Charles James Lever.

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

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


have risked their lives for me, and I have nothing but thanks to give
them."

"Let this go to the expenses of the expedition,'' said the captain,
laughing, as he threw his purse to Mark. The young man leaned over the
bulwark, and hailed the boat, and, after a moment of great difficulty,
one of the fishermen reached the deck.

"I wish to bid you good-bye, Tom," said Mark, as he grasped the
rough hand in his; "you are the last thing I shall see of my country;
farewell, then; but remember, that however deeply wrongs may gall, and
injuries oppress you, the glory of resistance is too dearly bought at
the cost of companionship with the traitor and the coward - goodbye
forever." He pressed the purse into the poor fellow's hand; nor was it
without a struggle he could compel him to accept it. A few minutes after
the boat was cleaving her way through the dark water, her prow turned to
the land which Mark had left for ever.

Seated on the deck, silent and thoughtful, Mark seemed indifferent to
the terrible storm, whose violence increased with every moment, and
as the vessel tacked beneath the tall cliffs, when every heart beat
anxiously, and every eye was fixed on the stern rocks above them, his
glance was calm, and his pulse was tranquil; he felt as though fate had
done her worst, and that the future had no heavier blow in store for
him.




CHAPTER XLIX. THE END.

The storm of that eventful night is treasured among the memories of the
peasantry of the south. None living had ever witnessed a gale of such
violence - none since have seen a hurricane so dreadful and enduring: for
miles along the coast the scattered spars and massive timbers told of
shipwreck and disasters, while inland, uptorn trees and fallen rocks
attested its power.

The old castle of Carrig-na-curra did not escape the general calamity;
the massive walls that had resisted for centuries the assaults of war
and time, were shaken to their foundations, and one strong, square
tower, the ancient keep, was rent by lightning from the battlements to
the base, while far and near might be seen fragments of timber, and even
of masonry, hurled from their places by the storm. For whole days after
the gale abated, the air resounded with an unceasing din - the sound of
the distant sea, and the roar of the mountain torrents, as swollen and
impetuous they tore along.

The devastation thus wide spread, seemed not to have been limited to
the mere material world, but to have extended its traces over man:
the hurricane was recognized as the interposition of heaven, and the
disaster of the French fleet looked on as the vengeance of the Almighty.
It did not need the superstitious character of the southern peasants'
mind to induce this belief: the circumstances in all their detail
were too strongly corroborative, not to enforce conviction on sterner
imaginations; and the very escape of the French ships from every portion
of our channel fleet, which at first was deemed a favour of fortune, was
now regarded as pointing out the more signal vengeance of Heaven. Dismay
and terror were depicted in every face; the awful signs of the gale
which were seen on every side suggested gloom and dread, and each
speculated how far the anger of God might fall upon a guilty nation.

There is no reason to doubt the fact, that whatever the ultimata issue
of the struggle, the immediate fate of the country was decided on
that night. Had the French fleet arrived in full force, and landed
the troops, there was neither preparation for resistance, nor means of
defence, undertaken by the Government.

How far the peasantry might or might not have associated themselves with
a cause to which the Romish clergy were then manifestly averse, may be a
matter of uncertainty; but there are a sufficient number in every land,
and every age, who will join the ranks of battle with no other prospect
than the day of pillage and rapine. Such would have flocked around the
tricolor in thousands, and meet companions such would have been to that
portion of the invading army called the "Legion des Francs" - a battalion
consisting of liberated felons and galley slaves - the murderers and
robbers of France, drilled, armed, and disciplined to carry liberty
to Ireland! With this force, and a company of the "Artillerie Légère,"
Wolfe Tone proposed to land; and as the expedition had manifestly
failed, any further loss would be inconsiderable; and as for the
"Legion," he naively remarked, "the Republic would be well rid of them."

Let us, however, turn from this theme, to the characters of our tale, of
which a few words only remain to be told. By Terry, who made his escape
after being wounded by the dragoons, was the first news brought to
Carrig-na-curra of Mark's rencontre with the dragoons; and while the
O'Donoghue and Kate were yet speculating in terror as to the result, a
small party of cavalry was seen coming up the causeway at a brisk trot,
among whom rode a person in coloured clothes.

