Charles James Lever.

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

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pale as marble.

"But surely, Mark," said Herbert, who never suspected any thing of his
brother's intrigues, "this must proceed on mere falsehood. There is no
charge against you - you, whose life of quiet retirement here can defy
any calumny."

"But not deny the truth," said Mark, with a sorrowful smile. "Once for
all, I cannot speak of these things now. My time is running fast; and
already my guide, yonder, looks impatient at my delay. Remember the
shealing at the foot of the mountain. If there be any mist about, you
have but to whistle."

"Is poor Terry your guide, then?" said Kate, affecting to smile with
some semblance of tranquillity.

"My guide and my host both," said Mark, gaily, "It's the only invitation
I have received for Christmas, and I accept it most willingly, I assure
you."

An impatient gesture of Terry's hand, as he stood on a small pinnacle of
rock, about fifty feet above the road, attracted Mark's attention, and
he called out -

"Well! - what is it?"

"The dragoons!" shouted Terry, in a terrified voice. "They're crossing
the ford at Caher-mohill, two miles off - eight, nine, ten - ay, there's
twelve now, over; and the fellow in the dark coat, he's another. Wait!
they're asking the way: that's it, I'm sure. Well done! - my blessing be
an ye this day, whoever ye are. May I never! if he's not sending them
wrong! They're down the glen towards Killarney;" and as he finished
speaking he sprang from the height, and hastened down the precipice at a
rate that seemed to threaten destruction at every step.

"Even so, Terry. We have not more time than we need. It's a long journey
to the west of the mountain; and so, good-bye, my dear cousin. Good-bye,
Herbert. A short absence it will be, I trust;" and, tearing himself away
hurriedly, lest any evidence of emotion might be seen, the young man
ascended the steep pathway after Terry; nor did he turn his head round,
until distance enabled him to look down unnoticed, when again he cried
out "Farewell! Remember the west side of Hungry!" and waving his cap,
disappeared, while Herbert and his cousin wended their sorrowful way
homeward.




CHAPTER XLI. A DISCOVERY

When Kate arrived at home, she found a note awaiting her, in Hemsworth's
hand-writing, and marked "haste." Guessing at once to what it must
refer, she broke the seal, with an anxious heart, and read: -

"My dear Madam,

"I have been unable to retard any longer the course of
proceedings against your cousin. It would seem that the
charges against him are far more grave and menacing than
either of us anticipated, at least so far as I can collect
from the information before me. The Privy Council has
determined on arresting him at once. Orders to support the
warrant by a military force have been transmitted to
officers commanding parties in different towns of the south,
and there is no longer a question of the intentions of the
crown regarding him. But one, of two, chances is now open to
him - to surrender and take his trial - or, should he, as he
may, without any imputation on his courage, dread this, to
make his escape to the coast, near Kenmare, where a lugger
will lie off, on Wednesday night. By this means he will be
able to reach some port in France or Flanders; or,
probably, should the wind change, obtain protection from
some of the American vessels, which are reported as cruising
to the westward.

"In making this communication to you, I need scarcely
observe the implicit faith I repose in the use you make of
it. It is intended to be the means of providing for your
cousin's safety - but should it, by any accident, fall under
other eyes than yours, it would prove the inevitable ruin of
your very devoted servant,

"Wm. Hemsworth."


"And they will not believe this man's integrity?" exclaimed Kate, as
she finished reading the note. "He who jeopardies his own station
and character for the sake of one actually his enemy! Well, _their_
injustice shall not involve _my_ honor." "Was it you brought this
letter?" said she to Wylie, who stood, hat in hand, at the door.

"Yes, my lady, and I was told there might, perhaps, be an answer."

"No - there is none; say 'very well' - that I have read it. Where is Mr.
Hemsworth?"

"At Macroom. There was a meeting of magistrates there, which delayed
him, and he wrote this note, and sent me on, instead of coming himself."

"Say, that I shall be happy to see him - that's enough," said Kate,
hurriedly, and turned back again into the house.

