Charles James Lever.

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

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learned in the law, country gentlemen in hordes, two
baronets, and one luckless viscount, have asked for the
valueless hand that writes these lines; and yet - and yet,
my dear chevalier, I shall still write myself at the bottom
of this page, Kate O'Donoghue. I have no doubt you are very
vain of my constancy, and will be so when you read this;
and it is right you should be, for, I promise you, in my
'robe, couleur de cerise,' looped with white roses, and my
'chapeau de paysanne,' I am a very pretty person indeed - at
least, it seems a point the twelve judges agree upon, and
the Master of the Rolls tells me, 'that with such long eye-
lashes I might lift my eyes very high indeed.'

"And now, my dear, kind uncle, divide your sorrow between
your niece who is dying of vanity, and your nephew who is
sick of grief - continue your affection to both - and believe
me, in all sincerity of heart, your own fond and faithful,

"Kate O'Donoghue."

"I have met Hems worth, and, strange to say, found him both
pleasant and agreeable."


Such were the concluding lines of an epistle, in which few, who did not
possess Sir Arches acuteness, could successfully trace any thing of the
real character of the writer.




CHAPTER XXX. OLD CHARACTERS WITH NEW FACES.

At the time we speak of, Clontarf was the fashionable watering-place
of the inhabitants of Dublin; and although it boasted of little other
accommodation than a number of small thatched cabins could afford, and
from which the fishermen removed to give place to their more opulent
guests, yet, thither the great and the wealthy of the capital resorted
in summer, to taste the pleasures of a sea side, and that not inferior
one, the change of life and habit, entailed by altered circumstances and
more restricted spheres of enjoyment.

If, with all the aid of sunshine and blue water, waving foliage and
golden beach, this place had an aspect of modest poverty in its whitened
walls and net-covered gardens in summer, in winter its dreariness and
desolation were great indeed. The sea swept in long waves the narrow
road, even to the doors of the cabins, the muddy foam settling on
the window sills, and even drifting to the very roofs; the thatch was
fastened down with strong ropes, assisted by oars and spars, to resist
the wild gale that generally blew from the south-east. The trim cottages
of summer were now nothing but the miserable hovels of the poor, their
gardens waste, their gay aspect departed; even the stirring signs of
life seemed vanished; few, if any, of the inhabitants stirred abroad,
and save some muffled figure that moved past, screening his face from
the beating storm, all was silent and motionless. The little inn, which
in the summer time was thronged from morning till night, and from
whose open windows the merry laugh and the jocund sound of happy voices
poured, was now fast shuttered up, and all the precautions of a voyage
were taken against the dreaded winter; even to the sign of a gigantic
crab, rudely carved in wood and painted red, every thing was removed,
and a single melancholy dip candle burned in the bar, as if keeping
watch over the sleeping revelry of the place.

If such were the gloomy features without, within doors matters wore a
more thriving aspect. In a little parlour behind the bar a brisk fire
was burning, before which stood a table neatly prepared for supper; the
covers were laid for two, but the provision of wine displayed seemed
suited to a larger number. The flashy-looking prints upon the walls
shone brightly in the ruddy blaze; the brass fender and the glasses
sparkled in its clear light, and even to the small, keen eyes of Billy
Corcoran, the host, who kept eternally running in and out, to see all
right, every thing presented a very cheering contrast to the bleak
desolation of the night without.

It was evident that Mr. Corcoran's guests were behind time; his
impatience was not to be mistaken. He walked from the kitchen to the
parlour and back again without ceasing, now, adding a turf to the fire,
now, removing the roasting chickens a little farther from the blaze, and
anon, bending his ear to listen if perchance he could catch the sound
of approaching wheels. He had sat down on every chair of the parlour,
he had taken a half glass out of each decanter on the table, he had
sharpened every knife in turn, and in fact resorted to every device to
cheat time, when suddenly the sound of a carriage was heard on the road,
and the next moment he unbarred the door and admitted two persons,
whose dripping hats and soaked great coats bore evidence to the downpour
without.

"Well, Billy," said the first who entered, "this rain will beat down the
wind at last, and we shall be able to get some fish in the market."