"It is Mark - my boy is taken!" cried the old man in a burst of agony,
and he buried his head in his hands, and sobbed aloud. Kate never
spoke, but a sick, cold faintness crept over her, and she stood almost
breathless with anxiety. She heard the horses as they drew up at the
door, but had not strength to reach the window and look out. The bell
was rung violently - every clank sent a pang through her bosom. The door
was opened, and now she heard Kerry's voice, but could not distinguish
the words. Then there was a noise as of some one dismounting, and the
clatter of a sabre was heard along the flagged hall. This ceased, and
she could recognize Kerry's step as he came up the corridor to the door
of the tower.

"Come in," cried she to his summons, but her utmost effort could not
make the words audible. "Come in," said she again.

Kerry heard it not, but opening the door cautiously, he entered.

"'Tis the Captain, Miss Kate, wants to know if he could see the master."

"Yes," said she, in a voice scarcely above a whisper. "Who is with him?
Is there a prisoner there?"

"Faix, there is then; but Captain Travers will tell you all himself."

"Captain Travers!" cried Kate, a deep flush covering her face.

"Yes, madam," said Frederick, as he entered at the same moment.

"I am but too happy to bear pleasant tidings, to think of my want of
courtesy in intruding unannounced."

"Leave the room - shut the door, Kerry," said Kate, as with eyes fixed on
Travers she waited for him to continue.

"Your cousin is safe, Miss O'Donoghue - he has reached the fleet, and is
already on his way to France."

"Thank God!" cried Kate fervently, as she fell upon her uncle's
shoulders, and whispered the tidings into his ear.

The old man looked up and stared wildly around him.

"Where's Mark, my love - where did you say he was?"

"He's safe, uncle - he's on board of a French ship, and bound for France,
beyond the reach of danger."

"For France! And has he left me - has he deserted his old father?"

"His life was in peril, sir," whispered Kate, who, stung by the old
man's selfishness, spoke almost angrily.

"My boy has abandoned me," muttered the O'Donoghue, the one idea,
absorbing all others, occupied his mind, and left him deaf to every
explanation or remonstrance.

"You are right, Miss O'Donoghue," said Travers, gently, "his danger was
most imminent - the evidence against him was conclusive and complete; and
although one of the principal witnesses could not have appeared, Lanty
Lawler - - "

"And was he an informer?"

"He was, madam; but amid the mass of treachery he has met a just fate.
Barrington, determined to punish the fellow, has come forward, and given
himself up; but with such evidence of the horse-dealer's guilt, that his
conviction is certain; the sums he received from France are all proved
under his own hand, and now that Hemsworth is no more, and Lawler's
treachery has no patron, his case has little hope. He is at this moment
my prisoner; we took him on the mountain where he had gone with a party
to secure Mr. Mark O'Donoghue, for whose capture a large reward was
offered."

As Kate listened to this recital, delivered in a tone which showed the
contempt the speaker entertained for an enterprise undertaken by such
actors, her own indignant pride revolted at the baseness of those with
whom her cousin was associated.

"Yes," said she at length, and speaking unconsciously aloud, "no cause
could prosper with supporters like these; there must be rottenness in
the confederacy that links such agencies as these together. And had my
cousin not one friend? - was there not one to wring his hand at parting?"
said she hurriedly, changing the theme of her thoughts.

"There was one," said Travers, modestly; "Mr. O'Donoghue was
noble-hearted enough, even in the hour of calamity, to forget an ancient
grudge, and to call me his friend. He did more - he wished we had been
friends for many a day before."

"Would that you had," said Kate, as the tears burst forth, and ran down
her cheeks.

"And we might have been such," continued Travers, "had not deceit
and malevolence sowed discord been our families. You know not, Miss
O'Donoghue, how deeply this treachery worked, and how artfully its plans
were conceived. The very hopes whose disappointment has darkened my
life, were fed and fostered by him, who knew how little reason I had to
indulge them; forgive me, I pray, if I allude to a subject I ought never
to recall. It was Hemsworth persuaded me that my suit would not prove
unsuccessful; it was by his advice and counsel I risked the avowal which
has cost me the happiness of my future life. I will speak of this no
more," said Travers, who saw in the deep blush that covered Kate's
features, the distress the theme occasioned her. "It was a selfish
thought that prompted me to excuse my hardihood at the cost of your
feelings."

