Charles James Lever.

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

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operation in which Kerry contrived not to afford him any assistance
whatever, Mark O'Donoghue paced slowly to and fro in the courtyard, with
his arms folded, and his head sunk upon his breast; nor was he aroused
from his reverie until the step of the horse was heard on the pavement
beside him.

"Poor Kittane," said he, looking up suddenly, "you were a great pet: I
hope they'll be as kind to you as I was; and they'd better, too," added
he, half-savagely, "for you've a drop of the Celt in your blood, and can
revenge harsh treatment when you meet with it. Tell her owner that she
is all gentleness, if not abused, but get her temper once up, and, by
Jove, there's not a torrent on the mountain can leap as madly! She knows
her name, too: I trust they'll not change that. She was bred beside
Lough Kittane, and called after it. See how she can follow;" and with
that, the youth sprang forward, and placing his hand on the top bar of a
gate, vaulted lightly over; but scarcely had he reached the ground,
when the mare bounded after him, and stood with her head resting on his
shoulder.

Mark turned an elated look on the others, and then surveyed the
noble animal beside him with all the pride and admiration of a master
regarding his handiwork. She was, indeed, a model of symmetry, and well
worthy of all the praise bestowed on her.

For a moment or two the youth gazed on her, with a flashing eye and
quivering lip, while the mare, catching excitement from the free air of
the morning, and the spring she had made, stood with swelled veins and
trembling limbs, his counterpart in eagerness. One spirit seemed to
animate both. So Mark appeared to feel it, as with a bound he sprung
into the saddle, and with a wild cheer dashed forward. With lightning's
speed they went, and in a moment disappeared from view. Kerry jumped up
on a broken gate-pier, and strained his eyes to catch them, while Lanty,
muttering maledictions to himself, on the hair-brained boy, turned
everywhere for a spot where he might view the scene.

[Illustration: 55]

"There he goes," shouted Kerry; "look at him now; he's coming to the
furze ditch into the big field: see! see! she does not see the fence;
her head's in the air. Whew - elegant, by the mortial - never touched a
hoof to it! - murther! murther! how she gallops in the deep ground, and
the wide gripe that's before her! Ah, he won't take it; he's turning
away."

"I wish to the Lord he'd break a stirrup-leather," muttered Lanty.

"Oh, Joseph!" screamed Kerry, "there was a jump - twenty feet as sure as
I'm living. Where is he now? - I don't see him."

"May you never," growled Lanty, whose indignant anger had burst all
bounds: "that's not treatment for another man's horse."

"There he goes, the jewel; see him in the stubble field; sure it's a
real picture to see him going along at his ease. Whurroo - he's over the
wall. What the devil's the matter now? - they're away;" and so it was:
the animal that an instant before was cantering perfectly in hand, had
now set off at top speed, and at full stretch. "See the gate - mind the
gate - Master Mark - tear-and-ages, mind the gate," shouted Kerry, as
though his admonition could be heard half a mile away. "Oh! holy Mary!
he's through it," and true enough - the wild and now affrighted beast
dashed through the frail timbers, and held on her course, without
stopping. "He's broke the gate to flitters."

"May I never, if I don't wish it was his neck," said Lanty, in open
defiance.

"Do you, then?" called out Kerry. "Why, then, as sure as my name's Kerry
O'Leary, if there's a hair of his head hurted, I'll - "

What the threat was intended for, cannot be known; for his eye once more
caught sight of his idol, and he yelled out -

"Take care of the sheep. Bad luck to ye for sheep, ye're always in the
way. That's the darling - 'twas myself taught you to have a light hand.
Ah, Kittane, you're coming to rayson now."

"The mare won't be worth sixpence," muttered Lanty.

"Twas as good as a day's sport to me," said Kerry, wiping his brow
with the loose sleeve of his coat, and preparing to descend from the
elevation, for the young man now entered the distant part of the lawn,
and, at an easy canter, was returning to the stable-yard.

"There!" said Mark, as he flung himself from the saddle, "there Kittane,
it's the last time you're likely to have a bold burst of it, or myself
either, perhaps. She touched her counter on that gate, Lanty; but she's
nothing the worse of it."

Lanty grumbled some indistinct mutterings, as he wiped a blood stain
from the mare's chest, and looked sulkily at her heaving flanks and
sides reeking with foam and sweat.