"Sorra bit, sir," said Billy, as he assisted the speaker to remove his
wet garments, leaving the other stranger to his own devices. "The wind
is coming more round to the east, and I know from the noise on the
Bull we'll have plenty of it. I was afeard something happened you, sir;
you're an hour behind the time you said yourself."

"Very true - so I am. I was detained at a dinner party, and my friend
here also kept me waiting a few minutes for him."

"It was not my fault," interposed the other; "I was ready when - - "

"Never mind - it was of no consequence whatever; the only misfortune was,
we could find no coach, and were forced to put up with a car, and got
wet for our pains; but the supper, Bill - the supper."

"Is smoking hot on the table," was the reply; and as he opened the door
into the parlour, the fact declared itself to their senses.

The strangers were soon seated at the meal, and like men who could
relish its enjoyment not the less for the merit of what they had quitted
without doors. It is not necessary to consume much time in presenting
them to our readers; they are both already known to him. One was
Mr. Hemsworth; the other no less a person than Lanty Lawler, the
horse-dealer. One only remark is necessary. Familiar as these characters
already are, they here appeared in aspect somewhat different from what
they have hitherto exhibited. Hemsworth, no longer the associate of
fashionable company, had exchanged his silken deferential manner for an
air of easy confidence that seemed to fit him even better; Lanty, on the
other hand, had lost all his habitual self-possession, looked abashed
and sheepish, and seemed for all the world, as though he were in the
hands of one, who could dispose of his destiny as he willed it. All the
got up readiness of his wit, all his acquired frankness were now gone,
and in their place a timid hesitating manner that bespoke the most
abject fear and terror; it was evident, too, that he struggled hard to
conceal these signs of trepidation. He ate voraciously of all before
him, and endeavoured by the pre-occupation of the table to cover his
real sentiments at the moment; he drank, too, freely, filling a large
goblet to the brim with sherry several times during the meal; nor was
this unnoticed by Hemsworth, who at last interposed in a calm, but
commanding tone, as he laid his hand on the decanter -

"A pipe of it, if you please, Lanty; you may have a whole bank of the
Guadalquiver for your own drinking at another time; but now, if you
please, let us have calm heads and cool judgments. It is some time since
we met, and it may be longer ere we have another opportunity like the
present."

"Very true, sir," said Lanty, submissively, as he pushed his untasted
glass before him. "It was the wetting I was afeard of; my clothes were
soaked through."

Hemsworth paid no attention to the excuse, but sat for some minutes
deeply sunk in his reflections; then lifting his head suddenly, he
said -

"And so these papers have never been found?"

"Never, sir. I did my best to get them. I spent days at the place, and
had others looking besides. I said I'd give five guineas - and you know
what a reward that is down there - to the man who would bring them to me;
but from that hour to this, I never set eyes on them."

"While he was speaking these words, Hemsworth's eyes never turned from
him. They were fixed on him, not with any expression of severity or
harshness, neither did the glance indicate suspicion. It was a steady,
passionless stare, rather like one seeking an explanation, than
prejudging a motive.

"You were quite certain that they were the papers we wanted?"

"Sure I opened them - sure I read the writing myself, when I took them
out of the old man's desk."

"They had better have remained there," said Hemsworth to himself, but
loud enough for the other to hear; then rallying quickly, he added, "no
matter, however, we have evidence enough of another kind. Where are the
letters Mark wrote to the Delegates."

"I think Mr. Morrissy has most of them, sir," said Lanty, hesitatingly;
"he is the man that keeps all the writings."

"So he may he, Lanty; but you have some of them yourself: three or four
are as good as thirty or forty, and you have as many as that - aye, and
here in your pocket, too, this minute. Come, my worthy friend, you may
cheat me in horse flesh, whenever I'm fool enough to deal with you; but
at this game I'm your master. Let me see these letters."

"How would I have them, Captain, at all," said Lanty, imploringly; "sure
you know as well as me, that I'm not in the scheme at all."

"Save so far as having a contract to mount five hundred men of the
French on their landing in Ireland, the money for which you have partly
received, and for which I hold the check, countersigned by yourself,
Master Lanty. Very pretty evidence in a Court of justice - more than
enough to hang you, that's all."

"There's many a one sould a horse, and didn't know what use he was for,"
replied Lanty, half rudely.

