Charles James Lever.

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

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itself in so many aspects, that, while offering pleasures and enjoyments
none relished more highly than herself, she yet saw difficulties
which might render the step unadvisable, If not perilous. Of all
considerations, money was the one which least had occupied any share
in her calculations; yet now she bethought herself, that expense must
necessarily be incurred, which her uncle's finances could but ill
afford. No sooner had this thought occurred to her, than she was amazed
it had not struck her before, and she felt actually startled, lest, in
her eagerness for the promised pleasure, she had only listened to the
suggestion of selfishness. In a moment more she determined to decline
the invitation. She was not one to take half measures when she believed
a point of principle to be engaged; and the only difficulty now lay, how
and in what manner to refuse an offer proffered with so much kindness.
The note itself must open the way, thought she, and at the instant she
remembered how Mark had taken it from the breakfast-table.

She heard his heavy step as he paced backwards and forwards in his
chamber overhead, and without losing another moment, hastily ascended
the stairs to his door; her hand was already outstretched to knock, when
suddenly she hesitated; a strange confusion came over her faculties - how
would Mark regard her request? - would he attribute it to over-eagerness
on the subject of the invitation. Such were the questions which occurred
to her; and as quick came the answer - "And let him think so. I shall
certainly not seek to undeceive him. He alone, of all here, has
vouchsafed me neither any show of his affection nor his confidence."
The flush mounted to her cheek, and her eyes darkened with the momentary
excitement; and at the same instant the door was suddenly thrown open,
and Mark stood before her.

Such was his astonishment, however, that for some seconds he could not
speak; when at last he uttered in a low, deep voice -

"I thought I heard a hand upon the lock, and I am so suspicious of that
fellow, Kerry, who frequently plays the eaves-dropper here - - "

"Not when you are alone, Mark?" said Kate, smiling.

"Ay - even then. I have a foolish habit of thinking aloud, of which I
strive in vain to break myself; and he seems to know it, too."

"There is another absent trick you have acquired also," said she,
laughing. "Do you remember having carried off the note that came while
we were at breakfast?"

"Did I?" said he, reddening. "Did I take it off the table? Yes, yes;
I remember something of it now. You must forgive me, cousin, if these
careless habits take the shape of rudeness." He seemed overwhelmed with
confusion, as he added, "I know not why I put it into my pocket; here it
is."

And so saying, he drew from the breast of his coat a crushed and
crumpled paper, and gave it into Kate's hand. She wished to say
something in reply - something which would seem kind and good natured;
but, somehow, she faltered and hesitated. She twice got as far as, "I
know, Mark - I am certain, Mark;" then unable to say what, perhaps, her
very indecision rendered more difficult, she merely uttered a brief
"thank you," and withdrew.

"Poor fellow!" said she, as she re-entered her own chamber, "his is the
hardest lot of all."

She had often wished to persuade herself that Mark's morose, sullen
humour was the discontent of one who felt the ignominy of an inglorious
life - that habits of recklessness had covered, but not obliterated the
traces of that bold and generous spirit for which his family had been
long distinguished; and now, for the first time, she believed she had
fallen on the evidences of such a temper. She pondered long on this
theme, and fancied how, under circumstances favourable to their
development, Mark's good qualities and courageous temper, had won for
him both fame and honour. "And here," exclaimed she, half aloud, "here,
he may live and die a peasant!" With a deep sigh, she threw herself
into a chair, and as if to turn her thoughts into some channel less
suggestive of gloom, she opened the letter Mark had given her. Scarcely,
however, had she cast her eyes over it, when she uttered a faint cry,
too faint, indeed, to express any mere sense of fear, but in an accent
in which terror and amazement were equally blended.

The epistle was a brief one - not more than a few lines - and she had read
it at a glance, before ever there was time to consider how far her
doing so was a breach of confidence; indeed, the intense interest of the
contents left little room for any self-examinings. It ran thus: -

"Dear Brother - No precipitation - no haste - nothing can be
done without France. T. has now good hopes from that
quarter, and if not 30,000, 20,000, or at least 15,000 will
be given, and arms for double the number. Youghal is talked
of as a suitable spot; and H. has sent charts, &c. over.
Above all, be patient; trust no rumours, and rely on us for
the earliest and the safest intelligence. L. will hand you
this. You must contrive to learn the cipher, as any
correspondence discovered would ruin all.

