Charles James Lever.

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

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infinite value for companionship."

"A few weeks longer! - I shall remain till Christmas, boy," said his
father, with determination. "I have taken a fancy to Ireland; and my
intention is to go up to Dublin for a few months in winter, and return
here in the spring."

This was at once approaching the very subject which Frederic had
journeyed to determine; but, whether it was that the time seemed
unfavourable, or that his own ideas in the matter had undergone some
modification since his arrival, he contented himself with simply a
doubtful shake of the head, as if distrusting Sir Marmaduke's firmness,
and did not endeavour to oppose his determination by a single argument
of any kind. On the contrary, he listened with patience, and even
seeming interest to his father's detailed account of his project - how
he had already given orders to secure a house in Stephen's-green for the
winter, intending to make acquaintances with the gentry of the capital,
and present himself and his daughter at the viceregal court.

"Sybella may as well make her debut in society here as in London," said
Sir Marmaduke. "Indeed I am not sure but the provincial boards are the
best for a first appearance. In any case, such is the line I have laid
down for myself; and if it only secured me against a sea voyage to
England in such a season, I shall be amply repaid for my resolve."

Against the season of his return, too, Sir Marmaduke hoped to make
such additions to the Lodge as should render it more comfortable as a
residence; various plans for which were heaped upon the library table,
and littered the chairs about the room.

Miss Travers had already given her hearty concurrence to all her
father's schemes, and seconded, most ably, every one of his views
by such arguments as she was possessed of; so that Frederic, even if
disposed to record his opposition, saw that the present was not an
opportune moment; and prudently reserved for another time, what, if
unsuccessful now, could never be recurred to with advantage.

The conversation on these topics lasted long. They discussed with
interest every detail of their plans; for so it is - the pleasures of
castle building are inexhaustible, and the very happiest realities of
life are poor and vague, compared with the resources provided by our
hopes and fancies. The slightest grounds of probability are enough to
form a foundation - but there is no limit to the superstructure we raise
above.

In the indulgence of this view, they continued to chat till a late hour,
and parted for the night in high good humour with each other - a visit to
the O'Donoghue being the plan for the succeeding day's accomplishment.




CHAPTER XXII. A MORNING VISIT.

On the afternoon of the following day, Sir Marmaduke, accompanied
by his son and daughter, bent their steps towards the castle of the
O'Donoghue. The day was a fine and bright one, with a blue sky above,
and a hard frosty surface on the earth beneath, and made walking as
pleasant as open air and exercise can render it. The carriage was
ordered to meet them on their return; less, indeed, on account of
the distance, than that the shortness of the day made the precaution
reasonable.

Chatting agreeably, on they went. The time slipped rapidly away. Now,
adverting to the bold and majestic scenery around them - now, speaking of
the people, their habits, their prejudices, and their leanings, or anon
discussing the O'Donoghue family, which, of all the puzzling themes the
land presented, was certainly not the least embarrassing to them.

"We must think of some means of evincing our gratitude to this boy,
Fred," said Sir Marmaduke, in a whisper. "You appear to have found the
matter more difficult than you anticipated."

"Very true, sir. In the early part of my visit, it was rendered
impossible, by the interruption of the elder brother; and, in the latter
part, somehow, I believe, I - I actually begin to fear, I forgot it
altogether. However, I have thought of one thing; and it should be
done without a moment's loss of time. You must write to Carden, the law
agent, and stop any proceedings Hemsworth may have begun against these
people. It would be most disgraceful to think that, while professing
sentiments of good feeling and friendliness, we were using the arm of
the law to harass and distress them."

"I'll do it at once, Fred - by this night's post. In truth, I never
understood the point at issue between us; nor can I clearly see
Hemsworth's reason for the summary course he has taken with them. There
must be more in it than I know of."

"The castle stands proudly, as seen from this point," said Sybella, who
felt somewhat wearied of a conversation maintained in a voice too low
for her to hear; and the remark had the effect of recalling them _to_
other thoughts, in discussing which, they arrived at the old keep of
Carrig-na-curra.

