Charles James Lever.

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

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Happy were it, if we could say that such existed no longer - that such
a state of things was a matter for historical inquiry, or an old man's
memory - and that in our own day these instances were not to be found
among us.

When Hemsworth perceived that the project of his life was in peril, he
bethought him of every means by which the danger could be averted. Deep
and well-founded as was his confidence in the cleverness of his deputy,
his station was an insurmountable barrier to his utility at the present
conjuncture. Sam Wylie, for so this worthy was called, was admirable
as a spy, but never could be employed as minister plenipotentiary: it
needed one, now, who should possess more influence over Sir Marmaduke
himself. For this purpose, Frederick Travers alone seemed the fitting
person; to him, therefore, Hemsworth wrote a letter marked "strictly
confidential," detailing, with pains-taking accuracy, the inevitable
misfortunes Sir Marmaduke's visit would entail upon a people, whose
demands no benevolence could satisfy, whose expectations no concessions
could content.

He narrated the fearful instances of their vengeance, whenever
disappointment had checked the strong current of their hopes; and told,
with all the semblance of truth, of scenes of bloodshed and murder, no
cause for which could be traced, save in the dark suspicions of a people
long accustomed to regard the Saxon as their tyrant.

The night attack upon "the Lodge" furnished also its theme of terror;
and so artfully did he blend his fact and fiction, his true statement,
and his false inference, that the young man read the epistle with an
anxious and beating heart, and longed for the hour, when he should
recall those he held dearest, from such a land of anarchy and
misfortune.

Not satisfied with the immediate object in view, Hemsworth ingeniously
contrived to instil into Frederick's mind misgivings as to the value of
an estate thus circumstanced, representing, not without some truth on
his side, that the only chance of bettering the condition of a peasantry
so sunk and degraded, was by an actual residence in the midst of them, a
penalty, which to the youth, seemed too dear for any requital whatever.

On a separate slip of paper, marked "to be burned when read," Frederick
deciphered the following lines: -

"Above all things, I would caution you regarding a family
who, though merely of the rank of farmer, affect a gentility
which had its origin some dozen centuries back, and has had
ample opportunity to leak out in the meantime; these are
the 'O'Donoghues,' a dangerous set, haughty, ill-
conditioned, and scheming. They will endeavour, if they can,
to obtain influence with your father, and I cannot too
strongly represent the hazard of such an event. Do not, I
entreat you, suffer his compassion, or mistaken benevolence,
to be exercised in their behalf. Were they merely unworthy,
I should say nothing on the subject; but they are highly and
eminently dangerous, in a land, where their claims are
regarded as only in abeyance - deferred, but not obliterated,
by confiscation.

"E. H."

It would in no wise forward the views of our story, were we to detail
to our readers the affecting scenes which preluded Frederick's departure
from London, the explanations he was called on to repeat, as he went
from house to house, for a journey at once so sudden and extraordinary;
for even so late as fifty years ago, a visit to Ireland was a matter of
more moment, and accompanied by more solemn preparation, than many now
bestow on an overland journey to India. The Lady Marys and Bettys of
the fashionable world regarded him pretty much as the damsels of old did
some doughty knight, when setting forth on his way to Palestine. That
filial affection could exact such an instance of devotion, called up
their astonishment, even more than their admiration; and many were
the cautions, many the friendly counsels, given to the youth for his
preservation in a land so rife with danger.

Frederick was a soldier, and a brave one; but still, he was not
entirely divested of those apprehensions which the ignorance of the day
propagated; and although only accompanied by a single servant, they were
both armed to the teeth, and prepared to do valiant battle, if need be,
against the Irish "rogues and rapparrees."

Here, then, for the present, we shall leave him, having made his last
"adieux" to his friends, and set out on his journey to Ireland.




CHAPTER XIV. THE COMMENTS ON A HURRIED DEPARTURE

Brief as has been the interval of our absence from Glenflesk, time's
changes have been there. Herbert O'Donoghue had experienced a fortunate
change in his malady, and on the day following Roach's eventful return,
became actually out of danger. The symptoms of his disease, so suddenly
subdued, seemed to reflect immortal honour on the Doctor, who certainly
did not scruple to attribute to his skill, what, with more truth, was
owing to native vigour and youth. Sir Archy alone was ungrateful enough
to deny the claim of physic, and slightly hinted to Roach, that he had
at least benefited his patient by example, if not precept, since he
had slept the entire night through, without awaking. The remark was a
declaration of war, at once; nor was Roach slow to accept the gage
of battle - in fact, both parties were well wearied of the truce, and
anxious for the fray. Sir Archibald had only waited till the moment
Roach's services in the sick-room could be safely dispensed with, to
re-open his fire; while Roach, harassed by so unexpected a peace, felt
like a beleaguered fortress during the operation of the miners, and knew
not when, and how, the dreaded explosion was to occur. Now, however, the
signal-gun was fired - -hesitation was at an end; and, of a verity, the
champions showed no disinclination for the field.