"Tis a darling you wor," said Kerry, patting her over from her mane to
her hind quarters.

"Faix, that cut is ten pounds out of my pocket this morning, anyhow,"
said Lanty, as he pointed to the slight scratch from which a few drops
of blood still flowed.

"Are you off the bargain, then," said Mark sternly, as he turned his
head round; for he was already leaving the spot.

"I didn't say so," was the answer.

For a second or two Mark seemed uncertain what reply to make, and then,
as if controlling his temper, he nodded carelessly, and with a "Good-by,
Lanty," he sauntered slowly towards the house.

"Well, Mr. O'Leary," said Lanty, in a voice of affected politeness,
Irishmen are occasionally very fond of employing when they intend great
self-respect, "may I trouble you to bring out that hack of mine."

"'Tis a pleasure, Mr. Lawler, and no trouble in life, av it helps to get
rid of you," responded Kerry, as he waddled off on the errand.

Lanty made no reply; perhaps he felt the encounter unequal - perhaps he
despised his antagonist; in any case, he waited patiently for Kerry's
appearance, and then, passing his arm within the bridle of each horse,
he slowly descended the avenue towards the high road.




CHAPTER V. IMPRESSIONS OF IRELAND.

It was not without a feeling closely allied to disappointment, that Sir
Marmaduke Travers found the advent to his Irish estates uncelebrated by
any of those testimonies on the part of his tenantry, his agent, Captain
Hemsworth, had often so graphically pictured before him. The post-horses
were suffered to drag his carriage unmolested to its destination;
there was no assemblage of people to welcome - not a bonfire to hail his
arrival. True, he had come totally unexpectedly. The two servants sent
forward to prepare the lodge for his reception, only reached there
a single day before himself. But Sir Marmaduke had often taken his
Yorkshire tenants as much by surprise, and, there, he always found a
deputation, and a cortege of mounted yeomen. There were addresses, and
triumphal arches, and newspaper paragraphs, and all the innumerable but
well-known accompaniments of those patronizing acts of condescension,
which consist in the visit of a rich man to his own home. Now, however,
all was different. No cheering sounds broke the quiet stillness of the
deep valley. No troops of people on horseback or on foot filled the
glen. The sun set, calm and golden, behind the purple hills, unscared by
the lurid glow of a single bonfire. Save from an appearance of increased
bustle, and an air of movement and stir around the lodge itself, there
was nothing to mark his coming. There, indeed, servants were seen to
pass and re-pass; workmen were employed upon the flower-garden and the
shrubbery walks; and all the indications of care and attention to
the villa and its grounds easily perceptible. Beyond these precincts,
however, all was still and solitary as before. For miles the road could
be seen without a single traveller. The mountains seemed destitute of
inhabitants. The peaceful solemnity of the deep glen, along which
the cloud shadows moved slowly in procession, increased the sense of
loneliness, and Sir Marmaduke already began to suspect, that this
last trial of a residence would scarcely prove more fortunate than the
previous ones.

Age and wealth are uncomplying task-masters - habit and power endure
restraint with an ill grace. The old baronet was half angry with himself
for what he felt a mistake, and he could not forgive the country which
was the cause of it. He had come expressly to see and pronounce for
himself - to witness with his own eyes, to hear with his own ears - and
yet he knew not how it was, nothing revealed itself before him. The
very labourers who worked in the garden seemed uncommunicative and shy.
Their great respect and reverence he understood as a cautious reserve.
He must send for Hemsworth - there was nothing else for it. Hemsworth
was used to them, and could explain the mode of dealing with them. Their
very idioms required translating, and he could not advance without an
interpreter.

Not so his daughter. To her the scene had all the charm of romance. The
lone dwelling beside the blue lake, the tall and peaked mountains lost
in the white clouds, the waving forest with its many a tangled path, the
bright islands that, gem-like, spangled the calm surface of the water,
realized many a poetic dream of her childhood, and she felt that
visionary happiness which serenity of mind, united to the warm
imagination of early life, alone can bestow.