Whether recent events had sharpened Kerry O'Leary to a more acute
sense of his duties as butler, or that Kate O'Donoghue had exerted some
influence in bringing about so desirable an object, we know not; but at
the very first summons of the hall-door bell, he made his appearance,
his ordinary costume being augmented, if not improved, by a pair of
very un-weldy top-boots of his master's, which reached somewhere to the
middle of the thigh, and were there met by a green velvet waistcoat,
from the same wardrobe, equally too large and voluminous for its present
owner.

Visitors at the O'Donoghue house were generally of a character which
Kerry felt necessary to close the door against. They unhappily came, not
with the ceremonial of a visiting card, but with some formidable missive
of the law, in the shape of a distress warrant - a latitat - or that
meeker and less-dreaded engine, a protested bill. It was, then, with a
considerable relief to his anxieties, that his eye caught the flutter
of a lady's dress, as he peeped from the small casement beside the
door, and his heart expanded in a little thanksgiving of its own, as he
unbarred the portal to admit her.

Having informed his visitors that the family were at home, he preceded
them to the drawing-room, with a step, the noise of which happily
drowned the tittering it was impossible to subdue, at beholding him. To
prevent the awkwardness which Sir Marmaduke foresaw might arise, from
the blundering announcement Kerry would inevitably make of their names,
he having repeated over and over as he went along, by way of refreshing
his memory, "Sir Marmaduke, Sir Marmaduke Travers," the old gentleman
stepped forward as the door opened, and presented himself by name,
introducing his daughter at the same time.

The O'Donoghue, seated in his chair, half rose, for it was one of his
gouty days, and he could not stir without great difficulty, and with an
air and voice which bespoke the gentleman, welcomed his guests.

Herbert's eyes gleamed with delight as he gazed on the party; and
Sir Archibald, bowing with an ancient grace that would have suited a
courtier of a century previous, presented chairs to each, going through
the ceremonial of a new obeisance to every one of the group. Kate
O'Donoghue was not in the room, nor Mark - the latter, indeed, had not
returned to the castle since the day previous.

The ordinary greetings over, and Sir Marmaduke having expressed, in
well-chosen phrase, the gratitude he had so long laboured to acquit, the
conversation became easy and agreeable. Sir Marmaduke, seating himself
next O'Donoghue, had entered into a discussion of the state of the
country and the people - Frederic, beside Herbert's chair, was conversing
with the boy by lively sallies and pleasant stories, that flowed the
more rapidly as the listener was an eager one; while Sir Archibald,
standing in an attitude of respectful attention, had engaged Miss
Travers in a conversation about the glen and its scenery, to which his
own correct taste and thorough appreciation of the picturesque, gave a
charm and piquancy that already interested her deeply. So naturally easy
and unaffected was the tone of their reception, that all astonishment at
finding their host so superior to their anticipation, was merged in
the pleasure that Travers felt in the interview. The good-tempered
heartiness of the O'Donoghue himself - his frank speech, his ready
humour, won each moment more and more on Sir Marmaduke. Frederic, too,
never grew wearied of the fresh and joyous spirit which gleamed out
at every look and word from Herbert, whose ardent temperament and
high-hearted nature caught up the enthusiasm of a spirit like his own;
and, as for Sybella, the charm of Sir Archy's manner, whose perfection
was its adaptation to the society of ladies, delighted her greatly,
and she soon forgot any slight inclination to smile at the precision of
language, where deep sound sense and high feeling were conveyed, with
only the fault of pedantry. While thus agreeably engaged on all sides,
the door opened, and Kate entered, but so noiselessly withal, that
she was in the midst of the party, before they knew of her approach.
Recognising Frederic Travers with a gracious smile, she received Sir
Marmaduke's salutation with a deep courtesy, and then, as if similarity
of years required a less ceremonious introduction, took her seat beside
Miss Travers, with an air of mingled kindness and cordiality she so
well knew how to assume. As in an orchestra, amid the swell of many
instruments, where deep-toned thunders mingle with sounds of softer
influence, some one strain will rise, from time to time, suggestive of
feelings apart from the rest, with higher and nobler sympathies around
it, so did her voice, heard among the others, sound thus sweetly. Her
words came winged with a fine expression, which look and gesture could
alone give them - and in the changing colour of her cheek, her brilliant
brow, her lips, even in silence eloquent, there was a character of
loveliness as much above mere beauty, as life transcends the marble.
The more perfect regularity of Sybella's features - their classic
outline - their chaste correctness in every line and lineament - seemed
cold and inanimate when contrasted with the more expressive loveliness
of Kate O'Donoghue. The fearless character of her mind, too, was blended
with so much of womanly delicacy and refinement - the wish to please,
so associated with a seeming forgetfulness of self, that every act and
every gesture teemed with a charm of interest, for which there is no
word, save "fascination;" even that slightly foreign accent, of which we
have already spoken, served to individualize all she said, and left it
graven on the heart long after the words were spoken.

