Charles James Lever.

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

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hinted that the French, who that morning had entered Bantry Bay with
eleven vessels, unprepared for the active reception his measures had
provided, had set sail again, either to await the remainder of the
fleet, or perhaps return to France; "I would not wish to throw blame
on those whose misfortune is already heavy, but I must tell you,
Miss O'Donoghue, that every step of this business has been marked by
duplicity and cowardice. I, of course, need not say, that in either of
these, your friends stand guiltless, but your cousin has been a dupe
throughout; the dupe of every one who thought it worth his while to
trick and deceive him - he believed himself in the confidence of the
leaders of the expedition - they actually never heard of his name.
He thought himself in a position of trust and influence - he is not
recognized by any - unnoticed by his own party, and unacknowledged by the
French, his only notoriety will be the equivocal one of martyrdom."

Every word of this speech, uttered in a voice of sad, regretful meaning,
as though the speaker were sorrowing over the mistaken opinions of a
dear friend, cut deeply into Kate's heart - she knew not well at the
instant, whether she should not better have faced actual danger for her
cousin, than have seen him thus deceived and played upon. Hemsworth saw
the effect his words created, and went on -

"Would that the danger rested here, and that the fate of one rash, but
high-spirited boy, was all that hung on the crisis" - as he spoke he
threw a cautious look around the roomy apartment to see that they were,
indeed, alone.

"Great Heaven! there is not surely worse than this in store for us,"
cried Kate, in a voice of heartrending affliction.

"There is far worse, Miss O'Donoghue; the ruin that threatens is that
of a whole house - a noble and honoured name - your uncle is unhappily no
stranger to these mischievous intentions - I was slow to put faith in the
assertion."

"It is false - I know it is false," said Kate, passionately - "My poor
dear uncle, overwhelmed with many calamities, has borne up patiently and
nobly, but of any participation in schemes of danger or enterprize he is
incapable - think of his age - his infirmity."

"I am aware of both, young lady, but I am also aware that for years
past, his pecuniary difficulties have been such that he would hesitate
at nothing which should promise the chance of extrication. Many have
imagined like him, that even a temporary triumph over England would lead
to some new settlement between the two countries, concessions of one
kind or other, laws revoked and repealed, and confiscations withdrawn;
nor were the expectations, perhaps, altogether unfounded. Little has
ever been accorded to Ireland as a grace - much has been obtained by her
by menace."

"He never calculated on such an issue to the struggle, sir; depend upon
it, no unworthy prospect of personal gain ever induced an O'Donoghue
to adopt a cause like this. You have convinced me, now, that he is
unconnected with this plot."

"I sincerely wish my own convictions could follow yours, madam, but it
is an ungrateful office I have undertaken. Would to heaven I knew how to
discharge it more fittingly. To be plain, Miss O'Donoghue, the statute
of high treason, which will involve the confiscation of your uncle's
estate, will, if measures be not speedily taken, rob you of your
fortune; to prevent this -

"Stay, sir, I may save you some trouble on my account. I have no
fortune, nor any claim upon my uncle's estate."

"Pardon me, young lady, but the circumstance of my position has made me
acquainted with matters connected with your family; your claim extends
to a very considerable, and a very valuable property."

"Once more, sir, I must interrupt you - I have none."

"If I dare contradict you I would say - - "

"Nay, nay, sir," cried she, blushing, partly from shame, and partly from
anger - "this must cease, I know not what right you have to press the
avowal from me. The property you speak of is no longer mine; my uncle
did me the honour to accept it from me, would that the gift could
express the thousandth part of the love I bear him."

"You gave over your claim to your uncle!" said Hemsworth, leaving a
pause between every word of the sentence, while a look of malignant
anger settled on his brow.

"Who dares to question me on such a subject," said Kate, for the
insulting expression so suddenly assumed by Hemsworth, roused all her
indignation.

"Is this, then, really so," said Hemsworth, who, so unaccustomed as he
ever was to be overreached, felt all the poignancy of a deception in his
disappointment.

Kate made no answer, but moved towards the door, while Hemsworth sprang
forward before her, and placed his back against it.

"What means this, or how comes it, that you dare to treat me thus
beneath my uncle's roof?"

"One word only, Miss O'Donoghue," said Hemsworth, with an effort to
assume his habitual tone of deference; "May I ask was this transfer of
property made legally and formally."

