Charles James Lever.

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

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"Ay, and at Macroom, and at Bantry, and Kinsale - they have them all
round us; but devil a one o' me cares; so long as they keep to the
towns, I'll never trouble them."

"And how does poor Mary bear it?" said Mark.

"Bad enough, I hear, for nobody ever goes into the house at all, since
she had the red-coats, and there she's pining away every day; but I must
be going. I'll come down and see you soon, Master Mark, and I hope you
won't lave us in a hurry again." Terry did not wait for any rejoinder
to this speech, but with the agility of his wild life, sprung lightly
up the mountain, from whence his voice was heard gaily carolling as he
went, long afterwards.

Mark looked after him for a few moments, and probably amid the
compassionate feelings with which he regarded the poor creature, there
were mingled others of actual envy, so light-hearted and happy did he
seem amidst all his poverty.

"I could even change with him," said Mark, aloud, and then, as if he had
unburdened his heart of its weary load, he resumed his way.

The grey twilight was fast merging into night, as he approached the
little inn, nor was it without emotion that he watched the light that
streamed from the windows across the road. Many an evening of his happy
boyhood had been passed beside that humble hearth - many a thrilling tale
and many a merry story had he listened to, there. Beneath that roof it
was he first imbibed the proud thoughts of his house and family, and
learned to know the estimation in which men held his name. It was there
he first felt the spirit of chieftainship, and there, too, he had first
devoted himself to the cause of his country. Alas! these were but sad
memories, how he had lived to find himself deceived, by every one he had
trusted; falsehood and treachery in so many shapes surrounded him, that
it needed only the extinction of hope to make him feel his life a weary
and unprofitable load. He stood for a few seconds before the door, and
listened with an indignant spirit to the coarse revelry of the soldiers
who caroused within. Their very laughter smote upon his ear like
derision, and he turned away from the spot, angry and impatient. Some
vague resolve to return home and take a last farewell of his father, was
the only plan he could fix on; whither, afterwards, or how, he knew not,
nor did he care. Like most men who attribute their failures in life to
evil destinies that sway them, and not to their own faults and follies,
his fatalism urged him to a recklessness of the future, and in place of
hope there sprung up in his heart a strange feeling of wonder to think,
what trials and straits fortune might yet have in store for him. He
often deliberated with himself how he should meet, and how part with his
father - whether acknowledge that he knew the secret of the deceit that
had been practised upon him, or whether he should conceal that knowledge
within his own bosom. To do the latter was his final resolve. To spare
the old man the added misery of knowing that his son had detected his
criminality, was the suggestion of his better and purer feeling, and
even though his leaving him should thus be wanting in the only excuse
he could proffer, he preferred this to the misery another course would
entail.

At last he reached the old gateway, and often as it had been his lot to
bring beneath its shadow a heavy and sorrow-struck heart, never had he
passed it so deeply depressed as now.

"Come on, good beast," he said, patting the wearied horse, "you shall
have rest here, and that," said he, with a sigh, "that, is more than I
can promise to myself."

With these sad words he toiled up the steep ascent, and gained the
terrace in front of the Castle. There were lights burning in the old
tower and in the hall, but all the rest of the building was in darkness.
The door lay open, and as Mark stood within it, he could hear the mellow
sounds of a harp which came floating softly through the long-vaulted
corridor, blended with a voice that stirred the fibres of his strong
heart, and made him tremble like a child.

"Why should I not linger here?" thought he; "why not stay and listen to
these sweet sounds? I shall never hear them more!" and he stood and bent
his ear to drink them in, and stirred not until they ceased. The last
chord had died away in silence - then hastily fastening his horse to the
door-ring, he entered the long passage unnoticed by any, and reached the
door. The sound of voices, as of persons talking pleasantly together,
struck harshly on his ear, and the loud laughter that burst forth grated
strangely on his senses.

"They have little sorrow for the outcast - that is certain," said he, as,
with a swelling heart and proud step, he opened the door and entered.

This part of the room lay in deep shadow, and while Mark could
distinctly perceive the others, they could but dimly discern the outline
of his figure, without being able to recognize him. His father and Sir
Archy were seated, as of old, on either side of the chimney; Kate was
leaning over her harp, which she had just ceased to play; while seated
near her, and bending forward in an attitude of eager attention, was
Hemsworth himself, the man of all others he least wished to see at such
a moment.