Frederic Travers watched with eager delight the effect these gifts
were producing upon his sister. He saw the pleasure with which Sybella
listened; he recognised, even already, the symptoms of that conquest by
which mind subdues mind, and was overjoyed as he looked.

To Sir Marmaduke's gracefully-expressed hope, that this visit should
form the prelude to their nearer intimacy, the O'Donoghue, with a touch
of sadness in his voice, replied - that he himself was an invalid,
whose steps never wandered beyond the precincts of his home; but his
brother-in-law, and his niece, and the boys - they would all, he was
certain, avail themselves of such a neighbourhood.

Sir Archibald bowed low, and somewhat stiffly perhaps, in accordance
with a pledge thus given without his concurrence; but Herbert's bright
eyes grew brighter, and his cheek flushed with delight at the bare
anticipation of the thought.

"And you, Miss O'Donoghue," said Sir Marmaduke, turning towards Kate.
"Our humble library at the lodge, is perfectly at your service, the only
condition we ask is, that you come and choose from it in person."

"That promise is already most kindly made, father," interrupted Sybella,
whose pleased look showed how she had been captivated by her new friend.

While their smiles and gracious words went round, the door was suddenly
opened by Kerry O'Leary, who, forgetful of the visitors, in _his_ eager
anxiety as the bearer of news, cried out -

[Illustration: 221]

"There's a shindy, master dear! Such a row! May I never die in sin, if
ever I seen the equal of it!"

"What does he mean? - is the fellow mad?" cried the O'Donoghue, angrily,
while Sir Archy, bending on him a most ominous frown, muttered -

"Have ye lost a' decency tegether. Ye daft loon, what ails ye?"

"I ax your pardon, and the qualities pardon," said Kerry, with an
expression of abject misery for his unceremonious 'entrée.' "But, if you
seen it, sorra bit but you'd forgive me."

"There has been good fun somewhere, I'm certain," cried out Frederick
Travers, whose curiosity to learn Kerry's intelligence could no longer
be repressed.

"What is it, then, Kerry?" said the O'Donoghue. "Let us hear it all."

"'Tis Master Mark, good luck to him," cried Kerry, overjoyed at the
permission to speak out freely. "He was over at Ballyvourney with
the greyhounds, when he seen that dirty spalpeen, Sam Wylie, wid a
process-sarver along wid him, noticin' the tenants. The server was a
stranger, and he didn't touch him; but he made the boys put Sam on Nick
Malone's mule, and give him a fair start, and they run him down the
mountain, with a fine view, and ran into him there at the horse-pond,
where the mule flung him head over heels; and begorra, you wouldn't
know 'twas a Christian, if you seen him this minit dripping wet, and the
duck-weed all hanging round him - and he's running still - for he thinks
Master Mark will take the life of him before he stops."

A roar of laughter from Frederic, joined in by Herbert, and at last by
the O'Donoghue himself, for some moments prevented a word of commentary
on this outrageous proceeding, when Sir Marmaduke, rising slowly, said -

"I am a stranger here, very ignorant of the country and its habits; but
I have yet to learn that any man, in the just discharge of his duty,
should be thus treated. I call upon you, sir, to investigate this
affair, and if it be, as we have heard it, to make reparation - - "

"Ye hae muckle reason for what ye say, sir," interposed Sir Archy; "but
the freaks and follies o' young men hae a license here, I doubt ye are
na used to."

"I'll lay my life on it, Mark was right," called out the O'Donoghue.
"The boy never makes any mistake in these matters."

"If the fellow were insolent," said Frederic, "your son has served him
properly."

Kate smiled at the speaker a look of gratitude, which amply repaid him
for coming thus promptly to the rescue.

"It may be so," said Sir Marmaduke, happy at such a means of escaping
from a further prosecution of a most unpleasant topic.

