Charles James Lever.

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

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very far from possessing. In fact, the graceful carriage and courteous
demeanour of the drawing-room, suffered no impediment from the pillory
of a modern stock, or the rigid inflexibility of a coat strained almost
to bursting.

"Are you on duty, Fred?" said Sir Marmaduke, laughing, as his son
entered the breakfast-room, thus carefully attired.

"Yes, sir; I am preparing for my mission; and it would ill become an
ambassador to deliver his credentials in undress."

"To what court are you then accredited?" said Sybella, laughing.

"His Majesty, The O'Donoghue," interposed his father; "King of
Glenflesk, Baron of Inchigeela, Lord Protector of - of half the
blackguards in the county, I verily believe," added he, in a more
natural key.

"Are you really going to Carrig-na-curra, Fred?" asked Miss Travers,
hurriedly; "are you going to visit our neighbours?"

"I'll not venture to say that such is the place, much less pretend to
pronounce it after you, my dear sister, but I am about to wait on these
worthy people, and, if they will permit me, have a peep at the interior
of their stockade or wigwam, whichever it be."

"It must have been a very grand thing in its day: that old castle has
some fine features about it yet," replied she calmly.

"Like Windsor, I suppose," said Fred as he replied to her, and then
complacently glanced at the well-fitting boot which ornamented his
leg. "They'll not be over-ceremonious, I hope, about according me an
audience."

"Not in the forenoon, I believe," said Sir Marmaduke drily; for he was
recalling the description old Roach had given him of his own reception
by Kerry O'Leary, and which circumstance, by-the-by, figured somewhat
ostentatiously in his charge to the old baronet.

"Oh, then, they receive early," resumed Fred; "the old French style - the
'petit levée du roi' - before ten o'clock. Another cup of tea, Sybella,
and then I must look after a horse.

"I have given orders already on that score. I flatter myself you'll
rather approve of my stud; for, amongst the incongruities of Ireland, I
have fallen upon an honest horse-dealer."

"Indeed!" said the young man, with more interest than he had yet shown
in the conversation; "I must cultivate that fellow, one might exhibit
him with great success in London."

"Unquestionably, Fred, he is a curiosity; for while he is a perfect
simpleton about the value of an animal; an easy-tempered, good-natured,
soft fellow - with respect to knowledge of a horse, his points, his
performance, and his soundness, I never saw his equal."

"I'll give him a commission to get me two chargers," said Fred,
delighted at the prospect of deriving so much benefit from his Irish
journey. "What makes you look so serious, Sybella?"

"Was I so, Fred? I scarcely know - perhaps I was regretting," added she
archly, "that there were no ladies at Carrig-na-curra to admire so very
smart a cavalier."

Frederick coloured slightly and endeavoured to laugh, but the
consciousness that his "bravery" of costume was somewhat out of place,
worried him and he made no reply.

"You'll not be long, Fred," said his father, "I shall want you to take a
walk with me to the lake."

"No, Fred - don't stay long away; it is not above two miles from tills at
farthest."

"Had I not better send a guide with you?"

"No, no; if the place be larger than a mud hovel, I cannot mistake it.
So here comes our steed. Well, I own, he is the best thing I've yet seen
in these parts;" and the youth opened the window, and stepped out to
approach the animal. He was, indeed, a very creditable specimen
of Lanty's taste in horse-flesh - the model of a compact and
powerfully-built cob horse.

"A hundred guineas, eh?" said Fred, in a tone of question.

"Sixty - not a pound more," said the old man in conscious pride. "The
fellow said but fifty; I added ten on my own account."

Frederick mounted the cob, and rode him across the grass, with that
quiet hand and steady seat which bespeaks the judgment of one called
upon to be critical. "A little, a very little over-done in the mouthing,
but his action perfect," said he, as he returned to the window, and held
the animal in an attitude to exhibit his fine symmetry to advantage.
"The prince has a passion for a horse of this class; I hope you have not
become attached to him?"

"His Royal Highness shall have him at once, Fred, if he will honour you
by accepting him." And as he spoke, he laid a stress on the _you_,
to evince the pleasure he anticipated in the present being made by
Frederick, and not himself.

"Now, then, with God and St. George!" cried Fred, laughingly, as he
waved an adieu with his plumed hat, and cantered easily towards the high
road.