"I will not let you speak thus, sir," said Kate, in a voice faint from
excessive emotion, "there was no such hardihood in one favoured by
every gift of fortune stooping to one humble as I am; but there were
disparities wider than those of rank between us, and if I can now see
how greatly these were exaggerated by the falsehood and treachery
of others, yet I know that our opinions are too wide apart, to make
agreement aught else than a compromise between us."

"Might not time soften, if not obliterate such differences," whispered
Travers, timidly.

"It could not with me," said Kate, resolutely; "this is the losing side
ever, and my nature is a stubborn one - it has no sympathies save with
those in misfortune; but we can be friends," said she, extending her
hand frankly towards him - "friends firm and true, not the less strong in
regard, because our affections have not overcome our convictions."

"Do not speak so decisively," Miss O'Donoghue, said Travers, as his
lip trembled with strong emotion; "even at this moment how much has
misrepresentation clouded our knowledge of each other; let time, I
entreat of you, dissipate these false impressions, or give me, at least,
the opportunity of becoming more worthy of your esteem."

"While I should become less so," interrupted Kate, rapidly; "no, no;
my duties are here," and she pointed to the old man, who, with an
expression of stupid fatuity, sat with his hands clasped, and his eyes
fixed on vacancy. "Do not not make me less equal to my task, by calling
on me for such a pledge. Besides," added she, with a smile, "you are too
truly English, to suggest a divided allegiance; we are friends; but we
can never be more."

Travers pressed the white hand to his lips without a word, and the
moment after his horse was heard descending the causeway, as with
desperate speed he hurried from the spot so fatal to all his hopes.

Scarcely had Frederick left the castle, when a chaise and four, urged
to the utmost speed, dashed up to the door, and Sir Archy, followed by
Herbert, jumped out. The old man, travel-stained and splashed, held
an open paper in his hand, and cried aloud, as he entered the
drawing-room -

"He's pardoned, he's pardoned - a free pardon to Mark!"

"He's gone, he's away to France," said Kate, as fearing to awaken the
O'Donoghue to any exertion of intelligence, she pointed cautiously
towards him.

"All the better, my sweet lassie," cried M'Nab, folding her in his arms;
"his arm will not be the less bold in battle, because no unforgiven
treason weighs upon his heart. But my brother, what ails him? - he does
not seem to notice me."

"He is ill - my father is ill," said Herbert, with a terrified accent.

"He is worse," whispered M'Nab to himself, as passing his hand within
the waistcoat, he laid it on his heart.

It was so - the courage that withstood every assault of evil
fortune - every calamity which poverty and distress can bring
down - failed at last; - the strong heart was broken - the O'Donoghue was
dead.


*****


We will once more ask our readers to accompany us to the glen, the scene
of our story. It was of an evening, calm and tranquil as that on
which our tale opened, on a day in August, in the year 1815, that two
travellers, leaving the postillion of their carriage to refresh his
horses, advanced alone and on foot for above a mile into this tranquil
valley; the air had all that deathlike stillness so characteristic of
autumn, while over the mountains and the lake the same rich mellow light
was shed. As the travellers proceeded slowly, they stopped from time to
time, and gazed on the scene; and, although their looks met, and
glance seemed to answer glance, they neither of them spoke: from their
appearance, it might have been conjectured that they were foreigners.
The man, bronzed by weather and exposure, possessed features which, in
all their sternness, were yet eminently handsome: he wore a short thick
moustache, but the armless sleeve of his coat, fastened on the bosom,
was a sign still more indisputable than even his port and bearing, that
he was a soldier. His companion was a lady in the very pride and
bloom of beauty, but her dress, more remarkably than his, betrayed the
foreigner; in the rapid look she turned from the bold scenery around
them to the face of him at whose side she walked, one might read either
a direct appeal to memory, or the expression of wonder and admiration of
the spot. Too much engrossed by his own thoughts, or too deeply occupied
by the scene before him, the man moved on, until at last he came in
front of a low ruined wall, beneath a tall and overhanging cliff. He
stopped for some seconds, and gazed at this with such intentness as
prevented him from noticing the figure of a beggar, who, in all the
semblance of extreme poverty, sat crouching among the ruins. She was an
old, or at least seemed a very old woman - her hair, uncovered by cap or
hood, was white as snow, but her features still preserved an expression
of quick intelligence, as, lifting her head from the attitude of moping
thought, she fixed her eyes stedfastly on the travellers.