"Very true; but a contract that stipulates for strong cattle, able to
carry twelve stone men with full cavalry equipments, does not read like
an engagement to furnish plough horses." Then altering his tone, he
added, "No more of this, sir, I can't afford time for such fencing. Show
me these letters - show me, that you have done something to earn your own
indemnity, or by G - d, I'll let them hang you, as I'd see them hang a
dog."

Lanty became lividly pale, as Hemsworth was speaking; a slight
convulsive tremor shook his lip for a moment, and he seemed struggling
to repress a burst of passion, as he held the chair with either hand;
but he uttered not a word. Hemsworth leisurely drew forth his watch, and
placed it on the table before him, saying -

"It wants eleven minutes of one o'clock; I'll give you to that hour to
make up your mind, whether you prefer five hundred pounds in your hand,
or take your place in the dock with the rest of them; for, mark me,
whether we have your evidence or not, they are equally in our hands.
It is only an economy of testimony I'm studying here, and I reserve my
other blackguards for occasions of more moment."

The taunt would appear an ill-timed one at such a minute; but Hemsworth
knew well the temperament of him he addressed, and did not utter a
syllable at random. Lanty still preserved silence, and looked as though
doggedly determined to let the minutes elapse without speaking; his head
slightly sunk on his chest, his eyes bent downwards, he sat perfectly
motionless. Hemsworth meanwhile refilled his glass, crossed his arms
before him, and seemed awaiting, without impatience, the result of
the other's deliberation. At length the hand approached the figure; it
wanted but about half a minute of the time, and Hems-worth, taking up
the watch from the table, held it before Lanty's eyes, as he said -

"Time is nearly up, Master Lawler; do you refuse?"

"I only ask one condition," said Lanty, in a faint whisper.

"You shall make no bargains: the letters, or - - - . It is too late now;"
and with these words he replaced his watch in his pocket, and rose from
the table.

Lanty never moved a muscle, while Hemsworth approached the fireplace,
and rang the bell. In doing so, he turned his back to the horse-dealer,
but commanded a view of him through means of the little glass above the
chimney. He stood thus for a few seconds, when Lanty - in whose flashing
eyes, and darkened colour, inward rage was depicted - suddenly thrust his
arm into the breast of his coat. Hems-worth turned round at once,
and seizing the arm in his powerful grasp, said in a cool, determined
voice -

"No, no, Lanty; I'm armed, too.

"It was the pocket-book I was feeling for, sir," said Lanty, with a
sickly effort at a smile, while he drew forth a black leather case,
and handed it towards Hemsworth. "They are all there - seventeen
letters - besides two French commissions, signed by young Mark, and a
receipt for four hundred pounds in French gold."

"You must find it hard to get bullets for those pistols I gave you,
Lanty," said Hemsworth, in a tranquil voice. "I forgot to let you have
the bullet-mould with them. Remind me of it to-morrow or next day."

Lanty muttered a faint "I will," but looked the very picture of abject
misery as he spoke.

"Let me see them, Lanty," said Hemsworth, in a manner, as calm and
unconcerned as could be. "If I don't mistake, they are nearly a quarter
of an inch in the bore."

"About that same, sir," replied Lawler, while he drew forth the two
pistols from the same breast-pocket he had taken the letters.

Hemsworth first examined one, and then the other, leisurely, passing
the ramrod into each in turn, and then opening the pans, inspected the
priming, adjusting the powder carefully with his finger. "You spoil such
pistols as these, by loading with two bullets, Lanty," said he, as he
handed them back to him. "The bore is too perfect for such course usage.
Now, this is a less delicate weapon, and will bear harder usage," and
he drew forth a short pistol, containing four revolving barrels, each as
wide as the bore of a musket. Lanty gazed in astonishment and terror
at the murderous implement, into which the hand fitted by a handle like
that of a saw. Hemsworth played the spring by which the barrels moved,
with a practised finger, and seemed to exult in the expression of
Lanty's terror, as he watched them. Then quickly replacing the weapon,
he resumed - "Well, I am glad, for your own sake, that you are more
reasonable. You ought to know, that I never place dependence on only one
man, for any single service. Such would be merely to play the part
of slave, instead of master. But, first of all, how did you become
possessed of these letters?"

"I was charged by Mark to deliver them to the Delegates, and as they
never saw his hand-writing, I just copied the letters, and kept all
the originals, so that he has received his answers regularly, and never
suspects what has happened."