It was a fairy existence to live thus secluded in that lonely valley,
where the flowers seemed to blossom for them alone; for them, the summer
birds sang their roundelays, and the fair moon shed her pale light over
hill and stream, with none to mark her splendour save themselves,
Not these thoughts alone filled her mind. Already had she noticed
the artless habits of the humble peasantry - their gratitude for the
slightest services, their affectionate greetings, the touching beauty of
their expressions, teeming with an imagery she never heard before.
All appealed to her mind with a very different force from what they
addressed themselves with to her father's. Already she felt attracted by
the figurative eloquence, so popular a gift among the people. The
warm fervour of fancy she had believed the attribute of highly-wrought
temperaments only, she found here amid poverty and privation; flashes of
bright wit broke from the gloom of daily suffering; and the fire
which gives life its energy, burned brightly amid the ashes of many
an extinguished hope. These were features she was not prepared to meet
among a peasantry living in a wild unvisited district, and day by day
they fascinated her more strongly.

It was not entirely to the difference between father and daughter that
these varied impressions were owing. The people themselves assumed a
tone quite distinctive to each. Sir Marmaduke they had always heard
spoken of, as a stern-tempered man, whose severity towards his tenantry
was, happily, tempered by the personal kindness of the agent. Captain
Hemsworth constantly impressed them with the notion that all harsh
measures originated with his principal - the favours came from himself
only, the exactions of high rents, the rigorous prosecution of the law,
he ever asserted were acts compulsory with him, but always repugnant to
his own better feelings. Every little act of grace he accompanied by an
assurance, that he "hoped Sir Marmaduke might not hear of it," as the
consequences to himself might prove ruinous. In fact, he contrived to
mislead both parties in their estimate of each other, and their first
acquaintanceship, it could not be supposed, should dispel the illusion.
The peasantry, however, were the first to discover the error: long
before Sir Marmaduke had made any progress in deciphering the mystic
symbols of _their_ natures, they had read _his_ from end to end. They
scanned him with powers of observation no other people in Europe can
compete with; and while _he_ was philosophizing about the combined
influence of their superstitions, their ignorance, and their apathy
to suffering, _they_ were accurately speculating on all the possible
benefits which might accrue from the residence amongst them, of so very
kind-hearted, but such a _mere_ simpleton of a man as himself.

They listened with sincere pleasure - for they love any appeal to
themselves - to the precepts he so liberally bestowed regarding
"industry" and "frugality;" nor did they ever make the reply, which
was ready at every lip, that industry cannot be practised without
an occupation, nor frugality be pushed beyond the very borders of
starvation. No; they answered with a semblance of concurrence, - "True
for you, sir; the devil a lie in it - your honour knows it well."
Or, when pushed home by any argument against their improvidence, or
recklessness, the ever-present reply was - "Sure, sir, it's the will of
God;" a piece of fatalism, that rescued them from many a difficulty,
when no other aid was near.

"They are a simple set of people," said Sir Marmaduke, as he sat at his
breakfast; in the small parlour of the lodge, which looked out upon the
glen, "Very ignorant, very barbarous, but easily led - I see through them
clearly."

"I like them greatly," said his daughter; "their gratitude knows no
bounds for the slightest services; they have a kind of native courtesy,
so rare to find amongst a peasantry? how that poor fellow last night
wished to climb the cliff, where the eagle's nest is, because I
foolishly said I had never seen a young eagle."

"They are totally misunderstood," said Sir Marmaduke, sententiously,
rather following out the train of his own reflections, than noticing the
remark of his daughter, "all one hears of their absurd reverence for the
priest, or the devoted adherence they practise towards the old families
of the country, is mere nonsense, You heard how Dan laughed this
morning, when I joked with him about purgatory and the saints; and
what a droll description they gave of that queer household - the
chieftain - what is his name?

"The O'Donoghue."

"Yes; I never can remember it. No, no; they are not so bigoted; they
are merely uninformed. We shall soon see many changes among them. I
have written to Bradston about the plans for the cottages, and also the
design for a school-house; and then, there's the chapel - that reminds
me I have not returned the priest's visit; he was here the day before
yesterday."

"If you like, we'll ride there; I have heard that the glen is beautiful
higher up."

"I was just going to propose it; that mare seems quiet enough: Lawler
says that she has been carrying a lady these last two years; will you
try her?"

"I am longing to do so - I'm certain she is gentleness itself."

"Strange fellow that horse-dealer is, too," said the old gentleman in
half soliloquy. "In no other country in the universe would such a mere
simpleton have taken to the trade of a jockey; he actually did not know
what price to ask for his horse; he left it all to ourselves. He'd soon
finish his career in London, at that rate of going; but what have we got
here - what in heaven's name is all this?" cried he aloud, as he suddenly
rose from the table, and approached a small glass door that opened upon
the lawn.