[Illustration: 480]

"Give her something, 'mon cher,'" said the lady to her companion in
French; but the request was twice made before he seemed conscious of
it. The woman, meanwhile, sat still, and neither made any demand for
charity, or any appeal to their compassion.

"This is Glenflesk, my good woman," said he at length, with the
intonation of a foreign accent on the words.

The woman nodded assentingly, but made no reply.

"Whose estate is all this here?" said he, pointing with his hand to
either side of the valley.

"'Sorra one o' me knows whose it is," said the woman, in a voice of
evident displeasure. "When I was a child it was the O'Donoghues', but
they are dead and gone now - I don't know whose it is."

"And the O'Donoghues are dead and gone, you say? What became of the last
of them? - what was his fate?"

"Is it the one that turned Protestant you mean?" said the woman, as an
expression of fiendish malignity shot beneath her dark brows: "he was
the only one that ever prospered, because he was a heretic, maybe."

"But how did he prosper?" said the stranger.

"Didn't he marry the daughter of the rich Englishman, that lived there
beyant? and wasn't he a member of Parlimint? and sure they tell me
that he went out beyond the says to be be Judge somewhere in foreign
parts - in India, I believe."

"And who lives in the old castle of the family?"

"The crows and the owls lives in it now," said the woman, with a grating
laugh - "the same way as the weasels and the rats burrow in my own little
place here. Ay, you may stare and wonder, but here, where you see me
sit, among these old stones and black timbers, was my own comfortable
home - the house I was born and reared in - and the hearth I sat by when I
was a child."

The man whispered a few words to his companion in a deep, low voice - she
started, and was about to speak, when he stopped her, saying, "Nay, nay,
it is better not;" then, turning to the woman, asked, "And were there,
then, no others, whose fortunes you remember?"

"It is little worth while remembering them," said the crone, whose own
misfortunes shed bitterness over all the memory of others. "There was an
old Scotchman that lived there long after the others were gone, and when
the niece went back to the nunnery in France he staid there still alone
by himself. The people used to see him settling the room, and putting
books here, and papers there, and making all ready agin she came
back - and that's the way he spent his time to the day of his death.
Don't cry, my lady; he was a hard-hearted old man, and it isn't eyes
like yours should weep tears for him; if you want to pity any one, 'pity
the poor, that's houseless and friendless.'"

"And the Lodge," said the stranger - "is not that the name they gave the
pretty house beside the lake?"

"'Tisn't a pretty house now, then," said the hag, laughing. "It's a ruin
like the rest."

"How is that? - does the Englishman never come to it?"

"Why should he come to it? Sure it's in law ever since that
black-hearted villain Hemsworth was killed - nobody knows who owns it,
and they say it will never be found out; but," said she, rising, and
gathering her cloak around her as she prepared to move away - "there's
neither luck nor grace upon the spot. God Almighty made it beautiful and
lovely to look upon, but man and man's wickedness brought a curse down
upon it."

The man drew his purse forth, and, while endeavouring to take some
pieces of money from it by the aid of his single remaining hand, she
turned abruptly about, and, staring him stedfastly in the face, said -

"I'll not take your money - 'tisn't money will serve me now - them that's
poor themselves will never see me in want."

"Stop a moment," said the stranger, "I have a claim on you."

"That you haven't," said the woman, sternly - "I know you well, Mark
O'Donoghue - ay, and your wife, Miss Kate there; but it isn't by a
purse full of gold you'll ever make up for desarting the cause of ould
Ireland."

"Don't be angry with her," whispered a low mild voice behind. He turned,
and saw a very old man dressed in black, and with all the semblance of
a priest. "Don't be angry with her, sir; poor Mary's senses are often
wandering; and," added he with a sigh, "she has met sore trials, and may
well be pardoned, if, in the bitterness of her grief, she looks at
the world with little favour or forgiveness. She has mistaken you for
another, and hence the source of her anger."

THE END.









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