Charles James Lever.

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

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watching, through the unshuttered window, the bright moonlight that
streamed across the glen and glittered on the lake, the conversation,
from some reference to the scenery, turned to the condition of Ireland,
and the then state of her people. Sir Marmaduke, notwithstanding his
late experiences, fully maintaining the accuracy of his own knowledge
in matters, which have not ceased to puzzle even wiser heads, gained
confidence from the cautious reserve of Sir Archy, who rarely ventured
an opinion, and never hazarded a direct assertion.

"They would have me believe, in England," said Sir Marmaduke, "that
Ireland was on the very brink of a rebellion; that the organization of
revolt was perfect, and only waiting French co-operation to burst forth;
but how absurd such statements are to us who lire amongst them."

Sir Archy smiled significantly, and shook his head.

"You, surely, have no fears on this head, sir? It is not possible to
conceive a state of more profound peace, than we observe around us. Men
do not take up arms against a rightful authority, without the working
of strong passions and headlong impulses. What is there to indicate them
here?"

"You'll allow, Sir Marmaduke, they are no overlikely to mak' ye a
confidant, if they intend a rising," was the dry observation of M'Nab.

"True; but could they conceal their intentions from me - that is the
question? Think you that I should not have discovered them long since,
and made them known to the government?"

"I trust you'd have done no such thing, sir," interposed Fred. "I heard
Maitland say, there never was a chance of keeping this country down,
if we had not a brush with them every thirty or forty years; and, if I
don't mistake, the time for a lesson has just come round."

"Is it so certain on which side is to be the teacher?" said Kate, with a
voice whose articulate distinctness actually electrified the party; and,
as it drew their eyes towards her, heightened the flush that mantled on
her cheek.

"It never occurred to me to doubt the matter," said Fred, with an air of
ill-dissembled mortification.

"No more than you anticipated it, perhaps," retorted she, quickly; "and
yet events are happening every day which take the world by surprise. See
there! - look. That mountain-peak was dark but a moment back; and now,
see the blazing fire that has burst forth upon it!"

The whole party started to their feet, and drew near the window, from
which, at a distance of about two miles, the red glare of a fire was
seen. It burned brightly for some minutes, and then decaying, became
extinguished, leaving the dark mountain black and gloomy as before.

"What can it mean?" said Sir Marmaduke, in amazement. "Can it be some
signal of the smugglers? I understand they still venture on this coast."

"That mountain yonder is not seen from the bay," said Sir Archy,
thoughtfully. "It can scarcely be that."

"I think we must ask Miss O'Donoghue for the explanation," said Fred
Travers. "She is the only one here not surprized at its appearance."

"Miss O'Donoghue is one of those who, you assert, are to be taught, and,
therefore, unable to teach others," said she, in a low whisper, only
audible to Frederick, who stood beside her, and he almost started at the
strange meaning the words seemed to convey.




CHAPTER XXIV. A WALK BY MOONLIGHT

The visit alluded to in the last chapter formed the first step to an
acquaintance which speedily ripened into intimacy. Seldom a day passed
without some interchange of civilities; and as they progressed in
knowledge of each other, they advanced in esteem, so that, ere long,
they learned to regard themselves as members of a single family. The
conventional usages of society are stronger barriers against friendship
than the world deems them. The life of cities supplies a coinage of
social intercourse which but very imperfectly represents the value of
true feeling; while in remoter and less cultivated regions, men are
satisfied to disencumber themselves of this false currency, and deal
frankly and openly with each other.

How little now did Sir Marmaduke remember of all Sir Archy's
peculiarities of manner and expression! how seldom did Sybella think
Kate's opinions wild and eccentric! and how difficult would it have been
to convince the fastidious Guardsman, that the society of St. James's
possessed any superiority in tone or elegance over the evenings at "the
Lodge."

The real elements of mutual liking were present here: the discrepancy
of character and taste - the great differences of age, and habit of
thought - yet moulded into one common frame of esteem from the very
appreciation of qualities in others, in which each felt himself
deficient. If Kate admired the simple but high-minded English girl,
whose thoughts were rarely faulty, save when attributing to others
higher and purer motives than the world abounds in, Sybella looked
up with enthusiastic delight to the glittering talents of her Irish
friend - the warm and generous glow of her imagination - the brilliant
flashes of her wit - the ready eloquence of her tongue, and, perhaps, not
least of all, the intrepid fearlessness of her nature, inspired her with
sentiments of almost awe, which seemed to deepen, and not diminish her
affection for Kate O'Donoghue.

