Charles James Lever.

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

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saddle, his carbine at rest beneath his long cloak, the very emblem
of peaceful security, and as Mark gazed on him, his lip curled with an
insolent sneer as he thought over the false security of those within;
and that proud banner whose lazy folds scarce moved with the breath of
morning, "How soon may we see a national flag replace it?" - were the
words he muttered, as he resumed his way as slowly as before. A few
minutes after brought him in front of the College. All was still silent
in that vast area, along which at noon-day the wealth and the life of
the city poured. A single figure here appeared, a poor miserable object
in tattered black, who was occupied in affixing a placard on the front
of the Post-office. Mark stopped to watch him - there seemed something
sad and miserable in the lot of this one poor creature, singled out as
it were to labour while others were sunk in sleep. He drew near, and
as the paper was unfolded before him, read, in large letters, the words
"Capital Felony - £500 Reward" - and then followed a description of John
Barrington, which in every particular of height, age, look, and gesture,
seemed perfectly applicable to Talbot.

"Then, sorra one of me but would rather be tearing you down than putting
you up," said the bill-sticker, as with his arms folded leisurely on his
breast, and his ragged hat set sideways on his head, he apostrophized
his handiwork.

"And why so, my good fellow," said Mark, replying to the words. He
turned round rapidly, and pulling off his hat, exclaimed, in an accent
of unfeigned delight - "Tear-an-ages, captain, is it yourself? Och! och!
no," added he, in a tone of as great despondency - "it is the black horse
that deceived me. I beg your honor's pardon."

"And you know this horse," said Mark, with some anxiety of manner.

The bill-sticker made no answer, but carefully surveyed Mark, for a few
moments from head to foot, and then, as if not perfectly satisfied with
the result of his scrutiny, he slowly resumed the implements of his
trade, and prepared to move on.

"Stop a moment," said Mark, "I know what you mean, this horse
belonged to - - " and he pointed with his whip to the name on the
placard. "Don't be afraid of me, then, for I am his friend, perhaps the
nearest friend he has in the world."

"Av you were his brother, you don't like him better than I do myself.
I'll never forget the night he got his head laid open for me on the
bridge there beyant. The polis wanted to take me up for a bit of a
ballad I was singing about Major Sirr, and they were hauling me along
through the gutter, and kicking me at every step, when up comes the
captain, and he sent one flying here, and the other flying there, and
he tripped up the chief, calling out to me the whole time, 'Run for it,
Dinny - run for it like a man; I'll give you five minutes fair start of
them any way.' And he kept his word, though one of them cut his forehead
clean down to the bone; and here I am now sticking up a reward to take
him, God pardon me" - and the poor fellow uttered the last words in a
voice of self-reproach, that actually brought the tears into his eyes.

Mark threw him a crown, and pressed on once more; but somehow the
convictions which resisted, before, were now shaken by this chance
meeting. The recognition of the horse at once identified Talbot with
Barrington, and although Mark rejected altogether any thought which
impugned the honour of his friend, he felt obliged to believe that, for
some object of intrigue, Talbot had assumed the name and character
of this celebrated personage. The very fact of his rescuing the
bill-sticker strengthened this impression. Such an act seemed to Mark
far more in unison with the wayward recklessness of Talbot's character,
than with the bearing of a man who might thus expose himself to capture.
With the subtlety which the will supplies to furnish arguments for its
own conviction, Mark fancied how readily Talbot might have made this
personation of Barrington a master-stroke of policy, and while thus he
ruminated, he reached the sea shore, and could see before him that long
bleak track of sand, which, uncovered save at high tide, is called "the
Bull." This was the spot appointed for the meeting, and, although now
within half an hour of the time, no figure was seen upon its bleak
surface. Mark rode on, and crossing the narrow channel of water which
separates "the Bull" from the main-land, reached the place over which,
for above two miles in extent, his eye could range freely. Still no one
was to be seen; the light ripple of the ebbing tide was the only sound
in the stillness of the morning; there was a calmness over the surface
of the sea, on which the morning sunbeams were slanting faintly,
and glittering like freckled gold, wherever some passing breeze or
shore-current stirred the waters. One solitary vessel could be seen,
and she, a small schooner, with all her canvas bent, seemed scarcely to
move.