"Who is that?" cried the O'Donoghue, "who is standing yonder?" and they
all turned their eyes towards the door.

"Why don't you speak?" continued the old man. "Have you any tidings from
my son? - is it news of Mark you bring me?"

"Even so sir," responded the other, as he slowly advanced into the
strong light, his arms folded upon his breast, and his brow stern and
contracted.

[Illustration: 353]

"Mark! - my boy! my child!" cried the old man, springing from his chair,
and, with a strength that seemed at once to defy age and infirmity,
rushed towards him, and threw his arms about him. "He's here - he's with
us once more!" said he, in accents half choked by sobs - "my son! my
hope! my pride!" - and while the old man poured forth these words of
happiness, the young one stood pale, cold, and seemingly apathetic.
His eyes bent on vacancy, and his features devoid of all expression of
passion, he turned from Sir Archy, who grasped one hand, and looked at
Kate, who held the other between hers, but in his gaze there was
rather the look of one suddenly recalled to consciousness out of some
long-fevered sleep, than the healthful aspect of waking life.

"You are not ill, Mark - you're only fatigued," said Kate, as a tear
slowly trickled down her cheek, and fell upon his hand.

Mark started as he felt the drop, and looked at her with a searching
glance, then turned his eyes towards Hemsworth, and back again to her,
and for the first time a stern and scornful smile curled upon his lip.
Kate seemed to read the glance, and returned it with a look, proud and
haughty as his own, while dropping his hand, she walked towards her
chair without speaking.

"We maun let him hae a bit supper as soon as may be," said Sir Archy,
whose practical good sense saw how much bodily fatigue influenced the
youth's demeanour.

"Supper!" said the O'Donoghue; "ay, faith, every bottle in the cellar
would be too little to celebrate the boy's return. Ring that bell,
Archy. Where is Kerry? What are the people doing not to know that their
young master is here?"

"At another moment, I should beg that Mr. O'Donoghue might remember me,"
said Hemsworth, with a deferential bow. "And I hope the time is coming
when I may be permitted to renew my acquaintance; - for the present, I
feel how unsuited the presence of a stranger is, on an occasion like
this, and cannot better show how deeply I appreciate your feeling than
by taking my leave."

So saying, he courteously saluted the O'Donoghue, Sir Archy, and Kate;
while, turning to Mark, he proffered his hand, as he said -

"Pray, sir, let the occasion excuse the liberty, and permit me to add my
welcome also."

"You do the honours of this house too early, sir," was Mark's savage
reply, while he folded his arms upon his breast, and measured Hemsworth
with a glance of withering scorn. "I'm beneath my father's roof. It is
not for a stranger to bid me welcome here."

Hemsworth smiled, and muttered some words in mild acquiescence, their
tone and accent were apologetic, and the manner in which he spoke them
humble even to humility. When they were uttered, he bowed deeply, and
with a look towards the others that seemed to indicate the absence of
any feeling of offence, withdrew.

"You are unco severe on Maister Hemsworth, Mark," said Sir Archy,
gravely. "If his politeness wasna altogether correct, it was weel
intended."

"Mark was all right, whatever he said," cried the old man, exultingly.
"Egad, I'll not dispute with the boy to-night, if he thought proper to
throw the fellow out of the window."

"I am sorry my rudeness should have offended others," said Mark, with
a sidelong glance at Kate. "As for Mr. Hemsworth, we understand each
other. He neither thinks better nor worse of me than he did before."

"D - - n Hemsworth!" said the O'Donoghue; "why are we talking of him at
all? Sit down beside me, Mark. Let me see you again, my boy, in your
old place. Give me your hand, and let me think that my three months of
fretting have only been a dream."

"Would it had been a dream to me," said Mark, with a deep sigh, as he
seated himself beside the old man.

"Come, come, Mark," said Sir Archy, "Ye hae often laughed at my Scotch
adage about 'byganes,' let me have my revenge now by applying it to your
own fortunes."

"So, you have come at last," cried the O'Donoghue, as Kerry O'Leary at
length made his appearance at the door. "Is Master Mark to go supperless
to bed - - "

"Master Mark," shouted Kerry, "Oh, murther alive, and is it himself
that's in it. Oh, blessed hour, but I'm glad to see you home again, and
your honor looking so well and hearty. Maybe we won't have bonfires over
the hills, when the boys hear it."

