Charles James Lever.

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

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had often felt ashamed of the circumstance, and had hoped it long since
forgotten, looked the very picture of confusion.

"I perceive Sir Archibald has not taught you to respect his native
proverb, Miss O'Donoghue, and let 'by-gones be by-gones.'"

"I hae taught her nothing Scotch, sir," replied Sir Archy, smiling; "but
to love a thistle, and that e'en, because it has sting."

"Not from those that know how to take it, uncle," said she, archly, and
with a fond expression that lit up the old man's face in smiles.

The Guardsman was less at his ease than usual; and, having arranged the
matter of his visit satisfactorily, arose to take his leave.

"Then you'll be ready for me at eight, Herbert. My father is a martinet
in punctuality, and the phæton will not be a second behind time;
remember that, Miss O'Donoghue, for he makes no exception, even for
ladies."

He moved towards the door, then turning suddenly, said -

"By-the-bye, have you heard any thing of a movement in the country here
about us? The Government have apparently got some information on the
subject, but I suspect without any foundation whatever."

"To what extent does this information go?" said Sir Archy, cautiously.

"That I can't tell you; all I know is, that my father has just received
a letter from the Castle, stating that we are living in the very midst
of an organised rebellion, only waiting the signal for open revolt.

"That same rebellion has been going on, to my knowledge, something more
than forty years" said the O'Donoghue, laughing; "and I never knew of
a Lord Lieutenant or Chief Secretary who didn't discover the plot, and
save the kingdom: always leaving a nest egg of treason for his successor
to make a character by."

"I'm no' so sure it will not come to a hatching yet," said Sir Archy,
with a dry shake of the head.

"If it is to come, I wish with all my heart it might while I have a
chance of being a spectator," said Travers; then suddenly remembering
that the levity of the remark might not please the others, he muttered a
few words about a hope of better prospects, and withdrew.

During this brief colloquy, Kate listened with breathless interest to
learn some fact, or even some well-grounded suspicion which might serve
to put Mark on his guard; but nothing could be more vague and indecisive
than Travers's information, and it was evident that he had not concealed
any thing he knew. Was he in a position to learn more, was the next
question to herself - might he not be able to ascertain where the
suspicion of Government rested, and on whom? Her decisions were seldom
but the work of a second, and as soon as this thought struck her, she
determined to act upon it. Slipping noiselessly from the room, she
hastily threw a shawl around her, and hurried from the house by a small
postern door, which, leading down to the high road, was considerably
shorter than the causeway by which Travers must pass.

It was no time for the indulgence of bashfulness, and indeed her
thoughts were far too highly excited by another's destiny to leave any
room to think of herself; and short as the path was, it sufficed to let
her arrange her plan of procedure, even to the very words she should
employ.

"I must not tell him it is for Mark," said she; "he must think it is a
general desire to save any rash or misguided enthusiast from ruin. But,
here he comes;" and at the same instant the figure of a man was seen
approaching, leading his horse by the bridle. The dark shadow of the
castle fell across the road at the spot, and served to make the form
dim and indistinct. Kate waited not for his coming nearer, but advancing
hastily towards him, cried out -

"Captain Travers, I have a favour to ask of you - one, which my coming
thus to seek - - "

"Say no more, Kate, lest I hear what was never intended for my ears,"
said a low, deep voice.

"Mark - cousin Mark, is this you," cried she, with mingled pleasure and
shame.

"Yes," replied he, in a tone of still deeper gravity; "I grieve to
disappoint you - it is me."

"Oh, Mark, mistake me not - do not wrong me," said she, laying her hand
affectionately on his arm. "I have longed so much to see you - to speak to
you, ere we went away."

"To see _me_ - to speak to _me_," said he, stepping back, and letting the
moonlight fall full upon his features, now pale as death; "it was not
_me_ you expected to meet here."

"No, Mark, but it was for you I came; I wished to serve - perhaps to save
you. I know your secret, Mark, but it is safe with me."

"And I know yours, young lady," retorted he, bitterly. "I cannot say how
far my discretion will rival your own."

[Illustration: 259]

As he spoke, a horseman darted rapidly past, and as he emerged from the
shadow, turned round in his saddle, stared fixedly at the figures before
him, and then taking off his hat, said -

"Good-night, Miss O'Donoghue."