The object which so excited his astonishment was an assemblage of
something more than a hundred poor people of every sex and age - from
infancy to dotage - seated on the grass, in a wide semicircle, and
awaiting the moment when he should issue forth. Every phase of human
misery, which want and wretchedness can bestow, was there. The cheeks
of some were pale and haggard with recent sickness; others had but a few
tattered rags to cover them; many were cripples, unable to move without
assistance. There was wan and sickly childhood, and tremulous old age;
yet the tone of their voices showed no touch of sadness; they laughed
and talked with all the seeming of light-heartedness; and many a droll
and merry saying broke from that medley mass of suffering and sorrow.
The sudden appearance of Sir Marmaduke at the door instantaneously
checked all merriment, and a solemn silence ensued, as he walked forth
and stood in front of them.

"What do you want, my good people?" said he at length, as none seemed
disposed to open the proceedings.

Had their tongues been unlocked by the spell of a magician, the effect
could not have been more instantaneous - a perfect volley of speech
followed, in which Sir Marmaduke in vain endeavoured to follow the
words of any single speaker. Their rapid utterance, their vehement
gesticulation, and a certain guttural mode of pronunciation, quite
new to him, made them totally unintelligible, and he stood confused,
perplexed, and confounded for several minutes, staring around on every
side.

"Do, in heaven's name, be quiet," cried he at last; "let one or two only
talk at a time, and I shall learn what you mean."

A renewal of the clamour ensued; but this time it was a general effort
to enforce silence - a process which eventuated in a far greater uproar
than before.

"Who, or what are you?" cried Sir Marmaduke, at last losing all temper,
at the continuance of a tumult there seemed no prospect of coming to an
end.

"We're your honour's tenants, every one of us," shouted the crowd with
one voice.

"_My_ tenants!" reiterated he in horror and astonishment. "What! is it
possible that you are tenants on my property? Where do you live, my poor
old man?" said he, addressing a venerable old fellow, with a head as
white as snow, and a beard like a patriarch's.

"He does not talk any English, your honour's worship - he has only Irish;
he lives in the glen beyond," said a comely woman at his side.

"And you, where do you come from yourself?"

"I'm a poor widow, your honour, with six childer; and sorra bit I
have, but the little garden, and the grass of a goat; and sure, fifteen
shillings every half year is more nor I can pay, wid all the scrapin' in
life."

Sir Marmaduke turned away his head, and as he did so, his eye fell upon
a poor creature, whose bloated cheeks and swollen figure denoted dropsy.
The man interpreting the look into a compassionate inquiry, broke forth
in a feeble voice - "I brought the nine shillings with me, yer honour;
and though the captain refused to take it, I'm sure you won't turn
me out of the little place, for being a trifle late. It's the watery
dropsy - glory be to God! - I'm under; but they say I'm getting better."

While the poor creature spoke, a low muttering of pity burst from those
around him, and many a compassionate look, and many a cheering word was
expressed by those scarce less miserable than himself.

There was now a certain kind of order restored to the assembly; and
as Sir Marmaduke moved along the line, each in turn addressed his
supplication or complaint. One was threatened with a distress on his
pig, because he owed two half-years' rent, and could only pay a portion
of the debt; there was a failure in the potatoe crop, and a great famine
the consequence. Another was only recovering from the "shaking ague,"
and begged for time, since if he thrashed his oats, now, they would
bring nothing in the market. A third entreated liberty to cut his turf
on a distant bog, as he was up to his knees in water, in the place
allotted to him.

Some came with odd shillings due on the last rent-day, and anxious to
get leave to send their children to the school without payment.

Every one had some favour to look for - some mere trifle to the granter;
the whole world to him who asked - and, for these, many had come miles
away from homes far in the mountains; a glimmering hope of succour, the
only encouragement to the weary journey.

As Sir Marmaduke listened with a feigned composure to narratives, at
which his very heart bled, he chanced to observe a strange-looking
figure, in an old scarlet uniform, and a paper cap, with a cock's
feather stuck slantwise in the side of it. The wearer, a tall, bony
youth, with yellow hair, carried a long wattle over his shoulder, as
if it were a gun, and when the old baronet's eye fell upon him, he
immediately stood bolt upright, and held the sapling to his breast, like
a soldier presenting arms.