"All right so far - and the younger brother - what of him?" "Oh, he is
too much under old M'Nab's influence to be caught. I wouldn't say but
that he's a Protestant this minute."

"You appear to be greatly shocked at your suspicion, Lanty," said
Hemsworth, smiling. "Well, well; we must hope for the best; and now as
to this other fellow - where and how can I see him - this Talbot I mean?"

"Ay, that's the puzzle," replied Lanty, with a greater appearance of
ease in his manner than before. "You never can meet him when you look
for him; but he's at your elbow every day, twenty times, if you don't
want him."

"Could you not manage a meeting for me with him, down here, Lanty? - I'll
take care of the rest."

"I don't think so; he's a wary fellow; he gave me a fright once or twice
already, by a word he let drop. I am not easy in his company at all."

"False or true, he would be an immense service to us," said Hemsworth,
musingly. "If I only could see and speak with him, I'd soon convince him
that he incurred no risk himself. It's a bad sportsman shoots his decoy
duck, Lanty," and he pinched his cheek good-humouredly as he spoke.
Lanty endeavoured to laugh, but the effort was a feeble one. Meanwhile,
the host, now summoned for the second time, made his appearance, and by
Hemsworth's orders, the car was brought round to the door; for, severe
as the night was, he determined to return to the city.

"You are coming back to town, too, Lanty?" said he, in a tone of
inquiry.

"No, sir; I'm going to stop here with Billy, if your honour has no
objection?"

"None whatever. Remember to let me see you on Tuesday, when I shall have
every thing in readiness for your journey south - till then, good
bye;" so saying, and handing Corcoran two guineas in gold, for he paid
liberally, Hemsworth mounted the car, and drove off.

Lanty looked after him, till the darkness shut out the view, and then
buttoning his rough coat tightly around his throat, set out himself
towards town, muttering as he went - "I wish it was the last I was ever
to see of you."




CHAPTER XXXI. SOME HINTS ABOUT HARRY TALBOT.

We must beg of our reader to retrace his steps once more to the
valley of Glenflesk, but only for a fleeting moment. When last we left
Carrig-na-curra it was at night, the party were at supper in the old
tower, and Kerry stood outside, rehearsing to himself for the tenth time
the manner in which he should open his communication. The sound of
Mark's voice, raised above its ordinary pitch, warned him that his
mission might not be without danger, if perchance any thing on his part
might offend the youth. None knew better than Kerry the violent temper
of the young O'Donoghue, and how little restraint he ever put upon any
scheme he thought of to vent his humour on him who crossed him. It was
an account of debtor and creditor then with him, how he should act; on
the one side lay the penalties, on the other the rewards of his
venture - how was he to escape the one and secure the other? A moment's
reflection suggested the plan.

"I'll not go in, divil a step, but I'll tell I was convarsin' with them
this half hour, and that the rope and the bit of lead is a new way they
do have for catching mermaids and other faymale fishes in the Bay;
and sure if I only say that there's an act of Parlimint agin doin' it,
she'll not only believe it all, but she'll keep the saycret to her dying
bed;" and with this profound reflection on Mrs. Branagan's character,
and a face of very well got up surprise, Kerry re-entered the kitchen to
announce his discovery.

It is not our intention to dwell on the scene that followed; we have
merely adverted to the fact inasmuch as that on the trivial circumstance
of Kerry's resolve depended the discovery of a plot, which, if once
known to M'Nab, would immediately have been communicated to the
Government. The fates willed it otherwise, and when the party separated
in the old tower, Sir Archy was as little satisfied concerning Talbot's
character as ever, and as eager to ascertain whence and wherefore he
came, and with what intention he had made Mark's acquaintance. With many
a wily scheme for the morrow, the old man went to rest, determining to
spare no pains to unravel the mystery - a fruitless resolve after all,
for when day broke, Talbot and Mark were already away, many miles on the
road to Dublin.

