Charles James Lever.

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

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above his head once startled him, but the granite cliffs that overhung
the road prevented his seeing from what it proceeded, and his heart was
now bent on a very different object than the pursuit of the deer. At
that moment, the proudest of the herd might have grazed in safety,
within pistol-shot of him, and he had not deigned to notice it. Thus
passed an hour - a second - and a third succeeded - and, already, the dull
shadows of approaching night were falling - yet, no one came. Tortured
with strange conjectures, Mark saw the day waning, and yet no sight nor
sound of him he looked for. Let not poets speak of the ardent longing of
a lover's heart, as in throbbing eagerness he waits for her, whose smile
is life and hope, and heaven. Compared with the mad impatience of him
who thirsts for vengeance, his passion is but sluggish apathy. It is the
bad, that ever calls forth the sternest energies of human nature. It is
in crime, that men transcend the common attributes of mankind. Here was
one, now, who would have given his right hand beneath the axe, for
but one brief moment of vengeance, and have deemed years of suffering
cheaply bought, for the mere presence of his enemy before him.

"He must have guessed my meaning when I left the room;" was the taunting
expression he now uttered, as his unsated anger took the shape of an
insolent depreciation of his adversary. "An Irishman would not need a
broader hint!"

It grew darker - the mountains frowned heavily beneath the canopy of
clouds, and night was rapidly approaching, when, from the gloom of his
almost extinguished hope, Mark was suddenly aroused. He heard the tramp
of a horse's feet; the dull reverberation on the deep snow filled the
air, and sometimes they seemed to come from the opposite part of the
glen, when the pace slackened, and, at last, the sounds became almost
inaudible.

"There is yet enough of daylight, if we move into the broad road," was
Mark's soliloquy, as he stooped his ear to listen - and at the instant,
he beheld a man leading his horse by the bridle, while he himself seemed
seeking along the road-side, where the snowdrift had not yet fallen, as
if for some lost object. A glance, even by the imperfect light, and at
some thirty paces off showed Mark it was not him he sought, and were
it not that the attitude attracted his curiosity, he had not wasted a
second look on him; but the horseman by this time had halted, and was
scraping with his whip-handle amid the pebbles of the mountain rivulet.

"I'll never see it again - it's no use!" was the exclamation of the
seeker, as he gathered up his reins, and prepared to mount.

"Is that Lanty Lawler?" cried Mark, as he recognised the voice; "I say,
did you meet with a young officer riding down the glen, in the direction
of Carrig-na-curra?"

"No, indeed, Mr. Mark - I never saw living thing since I left Bantry."

The young man paused for a few seconds - and then, as if anxious to turn
all thought from his question, said, "What have you lost thereabouts?"

"Oh, more than I am worth in the world!" was the answer, in a deep,
heart-drawn sigh - "but, blessed heaven! what's the pistols for? Oh,
Master Mark, dear - sure - sure - - "

"Sure what?" cried the youth, with a hoarse laugh - "Sure, I'm not turned
highway robber! Is that what you want to say? Make your mind easy,
Lanty - I have not reached that point yet; though, if indifference to
life might tempt a man, I'd not say it is so far off."

"'Tis a duel, then," cried Lanty quickly; "but, I hope you wouldn't
fight without seconds. Oh, that's downright murder - what did he do to
you? - was it one of the fellows you met in Cork?"

"You are all wrong," said Mark, sullenly. "It is enough, however, that
neither of us seem to have found what he was seeking. You have your
secret; I have mine.

"Oh, faix, mine is soon told - 'twas my pocket-book, with as good as
seventy pounds in goold, I lost here, a three weeks ago, and never set
eyes on it since; and there was papers in it - ay, faix, papers of great
value - and I darn't face Father Luke without them. I may leave the
country, when he hears what happened."

"Where are you going now?" said Mark, gloomily.

"I'm going as far as Mary's, for the night. Maybe you'd step down there,
and take a bit of supper? When the moon rises, the night will take up
fine."

The young man turned without speaking, and bent his steps in the
direction Lanty was travelling.