Through all the difficulties that beset her path hitherto, she had found
Sir Archy an able and a willing adviser; but now, the time was come,
when not only must she act independently of his aid, but, perhaps, in
actual opposition to his views - taking for her guidance one distrusted
by almost every member of her family. Yet what alternative remained - how
betray Hemsworth's conduct in a case which, if known, must exhibit him
as false to the Government, and acting secretly against the very orders
that were given to him? This, she could not think of, and thus by the
force of circumstances, was constrained to accept of Hemsworth as an
ally. Her anxious deliberations on this score were suddenly interrupted
by the sound of horses galloping on the road, and as she looked out, the
individual in question rode up the causeway, followed by his groom.

The O'Donoghue was alone in the drawing-room, musing over the sad events
which necessitated Mark's concealment, when Hemsworth entered, heated by
a long and fast ride.

"Is your son at home, sir - your eldest son?" said he, as soon as a very
brief greeting was over.

"If you'll kindly ring that bell, which my gout won't permit me
to reach, we'll inquire," said the old man, with a well-affected
indifference.

"I must not create any suspicion among the servants," said Hemsworth,
cautiously, "I have reason to believe that some danger is impending over
him, and that he had better leave this house for a day or two."

The apparent frankness of the tone in which he spoke, threw the
O'Donoghue completely off his guard, and taking Hemsworth's hand, he
said -

"Thank you sincerely for this, the poor boy got wind of it this morning,
and I trust before now, has reached some place of safety for the
present - but what steps can we take? is there anything you can advise us
to do? - I'm really so bewildered by all I hear, and so doubtful of what
is true and what false, that I'm incapable of an opinion. Here comes the
only clear head amongst us. Kate, my sweet child, Mr. Hemsworth, like a
kind friend, has come over about this affair of Mark's - will you and Sir
Archy talk it over with him?"

"I beg your pardon for the interruption, sir, but I must recall to your
memory that I am a magistrate, charged with your son's arrest, and if by
an unguarded expression," here he smiled significantly, "I have
betrayed my instructions - I rely on your honour not to expose me to the
consequences."

The O'Donoghue listened, without thoroughly comprehending the
distinction the other aimed at, and then, as if disliking the trouble of
a thought that puzzled him - he shook his head and muttered, "Aye, very
well - be it so - my niece knows these matters better than I do."

"I agree with that opinion, perfectly," said Hemsworth, in an undertone,
"and if Miss O'Donoghue will favor me with her company for a few minutes
in the garden, I may be able to assist her to a clear understanding of
the case." Kate smiled assentingly, and Hemsworth moved towards the door
and opened it; and then, as if after a momentary struggle with his own
diffidence, he offered her his arm; this Kate declined, and they walked
along, side by side.

They had nearly reached the middle of the garden before Hemsworth broke
silence. At last he said, with a deep sigh - "I fear we are too late Miss
O'Donoghue. The zeal, real or affected, of the country magistrates,
has stimulated them to the utmost. There are spies over the whole
country - he will inevitably be taken."

Rate re-echoed the last words in an accent of deep anguish, and was
silent.

"Yes," resumed he, "escape is all but impossible - for even if he should
get to sea, there are two cruisers on the look-out for any suspicious
sail.

"And what if he were to surrender and stand his trial," said Kate,
boldly.

Hemsworth shook his head sorrowfully, but never spoke. "What object
can it be with any Government to hunt down a rash, inexperienced youth,
whose unguarded boldness has led him to ruin? On whom would such an
example tell, or where would the lesson spread terror, save beneath that
old roof yonder, where sorrows are rife enough already?"

"The correspondence with France - that's his danger. The intercourse with
the disturbed party at home might be palliated by his youth - the foreign
conspiracy admits of little apology." "And what evidence have they of
this?"

"Alas! but too much - the table of the Privy Council was actually covered
with copies of letters and documents - some, written by himself - almost
all, referring to him as a confidential and trusty agent of the cause.
This cannot be forgiven him! When I heard a member of the Council say,
'Jackson's blood is dried up already,' I guessed the dreadful result of
this young man's capture."

Kate shuddered at these words, which were uttered in a faint tone,
tremulous through emotion. "Oh, God," she cried, "do not let this
calamity fall upon us. Poverty, destitution, banishment, anything, save
the death of a felon!"

Hemsworth pressed his handkerchief to his eyes, and looked away, as the
young girl, with upturned face, muttered a brief but fervent prayer to
heaven.

