Charles James Lever.

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

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to have got a better guide than you have in Master Harry. I can assure
you, so far as wickedness goes, he's a match for any thing here - from
the Royal Barracks to Trinity College."

"Flattery, gross flattery, Bill. I was your own pupil, and you can't
help partiality."

"You are a most favourable specimen of private tuition, there's no doubt
of it," said Crossley, laughing, "and I have reason to be proud of you.
Did Mr. O'Donoghue ever hear of your clearing out Hancey Hennessy at
hazard - the fellow that carried the loaded dice?"

"Have done, Bill. None of these absurd stories now."

"Nor what a trick you played Corny Mehan at the spring meeting with the
roan cob that knew how to limp when you wanted him? - as great a devil as
himself, Mr. O'Donoghue. You'd swear the beast had a bad blood spavin
if you saw him move, and he all the time a three-quarter bred horse,
without a stain or a blemish about him."

Talbot seemed for a second or two somewhat uneasy at these familiar
reminiscences of his friend Crossley, not knowing precisely how Mark
might take them; but when he saw that a hearty laugh was the reception
they met with, he joined in the mirth as freely as the others.

"The best of all was the Wicklow steeple-chase; sorrow doubt about it,
that was good fun;" and Crossley laughed till his eyes streamed again
with the emotion.

"You must tell me that," said Mark.

"It was just this: - Mister Henry there had a wager with Captain Steevens
of the staff, that he'd reach the course before him, each starting at
the same moment from Quin's door at Bray. Well, what does he do, but
bribes one of the boys to let him ride postillion to Steevens' chaise,
because that way he was sure to win his wager. All went right. The
bluejacket and boots fitted him neatly - they were both new - got on
purpose for the day; and Mr. Talbot lay snug in the stable, waiting for
the chaise to be ordered round, when down comes the word, 'Number four,
two bays, you're wanted;' and up he jumps into the saddle, and trots
round to the door, afraid of his life to look round, and keeping his
chin sunk down in his cravat to hide his face. He never once looked
back, but let the boys harness the cattle without saying a word.

"'My lord says you're to drive slow,' said one of the boys.

"He looked round, and what did he see, but an old man in the chaise with
a horse-shoe wig, and in the full dress of a bishop.

"'Who is he at all?' said Talbot.

"'The Bishop of Cloyne,' whispered the boy; 'he's going up to the
Levee.'

"By my conscience, he is not," said Talbot, for at that moment he spied
Steevens starting from the door at a round trot, and with that he turned
the bishop's horses sharp round, laid the whip heavily over them, and
took the lead towards Wicklow.

[Illustration: 304]

"Never such cries were heard as the bishop's. Some say that he swore
hard; but it isn't true - he prayed, and begged, and shouted - but no use.
Talbot gave them the steel at every stride; and after a long slapping
gallop, he drew up at the stand-house, with a cheer that shook the
course; and a fine sight it was, to gee the little man in the lawn
sleeves stepping out, his face red with shame and passion.

"'Twelve miles in forty-two minutes, my lord,' said Talbot, showing his
watch; 'hope your lordship won't forget the boy.'"

If Mark O'Donoghue enjoyed heartily the story, he was not the less
surprised that Harry Talbot was the hero of it - all his previous
knowledge of that gentleman leading him to a very different estimate of
his taste and pursuits. Indeed, he only knew Talbot from his own lips,
and from them he learned to regard him as the emissary despatched by the
Irish party in France, to report on the condition of the insurgents in
Ireland; and, if necessary, to make preparations for the French landing
on the Irish shores. Mark could not well understand how any one charged
with such a mission, could have either wasted his time or endangered
his safety by any ridiculous adventures, and did not scruple to show his
astonishment at the circumstance.

Talbot smiled significantly at the remark, and exchanged a glance with
Crossley, while he answered -

"Placed in such a position as I have been for some years, Mark, many
different parts have been forced upon me; and I have often found that
there is no such safe mask against detection, as following out the bent
of one's humour in circumstances of difficulty. An irresistible impulse
to play the fool, even at a moment when high interests were at stake,
has saved me more than once from detection; and from habit I have
acquired a kind of address at the practice, that with the world passes
for cleverness. And so, in turn, I have been an actor, a smuggler,
a French officer, an Irish refugee, a sporting character, a man of
pleasure, and a man of intrigue; and however such features may have
blended themselves into my true character, my real part has remained
undetected. Master Crossley here might furnish a hint or two towards it;
but - but, as Peachem says, 'we could hang one another' - eh, Bill?"

