Charles James Lever.

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

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summons, took his place beside Kerry's chair, and prepared to commence
his task.

"Where will I begin, sir?"

"Begin at the news, av coorse," said Kerry, somewhat puzzled to decide
what kind of intelligence he most desired. "What's this here with a
large P in the first of it?"

"Prosperity of Ireland, sir," said the child.

"Ay, read about that, Mickey," said the cook, resuming her pipe.

[Illustration: 088]

With a sing-song intonation, which neither regarded paragraph nor
period, but held on equably throughout a column, the little fellow
began -

"The prospect of an abundant harvest is now very general throughout the
country; and should we have a continuance off the heavenly weather for a
week or so longer, we hope the corn will all be saved."

As the allusion made here by the journalist, was to a period of several
years previous, the listeners might be excused for not feeling a perfect
concurrence in the statement.'

"Heavenly weather, indeed!" grunted out the cook, as she turned her eyes
towards the windows, against which the plashing rain was beating - Mike
read on.

"Mr. Foran was stopped last night in Baggot-street, and robbed of his
watch and clothes, by four villains who live in Stoney-batter; they are
well known, and are advised to take care, as such depredations cannot
go long unpunished. The two villains that broke into the house of the
Archbishop of Dublin, and murdered the house-maid, will be turned off
'Lord Temple's trap,' on Saturday next; this, will be a lesson to
the people about the Cross-Poddle, that we hope may serve to their
advantage."

"Sir Miles M'Shane begs to inform the person who found his shoe-buckle
after the last levee, that he will receive one and eight pence reward
for the same, by bringing it to No. 2, Ely-place; or if he prefer it,
Sir Miles will toss up who keeps the pair. They are only paste, and not
diamond, though mighty well imitated."

"Paste!" echoed Mrs. Branahan; "the lying thieves!" her notions on the
score of that material being limited to patties and pie-crusts.

"The 'Bucks' are imitating the ladies in all the arts of beautifying the
person. - Many were seen painted and patched at the duchess's last ball.
We hope this effeminacy may not spread any farther. - It is Mr. Rigby,
and not Mr. Harper, is to have the silk gown. Sir George Rose is to get
the red ribbon for his services in North America."

"A silk gown and a red ribbon!" cried Mrs. Branaghan. "Bad luck to me,
but they might be ashamed of themselves."

"Faix, I never believed what Darby Long said before," broke in Kerry.
"He tould me he saw the bishop of Cork in a black silk petticoat like a
famale. Is there no more murders, Mickey?"

"I don't know, sir, barrin' they're in the fashionable intelligence."

"Well, read on."

"Donald, the beast, who refused to leave his cell in Trim gaol at the
last assizes, and was consequently fired at by a file of infantry, had
his leg amputated yesterday by Surgeon Huston of this town, and is doing
remarkably well."

"Where's the sporting news?" said Kerry. "Is not this it, here?" as he
pointed to a figure of a horse above a column.

"Mr. Connolly's horse, Gabriel, would have been in first, but he stopped
to eat Whaley, the jockey, when he fell. The race is to be run again
on Friday next. It was Mr. Daly, and not Mr. Crosbie, horse-whipped the
attorney over the course last Tuesday. Mr. Crosbie spent the day with
the Duke of Leinster, and is very angry at his name being mentioned in
the wrong, particularly as he is bound over to keep the peace towards
all members of the bar for three years."

"Captain Heavyside and Mr. Malone exchanged four shots each on the
Bull this morning. The quarrel was about racing and politics, and
miscellaneous matters."

"It is rumoured that if the Chief Justice be appointed from England, he
will decline giving personal satisfaction to the Master of the Rolls;
but we cannot credit the report - "

"The Carmelites have taken Banelagh-house for a nunnery."

"That's the only bit in the paper I'd give the snuff of my pipe for,"
said Mrs. Branaghan. "Read it again, acushla."

The boy re-read the passage.

"Well, well, I wonder if Miss Kate will ever come back again," said she,
in a pause.

"To be sure she will," said Kerry; "what would hinder her? hasn't she
a fine fortune out of the property? ten thousand, I heerd the master
say."

"Ayeh! sure it's all gone many a day ago; the sorra taste of a brass
farthen's left for her or any one else. The master sould every stick an'
stone in the place, barrin' the house that's over us, and sure that's
all as one as sould too. Ah, then, Miss Kate was the purty child, and
had the coaxing ways with her."