It might appear an ungenerous theme to dwell on; but how often are our
friendships suggested by self-love? - how frequently are we led to think
highly and speak praisingly of qualities the opposite to our own, from
the self-satisfaction our apparent impartiality yields us. Justice
must, indeed, be a great virtue, when its very shadow can ennoble human
nature. Not such, however, were the motives here. Kate's admiration for
the unerring rectitude of Sybella's character was as free from taint as
was Sybella's heartfelt enthusiasm for the Irish girl. As for Frederick
Travers, the same dissimilarity in character which made him at first
compare Kate with his sister disadvantageously, now induced him to be
struck and fascinated by her qualities. The standard by which he had
measured her, she had long since passed, in his estimation; and any idea
of a comparison between them would now have appeared ridiculous. It was
true many of her opinions savoured of a nationality too strong for his
admiration. She was intensely Irish - or at least what he deemed such.
The traditions which, as a child, she had listened to with eager
delight, had given a bias to her mind that grew more confirmed with
years. The immediate circumstances of her own family added to this
feeling, and her pride was tinctured with sorrow at the fallen condition
of her house. All her affection for her cousins could not blind her to
their great defects. In Mark she saw one whose spirit seemed crushed and
stunned, and not awakened by the pressure of misfortune. Herbert,
with all his kindliness of nature and open-heartedness, appeared more
disposed to enjoy the sunshine of life, than to prepare himself to
buffet with its storms.

How often she wished she had been a boy; how many a day-dream floated
before her of such a career as she might have struck out! Ireland
a nation - her "own sons her rulers" - had been the theme of many an
oft-heard tale, and there was a poetry in the sentiment of a people
recalled to a long-lost, long-sought-for nationality, that excited and
exalted her imagination.

Her convent education had stored her mind with narratives of native
suffering and Saxon tyranny, and she longed for the day of retribution
on the "proud invaders." Great was her disappointment at finding her
cousins so dead to every feeling of this kind; and she preferred the
chivalrous ardour of the English soldier to the sluggish apathy of Mark,
or the happy indolence of Herbert O'Donoghue.

Had Frederick Travers been an Irishman, would he have borne his
country's wrongs so meekly? was a reflection that more than once
occurred to her mind, and never more powerfully than on parting with
him, the very evening we have mentioned. He had accompanied them, on
their return to Carrig-na-curra, which, as the night was fine and the
moon nearly at her full, they did on foot. Kate, who rarely accepted
an arm when walking, had, by some accident, taken his on this occasion,
Sir. Archy leaning on that of Herbert.

The young soldier listened with a high-beating heart, as she related an
incident, of which the spot they were traversing had been the scene.
It was a faithless massacre of a chieftain and his followers, seduced,
under pretences of friendship and a pledge of amity.

"They told him," said she, "that his young wife, who had been carried
away by force, and imprisoned for two entire years, should on this
spot be restored to him; that he had but to come, with twelve of his
retainers, unarmed, save with their swords, and that here, where we now
stand, she should once more become his own. The hour was sunset, and he
waited, with anxious impatience, beneath that tall cliff yonder, where
you can see the deep cleft. Strange enough, they have added a legend to
the true story, as if their wrongs could derive any force from fiction!
and they tell you still, that the great rock was never split until that
night. Their name for it, in Irish, is 'the rent,' or 'the ruptured
pledge.' Do I weary you with these old tales?"

"No, no; go on, I entreat you. I cannot say how the scene; increases its
fascinations, from connection with your story."

"He stood yonder, where the black shadow now crosses the road, and
having dismounted, he gave his horse to one of his attendants, and
walked, with an anxious heart, up and down, waiting for their approach.

"There was less sympathy among his followers for their chieftain's
sorrow than might be expected; for she was not a native born, but the
daughter of an English earl. He, perhaps, loved her the more - her very
friendlessness was another tie between them."

"Says the legend so, or is this a mere suspicion on your part?"
whispered Travers softly.