"Ye'll be hungry this morning, Doctor," said Sir Archy, "and I have
ordered breakfast a bit early. A pick o' ham at twelve o'clock, and a
quart of sherry, aye gives a man a relish for breakfast."

"Begad so it might, or for supper too," responded Roach, "when the ham
was a shank bone, and the sherry-bottle like a four ounce mixture."

"Ye slept surprisingly after your slight refection. I heerd ye snoring
like a grampus."

"'Twasn't the night-mare, from indigestion, any how," said Roach, with a
grin. "I'll give you a clean bill of health from that malady here."

"It's weel for us, that we ken a cure for it - more than ye can say for
the case you've just left."

"I saved the boy's life," said Roach indignantly.

"Assuredly ye did na kill him, and folks canna a'ways say as muckle for
ye. We maun thank the Lord for a' his mercies; and he vouchsafed you, a
vara sound sleep."

How this controversy was to be carried on further, it is not easy
to say; but at this moment the door of the breakfast-room opened
cautiously, and a wild rough head peeped stealthily in, which gradually
was followed by the neck, and in succession the rest of the figure of
Kerry O'Leary, who, dropping down on both knees before the Doctor, cried
out in a most lamentable accent -

"Oh! Docther darlint - Docther dear - forgive me - for the love of Joseph,
forgive me!"

Roach's temper was not in its blandest moment, and his face grew purple
with passion, as he beheld the author of his misfortunes at his feet.

"Get out of my sight, you scoundrel, I never want to set eyes on you,
till I see you in the dock - ay, with handcuffs on you."

"Oh, murther, murther, is it take the law of me, for a charge of swan
drops? Oh, Docther acushla, don't say you'll do it."

"I'll have your life, as sure as my name's Roach."

"Try him wi' a draught," interposed M'Nab.

"Begorra, I'm willn'," cried Kerry, grasping at the mediation. "I'll
take any thing, barrin' the black grease he gave the masther - that would
kill the divil."

This exceptive compliment to his skill was not so acceptable to the
Doctor, whose passion boiled over at the new indignity.

"I'll spend fifty guineas, but I'll hang you, - there's my word on it."

"Oh, wirra! wirra!" cried Kerry, whose apprehensions of how much law
might be had for the money, made him tremble all over - "that's what I
get for tramping the roads all night after the pony."

"Where's the pony - where's the gig?" called out Roach, suddenly reminded
by material interests, that he had more at stake than mere vengeance.

"The beast is snug in the stable - that's where he is, eating a peck of
oats - last year's corn - divil a less."

"And the gig?"

"Oh, the gig, is it? Musha, we have the gig too," responded Kerry, but
with a reluctance that could not escape the shrewd questioner.

"Where is it, then?" said Roach, impatiently.

"Where would it be, but in the yard? - we're going to wash it."

The Doctor did not wait for the conclusion of this reply, but hastening
from the room, passed down the few stairs that led towards the old
court-yard, followed by Sir Archy and Kerry, the one, eager to witness
the termination of the scene - the other, muttering in a very different
spirit - "Oh, but it's now we'll have the divil to pay!"

As soon as Roach arrived at the court-yard, he turned his eyes on every
side, to seek his conveyance; but although there were old harrows,
broken ploughs, and disabled wheel-barrows in numbers, nothing was
there, that bore any resemblance to what he sought.

"Where is it?" said he, turning to Kerry, with a look of exasperation
that defied all attempt to assuage by mere "blarney" - "where is it?"

[Illustration: 151]

"Here it is, then," said O'Leary, with the tone of one, whose courage
was nerved by utter despair, while at the same time, he drew forth two
wheels and an axle, the sole surviving members of the late vehicle, As
he displayed the wreck before them, the ludicrous - always too strong for
an Irish peasant, no matter how much it may be associated with his own
personal danger - overcame his more discreet instincts, and he broke
forth into a broad grin, while he cried - "'There's the inside of her,
now!' as Darby Gossoon said, when he tuk his watch in pieces, 'and
begorra, we'll see how she's made, any way!'"