The horse-dealer was too well versed in human nature to press for a
confidence, which he foresaw would be, at last, willingly extended to
him; he therefore walked along at Mark's side, without uttering a word,
and seeming to be absorbed in his own deep musings. His calculation
was a correct one. They had not gone many paces forward, when young
O'Donoghue unburthened his whole heart to him - told him, with all the
eloquent energy of a wounded spirit, of the insult he had received in
his own home, before his younger brother's face. He omitted nothing in
his description of the overbearing impertinence of Frederic Travers's
manner - with what cool assurance he had entered the house, and with what
flippant carelessness he treated his cousin Kate.

"I left home, with an oath, not to return thither unavenged," said be,
"nor will I, though this time luck seems against me. Had he but come,
I should have given him his choice of pistols, and his own distance. My
hand is true from five paces to thirty; but he has not escaped me yet."

Lanty never interrupted the narrative, except to ask from time to time
some question, the answer to which was certain to develope the deeper
indignation of the youth. A low muttering commentary, intended to mean
a heartfelt sympathy with his wrongs, was all he suffered to escape his
lips; and, thus encouraged in his passionate vehemence, Mark's wrath
became like a phrenzy.

"Come in now," said Lanty, as he halted at the door of Mary's cabin,
"but don't say a word about this business. I have a thought in my head
that may do you good service, but keep a fair face before people - do you
mind me?"

There was a tone of secrecy and mystery in these words Mark could not
penetrate; but, however dark their meaning, they seemed to promise some
hope of that revenge his heart yearned after, and with this trust he
entered the house.

Mary received them with her wonted hospitality - Lanty was an expected
guest - and showed how gratified she felt to have young O'Donoghue
beneath her roof.

"I was afeard you were forgetting me entirely, Mr. Mark," said she - "you
passed the door twice, and never as much as said, God save you, Mary."

"I did not forget you, for all that, Mary," said he, feelingly. "I have
too few friends in the world to spare any of them; but I've had many
things on my mind lately."

"Well, and to be sure you had, and why wouldn't you? 'Tis no shame of
you to be sad and down-hearted - an O'Donoghue of the ould stock - the
best blood in Kerry, wandering about by himself, instead of being
followed by a troop of servants, with a goold coat-of-arms worked
on their coats, like your grandfather's men - the heavens be his bed.
Thirty-eight mounted men, armed, ay and well armed, were in the saddle
after him, the day the English general came down here to see the troops
that was quartered at Bantry."

"No wonder we should go afoot now," said Mark, bitterly.

"Well, well - it's the will of God," ejaculated Mary, piously, "and who
knows what's in store for you yet?"

"That's the very thing I do be telling him," said Lanty, who only waited
for the right moment to chime in with the conversation. "There's fine
times coming."

Mary stared at the speaker with the eager look of one who wished to
derive a meaning deeper than the mere words seemed to convey, and then,
checking her curiosity at a gesture from Lanty, she set about arranging
the supper, which only awaited his arrival.

Mark ate but little of the fare before him, though Mary's cookery
was not without its temptations; but of the wine - and it was strong
Burgundy - he drank freely. Goblet after goblet he drained with that
craving desire to allay a thirst, which is rather the symptom of a
mind fevered by passion than by malady. Still, as he drank, no sign of
intoxication appeared; on the contrary, his words evinced a tone of but
deeper resolution, and a more settled purpose than at first, when he
told how he had promised never to leave his father, although all his
hopes pointed to the glorious career a foreign service would open before
him.

"It was a good vow you made, and may the saints enable you to keep it,"
said Mary.

"And for the matter of glory, maybe there's some to be got nearer home,
and without travelling to look for it," interposed Lanty.

"What do you mean?" said Mark, eagerly.

"Fill your glass. Take the big one, for it's a toast I'm going to give
you - are you ready? Here now, then - drink -

A stout heart and mind,
And an easterly wind,
And the Devil behind The Saxon."

Mark repeated the doggerel as well as he was able, and pledged the
only sentiment he could divine, that of the latter part, with all his
enthusiasm.

"You may tell him what you plaze, now," whispered Mary in Lanty's ear;
for her ready wit perceived that his blood was warmed by the wine, and
his heart open for any communication.