"'Tis a pity to make her a nun," said Kerry.

"A pity! why would it be a pity, Kerry O'Leary?" said the old lady,
bristling up with anger. "Isn't the nuns happier, and dacenter, and
higher nor other women, with rapscallions for husbands, and villians
of all kinds for childher? Is it the likes of ye, or the crayture beside
ye, that would teach a colleen the way to heaven? Musha, but they have
the blessed times of it - fastin' and prayin', and doing all manner of
penance, and talking over their sins with holy men."

"Whisht! what's that? there's the bell ringing above stairs," said
Kerry, suddenly starting up and listening. "Ay, there it is again,"
and, so saying, he yawned and stretched himself, and after several
interjectional grumblings over the disturbance, slowly mounted the
stairs towards the parlour.

"Are ye sleepin' down there, ye lazy deevils?" cried Sir Archy from the
landing of the stairs. "Did ye no hear the bell?"

"'Tis now I heerd it," said Kerry composedly, for he never vouchsafed
the same degree of deference to Sir Archy, he yielded to the rest of the
family.

"Go see if there be any lemon's in the house, and lose no time about
it."

"Faix, I needn't go far then to find out," whined Kerry; "the
master had none for his punch these two nights; they put the little
box into a damp corner, and, sure enough, they had beards on them
like Jews, the same lemons, when they went to look for them."

"Go down then to the woman, M'Kelly's, in the glen, and see if she hae
na some there."

"Oh murther! murther!" muttered Kerry to himself, as the whistling storm
reminded him of the dreadful weather without doors. "'Tis no use in
going without the money," said he slyly, hoping that by this home-thrust
he might escape the errand. "Ye maun tell her to put it in the account,
man." "'Tis in bad company she'd put it then," muttered Kerry below
his breath, then added aloud - "Sorrow one she'd give, if I hadn't the
sixpence in my hand."

"Canna ye say it's no' for yoursel', it's for the house - she wad na
refuse that."

"No use in life," reiterated he solemnly; "she's a real naygur, and
would, not trust Father Luke with a week's snuff, and he's dealt there
for sneeshin these thirty years."

"A weel, a weel," said M'Nab in a low harsh voice; "the world's growing
waur and waur. Ye maun e'en gie her a shilling, and mind ye get nae bad
bawbees in change; she suld gie ye twelve for saxpence."

Kerry took the money without a word in reply; he was foiled in the plan
of his own devising, and with many a self-uttered sarcasm on the old
Scotchman, he descended the stairs once more.

"Is Master Herbert worse?" said the cook, as the old huntsman entered
the kitchen.

"Begorra he must be bad entirely, when ould Archy would give a shilling
to cure him. See here, he's sending me for lemons down to Mary's."

Kerry rung the coin upon the table as if to test its genuiness, and
muttered to himself -

"'Tis a good one, devil a lie in it."

'"There's the bell again; musha, how he rings it."

This time the voice of Sir Archy was heard in loud tones summoning Kerry
to his assistance, for Herbert had become suddenly worse, and the old
man was unable to prevent him rising from his bed and rushing from the
room.

The wild and excited tones of the youth were mixed with the deeper
utterings of the old man, who exerted all his efforts to calm and
restrain him as Kerry reached the spot. By his aid the boy was conveyed
back to his bed, where, exhausted by his own struggles, he lay without
speaking or moving for some hours.

It was not difficult to perceive, however, that this state boded more
unfavourably than the former one. The violent paroxysms of wild insanity
betokened, while they lasted, a degree of vital energy and force, which
now seemed totally to have given way; and although Kerry regarded the
change as for the better, the more practised and skilful mind of Sir
Archibald drew a far different and more dispiriting augury.

Thus passed the weary hours, and at last the long day began to decline,
but still no sign, nor sound, proclaimed the doctor's coming, and
M'Nab's anxiety became hourly more intense.

"If he come na soon," said he, after a long and dreary silence, "he need
na tak' the trouble to look at him."

"'Tis what I'm thinking too." said Kerry, with a sententious gravity
almost revolting - "when the fingers does be going that way, it's a
mighty bad sign. If I seen the hounds working with their toes, I never
knew them recover."