"Sir," said Kate, as drawing herself up, she stared full at him, without
another word of reply.

"I see it all," said Hemsworth, rapidly, and as if thinking, aloud.
"This was the money that paid off Hickson - in this way the mortgage
was redeemed, and the bond for two thousand also recovered - duped
and cheated at every step. And so, madam," - here he turned a look of
insulting menace towards her - "I have been the fool in your hands all
this time; and not content with thwarting my views, you have endeavoured
to sap the source of my fortune. Yes, you need not affect ignorance; I
know of Sir Archibald's kind interference in my behalf: Sir Marmaduke
Travers has withdrawn his agency from me; he might have paused to
inquire where was the property from which he has removed me - how much
of it owns him the master, or me. This was your uncle's doing. I have it
under his own hand, and the letter addressed to yourself."

"And you dared, sir, to break the seal of my letter!"

"I did more, madam - I sent a copy of it to the Secretary of State,
whose warrant I possess: the young officials of the Home Office will,
doubtless, thank me for the amusement I have afforded them in its
contents. The match-making talents of Sir Archy and his niece's
fascinations have, however, failed for once. The Guardsman seems to have
got over his short-lived passion."

"Stand back, sir, and let me pass."

"One moment more, madam; if I have suffered some injuries from your
family, I have at least one debt of gratitude to acknowledge - but for
your note, written by your own hand, I should scarcely have succeeded
in capturing a rebel, whose treason will not long await its penalty - but
for your able assistance, your cousin might have escaped - indeed, it
may be worth while to inform you that Sir Archibald had good hopes
of obtaining his pardon, a circumstance which will, doubtless, be
satisfactory to the surviving members of the family."

"My cousin Mark taken!" cried Kate, as she clasped her hands to either
side of her head in a paroxysm of agony.

"Taken, and on his way to Dublin, under a military escort; on Wednesday
he will be tried by court-martial: I hope and trust on Thursday - but
perhaps it would be cruel to tell you of Thursday's proceedings."

Kate reeled, and endeavoured to support herself by a chair; but a
sickness like death crept over her, and with a faint low sigh she sank
lifeless on the floor; at the same instant the door was burst open by
a tremendous effort, and Hemsworth sent forward into the room. It was
Mark, splashed and dripping, his face flushed with violent exertion,
that entered. With one glance at Hemsworth, and another at the fainting
form before him, he seemed to divine all.

"Our day of reckoning is come at last, sir," said he, in a low distinct
voice; "it has been somewhat tardy, however."

"If you have any claim on me, Mr. O'Donoghue," said Hemsworth, with a
forced calmness, "I am ready, at the proper time and place, to offer you
every satisfaction."

"That time and place is here, sir," said Mark, as without the slightest
sign of passion he bolted the door, and drew a heavy table across
it. "Here, in this room, from which both of us shall never walk forth
alive."

"Take care, sir, what you do; I am armed," said Hemsworth, as he threw a
quick glance around, to see if any hope of escape should present itself.

"And so am I," said Mark, coolly, who still busied himself in removing
every object from the middle of the room, while gently lifting Kate, he
laid her, still unconscious as she was, upon a sofa.

"We have neither of us much time to throw away, I fancy," said he,
with a bitter laugh; "choose your place now, sir, and fire when you
please - mine is yonder;" and as he spoke he turned half round to walk
towards the spot indicated. With the quickness of lightning, Hemsworth
seized the moment, and drawing a pistol from his bosom, aimed and fired;
the ball grazed Mark's shoulder, and made him stagger forwards; but in a
second he recovered himself: the casualty saved him; for while falling,
a second bullet whizzed after the first. With a cry of vengeance that
made the old walls ring again, Mark sprang at him; it was the deadly
leap of a tiger on his prey; the impulse was such, that as he caught him
in his arms, both rolled over together on the floor. The struggle was
but brief; Mark, superior in youth, strength, and activity, soon got
him under, and with his knee upon his chest, pinioned him down to
the ground. There was a pause, the only sounds being the quick-drawn
breathings of both, as with looks of hate they gazed at each
other; - while with one hand he grasped Hemsworth by the throat, with
the other he felt for his pistol: slowly he drew forth the weapon, and
cocked it; then laying the cold muzzle upon the other's forehead, he
pressed the trigger; the cock snapped, but the priming burned. He flung
the weapon from him in passion, and drew another; but ere he could
adjust it, Hemsworth ceased to breathe; a cold livid colour spread over
his features, and a clammy sweat bedewed his forehead - he had fainted.