Mark watched her, as one watches any object which relieves the
dreariness of waiting, he gazed on her tall spars and white sails
reflected in the sea, when suddenly a bright flash burst from her side,
a light-blue smoke, followed by a booming sound, rolled forth, and a
shot was seen skimming the surface of the water, for above a mile in her
wake; the next moment a flag was run up to her peak, when it fluttered
for a moment and was then lowered again. Mark's experience of a
smuggling life taught him at once to recognize these signs as signals,
and he turned his gaze towards the land to discover to whom they were
made; but although for miles long the coast lay beneath his view, he
could see nothing that corresponded with this suspicion. A single figure
on horseback was all that he could detect, and he was too far off to
observe minutely. Once more Mark turned towards the ship, which now was
feeling a fresher breeze and beginning to bead beneath it. The white
curl that broke from her bow, and rushed foaming along her sides, showed
that she was making way through the water, not as it seemed without the
will of those on board, for as the wind freshened they shook out their
mainsail more fully, and continued at every moment to spread sail after
sail. The hollow tramp of a horse's feet galloping on the strand made
Mark turn quickly round, and he saw the rider, whom he had observed
before, bending his course directly towards him. Supposing it must be
Talbot, Mark turned to meet him, and the horseman, who never slackened
his speed, came quickly within view, and discovered the features of
Frederick Travers. He was unaccompanied by friend or servant, and
seemed, from the condition of his horse, to have ridden at the top of
his speed. Before Mark could think of what apology he should make for,
or how explain Talbot's absence, Travers addressed him - -

"I half feared that it might not be you, Mr. O'Donoghue," said he, as
he wiped the perspiration from his brow, for he seemed no less exhausted
than his horse.

"I'm alone, sir," said Mark; "and were you not unaccompanied by a
friend, I should feel the difficulty of my present position more
severely."

"I know - I am aware," said Travers, hurriedly, "your friend is gone. I
heard it but an hour since; you, in all likelihood, were not aware of
the fact, till you saw the signal yonder."

"What! - Talbot's signal! Was that his?"

"Talbot, or Barrington," said Travers, smiling; "perhaps we should
better call him by the name he is best known by."

"And do you concur in the silly notion that confounds Harry Talbot with
a highwayman?" said Mark, sternly.

"I fear," said Travers, "that in doing so I but follow the impression of
all the world. It was not the least clever thing he has eyer done, his
deception of you. Be assured, Mr. O'Donoghue, that the matter admits
of no doubt. The warrant for his apprehension, the informations sworn
against him, are not only plain and precise, but I have myself read
certain facts of his intimacy with you, the places you have frequented,
the objects for which, it is alleged, you were confederated - all these
are at this moment in the hands of the Secretary of State. Forgive me,
sir, if I tell you that you appear to have trusted too implicitly to
men who were not guided by your own principles of honor. This very day
a warrant for your own arrest will be issued from the Privy Council, on
the information of a man whom, I believe, you never suspected. He is a
horsedealer named Lawler - Lanty Lawler."

"And he has sworn informations against me?"

"He has done more; he has produced letters written by your hand, and
addressed to different leaders of the United Irish party, letters whose
treasonable contents do not admit of a doubt.

"And the scoundrel has my letters?" said Mark, as his face grew purple
with passion.

"He has them no longer," said Travers. "Here they are, sir. They Were
shown in confidence to my father, by one, who certainly is not your
friend. Sir Marmaduke asked permission to let me see them, and I have
taken on myself, without permission, to give them back to you."

"At whose suggestion," said Mark, proudly, "comes this act of grace?
Is it your father, who extends his protection to a tenant, or is it
yourself, whose wish is to humble me by an obligation?"

"There is none," said Travers, frankly. "I believe, that scoundrels
without heart or courage have laid a trap for a man who has both one
and the other. I do not desire you should accept my conduct as a favour,
still less as offering any bar to such a reckoning between us as two
gentleman of equal place and standing may demand or expect from one
another."

"Say you so, indeed!" cried Mark, as his eyes flashed with joy: "is that
your meaning?"

