Charles James Lever.

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

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passed a little potatoe garden, or a lock of oak, it was always, 'God
be good to us, but they're mighty poor hereabouts;' but when we got into
the raal wild part of the glen, with divil a house nor a human being
near us, sorrow word out of their mouths but 'fine, beautiful, elegant!'
till we came to Keim-an-eigh, and then, ye'd think that it was fifty
acres of wheat they were looking at, wid all the praises they had for
the big rocks, and black cliffs oyer our heads."

"I showed them your honour's father's place on the mountains," said Joe.

"Yes, faith," broke in Jim; "and the young lady laughed and said, 'you
see, father, we have a neighbour after all.'"

The blood mounted to the youth's cheek, till it became almost purple,
but he did not utter a word.

"'Tis the O'Donoghue, my lady,' said I," continued Joe, who saw the
difficulty of the moment, and hastened to relieve it - "that's his castle
up there, with the high tower. 'Twas there the family lived these nine
hundred years, whin the whole country was their own; and they wor kings
here."

"And did you hear what the ould gentleman said then?" asked Jim.

"No, I didn't - I wasn't mindin' him," rejoined Joe; endeavouring with
all his might to repress the indiscreet loquacity of the other.

"What was it, Jim?" said the young man, with a forced smile.

"Faix, he begun a laughing, yer honour, and says he, 'We must pay our
respects at Coort,' says he; 'and I'm sure we'll be well received, for
we know his Royal Highness already - that's what he called yer honour."

The youth sprang to his feet, with a gesture so violent and sudden, as
to startle the whole party.

"What," he exclaimed, "and are we sunk so low, as to be a scoff and a
jibe to a London money-changer? If I but heard him speak the words - "

"Arrah, he never said it at all," said Joe, with a look that made his
counterpart tremble all over. "That bosthoon there, would make you
believe he was in the coach, convarsing the whole way with him. Sure
wasn't I riding the wheeler, and never heerd a word of it. Whisht, I
tell ye, and don't provoke me."

"Ay, stop your mouth with some of this," interposed Mary, as she helped
the smoking and savoury mess around the table.

Jim looked down abashed and ashamed; his testimony was discredited; and
without knowing why or wherefore, he yet had an indistinct glimmering
that any effort to vindicate his character would be ill-received; he
therefore said nothing more: his silence was contagious, and the meal
which a few moments before promised so pleasantly, passed off with gloom
and restraint.

All Mary M'Kelly's blandishments, assisted by a smoking cup of mulled
claret - a beverage which not a Chateau on the Rhone could rival in racy
flavour - failed to recall the young man's good-humour: he sat in gloomy
silence, only broken at intervals by sounds of some low muttering
to himself. Mary at length having arranged the little room for his
reception, bade him good night, and retired to rest. The postillions
sought their dens over the stable, and the youth, apparently lost in his
own thoughts, sat alone by the embers of the turf fire, and at last sunk
to sleep where he was, by the chimney-corner.

CHAPTER III. THE "COTTAGE AND THE CASTLE."

Of Sir Marmaduke Travers, there is little to tell the reader beyond
what the few hints thrown out already may have conveyed to him. He was
a London banker, whose wealth was reputed to be enormous. Originally
a younger son, he succeeded somewhat late in life to the baronetcy and
large estates of his family. The habits, however, of an active city
life - the pursuits which a long career had made a second nature to
him - rendered him both unfit to eater upon the less exciting duties of
a country gentleman's existence, and made him regard such as devoid of
interest or amusement. He continued therefore to reside in London for
many years after he became the baronet; and it was only at the death
of his wife, to whom he was devotedly attached, that these habits became
distasteful; he found that he could no longer continue a course which
companionship and mutual feeling had rendered agreeable, and he resolved
at once to remove to some one of his estates, where a new sphere of
occupation might alleviate the sorrows of his loss. To this no obstacle
of any kind existed. His only son was already launched into life as an
officer in the guards; and, except his daughter, so lately before the
reader, he had no other children. The effort to attain forgetfulness was
not more successful here, than it is usually found to be. The old man
sought, but found not in a country life the solace he expected; neither
his tastes nor his habits suited those of his neighbours; he was little
of a sportsman, still less of a farmer. The intercourse of country
social life was a poor recompense for the unceasing flow of London
society. He grew wearied very soon of his experiment, and longed once
more to return to his old haunts and habits. One more chance, however,
remained for him, and he was unwilling to reject without trying it. This
was, to visit Ireland, where he possessed a large estate, which he
had never seen. The property, originally mortgaged to his father, was
represented as singularly picturesque and romantic, possessing great
mineral wealth, and other resources, never examined into, nor made
available. His agent, Captain Hemsworth, a gentleman who resided on the
estate, at his annual visit to the proprietor, used to dilate upon the
manifold advantages and capabilities of the property, and never ceased
to implore him to pay a visit, if even for a week or two, sincerely
trusting the while that such an intention might never occur to him.
These entreaties, made from year to year, were the regular accompaniment
of every settlement of account, and as readily replied to by a half
promise, which the maker was certainly not more sincere in pledging.

