Charles James Lever.

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

. (page 37 of 41)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 37 of 41)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


strides. "I know every road through these valleys - every place where a
stand could be made, or an escape effected. We will surprise the party
of soldiers at Mary M'Kelly's, and there, there are arms enough for all
the peasantry of the country."

Thus saying, and repeating to himself the names of the different farmers
whom he remembered as true to the cause, and on whose courage and
readiness he depended at this moment, he hastened on.

"Holt at the cross-roads promised eighteen, all armed with fire-locks.
M'Sweeny has six sons, and stout fellows they are, every man of them
ready. Then, there are the O'Learys, but there's a split amongst
them - confound their petty feuds, this is no time to indulge them. They
shall come out, and they must - ah! hand in hand, too, though they
have been enemies this twelvemonth. Black O'Sullivan numbers nigh
eighty - pike-men every one of them. Our French friends may smile at
their ragged garments, but our enemies will scarce join in the laugh.
Carrig-na-curra must be occupied, it is the key of the glen. 'The Lodge'
we'll burn to the ground: but no, we must not visit the sin of the
servant on the master. Young Travers behaved nobly to me there is a wild
time coming, and let us, at least, begin our work in a better spirit,
for bloodshed soon teaches cruelty."

Now, muttering these short and broken sentences, now, wondering what
strength the French force might be - how armed - how disposed for the
enterprise - what spirit prevailed among the officers, and what hopes
of success animated the chiefs - Mark moved along, eager for the hour to
come when the green flag should be displayed, and the war-cry of Ireland
ring in her native valleys.




CHAPTER XLV. THE PROGRESS OF TREACHERY

Leaving, for the present, Mark O'Donoghue to the duties he imposed on
himself of rallying the people around the French standard, we shall turn
to the old Castle of Carrig-na-curra, where life seemed to move on in
the same unbroken tranquillity. For several days past, Hemsworth, still
weak from his recent illness, had been a frequent visitor, and although
professing that the great object of his solicitude was the safety of
young O'Donoghue, he found time and opportunity to suggest to Kate,
that a more tender feeling influenced him: so artfully had he played his
part, and so blended were his attentions with traits of deference and
respect, that however little she might be disposed to encourage his
addresses, the difficulty of repelling them without offence was great
indeed. This delicacy on her part was either mistaken by Hemsworth, or
taken as a ground of advantage. All his experiences in life pointed
to the fact, that success is ever attainable by him who plays well his
game; that the accidents of fortune, instead of being obstacles and
interruptions, are in reality, to one of quick intelligence, but so many
aids and allies. His illness alone had disconcerted his plans; but now
once more well, and able to conduct his schemes, he had no fears for
the result. Up to this moment, every thing promised success. It was more
than doubtful that the Travers' would ever return to Ireland. Frederick
would be unwilling to visit the neighbourhood where his affections
had met so severe a shock. The disturbed state of the country, and
the events which Hemsworth well knew must soon occur, would in all
likelihood deter Sir Marmaduke from any wish to revisit his Irish
property. This was one step gained: already he was in possession of a
large portion of the Glenflesk estate, of which he was well aware
the title was defective, for he had made it a ground of considerable
abatement in the purchase money to the O'Donoghue, that his son was in
reality under age at the time of sale. Mark's fate was, however, in his
hands, and he had little fear that the secret was known by any other.
Nothing, then, remained incomplete to the accomplishment of his wishes,
except his views regarding Kate. Were she to become his wife, the small
remnant of the property that pertained to them would fall into his
hands, and he become the lord of the soil. His ambitions were higher
than this. Through the instrumentality of Lanty Lawler, he had made
himself master of the conspiracy in all its details. He knew the
names of the several chiefs, the parts assigned them, the places of
rendezvous, their hopes, their fears, and their difficulties. He was
aware of the views of France, and had in his possession copies of
several letters which passed between members of the French executive and
the leaders of the United party in Ireland. Far from communicating this
information to the Government, he treasured it as the source of his own
future elevation. From time to time, it is true, he made known certain
facts regarding individuals whom he either dreaded for their power,
or suspected that they might themselves prove false to their party and
betray the plot; but, save in these few instances, he revealed nothing
of what he knew, determining, at the proper moment, to make this
knowledge the ground-work of his fortune.