"The supper, the supper. Confound the fellow, the boy is famished, and
the rascal stands prating there about bonfires."

"My horse is far more in need of care than I am," said Mark, suddenly,
remembering the wearied animal he left fastened to the door. "I must
look to the poor beast before I take anything myself;" and so saying he
left the room, none wishing to gainsay anything he desired to do.

"Poor fellow," said the O'Donoghue, "how pale and careworn he looks - he
appears to have suffered heavily."

"Depend upon it," said Sir Archy, gravely, "the lad has learned much
since we saw him last. I dinna mislike the look his features have,
although it be one of sorrow. What says Kate?" No answer followed this
appeal, but the young girl turned away her head, and affected to assist
in arranging the table.

"Mind, Archy," said the O'Donoghue, eagerly, "remember, not a word about
his absence, no questioning whatever - the boy has gone through too many
troubles already to bear the penalty of relating them. Take care, too,
that there be no allusion to Hemsworth, Mark does not yet know the
friendly part he has taken, and only knows him as we used to think and
speak of him of old - but hush, here he comes."

When Mark re-entered the room, he seemed at least easier, if not
happier, than before. The cloud that Hemsworth's presence threw over him
had passed away, and he felt anxious to show himself in more favourable
colours than his first appearance had displayed. While, therefore,
he did his utmost to repay to his father and uncle, the kind and
affectionate greetings by which they met him - to his cousin Kate he was
either sternly distant, or totally indifferent in manner; and when
at last, repulsed in many efforts to attract his notice, she arose to
retire for the night, he took a formal leave of her, and seemed relieved
by her departure. This was not remarked by the O'Donoghue; but Sir Archy
was a shrewd observer, and noted the circumstance with displeasure;
still, too careful of consequences to show that he had observed it, he
reserved his interference for another and more favourable moment, and
soon afterwards, wished them good night, and left the room.

"It is time for me to go also," said Mark, as, after a silence of some
moments, he arose, and lighted a candle. "I have not been accustomed to
a good bed latterly, and I feel that one sound night's sleep is due to
me."

"But for that, Mark, I could not part with you just yet. I have so much
to say, so much to hear from you. There have been many things during
your absence I must tell you of."

"And first of all," said Mark, rapidly, "How comes that man, Hemsworth,
so intimate here? What claim has he to darken our door with his
presence?"

"The strong claim of true friendship," said the old man, firmly, "a
claim I have not met so much of in life, that I can afford to undervalue
it when it does present itself. But for him, the ejectment would have
been sued out last assizes - he saved us also from a foreclosure of
Drake's mortgage - advanced me five thousand pounds upon my own bond,
Archy being a co-surety, which you well know was a matter of form. This,
besides saving us from any proceedings the Travers might have taken, in
revenge for their own disappointment about Kate - - "

"Speak more plainly, I beg you, sir, and above all, please to remember
that I am ignorant of everything you allude to. What of Kate?"

"Oh, I forgot you were not with us then. It was a proposal of marriage.
Young Travers made your cousin a brilliant offer, as far as money was
concerned, which Kate refused. There was some negociation about leaving
the thing open. Something about the future - I forget exactly what - but I
only know she was peremptory and decided, as she always is, and wrote
to me to take her home. Archy went up for her to Dublin, and the Travers
soon after left Ireland in high indignation with us, and determined, as
we soon found, to let us feel their enmity. Then it was that we learned
to appreciate Hemsworth, whom all along we had so completely mistaken,
and indeed, but for him, we should never have heard of you."

"Of me. What did he know of me?"

"Everything, Mark - all - said the old man, in a low whisper, as he stole
a prying glance through the room to satisfy himself that they were not
overheard.

"Once more, sir, speak out, and intelligibly - say what this man seemed
to know of me?"

"He knew Talbot - Barrington rather" - said the O'Donoghue, in a low
voice - "knew of your intercourse with him - knew of the plot that fellow
laid to entangle you in his schemes - knew all about the robbery at the
Curragh, and saved you, without your knowing it, from being there. But
for him, Mark, your name would have figured in the 'Hue-and-Cry.' A
reward for your apprehension was actually deliberated at the Privy
Council. Hemsworth rescued you from this - - "

"The scoundrel - the base, black-hearted villain," exclaimed Mark, "did
he dare to speak thus of _me_?"