When Kate-recovered the shock of this surprise, she found herself
alone - Mark had disappeared; and she now returned slowly to the castle,
her heart torn with opposing emotions, among which wounded pride was not
the least poignant.




CHAPTER XXVII. A SUPPER PARTY

As we are about to withdraw our reader for a brief period from the
scenes wherein he has so kindly lingered with us hitherto, we may be
permitted to throw on them a last look ere we part.

On the evening which followed that recorded in our last chapter, the two
old men were seated alone in the tower of Carrig-na-curra, silent and
thoughtful, each following out in his mind the fortunes of him for whom
his interest was deepest, and each sad with the sorrow that never spares
those who are, or who deem themselves, forsaken.

Unaided memory can conjure up no such memorials of past pleasure as
come from the objects and scenes associated with days and nights of
happiness; they appeal with a force mere speculation never suggests,
and bring back all the lesser, but more touching incidents of hourly
intercourse, so little at the time - so much when remembered years
afterwards.

The brightest moments of life are the most difficult to recall; they
are like the brilliant lights upon a landscape, which we may revisit a
hundred times, yet never behold under the same favourable circumstances,
nor gaze on with the same enthusiasm as at first. It was thus that both
the O'Donoghue and Sir Archy now remembered her whose presence lightened
so many hours of solitude, and even grafted hope upon the tree scathed
and withered by evil fortune. Several efforts to start a topic of
conversation were made by each, but all equally fruitless, and both
relapsed into a moody silence, from which they were suddenly aroused by
a violent ringing at the gate, and the voices of many persons talking
together, among which Mark O'Donoghue's could plainly be heard.

"Yes, but I insist upon it," cried he; "to refuse will offend me."

Some words were then spoken in a tone of remonstrance, to which he again
replied, but with even greater energy -

"What care I for that? This is my father's house, and who shall say that
his eldest son cannot introduce his friends - - "

A violent jerk of the bell drowned the remainder of the speech.

"We are about to hae company, I perceive," said Sir Archy, looking
cautiously about to secure his book and his spectacles before retreating
to his bed room.

"Bedad, you just guessed it," said Kerry, who, having reconnoitred
the party through a small window beside the door, had now prudently
adjourned to take council whether he should admit them. "There's eight
or nine at laste, and it is'nt fresh and fasting either they are."

"Why don't you open the door? - do you want your bones broken for you,"
said the O'Donoghue, harshly.

"I'd let them gang the gate they cam," said Sir Archy, sagely; "if I may
hazard a guess from their speech, they are no in a fit state to visit
any respectable house. Hear till that?"

A fearful shout now was heard outside.

"What's the rascal staring at?" cried the O'Donoghue, with clenched
teeth. "Open the door this instant."

But the words were scarcely uttered, when a tremendous crash resounded
through the whole building, and then a heavy noise like the fall of some
weighty object.

"'Tis the window he's bruk in - divil a lie," cried Kerry, in an accent
of unfeigned terror; and, without waiting a second, he rushed from the
room to seek some place of concealment from Mark's anger.

The clash of the massive chain was next heard, as it banged heavily
against the oak door; bolt after bolt was quickly shot, and Mark,
calling out - "Follow me - this way," rudely pushed wide the door and
entered the tower. A mere passing glance was enough to show that his
excitement was not merely the fruit of passion - his eyes wild and
bloodshot, his flushed cheek, his swollen and heavy lips, all betrayed
that he had drank deeply. His cravat was loose and his vest open, while
the fingers of his right hand were one mass of blood, from the violence
with which he had forced his entrance.

"Come along, Talbot - Holt, this way - come in boys," said he, calling to
those behind. "I told them we should find you here, though they insisted
it was too late."

"Never too late to welcome a guest, Mark, but always too early to part
with one," cried the O'Donoghue, who, although shocked at the condition
he beheld his son in, resolved to betray for the time no apparent
consciousness of it.

"This is my friend, Harry Talbot, father - Sir Archy M'Nab, my uncle.
Holt, where are you? I'll be hanged if they're not slipped away; and
with a fearful imprecation on their treachery, he rushed from the room,
leaving Talbot to make his own advances. The rapid tramp of feet, and
the loud laughter of the fugitives without, did not for a second or two
permit of his few words being heard; but his manner and air had so far
assured Sir Archy, that he stopped short as he was about to leave the
room, and saluted him courteously.