CHAPTER IX. A DOCTOR'S VISIT

The night was far advanced as the doctor arrived at the O'Donoghue's
house, drenched with rain, and fatigued by the badness of the roads,
where his gig was often compelled to proceed for above a mile at a foot
pace. Doctor Roach was not in the most bland of tempers as he reached
his destination; and, of a verity, his was a nature that stood not in
any need of increased acerbity. The doctor was a type of a race at one
time very general, but now, it is hard to say wherefore, nearly extinct
in Ireland. But so it is; the fruits of the earth change not in course
of years more strikingly, than the fashions of men's minds. The habits,
popular enough in one generation, survive as eccentricities in another,
and are extinct in a third.

There was a pretty general impression in the world, some sixty or
seventy years back, that a member of the medical profession, who had
attained to any height in his art, had a perfect right to dispense with
all the amenities and courtesies which regulate social life among less
privileged persons. The concessions now only yielded to a cook, were
then extended to a physician; and in accordance with the privilege by
which he administered most nauseous doses to the body, he was suffered
to extend his dominion, and apply scarcely more palatable remedies
to the minds of his patients. As if the ill-flavoured draughts had
tinctured the spirit that conceived them, the tone of his thoughts
usually smacked of bitters, until at last he seemed to have realized, in
his own person, the conflicting agencies of the pharmacopoeia, and was
at once acrid, and pungent, and soporific together.

The College of Physicians could never have reproached Doctor Roach with
conceding a single iota of their privileges. Never was there one who
more stoutly maintained, in his whole practice through life, the blessed
immunity of "the Doctor." The magic word "Recipe," which headed his
prescriptions, suggested a tone of command to all he said, and both his
drugs and dicta were swallowed without remonstrance.

It may not be a flattering confession for humanity, but it is assuredly
a true one, that the exercise of power, no matter how humble its sphere,
or how limited its range, will eventually generate a tyrannical habit in
him who wields it. Doctor Roach was certainly not the exception to this
rule. The Czar himself was not more autocrat in the steppes of Russia,
than was he in any house where sickness had found entrance. From that
hour he planted his throne there. All the caprices of age, all the
follies of childhood, the accustomed freedoms of home, the indulgences
which grow up by habit in a household, had to give way before a monarch
more potent than all, "the Doctor." Men bore the infliction with the
same patient endurance they summoned to sustain the malady. They felt
it to be grievous and miserable, but they looked forward to a period of
relief, and panted for the arrival of the hour, when the disease and the
doctor would take their departure together.

If the delight they experienced at such a consummation was extreme,
so to the physician it savoured of ingratitude. "I saved his life
yesterday," saith he, "and see how happy he is, to dismiss me to-day."
But who is ever grateful for the pangs of a toothache? - or what heart
can find pleasure in the memory of sententiousness, senna, and low diet?

Never were the blessings of restored health felt with a more suitable
thankfulness than by Doctor Roach's patients. To be free once more from
his creaking shoes, his little low dry cough, his harsh accents, his
harsher words, his contradictions, his sneers, and his selfishness,
shed a halo around recovery, which the friends of the patient could not
properly appreciate.

Such was the individual whose rumbling and rattling vehicle now entered
the court-yard of Carrig-na-curra, escorted by poor Terry, who had
accompanied him the entire way on foot. The distance he had come, his
more than doubts about the fee, the severity of the storm, were not the
accessories likely to amend the infirmities of his temper; while a still
greater source of irritation than all existed in the mutual feeling of
dislike between him and Sir Archibald M'Nab. An occasional meeting at a
little boarding-house in Killarney, which Sir Archy was in the habit of
visiting each summer for a few days - the only recreation he permitted
himself - had cultivated this sentiment to such a pitch, that they never
met without disagreement, or parted without an actual quarrel. The
doctor was a democrat, and a Romanist of the first water; Sir Archy was
a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church; and, whatever might have been
his early leanings in politics, and in whatever companionship his
active years were passed, experience had taught him the fallacy of many
opinions, which owe any appearance of truth or stability they possess,
to the fact, that they have never advanced beyond the stage of
speculative notions, into the realms of actual and practical
existence; - but, above all, the prudent Scotchman dreaded the prevalence
of these doctrines among young and unsettled minds, ever ready to prefer
the short and hazardous career of fortune, to the slow and patient
drudgery of daily industry.

If the doctor anticipated but little enjoyment in the society of Sir
Archy, neither did the latter hope for any pleasure to himself from
Roach's company. However, as the case of poor Herbert became each hour
more threatening, the old man resolved to bury in oblivion every topic
of mutual disagreement, and, so long as the doctor remained in the
house, to make every possible or impossible concession to conciliate the
good-will of one, on whose services so much depended.