"But you, so gifted and experienced in the world's ways," cried she,
turning on him a glance of imploring meaning - "can you not think of
anything? Is there no means, however difficult and dangerous, by which
he might be saved? Could not the honor of an ancient house plead for
him? Is there no pledge for the future could avail him."

"There is but one such pledge - and that" - here he stopped and blushed
deeply, and then, as if by an effort, resumed - "Do not, I beseech you,
tempt me to utter what, if once spoken, decides the destiny of my life?"

He ceased, and she bent on him a look of wondering astonishment. She
thought she had not heard him aright, and amid her fears of some vague
kind, a faint hope struggled, that a chance of saving Mark yet remained.
Perhaps, the mere expression of doubt her features assumed, was
more chilling than even a look of displeasure, for Hemsworth's self
possession, for several minutes, seemed to have deserted him; when, at
last recovering himself, he said -

"Pray, think no more of my words, I spoke them rashly. I know of no
means of befriending this young man. He rejected my counsels when they
might have served him. I find how impossible it is to win confidence
from those whose prejudices have been fostered in adverse circumstances.
Now, I am too late - my humble task is merely to offer you some advice,
which the day of calamity may recall to your memory. The Government
intends to make a severe example of his case. I heard so much, by
accident, from the Under Secretary. They will proceed, in the event
of his conviction - of which there cannot be a doubt - to measures of
confiscation regarding his property - timely intervention might be of
service here."

This additional threat of misfortune did not seem to present so many
terrors to Kate's mind as he calculated on its producing. She stood
silent and motionless, and appeared scarcely to notice his words.

"I feel how barbarous such cruelty is to an old and inoffensive parent,"
said Hemsworth, "whose heart is rent by the recent loss of a son."

"He must not die," said Kate, with a hollow voice, and her pale cheek
trembled with a convulsive motion. "Mark must be saved. What was the
pledge you hinted at?"

Hemsworth's eyes flashed, and his lip curled with an expression of
triumph. The moment, long sought, long hoped for, had at length arrived,
which should gratify both his vengeance and his ambition. The emotion
passed rapidly away, and his features assumed a look of subdued sorrow.

"I fear, Miss O'Donoghue," said he, "that my hope was but like the straw
which the drowning hand will grasp at; but, tortured as my mind has
been by expedients, which more mature thought has ever discovered to be
impracticable, I suffered myself to believe that possible, which my own
heart forbids me to hope for."

He waited a few seconds to give her an opportunity of speaking, but she
was silent, and he went on -

"The guarantee I alluded to would be the pledge of one, whose loyalty to
the Government stands above suspicion; one, whose services have met no
requital, but whose reward only awaits the moment of demanding it; such
a one as this might make his own character and fortune the recognizance
for this young man's conduct, and truck the payment of his own services
for a free pardon."

"And who is there thus highly placed, and willing to befriend us."

Hemsworth laid his hand upon his heart, and bowing with deep humility,
uttered, in a low, faint voice -

"He who now stands before you!"

"You," cried Kate, as clasping her hands in an ecstacy, she fixed her
tearful eyes upon him. "You would do this?" Then growing suddenly pale,
as a sick shudder came over her, she said, in a deep and broken voice,
"At what price, sir?"

The steady gaze she fixed upon him seemed to awe and abash him, and it
was with unfeigned agitation that he now spoke.

"A price which the devotion of a life long could not repay. Alas! a
price I dare no more aspire to, than hope for."

"Speak plainly, sir," said Kate, in a firm, collected tone, "this is not
a moment for misconception. What part have I to play in this compact,
for by your manner I suppose you include me in it?"

"Forgive me, young lady, I have not courage to place the whole fortunes
of my life upon one cast; already I feel the heaviness of heart that
heralds in misfortune. I would rather live on with even this faint
glimmer of hope than with the darkness of despair for ever." His hands
dropped powerless at his side, his head fell forward on his bosom,
and as if without an effort of his will, almost unconsciously his lips
muttered the words, "I love you."

Had the accents been the sting of an adder they could not have called up
an expression of more painful meaning than flashed over Kate's features.

"And this, then, is the price you hinted at - this was to be the
compact."

The proud look of scorn she threw upon him evoked no angry feeling in
his breast, he seemed overwhelmed by sorrow, and did not dare even to
look up.