"Twenty-four hours of rebellion," said he, "one day and night of
massacre and bloodshed will make me a Peer of the realm. I know well
what terror will pervade the land, when the first rumour of a French
landing gains currency. I can picture to myself the affrighted looks of
the Council; the alarm depicted in every face, when the post brings
the intelligence, that a force is on its march towards the capital; and
then - then, when I can lay my hand on each rebel of them all, and say,
this man is a traitor, and that, a rebel - when I can show where arms
are collected and ammunition stored - when I can tell the plan of their
operation, their numbers, their organization, and their means - I have
but to name the price of my reward."

Such were the speculations that occupied the slow hours of his recovery,
and such the thoughts which engrossed the first days of his returning
health.

The latest letters he had seen from France announced that the expedition
would not sail till January, and then, in the event of escaping the
English force in the Channel, would proceed to land fifteen thousand men
on the banks of the Shannon. The causes which accelerated the sailing of
the French fleet before the time originally determined on were unknown
to Hemsworth, and on the very morning when the vessels anchored
in Bantry Bay, he was himself a visitor beneath the roof of
Carrig-na-curra, where he had passed the preceding night, the severity
of the weather having detained him there. He, therefore, knew nothing
of what had happened, and was calmly deliberating on the progress of his
own plans, when events were occurring which were destined to disconcert
and destroy them.

The family was seated at breakfast, and Hemsworth, whose letters had
been brought over from "the Lodge," was reading aloud such portions of
news as could interest or amuse the O'Donoghue and Kate, when he was
informed that Wylie was without, and most anxious to see him for a few
minutes. There was no communication which, at the moment, he deemed
could be of much importance, and he desired him to wait. Wylie again
requested a brief interview - one minute would be enough - that his
tidings were of the deepest consequence.

"This is his way ever," said Hemsworth, rising from the table; "if a
tenant has broken down a neighbour's ditch, or a heifer is impounded,
he always comes with this same pressing urgency;" and, augry at the
interruption, he left the room to hear the intelligence.

"Still, no letter from Archy, Kate," said the O'Donoghue, when they were
alone; "once more the post is come, and nothing for us. I am growing
more and more uneasy about Mark; these delays will harass the poor boy,
and drive him perhaps to some rash step."

"Mr. Hemsworth is doing everything, however, in his power," said Kate,
far more desirous of offering consolation to her uncle, than satisfied
in her own mind as to the state of matters. "He is in constant
correspondence with Government; the only difficulty is, they demand
disclosures my cousin neither can, nor ought to make. A pardon is no
grace, when it commutes death for dishonour. This will, I hope, be got
over soon."

While she was yet speaking, the door softly opened, and Kerry, with
a noiseless step, slipped in, and approaching the table unseen and
unheard, was beside the O'Donoghue's chair before he was perceived.

"Whisht, master dear - whisht, Miss Kate," said he, with a gesture of
warning towards the door. "There's great news without. The French is
landed - twenty-eight ships is down in Bantry Bay. Bony himself is with
them. I heard it all, as Sam Wylie was telling Hems-worth; I was inside
the pantry door."

"The French landed!" cried the O'Donoghue, in whom amazement overcame
all sensation of joy or sorrow.

"The French here in Ireland!" cried Kate, her eyes sparkling with
enthusiastic delight; but before she could add a word, Hemsworth
reentered. Whether his efforts to seem calm and unmoved were in
reality well-devised, or that, as is more probable, Hemsworth's own
pre-occupation prevented his strict observance of the others, he never
remarked that the O'Donoghue and his niece exhibited any traits of
anxiety or impatience; while Kerry, after performing a variety of very
unnecessary acts and attentions about the table, at last left the room,
with a sigh over his inability to protract his departure.

Hemsworth eye wandered to the door to see if it was closed before he
spoke; and then leaning forward, said, in a low, cautious voice -

"I have just heard some news that may prove very important. A number of
the people have assembled in arms in the glen, your son Mark at their
head. What their precise intentions, or whither they are about to direct
their steps, I know not; but I see clearly that young Mr. O'Donoghue
will fatally compromise himself, if this rash step become known. The
Government never could forgive such a proceeding on his part. I need
not tell you that this daring must be a mere hopeless exploit; such
enterprises have but one termination - the scaffold."