Three years of country life had now, however, disposed Sir Marmaduke to
reflect on this long unperformed journey; and, regardless of the fact
that his agent was then grouse-shooting in Scotland, he set out at a
moment's notice, and without a word to apprise the household at the
lodge of his intended arrival, reached the house in the evening of an
autumn day, by the road we have already been describing.

It is but justice to Sir Marmaduke to add, that he was prompted to this
step by other than mere selfish considerations. The state of Ireland had
latterly become a topic of the press in both countries. The poverty of
the people - interpreted in various ways, and ascribed to very opposite
causes - was a constant theme of discussion and conversation. The strange
phenomenon of a land teeming with abundance, yet overrun by a starving
population, had just then begun to attract notice; and theories were
rife in accounting for that singular and anomalous social condition,
which unhappily the experience of an additional half century has not
succeeded in solving.

Sir Marmaduke was well versed in these popular writings; he had the
"Whole State of Ireland" by heart; and so firmly was he persuaded
that his knowledge of the subject was perfect, that he became actually
impatient until he had reached the country, and commenced the great
scheme of regeneration and civilization, by which Ireland and her people
were to be placed among the most favoured nations. He had heard much
of Irish indolence and superstition - Irish bigotry and intolerance - the
indifference to comfort - the indisposition to exertion - the recklessness
of the present - the improvidence of the future; he had been told that
saint-days and holydays mulcted labour of more than half its due - that
ignorance made the other half almost valueless; he had read, that, the
easy contentment with poverty, had made all industry distasteful,
and all exertion, save what was actually indispensable, a thing to be
avoided.

"Why should these things be, when they were not so in Norfolk, nor in
Yorkshire?" was the question he ever asked, and to which his knowledge
furnished no reply. There, superstitions, if they existed - and he knew
not if they did - came not in the way of daily labour. Saints never
unharnessed the team, nor laid the plough inactive - comfort was a
stimulant to industry that none disregarded; habits of order and decorum
made the possessor respected - poverty almost argued misconduct, and
certainly was deemed a reproach. Why then not propagate the system
of these happy districts in Ireland? To do this was the great end and
object of his visit.

Philanthropy would often seem unhappily to have a dislike to the
practical - the generous emotions appear shorn of their freedom, when
trammelled with the fruit of experience or reflection. So, certainly
it was, in the case before us. Sir Marmaduke had the very best
intentions - the weakest notions of their realization; the most unbounded
desire for good - the very narrowest conceptions of how to effect it.
Like most theorists, no speculative difficulty was great enough to
deter - no practical obstacle was so small as not to affright him. It
never apparently occurred to him that men are not every where alike,
and this trifling omission was the source of difficulties, which
he persisted in ascribing to causes outside of himself. Generous,
kind-hearted, and benevolent, he easily forgave an injury, never
willingly inflicted one; he was also, however, hot-tempered and
passionate; he could not brook opposition to his will, where its object
seemed laudable to himself, and was utterly unable to make allowance
for prejudices and leanings in others, simply because he had never
experienced them in his own breast.