Mark dropped the uplifted weapon, as he muttered - "It was a fitting
fate - the death of a coward." Then standing up, he approached the window
that overlooked the road, and threw it wide open. The storm still blew
with all its force, and in a second extinguished the lights in the room,
leaving all in darkness. With cautious steps, Mark moved towards where
the body lay, and lifting it in his powerful arms, carried it towards
the window; with one vigorous effort he hurled the lifeless form
from him, and the heavy mass was heard as it fell crashing among the
brushwood that covered the precipice.

[Illustration: frontispiece]

Mark gazed for a few seconds into the black abyss beneath, and then
withdrawing, he closed the window, and barred it. By the aid of his
pistol he struck a light, and relighted the candles, and then approached
the sofa where Kate lay.

"Have I been ill, Mark?" said she, as she touched his band - "have I been
ill, and dreaming a horrid dream? I thought Hems-worth was here, and
that - that - but he was here - I know it now - you met him here. Oh, Mark,
dearest Mark, what has happened - where is he?"

Mark pointed to the window, but never spoke.

"Is he killed - did you kill him?" cried she, as her eyes grew wild with
the expression of terror. "Oh, merciful heaven, who has visited us so
heavily, why will reason remain when madness would be mercy! You have
killed him!"

"He did not die by my hand, though he well deserved to have done so,"
said Mark, sternly; "but are our hours to be so many now, that we can
waste them on such a theme. The French are in the Bay - at least a
portion of the fleet - sixteen vessels, nine of which are ships of the
line, are holding by their anchors beneath our cliffs; twenty more are
at sea, or wrecked or captured by the English, for who can tell the
extent of our disasters. All is against us; but against all we might
succeed, if we had not traitors amongst us."

"The Government is aware of the plot, Mark - knows every man engaged in
it, and is fully prepared to meet your advance."

"Such is the rumour; but there's no truth in it: the people hold back,
and give this as the excuse for their cowardice. The priests will not
harangue them, and the panic spreads every moment wider, of treachery
and betrayal. Lanty Lawler, the fellow who should have supplied horses
for the artillery, is an informer; so are half the others. There's
nothing for it but a bold plunge - something to put every neck in the
halter, and then will come the spirit to meet all difficulties - so
thinks Tone, and he's a noble-hearted fellow, and ready for any peril."

A loud knocking at the door of the tower now broke in upon the converse,
and Kerry O'Leary called aloud -

"Open the door, Master Mark; be quick, the soldiers is comin'."

Mark speedily withdrew the heavy table from its place across the door,
and opened it. Kerry, his clothes reduced to rags, and his face and
hands bleeding, stood before him, terror in every feature. "They took
me prisoner at the gate there, but I contrived to slip away, and took to
the mountain, and a fine chase they gave me for the last hour - - "

"But the soldiers - where are they, and in what place?"

"There's two troops of horse about a mile below Mary's in the glen,
waiting for Hemsworth's orders to advance."

"Go on," said Mark, with a stern smile; "they're not likely to move for
some time."

"I do not know that, then," said Kerry, "for I saw Hemsworth pass up the
road, with two men holding him on his horse; he seemed to have got a
bad fall, for the blood was running down his face, and his cheeks was as
pale as a corpse."

"You saw Hemsworth, and he was living!"

"Faix he was, and no doubt of it; there never was the man in these parts
could curse and swear the way he does, barrin' himself, and I heerd him
blasphaming away as he went along what he wouldn't do down here."

"Oh, fly, Mark; don't lose a second, for heaven's sake. - - "

"And leave you here to the mercy of this scoundrel and his bloodhounds."

"No, no; we are safe here; he dare not wreak his vengeance on us; but
you are his greatest enemy."

"'Tis thrue she's sayin'," cried Kerry, eagerly; "I heerd Hemsworth say
to Sam Wylie, that Captain Travers is up at Macroom with his regiment,
and was coming down to guard the castle here; but that there was plenty
of time to take you before he came, and there was a tree standing to
hang you, besides."

"I leave you, then, in safe keeping," said Mark, with a touch of sarcasm
in his voice; "one word of good-bye to my father, and I am gone."