It was a clear and frosty day in December, with a blue sky above, and
all below bright and glittering in a thin atmosphere. The lake, clear
as crystal, reflected every cliff and crag upon the mountain - while each
island on its surface was defined with a crisp sharpness of outline,
scarce less beautiful than in the waving foliage of summer. The
many-coloured heaths, too, shone in hues more bright and varied, than
usual in our humid climate; and the voices which broke the silence,
heard from long distances away, came mellowed and softened in their
tones, and harmonized well with the solitary grandeur of the scene. Nor
was Frederick Travers insensible to its influence; the height of those
bold mountains - their wild and fanciful outlines - the sweeping glens
that wound along their bases - the wayward stream that flowed through the
deep valleys, and, as if in sportiveness, serpentined their course,
were features of scenery he had not witnessed before; while the perfect
solitude awed and appalled him.

He had not ridden long, when the tall towers of the old castle of
Carrig-na-curra caught his eye, standing proudly on the bold mass of
rock above the road. The unseemly adjunct of farm-house and stables were
lost to view at such a distance, or blended with the general mass of
building, so that the whole gave the impression of extent and pretension
to a degree he was by no means prepared for. These features, however,
gradually diminished as he drew nearer; the highly-pitched roof, pierced
with narrow windows, patched and broken - the crumbling battlements of
the towers themselves - the ruinous dilapidation of the outer buildings,
disenchanted the spectator of his first more favourable opinion; until
at length, as he surveyed the incongruous and misshapen pile, with its
dreary mountain back-ground, he wondered how, at any point of view,
he should have deemed it other than the gloomy abode it seemed at that
moment.

[Illustration: 193]

The only figure Frederick Travers had seen, as he rode along, was
that of a man carrying a gun in his hand, in a dress somewhat like a
gamekeeper's, who, at some short distance from the road, moved actively
across the fields, springing lightly from hillock to hillock with the
step of a practised mountain walker, and seemingly regardless of the
weight of a burden which he carried on one shoulder: so rapidly did he
move, that Frederick found it difficult to keep pace with him, as the
road was deeply cut up, and far from safe for horse travel. Curious to
make out what he carried, Travers spurred eagerly forward; and, at last,
but not without an effort, came within hail of him at the iron-barred
gate which formed the outer entrance to the castle from the high road.
The burden was now easily seen, and at once suggested to Frederick's
mind the reason of the bearer's haste. It was a young buck, just killed;
the blood still trickled from the wound in its skull.

"Leave that gate open, my good fellow," cried Frederick, in a voice of
command, as the other pushed the frail portal wide, and let it fall back
heavily to its place again - "Do you hear me? - leave it open."

"We always leap it when mounted," was the cool reply, as the speaker
turned his head round, and then, without deigning either another word or
look, continued his way up the steep ascent.

Travers felt the rude taunt sorely, and would have given much to be near
him who uttered it; but, whether disdaining to follow a counsel thus
insolently conveyed, or, it might be, not over-confident of his
horse, he dismounted, and, flinging wide the gate, rode quickly up the
causeway - not, however, in time to overtake the other; for, although the
way was enclosed by walls on both sides, he had disappeared already, but
in what manner, and how, it seemed impossible to say.

"My father has omitted poaching, it would seem, in his catalogue of
Irish virtues," muttered the young man, as he rode through the arched
keep, and halted at the chief entrance to the house. The door lay open,
displaying the cheerful blaze of a pine-wood fire, that burned briskly
within the ample chimney, in the keen air of a frosty morning. "I see
I shall have my ride for my pains," was Fred's reflection as he passed
into the wide hall, and beheld the old weapons and hunting spoils
arranged around the walls. "These people affect chieftainship, and go
hungry to bed, to dream of fourteen quarterings. Be it so. I shall see
the old rookery at all events;" and, so saying, he gave a vigorous pull
at the old bell, which answered loudly in its own person, and, also,
by a deep howl from the aged fox-hound, then lying at the fire in
the drawing-room. These sounds soon died away, and a silence deep
and unbroken as before succeeded. A second time, and a third, Travers
repeated his summons, but without any difference of result, save
that the dog no longer gave tongue; - it seemed as if he were becoming
reconciled to the disturbance, as one that needed no farther attention
from him.