This true history must not recount the expressions in which Roach
permitted himself to indulge; it is enough to say, that his passion took
the most violent form of invective, against the house, the glen, the
family, and their retainers, to an extreme generation, while he stamped
and gesticulated like one insane.

"Ye'll hae sma' space for yer luggage in you," said M'Nab, with one of
his driest laughs, while he turned back and re-entered the house.

"Where's my pony? - where's my pony?" shouted out the Doctor, determined
to face all his calamities at once.

"Oh, faix, he's nothing the worse," said Kerry, as he unlocked the door
of the stable, and pointed with all the pride of veracity to a beast in
the stall before them. "There, he is, jumping like a kid, out of his
skin wid' fun this morning."

Now, although the first part of Kerry's simile was assuredly incorrect,
as no kid, of which we have any record, ever bore the least resemblance
to the animal in question, as to the fact of being "out of his skin"
there could not be a second opinion, the beast being almost entirely
flayed from his shoulders to his haunches, his eyes being represented
by two globular masses, about the size of billiard-balls, and his tail
bearing some affinity to an overgrown bamboo, as it hung down, jointed
and knotted, but totally destitute of hair.

"The thief of the world," said Kerry, as he patted him playfully; "he
stripped a trifle of hair off him with kicking; but a little gunpowder
and butter will bring it on again, in a day or two." "Liar that thou
art, Kerry - it would take a cask of one, and a firkin of the other to
make up the necessary ointment!"

There are some evils which no anticipation can paint equal to their
severity, and these, in compensation perhaps, are borne for the most
part, without the same violent exuberance of sorrow lesser misfortunes
elicit. So it was - Roach spoke not a word: one menace of his clenched
hand towards Kerry, was the only token he gave of his malice, and he
left the stable.

"I've a note here for Doctor Roach," said a servant, in Sir Marmaduke's
livery, to Kerry, as he proceeded to close and lock the stable-door.

"I'm the person," said the Doctor, taking the billet and breaking the
seal. "Have you the carriage here now?" asked he, when he had finished
reading.

"Yes, sir, it's on the road. Sir Marmaduke desired me not to drive up,
for fear of disturbing the sick gentleman."

"I'm ready, then," said the Doctor; "and never casting a look backward,
nor vouchsafing another word, he passed out of the gate, and descended
towards the high road.

"I'll take good care of the baste till I see you, sir," shouted Kerry
after him; and then, as the distance widened, he added, "and may I never
see your ould yallow wig agin, I pray this day. Divil take me, but I
hope you've some of the slugs in ye, after all;" and with these pious
wishes, expressed fervently, Kerry returned to the house, his heart
considerably lightened by the Doctor's departure.

Scarcely was he seated beside the kitchen fire - the asylum he regarded
as his own - when, all fears for his misconduct and its consequences
past, he began speculating in a very Irish fashion, on the reasons of
the Doctor's sudden departure.

"He's off now to 'the Lodge' - devil fear him - faix if he gets in there,
they'll not get him out so asy - they'll have a pain for every day of the
week before he leaves them. Well, well, thanks be to God, he's out of
this."

"Is he gone, Kerry?" said Mrs. Branagan. "Did he leave a 'cure' for
Master Herbert before he went?"

"Sorra bit," cried Kerry, as if a sudden thought struck him, "that's
what he didn't!" and without hesitating another moment, he sprung from
his chair, and mounted the stairs towards the parlour, where now the
O'Donoghue, Mark, and Sir Archy were assembled at breakfast.

"He's away, sir, he's off again," said Kerry, as though the nature of
his tidings did not demand any more ceremonious preliminary.

"Who's away? Who's gone?" cried they all in breath.

"The Doctor, sir, Doctor Roach. There was a chap in a sky-blue livery
came up with a bit of a letter for him to go down there, and when he
read it, he just turned about, this way," here Kerry performed a not
over graceful pirouette, "and without saying by yer leave, he walks
down the road and gets into the coach. 'Won't you see Master Herbert
before you go, sir,' says I; 'sure you're not leaving him that way?' but
bad luck to one word he'd say, but went away wid a grin on him."