It was some moments before the O'Donoghue could rally from the deep
stupor grief and anxiety induced, and recognize Mark as he leaned over
his chair; and then as he felt his hands and clutched his arms, he
seemed endeavouring to persuade himself that it was not some passing
dream he laboured under.

"The pursuit is too hot, father," said Mark, after two or three efforts
to arouse his mind to what was going forward, "and I must be off.
Hemsworth has a strong party in the glen; but fear nothing; he cannot
molest you; and, besides, his time is brief now."

"And will you leave me, Mark; will you desert me now?" said the old man,
with all the selfishness of age, forgetting every thing, save his own
feelings.

"Not if you wish me to remain; if you think there is more honour in my
being taken prisoner under your own roof, I'm just as willing."

"Oh, no, uncle," cried Kate, rushing forward; "do not keep him; say
good-bye, and speedily; the dragoons are advancing already."

"There goes a shot! that was a cannon," cried Mark, in ecstasy, as
he lifted his hand to catch the sound - "another! another! they're
landing - they're coming - you'll see me again before day-break, father,"
said he, embracing the old man tenderly, while he turned to bid Kate
adieu. She stood with her hands before her eyes, her bosom heaving
violently. Mark gazed at her for a moment, and pressing his lips to her
cheek, merely whispered one word, and was gone.

Hemsworth's horse, which Kerry had found in the stable, stood ready
awaiting Mark, and without a moment's loss of time, he sprung on the
animal's back, and dashed down the road at full speed. Meanwhile the
loud firing of cannon continued at intervals towards the Bay, and more
than one rocket was seen to throw its bright glare through the blackness
of the night.

"They're landing at last," cried Mark, as every report set his heart
bounding with eager hope, and forward he rode through the storm.




CHAPTER XLVIII. THE GLEN AND THE BAY

Kerry O'Leary's intelligence was correct in every particular. Hems-worth
was not only living, but, save some bruises, and a cut upon his
forehead, was little the worse for his adventure. The brushwood had
caught him in his descent, and broken the fall; and although the height
was considerable, when he reached the ground he was merely stunned, and
not seriously injured. After a little time he was able to walk, and had
succeeded in advancing about half a mile up the glen, when he was met by
Wylie and a party of his followers, returning after escorting the chaise
some miles on the road.

Neither our space nor our inclination permit us to dwell on the scene
that followed, where Hemsworth, outwitted and duped as he believed
himself, gave way to the most violent passion, accusing every one in
turn of treachery, and vowing a deep and bloody vengeance on the whole
House of O'Donoghue.

Seated on Wylie's horse, and supported on each side by two men - for at
first his weakness increased, as he found himself in the saddle - he
went along at a foot's pace. He would not listen to Wylie's proposal of
returning to the "Lodge," but constantly called out - "To Keim-an-eigh
as fast as possible - to the dragoons!" and at last passion had so far
supplied energy, that he was able to press on faster, when suddenly
a twinkling light through the gloom apprised him that he was near the
little way-side inn.

"Get me some wine, Wylie, and be quick!" cried he, as they reached the
door.

"You had better get off, and rest a few moments, sir," said the other.

"Rest! - I'll never rest," shouted he, with an infamous oath, "till I see
that fellow waving from the gallows! Some wine this instant!"

To the loud summons of Wylie no answer was returned, and the light that
shone so brightly a moment before was now extinguished.

"Break open the door! B - - t you! what do you delay about?" shouted
Hemsworth. "There are some rebel tricks at work here."

At the same instant the light re-appeared, and Mary's voice was heard
from within -

"Who's that, at this hour of the night, making such a noise?"

"Open the door, and be d - - -d to you!" cried Hemsworth, who, having got
off his horse, was now endeavouring with his foot to force the strong
door.

"It will take a better man than you to stave that pannel in," said Mary,
who, although recognizing the voice, affected not to know the speaker.
And she said truly, the door once made part of the rudder of an
Indiaman, and was strong oak belted with iron.

"Put a light in the thatch! Snap your pistol, Wylie, and set fire to
it!" cried Hemsworth, savagely; for any opposition to him at this moment
called forth all the malignity of his nature.

"Oh, is it you, captain?" said Mary, with a voice of well-affected
respect; "the Lord pardon me for keeping you out in the cold!" and with
that she opened the door, and with many a low curtsey saluted her guest.

Rudely pushing her aside, and muttering an oath, Hemsworth entered the
cabin, followed by the others.

"Why was the light put out," said he, "when you heard us knocking at the
door?"