"It would be very ungracious in me," said Talbot, smiling, "to disparage
my friend Mark's hospitable intentions, but in truth I feel so much
ashamed for the manner of our entry here this evening, that I cannot
express the pleasure such a visit would have given me under more
becoming circumstances."

Sir Archibald's surprise at the tone in which these words were
delivered, did not prevent him making a suitable reply, while
relinquishing his intention of retiring, he extinguished his candle, and
took a seat opposite Talbot.

Having in an early chapter of our tale presented this gentleman to
our reader's notice, we have scarcely any thing to add on the present
occasion. His dress indeed was somewhat different; then, he wore a
riding costume - now he was habited in a frock richly braided, and
ornamented with a deep border of black fur; a cap of the same skin,
from which hung a band of deep gold lace, he also carried in his hand - a
costume which at the time would have been called foreign.

While Sir Archy was interchanging courtesies with the newly-arrived
guest, the O'Donoghue, by dint of reiterated pulling at the bell, had
succeeded in inducing Kerry O'Leary to quit his sanctuary, and venture
to the door of the apartment, which he did with a caution only to be
acquired by long practice.

"Is he here, sir?" whispered he, as his eyes took a rapid but searching
survey of the apartment. "Blessed virgin, but he's in a dreadful temper
to-night."

"Bring some supper here directly," cried O'Donoghue, striking the ground
angrily with his heavy cane; "if I have to tell you again, I hope he'll
break every bone in your skin."

"I request you will not order any refreshment for me, sir," said Talbot,
bowing; "we partook of a very excellent supper at a little cabin in the
glen, where, among other advantages, I had the pleasure of making your
son's acquaintance."

"Ah, indeed, at Mary's," said the old man. "There are worse places than
that little 'shebeen;' but you must permit me to offer you a glass of
claret, which never tastes the worse in company with a grouse pie.

"You must hae found the travelling somewhat rude in these parts," said
M'Nab, who thus endeavoured to draw from the stranger some hint either
as to the object or the road of his journey.

"We were not over particular on that score," said Talbot, laughing. "A
few young college men seeking some days' amusement in the wild mountains
of this picturesque district, could well afford to rough it for the
enjoyment of the ramble."

"You should visit us in the autumn," said O'Donoghue, "when our heaths
and arbutus blossoms are in beauty; then, they who have travelled far,
tell me that there is nothing to be seen in Switzerland finer than this
valley. Draw your chair over here, and let me have the pleasure of a
glass of wine with you."

The party had scarcely taken their places at the table, when Mark
re-entered the room, heated and excited with the chase of the fugitives.

"They're off," muttered he, angrily, "down the glen, and I only hope
they may lose their way in it, and spend the night upon the heather."

As he spoke, he turned his eyes to the corner of the room, where Kerry,
in a state of the most abject fear, was endeavouring to extract a cork
from a bottle by means of a very impracticable screw.

"Ah! you there," cried he, as his eyes flashed fire. "Hold the bottle
up - hold it steady, you old fool," and with a savage grin he drew a
pistol from his breast pocket and levelled it at the mark.

[Illustration: 265]

Kerry was on his knees, one hand on the floor and in the other the
bottle, which, despite all his efforts, he swayed backwards and
forwards.

"O master, darlin' - O Sir Archy, dear - O Joseph and Mary!"

"I've drank too much wine to hit it flying," said Mark, with a half
drunken laugh, "and the fool won't be steady. There;" and as he spoke,
the crash of the report resounded through the room, and the neck of the
bottle was snapped off about half an inch below the cork.

"Neatly done, Mark - not a doubt of it," said the O'Donoghue, as he took
the bottle from Kerry's hand, who, with a pace a kangaroo might have
envied, approached the table, actually dreading to stand up straight in
Mark's presence.

"At the risk of being thought an epicure," said M'Nab, "I maun say I'd
like my wine handled more tenderly."

"It was cleverly done though," said Talbot, helping himself to a bumper
from the broken flask. "I remember a trick we used to have at St. Cyr,
which was, to place a bullet on a cork, and then, at fifteen paces cut
away the cork and drop the bullet into the bottle."

"No man ever did that twice," cried Mark, rudely.

"I'll wager a hundred guineas I do it twice, within five shots," said
Talbot, with the most perfect coolness.

"Done, for a hundred - I say done," said Mark, slapping him familiarly on
the shoulder.