"You judge me hardly, unfairly too; I never meant my intercession should
be purchased - humble as I am, I should he still more unworthy, had I
harhoured such a thought; my hope was this, to make my intervention
available, I should show myself linked with the fortunes of that house
I tried to save - it should be a case, where, personally, my own interest
was at stake, and where my fortune, all I possessed in the world was in
the scale, if you consented" - here he hesitated, faltered, and finally
became silent, then passing his hands across his eyes, resumed more
rapidly - "but I must not speak of this; alas! that my tongue should have
ever betrayed it; you have forced my secret from me, and with it my
happiness for ever - forget this, I beseech you forget that, even in a
moment so unguarded, I dared to lift my eyes to the shrine my heart has
worshipped. I ask no pledge, no compact, I will do my utmost to save
this youth; I will spare no exertion or influence I possess with the
Government; I will make his pardon the recompense due to myself, but if
that be impossible, I will endeavour to obtain connivance at his
escape, and all the price I ask for this is, your forgiveness of my
presumption."

Kate held out her hand towards him, while a smile of bewitching
loveliness played over her features; "this is to be a friend indeed,"
said she.

Hemsworth bent down his head till his lips rested on her fingers, and
as he did so, the hot tears trickled on her hand, then suddenly starting
up, he said, "I must lose no time; where shall I find your cousin? - in
what part of the country has he sought shelter?"

"The shealing at the foot of Hungry mountain, he mentioned to Herbert as
the rendezvous for the present."

"Is he alone - has he no companion?"

"None, save, perhaps, the idiot boy who acts as his guide in the
mountains."

"Farewell then," said Hemsworth, "you shall soon hear what success
attends my efforts; farewell" - and, without waiting for more, he
hastened from the spot, and was soon heard descending the causeway at a
rapid pace.

Kate stood for a few moments lost in thought, and as the sound of the
retreating hoofs aroused her, she looked up, and muttering to herself,
"It was nobly done," returned with slow steps to the house.

As Hemsworth spurred his horse, and urged him to his fastest speed,
expressions of mingled triumph and vengeance burst from him at
intervals - "Mine at last," cried he - "mine in spite of every
obstacle, - -Fortune is seldom so kind as this - vengeance and ambition
both gratified together - me, whom they dispised for my poverty, and
my low birth - that it should be my destiny to crush them to the dust!"
These words were scarcely uttered, when his horse, pressed beyond his
strength, stumbled over a rut in the road, and fell heavily to the
ground, throwing his rider under him.

For a long time no semblance of consciousness returned, and the groom,
fearing to leave him, had to wait for hours until a country car should
pass, in which his wounded master might be laid. There came one by at
last, and on this Hemsworth was laid, and brought back to "the Lodge."
Before he reached home, however, sense had so far returned, as, that he
felt his accident was attended with no serious injury; the shock of the
fall was the only circumstance of any gravity.

The medical man of Macroom was soon with him, and partly confirmed his
own first impressions, but strictly enjoining rest and quiet, as in the
event of any unusual excitement, the worst consequences might ensue.
Hemsworth bore up under the injunction with all the seeming fortitude
he could muster, but in his heart he cursed the misfortune that thus
delayed the hour of his long-sought vengeance.

"This may continue a week, then?" cried he, impatiently.

The doctor nodded an assent.

"Two - three weeks, perhaps?"

"It will be a month, at least, before I can pronounce you out of
danger," said the physician, gravely.

"A month! Great Heaven! - a month! And what are the dangers you
apprehend, in the event of my not submitting?"

"There are several, and very serious ones - -inflammation of the brain,
fever, derangement even."

"Yes, and are you sure this confinement will not drive me mad?" cried
he, passionately; "will you engage that my brain will hold out against
the agonizing thoughts that will not cease to torture me all this
while? - or can you promise that events shall stand still for the moment
when I can resume my place once more among men?"

The hurried and excited tone in which he spoke was only a more certain
evidence of the truth of the medical fears; and, without venturing on
any direct reply, the doctor gave some directions for his treatment, and
withdrew.

The physician's apprehensions were well founded. The first few hours
after the accident seemed to threaten nothing serious, but as night
fell, violent headache and fever set in, and before day-break, he was
quite delirious.