"Your's ever, and in the cause,

"H. R."

Here, then, was the youth she had been commiserating for his career of
lowly and unambitious hopes - here, the mere peasant! the accomplice of
some deep and desperate plot, in which the arms of France, should be
employed against the government of England. Was this the secret of his
pre-occupation and his gloom? Was it to concentrate his faculties on
such a scheme, that he lived this lonely and secluded life? "Oh, Mark,
Mark, how have I misjudged you!" she exclaimed, and as she uttered the
words, came the thought, quick as a lightning flash, to her mind - what
terrible hazards such a temperament as his must incur in an enterprise
like this - without experience of men or any knowledge of the world
whatever - without habitual prudence, or caution of any kind. The very
fact of his mistaking the letter - a palpable evidence of his unfitness
for trust. Reckless by nature - more desperate still from the fallen
fortunes of his house. What would become of him? Others would wait the
time and calculate their chances. He would listen to nothing but the
call of danger. She knew him well, from boyhood upwards, and had seen
him often more fascinated by peril, than others were by pleasure.

As she reasoned thus, her thoughts insensibly turned to all the dangers
of such an enterprise as she believed him engaged in. The fascinating
visions of a speculative patriotism, soon gave way before the terrors
she now conjured up. She knew he was the only tie that bound his father
to existence, and that any misfortune to Mark, would be the old man's
death-blow. Nor were these the most poignant of the reflections, for she
now remembered how often she had alluded tauntingly to those who lived
a life of mean or inglorious ambition; how frequently she had scoffed
at the miserable part of such as, endowed with high names and ancient
lineage, evinced no desire to emerge from an ignoble position,
and assume a station of eminence and power; could she, then, have
contributed to this youth's rash step, had her idle words and random
speeches driven him to embrace a cause, where his passions, and not his
judgment were interested? What misery was in this fear?

Each moment increased the agony of this reflection, while her doubts
as to how she ought to act, thickened around her. Sir Archy, alone, was
capable of advising her, his calm and unbiassed reason, would be now
invaluable, but dare she - even to him, make use of a confidence thus
accidentally obtained? Would Mark - could he ever forgive her? and how
many others might such a disclosure compromise! In this dilemma, she
knew no course open to her, but one - to address herself at once to Mark,
to explain how his secret had become known, to learn from him as much
as lay in her power of the dangers and difficulties of the meditated
revolt, and if unable to dissuade him from participation, at least to
mingle with his resolves all she could of prudence, or good counsel. The
determination was scarcely formed, when she was once more at the door of
his chamber; she knocked twice, without any reply following, then gently
opened the door. The room was vacant, he was gone. I will write to him,
said she hurriedly, and with this new resolve, hastened to her chamber,
and began a letter.

The task she proposed to herself, was not so easy of accomplishment; a
dozen times, she endeavoured while explaining the accident that divulged
his secret, to impress him with the hazard of an undertaking,
so palpably depicted, and to the safe keeping of which, his own
carelessness, might prove fatal; but each effort dissatisfied her.
In one place, she seemed not to have sufficiently apologized for her
unauthorized cognizance of his note; in another, the stress she laid
upon this very point, struck her as too selfish, and too personal in a
case, where another's interests were the real consideration at issue;
and even when presenting before him the vicissitudes of fortune to
which his venturous career would expose him, she felt how every word
contradicted the tenor of her own assertions for many a day and week
previous. In utter despair how to act, she ended by enclosing the letter
with merely these few words: -

"I have read the enclosed, but your secret is safe with me.

"K. O'D."

This done, she sealed the packet and had just written the address, when,
with a tap at the door, Sir Archy entered, and approached the table.

With a tact and delicacy he well understood, Sir Archy explained the
object of his visit - to press upon Kate's acceptance a sum of money
sufficient for her outlay in the capital. The tone of half authority he
assumed disarmed her at once, and made her doubt how far she could feel
justified in opposing the wishes of her friends concerning her.