"You mistake, Mark, he never said you were culpable - he only deplored
the fatal accident of your intimacy with Barrington - a man twice
convicted and sentenced - that in company with this man you frequented
certain houses of high play, where more than one large robbery was
effected. Then came the Castle ball - was it not true that you went
there? Well, the diamond snuff-box stolen from Lord Clan-goff, at the
card table - - "

"Hell and confusion, you will drive me mad," cried Mark, stamping his
foot with passion. "This infernal mixture of truth and falsehood - this
half fact and all lying statement is more than my brain can bear. What
does this scoundrel mean - is it that I am guilty of a robbery?"

"Heaven forbid, boy, but that you lived on terms of closest friendship
with one branded as a felon, and that information of your intimacy with
him was obtained by the police, who, for political reasons - you are
aware of what I mean - would strain a point to have caught you within
their grasp. There were letters too, Mark, written by you, and of such
a character as would, if proved against you, haye cost your life; these,
Hemsworth, by some means, obtained and destroyed."

"Ah, did he so," cried Mark, eagerly, for now a sudden light broke in
upon him of the game that Hemsworth had played, "and so, he burned my
letters?"

"You know now, then, something of the services he rendered you," said
the old man, who began at last to be satisfied that his conviction was
coming home to Mark's mind.

"I do," replied he, calmly, "I believe that I can appreciate his
kindness, and I believe also I may promise that I shall not prove
ungrateful - and Kate, sir, what said she to those revelations concerning
me?"

"What we all said, Mark, that nothing dishonourable would ever lie at
your door - there might be rashness, imprudence, and folly, but guilt or
dishonour never."

"And my uncle, he is generally a shrewd and cautious judge - what was his
opinion?"

"Faith it is hard to say, Mark, but I think with all his affected
freedom from prejudice, he nourishes his old notions about Hemsworth as
strong as ever, and persists in thinking the Travers' family everything
amiable and high-minded, indeed, he forced me to let Herbert accompany
them to England, for I let him take the boy into his own hands, and so,
as the invitation had been made and accepted before Kate had refused the
Captain's offer, I thought it would look better even to suffer matters
to take their course quietly, as if nothing had happened."

"It was well done," said Mark, assentingly, "and now I have heard
enough to dream over for one night at least, and so I'll to bed."

"Remember, Mark," said the O'Donoghue, grasping his son's arm, "remember
I am solemnly pledged to Hemsworth never to tell you anything of these
matters - it was a promise he exacted from me - I rely upon you, Mark, not
to betray me."

"My discretion is above price, sir," said Mark, smiling dubiously, and
left the room.




CHAPTER XXXVI. SUSPICIONS ON EVERY SIDE

Early on the following morning Mark O'Donoughue was on his way to "the
Lodge." To see Hemsworth, and dare him to a proof of his assertions
regarding him, or provoke him, if possible, to a quarrel, were his
waking thoughts throughout the night, and not even all his weariness and
exhaustion could induce sleep. He did not, indeed, know the full depth
of the treachery practised against him; but in what he had discovered
there were circumstances that portended a well-planned and systematic
scheme of villainy. The more Mark reflected on these things, the more
he saw the importance of proceeding with a certain caution. Hemsworth's
position at Carrig-na-curra, the advances he had made in his father's
esteem, the place he seemed to occupy in Kate's good graces, were such
that any altercation which should not succeed in unmasking the infamy
of his conduct, would only be regarded as a burst of boyish intemperance
and passion; and although Mark was still but too much under the
influence of such motives, he was yet far less so than formerly;
besides, to fix a duel on Hemsworth might be taken as the consequences
of a sense of rivalry on his part, and anger that his cousin had
preferred him to himself. This thought was intolerable; the great effort
he proposed to his heart, was to eradicate every sentiment of affection
for his cousin, and every feeling of interest. To be able to regard her
as one whose destiny had never crossed with his own - to do this, was now
become a question of self-esteem and pride. To return her indifference
as haughtily as she bestowed it, was a duty he thought he owed to
himself, and therefore he shrunk from anything which should have the
faintest semblance of avenging his own defeat.

