Charles James Lever.

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

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Mark's expatriation - that is the question? Does he anticipate easier
terms with the old man for the little remnant of property that still
pertains to him - or is it merely the leaven of the old hate that still
rises in his nature? - or" - - and here his eye flashed with brilliancy
as a new thought crossed his brain - - "or does he suspect Mark of
occupying a place in his cousin's affection, and is rivalry the source
of this mysterious good nature?"

This suspicion no sooner occurred to him than Sir Archy recalled to mind
all the circumstances of Hemsworth's recent behaviour - the endeavours he
had made to recommend himself to their favourable notice - all his
acts to ingratiate himself with Kate - the ample views he affected in
politics - the wide-spread generosity of his plans for the amelioration
of the people. That his conduct was unreal, that his principles were but
assumed for the occasion, the shrewd Scotchman had long suspected; and
this letter, so far from dispelling the doubts, increased them tenfold.
Besides this, there seemed some reason to fear that Kate was not quite
indifferent to him. The disparity of years was so far in his favour, as
she could not but feel flattered by the notice of one so conversant with
the world and its ways, who had travelled and seen so much, and might
in every respect be deemed a competent judge in matters of taste. Any
comparison of him with Mark must redound with great advantage to the
former. The accomplished scholar, the agreeable and well-bred man of
society, was a severe competitor for the half-educated and slovenly
youth, whose awkward and bashful manner seemed rather ill-temper than
mere diffidence. Mark was himself conscious of the disadvantages he
laboured under, and although Sir Archy had few fears that such an
admirer was likely to win favour with the gay and capricious girl, whose
foreign habits had taught her to value social qualities at the highest
price, still, there was a chance that Hemsworth might have thought
differently, and that jealousy was the secret of the whole scheme.
Kate, with her ten thousand pounds of a rent-charge, might be a very
reasonable object of Hemsworth's ambition; and when already he had
absorbed so large a portion of the family estates, this additional lien
would nearly make him master of the entire. It was, then, perfectly
possible that this was his game, and that in withdrawing Mark from the
scene, he both calculated on the gratitude his generosity would evoke,
and more securely provided for his own success. While Sir Archy thus
pondered over Hemsworth's motives, he did not neglect the more pressing
consideration of Mark's danger. It was evident that he had taken an
active part in the insurrectionary movement, and without the slightest
precautions for his personal safety. The first care, therefore, was to
see and learn from him the full extent of his danger, what proofs there
existed against him, and what evidence, either in writing or otherwise,
might be adduced to his disadvantage.

"Tell me, frankly and freely, Mark," said he, aloud, as he arose and
paced the room; "tell me, openly, how you stand, who are your betrayers,
what your dangers, and I'll answer for it the peril may be averted."

"I have come to do so, sir," said a voice behind him - and Mark
O'Donoghue was standing at the door.




CHAPTER XXXVIII. TAMPERING AND PLOTTING

While they who meditated the invasion of Ireland were thoroughly
informed on the state of parties, and the condition of public opinion
in that kingdom, the English Government were satisfied with vague
and insufficient rumours of those intentions, derived from sources of
questionable accuracy, or communicated by persons in the pay of their
opponents. Certain it is, neither the magnitude of the peril was
appreciated, nor its nearness suspected. Many, in England, regarded the
whole in the light of a menace, and believed that the embarrassments of
the French Directory were quite sufficient to withdraw their thoughts
from foreign aggression, to troubles nearer home. Their great want of
money, arms, and all the munitions of war, was well known and trusted to
as a guarantee of security. Others supposed that a rash attempt might
be made, but were equally sure of its being defeated by our naval forces
before a landing could be effected; and many more believed that the
pretence of foreign aid was but a threat of the malcontents at home, to
enforce compliance with their demands. The event itself was to show how
unfounded were all these calculations, and how little reason we had to
regard our security as derived from our own measures of foresight and
precaution.