"I scarcely know," continued Kate, with an accent less assured than
before. "I believe I tell you the tale as I have heard it; but why may
she not have been his own in every sentiment and thought - why not have
imbibed the right, from him she learned to love?" The last words were
scarcely uttered, when, with a sudden exclamation, less of fear than
astonishment, Kate grasped Travers' arm, and exclaimed - "Did you see
that!"

"I thought some dark object moved by the road side."

"I saw a man pass, as if from behind us, and gain the thicket yonder: he
was alone, however."

"And I am armed," said Travers, coolly.

"And if you were not," replied she, proudly, "an O'Donoghue has nothing
to fear in the valley of Glenflesk. Let us join my uncle, however, for
I see he has left us some distance behind him;" and while they hastened
forward, she resumed her story with the same unconcern as before the
interruption.

Travers listened eagerly - less, it is true, in sympathy with the story,
than in delight at the impassioned eloquence of her who related it.
"Such," said she, as they turned to bid him farewell at the old keep on
the road side, "such are the traditions of our land; they vary in time
and place, and persons; but they have only one moral through all - what a
terrible thing is slavery!"

Travers endeavoured to turn the application of her speech, by some
common-place compliment about her own powers of inflicting bondage; but
she stopped him suddenly, with "Nay, nay; these are not jesting
themes, although you may deem them unsuited for one as ignorant and
inexperienced as I am; nor will I speak of them again, if they serve but
as matter for laughter."

Amid his protestations of innocence against this charge, which, in his
ardour, he pushed farther than calmer judgment might warrant, they shook
hands cordially, and parted.

"He's a fine-hearted fellow, too," thought Kate, as she slowly moved
along in silence. "Saxon though he be, there's a chord in his bosom that
responds to the touch of truth and honour."

"Noble girl," said Frederick, half aloud, "it would be hard to rebuke
treason, when spoken from such lips;" then added, with a smile - "It's no
fair temptation to expose even a Guardsman to."

And thus, each speculated on the character of the other, and fancied
how, by their own influence, it might be fashioned and moulded to a
better form; nor was their interest lessened in each other's
fortune from the fact, that it seemed to involve so much of mutual
interposition.

"You should not walk this road so late," said Mark O'Donoghue, almost
rudely, as he opened the door to admit them. "The smugglers are on the
coast now, and frequently come up the glen at nightfall."

"Why not have come to be our escort, then?" said Kate, smiling.

"What? With the gay soldier for your guard," said he, bitterly.

"How knew you that, my worthy cousin?" said Kate, rapidly, and then,
with a significant shake of the head, added, in a whisper - "I see there
_are_ marauders about."

Mark blushed till his face became scarlet, and turning abruptly away,
sought his own room in silence.




CHAPTER XXV. A DAY OF DIFFICULT NEGOCIATIONS

The time was now approaching when the Travers's were to remove to the
capital, and, at Sybella's urgent entreaty, Sir Marmaduke was induced
to request that Kate O'Donoghue might accompany them in their visit, and
thus enjoy the pleasures of a winter in Dublin, then, second to no city
of Europe, in all that constituted social excellence.

The note of invitation couched in terms the most flattering and cordial,
arrived when the O'Donoghues were seated at breakfast, and, as was usual
on all occasions of correspondence, was opened by Kate herself; scarcely
had she thrown her eyes over its contents, when, with a heightened
colour, and a slight tremor in her voice, she passed the letter across
the table to her uncle, and said - "This is for your consideration, sir."

"Then, you must read it for me, Kate," replied he; "for my ears have
outlived my eyes."

"Shall I do it," interposed Sir Archy, who, having remarked some
hesitation in Kate's manner, came thus good-naturedly to the rescue.

"With all my heart, Archy," said the O'Donoghue; "or rather, if
you would do me a favour, just tell me what it is about - polite
correspondence affects me pretty much as the ceremonies of bowing and
salutation, when I have a fit of the gout. I become devilish impatient,
and would give the world it was all over, and that I were back in my
easy chair again."

"The politeness in the present case, lies less in the style than in the
substance," said Sir Archy. "This is a vara civil, though, I must say,
to me a vara unwelcome proposal, to take our darling Kate away from
us, for a season, and show her some of the life and gaieties of the
capital."

"Well, that is handsomely done, at least," said the O'Donoghue, whose
first thought sprung from gratified pride, at the palpable evidence of
social consideration; then suddenly changing his tone, he said in a low
voice; "but what says Kate herself?"

