Charles James Lever.

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

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"And so he did, and spint it after. 'Twas blackguards, with ould
gaiters, and one spur on them, that ate up every shilling he saved."

"Well, well! think of that, now," said Kerry, with the sententious-ness
of one revolving some strange and curious social anomaly; "and that's
the way it wint."

"Wasn't it a likely way enough," said Mrs. Branagan, with flashing eyes,
"feedin' a set of spalpeens that thought of nothing but chating the
world. The sight of a pair of top hoots gives me the heartburn to this
day."

"Mine warms to them, too," said Kerry, timidly, who ventured on his
humble pun with deep humility.

A contemptuous scowl was Mrs. Branagan's reply, and Kerry resumed.

"Them's the changes of world - rich yesterday - poor to-day! Don't I know
what poverty is well myself. Augh! sure enough they wor the fine times,
when I rode out on a beast worth eighty guineas in goold, wid clothes on
my back a lord might envy; and now, look at me!"

Mrs. Branagan, to whom the rhetorical figure seemed a direct appeal, did
look; and assuredly the inspection conveyed nothing flattering, for
she turned away abruptly, and smoked her pipe with an air of profound
disdain.

"Faix ye may say so," continued Kerry, converting her glance into words.
"'Tis a poor object I am this blessed day. The coat on my back is more
like a transparency, and my small clothes, saving your favour, is as
hard to get into as a fishing-net; and if I was training for the coorse,
I couldn't be on shorter allowance.". "What's that yer saying about yer
vittals?" said the cook, turning fiercely towards him. "There's not your
equal for an appetite from this to Cork. It's little time a Kerry
cow would keep you in beef; and it's an ill skin it goes into. Yer a
disgrace to a good family."

"Well, I am, and there's no denying it!" ejaculated Kerry, with a sigh
that sounded far more like despair than resignation.

"Is it to hang yourself you have that piece of a rope there?" said she,
pointing to the end of a stout cord that depended from Kerry's pocket.

"Maybe it might come to that same yet," said he, and then putting his
hand into his pocket, he drew forth a great coil of rope, to the end of
which a leaden weight was fastened. "There, now," resumed he, "Yer a
cute woman - can ye tell me what's the meanin of that?"

Mrs. Branagan gave one look at the object in question, and then turned
away, as though the enquiry was one beneath her dignity to investigate.

"Some would call it a clothes-line, and more would say it was for
fishing; but sure there's no sign of hooks on it at all; and what's
the piece of lead for? - that's what bothers me out entirely." These
observations were so many devices to induce Mrs. Branagan to offer
her own speculations; but they failed utterly - that sage personage not
deigning to pay the least attention either to Kerry or the subject of
his remarks.

"Well, I'll just leave it where I found it," said he, in a half
soliloquy, but which had the effect of at least arousing the curiosity
of his companion.

"And where was that?" asked she.

"Outside there, before the hall door," said he,'carelessly, "where I got
this little paper book too," and he produced a small pocket almanack,
with blank pages interleaved, some of which had short pencil memoranda.
"I'll leave them both there, for, somehow, I don't like the look of
either of them."

"Read us a bit of it first, anyhow," said Mrs. Branagan, in a more
conciliating tone than she had yet employed.

"'Tis what I can't do, then," said Kerry; "for it's writ in some
outlandish tongue that's past me altogether."

"And you found them at the door, ye say?"

"Out there fornint the tower. 'Twas the chaps that run away from Master
Mark that dropped them. Ye'r a dhroll bit of a rope as ever I seen,"
added he, as he poised the lead in his hand, "av a body knew only what
to make of ye:" then turning to the book, he pored for several minutes
over a page, in which there were some lines written with a pencil. "Be
my conscience I have it," said he, at length; "and faix it wasn't bad of
me to make it out. What do you think, now, the rope is for?"

"Sure I tould you afore I didn't know."

"Well, then, hear it, and no lie in it - 'tis for measurin' the say."

"Measurin' the say! What bother you're talking; isn't the say thousands
and thousands of miles long."

"And who says it isn't? - but for measurin' the depth of it, that's what
it is. Listen to this - 'Bantry Bay, eleven fathoms at low water inside
of Whiddy Island; but the shore current at half ebb makes landing
difficult with any wind from the westward;' and here's another piece,
half rubbed out, about flat-bottomed boats being best for the surf."