No sooner did the news reach Carrig-na-curra, than Kerry was dispatched
to bring back tidings of his state; for, however different the
estimation in which he was held by each, one universal feeling pervaded
all - of sorrow for his disaster, Day after day, Sir Archy or Herbert
went over to inquire after him; but some chronic feature of his malady
seemed to have succeeded, and he lay in one unvarying condition of
lethargic unconsciousness.

In this way, week after week glided over, and the condition of the
country seemed like that of the sick man - one of slumbering apathy.
The pursuit of Mark, so eagerly begun, had, as it were, died out. The
proclamations of reward, torn down by the country people on their
first appearance, were never renewed, and the military party, after an
ineffectual search through Killarney, directed their steps northwards
towards Tralee, and soon after returned to head-quarters. Still, with
all these signs of security, Mark, whose short experience of life, had
taught him caution, rarely ventured near Carrig-na-curra, and never
passed more than a few moments beneath his father's roof.

While each had a foreboding that this calm was but the lull that
preludes a storm, their apprehensions took very different and opposing
courses, Kate's anxieties increased with each day of Hemsworth's
illness; she saw the time gliding past in which escape seemed
practicable, and yet knew not how to profit by the opportunity. Sir
Archy, coupling the activity with which Mark's pursuit was first
undertaken, with the sudden visit of Hemsworth to the country, and the
abandonment of all endeavours to capture him, which followed on
Hemsworth's accident, felt strong suspicion that the agent was the prime
mover in the whole affair, and that his former doubts, were well founded
regarding him; while Herbert, less informed than either on the true
state of matters, formed opinions, which changed and vacillated with
each day's experience.

In this condition of events, Sir Archy had gone over one morning alone,
to inquire after Hemsworth, whose case, for some days preceding, was
more than usually threatening - symptoms of violent delirium having
succeeded to the dead lethargy in which he was sunk. Buried deeply in
his conjectures as to the real nature of the part he was acting, and how
far his motives tallied with honourable intentions, the old man plodded
wearily on, weighing every word he could remember that bore upon events,
and carefully endeavouring to divest his mind of every thing like
a prejudice. Musing thus, he accidentally diverged from the regular
approach, and turned off into a narrow path, which led to the back of
"the Lodge;" nor was he aware of his mistake, till he saw, at the end of
the walk, the large window of a room he remembered as belonging to
the former building.. The sash was open, but the curtains, were drawn
closely, so as to intercept any view from within or without. He observed
these things, as fatigued by an unaccustomed exertion, he seated
himself, for some moments' rest, on a bench beneath the trees.

A continuous, low, moaning sound soon caught his ear; he listened, and
could distinctly hear the heavy breathing of a sick man, accompanied as
it was by long-drawn sighs. There were voices, also, of persons speaking
cautiously together, and the words, "He is asleep at last," were plainly
audible, after which the door closed, and all was still.

The solemn awe which great illness inspires was felt in all its force by
the old man, as he sat like one spell-bound, and unable to depart. The
labouring respiration that seemed to bode the ebb of life, made his own
strong heart tremble, for he thought how, in his last hours, he might
have wronged him. "Oh! if I have been unjust - if I have followed him
to the last with ungenerous doubt - forgive me, Heaven; even now my own
heart is half my accuser;" and his lips murmured a deep and fervent
prayer, for that merciful benevolence, which, in his frail nature, he
denied to another. He arose from his knees with a spirit calmed, and a
courage stronger, and was about to retire, when a sudden cry from the
sick room arrested his steps. It was followed by another more shrill and
piercing still, and then a horrid burst of frantic laughter: dreadful
as the anguish-wrung notes of suffering - how little do they seem in
comparison, with the sounds of mirth from the lips of madness!

"There - there," cried a voice, he at once knew as Hemsworth's - "that's
him, that's your prisoner - make sure of him now; remember your orders,
men! - do you hear; if they attempt a rescue, load with ball, and fire
low - mind that, fire low. Ah! you are pale enough now;" and again the
savage laughter rung out. "Yes, madam," continued he, in a tone of
insolent sarcasm, "every respect shall be shown him - a chair in the
dock - a carpet on the gallows. You shall wear mourning for him - all the
honeymoon, if you fancy it. Yes," screamed he, in a wild and frantic



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 34 of 41)