"The captain's guessed it well," cried Kerry. "The spalpeen tould
Master Mark that he'd be up here to-morrow wid a notice from the master
himself, and it would go hard but he'd see us out of the place before
Easter."

"Is this possible!" said Sir Marmaduke, blushing deeply. "I beg, my dear
sir, that you will forgive any hasty expression I may have used."

"I can forgive the lad myself," said Sir Archy, proudly.

"Not I, then, uncle," interposed Kate. "Not I. Mark should have
horsewhipped the fellow within an inch of his life."

Sybella Travers started at the energy of voice and manner which
accompanied these words; while the ODonoghue, rising from his chair,
came "slowly across the hearth, and imprinted a kiss upon Kate's
forehead."

"You're one of the raal stock - there's no denying it," muttered Kerry,
as he gazed on her with an expression of almost worship. "'Tis blood
that never gives in - devil a lie in it!"

Herbert, who alone had witnessed the unfriendly meeting between his
brother and young Travers, turned a pleasant smile at the latter, as he
half whispered -

"This was very kind of _you_."

It would have been a difficult - nay, an almost impossible task, to
recall the tone and temper of the party, previous to this unhappy
interruption. All Sir Marmaduke's efforts to resume the conversation had
lost their former ease - the O'Donoghue himself was disconcerted; for he
was not quite certain what were Sir Marmaduke's words on the occasion,
and how far he should feel called upon to demand a retractation, and Sir
Archibald, fretful and annoyed at the impression Mark's conduct would
convey of the habits and temper of the house, felt his task a severe
one, to assume an air of serenity and quietude.

Frederic Travers alone seemed happy and delighted. The sudden expression
of Kate O'Donoghue's opinion, so utterly unlike anything he had ever
heard before from a young lady's lips, took him as much by surprise as
the spirit pleased him; and he would willingly have engaged to horsewhip
a dozen process-servers, for another glance of her flashing eyes, as she
delivered the words; while Sybella could not help a sentiment bordering
on fear, for one who, young as herself, gifted with every womanly
attitude of grace and loveliness, had yet evinced a degree of
impetuosity and passion she could not reconcile with such attractions.
As for Kate, the sentiment had evoked no stir within her bosom. It was
a wish, as naturally expressed as it was felt; and all the surprise the
others experienced at her words would have been nothing to her own, to
have known of their astonishment.

The visit soon came to a termination, and Sir Marmaduke, having
succeeded in a great degree, in restoring the favourable impression
he had at first obtained, took his leave of the O'Donoghue, and then,
addressing Sir Archy, said -

"You, sir, I rejoice to learn, are not an invalid. May I expect the
happiness of seeing you sometimes?"

Sir Archy bowed deeply, and, with a motion of his hand towards Miss
Travers, replied -

"I have already made an engagement here, sir."

"Yes," said Sybella, to whom this speech seemed half addressed, "Sir
Archibald has been kind enough to offer me his guidance up the glen,
where there are several points of view finer than any I have seen."

Emboldened by the success of these advances, Sir Marmaduke, with a
courtesy he was perfect master of, requested the party would not
delay their kind intentions, but favour him with their company on the
following day.

It is doubtful whether Sir Archy might not have declined a more formal
invitation; but there seemed something so frank in the abruptness of the
present, that he acceded at once; and Kate having also pledged herself
to accompany him, their greetings were interchanged, and they parted.




CHAPTER XXIII. SOME OPPOSITE TRAITS OF CHARACTER

It may seem strange and almost paradoxical - but so it was - Kate
O'Donoghue's presence appeared to have wrought a most magical change in
the whole household of the O'Donoghue. The efforts they themselves made
to ward off the semblance of their fallen estate, induced a happier
frame of mind than that which resulted from daily brooding over their
misfortunes; the very struggle elicited a courage they had left long
in disuse; and the cheerfulness which at first was but assumed, grew
gradually more and more natural. To the O'Donoghue, who, for many a day,
desired no more than to fend off the evil in his own brief time; who,
with the selfishness of an old age passed in continual conflict with
poverty, only sought a life interest in their bettered fortunes, she was
a boon above all price. Her light step, her lighter laugh, her mirthful
tone of conversation, with its many anecdotes and stories of places and
people he had not heard of before, were resources against gloom that
never failed.