A nod and a smile, more grave than gay, was Crossley's answer; and
a silence ensued on all sides. There was a tone of seriousness even
through the levity of what Talbot said, very unlike his ordinary manner;
and Mark began, for the first time, to feel that he knew very little
about his friend. The silence continued unbroken for some time; for
while Mark speculated on the various interpretations Talbot's words
might hear, Talbot himself was reflecting on what he had just uttered.
There is a very strange, but not wholly unaccountable tendency in men
of subtle minds, to venture near enough to disclosures to awaken the
suspicions, without satisfying the curiosity of others. The dexterity
with which they can approach danger, yet not incur it, is an exercise
they learn to pride themselves upon; and as the Indian guides his canoe
through the dangerous rapids of the St. Lawrence - now bending to this
side and to that - each moment in peril, but ever calm and collected - so
do they feel all the excitement of hazard in the game of address. Under
an impulse of this kind was it that Talbot spoke, and the unguarded
freedom of his manner showed even to so poor an observer as Mark, that
the words contained a hidden meaning.

"And our gay city of Dublin - what of it, Billy?" said he, at length
rallying from his mood of thought, as he nodded his head, and drank to
Crossley.

"Pretty much as you have always known it. 'A short life and a merry
one,' seems the adage in favour here. Every one spending his money and
character - "

"Like gentlemen, Bill - that's the phrase," interrupted Talbot; "and a
very comprehensive term it is, after all. But what is the Parliament
doing?"

"Voting itself into Government situations."

"And the Viceroy?"

"Snubbing the Parliament."

"And the Government in England?"

"Snubbing the Viceroy."

"Well, they are all employed, at least; and, as the French say, that's
always something. And who are the playmen now?"

"The old set. Tom Whaley and Lord Drogheda - your old friend, Giles
Daxon - Sandy Moore - - "

"Ah, what of Sandy? They told me he won heavily at the October races."

"So he did - beggared the whole club at hazard, and was robbed of the
money the night after, when coming up through Naas."

"Ha! I never heard of that, Billy. Let us hear all about it."

"It's soon told, sir. Sandy, who never tries economy till he has won
largely, and is reckless enough of money when on the verge of ruin,
heard, on leaving the course, that a strange gentleman was waiting to
get some one to join him in a chaise up to Dublin. Sandy at once sent
the waiter to open the negociations, which were soon concluded, and the
stranger appeared - a fat, unwieldy-looking old fellow, with a powdered
wig and green goggles - not a very sporting style of travelling
companion; but no matter for that, he had a dark chestnut mare with him,
that looked like breeding, and with strength enough for any weight over
a country.

"'She'll follow the chaise - my son taught her that trick,' said the
old fellow, as he hobbled out of the inn, and took his place in the
carriage.

"Well, in jumped Sandy, all his pockets bursting with guineas, and a
book of notes crammed into his hat - very happy at his adventure, but
prouder of saving half the posting than all besides.

"'Keep to your ten miles an hour, my lad, or not a sixpence,' said the
old gentleman, and he drew his night-cap over his eyes, and was soon
snoring away as sound as need be.

"That was the last was seen of him, however, for when the postillion
drew up for fresh horses at Carrick's, they found Sandy alone in the
chaise, with his hands tied behind him, and his mouth gagged. His
companion and the dark chestnut were off, and all the winnings along
with them."

"Cleverly done, by Jove," cried Talbot, in an ecstacy of admiration.

"What a contemptible fellow your friend Sandy must be," exclaimed Mark,
in the same breath. "Man to man - I can't conceive the thing possible."

"A bold fellow, well armed, Mark," observed Talbot, gravely, "might do
the deed, and Sandy be no coward after all."

Chatting in this wise, the first evening was spent; and if Mark was, at
times, disposed to doubt the morality of his new friend, he was very far
from questioning his knowledge of mankind; his observations were ever
shrewd and caustic, and his views of life, those of one, who looked at
the world with a scrutinizing glance, and although the young O'Donoghue
would gladly have seen in his young companion some traces of the
enthusiasm he himself experienced in the contemplated rising, he felt
convinced that a cooler judgment, and a more calculating head than his,
were indispensable requisites to a cause beset with so many dangers. He,
therefore, implicitly yielded himself to Talbot's guidance, resolving
not to go anywhere, nor see any one, even his brother, save with his
knowledge and consent.