Constituted as the French Government of the day was, nothing would have
been easier than to have ample knowledge of all the projects. The men
in high situations were newly elevated to power, from positions of very
humble pretension, with no habits of public business, no experience
of the mode of conducting difficult affairs, and many of them of very
questionable character for integrity; and yet, with these opportunities
at our disposal, a few scattered facts, ill-authenticated and vague,
were all that our Government attained to; and even these were unattended
to, save when they implicated the conduct of some suspected character
nearer home; then, indeed, party violence assumed an appearance
of statesmanlike vigilance, and crown prosecutions and ex-officio
informations, seemed the safeguard of the empire.

On occasions of this kind, the activity of the Government was most
remarkable, and while the great question of national security was
overlooked, no pains were spared to track out the narrow path where
some insignificant treason was plodding, and bring the plotter to
the scaffold. Large sums of money were spent in obtaining secret
information, and the whole science of government was reduced to a system
of "espionage." This little-minded and narrow policy was, in a great
measure, the consequence of entrusting so much of the Government to the
influence of the lawyers, who, regarding everything through the light of
their own profession, placed the safety of the empire on the success of
a crown prosecution.

It was at a moment when this favourite policy was in the ascendant, that
Hemsworth reached Dublin, little aware, indeed, how far events there,
were hastening forward the catastrophe for which he was interested.
Lanty Lawler, who for a long time had never communicated, save to
Hemsworth, his knowledge of the United Irish movement, had, at length,
become alarmed for his own safety; and putting but slight trust in
Hemsworth's good faith, should any calamity befall him, had come forward
and revealed to Major Sirr all that he knew of the plot, the names of
several parties implicated, and in particular the whole history of Mark
O'Donoghue's complicity. The information came well-timed. The crown
lawyers were desirous of exhibiting the parade of a state prosecution,
and all the ordinary measures were taken to secure its success. Lanty,
now a prisoner in Newgate, but, with the promise of a free pardon and
a reward, had been repeatedly examined by the Attorney and
Solicitor-general, and his statement found perfectly accurate and
consistent. He narrated the various interviews he had been present at
among the Delegates in Dublin - the messages he had conveyed from them
to different individuals through the country - the depots where pikes and
muskets were stored, and the several places of rendezvous agreed upon,
whenever the rising should take place. He also revealed many facts of
the feeling prevalent among the people, and exemplified the conflicting
state of opinion then in the country - how, that many were worn out and
discouraged by delay, and believed themselves betrayed by France - while
others were full of hope and confidence, eager for the time to come, and
ready to incur any peril. While, in all these disclosures he was most
candid and explicit, he never once betrayed the name of Mary M'Kelly,
nor even alluded, in any way, to her cabin, as the resort of the French
spies, and the secret depot of arms and ammunition, It might have been
that in the blackness of his treachery to others, this one spark
of better feeling survived towards her - that some lurking affection
lingered in a heart dead to every other noble sentiment, or perhaps the
lesser motive swayed him, that in excepting her from the general ruin,
he was securing to himself one, who as a wife, would bring him no small
share of worldly wealth. Either may be the explanation of his conduct,
for strange as it may seem, the vilest actions are sometimes conceived
with a reserve of conscience, that shows what casuistry guilt requires,
and how much the spirit of evil lacks of courage, when it has to borrow
the energy to act from even the semblance of something good.

It was not without reluctance, at first, that Lanty ventured on the
betrayal of Mark O'Donoghue; nor did he even consent to do so, until his
own safety had been threatened by Hemsworth, and also a solemn promise
given, that he should never be brought forward to give evidence against
him, nor exhibited before the world as an informer. This was the
character he most dreaded - it was the only reproach that had any
terror for his mind. Gradually, however, and by the frequency of his
revelations to Hemsworth, this dread diminished, and in proportion, the
fears for his own safety increased. Hemsworth's game was to make him
believe that such depended solely on him - that at any moment he could
give information of a character sufficient to convict him - and by this
tie was he bound to a man he detested with all his hatred. After much
vacillation and doubt it was, that Lanty determined, whatever the
consequences to his fame, to make a full disclosure to Government, and
only bargain for his own life. Hemsworth's absence from Dublin afforded
the opportunity, and he seized it at once. Such, then, was the position
of affairs when Hemsworth reached the capital, and learned that his
agent, Lanty, was no longer at his disposition, but at that very moment
a prisoner in the gaol of Newgate, strict orders being given that nobody
was to be admitted to converse with him without the special leave of
the law officers of the crown. Now, although Hemsworth had, personally,
little to fear from any disclosure Lanty might make, yet his information
might thwart all the plans he had so artfully devised regarding the
O'Donoghues; the events impending that family being, up to that moment,
perfectly at his own direction and disposal, to delay or precipitate
which, constituted the essence of his policy. Mark could not be brought
to trial, he well knew, without exhibiting himself in the light of
an enemy and an accuser, he being the person to whom Lanty originally
communicated his informations. This hostile part would form an
impassible obstacle to any success with Kate, and consequently to his
great plan of obtaining the Glenflesk estate.