The old man and his niece exchanged glances - rapid, but full of
intelligence. Each seemed to ask the other, "Is this man false? Is
he suppressing a part of the truth at this moment, or is this all
invention? Why has he not spoken of the great event - the arrival of the
French?"

Kate was the first to venture to sound him, as she asked -

"And is the rising some mere sudden ebullition of discontent, or have
they concerted any movement with others at a distance?"

"A mere isolated outbreak - the rash folly of hair-brained boys, without
plan or project."

"What is to become of poor Mark?" cried the O'Donoghue, all suspicions
of treachery forgotten in the anxiety of his son's safety.

"I have thought of that," said Hemsworth, hastily. "The movement must
be put down at once. As a magistrate, and in the full confidence of the
Government, I have no second course open to me, and therefore I have
ordered up the military from Macroom. There are four troops of cavalry
and an infantry regiment there. With them in front, this ill-disciplined
rabble will never dare to advance, but soon scatter and disband
themselves in the mountains - the leaders only will incur any danger.
But as regards your son, you have only to write a few lines to him, and
dispatch them by some trusty messenger, saying that you are aware of
what has happened - know everything - and without wishing to interfere or
thwart his designs, you desire to see and speak with him, here, at once.
This he will not refuse. Once here safe, and within these walls, I'll
hasten the pursuit of these foolish country fellows; and even should
any of them be taken, your son will not be of the number. You must take
care, however, when he is here, that he does not leave this until I
return."

"And are these brave fellows, misguided though they be, to be kidnapped
thus, and by our contrivance, too?" said Kate, on whom, for the first
time, a dread of Hemsworth's duplicity was fast breaking.

"I did not know Miss O'Donoghue's interest took so wide a range, or that
her sympathies were so Catholic," said Hemsworth, with a smile of double
meaning. "If she would save her cousin, however, she must adopt my plan,
or at least suggest a better one."

"Yes, yes, Kate, Mr. Hemsworth is right," said the O'Donoghue, in whom
selfishness was always predominant; "we must contrive to get Mark here,
and to keep him when we have him."

"And you may rely upon it, Miss O'Donoghue," said Hemsworth, in a
whisper, "that my pursuit of the others will not boast of any excessive
zeal in the cause of loyalty. Such fellows may be suffered to escape,
and neither King nor Constitution have any ground of complaint for it."

Kate smiled gratefully in return, and felt angry with herself for even a
momentary injustice to the honourable nature of Hemsworth's motives.

"Mr. Hemsworth's horses is at the door," said Kerry, at the same moment.

"It is, then, agreed upon, that you will write this letter at once,"
said Hemsworth, leaning over the old man's chair, as he whispered the
words into his ear.

The O'Donoghue nodded an assent.

"Without knowing that," continued Hemsworth, "I should be uncertain how
to proceed. I must not let the Government suppose me either ignorant or
lukewarm. Lose no time, therefore; send off the letter, and leave the
rest to me."

"You are not going to ride, I hope," said Kate, as she looked out of the
window down the glen, where already the rain was falling in torrents,
and the wind blowing a perfect hurricane. Hemsworth muttered a few words
in a low tone, at which Kate coloured, and looked away.

"Nay, Miss O'Donoghue," said he, still whispering, "I am not one of
those who make a bargain for esteem; if I cannot win regard, I will
never buy it."

There was a sadness in his words, and an air of self-respect about him,
as he spoke them, that touched Kate far more than ever she had been
before by any expression of his feelings. When she saw him leave the
room, her first thought was, "It is downright meanness to suspect him."

"Is it not strange, Kate," said the O'Donoghue, as he took her hand in
his, "he never mentioned the French landing to us? What can this mean?"

"I believe I can understand it, sir," said Kate, musingly; for already
she had settled in her mind, that while Hemsworth would neglect no
measures for the safety of Carrig-na-curra, he scrupled to announce
tidings which might overwhelm them with alarm and terror. "But let us
think of the letter; Kerry, I suppose, is the best person to send with
it."

"Yes, Kerry can take it; and as the way does not lead past Mary's door,
there's a chance of his delivering it without a delay of three hours on
the road."