If the scenes into which Talbot introduced Mark O'Donoghue were not
those of fashionable life, they were certainly as novel and exciting to
one so young and inexperienced. The taverns resorted to by young men of
fashion, the haunts of sporting characters, the tennis court, but more
frequently still the houses where high play was carried on, he was all
familiar with - knew the precise type of the company at each, and not a
little of their private history; still it seemed as if he himself were
but little known, and rather received for the recommendation of good
address and engaging manners, than from any circumstance of previous
acquaintance. Mark was astonished at this, as well as that, although now
several weeks in Dublin, Talbot had made no advance towards introducing
him to the leading members of the insurgent party, and latterly had even
but very rarely alluded to the prospect of the contemplated movement.

The young O'Donoghue was not one to harbour any secret thought long
unuttered in his breast, and he briefly expressed to Talbot his
surprise - almost his dissatisfaction - at the life they were leading. At
first Talbot endeavoured to laugh off such inquiries, or turn them aside
by some passing pleasantry; but when more closely pressed, he avowed
that his present part was a duty imposed upon him by his friends in
France, who desired above all things to ascertain the feeling among
young men of family and fortune in the metropolis - how they really
felt affected towards England, and with what success, should French
republicanism fail to convert them, would the fascinations of Parisian
elegance and vice be thrown around them.

"There must be bribes for all temperaments, Mark," said he, at the end
of a very lengthened detail of his views and stratagems. "Glory is enough
for such as you, and happily you can have wherewithal to satisfy a
craving appetite; but some must be bought by gold, some by promises of
vengeance upon others, some by indemnities for past offences, and not a
few by the vague hope of change, which disappointed men ever regard as
for the better. To sound the depths of all such motives is part of my
mission here, and hence, I have rigidly avoided those by whom I am more
than slightly known; but in a week or two I shall exchange this part for
another, and then, Mark, we shall mix in the gayer world of the squares,
where your fair cousin shines so brilliantly. Meanwhile have a little
patience with me, and suffer me to seem sometimes inconsistent, that I
may be least so in reality. I see you are not satisfied with me, Mark,
and I am sorry to incur a friend's reproach even for a brief season;
but come - I make you a pledge. To-day is the 12th; in five days more the
Viceroy gives his St. Patrick's ball, at which I am to meet one of
our confederates. You seem surprised at this; but where can man speak
treason so safely as under the canopy of the Throne?"

"But how do you mean to go there? You do not surely expect an
invitation."

"Of course not; but I shall go notwithstanding, and you with me. Ay,
Mark, never frown and shake your head. This same ball is a public
assembly, to which all presented at the Levees are eligible, without
any bidding or invitation. Who is to say that Harry Talbot and Mark
O'Donoghue have not paid their homage to mock royalty? If you mean that
there is some danger in the step, I agree with you there is; but you are
not the man, I take it, to flinch on that account."

This adroit stroke of Talbot's settled the matter; and Mark felt ashamed
to offer any objection to a course, which, however disinclined to, he
now believed was accompanied by a certain amount of peril.




CHAPTER XXXII. A PRESAGE OF DANGER

When the long-wished-for evening drew nigh, in which Talbot had pledged
himself to reveal to Mark the circumstances of their enterprise, and
to make him known to those concerned in the plot, his manner became
flurried and excited; - he answered, when spoken to, with signs of
impatience, and seemed so engrossed by his own thoughts, as to be unable
to divert his attention from them. Mark, in general the reverse of a
shrewd observer, perceived this, and attributing it to the heavy losses
he had latterly incurred at play, forebore in any way to notice
the circumstance, and from his silence Talbot became probably more
indifferent to appearances, and placed less restraint on his conduct.
He drank, too, more freely than was his wont, and appeared like one
desirous by any means to rid himself of some unwelcome reflections.

"It is almost time to dress, Mark," said he, with an effort to seem easy
and unconcerned. "Let us have another flask of Burgundy before we go."

"I'll have no more wine, nor you, if you will be advised by me, either,"
said Mark, gravely.