"Shoulder hoo!" he cried, and as the words were heard, a hearty burst
of laughter ran through the crowd; every grief and sorrow was at once
forgotten; the eyes wet with tears of sadness, were now moistened with
those of mirth; and they laughed like those whose hearts had never known
suffering.

"Who is this fellow?" said Sir Marmaduke, half doubting how far he might
relish the jest like the others.

"Terry the Woods, your honour," replied a score of voices together.

"Terry the Woods!" repeated he, "and is Terry a tenant of mine?"

"Faix, I am proud to say I am not," said Terry, grounding his weapon,
and advancing a step towards him, "divil a farthin' of rent I ever paid,
nor ever will. I do have my health mighty well - glory be to God! - and
sleep sound, and have good clothes, and do nothing for it; and they say
I am a fool, but which of us is the greatest fool after all."

Another outbreak of laughter was only quelled by Sir Marmaduke asking
the reason of Terry's appearance there, that morning - if he had nothing
to look for.

"I just came to pay my respects," said Terry composedly, "to wish you a
welcome to the country. I thought that as you might be lading the same
kind of life as myself, we wouldn't be bad companions, you see, neither
of us having much on our hands; and then," continued he, as he took off
his paper bonnet and made a deep reverence, "I wanted to see the young
lady there, for they tould me she was a born beauty."

Miss Travers blushed. She was young enough to blush at a compliment from
such a source, as her father said laughingly -

"Well, Terry, and have they been deceiving you?"

"No," said he, gravely, as with steady gaze he fixed his large blue eyes
on the fair features before him. "No - she is a purty crayture - a taste
sorrowful or so - but I like her all the better. I was the same myself
when I was younger."

Terry's remark was true enough. The young girl had been a listener for
some time to the stories of the people, and her face betrayed the sad
emotions of her heart. Never before had such scenes of human suffering
been revealed before her - the tortuous windings of the poor man's
destiny, where want and sickness he in wait for those whose happiest
hours are the struggles against poverty and its evils.

"I can show you the beautifullest places in the whole country," said
Terry, approaching Miss Travers, and addressing her in a low voice,
"I'll tell you where the white heath is growing, with big bells on it,
like cups, to hould the dew. Were you ever up over Keim-an-eigh?"

"Never," said she, smiling at the eagerness of her questioner.

"I'll bring you, then, by a short-cut, and you can ride the whole way,
and maybe we'll shoot an eagle - have you a gun in the house?"

"Yes, there are three or four," said she humouring him.

"And if I shoot him, I'll give you the wing-feathers - that's what they
always gave their sweethearts long ago, but them times is gone by."

The girl blushed deeply, as she remembered the present of young
O'Donoghue, on the evening they came up the glen. She called to mind the
air of diffidence and constraint in which he made the proffer, and for
some minutes paid no attention to Terry, who still, continued to talk as
rapidly as before.

"There, they are filing off," said Terry - "orderly time," as he once
more shouldered his sapling and stood erect. This observation was made
with reference to the crowd of poor people, whose names and place of
residence Sir Marmaduke having meanwhile written down, they were now
returning to their homes with happy and comforted hearts. "There they
go," cried Terry, "and an awkward squad they are."

"Were you ever a soldier, Terry?" said Miss Travers.

The poor youth grew deadly pale - the very blood forsook his lips, as
he muttered, "I was." Sir Marmaduke came up at the instant, and Terry
checked himself at once and said -

"Whenever you want me, leave word at Mary M'Kelly's, in the glen below,
and I'll hear of it."

"But don't you think you had better remain here with us? you could help
in the garden and the walks."

"No; I never do be working at all - I hate work."

"Yes, but easy work, Terry," said Miss Travers, "among the flowers and
shrubs here."

"No - I'd be quite low and sorrowful if I was to be staying in one place,
and maybe - maybe" - here he whispered so low, as only to be heard by
her - "maybe they'd find me out."

"No; there's no fear of that," said she, "we'll take care no one shall
trouble you - stay here, Terry."

"Well, I believe I will," said he, after a pause, "I may go away when I
like."

"To be sure, and now let us see how you are to be lodged," said Sir



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 4 of 41)