"There, sir, will that do?" said Kate, as she handed him a paper, on
which hastily a few lines were written.

"Perfectly - nothing better; only, my sweet Kate, when a note begins
'my dear son,' it should scarcely be signed 'your own affectionate Kate
O'Donoghue.'"

Kate blushed deeply, as she tore the paper in fragments, and without A
word reseated herself at the table.

"I have done better this time," said she, as she folded the note and
sealed it; while the old man, with an energy quite unusual for him,
arose and rung the bell for Kerry.

"Did I ever think I could have done this," said Kate to herself, as a
tear slowly coursed along her cheek and fell on the letter; "that I could
dare to recall him, when both honour and country demand his services;
that I could plot for life, when all that makes life worth having is in
the opposite scale?"

"You must find out master Mark, Kerry," said the O'Donoghue, "and give
him this letter; there is no time to be lost about it."

"Sorra fear; I'll put it into his hand this day."

"This day!" cried Kate, impatiently. "It must reach him within
three hours time. Away at once - the foot of Hungry Mountain - the
shealing - Bantry Bay - you cannot have any difficulty in finding him
now."

Kerry waited not for further bidding, and though not by any means
determined to make any unusual exertion, left the room with such
rapidity as augured well for the future.

"Well," said Mrs. Branagan, whose anxiety for news had led her to the
head of the kitchen stairs, an excursion which, at no previous moment
of her life, had she been known to take, "well, Kerry, what's going on
now?"

"Faix, then, I'll tell ye, ma'am," said he, sighing; "'tis myself
they're wanting to kill. Here am I setting out wid a letter, and where
to, do you think? the top of Hungry Mountain, in the Bay of Bantry,
that's the address - divil a lie in it."

"And who is it for?" said Mrs. Branagan, who, affecting to bestow a
critical examination on the document, was inspecting the superscription
wrong side up.

"'Tis for Master Mark; I heard it all outside the door; they don't want
him to go with the boys, now that the French is landed, and we're going
to have the country to ourselves. 'Tis a dhroll day when an O'Donoghue
would'nt have a fight for his father's acres."

"Bad cess to the weak-hearted, wherever they are," exclaimed Mrs.
Branagan; "don't give him the letter, Kerry avich; lie quiet in the glen
till evening, and say you couldn't find him, by any manner of means. Do
that, now, and it will be a good sarvice to your country this day."

"I was just thinking that same myself," said Kerry, whose resolution
wanted little prompting; "after I cross the river, I'll turn into the
Priests' Glen, and never stir out till evening."

With these honest intentions regarding his mission, Kerry set out, and
if any apology could be made for his breach of faith, the storm might
plead for him; it had now reached its greatest violence; the wind
blowing iu short and frequent gusts, snapped the large branches like
mere twigs, and covered the road with fragments of timber; the mountain
rivulets, too, were swollen, and dashed madly down the rocky cliffs
with a deafening clamour, while the rain, swooping past in torrents,
concealed the sky, and covered the earth with darkness. Muttering in no
favourable spirit over the waywardness of that sex, to whose peculiar
interposition he ascribed his present excursion, Kerry plodded along,
turning, as he went, a despairing look at the barren and bleak prospect
around him. To seek for shelter in the glen, he knew was out of the
question, and so he at once determined to gain the priest's cottage,
where a comfortable turf fire and a rasher of bacon were certain to
welcome him.

Dreadful as the weather was, Kerry wondered that he met no one on the
road. He expected to have seen groups of people, and all the signs of
that excitement the arrival of the French might be supposed to call
forth; but, on the contrary, everything was desolate as usual, not
a human being appeared, nor could he hear a signal nor a sound, that
betokened a gathering.

"I wouldn't wonder now if it was a lie of Sam Wylie's, and the French
wasn't here at all," said he to himself; "'tis often I heerd that
Hemsworth could have the rebellion brake out whenever he liked it, and
sorra bit but that may be it now, just to pretend the French was here,
to get the boys out, and let the army at them."

