Charles James Lever.

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

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"I know not what I should say, Talbot, but I know what I should
do - throw every farthing of it into the scale where I have thrown life
and hope - the cause of my country."

Talbot shook his head, doubtfully, for a second or two, then said: "It
is not money is wanting to the enterprise, it is rather what no money
can buy - the reckless courage of men willing to devote themselves to a
cause which they must never hope to live to see successful, but whose
graves must be the ramparts over which others will achieve liberty.
No, my hopes for you point otherwise. I wish to see you as the head and
representative of an ancient name and house, with the influence property
and position would confer, taking your place in the movement, not as a
soldier of fortune, but as a man of rank and weight." Talbot paused for
a moment to enjoy, as it were, the delight this brilliant picture of
coming greatness produced upon the youth, and then went on, "such a
place I can offer you, Mark."

"How, and on what terms?" cried Mark, bursting with impatience.

"I make no conditions - I am your friend, and ask nothing but your
friendship - a lucky chance has given me the opportunity to serve
you - all I bargain for is, that you do not inquire further how that
chance arose."

Mark stood in mute amazement, while Talbot, unlocking his writing desk,
drew forth a dark leather pocket-book, tied with a string, and laid it
leisurely on the table before him.

"There is a condition I will bargain for, Mark," said Talbot, after a
pause - "although I'm sure it is a weakness, I scarcely ever thought to
feel. We shall soon be separated, who knows when we shall meet again,
if ever. Now, if men should speak of me in terms unworthy of one who has
been your friend, laying to my charge acts of dishonour - - "

"Who will dare to do so before me?" said Mark, indignantly.

"It will happen, nevertheless, Mark; and I ask not your defence of me
when absent - as much as that you will yourself reject all belief in
these calumnies. I have told you enough of my life to let you know in
what circumstances of difficulty and danger different parts have been
forced upon me, and it may be that, while I have personated others, they
in revenge have masqueraded under my name. This is no mere suspicion. I
know it has already happened; bear it well in mind, and when your
friend Henry Talbot is assailed, remember the explanation and your own
promise."

Mark grasped Talbot's hand firmly, and shook it with the warmth of true
friendship.

"Sit down beside me, Mark," said he, placing the chairs at the table,
"and read this."

With these words, he unfastened the string of the pocket-book, and took
forth a small paper from an envelope, of which the seal was already
broken.

"This is addressed to your father, Mark," said he, showing him the
superscription.

"I know that hand-writing," said Mark, gazing fixedly at it; "that is
Father Rourke's."

"Yes, that's the name," said Talbot, opening the letter. "Read this,"
and he handed the paper to Mark, while he himself read aloud -

"Mark O'Donoghue, son of Miles O'Donoghue, and Mary his wife, born 25th
December, 1774, and christened on the morning of the 27th December,
same year, by me Nicholas Rourke, P.P., Ballyvourney and Glengariff.
Witnessed by us, Simon Gaffney, steward, and Sam. Wylie, butler."

"And what of all that," said Mark, with a voice of evident
disappointment. "Do you think I wanted this certificate of birth or
baptism to claim my name or my kindred?"

"No, but to claim your estate and fortune," said Talbot, hurriedly.
"Do you not perceive the date of this document - 1774 - and that you only
attained your majority on last Christmas day - - "

"That cannot be," interrupted Mark. "I joined my father in a loan upon
the estate two years ago; the sale to Hemsworth was made at the same
time, and I must have been of age to do so."

"That does not follow," said Talbot, smiling. "It suited the objects of
others to make you think so; but you were little more than nineteen at
the time. Here's the certificate of your mother's marriage, and the date
is February, 1773."

Mark's countenance became perfectly bloodless, his lips grew livid,
while his nostrils were alternately distended and contracted violently,
as he breathed with a heaving effort.

"You have your choice, therefore," said Talbot, flippantly, "to believe
your father, a man of honour, or your mother - - "

"Stop," cried Mark, as he seized his arm and shook it in his strong
grasp; "speak the word, and, by Heaven, you'll never leave this spot
alive."