"'Tis the smugglers again," chimed in Mrs. Branagan, as though summing
up her opinion on the evidence.

"Troth, then, I don't think so; they never found it hard to land, no
matter how it blew. I'm thinking of a way to find it out at last."

"And what's that?"

"I'll just go up to the parlour, wid an innocent face on me, and I'll
lay the rope and the little book down on the table before the strange
man there; and I'll just say, 'There's the things your honour dropped
at the door outside;' and maybe ould Archy won't have the saycrct out of
him."

"Do that, Kerry avich," said Mrs. Branagan, who at length vouchsafed a
hearty approval of his skill in devices. "Do that, and I'll broil a bit
o' meat for ye agin ye come down."

"Wid an onion on it, av it's plazing to ye, ma'am," said Kerry,
insinuatingly.

"Sure I know how ye like it; and if ye have the whole of the say-cret,
maybe you'd get a dhrop to wash it down besides.

"And wish you health and happy days, Mrs. Branagan," added Kerry, with
a courteous gallantry he always reserved for the kitchen; so saying,
he arose from his chair, and proceeded to arrange his dress in a manner
becoming the dignity of his new mission, rehearsing at the same time the
mode of his entry.

"'Tis the rope and the little book, your honour, I'll say, that ye
dropped outside there, and sure it would be a pity to lose it, afther
all your trouble measuring the places. That will be enough for ould
Archy; let him get a sniff of the game once, and begorra he'll run him
home by himself afterwards."

With this sensible reflection, Kerry ascended the stairs in high good
humour at his own sagacity, and the excellent reward which awaited it on
his return. As he neared the door, the voices were loud and boisterous;
at least Mark's was such; and it seemed as if Talbot was endeavouring to
moderate the violent tone in which he spoke, and successfully, too;
for a loud burst of laughter followed, in which Talbot appeared to join
heartily.

"Maybe I'll spoil your fun," said Kerry, maliciously, to himself, and he
opened the door, and entered.




CHAPTER XXVIII. THE CAPITAL AND ITS PLEASURES.

Dublin, at the time we speak of, possessed social attractions of a high
order. Rank, beauty, intellect, and wealth, contributed their several
influences; and while the tone of society had all the charms of a
politeness now bygone, there was an admixture of native kindliness and
cordiality, as distinctive as it was fascinating.

Almost every Irishman of rank travelled in those days. It was regarded
as the last finishing-touch of education, and few nations possess
quicker powers of imitation, or a greater aptitude in adapting foreign
habitudes to home usages, than the Irish; for, while vanity with the
Frenchman - coldness with the Englishman - and stolid indifference with
the German, are insuperable barriers against this acquirement; the
natural gaiety of Irish character, the buoyancy, but still more than
all, perhaps, the inherent desire to please, suggest a quality, which,
when cultivated and improved, becomes that great element of social
success - the most precious of all drawing-room gifts - men call tact.

It would be a most unfair criterion of the tastes and pleasures of that
day, were we to pronounce, from our experience of what Dublin now is.
Provincialism had not then settled down upon the city, with all its
petty attendant evils. The character of a metropolis was upheld by a
splendid Court, a resident Parliament, a great and titled aristocracy.
The foreground figures of the time were men whose names stood high, and
whose station was recognized at every Court of Europe. There was wealth
more than proportioned to the cheapness of the country; and while
ability and talent were the most striking features of every circle, the
taste for gorgeous display exhibited within doors and without, threw a
glare of splendour over the scene, that served to illustrate, but not
eclipse the prouder glories of mind. The comparative narrowness of
the circle, and the total absence of English reserve, produced a more
intimate admixture of all the ranks which constitute good society
here than in London, and the advantages were evident; for while the
aristocrat gained immeasurably, from ready intercourse with men whose
pursuits were purely intellectual, so the latter acquired a greater
expansiveness, and a wider liberality in his views, from being divested
of all the trammels of mere professional habit, and threw off his
pedantry, as a garment unsuited to his position in society. But what
more than all else was the characteristic of the time, was the fact,
that social eminence - the "succès de salon" - was an object to every one.
From the proud peer, who aspired to rank and influence in the councils
of the state, to the rising barrister, ambitious of parliamentary
distinction - from the mere fashionable idler of the squares, to the deep
plotter of political intrigue - this was alike indispensable. The mere
admission into certain circles was nothing - the fact of mixing with the
hundred others who are announced, and bow, and smile, and slip away,
did not then serve to identify a man as belonging to a distinct class in
society; nor would the easy platitudes of the present day, in which the
fool or the fop can always have the ascendant, suffice for the absence
of conversational ability, ready wit, and sharp intelligence, which were
assembled around every dinner-table of the capital.