"Do ye hear?" cried Roach in a harsh voice to Kerry, who was summoned
from the kitchen-fire to take charge of his horse; "let the pony have a
mash of bran - a hot mash, and don't leave him till he's dry."

"Never fear, sir," replied Kerry, as he led the jaded and way-worn beast
into the stable, "I'll take care of him as if he was a racer;" and then,
as Roach disappeared, added - "I'd like to see myself strapping the likes
of him - an ould mountaineer. A mash of bran, indeed! Cock him up with
bran! Begorra, 'tis thistles and docks he's most used to;" and, with
this sage reflection on the beast's habits, he locked the stable door,
and resumed his former place beside the blazing turf fire.

O'Donoghue's reception of the doctor was most cordial. He was glad to
see him on several accounts. He was glad to see any one who could tell
him what was doing in the world, from which all his intercourse was
cut off; he was glad, because the supper was waiting an hour and a
half beyond its usual time, and he was getting uncommonly hungry; and,
lastly, he really felt anxious about Herbert, whenever by any chance his
thoughts took that direction.

"How are you, Roach?" cried he, advancing to meet him with an extended
hand. "This is a kind thing of you - you've had a dreadful day, I fear."

"D - n me, if I ever saw it otherwise in this confounded glen. I never
set foot in it, that I wasn't wet through."

"We have our share of rain, indeed," replied the other, with a
good-humoured laugh; "but if we have storm, we have shelter."

Intentionally misunderstanding the allusion, and applying to the ruined
mansion the praise bestowed on the bold mountains, the doctor threw a
despairing look around the room, and repeated the word "shelter" in a
voice far from complimentary.

The O'Donoghue's blood was up in a moment. His brow contracted and his
cheek flushed, as, in a low and deep tone, he said -

"It is a crazy old concern. You are right enough - neither the walls nor
the company within them, are like what they once were."

The look with which these words were given, recalled the doctor to a
sense of his own impertinence; for, like certain tethered animals, who
never become conscious of restraint till the check of the rope lays them
on their back, nothing short of such a home-blow could have staggered
his self-conceit.

"Ay, ay," muttered he, with a cackling apology for a laugh, "time is
telling on us all. - But I'm keeping the supper waiting."

The duties of hospitality were always enough to make O'Donoghue forget
any momentary chagrin, and he seated himself at the table with all his
wonted good-humour and affability.

As the meal proceeded, the doctor inquired about the sick boy, and the
circumstances attending his illness; the interest he bestowed on the
narrative mainly depending on the mention of Sir Marmaduke Travers's
name, whose presence in the country he was not aware of before, and
from whose residence he began already to speculate on many benefits to
himself.

"They told me," continued O'Donoghue, "that the lad behaved admirably.
In fact, if the old weir-rapid be any thing like what I remember it, the
danger was no common one. There used to be a current there strong enough
to carry away a dozen horsemen."

"And how is the young lady? Is she nothing the worse from the cold, and
the drenching, and the shock of the accident?"

"Faith, I must confess it, I have not had the grace to ask after her.
Living as I have been for some years back, has left me sadly in arrear
with every demand of the world. Sir Marmaduke was polite enough to say
he'd call on me; but there is a still greater favour he could bestow,
which is, to leave me alone."

"There was a law-suit or dispute of some kind or other between you, was
there not?"

"There is something of that kind," said O'Donoghue, with an air of
annoyance at the question; "but these are matters gentlemen leave to
their lawyers, and seek not to mix themselves up with."

"The strong purse is the sinew of war," muttered the inexorable doctor;
"and they tell me he is one of the wealthiest men in England."

"He may be, for aught I know or care."

"Well, well," resumed the other, after a long deliberative pause,
"there's no knowing how this little adventure may turn out. If your
son saved the girl's life, I scarcely think he could press you so hard
about - "

"Take care, sir," broke in O'Donoghue, and with the words he seized the
doctor's wrist in his strong grasp; "take care how you venture to speak
of affairs which no wise concern you;" then, seeing the terrified look
his speech called up, he added - "I have been very irritable latterly,
and never desire to talk on these subjects; so, if you please, we'll
change the topic."

The door was cautiously opened at this moment, and Kerry presented
himself, with a request from Sir Archibald, that, as soon as Doctor
Roach found it convenient, he would be glad to see him in the sick-room.

