Charles James Lever.

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

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and forbid him, under any number of curses and anathemas in case of
disobedience, to reveal a syllable against the 'United party.'"

"They can compel him, however. Don't you remember Cockayne did the very
same thing about Jackson's business, and they brought him over to Lord
Clonmel's house, and made him sign there?"

"That they did, but they'll not try the same game twice. Curran brought
it out in the cross-examination, and made it appear that the witness
was terrified by the crown by a threat of consequences to himself as
an accomplice, and the point went very far with the jury in Jackson's
favour."

Hemsworth did not wait to hear more. The great fact that Lanty was
firm, was all that he cared for, and, after a few casual remarks on the
morning news, he strolled forth, with all the lazy indifference of an
idle man.




CHAPTER XXXIX. THE BROTHERS

Among the unexplained phenomena of the period is one very remarkable
and, doubtless, pregnant circumstance - the species of lull or calm
in the movements of the United Irish party, which was conspicuous
throughout the entire of the summer and autumn of 1796. The spring
opened on them with hopes high, and expectations confident. Tone's
letters from Paris breathed encouragement; the embarrassments of England
promised favourably for their cause; and many who wavered before, were
found now willing to embrace the enterprize. To this state of ardent
feeling succeeded an interval of doubt and uneasiness; conflicting
statements were circulated, and mens' minds were shaken, without any
apparent cause. A vague fear of betrayal and treachery gained ground;
yet no one was able to trace this dread to any definite source. The
result, however, was evident in the greater caution of all concerned in
the scheme - a reserve, which seemed to threaten a total abandonment of
the undertaking; such, at least, it appeared to those who, like Mark
O'Donoghue, having few or no opportunities of intercourse with the
leaders, were disposed to take their impressions from the surface
of events. As for him, his correspondence had ceased with Lanty's
treachery. He neither knew the real names nor addresses of those to whom
he had formerly written, and had not a single acquaintance to whom he
could look for advice and assistance.

All Sir Archy's endeavours to win his confidence had failed, not from
any distrust either in his judgment or his good faith, but because
Mark regarded his secret as a sacred depository, in which the honour of
others was concerned; and however disposed to seek advice for himself,
he would not compromise their safety for the sake of his own advantage.
Unable to extort a confidence by entreaty, and well aware how little
efficiency there lay in menace, Sir Archy abandoned the attempt,
and satisfied himself by placing in Mark's hands Hemsworth's letter,
significantly hinting his own doubts of the writer's integrity.

Mark sat himself down in the garden, to study the epistle; and however
artfully conceived, the experience his own career opened, displayed the
dishonesty of the writer at every line.

"I am the obstacle to his plans - my presence here is somehow a thwarting
influence against him," said he, as he folded up the paper. "I must
remain at every hazard; nor is there much, so long as I bound my
wanderings by these great mountains - he will be a bolder than Hemsworth
who captures me here."

Guided by this one determination, and trusting that time might clear up
some of the mysteries that surrounded him, Mark waited, as men wait for
an event that shall call upon their faculties or their courage for
some unusual effort. The same reverses of fortune that had taught him
distrust, had also inculcated the lesson of patience; but it was the
patience of the Indian warrior, who will lie crouching in concealment
for days long, till the moment of his vengeance has arrived. And thus,
while to others he seemed an altered character, less swayed by rash
impulses, and less carried away by anger, the curbed up passions became
only more concentrated by repression. He mixed little with the others,
rarely appearing save at meal times, and then, seldom taking any part in
the conversation around. He did not absent himself from home, as before,
for whole days or weeks long, but spent his time mostly in his own
chamber, where he read and wrote for hours - strange and unusual habits
for one who had never sought or found amusement save in the fatigues of
the hunting-field. His manner, too, was no longer the same. Calmer and
more self-possessed than before, he neither seemed to feel momentary
bursts of high spirits or depression. The tone of his mind was indeed
sad, but it was the sadness that indicated strength and constancy to
endure, fully as much as it betrayed the pain of suffering. The altered
features of his character impressed themselves on every thing he did;
and there was an air of quiet gentleness in his demeanour, quite foreign
to his former rough and abrupt manner. Upon none did these things make
so great an impression as on Kate: her woman's tact enabled her to
see them differently, and more correctly than the rest. She saw that a
mighty change had come over him: that no mere check of disappointment,
no baffled ambition, could have done this: neither could she attribute
it to any feeling towards herself, for he was never more coolly distant
than now. She guessed, then, rightly, that it was the first step towards
freedom, of a mind enthralled by its own strong passions. It was the
struggling energy to be free, of a bold and daring spirit, that learned
at length to feel the lowering influences of ill-directed ambition. How
ardently she wished that some career were open to him, now - some great
path in life: she did not fear its dangers or its trials - his nature
suggested any thing save fear! How sad to think, that energy like his
should be suffered to wane, and flicker, and die out, for want of the
occasion to display its blaze. She could not avoid communicating these
thoughts to Sir Archy, who for some time past had watched the growing
change in the youth's manner. The old man listened attentively as she
spoke, and his glistening eye and heightened colour showed how her
girlish enthusiasm moved him; and while some reminiscence of the past
seemed to float before him, his voice trembled as he said -