"I must explore for myself," thought Fred, and so, attaching his horse
to the massive ring by which a chain used once to be suspended across
the portal, he entered the house. Walking leisurely forward, he gained
the long corridor; for a second or two he was uncertain how to proceed,
when a gleam of light from the half-open door in the tower led him
onward. As he drew near he heard the deep tones of a man's voice
recounting, as it seemed, some story of the chase; the last words, at
least, were - "I fired but one shot - the herd is wild enough
already." Travers pushed wide the door, and entered; as he did so, he
involuntarily halted; the evidences of habits and tastes he was not
prepared for, suddenly rebuked his unannounced approach, and he would
gladly have retreated, were it now practicable.

"Well, sir," said the same voice he heard before, and from a young man,
who leaned with one arm on the chimney-piece, and with the other hand
held his gun, while he appeared as if he had been conversing with a pale
and sickly youth, popped and pillowed in a deep arm-chair. They were the
only occupants of the room.

"Well, sir, it would seem you have made a mistake; the inn is lower down
the glen - you'll see a sign over the door-way."

The look which accompanied this insolent speech recalled at once to
Frederick's mind the same figure he had seen in the glen; and, stung by
impertinence from such a quarter, he replied -

"Have no fear, young fellow; you may poach every acre for twenty miles
round - I have not tracked you on that score."

"Poach! - tracked me!" reiterated Mark O'Donoghue, for it is needless to
say it was he; and then, as if the ludicrous were even stronger in his
mind than mere passion, he burst into a rude laugh; while the sick boy's
pale face grew a deep crimson, as, with faltering accents, he said -

"You must be a stranger here, sir, I fancy."

"I am so," said Travers mildly and yielding at once to the respect ever
due to suffering; "my name is Travers. I have come over here to enquire
after a young gentleman who saved my sister's life."

"Then you've _tracked_ him well," interposed Mark, with an emphasis on
the word. "Here he is."

"Will you not sit down," said Herbert, motioning with his wasted hand to
a seat.

Frederick took his place beside the boy at once and said - "We owe you,
sir, the deepest debt of gratitude it has ever been our fortune to
incur; and if anything could enhance the obligation, it has been the
heroism, the personal daring - - "

"Hold there," said Mark, sternly. "It's not our custom here to listen to
compliments on our courage - we are O'Donoghues."

"This young gentleman's daring was no common one," answered Travers, as
if stung by the taunt.

"My brother will scarce feel flattered by your telling him so," was
Mark's haughty answer; and for some seconds Frederick knew not how to
resume the conversation; at last, turning to Herbert, he said -

"May I hope that, without offending you, we may be permitted in some
shape to express the sentiment I speak of; it is a debt which cannot be
requited; let us at least have some evidence that we acknowledge it."

"It is the more like some of our own," broke in Mark with a fierce
laugh; "we have parchments enough, but we never pay. Your father's agent
could tell you that."

Frederick gave no seeming attention to this speech, but went on - "When
I say there is nothing in our power we would deem enough, I but express
the feelings of my father and myself."

"There, there," cried Mark, preventing Herbert who was about to reply,
"you've said far more than was needed for a wet jacket and a few weeks'
low diet. Let us have a word about the poaching you spoke of."

His fixed and steady stare - the rigid brow, by which these words
were accompanied, at once proclaimed the intention of one who sought
reparation for an insult, and so instantly did they convey the
sentiment, that Travers, in a second, forgot all about his mission, and,
starting to his feet, replied in a whisper, audible but to Mark -

"True, it was a very hazardous guess; but when, in England, we meet
with a fustian jacket and a broken beaver, in company with a gun and a
game-bag, we have little risk in pronouncing the owner a game-keeper or
a poacher."

Mark struck his gun against the ground with such violence as shivered
the stock from the barrel, while he grasped the corner of the
chimney-piece convulsively with the other hand. It seemed as if passion
had actually paralysed him: as he stood thus, the door opened, and Kate
O'Donoghue entered. She was dressed in the becoming half-toilette of
the morning, and wore on her head one of those caps of blue velvet,
embroidered in silver, which are so popular among the peasantry of
Rhenish Germany. The light airiness of her step as she came forward,
unconscious of a stranger's presence, displayed her figure in its most
graceful character. Suddenly her eyes fell upon Frederick Travers,
she stopped and courtesied low to him, while he, thunderstruck with
amazement at recognizing his fellow traveller so unexpectedly, could
scarcely return her salute with becoming courtesy.