It is not our duty, still less our inclination, to inquire why have all
these goodly attractions left us, nor wherefore is it, that, Uke the art
of staining glass, social agreeability should be lost for ever. So it
would seem, however; we have fallen upon tiresome times, and he who is
old enough to remember pleasanter ones, has the sad solace of knowing
that he has seen the last of them.

Crowded as the capital was, with rank, wealth, and influence, the
arrival of Sir Marmaduke Travers was not without its "eclat." His vast
fortune was generally known; besides that, there was a singularity in
the fact of an Englishman, bound to Ireland by the very slender tie of
a small estate, without connexions or friends in the country, coming
to reside in Dublin, which gratified native pride as much as it excited
public curiosity; and the rapidity with which the most splendid mansion
in Stephen's-green was prepared for his reception, vied in interest with
the speculation, as to what possible cause had induced him to come and
live there. The rumours of his intended magnificence, and the splendour
of his equipage, furnished gossip for the town, and paragraphs for the
papers.

It was, indeed, a wondrous change for those two young girls - from the
stillness and solitude of Glenflesk, to the gaiety of the capital - from
a life of reflection and retirement, to the dazzling scenes and
fascinating pleasures of a new world. Upon Sybella the first effect was
to increase her natural timidity - to render her more cautious, as she
found herself surrounded by influences so novel and so strange; and in
this wise there was mingled with her enjoyment, a sense of hesitation
and fear, that tinged all her thoughts, and even impressed themselves
upon her manner. Not so with Kate: the instinct that made her feel
at home in the world, was but the consciousness of her own powers of
pleasing. She loved society as the scene, where, however glossed over by
conventionalities, human passions and feelings were at work, and
where the power of influencing or directing others gave a stimulus to
existence, far higher and nobler than all the pleasures of retirement.
It was life, in fact. Each day had its own separate interests,
dramatizing, as it were, the real, and making of the ordinary events of
the world a romance, of which she felt herself a character. As much an
actor as spectator, she threw herself into the pleasures of society with
a zest which need only have the accompaniments of youth, beauty, and
talents, to make it contagious. Thus differing in character, as in
appearance, these two young girls at once became the acknowledged
beauties of the capital, and each was followed by a troop of admirers,
whose enthusiasm exhibited itself in a hundred different ways. Their
favourite colours at a ball became the fashionable emblems of the next
day on the promenade, and even the ladies caught up the contagion, and
enlisted themselves into parties, whose rivalry amused none so much as
those, in whom it had its origin.

While the galling enmity of Celt to Saxon was then stirring in secret
the hearts of thousands in the country, and fashioning itself into the
elements of open insurrection, the city was divided by a more peaceful
animosity, and the English and the Irish party were arrayed against each
other in the cause of beauty.

It would be impossible to conceive a rivalry from which every ungenerous
or unworthy feeling was more perfectly excluded. So far from any
jealousy obtruding, every little triumph of one was a source of
unalloyed heartfelt pleasure to the other; and while Sybella sympathized
with all the delight of Kate's followers in an Irish success, so Kate,
with characteristic feeling, enjoyed nothing so much as the chagrin of
her own party, when Sybella was unquestionably in the ascendant. Happily
for us, we are not called upon to explain a phenomenon so novel and so
pleasing - enough if we record it. Certain it is, the absence of all envy
enhanced the fascinations of each, and exalted the objects in the eyes
of their admirers. On this point alone opinion was undivided - none
claimed any superiority for their idol, by ascribing to her a greater
share of this good gift; nor could even malice impute a difference in
their mutual affection.

One alone among the circle of their acquaintances stood neutral - unable
to divest himself enough of natural partiality, to be a fair and just
judge. Sir Marmaduke Travers candidly avowed that he felt himself out
of court. The leaders of fashion, the great arbiters of "bon ton," were
happily divided, and if England could boast of a majority among the
Castle party, Ireland turned the scale with those who, having enjoyed
opportunities of studying foreign manner, pronounced Kate's the very
perfection of French agreeability, united to native loveliness and
attraction.