"Ha! then you would imply I have drank too much already, Mark? Not far
wrong there, perhaps, and under ordinary circumstances such would be the
case; but there are times when the mind, like the body, demands double
nourishment, and with me wine strengthens, never confuses thought.
Do you know, Mark, that I have a presentiment of some evil before
me; - whence, and in what shape it is to come, I cannot tell you; but I
feel it as certain as if it had been revealed to me."

"You are despondent about our prospects," said Mark, gloomily.

Talbot made no answer, but leaned his head on the chimney-piece, and
seemed buried in deep thought; - then recovering himself, he said, in a
low, but distinct accent -

"Did you take notice of a fellow at the tennis-court the other day,
who stood beside me all the time I was settling with the marker? Oh!
I forgot - you were not there. Well, there was such a one - a
flashy-looking, vulgar fellow, with that cast of countenance that
betokens shrewdness and cunning. I met him yesterday in the Park, and
this evening, as I came to dinner, I saw him talking to the landlord's
nephew, in the hall."

"Well, and what of all that? If any one should keep account of where and
how often he had seen either of us, this week past, might he not conjure
up suspicions fully as strong as your's? Let us begin to take fright
at shadows, and we shall make but a sorry hand of it, when real dangers
approach us."

"The shadows are the warnings, Mark, and the wise man never neglects a
warning."

"He who sees thunder in every dark cloud above him, is but the fool of
his own fears," said Mark, rudely, and walked towards the window. "Is
that anything like your friend, Talbot?" added he, as he beheld the dark
outline of a figure, which seemed standing, intently looking up at the
window.

"The very fellow!" cried Talbot; for at the moment a passing gleam of
light fell upon the figure, and marked it out distinctly.

"There is something about him I can half recognize myself," said Mark;
"but he is so muffled up with great-coat and cravat, I cannot clearly
distinguish him."

"Indeed! Do, for heaven's sake, think of where you saw him, and when,
Mark; for I own my anxiety about him is more than common."

"I'll soon find out for you," said Mark, suddenly seizing his hat; - but
at the same instant the door opened, and a waiter appeared.

"There's a gentleman below stairs, Mr. Talbot, would be glad to speak a
few words with you."

Talbot motioned, by an almost imperceptible gesture, that Mark should
retire into the adjoining room; and then, approaching the waiter, asked,
in a low cautious voice, if the stranger were known to him.

"No, sir - never saw him before. He seems like one from the country: Mr.
Crossley says he's from the south."

"Show him up," said Talbot, hurriedly; and, as the waiter left the
room, he seated himself in his chair, in an attitude of well-assumed
carelessness and ease. This was scarcely done, when the stranger
entered, and closed the door behind him.

"Good evening to you, Mr. Talbot. I hope I see your honor well," said
he, in an accent of very unmistakable Kerry Doric.

"Good evening to you, friend," replied Talbot. "My memory is not so
good as yours, or I'd call you by your name also."

"I'm Lanty Lawler, sir - that man that sold your honor the dark chesnut
mare down in the county Kerry, last winter. I was always wishing to see
your honor again, by reason of that same.

"How so?" said Talbot, getting suddenly paler, but with no other
appearance of emotion in his manner. "Was not our contract honestly
concluded at the time?"

"It was, sir - there's no doubt of it. Your honor paid like a gentleman,
and in goold besides; - but that's just the business I come about here.
It was French money you gave me, and I got into trouble about it - some
saying that I was a spy, and others making out that I was, maybe, worse;
and so I thought I wouldn't pass any more of it, till I seen yourself,
and maybe you'd change it for me."

While he was speaking, Talbot's eye never wandered from him - not fixed,
indeed, with any seeming scrutiny, but still intently watching every
play of his features.

"You told me at the time, however, that French gold was just as
convenient to you as English," said he, smiling good-humouredly, "and
from the company I met you in, I found no difficulty in believing you."

"The times is changed, sir," said Lanty, sighing. "God help us - we must
do the best we can."

This evasive answer seemed perfectly to satisfy Talbot, who assented
with a shake of the head, as he said -

"Very well, Lanty; if you will come here to-morrow, I'll exchange your
gold for you."

"Thank your honor kindly," said Lanty, with a bow; but still making no
sign of leaving the room, where he stood, changing from one foot to the
other, in an attitude of bashful diffidence. "There was another little
matter, sir, but I'd be sorry to trouble you about it - and sure you
couldn't help it, besides."

"And that is - Let us hear it, Lanty."