"I'll not win your money on such unfair terms," said Talbot, laughing,
"and if I can refrain from taking too much of this excellent Bourdeaux,
I'll do the trick to-morrow without a wager."

Mark, like most persons who place great store by feats of skill and
address, felt vexed at the superiority claimed by another, answered
carelessly, "that, after all, perhaps the thing were easier than it
seemed."

"Very true," chimed in Talbot, mildly; "what we have neither done
ourselves nor seen done by another, has always the appearance of
difficulty. What is called wisdom is little other than the power of
calculating success or failure on grounds of mere probability.

"Your definition has the advantage of being sufficient for the
occasion," said Sir Archy, smiling. "I am happy to find our glen has
not disappointed you; but if you have not seen the Lake and the Bay of
Glengariff, I anticipate even a higher praise from you."

"We spent the day on the water," replied Talbot; "and if it were not a
heresy, I should affirm, that these bold mountains are grander and
more sublime in the desolation of winter, than even when clothed in the
purple and gold of summer. There was a fine sea, too, rolling into that
great Bay, bounding upon the rocks, and swelling proudly against the
tall cliffs, which, to my eye, is more pleasurable than the glassy
surface of calm water. Motion is the life of inanimate objects, and life
has always its own powers of excitement."

While they conversed thus, M'Nab, endeavouring, by adroit allusions
to the place, to divine the real reason of the visit, and Talbot, by
encomiums on the scenery, or, occasionally, by the expression of some
abstract proposition, seeking to avoid any direct interrogatory - Mark,
who had grown weary of a dialogue which, even in his clearer moments,
would not have interested him, drank deeply from the wine before him,
filling and re-filling a large glass unceasingly, while the O'Donoghue
merely paid that degree of attention which politeness demanded.

It was thus that, while Sir Archy believed he was pushing Talbot closely
on the objects of his coming, Talbot was, in reality, obtaining from him
much information about the country generally, the habits of the people,
and their modes of life, which he effected in the easy, unconstrained
manner of one perfectly calm and unconcerned. "The life of a fisherman,"
said he, in reply to a remark of Sir Archy's - "the life of a fisherman
is, however, a poor one; for though his gains are great, at certain
seasons, there are days - ay, whole months, he cannot venture out to sea.
Now it strikes me, that in that very Bay of Bantry the swell must be
terrific, when the wind blows from the west, or the nor'-west."

"You are right - quite right," answered M'Nab, who at once entered
freely into a discussion of the condition of the Bay, under the various
changing circumstances of wind and tide. "Many of our poor fellows
have been lost within my own memory, and, indeed, save when we have an
easterly wind - - "

"An easterly wind?" re-echoed Mark, lifting his head suddenly from
between his hands, and staring in half-drunken astonishment around him.
"Is that the toast - did you say that?"

"With all my heart," said Sir Archy, smiling. "There are few sentiments
deserve a bumper better, by any who live in these parts. Won't you join
us, Mr. Talbot?"

"Of course I will," said Talbot, laughing, but with all his efforts to
seem at ease, a quick observer might have remarked the look of warning
he threw towards the young O'Donoghue.

"Here, then," cried Mark, rising, while the wine trickled over his hand
from a brimming goblet - "I'll give it - are you ready?"

"All ready, Mark," said the O'Donoghue, laughing heartily at the serious
gravity of Mark's countenance.

"Confound it," cried the youth, passionately; "I forget the jingle."

"Never mind - never mind," interposed Talbot, slily; "we'll pledge it
with as good a mind."

"That's - that's it," shouted Mark, as the last word clinked upon his
memory. "I have it now," and his eyes sparkled, and his brows were met,
as he called out -

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

Sir Archy laid down his glass untasted, while Talbot, bursting forth
into a well-acted laugh, cried out, "You must excuse me from repeating
your amiable sentiment, which, for aught I can guess, may be a sarcasm
on my own country."

"I'd like to hear the same toast explained," said Sir Archy, cautiously,
while his looks wandered alternately from Mark to Talbot.

"So you shall, then," replied Mark, sternly, "and this very moment too."

"Come, that's fair," chimed in Talbot, while he fixed his eyes on the
youth, with such a steady gaze as seemed actually to have pierced the
dull vapour of his clouded intellect, and flashed light upon his addled
brain. "Let us hear your explanation."