Lanty hesitated but a second, then drawing his chair close to Mark's, he
said -

"I'm going now to put _my_ life in your hands, but I can't help it. When
Ireland is about to strike for liberty, it is not an O'Donoghue should
be last in the ranks. Swear to me you'll never mention again what I'll
tell you - swear it on the book." Mary, at the same moment, placed in
his hand a breviary, with a gilt cross on the binding, which Mark took
reverently, and kissed twice. "That's enough - your word would do me, but
I must obey them that's over me;" and so saying, Lanty at once proceeded
to lay before the astonished mind of young O'Donoghue, the plan of
France for an invasion of Ireland - not vaguely nor imperfectly, not in
the mere language of rumour or chance allusion, but with such aids to
circumstance and time, as gave him the appearance of one conversant with
what he spoke on. The restoration of Irish independence - the resumption
of forfeited estates - the return of the real nobility of the land to
their long-lost-position of eminence and influence, were themes he
descanted upon with consummate skill, bringing home each fact to the
actual effect such changes would work in the youth's own condition,
who, no longer degraded to the rank of a mere peasant, would once again
assert his own rightful station, and stand forth at the head of his vast
property - the heir of an honoured name and house. Lanty knew well, and
more too, implicitly believed in all the plausible pretension of French
sympathy for Irish suffering, which formed the cant of the day. He
had often heard the arguments in favour of the success of such an
expedition - in fact, the reasons for which its failure was deemed
impossible. These he repeated fluently, giving to his narrative the
semblance of an incontestible statement, and then he told him that from
Brest to Dublin was "fifty hours' sail, with a fair wind" - that same
"easterly breeze," the toast alluded to, that the French could throw
thirty, nay, fifty thousand troops into Ireland, yet never weaken their
own army to any extent worth speaking of - that England was distracted
by party spirit, impoverished by debt, and totally unable to repel
invasion, and, in fact, that if Ireland would be but "true to herself,"
her success was assured.

He told, too, how Irishmen were banded together in a sworn union to
assert the independence of their country, and that such as held back.
or were reluctant in the cause, would meet the fate of enemies. On
the extent and completeness of the organization, he dwelt with a proud
satisfaction, but when he spoke of large masses of men trained to move
and act together, Mark suddenly interrupted him, saying -

"Yes, I have seen them. It's not a week since some hundreds marched
through this glen at midnight."

"Ay, that was Holt's party," said Mary, composedly; "and fine men they
are."

"They were unarmed," said Mark.

"If they were, it is because the general didn't want their weapons."

"There's arms enough to be had when the time comes for using them,"
broke in Mary.

"Wouldn't you show him - " and Lanty hesitated to conclude a speech, the
imprudence of which he was already aware of.

"Ay will I," said Mary. "I never mistrusted one of his name;" and with
that, she rose from the fire-side, and took a candle in her hand, "Come
here a minute, Master Mark." Unlocking a small door in the back wall of
the cabin, she entered a narrow passage which led to the stable, but off
which, a narrow door, scarcely distinguishable from the wall, conducted
into a spacious vault, excavated in the solid rock. Here were a vast
number of packing-oases, and boxes, piled on each other, from floor to
roof, together, with hogsheads and casks of every shape and size. Some
of the boxes had been opened, and the lids laid loosely over them.
Removing one of these, Mary pointed to the contents, as she said -

[Illustration: 209]

"There they are - French muskets and carabines. There's pistols in that
case; and all them, over there, is swords and cutlasses. 'Tis pike-heads
that's in the other corner; and the casks has saddles and holsters and
them kind of things."

Mark stooped down and took up one of the muskets. It was a light and
handy weapon, and bore on its stock the words - "Armée de la Sambre et
Meuse" - for none of the weapons were new.

"These are all French," said he, after a brief pause.

"Every one of them," replied Mary, proudly; "and there's more coming
from the same place."

"And why can we not fight our own battles, without aid from France?"
said Mark, boldly. "If we really are worthy of independence, are we not
able to win it?"

"Because there's traitors among us," said Mary - replying before Lanty
could interpose - "because there's traitors that would turn again us if
we were not sure of victory; but when they see we have the strong hand,
as well as the good cause, they'll be sure to stand on the safe side."

"I don't care for that," said Mark. "I want no such allies as these.
I say, if we deserve our liberty, we ought to be strong enough to take
it."

"There's many think the same way as yourself," said Lanty, quietly. "I
heard the very words you said from one of the delegates last week. But
I don't see any harm in getting help from a friend when the odds is
against you."

"But I do; and great harm too. What's the price of the assistance? - tell
me that."

"Oh, make your mind easy on that score. The French hate the English,
whether they love us or no."