The O'Donoghue's first act on completing his arrangements with Swaby,
was to place at Mark's disposal a sum of five hundred pounds, an amount
far greater than ever the young man had at any time possessed in
his life. Talbot, to whom the circumstance was told by Mark, readily
persuaded him to visit Dublin, not merely for the pleasures and
amusements of the capital, but that he might personally be made known to
the Delegates, and see and confer with those who were the directors
of the threatened rebellion.. Talbot understood perfectly the kind of
flattery which would succeed with the youth, and by allusion to his
ancient lineage, his more than noble blood, the rights to which he was
entitled, and to which he would unquestionably be restored, not only
stimulated his ardour in the cause, but bound him in a debt of gratitude
to all who encouraged him to engage in it.

Mark's character, whatever its faults, was candid and frank in every
thing; he made no secret to his new friend of his present unhappiness,
nor did he conceal that an unpaid debt of vengeance with respect to
young Travers weighed heavily on his spirits. It was the first time in
his life he had tasted the bitterness of an insult, and it worked like
a deadly poison within him, sapping the springs of his health and
rendering miserable the hours of his solitude; the thought rarely
left him day or night, how was he to wipe out this stain? When Talbot,
therefore, spoke of a visit to the capital, Mark cheerfully acceded, but
rather from a secret hope that some opportunity might arise to gratify
this cherished passion, than from any desire of witnessing the splendour
of the metropolis; and while the one pictured the glittering scenes of
festive enjoyment to which youth and money are the passports, the other
darkly ruminated on the chances of meeting his enemy and provoking him
to a duel.

It was on the evening of the third day after they left Carrig-na-curra
that they drew near the capital, and after a promise from Mark that in
every thing he should be guided by his friend, nor take any step without
his counsel and advice, they both entered the city.

"You see, Mark," said Talbot, as after passing through some of the wider
and better lighted thoroughfares, they approached a less frequented and
more gloomy part of the town; "you see, Mark, that the day is not come
when we should occupy the place of honour, an humble and quiet hotel
will best suit us for the present, but the hour is not very distant, my
boy, when the proudest mansion of the capital will throw wide its doors
to receive us. The Saxon has but a short tenure of it now."

"I don't see any reason for secrecy," said Mark, half-doggedly, "we have
good names and a good purse, why then must we betake ourselves to this
gloomy and desolate quarter."

"Because I am the guide," said Talbot, laughing; "and, if that's not
reason enough, that's the only one I will give you just now, but
come, here we are, and I do not think you will complain of your
entertainment." And as he spoke, the carriage entered the spacious
court-yard of an old fashioned inn, which, standing in Thomas-street,
commanded a view of the river through one of the narrow streets leading
down to the quay.

"This was the fashionable house some fifty years back," said Talbot as
he assisted his friend to alight; "and though the heyday of its youth
is over, there are many generous qualities in its good old age - not your
father's cellar can boast a better bottle of Burgundy."

Talbot's recommendation was far from being unmerited, the "Black Jack"
as the inn was named, was a most comfortable house of the old school,
with large, low-ceilinged rooms, wide stairs, and spacious corridors;
the whole, furnished in a style, which, though far from pretending to
elegance or fashion, possessed strong claims for the tired traveller,
seeking rest and repose. Here then our young travellers alighted.
Talbot being received with all the courteous urbanity due to an old
acquaintance; the landlord himself appearing to do the honours of the
house, and welcome a valued guest.

"We must get our host, Billy Crossley, to sup with us, Mark. No one can
tell us so much of how matters are doing here, for, however it happens,
Billy knows all the gossip of the day, fashionable, political, or
sporting, he keeps himself up to what is going forward everywhere."
And so saying, Talbot at once hastened after the landlord to secure his
company for the evening.

Billy was somewhat fastidious about bestowing his agreeability in
general, but on the present occasion, he acceded at once, and in less
than half-an-hour, the three were seated at a meal, which would not have
disgraced an hotel of more pretensious exterior. Mr. Crossley doing the
honours of the table, like a host entertaining his friends.

"I scarcely had expected to see you so soon, Mr. Talbot," said he, when
the servants had left the room, and the party drew round the fire. "They
told me you would pass the winter in the country."

"So I had intended, Billy, but as good luck would have it, I made
an acquaintance in the south, which changed my plans, my friend, Mr.
O'Donoghue here, and as he had never seen the capital, and knew nothing
of your gay doings, I thought I'd just take a run back, and show him at
least, the map of the land."

"My service to you, sir," said Billy, bowing to Mark; "it would be hard



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 25 of 41)