Mark, for a second or two, looked like one suddenly awakened from a
deep sleep, and trying to collect his wandering faculties, while, as if
instinctively seeking the clue to his bewilderment from Talbot, he never
turned his eyes from him. As he sat thus, he looked the very ideal of
half-drunken stupidity.

"I'm afraid we have no right to ask the explanation," whispered Talbot
into M'Nab's ear. "We ought to be satisfied, if he give us the rhyme,
even though he forgot the reason."

"I'm thinking you're right, sir," replied M'Nab; "but I suspect we hae
na the poet before us, ony mair than the interpreter."

Mark's faculties, in slow pursuit of Talbot's meaning, had just at this
instant overtaken their object, and he burst forth into a boisterous
fit of laughter, which, whatever sentiment it might have excited in the
others, relieved Talbot, at least, from all his former embarrassment: he
saw that Mark had, though late, recognised his warning, and was at once
relieved from any uneasiness on the score of his imprudence.

Sir Archy was, however, very far from feeling satisfied. What he had
heard, brief and broken as it was, but served to excite his suspicions,
and make him regard this guest as at least a very doubtful character.
Too shrewd a diplomatist to push his inquiries any further, he adroitly
turned the conversation upon matters of comparative indifference,
reserving to himself the part of acutely watching Talbot's manner,
and narrowly scrutinizing the extent of his acquaintance with Mark
O'Donoghue. In whatever school Talbot had been taught, his skill was
more than a match for Sir Archy's. Not only did he at once detect the
meaning of the old man's policy; but he contrived to make it subservient
to his own views, by the opportunity it afforded him of estimating the
influence he was capable of exerting over his nephew; and how far, if
need were, Mark should become dependent on his will, rather than on
that of any member of his own family. The frankness of his manner, the
seeming openness of his nature, rendered his task a matter of apparent
amusement; and none at the table looked in every respect more at ease
than Harry Talbot.

While Sir Archy was thus endeavouring, with such skill as he possessed,
to worm out the secret reason - and such, he well knew, there must
be - of Talbot's visit to that unfrequented region, Kerry O'Leary was
speculating, with all his imaginative ability, how best to account
for that event. The occasion was one of more than ordinary difficulty.
Talbot looked neither like a bailiff nor a sheriffs officer; neither had
he outward signs of a lawyer or an attorney. Kerry was conversant with
the traits of each of these. If he were a suitor for Miss Kate, his last
guess, he was a day too late.

"But sure he couldn't be that: he'd never come with a throop of noisy
vagabonds, in the dead of the night, av he was after the young lady.
Well, well, he bates me out - sorra lie in it," said he, drawing a heavy
sigh, and crossing his hands before him in sad resignation.

"On _my_ conscience, then, it was a charity to cut your hair for you,
anyhow!" said Mrs. Branagan, who had been calmly meditating on the
pistol-shot, which, in grazing Kerry's hair, had somewhat damaged his
locks.

"See, then - by the holy mass! av he went half an inch lower, it's my
life he'd be after taking; and if he was fifty O'Donoghues, I'd have my
vingince. Bad cess to me, but they think the likes of me isn't fit to
live at all."

"They do," responded Mrs. Branagan, with a mild puff of smoke from
the corner of her mouth - "they do; and if they never did worse than
extarminate such varmin, their sowls would have an easier time of it."

Kerry's brow lowered, and his lips muttered; but no distinct reply was
audible.

"Sorra bit of good I see in ye at all," said she, with inexorable
severity. "I mind the time ye used to tell a body what was doing above
stairs; and, though half what ye said was lies, it was better than
nothing: but now yer as stupid and lazy as the ould beast there fornint
the fire - not a word out of yer head from morning to night. Ayeh, is it
your hearin's failin' ye?"

"I wish to the Blessed Mother it was," muttered he fervently to himself.

"There's a man now eatin' and drinkin' in the parlour, and the sorra
more ye know about him, than if he was the Queen of Sheba."

"Don't I, thin - maybe not," said Kerry, tauntingly, and with a look of
such well-affected secrecy, that Mrs. Branagan was completely deceived
by it.

"What is he, then? spake it out free this minit," said she. "Bad cess to
you, do you want to trate me like an informer."

"No, indeed, Mrs. Branagan; its not that same I'd even to you - sure I
knew your people - father and mother's side - two generations back. Miles
Buoy - yallow Miles, as they called him - was the finest judge of a horse
in Kerry - I wonder now he didn't make a power of money."



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 22 of 41)