Hemsworth lost not a moment, after his arrival in town, in his
endeavours to have an interview with Lanty; and, being on terms of old
intimacy with the sheriff, at length persuaded him to grant him a brief
opportunity of speaking to him; a permission, under the circumstances,
most reluctantly acceded. It was near nine o'clock - the latest hour
at which a visit to the gaol was practicable - when Hemsworth presented
himself, with the sheriff's order at the gate. A brief delay ensued,
for even on such an authority, the goaler scrupled to deviate from the
directions given him, and he was admitted. Following the turnkey for
some minutes, through passages and across courts, they reached an angle
of the building dedicated to the reception of those who were held over
by the crown as "approvers" against their former friends and associates.
Many of these had been in confinement several months, the time not
having arrived when the evidence, which they were to corroborate, was
perfected; and not a few preferring the security of a prison, to the
dangers the character of an informer would expose them, to without
doors. A confused noise of voices and coarse laughter was heard as they
came near, and the turnkey, striking his bunch of keys against a heavy
door, called, "Be silent there, b - - t ye, there's more trouble with
six of ye than we have with the whole condemned ward," then turning to
Hemsworth, he added, in a lower voice, "them chaps is awaitin' a passage
over seas - they've given their evidence long ago, and they're not wanted
now. That one with the cracked voice is Cope, the fellow that tracked
Parson Jackson - but here, this is your man's cell - we cannot give
you more than a quarter of an hour, and so, don't lose anymore time."
Hemsworth laid his hand on the gaoler's arm as he extended it with the
key. "One second - just wait one second," said he, as he pressed his
fingers across his brow, and seemed to reflect, then added, "Yes,
that will do - open it now, and I shall be ready to retire whenever you
please."

Whether the sound without had drowned the noise, or that his attention
was too much engaged to notice it, Lanty never stirred nor looked round,
as the heavy door was unbarred, and fastened again behind Hemsworth.
Seated in a recess of the window, and with his face pressed against the
iron bars, he was watching, with interest, the movement in the street
below, where a considerable number of people went past, their eyes
directed upwards, to the front of the building, but all view of which
was impossible to him. Hemsworth stood and looked at him for some
minutes without speaking - he was as if calculating the very thoughts of
the other's brain - then advancing gently, he laid his hand on Lawler's
shoulder, as he said -

"Ay, Lanty, that's the reward they get. Two of them are to be turned off
to-morrow."

"Two of whom, sir?" asked Lanty, as, starting at the voice, his face
became the colour of death.

"I thought you knew!" said he, affecting astonishment; "they are the
approvers against Bond. The Government has no use for the rascals now,
and it saves expense to hang them; and so, they tried them for a murder
at Sallins, in March last. I hear they were not there; but no matter,
they've enough to answer for, without that."

"But, sure, Mr. Hemsworth, they'll never treat their own friends that
way?"

"Wouldn't they, Lanty! You don't know them as well as I do. They keep
little faith with scoundrels, and more fools the scoundrels for being
caught; but I mustn't lose time; it was that very thing brought me here.
I heard this evening the scrape you were in."

"Me, in a scrape!" exclaimed Lanty, his eyes growing wider with terror.

"To be sure it is, and a devilish ugly scrape, too, my friend: havn't
you given information to the Attorney-general against the young
O'Donoghue?"

Lanty nodded, and he went on -

"Havn't you confessed the whole of the plot, and told them everything?"

"Very nearly, faix!" said Lanty, dropping his head, and sighing.