"Why, sir, it's the horse - the mare with the one white fetlock. They
say, sir, that she was left at Moran's stables by the man that robbed
Mr. Moore of Moorecroft. Deaf Collison, the post-boy, can swear to her;
and as I bought her myself at Dycer's, they are calling me to account
for when I sold her, and to whom."

"Why, there's no end to your trouble about that unlucky beast, Lanty,"
said Talbot, laughing; "and I confess it's rather hard, that you are
not only expected to warrant your horse sound, but must give a guarantee
that the rider is honest."

"Devil a lie in it, but that's just it," said Lanty, who laughed
heartily at the notion.

"Well, we must look to this for you, Lanty; for although I have no
desire to have my name brought forward, still you must not suffer on
that account. I remember paying my bill at Rathmallow with that same
mare. She made an overreach coming down a hill, and became dead lame
with me; and I gave her to the landlord of the little inn in the square,
in lieu of my score."

"See now, what liars there's in the world!" said Lanty, holding up his
hands in pious horror. "Ould Finn of the Head Inn tould me she ate
a feed of oats at the door, and started again for Askeaton, with a
gentleman just like your honor, the night after I sold her. He knew the
mare well; and by the same token he said she was galled on the shoulder
with holsters that was fixed to the saddle. Now, think of that, and he
after buying her! Is it early in the morning I'm to come to your honor?"
said he, moving towards the door.

"Yes - that is - no, Lanty, no - about twelve o'clock. I'm a late riser.
Wait a moment, Lanty; I have something more to say to you, if I could
only remember it." He passed his hand across his brow as he spoke, and
looked like one labouring to recall some lost thought. "No matter," said
he, after a pause of some minutes; "I shall perhaps recollect it before
to-morrow."

"Good night to you, then, sir," said Lanty, with a most obsequious bow,
as he opened the door.

Their eyes met: it was only for a moment; but with such intelligence did
each glance read the other, that they both smiled significantly. Talbot
moved quickly forward at the instant, and closing the door with one
hand, he laid the other gently on Lanty's shoulder.

"Come, Lanty," said he, jocularly, "I can afford to sport ten pounds for
a whim. Tell me who it was sent you after me this evening, and I'll give
you the money."

"Done, then!" cried Lanty, grasping his hand; "And you'll ask no more
than his name?"

"Nothing more. I pledge my word; and here's the money."

"Captain Hemsworth, the agent to the rich Englishman in Glen-flesk."

"I don't think I ever saw him in my life - I'm certain I don't know him.
Is he a tall, dark man?"

"I'll tell you no more," said Lanty. "The devil a luck I ever knew come
of speaking of him."

"All fair, Lanty - a bargain's a bargain; and so, good-night." And with a
shake-hands of affected cordiality, they parted.

"Your conference has been a long one," said Mark, who waited with
impatience, until the silence without permitted him to come forth.

"Not so long as I could have wished it," was Talbot's reply, as he stood
in deep thought over what had passed. "It is just as I feared, Mark;
there is danger brewing for me in some quarter, but how, and in
what shape, I cannot even guess. This same horsedealer, this Lanty
Lawler - - "

"Lanty Lawler, did you say?"

"Yes. You know him, then?"

"To be sure I do. We've had many dealings together. He's a shrewd
fellow, and not over-scrupulous in the way of his trade; but, apart from
that, he's a true-hearted, honest fellow, and a friend to the cause."

"You think so, Mark," said Talbot, with a smile of significant meaning.

"I know it, Talbot. He is not an acquaintance of yesterday with me. I
have known him for years long. He is as deep in the plot as any, and
perhaps has run greater risks than either of us."

"Well, well," said Talbot, sighing, as though either weary of the
theme, or disinclined to contradict the opinion; "let us think of other
matters. Shall we go to this ball or not? I incline to say nay."

"What! Not go there?" said Mark, starting back in astonishment.
"Why, what in heaven's name have we been waiting for, but this very
opportunity? - and what reason is there now to turn from our plans?"

"There may be good and sufficient ones, even though they should be
purely personal to myself," said Talbot, in a tone of ill-dissembled
pique. "But come; we will go. I have been walking over a mine too long
to care for a mere petard. And now, let us lose no more time, but dress
at once."

"Must I really wear this absurd dress, Talbot? For very shame's sake, I
shall not be able to look about me."

"That you must, Mark. Remember that your safety lies in the fact that we



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 26 of 41)