"There's my hand on it," said Travers, "as friend or foe!"

Mark grasped his hand, and wrung it with a convulsive pressure.

"Then you are aware that you owe me such a reparation," said he, in
a voice tremulous with emotion. "You do not forget the day at
Carrig-na-curra - beside the hearth - before my brother?"

"I remember it well," said Travers. "I ask your pardon for the insult.
It was unworthy of me to have made the speech, nor have I been on good
terms with myself since I uttered it."

Mark dropped his head, and uttered not a word. He could better have
looked on Travers wounded and bleeding than have seen him thus elevated
above himself by temper and manly candour. The vengeance he had
yearned after so long was not only snatched from his grasp, but in the
bitterness of disappointment its sting was turned against himself.

"This would be an unworthy cause of quarrel," said Travers; "one of
which I could not but feel ashamed, and wherein you could have no pride.
If we are not to be friends - and I seek no man's friendship who is
not as willing to accept of mine - if we are not to be friends, let
our enmity be ratified on some better cause - we surely can have little
difficulty in finding one."

Mark nodded assentingly, and Travers resumed -

"There is something still more pressing than this. My father will be
able to defer the issue of the warrant against you for three days, when
the Privy Council will again be summoned together. Until that time you
are safe. Make good use of it, therefore. Leave the capital - reach some
place of security; and, after some time, when the excitement of the
affair has passed away - - "

"By a due expression of sorrow and penitence, I might be fortunate
enough to obtain the King's pardon. You were about to say so much. Is't
not so?"

"Not exactly," said Frederick, smiling; "but now that the Government are
in possession of the secret details of this plot, and thoroughly aware
of the men engaged in it, and what their objects are, to persist in
it, would be hopeless folly. Believe me, the chances were never in your
favour, and at present you have not a single one left. For your sake,
Mr. O'Donoghue, this is most fortunate. The courage that would seem
madness in a hopeless cause, will win you fame and honour where the
prospects are fairer. There is a new world beyond the seas, where men of
hardy minds and enterprising spirits achieve rank and fortune - in India,
where war has all the features of chivalry, where personal daring and
heroism are surer roads to distinction than influence and patronage; no
prize will be too high for your aspirations."

Mark was silent, and Travers conjecturing that his words were sinking
into his heart with a persuasive power, went on to re-picture the
adventurous life which should open to him, if he would consent to leave
his country, and seek fortune beyond the seas. As he continued to speak,
they rode along side by side, and at last came to that part of the
shore, where a road branched off. Here Mark suddenly drew up, and said -

"I must say good-bye here, Mr. Travers. My path will lie this way for
the present. Do not suspect me of want of feeling because I have not
thanked you for the part you have taken; but in truth you have averted
the evil from one whose life has nothing worth living for. You have
saved me from a danger, but I am without a hope. Betrayed and cheated
by those I trusted, I have little care for the future, because I have no
confidence in any thing. Nay, nay - don't speak of that again. I will not
go to India, - I will not accept of favours from a country that has been
the enemy of my own. The epaulette which _you_ wear with honour, would
be a badge of disgrace upon _my_ shoulder. Good-bye, I can afford to
thank you, because you have not made a service take the form of an
'amende.'"

Travers forbore to press him further. He wisely judged that enough had
been done for the present, and that his safety being provided for, time
and opportunity would both present themselves for the remainder. He
shook his proffered hand with cordiality, and they separated, Frederick
to return to Dublin, Mark to wander wherever chance might incline him.

"He said truly," exclaimed Mark, as soon as he once more found himself
separated from his companion - "he said truly, the chances were never
in our favour, and at present we have not a single one left. The cause
which depends on such elements as these is worse than hopeless." Such
were the words that broke from him, as, in sorrow and humiliation, he
remembered the character of his associates, and felt, in deep shame, the
companionship he had fallen into. "Had there been but one true to me!"
exclaimed he, in accents of misery, "I could have stood against the
shock, stout hearted; but to find all false - all!"

