after this, which
Mark broke, at length, by saying - "So, it is pretty clear now that
our game is up - the mortgage is foreclosed. Hemsworth has noticed the
Ballyvourney tenants not to pay us the rents, and the ejectment goes
on."

"What of Callaghan?" asked the O'Donoghue, in a sinking voice.

"Refused - flatly refused to renew the bills. If we give him five hundred
down," said the youth, with a bitter laugh, "he says, he'd strain a
point."

"You told him how we were circumstanced, Mark? Did you mention about
Kate's money?"

"No," said Mark, sternly, as his brows met in a savage frown. "No, sir,
I never said a word of it. She shall not be made a beggar of, for our
faults. I told you before, and I tell you now, I'll not suffer it."

"But hear me, Mark. It is only a question of time. I'll repay - - "

"Repay!" was the scornful echo of the young man, as he turned a
withering glance at his father.

"Then there's nothing but ruin before us," said the O'Donoghue, in a
solemn tone - "nothing!"

The old man's head fell forward on his bosom, and, as his hands dropped
listlessly down at either side, he sat the very impersonation of
overwhelming affliction, while Mark, with heavy step and slow, walked up
and down the roomy chamber.

"Hemsworth's clerk hinted something about this old banker's intention
of building here," resumed he, after a long interval of silence.

"Building where? - -over at 'the Lodge?'"

"No, here - at Carrig-na-curra - throwing down this old place, I suppose,
and erecting a modern villa instead."

"What!" exclaimed the O'Donoghue, with a look of fiery indignation. "Are
they going to grub us out, root and branch? Is it not enough to banish
the old lords of the soil, but they must remove their very landmarks
also?"

"It is for that he's come here, I've no doubt," resumed Mark; "he only
waited to have the whole estate in his possession, which this term will
give him."

"I wish he had waited a little longer - a year, or at most, two, would
have been enough," said the old man, in a voice of great dejection,
then added, with a sickly smile - "You have little affection for the old
walls, Mark."

The youth made no reply, and he went on - "Nor is it to be wondered at.
You never knew them in their happy days! but I did, Mark - ay, that I
did. I mind the time well, when your grandfather was the head of this
great county - when the proudest and the best in the land stood uncovered
when he addressed them, and deemed the highest honour they could
receive, an invitation to this house. In the very room where we are
sitting, I've seen thirty guests assembled, whose names comprised the
rank and station of the province; and yet, all - every man of them,
regarded him as their chief, and he was so, too - the descendant of one
who was a king."

The animated features of the young man, as he listened, encouraged the
O'Donoghue, and he went on. "Thirty-seven thousand acres descended to my
grandfather, and even that was but a moiety of our former possessions."

"Enough of this," interrupted Mark rudely. "It is but an unprofitable
theme. The game is up, father," added he, in a deep stern voice, "and I,
for one, have little fancy to wait for the winner to claim the stakes.
Could I but see you safely out of the scrape, I'd be many a mile away,
ere a week was over."

"You would not leave me, boy!" cried the old man, as he grasped the
youth's hands in his, and gazed on him with streaming eyes. "You would
not desert your poor old father. Oh, no - no, Mark; this would not be
like you. A little patience, my child, and death will save you that
cruelty."

The young man's chest heaved and fell like a swelling wave; but he never
spoke, nor changed a muscle of his rigid features.

"I have borne all misfortunes well till now," continued the father. "I
cared little on my own account, Mark; my only sorrow was for you; but so
long as we were together, boy - so long as hand in hand we stood against
the storm, I felt that my courage never failed me. Stay by me, then,
Mark - tell me that whatever comes, you'll never leave me. Let it not
be said, that when age and affliction fell upon the O'Donoghue, his
son - the boy of his heart - deserted him. You shall command in every
thing," said he, with an impassioned tone, as he fixed his eyes upon
the youth's countenance. "I ask for nothing but to be near you. The
house - the property - all shall be yours."

"What house - what property - do you speak of?" said Mark, rudely. "Are we
not beggars?"

The old man's head dropped heavily; he relinquished the grasp of his
son's hand, and his outstretched arm fell powerless to his side. "I was
forgetting," murmured he, in a broken voice - "it is as you say - you are
right, Mark - you _must_ go."

Few and simple as the words were, the utterance sunk deep into the young
man's heart; they seemed the last effort of courage wrung from despair,
and breathed a pathos he was unable to resist.

"I'll not leave you," said he, in a voice scarce louder than a whisper:
"there's my hand upon it," and he wrung in his strong grasp the
unresisting fingers of the old man. "That's a promise, father, and now
let us speak no more about it."

"I'll get to my bed, Mark," said the O'Donoghue, as he pressed his
hands upon his throbbing temples. It was many a day since anything
like emotion had moved him, and the conflict of passion had worn and
exhausted him. "Good-night, my boy - my own boy;" and he fell upon the



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 10 of 41)