"Mr. Travers," said Herbert, after waiting in vain for Mark to speak;
"Mr. Travers has been kind enough to come and enquire after me. Miss
O'Donoghue, sir;" and the boy, with much bashfulness, essayed in some
sort the ceremony of introduction.

"My cousin, Mr. Mark O'Donoghue," said Kate, with a graceful movement
of her hand towards Mark, whose attitude led her to suppose he was not
known to Travers.

"I have had the honour of presenting myself already," said Frederick,
bowing; but Mark responded not to the inclination, but stood still with
bent brow and clenched lip, seemingly unconscious of all around him,
while Kate seated herself, and motioned to Travers to resume his place.
She felt how necessary it was she should atone, by her manner, for the
strange rudeness of her cousin's; and her mind being now relieved of the
fear which first struck her, that Frederick's visit might be intended
for herself, she launched freely and pleasantly into conversation,
recurring to the incidents of the late journey, and the
fellow-travellers they had met with.

If Kate was not sorry to learn that "the Lodge" was tenanted by persons
of such condition and class, as might make them agreeable neighbours,
Travers, on the other hand, was overjoyed at discovering one of such
attractions within an easy visiting distance, while Herbert sat by,
wondering how persons, so little known to each other, could have so many
things to say, and so many topics which seemed mutually interesting.
For so it is; they who are ignorant of the world and its habits, can
scarcely credit the great extent of those generalities which form food
for daily intercourse - nor with what apparent interest people can play
the game of life, with but counterfeit coinage. He listened at first
with astonishment, and afterwards with delight, to the pleasant
flippancy of each, as in turn they discussed scenes, and pleasures, and
people, of whom he never so much as heard. The "gentillesse" of French
manner - would that we had a name for the thing in English - imparted
to Kate's conversation a graceful ease our more reserved habits rarely
permit; and while in her costume and her carriage there was a certain
coquetry discernible, not a particle of affectation pervaded either her
opinions or expressions. Travers, long accustomed to the best society
of London, had yet seen scarcely anything of the fascination of foreign
agreeability, and yielded himself so insensibly to its charm, that an
hour slipped away unconsciously, and he totally forgot the great object
of his visit, and lost all recollection of the luckless animal he
had attached to the door ring - luckless, indeed, for already a heavy
snow-drift was falling, and the day had assumed all the appearance of
severe winter.

"You cannot go now, sir," said Herbert, as Frederick rose to take
his leave; - "there's a heavy snow-storm without;" for the boy was so
interested in all he heard, he could not endure the thought of his
departure.

"Oh! it's nothing," said Travers, lightly. "There's an old adage - 'Snow
should not scare a soldier.'"

"There's another proverb in the French service," said Kate, laughing, as
she pointed to the blazing hearth - "'Le soldat ne tourne pas son dos au
feu.'"

[Illustration: 199]

"I accept the augury," cried Frederick, laughing heartily at the witty
misapplication of the phrase, and resumed his seat once more.

"Cousin Kate plays chess," said Herbert, in his anxiety to suggest a
plausible pretext for delaying Frederick's departure.

"And I am passionately fond of the game; would you favour me so far?"

"With pleasure," said she smiling; "I only ask one condition, 'point
se grace' - no giving back - the O'Donoghues never take or give
quarter - isn't that so, Mark? Oh! he's gone," and now for the first time
it was remarked that he had left the apartment.

In a few moments after, they had drawn the little marquetrie table close
to the fire, and were deeply interested in the game.

At first, each party played with a seeming attention, which certainly
imposed on Herbert, who sat eagerly watching the progress of the game.
Frederick Travers was, however, far more occupied in observing his
antagonist than in the disposition of his rooks and pawns. While she,
soon perceiving his inattention, half suspected that he did not deem her
an enemy worth exerting his skill upon, and thus, partly in pique, she
bestowed more watchfulness than at first.

"So, Mademoiselle," cried Travers at length, recurring to his game, "I
perceive you have only permitted me to advance thus far, to cut off my
retreat for ever. How am I to save myself now?"

"It's hard to say, Sir Captain. It's the old tactique of Celts and
Saxons on both sides; you would advance into the heart of the enemy's
country, and as, unhappily, the men in ivory are truer than the natives
were here, and won't take bribes to fight against their fellows, you
must e'en stand or fall by your own deservings."

"Come, then, the bold policy for ever. Check."