"And why wouldn't they love us," said Mary, half angry at such a
supposition, "and we all Catholics? Don't we both belong to the ould
ancient church? and didn't we swear to destroy the heretics wherever
we'd find them? Ay, and we will, too!"

"I'm with you, whatever come of it," said Mark, after a few seconds
of thought. "I'm with you; and if the rest have as little to live for,
trust me, they'll not be pleasant adversaries."

Overjoyed at this bold avowal, which consummated the success they
desired, they led Mark back into the cabin, and pledged, in a bumper,
the "raal O'Donoghue."




CHAPTER XXI. THE RETURN OF THE ENVOY.

Sir Marmaduke Travers and his daughter had passed a morning of great
uneasiness at the delay in Frederic's return. Noon came, and yet no
appearance of him. They wandered along the road, hoping to meet him,
and at last turned homeward with the intention of despatching a servant
towards Carrig-na-curra, fearing lest he should have missed his
way. This determination, however, they abandoned, on being told by a
countryman, that he had seen the horse young Travers rode still standing
at the gate of the "castle."

A feeling of curiosity to hear his son's account of the O'Donoghues,
mingled with the old man's excitement at his absence; and, as the day
declined, and still no sign of his return, he walked every now and then
to the door, and looked anxiously along the road by which he expected
his approach. Sybella, too, was not without her fears, and though vague
and undefined, she dreaded a possible collision between the hot-blood of
Mark and her brother. The evening of her first arrival was ever present
to her mind; and she often thought of what might have then occurred, had
Frederic been present.

They had wearied themselves with every mode of accounting for his delay,
guessed at every possible cause of detention, and were at length on the
point of sending a messenger in search of him, when they heard the tramp
of a horse coming, not along the high road, but, as it seemed, over the
fields in front of them. A few minutes more of anxious expectancy, and
Frederic, with his horse splashed and panting, alighted beside them.

"Well, you certainly have a very pretty eye for a country, father," said
he, gaily. "That same line you advised, has got three as rasping fences
as I should like to meet with."

"What do you mean, boy?" said Sir Marmaduke, as much puzzled at the
speech as the reader himself may feel.

"Simply, sir, that though the cob is a capital horse, and has a great
jump in him, that I'd rather have day-light for that kind of thing; and
I really believe the ragged fellow you sent for me, chose the
stiffest places. I saw the rascal grinning when I was coming up to the
mill-stream."

"Messenger! - ragged fellow! The boy is dreaming."

"My dear Frederic, we sent no messenger. We were, indeed, very anxious
at your delay, but we did not despatch any one to meet you."

Frederic stared at both the speakers, and then repeated, in
astonishment, the last words - "Sent no messenger!" but when they once
more assured him of the fact, he gave the following account of his
return: - -

"It was very late when I left the castle. I delayed there the whole day;
but scarcely had I reached the high-road, when a wild-looking fellow,
with a great pole in his hand, came up to me, and cried out,

"'Are you for the Lodge?' 'Yes,' said he, answering himself, 'you are
her brother. I'm sent over to tell you, not to go back by the road, for
the bridge is down; but you're to come over the fields, and I'll show
you the way.'"

"Supposing the fellow was what he assumed to be - your messenger, I
followed him; and, by George, it was no joking matter; for he leaped
like a deer, and seemed to take uncommon pleasure in pitting himself
against the cob. I should have given up the contest, I confess, but that
the knave had me in his power. For, when it grew dark, I knew not which
way to head, until, at length, he shouted out -

"'There's the Lodge now, where you see the light.' And after that, what
became of himself I cannot tell you."

"It was Terry, poor Terry," cried Sybella.

"Yes, it must have been Terry," echoed her father. "And is this Terry
retained to play Will-o'-the-Wisp?" asked Fred; "or is it a piece of
amateurship?"

But both Sir Marmaduke and Sybella were too deeply engaged in canvassing
the motive for this strange act, to pay due attention to his question.

As Frederic was but little interested in his guide, nor mindful of what
became of him, they were not able to obtain any clue from him as to what
road he took; nor what chance there was of overtaking him.

"So then this was a piece of 'politesse,' for which I am indebted to
your friend Terry's own devising," said Fred, half angrily. "The fellow
had better keep out of my way in future."

"You will not harm him, Fred, you never could, when I tell you of his
gallant conduct here."