Mark turned his eyes full upon her, as his father said these words, and
as a deadly pallor came over his face, he sat steadfastly awaiting her
reply, like one expecting the decree of a judge.

"Kate feels too happy here, sir, to risk anything by a change," replied
she, avoiding, even for a second, to look towards where Mark was
sitting.

"But you must not lose such an opportunity, dearest Kate;" whispered
Herbert eagerly into her ear. "These are the scenes, and the places you
are used to, and best fitted to enjoy and to adorn, and besides - - "

A stern frown from Mark, who, if he had not overheard the speech, seemed
to have guessed its import, suddenly arrested the youth, who now looked
overwhelmed with confusion.

"We are a divided cabinet; that I see plainly enough, Kate;" said
O'Donoghue; "though, if our hearts were to speak out, I'd warrant they
would be of one mind. Still, this would be a selfish verdict, my dear
girl, and a poor requital for all the happiness you have brought back
to these old walls;" and the words were spoken with a degree of feeling
that made all indisposed to break the silence that followed.

"I should like to see the capital, I own," said Kate, "if my absence
were to be a short one."

"And I wad hae nae objection the capital should see yersel," said Sir
Archy; "albeit, I may lose a sweetheart by my generosity."

"Have no fears of my fidelity," said Kate, laughing, as she extended her
hand towards him, while, with antique gallantry, he pressed it to his
lips. "The youth of this land are not, so far as my little experience
goes, likely to supplant so true an admirer; they who have so little
devotion to their country, may well be suspected of having less for its
daughters."

Mark's brow grew dark with the flush that covered his face and
forehead in an instant; he bent his head almost to the table to avoid
observation, and, as if in the distraction of the moment, he took up the
note and seemed to pore over its contents; then suddenly crushing it in
his hand, he arose from the table and left the room.

"My sweet Kate," said Sir Archy, as he led her within the deep recess of
a window, "tak care ye dinna light up a flame of treason, where ye only
hoped to warm a glow of patriotism; such eyes and lips as yours are but
too ready teachers; be cautious, lassie. This country, however others
may think, is on the eve of some mighty struggle; the people have
abandoned many of their old grudges and seem disposed to unite."

"And the gentry - where are they, who should stand at their head and
share their fortune?" cried Kate eagerly; for the warning, so far from
conveying the intended moral, only stimulated her ardour and excited her
curiosity.

"The gentry," replied Sir Archy, in a firm, decided tone, "are better
satisfied to live under a government they dislike, than to be at the
mercy of a rabble they despise, I ha'e lived langer than you in this
dreary world, lassie, and trust me, the poetry of patriotism has little
relation to the revengeful fury of rebellion. You wish freedom for those
who cannot enjoy the portion of it they possess. It is time to outlive
the evil memories of the past, we want here - time, to blunt the
acuteness of former and long-past sufferings - time, to make traditions
so far forgotten as to be inapplicable to the present - time, to read the
homely lesson, that one half the energy a people can expend in revolt,
will raise them in the rank of civilized and cultivated beings."

"Time, to make Irishmen forget that the land of their birth was ever
other than an English province," added Kate, impetuously. "No, no, it
was not thus your own brave countrymen understood their 'devoirs.'"

"They rallied round the standard of a prince they loved, lassie," said
M'Nab, in a tone whose fervour contrasted with his former accent.

"And will you tell me that the principle of freedom is not more sacred
than the person of the sovereign?" said Kate, tauntingly.

"There can be nae mistake about the one, but folks may have vara
unsettled notions of the other," said he, drily; "but we mauna quarrel,
Kate dear; our time is e'en too short already. Sit ye down and sing me a
sang."

"It shall be a rebel one, then, I promise you," replied she, with an air
of defiance which it was impossible to pronounce more real or assumed.
"But here comes a visitor to interrupt us, and so your loyalty is saved
for this time."

The observation was made in reference to a traveller, who, seated in a
very antique looking dennet, was seen slowly labouring his wearied horse
up the steep ascent to the castle.

"It's Swaby, father," cried Herbert, who immediately recognized the
equipage of the Cork attorney, and felt a certain uneasiness come over
him at the unexpected appearance.