Such was, in a few words, the present occupant of "the Lodge" - as the
residence of the agent was styled. Originally a hunting box, it had
been enlarged and ornamented by Captain Hemsworth, and converted into a
cottage of singular beauty, without, and no mean pretension to comfort,
within doors. It occupied an indenture of the glen of Keim-an-eigh, and
stood on the borders of a small mountain-lake, the surface of which
was dotted with wooded islands. Behind the cottage, and favoured by
the shelter of the ravine, the native oaks grew to a great size, and
contrasted by the rich foliage waving in the breeze, with the dark sides
of the cliff opposite, rugged, barren and immutable.

In all the luxuriance of this mild climate, shrubs attained the height
of trees; and flowers, rare enough elsewhere to demand the most watchful
care, grew here, unattended and unregarded. The very grass had a depth
of green, softer and more pleasing to the eye than in other places. It
seemed as if nature had, in compensation for the solitude around, shed
her fairest gifts over this lonely spot, one bright gem in the dreary
sky of winter.

About a mile further down the glen, and seated on a lofty pinnacle of
rock, immediately above the road, stood the once proud castle of the
O'Donoghue. Two square and massive towers still remained to mark its
ancient strength, and the ruins of various outworks and bastions could
be traced, extending for a considerable distance on every side. Between
these square towers, and occupying the space where originally a curtain
wall stood, a long low building now extended, whose high-pitched roof
and narrow windows vouched for an antiquity of little more than a
hundred years. It was a strange incongruous pile, in which fortress and
farm-house seemed welded together - the whole no bad type of its past and
its present owners. The approach was by a narrow causeway, cut in the
rock, and protected by a square keep, through whose deep arch the road
penetrated - flanked on either hand by a low battlemented wall; along
these, two rows of lime trees grew, stately and beautiful in the midst
of all the ruin about them. They spread their waving foliage around, and
threw a mellow, solemn shadow along the walk. Except these, not a tree,
nor even a shrub, was to be seen - the vast woods of nature's own
planting had disappeared - the casualties of war - the chances of times of
trouble, or the more ruinous course of poverty, had laid them low, and
the barren mountain now stood revealed, where once were waving forests
and shady groves, the home of summer birds, the lair of the wild deer.

Cows and farm-horses were stabled in what once had been the outworks of
the castle. Implements of husbandry lay carelessly on all sides, neglect
and decay marked every thing, the garden-wall was broken down in many
places, and cattle strayed at will among the torn fruit-trees and
dilapidated terraces, while, as if to add to the dreary aspect of the
scene, the ground for a considerable distance around had been tilled,
but never subsequently restored to grass land, and now along its ridged
surface noisome weeds and thistles grew rankly, tainting the air with
their odour, and sending up heavy exhalations from the moist and spongy
earth. If, without, all looked sad and sorrow-struck, the appearances
within, were not much better. A large flagged-hall, opened upon two long
ill-lighted corridors, from which a number of small sitting-rooms led
off. Many of these were perfectly devoid of furniture; in the others,
what remained seemed to owe its preservation to its want of value rather
than any other quality. Cracked looking-glasses - broken chairs, rudely
mended by some country hand - ragged and patched carpets, were the only
things to be found, with here and there some dirt-disfigured piece of
framed canvas, which, whether tapestry or painting, no eye could now
discover. These apartments bore little or no trace of habitation;
indeed, for many years they were rarely entered by any one. A large
square room in one of the towers, of some forty feet in dimensions, was
the ordinary resort of the family, serving the purposes of drawing and
dining-room. This was somewhat better in appearance: whatever articles
of furniture had any pretension to comfort or convenience were here
assembled; and here, were met, old-fashioned sofas, deep arm-chairs,
quaint misshapen tables like millipedes, and fat old footstools, the
pious work of long-forgotten grandmothers. A huge screen, covered with
a motley array of prints and caricatures, cut off the group around the
ample fire-place from the remainder of the apartment, and it is within
this charmed circle we would now conduct our reader.

[Illustration: 038]

In the great arm-chair, to the right of the ample fire-place, sat a
powerfully built old man, whose hair was white as snow, and fell in
long waving masses at either side of his head. His forehead, massive and
expanded, surmounted two dark, penetrating eyes, which even extreme old
age had not deprived of their lustre. The other features of his face
were rather marked by a careless, easy sensuality, than by any other
character, except that in the mouth the expression of firmness was
strongly displayed. His dress was a strange mixture of the costume of
gentleman and peasant. His coat, worn and threadbare, bore traces of
better days, in its cut and fashion; his vest also showed the fragment
of tarnished embroidery along the margin of the flapped pockets; but
the coarse knee breeches of corduroy, and the thick grey lambswool
stockings, wrinkled along the legs, were no better than those worn by
the poorer farmers of the neighbourhood.