"What!" cried Mark, as his face crimsoned with passion. "Is this
true? - are you sure of what you're saying?"

"I'll take the book an it," said Kerry, solemnly.

"Well, Archy," said the O'Donoghue, addressing his brother-in-law. "You
are a good judge of these matters. Is this conduct on the part of our
neighbour suitable or becoming? Was it exactly right and proper to send
here for one, whose services we had taken the trouble to seek, and might
much have needed besides? Should we not have been consulted, think you?"

"There's not a poor farmer in the glen would not resent it!" cried Mark,
passionately.

"Bide a wee, bide a wee," said Sir Archy, cautiously, "we hae na heard
a' the tale yet. Roach may perhaps explain."

"He had better not come here, to do so," interrupted Mark, as he strode
the room in passion; "he has a taste for hasty departures, and, by G - ,
I'll help him to one; for out of that window he goes, as sure as my name
is Mark."

"'Tis the way to serve him, divil a doubt," chimed in Kerry, who was not
sorry to think how agreeably he might thus be relieved from any legal
difficulties.

"I am no seeking to excuse the man," said Sir Archy, temperately.
"It's weel kenned we hae na muckle love for ane anither; but fair play is
bonnie play."

"I never heard a mean action yet, but there was a Scotch adage to
warrant it," muttered Mark, in a whisper inaudible by the rest.

"Its no' improbable but that Sir Marmaduke Travers did ask if the Doctor
could be spared, and it's no' impossible, either, that Roach took the
answering the question in his ain hands."

"I don't think so," broke in Mark; "the whole thing bears a different
aspect. It smacks of English courtesy to an Irish kern."

"By Jove, Mark is right," said the O'Donoghue, whose prejudices,
strengthened by poverty, too readily chimed in with any suspicion of
intended insult.

"They were not long learning the game," said Mark, bitterly; "they are,
if I remember aright, scarce two months in the country, and, see, they
treat us as 'mere Irish' already.

"Ye'r ower hasty, Mark. I hae na muckle respect for Roach, nor wad I
vouch for his good breeding; but a gentleman, as this Sir Marmaduke's
note bespeaks him - - ."

"What note? I never heard of it."

"Oh! it was a polite kind of message, Mark, to say he would be obliged
if I permitted him to pay his respects here. I forget to tell you of
it."

"Does the enemy desire a peep at the fortress, that he may calculate how
long we can hold out?" said the youth, sternly.

"Begorra, with the boys from Ballyvourney and Inchigeela, we'll howld
the place agin the English army," said Kerry, mistaking the figurative
meaning of the speech; and he rubbed his hands with delight at the bare
prospect of such a consummation.

Sir Archy turned an angry look towards him, and motioned with his hand
for him to leave the room. Kerry closed the door after him, and for some
minutes the silence was unbroken.

"What does it matter after all?" said the O'Donoghue, with a sigh. "It
is a mere folly to care for these things, now. When the garment is
worn and threadbare, one need scarce fret that the lace is a little
tarnished."

"True, sir, quite true; but you are not bound to forget or forgive him,
who would strip it rudely off, even a day or an hour before its time."

"There is na muckle good in drawing inferences from imaginary
evils. Shadows are a' bad enough; but they needna hae children and
grandchildren; and so I'll even take a cup o' tea to the callant;" and
thus, wise in practice and precept, Sir Archibald left the room, while
O'Donoghue and Mark, already wearied of the theme, ceased to discuss it
further.




CHAPTER XV. SOME OF THE PLEASURES OF PROPERTY.

In the small, but most comfortable apartment of the Lodge, which in
virtue of its book-shelves and smartly bound volumes was termed "the
Study," sat Sir Marmaduke Travers. Before him was a table covered with
writing materials, books, pamphlets, prints, and drawings; his great
arm-chair was the very ideal of lounging luxury, and in the soft carpet
his slippered feet were almost hidden. Through the window at his right
hand, an alley in the beech-wood opened a view of mountain scenery, it
would have been difficult to equal in any country of Europe. In a
word, it was a very charming little chamber, and might have excited the
covetousness of those whose minds must minister to their maintenance,
and who rarely pursue their toilsome task, save debarred from every
sound and sight that might foster imagination. How almost invariably
is this the case! Who has not seen, a hundred times over, some perfect
little room, every detail of whose economy seemed devised to sweeten the
labour of the mind, teeming with its many appliances for enjoyment, yet
encouraging thought more certainly than ministering to luxury - with its
cabinet pictures, its carvings, its antique armour, suggestive in turn
of some passage in history, or some page in fiction; - who has not seen
these devoted to the half hour lounge over a newspaper, or the tiresome
examination of house expenditure with the steward, while he, whose
mental flights were soaring midway 'twixt earth and heaven, looked
out from some gloomy and cobwebbed pane upon a forest of chimneys,
surrounded by all the evils of poverty, and tortured by the daily
conflict with necessity.