Seeking out some of the least frequented lanes, he rode on for
several miles, caring little which way, so long as he turned from the
capital; - for although as yet no personal danger threatened him,
a nervous sense of shame made him dread the sight of his former
acquaintances. Again and again did the thought recur to him: "How will
Kate hear me spoken of? In what light will my actions be displayed to
her? Is it as the miserable dupe of such a wretch as Lawler, or is it
as the friend and chosen companion of Barrington, I would be known? And
yet, what have I to fear, to whom no hope is left!"

Among the many sources of his sorrow, one recurred at every moment, and
mingled itself with every other thought: "What would their noble-hearted
friends in France say of them? - how would they speak of a land whose
struggle for freedom is stained with treachery, or which cannot number
in the ranks of its defenders but the felon or the outlaw?"

For the deceit practised on the people he felt bitterly. He knew with
what devotedness they followed the cause - the privations they had borne
in silence, awaiting the time of retribution - how they had forborne all
ebullitions of momentary passion, in expectation of the day of a greater
reckoning - with what trust they obeyed their leaders - how implicitly
they confided in every direction given for their guidance. Can
patriotism like this survive such a trial? Will they ever believe in
the words of their chief again? - were questions which his heart answered
despondingly.

The day wore over in these sad musings, and by evening, Mark, who had
made a wide circuit of the country, arrived at the village of Lucan,
where he passed the night. As day was breaking, he was again on the
road, directing his steps towards Wicklow, where in the wild district
near Blessington, he had acquaintance with several farmers, all
sincerely devoted to the "United party." It was as much to rescue his
own character from any false imputations that might be cast on it, as
from any hope of learning favourable tidings, that he turned hither. The
mountain country, too, promised security for the present, and left him
time to think what course he should follow.

Mark did not miscalculate the good feeling of the people in this
quarter. No success, however triumphant, would have made him one half
so popular as his disasters had done. That he had been betrayed, was an
appeal stronger than all others to their best affections; and had the
deliverance of Ireland depended on his safety, there could not have been
greater efforts to provide for it, nor more heartfelt solicitude for his
own comfort. He found, too, that the treachery of individuals did not
shake general confidence in the success of the plot, so much hope had
they of French assistance and co-operation. These expectations were
often exaggerated, because the victories of the French armies had been
represented as triumphs against which no opposition availed; but
they served to keep up national courage; and the theme of all their
discourses and their ballads was the same: "The French will do us
right."

If Mark did not fully concur in the expectations so confidently formed,
he was equally far from feeling disposed to throw any damper on them;
and at length, as by daily intercourse these hopes became familiarized
to his mind, he ended by a partial belief in that future to which all
still looked, undismayed by past reverses: and in this way time rolled
on, and the embers of rebellion died not out, but smouldered.




CHAPTER XXXV. THE WANDERER'S RETURN

It was about two months after the events detailed in the last chapter,
on the evening of a bright day in midsummer, that a solitary traveller
was seen descending one of the mountain-passes which lead from Macroom
to Glengariff, and which were only known to those well acquainted with
the place. He led his horse by the bridle, for the ground did not admit
of riding; but were it otherwise, the beast showed too many signs of a
hard journey not to make the course advisable, and in this respect both
horse and rider well agreed. The man, though young and athletic, was
emaciated and weary-looking. His clothes, once good, seemed neglected;
and his beard, unshaven and uncared for, gave an air of savage
ferocity to a face pale and care-worn, while his horse, with as many
evidences of better days, exhibited unquestionable signs of fatigue
and bad-feeding. The path by which he descended was the cleft worn by a
mountain-torrent, a rough and rugged road, with many spots of difficulty
and danger, but neither these nor the scene which unfolded itself in the
glen beneath, attracted any share of his attention; and yet few scenes
were fairer to look upon. The sun was just setting, and its last glories
were lighting up the purple tints upon the mountains, and shedding a
flood of golden hue over lake and river. The bright yellow of the furze,
and the gay colours of the foxglove contrasted with the stern grandeur
of the dark rocks, while in the abundance of wild holly and arbutus
which grew from even the most precipitous places, the scene had a
character of seeming cultivation to an eye unpractised to the foliage of
this lovely valley. The traveller, who, for above an hour, had pursued
his way, treading with the skill of a mountaineer over places where
a false step might have perilled life, and guiding his horse with a
caution that seemed an instinct, so little of his attention did it
exact, at last halted, and, leaning his arm over his saddle, stood for
some time in contemplation of the picture. From the spot on which he
stood, one solitary cabin was discernible on the side of the road that
wound through the valley, and from whose chimney a thin blue smoke
slowly curled, and floated along the mountain side. On this little
habitation the traveller's eyes were fixedly bent, until their gaze was
dimmed by a passing emotion. He drew his hand roughly over his face, as
if angry at his own weakness, and was about to proceed on his way, when
a shrill whistle from a cliff above his head arrested his step. It was
a mountain recognition he well knew, and was about to reply to, when
suddenly, with a bounding speed that seemed perilous in such a place,
a creature clad in the most tattered rags, but with naked legs and bare
head, came springing towards him.