This was the O'Donoghue himself. Opposite to him sat one as unlike him
in every respect as it was possible to conceive. He was a tall, spare,
raw-boned figure, whose grey eyes and high cheek-bones bore traces of a
different race from that of the aged chieftain. An expression of intense
acuteness pervaded every feature of his face, and seemed concentrated
about the angles of the mouth, where a series of deep wrinkles were
seen to cross and intermix with each other, omens of a sarcastic spirit,
indulged without the least restraint on the part of its possessor.
His wiry grey hair was brushed rigidly back from his bony temples, and
fastened into a short queue behind, thus giving greater apparent length
to his naturally long and narrow face. His dress was that of a gentleman
of the time: a full-skirted coat of a dark brown, with a long vest
descending below the hips; breeches somewhat a deeper shade of the same
colour, and silk stockings, with silver-buckled shoes, completed an
attire which, if plain, was yet scrupulously neat and respectable. As
he sat, almost bolt upright, in his chair, there was a look of vigilance
and alertness about him very opposite to the careless, nearly drooping
air of the O'Donoghue. Such was Sir Archibald M'Nab, the brother of the
O'Donoghue's late wife, for the old man had been a widower for several
years. Certain circumstances of a doubtful and mysterious nature had
made him leave his native country of Scotland many years before, and
since that, he had taken up his abode with his brother-in-law, whose
retired habits and solitary residence afforded the surest guarantee
against his ever being traced. His age must have been almost as great as
the O'Donoghue's; but the energy of his character, the lightness of his
frame, and the habits of his life, all contributed to make him seem much
younger.

Never were two natures more dissimilar. The one, reckless, lavish,
and improvident; the other, cautious, saving, and full of forethought.
O'Donoghue was frank and open - his opinions easily known - his
resolutions hastily formed. M'Nab was close and secret, carefully
weighing every thing before he made up his mind, and not much given to
imparting his notions, when he had done so.

In one point alone was there any similarity between them - pride of
ancestry and birth they both possessed in common; but this trait, so
far from serving to reconcile the other discrepancies of their naturess,
kept them even wider apart, and added to the passive estrangement of
ill-matched associates, an additional element of active discord.

There was a lad of some fifteen or sixteen years of age, who sat beside
the fire on a low stool, busily engaged in deciphering, by the fitful
light of the bog-wood, the pages of an old volume, in which he seemed
deeply interested. The blazing pine, as it threw its red gleam over the
room, showed the handsome forehead of the youth, and the ample locks
of a rich auburn, which hung in clusters over it; while his face was
strikingly like the old man's, the mildness of its expression - partly
the result of youth, partly the character imparted by his present
occupation - was unlike that of either his father or brother; for Herbert
O'Donoghue was the younger son of the house, and was said, both in
temper and appearance, to resemble his mother.

At a distance from the fire, and with a certain air of half assurance,
half constraint, sat a man of some five-and-thirty years of age, whose
dress of green coat, short breeches, and top boots, suggested at once
the jockey, to which the mingled look of confidence and cunning bore
ample corroboration. This was a well-known character in the south of
Ireland at that time. His name was Lanty Lawler. The sporting habits of
the gentry - their easiness on the score of intimacy - the advantages of
a ready-money purchaser, whenever they wished "to weed their stables,"
admitted the horse-dealer pretty freely among a class, to which neither
his habits nor station could have warranted him in presenting himself.
But, in addition to these qualities, Lanty was rather a prize in remote
and unvisited tracts, such as the one we have been describing, his
information being both great and varied in every thing going forward. He
had the latest news of the capital - the fashions of hair and toilet - the
colours worn by the ladies in vogue, and the newest rumours of any
intended change - he knew well the gossip of politics and party - upon
the probable turn of events in and out of parliament he could hazard a
guess, with a fair prospect of accuracy. With the prices of stock and
the changes in the world of agriculture he was thoroughly familiar, and
had besides a world of stories and small-talk on every possible subject,
which he brought forth with the greatest tact as regarded the tastes and
character of his company, one-half of his acquaintances being totally
ignorant of the gifts and graces, by which he obtained fame and
character with the other.