Talbot seemed to feel no anger at this savage threat, but calmly said -

"It was not my wish to hurt your feelings, Mark. Very little reflection
on your part might convince you, that I can have no object to serve
here, save my regard for you. You seemed to doubt what I said about your
age, and I wished to satisfy you at once that I was correct. You were
not of age till last December. A false certificate of birth and baptism
enabled your father to raise a considerable sum of money with your
concurrence, and also permitted him to make a sale to Hemsworth of
a property strictly entailed on you and yours. Both these acts were
illegal and unjust. If Hemsworth be the rightful owner of that estate
your birth is illegitimate - nay, nay - I am but putting the alternative,
which you cannot, dare not accept. You must hear me with temper,
Mark - calmly and patiently. It is a sad lesson when one must learn to
think disparagingly of those they have ever looked up to and revered.
But remember, that when your father did this act, he was surrounded
with difficulties on every hand. There seemed no escape from the dangers
around him; inevitable ruin was his lot: he doubtless intended to apply
a considerable portion of this money to the repair of his shattered
fortunes - of his affection for you there can be no question - - "

"There, there," said Mark, interrupting him rudely; "there is no need to
defend a father to his son. Tell me, rather, why you have revealed this
secret to me at all, and to what end have you added this to the other
calamities of my fortune?"

He stood up as he said these words, and paced the room with slow steps,
his head sunk upon his bosom, and his arms dropped listlessly at
his side. Talbot looked upon the figure, marked with every trait of
despondency, and for some moments he seemed really to sorrow over the
part he had taken; then rallying with his accustomed energy, he said -

"If I had thought, Mark, that you had neither ambition for yourself,
nor hatred for an enemy, I would never have told you these things. I did
fancy, however, that you were one who struggled indignantly against an
inglorious fortune, and, still more, believed that you were not of a
race to repay injury with forgetfulness. Hemsworth, you have often
told me, has been the insulting enemy of your family. Not content with
despoiling you of fortune, he has done his utmost to rob you of fair
fame - to reduce an honoured house to the ignoble condition of peasants,
and to break down the high and haughty spirit of a noble family by the
humiliating ills of poverty. If you can forgive his injuries, can you
forget his insults and his taunts?"

"Would you have me repay either by arraigning my father as a criminal?"

"Not so, Mark; many other courses are open to you. The knowledge of
this fact by you, places you in a position to make your own terms with
Hemsworth. He who has spent thirty thousand pounds on a purchase without
a title, must needs yield to any conditions you think fit to impose - you
have but to threaten - - -"

"That I will expose my father in a court of justice," said Mark, between
his teeth; "that I will put money in one scale, and the honour of my
house in the other; that I will truck the name and credit of my race,
against the acres that were theirs. No, no; you mistake me much; you
know little of the kind of vengeance my heart yearns for, or you would
never have tempted me with such a bait as this."

"Be it so," said Talbot, coolly; "Hemsworth is only the luckier man that
has met such a temperament as yours to deal with; a vulgar spirit like
mine would have turned the tables upon him. But I have done; keep the
paper, Mark, there might come a time when it should prove useful to you.
Hark! - what's that noise below? Don't you hear that fellow Lawless
voice in the court-yard?" - and as he spoke, the voice of the host, Billy
Crossley, raised very high above its usual pitch, called out -

"I tell you, gentlemen, Mr. Talbot is not in the house; he dined out
to-day, and has not returned since dinner."

A confused murmur followed this announcement; and again Crossley said,
but in a still louder tone -

"You have perfect liberty to look for him wherever you please; don't say
that I gave you any impediment or hindrance; follow me - I'll show you
the way."

Talbot knew in a moment the intention of the speaker, and recognized in
Crossley's vehemence an urgent warning to himself.

"I'm tracked, Mark," cried he; "there, take that key - burn the papers
in that desk - all of them. At seven to-morrow, meet me on the strand; if
all be safe, I'll be true to time; if not - - "

The remainder of his sentence was cut short by the hurrying sounds of
feet upon the stairs, and Crossley's voice, which in its loudest key
continued to protest that Talbot was not in the house, nor had he seen
him since dinner.