"And what do you expect to gain by that, Master Lanty? Is it by showing
that you are of no use to them - that you've nothing more left in
you - that you hope for a reward. Is it for the sake of your family and
friends, or on account of your remarkable honesty, they're so fond of
you?" Then checking this sneering tone, he added, in a slow and solemn
voice, "Are you a fool, man? - or don't you see what you're bringing
yourseif to? What will be your claim when the trial of the young
O'Donoghue is over? The crown lawyers will have you up in the
witness-box till they've drained you dry. Devil a drop they'll leave in
you; and when they say 'Go down,' take my word for it, it's down you'll
go in earnest; and all the world wouldn't lift you up afterwards."

[Illustration: 378]

Hemsworth permitted the words to sink into his heart for a few seconds
in silence, and then went on -

"So long as you trusted _me_, you were safe. I'd never expose you in
open court."

"No, sir, nor the Attorney-general neither. He said that all they wanted
was my information on oath."

"And you gave it!" exclaimed Hemsworth, in a voice of ill-dissembled
anxiety.

"Not all out, sir," said Lanty, with a shrewd glance of malicious
intelligence. "I asked them for a copy, to read it over before I signed
it, and they gave me one" - here he produced a roll of paper from his
breast pocket, and showed it to Hemsworth - "and I'm to give it back
to-morrow, with my name to it."

"They've played you off well, Lanty," said Hemsworth, while, carelessly
opening the paper, he affected not to pay it any attention. "The
lawyers have got round you nicely; and, faith, I always thought you a
clever fellow before. Your evidence, so long as it was your own, was
worth five thousand pounds, and I wouldn't give five for your chance of
escape, now, that they know your secret."

"What would you say if they didn't know it?" said Lanty, with a look of
impudent familiarity, he had never ventured on before. "What would you
say, now, if the best of my evidence was to come out yet? - that I
never told one word about the French clipper that landed the muskets in
Glengariff-bay, and left two pipes of wine at your own house the same
night?"

"Ah! you'd try that game, would you?" said Hemsworth, with a smile of
deadly malice; "but I've thought of that part, my honest Lanty. I've
already given information on that very matter. You don't suppose that
I afforded those fellows my protection for the sake of the bribe. No,
faith! - but I made them pay for the very evidence that can any day
convict them; - ay, _them_ and _you_; you, a paid spy of France, a sworn
United Irishman, who have administered the oaths to eighteen soldiers
of the Roscommon militia, and are at this moment under a signed and
witnessed contract, bound to furnish horses for a French cavalry force
on their landing here in Ireland. Are these truths, Mr. Lanty, or are
they mere matters of fancy?"

"I'm a crown witness," said Lawler, sturdily, "and if I speak out all I
know, they're bound to protect me."

"Who is to bind them?" said Hemsworth, jeeringly: "is it your friends,
the United Irishmen, that you betrayed? - is it they are to watch over
your precious life? - or do you think your claims are stronger with the
other party, that you only swore to massacre? Where's the sympathy and
protection to come from? Tell me that, for I'm curious on the point."

Lanty turned a fierce look upon him - his eyeballs glared, and his nether
lip shook convulsively, while his hands were firmly clenched together.
Hemsworth watched these evidences of growing anger, but without seeming
to regard them, when the key grated roughly in the lock, the door
opened, and the gaoler called out, with a savage attempt at laughter -

"Time's up. I must turn you off, sir."

"A short reprieve," said Hemsworth, humouring the ruffian jest, and he
pitched his purse into the fellow's hand.

"To settle family matters, I suppose," said the turnkey, with a grin, as
he retired, and closed the door once more.

The interruption seemed to offer a favourable opportunity to Hemsworth
of giving an amicable turn to the interview, for with a changed voice,
and a look of well-assumed friendship, he said -

"I have misspent my moments here sadly, Lanty. I came to befriend you,
and not to interchange words of angry meaning. If I had been in Dublin,
I'm certain you would never have fallen into this perilous position.
Let us see how best to escape from it. This information - I see it is all
confined to young O'Donoghue's business - is of no value whatever, until
signed by you. It is just as if it were never spoken. So that, if you
steadily determine not to sign it, you need give no reason whatever, but
simply refuse when asked. Do this, and all's safe."