Here sat Sir Marmaduke, a great volume like a ledger open before him, in
which, from time to time, he employed himself in making short memoranda.
Directly in front of him stood, in an attitude of respectful attention,
a man of about five-and-forty years of age, who, although dressed in an
humble garb, had yet a look of something above the common; his features
were homely, but intelligent, and though a quick sharp glance shot from
his grey eye when he spoke, yet in his soft, smooth voice the words came
forth with a measured calm, that served to indicate a patient and gentle
disposition. His frame betokened strength, while his face was pale and
colourless, and without the other indications of active health in his
gait and walk, would have implied a delicacy of constitution. This
was Sam Wylie the sub-agent - one whose history may be told in a few
words: - His father had been a butler in the O'Donoghue house, where he
died, leaving his son, a mere child, as a legacy to his master. The boy,
however, did not turn out well; delinquencies of various kinds - theft
among the number - were discovered against him; and after many, but
ineffectual efforts, to reclaim him, he was turned off, and advised, as
he wished to escape worse, to leave the county. He took the counsel, and
did so; nor for many a year after was he seen or heard of. A report ran
that he passed fourteen years in transportation; but however that might
be, when he next appeared in Kerry, it was in the train of a civil
engineer, come to make surveys of the county. His cleverness and skill
in this occupation recommended him to the notice of Hemsworth, who soon
after appointed him as bailiff, and, subsequently, sub-agent on the
estate; and in this capacity he had now served about fifteen years, to
the perfect satisfaction, and with the full confidence of his chief. Of
his "antecedents," Sir Marmaduke knew nothing; he was only aware of
the implicit trust Hemsworth had in him, and his own brief experience
perfectly concurred in the justice of the opinion. He certainly found
him intelligent, and thoroughly well-informed on all connected with the
property. When questioned, his answers were prompt, direct, and to the
purpose; and to one of Sir Marmaduke's business habits, this quality
possessed merit of the highest order. If he had a fault with him, it was
one he could readily pardon - a leniency towards the people - a desire
to palliate their errors and extenuate their failings - and always
to promise well for the future, even when the present looked least
auspicious. His hearty concurrence with all the old baronet's plans for
improvement were also highly in his favour; and already Wylie was looked
on as "a very acute fellow, and with really wonderful shrewdness for his
station;" as if any of that acuteness or that shrewdness, so estimated,
could have its growth in a more prolific soil, than in the heart and
mind of one bred and reared among the people; who knew their habits,
their tone of thinking, their manners, and their motives - not through
any false medium of speculation and theory, but practically, innately,
instinctively - who had not studied the peasantry like an algebraic
formula, or a problem iu Euclid, but read them, as they sat beside their
turf fires, in the smoke of their mud hovels, cowering from the cold
of winter, and gathering around the scanty meal of potatoes - the only
tribute they had not rendered to the landlord.

"Roger Sweeny," said Sir Marmaduke - "Roger Sweeny complains of his
distance from the bog; he cannot draw his turf so easily, as when he
lived on that swamp below the lake; but I think the change ought to
recompense him for the inconvenience."

"He's a Ballyvourney man, your honour," said Sam, placidly, "and if you
couldn't bring the turf up to his door, and cut it for him, and stack
it, and carry a creel of it inside, to make the fire, he'd not be
content."

"Oh, that's it - is it?" said Sir Marmaduke, accepting an explanation he
was far from thoroughly understanding. "Then here's Jack Heffernan - what
does this fellow mean by saying that a Berkshire pig is no good?"

"He only means, your honour, that he's too good for the place, and wants
better food than the rest of the family."

"The man's a fool, and must learn better. Lord Mudford told me that he
never saw such an excellent breed, and his swine-herd is one of the
most experienced fellows in England. Widow Mul - Mul - what?" said
he, endeavouring to spell an unusually long name in the book before
him - "Mulla - - "



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 12 of 41)