Mark hastily unlocked the desk and took out the papers, but when he
turned round, Talbot was gone; a tremulous motion of the tapestry on
the wall seemed to indicate that his escape had been made through some
secret door behind it. He had no time, however, to think further of
the circumstance, for scarcely had he applied the lighted candle to the
papers, when the door was burst violently open, and three strange men,
followed by Lanty Lawler, entered the room, while Crossley, whom they
had pushed roughly aside, stood without, on the lobby, still talking as
loudly as before.

"Is that him?" said one of the fellows, who seemed like a constable in
plain clothes.

"No," whispered Lanty, as he skulked behind the shoulder of the speaker;
"that's another gentleman."

"Were you alone in this apartment?" said the same man who spoke first,
as he addressed Mark in the tone of authority.

"It is rather for me to ask what business you have to come here?"
replied Mark, as he continued to feed the flames with the letters and
papers before him.

[Illustration: 334]

"You shall see my warrant when you have answered my question. Meanwhile
these may be of some consequence," said the other, as, approaching the
hearth, he stooped down to seize the burning papers.

"They do not concern you," said Mark, as he placed his foot in the very
middle of the blaze.

"Stand back, sir," cried the constable, half raising his arm to enforce
the command.

"Lay but a finger on me," said Mark, scornfully, "and I'll dash your
head against the wall."

The insolence of this threat might have been followed by ill
consequences, had not Lanty sprung hastily forward, and, catching the
constable by the arm, cried out -

"It is the O'Donoghue of Glenflesk, a young gentleman of rank and
fortune."

"What do we care for his rank or fortune," said the other, passionately.
"If he obstructs the King's warrant for the arrest of a traitor or a
felon, I value him no more than the meanest beggar in the street. Those
papers there, for all I know, might throw light on the whole plot."

"They are at your service now," said Mark, as, with a kick of his foot,
he dashed the blackened embers from him, and sent them in floating
fragments through the room.

Unwilling as he seemed to continue a contest in which his authority had
met only defiance, the constable gave the order to his underlings to
make a strict search of the apartment and the bed-room which opened into
it, during which Mark seated himself carelessly in an arm-chair, and
taking a newspaper from the table, affected to read it.

Lanty stood for a few seconds, irresolute what to do; then stealing
softly behind Mark's chair, he muttered, in a broken voice -

"If I thought he was a friend of yours, Master Mark - - But it's no
matter - I know he's off. I heard the gallop of a beast on the stones
since we came in. Well, well, I never expected to see you here."

Mark made no other reply to this speech than a steady frown, whose
contemptuous expression Lanty cowered under, as he said once more -

"It wasn't my fault at all, if I was obliged to come with the
constables. There's more charges nor mine against him, the chap with the
black whiskers says - - "

"It's quite clear," said the chief of the party, as he re-entered the
room, "it's quite clear this man was here a few minutes since, and
equally so that you know of his place of concealment. I tell you
plainly, sir, if you continue to refuse information concerning him,
I'll take you as my prisoner. I have two warrants against him - one for
highway robbery, the other for treason."

"Why the devil have you no informations sworn against him for murder?"
said Mark, insolently, for the language of the bailiff had completely
aroused his passion. "Whoever he is, you are looking for, seems to have
a clear conscience."

"Master Mark knows nothing at all about him, I'll go bail to any
amount."

"We don't want your bail, my good friend; we want the man who calls
himself Harvey Middleton in Herts, Godfrey Middleton in Surrey, the
Chevalier Duchatel in France, Harry Talbot in Ireland, but who is better
known in the police sheet;" and here he opened a printed paper, and
pointing to the words, - "full description of John Barrington,
convicted at the Maidstone assizes, and sentenced to fifteen years
transportation."

The smile of insolent incredulity with which Mark listened to these
imputations on the honour of his friend, if it did not assuage the
anger of the constable, served to satisfy him that he was at least no
practised colleague in crime, and turning to Lanty, he talked to him in
a low whisper for several minutes.

"I tell ye," said Lanty, eagerly, in reply to some remark of the other,
"his worship will never forgive you if you arrest him; his time is not
yet come, and you'll get little thanks for interfering where ye had no
business."

Whether convinced by these arguments, or deterred from making Mark his
prisoner, by the conscious illegality of the act, the man collected his
party, and having given them his orders in a low voice, left the room,
followed by the others.