So much for "the sensation," to use the phrase appropriated by the
newspapers, their entrance into the fashionable life of Dublin excited.
Let us now return to the parties themselves. In a large and splendidly
furnished apartment of Sir Marmaduke's Dublin residence, sat the
Baronet, his daughter, and Kate, at breakfast, alternately reading from
the morning papers, and discussing the news as they ate.

"Well, but, my dear Kate" - Sir Marmaduke had emancipated himself from
the more formal "Miss" a week before - "turn to another column, and let
us hear if they have any political news."

"There's not a word, sir, unless an allusion to the rebel colour of my
dress at the Chancellor's ball be such. You see, Sybella, Falkner fights
not under my banner."

"I think you stole the Chancellor himself from me," replied Sybella,
laughing, "and I must say most unhandsomely too: he had just given
me his arm, to lead me to a chair, when you said something in a half
whisper - I could not catch it if I would - he dropped my arm, burst out a
laughing, and hurried over to Lord Clonmel - I suppose to repeat it."

"It was not worth relating, then," said Kate, with a toss of her head.
"I merely remarked how odd it was Lady Ridgeway couldn't dance in time,
with such beautiful clocks on her stocking."

"O, Kate dearest!" said Sybella, who, while she could not refrain from a
burst of laughter, became deep scarlet at her friend's hardihood.

"Why Meddlicot told that as his own at supper," said Sir Marmaduke.

"So he did, sir; but I cautioned him that a license for wholesale
does not permit the retail even of jokes. Isn't the worthy sheriff
a druggist? But what have we here - all manner of changes on the
staff - Lord Sellbridge to join his regiment at Hounslow, vice,
Captain - - - your brother, Sybella - Captain Frederick Travers" - and
she reddened slightly at the words. "I did not know he was appointed
aid-decamp to the Viceroy."

"Nor did I, my dear," said Sir Marmaduke. "I knew, he was most anxious
to make the exchange with Lord Sellbridge; but this is the first I have
heard of the success of his negociation."

"You see, Kate," said Sybella, while a sly glance shot beneath her
long-lashed lids, "that even Fred has become a partizan of Ireland."

"Perhaps the prospect of the revolt he hinted at," replied Kate, with an
air of scornful pride, "has made the Guardsman prefer this country for
the moment."

"I incline to a very different reason," said Sybella, but in a voice so
subdued as to be only audible to Kate herself, who again blushed deeply,
and seemed greatly confused.

"Ha! here it is," said Sir Marmaduke, reading aloud a long paragraph
from a morning paper, which, descanting on the abortiveness of any
effort to destroy the peace of the realm, by enemies without or within
its frontiers, concluded with a glowing panegyric on the blessings of
the British constitution. "'The government, while confiding implicitly
on the loyalty and bravery of his Majesty's people, have yet neglected
no measures of precaution against the insane and rash attempts of our
'natural enemies,' whose temerity is certain of again receiving the
same severe lesson which every attempt upon our shores has taught them.'
Yes - yes - very prompt and active measures, nothing could be better,"
muttered he to himself.

"'May I ask what they consist in - these precautionary movements?" said
Kate.

"A full organization of the militia and yeomanry," replied Sir
Marmaduke, proudly, for he commanded a regiment of 'Northamptonshire
fencibles.' "Strengthening the different garrisons in large
towns-mounting guns of heavy calibre on the forts - "

A hearty burst of laughter broke from Kate, which she made no effort to
control whatever.

"I cannot help laughing, because that same word recalls a conversation I
once heard between two French officers in Bruges; one of them who seemed
to know Ireland well, averred that these forts were so placed as only to
be capable of battering down each other. I know he instanced two on the
southern coast, which in three discharges must inevitably make a drawn
battle of it."

"My dear young lady," said Sir Marmaduke, with an unusual gravity, "it
is not exactly to our enemies we must look for any warm encomium on our
means of defence, nor has experience yet shown, that British courage can
be justly a subject for a Frenchman's laughter."