"Then you really desire I should go to Dublin," said she.

"I do, Kate, for many reasons - reasons which I shall have little
difficulty in explaining to you hereafter."

"I half regret I ever thought of it," said Kate, speaking her thoughts
unconsciously aloud.

"Not the less reason perhaps for going," said Sir Archy, drily; whileat
the same moment his eye caught the letter bearing Mark O'Donoghue's
name.

Kate saw on what his glance was fixed, and grew red with shame and
confusion.

"Be it so then, uncle," said she, resolutely. "I do not seek to know the
reasons you speak of, for if you were to ask my own against the project,
I should not be able to frame them; it was mere caprice."

"I hope so, dearest Kate," said he, with a tone of deep affection -
"I hope so with all my heart;" and thus saying, he pressed her hand
fervently between his own and left the room.




CHAPTER XXVI. A LAST EVENING AT HOME.

With the experience of past events to guide us, it would appear now
that a most unaccountable apathy existed in the English Cabinet of the
period, with regard to the plan of invasion meditated against Ireland by
France; nor is it easy to determine whether this indifference proceeded
more from ignorance of the danger, or that amount of information
concerning it, which disposed the Minister to regard it as little
important.

From whatever cause proceeding, one thing is sufficiently clear - the
emissaries of France pervaded the country in every part without
impediment or molestation; statistical information the most minute
was forwarded to Paris every week; the state of popular opinion,
the condition of parties, the amount of troops disposable by
Government - even the spirit which animated them, were reported and
commented on, and made the subject of discussion in the "bureau" of the
War Minister of France. To such an extent was this system carried, that
more than once the French authorities became suspicious regarding the
veracity of statements, from the very facility with which their details
were communicated, and hinted, that such regularity in correspondence
might be owing to the polite attentions of the English Cabinet; and to
this distrust is in a great measure to be attributed the vacillating and
hesitating policy which marked their own deliberations.

Tone's letters show the wearisome toil of his negociation; the
assurances of aid obtained after months of painful, harrassing
solicitation, deferred or made dependent on some almost impossible
conditions; guarantees demanded from him which he neither could nor
would accord; information sought, which, were they in actual possession
of the country, would have been a matter of difficult acquisition; and
after all, when the promised assistance was granted, it came coupled
with hints and acknowledgements that the independence of Ireland was
nothing in their eyes, save as inflicting a death blow to the power and
greatness of England.

In fact, neither party was satisfied with the compact long before the
time of putting it in operation arrived. Meanwhile the insurgents spared
no efforts to organize a powerful body among the peasantry, and,
at least numerically, to announce to France, a strong and effective
cooperation. Such reports were necessary to enable Tone to press his
demand more energetically; and although he never could have deceived
himself as to the inutility of such undisciplined and almost unarmed
masses, still they looked plausible on paper, and vouched for the
willingness of the people to throw off the yoke of England.

It is now well known, that the French party in Ireland was really very
small. The dreadful wrongs inflicted on the Roman Catholic church during
the Revolution could not be forgotten or forgiven by that priesthood,
who were their brethren; nor could it be supposed that they would lend a
willing aid to further a cause which began its march to freedom over the
ashes of their church. Such as were best capable of pronouncing on
the project - those educated in France - -were naturally fearful of a
repetition at home of the horrible scenes they had witnessed abroad, and
thus the "patriots" lost the aid which, more than any other, could have
stirred the heart of the nation. Abstract principles of liberty are not
the most effective appeals to a people; and although the French agents
were profuse of promises, and the theme of English oppression could
be chaunted with innumerable variations, the right chord of native
sentiment was never touched, and few joined the cause, save those
who, in every country and in every age, are patriots - because they
are paupers. Some, indeed, like the young O'Donoghue, were sincere and
determined. Drawn in at first by impulses more purely personal than
patriotic, they soon learned to take a deep interest in the game, and
grew fascinated with a scheme which exalted themselves into positions of
trust and importance. The necessity of employing this lure, and giving
the adherents of the cause their share of power and influence, was
another great source of weakness.