A gesture from Mark arrested Lanty, as he was in the act of passing
out. "A word with you Lanty," said he, firmly. "What is the information
against Talbot? - what is he accused of?"

"Sure didn't you hear yourself," replied Lanty, in a simpering, mock
bashful voice. "They say he's Barrington the robber, and faith, they've
strong evidence that they're not far out. 'Tis about a horse I sold
him that I came here. I didn't want to harm or hurt any body, and if I
thought he was a friend of yours - - "

"He is a friend of mine," said Mark, "and therefore these stories are
but one tissue of falsehoods. Are you aware, Lanty" - and here as the
youth spoke his voice became low and whispering - "are you aware that
Talbot is an agent of the French Government - that he is over here to
report on the condition of our party, and arrange for the rising?"

"Is it in earnest you are?" cried Lanty, with an expression of admirably
dissembled astonishment. "Are you telling me truth, Master Mark."

"Yes, and more still - the day is not far distant now, when we shall
strike the blow."

"I want you here, my worthy friend," said the constable, putting his
head into the room, and touching Lanty's shoulder. The horsedealer
looked confused, and for a second seemed undetermined how to act; but
suddenly recovering his composure, he smiled significantly at Mark,
wished him a good night, and departed.




CHAPTER XXXIV. THE DAYBREAK ON THE STRAND

It was with an impatience almost amounting to madness that Mark
O'Donoghue awaited the dawn of day; long before that hour had arrived he
had made every preparation for joining his friend. A horse stood ready
saddled awaiting him in the stable, and his pistols - the weapons Talbot
knew so well how to handle - were carefully packed in the heavy holsters.
The time settled for the meeting was seven o'clock, but he was certain
that Talbot would be near the place before that hour, if not already
there. The scene which followed Talbot's escape also stimulated his
anxiety to meet with him; not that any, even the faintest suspicion of
his friend's honour ever crossed Mark's mind, but he wished to warn him
of the dangers that were gathering around him, for were he arrested on a
suspicion, who was to say what material evidence might not arise against
him in his real character of a French spy. Mark's was not a character
long to brood over doubtful circumstances, and seek an explanation
for difficulties which only assumed the guise of suspicions. Too prone
always to be led by first impressions of every body and every thing, he
hated and avoided whatever should disturb the opinions he thus hastily
formed. When matters too complicated and knotty for his immediate
comprehension crossed him, he turned from them without an effort,
and rather satisfied himself that it was a point of honour to "go on
believing," than harbour a doubt even where the circumstances were
calculated to suggest it. This frame of mind saved him from all
uneasiness on the score of Talbot's honour; he had often heard how many
disguises and masks his friend had worn in the events of his wild and
dangerous career, and if he felt how incapable he himself would have
been to play so many different parts, the same reason prevented his
questioning the necessity of such subterfuges. That Harry Talbot had
personated any or all of the persons mentioned by the constable, he
little doubted, and therefore he regarded their warrant after him
as only another evidence of his skill and cleverness, but that his
character were in the least involved, was a supposition that never once
occurred to him. Amid all his anxieties of that weary night, not one
arose from this cause; no secret distrust of his friend lurked in any
corner of his heart; his fear was solely for Talbot's safety, and for
what he probably ranked as highly - the certainty of his keeping his
appointment with Frederick Travers; and what a world of conflicting
feelings were here! At one moment a sense of savage, unrelenting hatred
to the man who had grossly insulted himself, at the next a dreadful
thrill of agony that this same Travers might be the object of his
cousin's love, and that on _his_ fate, _her_ whole happiness in life
depended. Had the meeting been between himself and Travers - had the time
come round to settle that old score of insult that lay between them,
he thought that such feelings as these would have been merged in the
gratified sense of vengeance, but now, how should he look on, and see
him fall by another's pistol? - how see another expose his life in the
place he felt to be his own? He could not forgive Talbot for this, and
every painful thought the whole event suggested, embittered him against
his friend as the cause of his suffering. And yet, was it possible for
him ever himself to have challenged Travers? Did not the discovery of
Kate's secret, as he called it to her, on the road below the cliff, at
once and for ever, prevent such a catastrophe? Such were some of the
harassing reflections which distracted Mark's mind, and to which his own
wayward temper and natural excitability gave additional poignancy; while
jealousy, a passion that fed and ministered to his hate, lived through
every sentiment and tinctured every thought. Such had been his waking
and sleeping thoughts for many a day-thoughts which, though lurking,
like a slow poison, within him, had never become so palpable to his mind
before; his very patriotism, the attachment he thought he felt to his
native country, his ardent desire for liberty, his aspirations for
national greatness, all sprung from this one sentiment of hate to the
Saxon, and jealousy of the man who was his rival. Frederick Travers was
the embodiment of all those feelings he himself believed were enlisted
in the cause of his country.