"My sweet sister, I am really wearied of this eternal theme - I have
heard of nothing but heroism since my arrival. Once for all, I concede
the matter, and am willing to believe of the Irish, as of the family of
Bayard, that all the men are brave - and all the women virtuous. And now,
let us to dinner."

"You have told us nothing of your visit to the enchanted castle, Fred,"
said his sister, when the servants had withdrawn, and they were once
more alone; "and I am all impatience to hear of your adventures there."

"I confess, too," said Sir Marmaduke, "I am not devoid of curiosity on
the subject - let us hear it all."

"I have little to recount," said Frederic, with some hesitation in
his manner; "I neither saw the O'Donoghue, as they call him, nor his
brother-in-law - the one was in bed, the other had gone to visit
some sick person on the mountain. But I made acquaintance with your
prieux-chevalier, Sybella: a fine-looking young fellow, even now wasted
with sickness; he was there with an elder brother, an insolent kind of
personage - half peasant, all bully."

"He was not wanting in proper respect to _you_" said Sir Marmaduke. "I
trust, Mark, he was aware of who you were?"

"Faith, sir, I fancy he cared very little on the subject; and had I been
a much more important individual, he would have treated me in the same
way - a way, to say the least of it, not over-burthened with courtesy."

"Had you any words together, boy?" said Sir Marmaduke, with an evident
anxiety in his look and voice.

"A mere interchange of greeting," replied Fred, laughing, "in which each
party showed his teeth, but did not bite withal. I unhappily mistook
him for a game-keeper - and worse still, told him so, and he felt
proportionably angry at the imputation - preferring, probably, to be
thought a poacher. He is a rude coarse fellow," said he with a changed
voice, "with pride to be a gentleman - but not breeding nor manner to
enact the character."

"The visit was, after all, not an agreeable one," said Miss Travers,
"and I am only surprised how you came to prolong it. You spent the whole
day there."

Although there was not the slightest degree of suspicion insinuated
by this remark, Fred stole a quick glance at his sister, to see if she
really intended more than the mere words implied. Then, satisfied that
she had not, he said in a careless way -

"Oh, the weather broke; it came on a heavy snow-storm; and as the
younger brother pressed me to remain, and I had no fancy to face the
hurricane, I sat down to a game of chess."

"Chess! Indeed, Fred, that sounds very humanizing. And how did he play?"

"It was not with him I played," answered he, hesitatingly.

"What - -with the elder?"

"No, nor him either; my antagonist was a cousin - I think they called her
cousin."

"Called _her_," said Sybella, slyly. "So then, Master Fred, there was
a lady in the case. Well, we certainly have been a long while coming to
her."

"Yes, she has lately arrived - a day or two ago - from some convent in the
Low Countries, where she has lived since she was a child."

"A strange home for her," interposed Sir Marmaduke. "If I do not
misconceive them greatly, they must be very unsuitable associates for a
young lady educated in a French convent."

"So you would say, if you saw her," said Fred, seizing with avidity
at the opening, then offered, to coincide with an opinion he was
half afraid to broach. "She is perfectly foreign in look, dress, and
demeanour - with all the mannerism of Paris life, graceful and pleasing
in her address; and they, at least one of them, a downright boor - the
other, giving him credit for good looks and good nature, yet
immeasurably _her_ inferior in every respect."

"Is she pretty, Frederic?" said Sybella, not lifting her eyes from her
work as she spoke.

"I should say pretty," replied he, with hesitation, as if qualifying his
praise by a word which did not imply too much. "I prefer a quieter
style of beauty, for my own part; less dazzle, less sparkling effect;
something to see every day, and to like the better the more one sees
it" - and he placed his arm around his sister's waist, and gazed at her
as if to give the interpretation to his speech.

"You have made me quite curious to see her, Fred," said Sybella. "The
very fact of finding one like her in such a place has its interest."

"What if you were to visit her, my dear?" said Sir Marmaduke; "the
attention would only be a proper one; you have books and music, here,
besides, which she might be glad to have in a region so remote as this."

Frederic never spoke a word, but anxiously awaited his sister's answer.

"I should like it greatly; what says Fred to the notion?"

"I see nothing against it," replied he, with a well-affected
indifference. "She is a most lady-like person; and, if it be your
intention to pass a few weeks longer in this solitude, would be of



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 17 of 41)