"Alas! my sweet child, the world offers few opportunities like those you
speak of, and our political condition rejects them totally. The country
that would be safe, must give little encouragement to the darings of
youthful energy. His rewards are higher here, who seeks out some path
well trod and beaten, and tries by industry and superior skill to pass
by those who follow it also. The talents men prize are those available
for some purpose of every-day life. Gifts that make mankind wiser and
happier, these, bring fame and honour; while the meteor brilliancy of
mere heroism can attract but passing wonder and astonishment."

"You mistake Mark, my dear uncle - you undervalue the change that is
worked in his character. He is not deficient in ability, if he but
suffer himself to rely upon it, rather than on the casual accidents of
fortune. If Herbert were but here - - "

"Herbert comes home to-night. I had thought to keep my secret for a
surprise, but you have wrested it from me."

"Herbert coming home! Oh, how happy you have made me! The brothers once
more together, how much each may benefit the other. Nay, uncle, you must
not smile thus. Superior as Herbert is in the advantages that training
and study impart, Mark has gifts of determination and resolve, as
certain to win success. But, here he comes - may I not tell him of
Herbert's coming?"

Sir Archy smiled and nodded, and the happy girl was the next moment at
Mark's side, relating with delight her pleasant news.

Mark listened with pleasure to the intelligence. Any little jealousy he
once felt for acquirements and attainments above his own, had long
since given way to a better and more brotherly feeling; and he ardently
desired to meet and converse with him again.

"And yet, Kate, how altered may he be from what we knew him, who is to
say the changes time may not have wrought in him?"

"Such are not always for the worse, Mark," said Kate, timidly, for she
felt how the allusion might be taken.

A slight tinge of red coloured Mark's cheek, and his eye was lighted
with a look of pleasure. He felt the flattery in all its force, but did
not dare to trust himself with a reply.

"I wonder," said he, after a lengthened pause - "I wonder how Herbert
may feel on seeing, once more, our wild glen. Will these giant rocks and
bold ravines appeal to his heart with the same sympathies as ever; or
will the habits of the life he has left, cling to him still, and make
him think this grandeur only desolation?"

"You did not feel so, surely, Mark?" said Kate, as she turned upon him a
look of affectionate interest.

"Me? - I think so? No! This valley was to me a place of rest - a long
sought-for haven. I came not here from the gay and brilliant world,
rich in fascinations and pleasures. I had not lived among the great and
learned, to hear the humble estimate they have of our poor land. I came
back here like the mariner whose bark puts back shattered by the storm,
and baffled by the winds, unable to stem the tide that leads to fortune.
Yes, shipwrecked in every thing." "Herbert, Herbert," cried Kate.

At the same moment a chaise, advancing at full gallop, turned from the
road into the avenue towards the house. The boy caught sight of the
figures in the garden, flung open the door, and springing out, rushed
towards them.

"My dear, dear Kate," was his first exclamation, as he kissed her
affectionately; his next, in a tone of unqualified surprise, was - "What
a fine fellow you have grown, Mark!" and the two brothers were locked in
each other's arms.