This reflection of Kerry's was scarcely conceived, when it was
strengthened by a boy who was coming from Glengariff with a turf-car,
and who told him that the ships that came in with the morning's tide had
all weighed anchor, and sailed out of the Bay before twelve o'clock, and
that nobody knew anything about them, what they were, and whence from.
"We thought they were the French," said the boy, "till we seen them
sailing away; but then we knew it wasn't them, and some said it was the
King's ships coming in to guard Bantry."

"And they are not there now?" said Kerry.

"Not one of them; they're out to say, and out of sight, this hour back."

Kerry hesitated for a second or two, whether this intelligence might
not entitle him to turn homeward; but a second thought - the priest's
kitchen - seemed to have the advantage, and thither he bent his steps
accordingly.




CHAPTER XLVI. THE PRIEST'S COTTAGE.

When Mark and Herbert separated on the mountain, each took a different
path downward. Mark, bent on assembling the people at once, and
proclaiming the arrival of their friends, held his course towards
Glengariff and the coast, where the fishermen were, to a man, engaged in
the plot. Herbert, uncertain how to proceed, was yet equally anxious to
lose no time, but could form no definite resolve what course to adopt
amid his difficulties To give notice of the French landing, to apprise
the magistrates of the approaching outbreak, was, of course, his duty;
but in doing this, might he not be the means of Mark's ruin; - while, on
the other hand, to conceal his knowledge would be an act of disloyalty
to his sovereign, a forfeiture of the principles he held dear, and the
source, perhaps, of the most dreadful evils to his country. Where, too,
should he seek for counsel or advice - his father, he well knew, would
only regard the means of his brother's safety, reckless of all other
consequences; Kate's opinions, vague and undefined as they were, would
be in direct opposition to his own. Hems-worth he dared not confide
in - what then remained! There was but one for miles round, in whose
judgment and honour together he had trust; but from him latterly he had
kept studiously aloof. This was his old tutor, Father Rourke. Unwilling
to inflict pain upon the old man, and still unable to reconcile himself
to anything like duplicity in the matter, Herbert had avoided the
occasion of meeting him, and of avowing that change in his religious
belief, which, although secretly working for many a year, had only
reached its accomplishment when absent from home. He was aware how such
a disclosure would afflict his old friend - how impossible would be the
effort to persuade him that such a change had its origin in conviction,
and not in schemes of worldly ambition; and to save himself the
indignity of defence from such an accusation, and the pain of an
interview, where the matter should be discussed, he had preferred
leaving to time and accident, the disclosure, which from his own
lips would have been a painful sacrifice to both parties. These
considerations, important enough as they regarded his own happiness, had
little weight with him now. The graver questions had swallowed up all
others - the safety of the country - his brother's fate. It was true the
priest's sympathies would be exclusively with one party; he would not
view with Herbert's eye the coming struggle; but still might he not
regard with him the results? - might he not, and with prescience stronger
from his age, anticipate the dreadful miseries of a land devastated
by civil war? - was it not possible that he might judge unfavourably of
success, and prefer to endure what he regarded as evils, rather than
incur the horrors of a rebellion, and the re-enactment of penalties it
would call down?

The hopes such calculations suggested were higher, because Mark
had himself often avowed, that the French would only consent to the
enterprize, on the strict understanding of being seconded by the almost
unanimous voice of the nation. Their expression was, "We are ready and
willing to meet England in arms, provided not one Irishman be in the
ranks." Should Father Rourke, then, either from motives of policy or
prudence, think unfavourably of the scheme, his influence, unbounded
over the people, would throw a damper on the rising, and either deter
the French from any forward movement, or at least delay it, and afford
time for the Government to take measures of defence. This alone might
have its effect on Mark, and perhaps be the means of saving him.

Whether because he caught at this one chance of succour, when all around
seemed hopeless, or that the mind: fertilizes the fields of its own
discovery, Herbert grew more confident each moment that this plan would
prove successful, and turned with an eager heart towards the valley
where the priest lived. In his eagerness to press forward, however, he
diverged from the path, and at last reached a part of the mountain where
a tremendous precipice intervened, and stopped all further progress. The
storm increasing every minute made the way slow and perilous, for around
the different peaks the wind swept with a force that carried all before
it. Vexed at his mistake, he resolved, if possible, to discover some
new way down the mountain; but in the endeavour he only wandered still
further from his course, and finally found himself in front of the sea



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 37 of 41)