"I knew you from the top of Goorhaun dhub - I knew you well, Master Mark.
There's not many with a good coat on their back could venture over the
way you came, and I said to myself it was you," cried Terry the Woods,
as with his pale features lit up his smiles, he welcomed the young
O'Donoghue to his native hills.

"How are they all yonder?" asked Mark, in a voice scarcely above a
whisper, pointing with his finger up the glen in the direction of
Car-rig-na-curra, but which was not visible from where they were.

"I saw the master yesterday," replied Terry, who applied to the
O'Donoghue the respected title by which he was known in his own
household. "He was sitting on a big chair at the window, and the young
girl with the black eyes was reading to him out of a book - but sorra
much he was mindin' it, for when he seen me he beckoned this way, and
says he, 'Terry, you villain, why don't you ever come up here now and
talk to me?' 'Faix,' says I, 'I haven't the heart to do it. Since
Master Mark was gone, I didn't like the place,' and the master wiped his
eyes, and the young girl made a sign to me not to speak about that any
more."

"And who is at 'the Lodge' now?" asked Mark, endeavouring tore-strain
any semblance of emotion, even before Terry.

"There's nobody but the agent. The family is over in England till the
house is ready for them. Oh, then, but you'll wonder to see the illigant
place it is now, wid towers and spires all over it - the ground all
gardens, with grass walks as fine as a carpet, and the beautifullest
flowers growin' against the walls and up against the windows, and a
fountain, as they call it, of cool water spouting up in the air, and
coming down like rain."

"And my brother - where is he?"

"He's over in England with the family from 'the Lodge;' the black-eyed
girl, Miss Kate, wouldn't go. They say - but there's no knowing if it's
true - they say she likes Hemsworth better than the Captain - and troth,
if she does, its a dhroll choice."

"Like Hemsworth! Do they say that my cousin likes Hemsworth?" said Mark,
whose anger was only kept down by gazing on the tranquil features of the
poor witless object before him.

"They do," said Terry quietly, "and it's razonable, too, seein' that
he's never out of the house from morning till night."

"What house? - where do you mean?"

"What house but Carrig-na-curra - your father's house."

Mark passed his hand across his forehead, and over his closed eyelids,
and for a second or two seemed trying to dispel some horrible vision,
for deep-rooted as was his jealousy of Frederick Travers, his most
gloomy forebodings had never conjured up the thought of such a rival
as Hemsworth, nor did he now credit it. His indignation was, however,
scarcely less to think that this man should now be received on terms of
intimacy, perhaps of friendship, by those he so long pursued with
insult and oppression. He paid no attention to Terry, as he continued
to narrate the changes effected in his absence, and the various surmises
current among the people to account for his long absence, when at length
they approached the high road that led up the valley. Here Terry halted,
and, pointing in the direction of Mary's cabin, about half a mile
distant, said -

"I can't go any further with you. I dar'n't go there."

"And why not, my poor fellow?" said Mark, compassionately, for the
terror depicted in his face too plainly indicated the return of some
hallucination.

"They're there, now," said Terry, in a faint whisper, "watching for me.
They're five weeks waiting to catch me, but if I keep in the mountains I
needn't care."

"And who are they, Terry?"

"The soldiers," said Terry, trembling all over. "I ran away from them,
and they want to shoot me for desarting."

"And there are soldiers quartered at Mary's now?"



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 29 of 41)