The sentiment which thus burst from him in the first moment of surprise,
was the very counterpart of Mark's own feeling on beholding Herbert.
Time had worked favourably for both. On the elder brother, the stamp of
manhood more firmly impressed, had given an elevation to the expression
of his features, and a character of composure to his air; while with
Herbert, his career of study alternating with a life passed among
cultivated and polished circles, had converted the unformed stripling
into a youth of graceful and elegant demeanour. The change was even
greater in him than in his brother. In the one case it was, as it were,
but the growth and development of original traits of character; in
the other, new and very different features were distinguishable. His
thoughts, his expressions, his very accent was changed; yet through this
his old nature beamed forth, bright, joyous, and affectionate as ever.
It was the same spirit, although its flights were bolder and more
daring - the same mind, but its workings more powerful and more free.
The one had placed his ambition so high, he scarcely dared to hope; the
other had already tasted some of the enjoyments of success - life had
even already shed around him some of its fascinations, and quickened the
ardour of his temper. A winner in the race of intellect, he experienced
that thrilling ecstasy which acknowledged superiority confers; he knew
what it was to feel the mastery over others, and, even now, the flame
of ambition was lighted in his heart, and its warm glow tingled in his
veins and throbbed in every pulse. In vain should they who knew him
once, seek for the timid, bashful boy, that scarcely dared to make an
effort from very dread of failure. His flashing eye and haughty brow
told of victory; still around his handsome mouth the laughing smile of
happy youth showed that no ungenerous feeling, no unworthy pride, had
yet mingled with his nature.

"They tell me you have swept the University of its prizes, Herbert - is
not this so?" said Mark, as he leaned his arm affectionately on his
shoulder.

"You would think but poorly of my triumphs, Mark," replied Herbert, with
a smile. "The lists I fight in, peril not life or limb."

"Still, there is honour in the game," said Mark. "Wherever there is
success on one side, and failure on the other - wherever there is hope to
win, and dread to lose - there, the ambition is never unworthy."

"But what of you, Mark? Tell me of yourself. Have you left a buck in
the glen, or is there a stray grouse on the mountain? What have you been
doing since we met?"

Mark coloured and looked confused, when Kate, coming to the rescue,
replied -

"How can you ask such a question, Herbert? What variety does life afford
in this quiet valley? Is it not the very test of our happiness, that we
can take no note of time? But here comes my uncle."

Herbert turned at the words, and rushed to meet the old man.

"Have you won baith, Herbert," cried he - "baith premiums? Then I
must gie you twa hands, my dear boy," said he, pressing him in a fond
embrace. "Were the competitors able ones? Was the victory a hard one?
Tell me all, every thing about it."

And the youth, with bent down head and rapid utterance, related, in a
low voice, the event of his examination.

"Go on, go on," said Sir Archy M'Nab, aloud - "tell me what followed."

And Herbert resumed in the same tone as before.

"Ha!" cried Sir Archy, in an accent of irrepressible delight, "so they
said your Latin smacked of Scotland. They scented Aberdeen in it. Well,
boy, we beat them - they canna deny that. The prize is ours - the better
that it was hardly fought for."

And thus they continued for some time to talk, as they walked side by
side through the garden; the old man's firm step and joyous look telling
of the pride that filled his heart, while Herbert poured forth in happy
confidence the long-treasured thoughts that crowded his brain; nor did
they cease their converse, till Kerry came to summon the youth to his
father's room.

"He's awake now," said Kerry, gazing with undisguised rapture on the
tall and handsome youth; "and it's a proud man he ought to be this day,
that has the pair like ye."

The young men smiled at the flattery, and arm in arm took then-way
towards the house.




CHAPTER XL. THE LULL BEFORE THE STORM.

Once again assembled beneath that old roof, the various members of the
family seemed more than ever disposed to make present happiness
atone for any troubles of the past. Never was the old O'Donoghue so
contented; - never did Sir Archy feel a lighter heart. Herbert's spirits
were buoyant and high as present success and hope could make them; and
Kate, whatever doubts might secretly have weighed upon her mind, did
her utmost to contribute to the general joy; - while Mark, over whose
temperament a calmer and less variable habit of thought prevailed,
seemed at least more reconciled to his fortunes.

The influences of tranquillity that prevailed over the land appeared to
have breathed their soothing sway over that humble dwelling, where life
rolled on like an unruflled stream, each day happy with that monotony
of enjoyment, so delicious to all whose minds have ever been tortured by
the conflicting cares of the world.