Such were some of the difficulties of his present position, and he
thought over them long and patiently, weighing well the consequences
each mode of acting might entail, and deliberating with himself as to
what course he should follow. His first resolve, then, which was to
fasten a hostile meeting upon Hemsworth, was changed for what seemed
a better line of procedure - which was simply to see that gentleman,
to demand an explanation of the statements he had made concerning him,
calling upon him to retract whenever anything unfounded occurred, and
requiring him to acknowledge that he had given a colouring and semblance
to his conduct at total variance with fact. By this means, Mark
calculated on the low position to which Hemsworth would be reduced in
Kate's estimation, the subterfuges and excuses he would be forced to
adopt, - all the miserable expedients to gloss over his falsehood, and
all the contemptible straits to conceal his true motives. To exhibit him
in this light before Kate's eyes, she whose high sense of honour never
brooked the slightest act that savoured of mere expediency, would be
a far more ample revenge than any which should follow a personal
rencontre.

"She shall see him in his true colours," muttered he to himself, as
he went along; "she shall know something of the man to whom she would
pledge honour and affection; and then, when his treachery is open as the
noon-day, and the blackness of his heart revealed, she shall be free to
take him, unscathed and uninjured. I'll never touch a hair of his head."

Mark had a certain pride in thus conducting himself on this occasion, to
show that he possessed other qualities than those of rash and impetuous
courage - that he could reason calmly and act deliberately, was now the
great object he had at heart. Nor was the least motive that prompted
him the desire he felt to exhibit himself to Kate in circumstances more
favourable than any mere outbreak of indignant rage would display him.

The more he meditated on these things, the more firm and resolute were
his determinations not to suffer Hemsworth to escape his difficulties,
by converting the demand for explanation into an immediate cause of
quarrel. Such a tactique he thought it most probable Hemsworth would at
once adopt, as the readiest expedient in his power.

"No," said Mark to himself, "he shall find that he has mistaken me; my
patience and endurance will stand the proof; he must and shall avow his
own baseness, and then, if he wish for fighting - - "

The clenched lip and flashing eye the words were accompanied by, plainly
confessed that, if Mark had adopted a more pacific line of conduct, it
certainly was not in obedience to any temptations of his will.

Immersed in his reveries, he found himself in front of "the Lodge"
before he was aware of it; and, although his thoughts were of a nature
that left him little room for other considerations, he could not help
standing in surprise and admiration at the changes effected in his
absence. The neat but unpretending cottage had now been converted into a
building of Elizabethean style; the front extended along the lake side,
to which it descended in two terraced gardens. The ample windows, thrown
open to the ground, displayed a suite of apartments furnished with all
that taste and luxury could suggest - the walls ornamented by pictures,
and the panels of both doors and window-shutters formed of plate glass,
reflecting the mountain scenery in every variety of light and shadow. The
rarest flowers, the most costly shrubs, brought from long distances,
at great risk and price, were here assembled to add their beauties to a
scene where nature had already been so lavish.

While Mark was yet looking about in quest of the entrance to the
building, he saw a man approach, with whose features he was well
acquainted. This was no other than Sam. Wylie, the sub-agent, the same
he had treated so roughly when last they met. The fellow seemed to know
that, though in certain respects the tables were now turned, yet, that
with such a foe as Mark O'Donoghue, any exhibition of triumph might be
an unsafe game; so he touched his hat, and was about to move past in
silence, when Mark cried out -

"I want to speak with your master - can I see him?"

"Master!" said Wylie, and his sallow face grew sallower and sicklier.
"If ye mean Mr. Hemsworth, sir - - "

"Of course I do. If I spoke of Sir Marmaduke Travers, I should mean
_his_ master. Is he at home?"

"No, sir; he has left 'the Lodge.'"

"Left it! - since when? I saw him last night at ten o'clock."

"He left here before eleven," was Wylie's answer.

"When is he expected back?"

"Not for a week, at soonest, sir. It may be even longer, if, as he said,
it were necessary for him to go to England."

"To England!" exclaimed Mark, in bitter disappointment, for in the
distance the hope of speedy vengeance seemed all but annihilated. "What
is his address in Dublin?" said he, recovering himself.



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 30 of 41)