"And you lose your castle."

"And you your bishop!"

"We must avenge the church, sir. Take care of your queen."

"'Parbleu,' Mademoiselle, you are a fierce foe. What say you, if we draw
the battle?"

"No, no, cousin Kate; continue, and you win it."

"Be it so. And now for my turn," said Travers, who was really a
first-rate player, and at length began to feel interested in the result.

The move he made exhibited so much of skill, that Kate foresaw that the
fortune of the day was about to change. She leaned her brow upon her
hand, and deliberated long on the move; and at length, lifting her head,
she said -

"I should like much to beat you - but in fair fight, remember - no
courtesy nor favour."

"I can spare neither," said Travers, smiling.

"Then, defeat is no dishonour. There's my move."

"And mine," cried Fred, as rapidly.

"What prevents my taking you? I see nothing."

"Nor I either," said he, half chagrined, for his move was an oversight.

"You are too proud to ask quarter - of course, you are - or I should say,
take it back."

"No, Kate, no," whispered Herbert, whose excitement was at the highest.

"I must abide my fortune," said Frederick, bowing; "and the more
calmly, as I have won the game."

"Won the game! How? - where?"

"Check!"

"How tauntingly he says it now," said Kate, while her eyes sparkled
brilliantly. "There is too much of the conqueror in all that."

Frederick's glance met hers at the instant, and her cheek coloured
deeply.

Who knows the source of such emotions, or of how much pleasure and pain
they are made up! "And yet, I have not won," said he, in a low voice.

"Then, be it a drawn battle," said Kate. "You can afford to be generous,
and I can't bear being beaten - that's the truth of it."

"If I could but win!" muttered Travers, as he rose from the table; and
whether she overheard the words, and that they conveyed more than a
mere allusion to the game, she turned hastily away, and approached the
window.

"Is that snow-ball your horse, Captain Travers?" said she, with a wicked
smile.

"My father's favourite cob, by Jove!" exclaimed Frederick; and, as if
suddenly aroused to the memory of his lengthy visit, made his 'adieus'
with more confusion than was exactly suitable to a fashionable
Guardsman - and departed.

"I like him," said Herbert, as he looked out of the window after him.
"Don't you, cousin Kate?"

But cousin Kate did not reply.




CHAPTER XX. TEMPTATION IN A WEAK HOUR

When Mark O'Donoghue left the room, his passion had become almost
ungovernable - the entrance of his cousin Kate had but dammed up the
current of his anger - and, during the few moments he still remained
afterwards, his temper was fiercely tried by witnessing the courtesy of
her manner to the stranger, and the apparent intimacy which subsisted
between them. "I ought to have known it," was the expression he muttered
over and over to himself - "I ought to have known it! That fellow's gay
jacket and plumed hat are dearer to her woman's heart, than the rude
devotion of such as I am. Curses be on them, they carry persecution
through every thing - house, home, country, rank, wealth, station - ay,
the very affection of our kindred they grudge us! Was slavery ever like
this?" And with these bitter words, the offspring of bitterer thoughts,
he strode down the causeway, and reached the high road. The snow was
falling fast - a chilling north wind drove the thin flakes along - but he
heeded it not. The fire of anger that burned within his bosom defied all
sense of winter's cold; and with a throbbing brow, and fevered hand, he
went, turning from time to time to look up at the old castle, whence he
expected each moment to see Travers take his departure. Now he hurried
eagerly onward, as if to reach some destined spot - now he would stop,
and retrace his steps, irresolutely, as though half determined to return
home.

"Degraded, insulted, outraged on the very hearth of my father's house!"
cried he, aloud, as he wrung his hands in agony, and gave his passion
vent. Again he pressed forward, and at last arrived at that part of the
glen, where the road seems escarped between the two mountains, which
rise several hundred feet, like walls, on either side. Here he paused,
and after examining the spot for some seconds, he muttered to himself,
"He has no choice here, but stand or turn!" and so saying, he drew from
the breast of his coat two pistols, examined the priming of each, and
then replaced them. The prospect of speedy revenge seemed to have
calmed his vindictive spirit, for now he continued to walk backwards
and forwards, at a slow pace, like a sentinel on his post, pausing
occasionally to listen if a horse's hoofs could be heard upon the road,
and then resuming his walk once more. A rustling sound in the brushwood



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 16 of 41)