"And as to the militia and yeomanry," continued Kate, for she seemed
bent on tormenting, and totally indifferent to the consequences
regarding herself, "Colonel Delcamp called them 'arsenals ambulantes,'
admirably contrived to provide an invading army with arms and
ammunition."

"I heartily wish your friend, Colonel Delcamp, would favour us with a
visit of inspection," said the Baronet, scarcely able to control his
anger.

"I should not think the occurrence unlikely," was the cool reply, "and
if so, I may be permitted to assure you, that you will be much pleased
with his manners and agreeability." Sybella's imploring look was all in
vain; Kate, as she herself said, belonged to a race who neither gave nor
took quarter, and such a controversy was the very conflict she gloried
in. How it was to be carried on any further, is not easy to foresee,
had not the difficulty been solved by the entrance of Frederick Travers,
come to communicate the news of his appointment. While Sir Marmaduke and
Sybella expressed their joy at his success, Kate, half chagrined at the
interruption to a game, where she already deemed herself the winner,
walked towards the window and looked out.

"Have I nothing like congratulation to expect from Miss O'Donoghue," said
Frederick, as he placed himself at her side.

"I scarcely knew if it were a subject where congratulation would be
suitable. To exchange the glories of London life, the fascinations of
a great Court, and the society of the first people in the land, for
the lesser splendours of a second-rate capital; perhaps you might have
smiled at the simplicity of wishing you joy for all this," and here her
voice assumed a deeper, fuller accent. "I own that I do not feel Ireland
in a position to bear even a smile of scorn without offence to one of
her children."

"I was not aware till now, that you could suspect me of such a feeling."

"You are an Englishman, sir, that's enough," said Kate hurriedly; "in
_your_ eyes, we are the people you have conquered, and it would be too
much to expect you should entertain great respect for the prejudices
you have laboured to subdue. But after all, there is a distinction worth
making, and you have not made it."

"And that is, if I dare ask - " "That is, there is a wide difference
between conquering the territory, and gaining the affections of a
people. You have succeeded in one; you'll never, at least by your
present courses, accomplish the other."

"Speak more plainly to me," said Travers, who felt a double interest in
a conversation which every moment contained an allusion that bore upon
his own fortune.

"There, there, sir," said Kate, proudly, "your very request is an answer
to yourself. We, here, who have known each other for some time, have
had opportunities of interchanging opinions and sentiments, cannot
understand a simple matter in the same way, nor regard it in the same
light, how do you suppose, that millions separated by distance, habits
and pursuits, can attain to what we, with our advantages, have failed
in. Can you not see that we are not the same people.

"But need our dissimilitudes sever - may they not be made rather ties to
bind us more closely together," said he, tenderly.

"Equality for the future, even if we obtained it, cannot eradicate the
memory of the past. The penal laws - - "

"Come - come. There is no longer any thing there. See the University
for instance - by-the-bye," and here Travers caught eagerly at the
opportunity of escape, "what of Herbert, is not this near the time for
his examination?"

"The very day, the 28th of February," said she, reading from a small
memorandum book. "It is six weeks yesterday since we have seen him - poor
boy!"

"How pale and sickly he looked too. I wish with all my heart, he had not
set his mind so eagerly on College success."

"It is only for women, to live without ambition of one sort or other;"
replied Kate, sadly, "and a very poor kind of existence it is, I assure
you."

"What if we were to make a party, and meet him as he comes out? We might
persuade him to join us at dinner, too."

"Well thought of, Fred," said Sir Marmaduke. "Herbert seems to have
forgotten us latterly, and knowing his anxiety to succeed, I really
scrupled at the thought of idling him."

"It is very kind of you all," said Kate, with one of her sweetest
smiles, "to remember the poor student, and there is nothing I should
like better than the plan you propose."

"We must find out the hour they leave the Hall," said Frederick.

"I heard him say it was at four o'clock," said Sybella, timidly,
venturing for the first time to interpose a word in the conversation.

"You have the best memory in the world, Sybella," whispered Kate in her
friend's ear, and simple as the words were, they called the blush to her
cheek in an instant.

The morning passed away in the thousand little avocations which
affluence and ease have invented, to banish "ennui," and render life
always interesting. A few minutes before four o'clock, the splendid
equipage of Sir Marmaduke Travers, in all the massive perfection of its
London appointments, drew up at the outer gate of the University; the
party preferring to enter the courts on foot.



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 23 of 41)