Sir Archy, too, felt a return to the old associations of his youth,
in the presence ef a young, beautiful, and accomplished girl, whose
gracefulness and elegance threw a halo around her as she went, and made
of that old and crumbling tower, dark with neglect, and sad with time,
a salon, teeming with its many appliances against depression, where she
herself, armed with so many fascinations, dispensed cheerfulness and
bliss on all about her. Nor was he selfish in all this. He marked with
delight the impression made upon his favourite Herbert, by his cousin's
attractive manners. How insensibly, as it were, the boy was won from
ruder pursuits, and coarser pleasures, to sit beside her as she sung,
or near her as she read; with what interest he pursued his lessons in
French, beneath her tuition, and the ardour with which he followed every
plan of study suggested by her. Sir Archibald saw all these things,
and calculated on their result with accuracy. He foresaw how Kate's
attractive gifts would throw into the shade the ruder tastes the boy's
condition in life might expose him to adopt, and thus aid him in the
great object of his whole existence - to save him, at least, from the
wreck of his house.

Mark alone seemed untouched by her presence; save that the wild excesses
of high spirit, to which from time to time he ever gave way, were
now gone, and in their place, a deep gloom, a moroseness of character
succeeded, rendering him usually silent before her, or sunk in his own
saddening reflections. Kate would sometimes adventure to disperse the
dark clouds from his mind, but ever without success; he either felt
annoyed at being the subject of remark, or left the room; so that at
last, she abandoned the effort, hoping that time and its changes would
effect what the present denied. Perhaps, too, she had reasons for this
hope. More than once, with womanly quickness, had she marked how he had
stood with his eye fixed upon her, unconscious of being seen; how,
when about to leave the room, he would loiter about, as if in search
of something, but, in reality, to listen to the song she was singing.
Still, she showed no sign of having seen these things; but always, in
her air towards him, affected a careless ease of manner, as like his
own as possible. For days, sometimes for an entire week, he would absent
himself from home; and, as he was never submissive to much questioning,
his appearance called forth no other remark than some passing
observation of what had occurred in his absence, but which drew from him
no interchange of confidence.

These symptoms of Mark's altered character made a deeper impression on
his father than events of greater moment could have done. He watched
every movement and expression of his favourite son, to catch some clue
to the change; but all in vain. The young man never, by any accident,
alluded to himself: nor did he often now advert to the circumstance
of the family difficulties; on the contrary, a lethargic carelessness
seemed to brood over him, and he went about like one who had lost all
zest for life, and all care for its enjoyments.

The O'Donoghue was too well versed in the character of his son to hope
for any elucidation of the mystery by a mere inquiry; so that he was
left to speculate on the many causes which might have operated the
change, and divine, as well as he was able, the secret grief that
affected him. In this pursuit, like all who have long suffered the
pressure of a particular calamity, he ever felt disposed to ascribe
Mark's suffering to the same cause which produced his own, namely, the
fallen fortunes of the house, and the ruin that hung over them. Yet,
somehow, of late, matters had taken a turn more favourable. His attorney
at Cork had informed him, that from some informality in the proceedings,
the ejectment was stopped, at least for the present term. The notices to
the tenants not to pay were withdrawn, and the rents came in as before;
and the only very pressing evil were the bills, the renewal of which,
demanded a considerable sum of ready money. That this one misfortune
should occasion a gloom, the accumulated griefs of former days had not
done, he could not understand; but, by long musing on the matter, and
deep reflection, he at last came to the conviction, that such was the
case, and that Mark's sorrow was the greater, from seeing how near they
were to a more favourable issue to their affairs, and yet how fatally
debarred from such a consummation by this one disastrous circumstance.

The drowning hand grasps not the straw with more avidity than does
the harassed and wearied mind, agitated by doubts, and worn out with
conjectures, seize upon some one apparent solution to a difficulty that
has long oppressed it, and, for the very moment, convert every passing
circumstance into an argument for its truthfulness. The O'Donoghue now
saw, or believed he saw, why Mark would never accompany the others in
their visits to the "Lodge" - nor be present when any of the Travers
family came to the castle; he immediately accounted for his son's
rejection of the proffered civilities, by that wounded pride which made



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 18 of 41)