Diversity of opinion arose on every subject; personal altercations of
the bitterest kind; reproaches and insinuations, passed continually
between them, and it needed all the skill and management of the chiefs
to reconcile, even temporarily, these discordant ingredients, and
maintain any semblance of agreement among these "United Irishmen."

Among those who lived away from such scenes of conflict, the great
complaint was the delay. "What are we waiting for? When are we to
strike the blow?" - were the questions ever arising; and their inability
to answer such satisfactorily to the people, only increased their
chagrin and disappointment. If the sanguine betrayed impatience,
the despondent - and there are such in every cause - showed signs of
vacillation, and threw out dark hints of treachery and betrayal; while
between both were the great masses, moved by every passing rumour, and
as difficult to restrain to-day, as impossible to muster to-morrow.

Such, briefly, was the condition of the party into which Mark O'Donoghue
threw his fortune in life, as reckless of his fate as he was ignorant
of the precise objects in view, or the means proposed for their
accomplishment.

His influence among the people was considerable. Independently of all
claims resulting from his name and family, he was individually a great
favourite with them. Personal courage and daring - skill in every manly
exercise, and undaunted resolution - are gifts which, when coupled with
a rough, good nature, and a really kind heart, are certain of winning
their way among a wild and uncultivated people; and thus, Herbert, who
scarcely ever uttered a harsh word - whose daily visits to the sick were
a duty Sir Archy expected from him - whose readiness to oblige was the
theme of every tongue, was less their favourite than his brother.

This influence, which, through Lanty Lawler, was soon reported to the
delegates in Dublin, was the means of Mark's being taken into special
confidence, and of a command being conferred on him, for the duties
and privileges of which, he was informed, a few days would sufficiently
instruct him.

Nearly a week had elapsed from the day on which Kate addressed her note
to Mark, and he had not yet returned home. Such absences were common
enough; but now, she felt an impatience almost amounting to agony,
at the thought of what treasonable and dangerous projects he might be
engaged in, and the doubt became a torture, how far she ought to conceal
her own discovery from others.

At length came the evening before her own departure from
Carrig-na-curra, and they were seated around the tea-table, thoughtful
and silent by turns, as are they who meet for the last time before
separation. Although she heard with pleasure the announcement that
Herbert would be her companion to the capital, where he was about to
take up his residence as a student in Trinity College, her thoughts
wandered away to the gloomier fortunes of Mark, darker as they now
seemed, in comparison with the prospects opening before his brother.

Of all the party, Herbert alone was in good spirits. The career was
about to begin which had engrossed all his boyish ambition - the great
race of intellect his very dreams had dwelt upon. What visions did he
conjure of emulative ardour to carry off the prize among his companions,
and win fame that might reflect its lustre on all his after life. From
his very childhood, Sir Archy had instilled into him this thirst for
distinction, wisely substituting such an ambition for any other less
ennobling. He had taught him to believe that there would be more true
honour in the laurels there won, than in all the efforts, however
successful, to bring back the lost glories of their once proud house.
And now he was on the very threshold of that career his heart was
centred in. No wonder is it, then, if his spirits were high, and his
pulse throbbing. Sir Archy's eyes seldom wandered from him; he seemed
as if reading the accomplishment of all his long teaching; and as he
watched the flashing looks and the excited gestures of the boy, appeared
as though calculating how far such a temperament might minister to, or
mar his future fortune.

The O'Donoghue was more thoughtful than usual. The idea of approaching
solitude, so doubly sad to those advanced in life, depressed him. His
evenings, of late, had been passed in a happy enjoyment he had not known
for years before. Separation to the young is but the rupture of the ties
of daily intercourse - to the old, it has all the solemn meaning of a
warning, and tells of the approach of the last dreadful parting, when
adieux are said for ever. He could not help those gloomy forebodings,
and he was silent and depressed.

Kate's attention wandered from the theme of Herbert's anticipated
pleasures, to think again of him, for whom none seemed now interested.
She had listened long and anxiously for some sound to mark his coming,
but all was still without, and on the road, for miles, the moonlight
showed no object moving; and, at last, a deep reverie succeeded to this
state of anxiety, and she sat lost to all around her. Meanwhile, Sir
Archy, in a low, impressive voice, was warning Herbert of the dangers of
involving himself in any way in the conflicts of party politics, then so
high in Dublin.