For many a year long the O'Donoghue had not been so free from troubles.
The loan he had contracted on Kate's fortune had relieved him from his
most pressing embarrassments, and left him money enough to keep other
creditors at bay. Sir Archy felt already he had received the earnest
of that success he so ardently desired for Herbert, and in the calm of
political life, hoped that the rash scheme in which Mark had em-. barked
was even now becoming forgotten; and that the time was not far remote
when no memory of it would be treasured against him. His own experience
taught him, that sage lessons may be gathered from the failures and
checks of youthful ambition, and in the changed features of Mark's
character he augured most favourably for the future. But of all those on
whom happier prospects shone, none revelled in the enjoyment so much as
Herbert. The fascinations of that new world, of which he had only caught
a glimpse, hung over him like a dream. Life opened for him at a moment
when he himself had won distinction, while a new passion stirred his
heart, and stimulated hope to the utmost. Kate, his companion throughout
every day, was not slow to perceive the lurking secret of his thoughts,
and soon led him to confide them to her. Herbert had never heard of
Frederick Travers's attachment to his cousin, still less, suspected he
had made a proposal of marriage to her. The studied avoidance of their
names among his own family was a mystery he could not solve, and he
referred to Kate for the explanation.

"How strange, Kate," said he, one day, as they wandered along the glen
somewhat further than usual, "how singular is this silence respecting
the Travers's! I can make nothing of it. If I speak of them, no one
speaks again - if I allude to them, the conversation suddenly stops. Tell
me, if you know it, the secret of all this."

Kate blushed deeply, and muttered something about old and
half-remembered grudges, but he interrupted her quickly, saying -

"This can scarcely be the reason; - at least their feelings show nothing
of the kind towards us. Sybella talks of you as a sister nearest to her
heart. Sir Marmaduke never spoke of you, but with the warmest terms
of affection, and if the gay Guardsman did not express himself on the
subject, perhaps it was because he felt the more deeply."

Kate's cheek grew deeper scarlet, and her breathing more hurried, but
she made no reply.

"_My_ explanation," continued Herbert, more occupied with his own
thoughts than attentive to his companion, "is this; - and, to be sure, it
is a very sorry explanation which elucidates nothing; - that Hemsworth
is somehow at the bottom of it all. Sybella told me what persuasions he
employed to prevent her father returning to Glenflesk; and when
every thing like argument failed, that he actually, under pretence of
enlarging the house, rendered the existing part uninhabitable."

"But what object could he have in this?" said Kate, who felt that
Herbert was merely nourishing the old prejudices of his family against
Hemsworth. "He is anxious for the peace and welfare of this country - he
grieves for the poverty and privations of the people, and whether he
be correct or not, deems the remedy, the residence amongst them of a
cultivated and wealthy proprietary, with intelligence to perceive, and
ability to redress their grievances."

"Very true, Kate," replied Herbert; "but don't you see that in these
very requisites of a resident gentry, he does not point at the Travers
family, whose ignorance of Ireland he often exposed when affecting to
eulogise their knowledge. The qualities he recommends he believes to be
his own."

"No, Herbert, you wrong him there," said she, warmly; "he told me
himself the unceasing regret he suffered, that, in his humble sphere,
all efforts for the people's good were ineffectual - that, wanting the
influence which property confers, benefits from his hands became
suspected, and measures of mere justice were regarded as acts of cruelty
and oppression."

"Well, I only know that such is Frederick Travers's opinion of him,"
said Herbert, not a little piqued at Kate's unexpected defence of their
ancient enemy. "Frederick told me himself that he would never cease
until his father promised to withdraw the agency from him. Indeed, he is
only prevented from pressing the point, because Hemsworth has got a long
lease of part of the estate, which they desire to have back again on any
terms. The land was let at a nominal rent, as being almost valueless.
The best part of the valley it turns out to be! - the very approach to
'the Lodge' passes through it - so that, as Frederick says, they could
not reach their hall-door without a trespass, if Hemsworth pleased to
turn sulky."

Kate felt there might be another and more correct explanation of
Frederick's dislike, but she did not dare to hint at it.