A roving vagabond life gave him a certain free-and-easy air, which,
among the majority of his associates, was a great source of his
popularity; but he well knew when to lay this aside, and assume the
exact shade of deference and respect his company might require. If
then with O'Donoghue himself, he would have felt perfectly at ease, the
presence of Sir Archy, and his taciturn solemnity, was a sad check upon
him, and mingled the freedom he felt with a degree of reserve far from
comfortable. However, he had come for a purpose, and, if successful, the
result would amply remunerate him for any passing inconvenience he might
incur; and with this thought he armed himself, as he entered the room
some ten minutes before.

"So you are looking for Mark," said the O'Donoghue to Lanty. "You can't
help hankering after that grey mare of his."

"Sure enough, sir, there's no denying it. I'll have to give him the
forty pounds for her, though, as sure as I'm here, she's not worth
the money; but when I've a fancy for a beast, or take a conceit out of
her - it's no use, I must buy her - that's it!"

"Well, I don't think he'll give her to you now, Lanty; he has got her so
quiet - so gentle - that I doubt he'll part with her."

"It's little a quiet one suits him; faix, he'd soon tire of her if she
wasn't rearing or plunging like mad! He's an elegant rider, God bless
him. I've a black horse now that would mount him well; he's out of
'Divil-may-care,' Mooney's horse, and can take six foot of a wall
flying, with fourteen stone on his back; and barring the least taste of
a capped hock, you could not see speck nor spot about him wrong."

"He's in no great humour for buying just now," interposed the
O'Donoghue, with a voice to which some suddenly awakened recollection
imparted a tone of considerable depression.

"Sure we might make a swop with the mare," rejoined Lanty, determined
not to be foiled so easily; and then, as no answer was forthcoming,
after a long pause, he added, "and havn't I the elegant pony for Master
Herbert there; a crame colour - clean bred - with white mane and tail. If
he was the Prince of Wales he might ride her. She has racing speed - they
tell me, for I only have her a few days; and, faix, ye'd win all the
county stakes with her."

The youth looked up from his book, and listened with glistening eyes and
animated features to the description, which, to one reared as he was,
possessed no common attraction.

"Sure I'll send over for her to-morrow, and you can try her," said
Lanty, as if replying to the gaze with which the boy regarded him.

"Ye mauna do nae sich a thing," broke in M'Nab. "Keep your rogueries and
rascalities for the auld generation ye hae assisted to ruin; but
leave the young anes alane to mind ither matters than dicing and
horse-racing."

Either the O'Donoghue conceived the allusion one that bore hardly on
himself, or he felt vexed that the authority of a father over his son
should have been usurped by another, or both causes were in operation
together, but he turned an angry look on Sir Archy, and said -

"And why shouldn't the boy ride? was there ever one of his name or
family that didn't know how to cross a country? I don't intend him for a
highland pedlar."

"He might be waur," retorted M'Nab, solemnly, "he might be an Irish
beggar."

"By my soul, sir," broke in O'Donoghue; but fortunately an interruption
saved the speech from being concluded, for at the same moment the door
opened, and Mark O'Donoghue, travel-stained and weary-looking, entered
the room.

"Well, Mark," said the old man, as his eyes glistened at the appearance
of his favourite son - "what sport, boy?"

"Poor enough, sir; five brace in two days is nothing to boast of,
besides two hares. Ah, Lanty - you here; how goes it?"

"Purty well, as times go, Mr. Mark," said the horse-dealer, affecting
a degree of deference he would not have deemed necessary had they been
alone. "I'm glad to see you back again."

"Why - what old broken-down devils have you now got on hand to pass off
upon us? It's fellows like you destroy the sport of the country. You
carry away every good horse to be found, and cover the country with
spavined, wind-galled brutes, not fit for the kennel."

"That's it, Mark - give him a canter, lad," cried the old man, joyfully.

"I know what you are at well enough," resumed the youth, encouraged by



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 2 of 41)