"I am ready now," said the doctor, rising from his chair, and not by
any means sorry at the opportunity of escaping a _tête-a-tête_ he had
contrived to render so unpalatable to both parties. As he mounted the
stairs, he continued in broken phrases to inveigh against the house
and the host in a half soliloquy - "A tumble-down old barrack it is - not
fifty shillings worth of furniture under the roof - the ducks were as
tough as soaked parchment - and where's the fee to come from - I wish I
knew that - unless I take one of these old devils instead of it;" and
he touched the frame of a large, damp, discoloured portrait of some
long-buried ancestor, several of which figured on the walls of the
stair-case.

"The boy is worse - far worse," whispered a low, but distinct voice
beside him. "His head is now all astray - he knows no one."

Doctor Roach seemed vexed at the ceremony of salutation being forgotten
in Sir Archibald's eagerness about the youth, and drily answered -

"I have the honour to see you well, sir, I hope."

"There is one here very far from well," resumed Sir Archy, neither
caring for, nor considering the speech. "We have lost too much time
already - I trust ye may na be too late now."

The doctor made no reply, but rudely taking the candle from his hand,
walked towards the bed -

"Ay, ay," muttered he, as he beheld the lustrous eyes and widespread
pupils - the rose-red cheek, and dry, cracked lips of the youth; "he has
it sure enough."

"Has what? - what is it?"

"The fever - brain fever, and the worst kind of it too."

"And there is danger then?" whispered M'Nab.

"Danger, indeed! I wonder how many come through it. Pshaw! there's
no use trying to count his pulse;" and he threw the hand rudely back
upon the bed. "That's going as fast as ever his father went with the
property." A harsh, low, cackling laugh followed this brutal speech,
which demanded all Sir Archy's predetermined endurance to suffer
unchecked.

"Do you know me?" said the doctor, in the loud voice used to awaken the
dormant faculty of hearing. "Do you know me?"

"Yes," replied the boy, staring steadfastly at him.

"Well, who am I, then? Am I your father?"

A vacant gaze was all the answer.

"Tell me, am I your father?"

No reply followed.

"Am I your uncle, then?" said the doctor, still louder.

The word, "uncle," seemed to strike upon some new chord of his awakened
sense: a faint smile played upon his parched lips, and his eyes wandered
from the speaker, as if in search of some object, till they fell upon
Sir Archy, as he stood at the foot of the bed, when suddenly his whole
countenance was lighted up, and he repeated the word, "uncle," to
himself in a voice indescribably sweet and touching.

"He has na forgotten me," murmured M'Nab, in a tone of deep emotion. "My
ain dear boy - he knows me yet."

"You agitate him too much," said Roach, whose nature had little sympathy
with the feelings of either. "You must leave me alone here to examine
him myself."

M'Nab said not a word, but, with noiseless step, stole from the room.
The doctor looked after him as he went, and then followed to see that
the door was closed behind. This done, he beckoned to Kerry, who still
remained, to approach, and deliberately seated himself in a chair near
the window.

"Tell me, my good fellow," said he, affecting an air of confidence as he
spoke, "an't they all broke here? Isn't the whole thing smashed?"

"Broke - smashed!" repeated Kerry, as he held up both hands in feigned
astonishment; "'tis a droll smash: begorra, I never see money as plenty
this many a year. Sure av there wasn't lashings of it, would he be
looking out for carriage-horses, and buying hunters, not to say putting
the kennel in order."

"Is it truth you are telling?" said Roach, in astonishment.

"True as my name is Kerry O'Leary. We offered Lanty Lawler a hundred and
twenty guineas on Friday last for a match wheeler, and we're not off of
him yet; he's a big brown horse, with a star on his face; and the cob
for the master cost forty pounds. He'll be here tomorrow, or next day,
sure ye'll see him yourself."

"The place is falling to ruin - the roof will never last the winter,"
broke in the doctor.

"Well, and whose fault is it, but that spalpeen Murphy's, that won't
set the men to work till he gets oak timber from the Black Say - 'tis the
finest wood in the world, they tell me, and lasts for ever and ever."

"But, don't they owe money every where in the country? There isn't a
little shop in Killarney without an account of their's in it."

"Of course they do, and the same in Cork - ay, and in Tralee, for the
matter of that. Would you have them not give encouragement to more
places nor one? There's not one of those crayturs would send in their



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 7 of 41)