"Couldn't they transport me?" said Lanty, in a feeble voice, but whose
very accent betrayed the implicit trust he reposed in Hemsworth's
answer.

"They'll threaten that, and worse, too; but never flinch; they've
nothing against you save, your own evidence. When the time comes - mark
me, I say, when the time comes - your evidence is worth five thousand
pounds; but, now, all it will do is convict young O'Donoghue, and warn
all the others not to go forward. I don't suppose you want that; the
young fellow never did you any harm."

"Never," said Lanty, dropping his head with shame, for even in such a
presence his conscience smote him.

"Very well - there's no use in bringing him to trouble. Keep your own
counsel, and all will be well."

"I'm just thinking of a plan I've a notion in my head will do well,"
said Lanty, musingly. "I'm to see Father Kearney, the priest of Luke's
Chapel, to-morrow morning - he's coming over to confess me. Well, when
the Attorney-general and the others come for me to write my name, I'll
just say that I daren't do it. I'll not tell why nor wherefore - sorra
word more, but this, 'I dar'n't do it.' They'll think at once it's the
priest set me against it. I know well what they'll say. That Father
Kearney put me under a vow, and so they may. They'll scarcely get _him_
to say much about it, and I'll take care they won't make me."

"That thought was worthy of you, Lanty," said Hemsworth, laughing, "but
take care that you don't swerve from your determination. Remember
that there is no accusation against you - not a word nor a syllable of
testimony. Of course they'll threaten you with the worst consequences.
You'll be told of prosecutions for perjury, and all that. Never
mind - wait patiently your time. When the hour arrives, _I'll_ make
your bargain for you, and it will not be merely the evidence against an
individual, but the disclosure of a great plot of rebellion, they must
pay you for. Cockayne got four thousand pounds and a free pardon. _Your_
services will rank far higher."

"If they won't bring me up in open court," said Lanty, timidly, "I'll
do whatever they please."

"For that very reason you must adhere to my advice. There, now, I
perceive the fellow is about to lock up for the night, and I must leave
this. You may want some money from time to time. I'll take means of
sending whatever you stand in need of. For the present, ten pounds will,
I suppose, be sufficient."

Lanty took the money with a mixture of humility and sullenness. He felt
it as a bribe rather than a gift, and he measured the services expected
of him by the consideration they were costing. The turnkey's presence
did not admit of further colloquy, and they parted in mutual suspicion
and distrust, each speculating how far self-interest might be worked
upon as the guiding principle to sway the other's actions.

"I'm scarcely sure of him yet," said Hemsworth, as he slowly returned
to his hotel. "They'll stop at nothing to terrify him into signing the
informations, and if the prosecution goes on, and the young O'Donoghue
is convicted, the plot is blown up. The others will escape, and all my
long-projected disclosures to the Government become useless. Besides, I
fail where failure is of more consequence. It was to little moment that
I prevented a marriage between Travers and the girl, if I cannot make
her my own; but yet, that alliance should have been thwarted on every
ground of policy. It would have been to plant the Travers here on the
very spot I destine for myself. No, no. I must take care that they never
see Ireland more. Indeed this breaking off the marriage will prove
a strong obstacle to their returning." Thus did he review his plans,
sometimes congratulating himself on the success of the past, sometimes
fearing for the future, but always relying with confidence on the skill
of his own negociations - an ingenuity that never yet had failed him in
his difficulties.

The next day was the time appointed for Lanty's final examination, and
on which he was to affix his name to the informations, and Hems-worth
loitered in one of the offices of the Castle, where the gossip of the
morning was discussed, in no common anxiety to hear how his "protege"
had acquitted himself. As the clerks and underlings conversed among
themselves on the dress or equipage of the officials who at intervals
drove off towards the Park, Hemsworth, who affected to be engaged in
reading a morning paper, overheard one remark to another -

"There's the devil to pay at the Council. That fellow they have in
Newgate against Coyle and M'Nevin, and the rest of them, it seems, now
refuses to confirm his informations. They have good reason to believe
all he said was true, but they can't go on without him."

"What's the meaning of that? He was willing enough yesterday."

"They say a priest from Luke's Chapel was with him this morning,



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 32 of 41)