"You are too favourable in your opinion of Hemsworth, Kate. Sy-bella
said as much to me herself."

"Sybella said so?" said Kate, as a flush, half of shame, half of
displeasure, mantled her cheek.

"Yes," cried Herbert, for he felt that he was in a difficulty, and there
was no way out save the bold one, of right through it; "yes, she
saw what you did not, that Hemsworth had dared to lift his eyes to
you - - that all his displays of patriotic sentiment were got up to
attract your favourable notice, and that in his arguments with Frederick
about Ireland, his whole aim was to expose the Guardsman's ignorance,
and throw ridicule upon it, neither seeking to convey sound notions, nor
combat erroneous impressions."

"Captain Travers was but too easy a mark for such weapons," said
Kate, angrily, "It was his pleasure to make Ireland the object of his
sarcasm."

"So Hemsworth contrived it!" cried Herbert, eagerly, for it was a
subject of which he had long been anxious to speak, and one he had
heard much of from Sybella. "I know well the game he played, and how
successfully too."

Kate blushed deeply; for a moment she believed that her own secret was
known to Herbert, but the next instant she was reassured that all was
safe.

"Sybella told me how he actually lay in wait for opportunities to entice
Frederick into discussion before you, well knowing the themes that
would irritate him, and calculating how far petty refutations, and
half-suppressed sneers would embarrass and annoy him - the more,
because Frederick saw how much more favourably you regarded Hemsworth's
sentiments than his own; and, indeed, sometimes I fancied, Kate, it was
a point the Guardsman was very tender about; - nay, sweet cousin, I would
not say a word to offend you."

"Then, do not speak of this again, Herbert," said she, in a low voice.

"It is a luckless land," said Herbert, sighing. "They who know it well
are satisfied with the cheap patriotism of declaiming on its wrongs.
They who feel most acutely for its sorrows, are, for the most part,
too ignorant to alleviate them. I begin to think my uncle is quite
right - that the best thing we could do would be to make a truce - to draw
the game - for some twenty or thirty years, and try if the new generation
might not prove wiser in expedients than their fathers."

"A luckless land, indeed!" said Mark, who, coming up at the moment, had
overheard the last words. "You were right to call it so - where the son
of an O'Donoghue sees no more glorious path to follow than that of a
hollow compromise!"

Kate and Herbert started as he spoke, and while her face flashed with an
emotion of mingled pride and shame, Herbert looked abashed, and almost
angry at the reproach.

"Forgive me, Herbert," said Mark, in a voice of deep melancholy. "Not
even this theme should sow a difference between us. I came to bid you
good-bye."

"Good-bye, Mark?" cried Kate, starting with terrified surprise.

"Going to leave us, Mark!" exclaimed Herbert, in an accent of true
sorrow.

"It is but for a few days - at least I hope that it will be no more,"
said Mark. "But I have received intelligence that makes it necessary for
me to remain in concealment for a short time. You see, Herbert," said
he, laughing, "that your theory has the advantage on the score of
prudence. Had I followed it, the chances are, I should not have occupied
the attention of his Majesty's Privy Council."

"The Privy Council! I don't understand this, Mark."

"Perhaps this is the easiest mode of explaining it," said Mark, as he
unfolded a printed paper, headed "Treason - Reward for the apprehension
of Mark O'Donoghue, Esq., or such information as may lead to his
capture." "Is that enough? Come, come - I have no time for long stories
just now. If you want to hear mine about the matter, you must visit
me at my retreat - the low shealing at the west of Hungry Mountain. At
least, for the present I shall remain there."

"But is this necessary, Mark? Are you certain that any thing more is
meant than to threaten?" said Kate.

"I believe that Carrig-na-curra will be searched by a military force
to-night, or to-morrow at farthest - that the bribe has tempted three or
four - none of our people - don't mistake me - to set on my track. If my
remaining would spare my father's house the indignity of a search - or if
the country had any better cause at heart than that of one so valueless
as I am, I would stay, Kate - - "

"No, no, Mark. This were but madness, unworthy of you, unjust to all who
love you."

The last few words were uttered so faintly, as only to be heard by him
alone; and as she spoke them a heavy tear rolled down her cheek, now



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 33 of 41)