As these reflections crowded on him, they suggested new sources of
suffering, and in the bewildered frame of mind to which he was now
reduced, there seemed no possible issue to his difficulties. Mark was
not, however, one of those who chalk out their line in life in moments
of quiet reflection, and then pursue the career they have fixed upon.
His course was rather to throw passion and impulse into the same scale
with circumstances, and take his chance of the result. He had little
power of anticipation, nor was his a mind that could calmly array facts
before it, and draw the inferences from them. No, he met the dangers of
life, as he would have done those of battle, with a heart undaunted, and
a spirit resolved never to turn back. The sullen courage of his nature,
if it did not suggest hope, at least supplied resolution - and how many
go through life with no other star to guide them!

At last the grey dawn of breaking day appeared above the house-tops,
and the low distant sounds that prelude the movement of life in great
cities, stirred faintly without.

"Thank heaven, the night is over at last," was Mark's exclamation, as he
gazed upon the leaden streak of cloud that told of morning.

All his preparations for departure were made, so that he had only to
descend to the stable, and mount his horse. The animal, he was told,
had formerly belonged to Talbot, and nothing save the especial favour of
Billy Crossley could have procured him so admirable a mount.

"He has never left the stable, sir," said Billy, as he held the stirrup
himself - "he has never left the stable for ten days, but he has wind
enough to carry you two and twenty miles within the hour, if you were
put to it."

"And if I were, Billy," said Mark, for a sudden thought just flashed
across him - "if I were, and if I should not bring him back to you, his
price is - -

"I wouldn't take a hundred guineas for him from any man living save Mr.
Talbot himself; but if it were a question of saving him from danger, or
any man he deems his friend, then, then, sir, I tell you fairly, Billy
Crossley isn't so poor a man, but he can afford to do a generous thing.
Take him. I see you know how to sit on him; use him well and tenderly,
keep him until you find the time to give him back, and now a good
journey to you wherever you go; and go quickly, whispered Billy, for
I see two fellows at the gate who appear listening attentively to our
conversation.

"Take that in any case as a pledge," said Mark, as he pitched a purse,
containing above a hundred pounds in gold, towards Crossley, and before
the other could interpose to restore it, Mark had dashed his spurs
into the beast's flanks, and in another minute was hastening down
Thomas-street.

Mark had not proceeded far when he slackened his pace to a walk - he
remembered that it was yet two hours before the time, and with the old
spirit of a horseman, he husbanded the qualities of the noble animal
he bestrode. Whether it was, that as the moment approached which should
solve some of the many difficulties that beset him, or that the free
air of the morning, and the pleasure he felt on being once more in the
saddle, had rallied his mind and raised his courage, I know not, but
so it was; Mark's spirits grew each instant lighter, and he rode along
revolving other ones, if not happier thoughts, such as were at least in
a frame more befitting his youth and the bold heart that beat within
his bosom. The streets were deserted, the great city was sleeping, the
thoroughfares he had seen crowded with brilliant equipages and hurrying
masses of foot passengers, were still and vacant; and as Mark turned
from side to side to gaze on the stately public edifices now sleeping in
their own shadows, he thought of the dreadful conflict which, perchance,
it might be his own lot to lead in that same city - he thought of the
wild shout of the insurgent masses, as with long-pent-up, but now
loosened fury they poured into the devoted streets - he fancied the
swelling clangour which denoted the approach of troops, ringing through
the various approaches, and the clattering sounds of distant musketry as
post after post in different parts of the town was assailed. He halted
before the Castle gate, where a single dragoon sat motionless in his



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 28 of 41)