He cautioned him to reject those extreme opinions so fascinating to
young minds, and which either give an unwarrantable bias to the judgment
through life, or which, when their fallacy is detected, lead to a
reaction as violent, and notions as false. "Win character and reputation
first, Herbert: gain the position from which your opinions will come
with influence, and then, my boy, with judgment not rashly formed, and a
mind trained to examine great questions - then, you may fearlessly enter
the lists, free to choose your place and party. You cannot be a patriot
this way, in the newspaper sense of the term. - It is possible, too, our
dear Kate may deem your ambition a poor one - - "

"Kate, did you say? - Kate, uncle," said she, raising her head, with a
look of abstraction.

"Yes, my dear, I was speaking o' some of the dangers that beset the
first steps in political opinion, and telling Herbert that peril does
not always bring honour."

"True, sir - true: but Mark - - " She stopped, and the blush that covered
her face suffused her neck and shoulders. It was not till her lips
pronounced the name, that she detected how inadvertently she had
revealed the secret of her own musings.

"Mark, my sweet Kate is, I trust, in no need of my warnings; he lives
apart from the struggle, and were it otherwise, he is older, and more
able to form his opinions than Herbert, here."

These words were spoken calmly, and with a studious desire to avoid
increasing Kate's confusion.

"What about Mark?" cried the O'Donoghue, suddenly aroused by the mention
of the name. "It's very strange he should not be here to say 'good-bye'
to Kate. Did any one tell him of the time fixed for your departure?"

"I told him of it, and he has promised to be here," said Herbert; "he
was going to Beerhaven for a day or two, for the shooting; but, droll
enough, he has left his gun behind him."

"The boy's not himself at all, latterly," muttered the old man. "Lanty
brought up two horses here the other day, and he would not even go to
the door to look at them. I don't know what he's thinking of."

Kate never spoke, and tried with a great effort to maintain a look of
calm unconcern; when, with that strange instinct so indescribable and so
inexplicable, she felt Sir Archy's eyes fixed upon her, her cheek became
deadly pale.

"There, there he comes, and at a slapping pace, too!" cried Herbert;
and, as he spoke, the clattering sound of a fast gallop was heard
ascending the causeway, and the next moment the bell sent forth a loud
summons.

"I knew he'd keep his word," said the boy, proudly, as he walked to meet
him. The door opened, and Frederick Travers appeared.

So unexpected was the disappointment, it needed all Sir Archy's
practised politeness to conceal from the young Guardsman the
discomfiture of the rest: nor did he entirely succeed, for Frederick
was no common observer, and failed not to detect in every countenance
around, that his was not the coming looked for.

"I owe a thousand apologies for the hour of my visit, not to speak of
its abruptness," said he, graciously; "but we only learned accidentally
to-day that Herbert was going up to Dublin, and my father sent me to
request he would join our party."

"He is about to enter college," said Sir Archy, half fearing to direct
the youth's mind from the great object of his journey.

"Be it so," said Fred, gaily; "we'll talk Virgil and Homer on the road."

"I'm afraid such pleasant companionship may put Greece and Rome in the
background," said Sir Archy, drily.

"I'll answer for it he'll be nothing the worse for the brief respite
from study; besides you'd not refuse me his company, when I tell you
that otherwise I must travel alone. My father in his wisdom having
decided to despatch me half a day in advance, to make preparations for
his arrival. Is that quite fair, Miss O'Donoghue?"

"I protest I think not, as regards us. As for you," added she, archly,
"I should say, so accomplished a traveller always finds sufficient to
amuse him on the least interesting journey. I remember a little theory
of yours on that subject; you mentioned it the first time I had the
pleasure to meet you."

The allusion was with reference to the manner in which Travers made her
acquaintance in the Bristol packet, and the cool assurance of which,
she, with most womanly pertinacity, had not yet forgiven. Travers, who



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 21 of 41)