"What brings him down to these parts?" said the O'Donoghue, affecting
an air of surprise - "on his way to Killarney, perhaps. Well, well, they
may let him in."

The announcement did not, to all appearance, afford much pleasure to
the others, for scarcely had the door bell ceased its jingle, when each
quitted the drawing-room, leaving O'Donoghue alone to receive his man of
law.

Although the O'Donoghue waited with some impatience for the entrance of
his legal adviser, that worthy man did not make his appearance at once,
his progress to the drawing-room being arrested by Sir Archy, who, with
a significant gesture, motioned him to follow him to his chamber.

"I will no' detain you many minutes, Mr. Swaby," said he, as he made
signs for him to be seated. "I hae a sma' matter of business in which
you can serve me. I need scarcely observe, I reckon on your secrecy."

Mr. Swaby closed one eye, and placed the tip of his finger on his
nose - a pantomime intended to represent the most perfect fidelity.

"I happen," resumed Sir Archy, apparently satisfied with this pledge;
"I happen at this moment to need a certain sum of money, and would wish
to receive it on these securities. They are title deeds of a property,
which, for reasons I have no leisure at this moment to explain, is
at present held by a distant relative in trust for my heir. You may
perceive that the value is considerable" - and he pointed to a formidable
array of figures which covered one of the margins. "The sum I require is
only a thousand pounds - five hundred at once - immediately - the remainder
in a year hence. Can this be arranged?"

"Money was never so scarce," said Swaby, as he wiped his spectacles and
unfolded one of the cumbrous parchments. "Devil take me, if I know
where it's all gone to. It was only last week I was trying to raise five
thousand for old Hoare on the Ballyrickan property, and I could not
get any one to advance me sixpence. The country is unsettled you see.
There's a notion abroad that we'll have a rising soon, and who knows
what's to become of landed property after."

"This estate is in Perth," said M'Nab, tapping the deeds with his
finger.

"So I perceive," replied Swaby; "and they have no objection to a
'shindy' there too, sometimes. The Pretender got some of your countrymen
into a pretty scrape with his tricks. There are fools to be had for
asking, every where."

"We will no' discuss this question just noo," said Sir Archy,
snappishly; "and, to return to the main point, please to inform me, is
this loan impracticable?"

"I didn't say it was, all out," said Swaby. "In about a week or two - - "

"I must know before three days," interrupted M'Nab.

"His honour's waiting for Mr. Swaby," said Kerry, who now ap-peared in
the room, without either of the others having noticed his entrance.

Sir Archy rose with an angry brow, but spoke not a syllable, while he
motioned Kerry to leave the room.

"You must join my brother-in-law, sir," said he at last; "and if our
conversation is not already become the gossip of the house, I entreat of
you to keep it a secret."

"That, of course," said Swaby; "but I'm thinking I've hit on a way to
meet your wishes, so we'll talk of the matter again this evening;" and
thus saying, he withdrew, leaving Sir Archy in a frame of mind very far,
indeed, from tranquil or composed.

Swaby's surprise at his interview with Sir Archy, whom he never had
the slightest suspicion of possessing any property whatever, was
even surpassed by his astonishment on hearing the favourable turn of
O'Donoghue's affairs; and, while he bestowed the requisite attention
to follow the old man's statement, his shrewd mind was also engaged
in speculating what probable results might accrue from this unexpected
piece of fortune, and how they could best be turned to his own benefit.
O'Donoghue was too deeply interested in his own schemes, to question
Swaby respecting his business with M'Nab, of which Kerry O'Leary
had already given him a hint. The attorney was, therefore, free to
deliberate in his own mind how far he might most advantageously turn the
prosperity of the one, to the aid of the other, for the sole benefit of
himself. It is not necessary, nor would it conduce to the object of
this story, to ask the reader's attention to this interview. It will be
enough to say, that Swaby heard with pleasure O'Donoghue's disclosure,
recognizing, with practised acuteness, how far he could turn such
unlooked-for prosperity to his own purposes, and subsidize one
brother-in-law, at the expense of both.

While thus each within the limit of this narrow household was following
out the thread of his destiny, eagerly bent on their several objects,
Kate O'Donoghue sat alone, at the window of her chamber, buried in deep
thought. The prospect of her approaching visit to the capital presented



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 20 of 41)