"I did not hear the knocking," said Mary. "I was in the little room
there, and goin' to bed. The saints be good to me! - since the soldiers
were here, the hearing is knocked out of me - the noise and the
ballyragging they went on with, from mornin' till night! - and now that
they are gone - thanks to your honour, that ordered them away two days
ago up to 'the Lodge' - I do be thinking, they are here still."

"Bring us some wine," said Hemsworth, "and the best in your house. You
need not spare the tap to-night, for it's the last you will ever draw
beneath this roof. There; - don't look surprised and innocent; - you know
well what I mean. This is a rebel den, but I will leave it a heap of
ashes before I quit the spot."

"You'll not burn my little place down, captain?" said Mary, with a look,
in which a shrewd observer might have read a very different expression
than that of fear. "You'll not take away the means I have of earning my
bread?"

"Bring the wine, woman; and if you don't wish to wait for the bonfire,
be off with you up the glen. I'll leave a mark on this spot as a good
warning to traitors. People shall talk of it hereafter, and point to it
as the place where rebellion met its first lesson."

"And who dares to say that there was any treason in this house?"

"If my oath," said Wylie, "won't satisfy you, Mrs. M'Kelly - - "

"Yours!" interrupted Mary; - "yours! - a transported felon's oath!"

"What do you think of your old sweetheart, Lanty Lawler?" said
Hemsworth, as he drank off goblet after goblet of the strong wine.
"Wouldn't you think twice about refusing him now, if you knew the price
it was to cost you?"

"I would rather see my bones as black as his own traitor's heart," cried
Mary, with flashing eyes, "than I would take a villain like that! There,
captain, there's the best of the cellar, and there's the house for you,
and there," said she, throwing herself on her knees, "and there's the
curse of the lone woman that you turn out this night upon the road,
without a roof to shelter her, and may it light on you now, and follow
you hereafter!"

"Clear your throat, and cool it, after your hot wishes," said
Hems-worth, with a brutal laugh; for in this ebullition of the woman's
passion was the first moment of his enjoyment.

With a gesture of menace, and a denunciation uttered in Irish, with all
the energy the native language possesses, Mary turned into the road, and
left her home for ever.

"What was that she said?" said Hemsworth, turning to one of the men that
stood behind the chair.

"It was a saying they do have in Irish, sir," said the fellow, with
a simper, "and the meaning of it is, that it isn't them that lights a
bonfire, that waits to dance round the ashes."

"Ha! that was a threat, then! She will bring the rebels on us; - but I
have taken good care for that. I have sent a strong party by the other
road, to cut off their advance from the Bay, and we'll hear the firing
time enough to warn us; and that party," said Hemsworth, muttering to
himself, "should be at their post by this time;" here he looked at his
watch: "it is now eleven o'clock; you took the order, Wylie, for Captain
Travers to go round by Googawn Barra, and occupy the pass between
Carrig-na-curra and Bantry Bay?"

"I did, sir, and he set off the moment I gave the letter."

"Then the fellow, Mark, cannot escape me," said Hemsworth. "If he leave
the castle before I come, he falls into the hands of the others. Still,
I would rather be judge and jury myself and you shall be the hangman,
Sam. There's little love between you: it is an office you'll like well."

"If I don't do it nate," said Wylie, "the young gentleman must forgive
me, as it is my first time;" and they both laughed heartily at the
ruffian jest.

"But what are we staying for?" said Hemsworth, while he drained his
glass. "Let us get up the dragoons, and make sure of him at once. I am
strong now, and ready for any exertion."

"'Tis a pity to burn the little place, captain," said one of the fellows
of the party. "There's many a dacent boy would think himself well off,
to get the likes of it for his reward."

"Make yourself at home," said Hemsworth, "for I'll give you a lease for
three lives of it - yours, Wylie's, and mine own - will that satisfy you?"

The fellow stared at the speaker, and then looked at Wylie, as if not
knowing whether to place any faith in the words he heard.

"I didn't say you were to get the premises in good repair, however,"
said Hemsworth, with a bitter laugh, "I didn't boast much about the
roof," and at the same moment he took a lighted turf from the hearth,
and thrust it into the thatch, while Wylie, to curry favour with his
patron, imitated his example.

"Where does that door lead to?" said Hemsworth, pointing to the small
portal, which led into the rock towards the stable.



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 39 of 41)