Charles James Lever.

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

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bill - no, though we do be asking for it, week after week. They're afraid
of losing the custom; and I'll engage now, they do be telling you they
can't get their money by hook or by crook; that's it - I knew it well."

The doctor meditated long on these strange revelations, so very opposite
to all he had heard of the circumstances of the O'Donoghues; and while
his own convictions were strongly against Kerry's narrative, that worthy
man's look of simplicity and earnest truth puzzled him considerably, and
made him hesitate which side to credit.

After a long pause, from which the incoherent ravings of the sick boy
aroused him, he looked up at Kerry, and then, with a motion of his thumb
towards the bed, he muttered -

"He's going fast."

"Going fast!" echoed Kerry, in a voice very different from his former
accent. "Oh, wirra! there's nothing so bad as death! Distress and
poverty is hard enough, but that's the raal misfortune."

A dry sarcastic grin from the doctor seemed to say that poor Kerry's
secret was discovered. The allusion to want of means came too naturally
not to be suggested by present circumstances; and the readiness of
Doctor Roach's apprehension clinched the discovery at once.

"We'll go down now," said the doctor; "I believe I know the whole state
of the case;" and, with these words of ambiguous meaning he returned to
the drawing-room.




CHAPTER X. AN EVENING AT "MARY" M'KELLY's

If sorrow had thrown its sombre shadow over the once-proud house of the
O'Donoghue, within whose walls now noiseless footsteps stole along, and
whispered words were spoken: a very different scene presented itself at
the small hostel of Mary M'Kelly. There, before the ample fireplace,
a quarter of a sheep was roasting - while various utensils of cookery,
disposed upon and around the fire, diffused a savoury odour through the
apartment. A table, covered with a snow-white napkin, and containing
covers for a party of six, occupied the middle of the room; cups and
drinking vessels of richly chased silver, silver forks and spoons,
of handsome pattern, were there also - strange and singular spectacle
beneath the humble thatch of a way-side cabin. Mary herself displayed
in her toilet a more than usual care and attention, and wore in her
becoming cap, with a deep lace border, a bouquet of tri-colored ribbons,
coquettishly knotted, and with the ends falling loosely on her neck.
While she busied herself in the preparation for the table, she
maintained from time to time a running conversation with a person who
sat smoking in the chimney corner. Although screened from the glare of
the fire, the light which was diffused around showed enough of the dress
and style of the wearer to recognize him at once for Lanty Lawler,
the horse-dealer. His attitude, as he lolled back on one chair, and
supported his legs on another, bespoke the perfection of ease, while in
the jaunty manner he held the long pipe-stick between his fingers, could
be seen the affectation of one who wished to be thought at home, as well
as to feel so.

"What hour did they mention, Mary?" said he, after a pause of some
minutes, during which he puffed his pipe assiduously.

"The gossoon that came from Beerhaven, said it would be nine o'clock at
any rate; but sure it's nigher to ten now. They were to come up on
the flood tide. Whisht, what was that? - Wasn't that like the noise of
wheels?"

"No; that's the wind, and a severe night it is too. I'm thinking, Mary,
the storm may keep them back."

"Not a bit of it; there's a creek down there, they tell me, safer nor
e'er a harbour in Ireland; and you'd never see a bit of a vessel till
you were straight over her: and sure it's little they mind weather. That
Captain Jack, as they call him, says there's no time for business like a
gale of wind. The last night they were here there was two wrecks in the
bay."

"I mind it well, Mary. Faix, I never felt a toast so hard to drink as
the one they gave after supper."

"Don't be talking about it," said Mary, crossing herself devoutly;
"they said it out of devilment, sorra more."

"Well, may be so," muttered he sententiously. "They're wild chaps any
way, and they've a wild life of it."

"Troth, if I was a man, tis a life I'd like well," said Mary, with a
look of resolute determination, well becoming the speech. "Them's the
fine times they have, going round the world for sport, and nothing to
care for - as much goold as they'd ask - fine clothes - the best of eating
and drinking; sure there's not one of them would drink out of less than
silver."

"Faix, they may have iron round their ancles for it, after all, Mary."

"Sorra bit of it - the jail isn't built yet, that would howld them.
What's that noise now? That's them. Oh, no; it's the water running down
the mountain."

"Well, I wish they'd come any way," said Lanty; "for I must be off
early to-morrow - I've an order from the ould banker here above, for six
beasts, and I'd like to get a few hours' sleep before morning."

"'Tis making a nice penny you are there, Lanty," said Mary, with a
quizzical look from the corner of her eye.

"A good stroke of business, sure enough, Mary," replied he, laughingly.
"What d'ye think I did with him yesterday morning? I heerd here, ye
know, what happened to the grey mare I bought from Mark O'Donoghue - that
she was carried over the weir-gash and drowned. What does I do, but
goes up to the Lodge and asks for Sir Marmaduke; and says I, 'I'm come,
sir, to offer a hundred and fifty for the little mare I sould you the
other day for a hundred; 'tis only now I found out her real value, and
I can get two hundred for her in Cork, the day I bring her up; and sure
your honour wouldn't prevent a poor man making a trifle in the way of
his trade.' 'You're an honest fellow, Lanty,' says he - divil a lie in
it Mary, don't be laughing - 'you're an honest fellow; and although I
cannot let you have your mare back again, for she was killed last night,
you shall have your own price for the four carriage-horses and the two
roadsters I ordered.' With that I began blubbering about the mare, and
swore I was as fond of her as if she was my sister. I wish you'd seen
his daughter then; upon my conscience it was as good as a play. 'They
have so much feelin', says she to her father. 'For fun,' says I to
myself. 'O murther, murther. Mary, and them's the people that rules
us!'"

"Omadhauns they are, the devil a' more!" interposed Mary, whose hearty
contempt for the Saxon originated in the facility by which he could be
imposed upon.

"That's what I'm always saying," said Lanty. "I'd rather have the
chaytin' than the bayting of John Bull, any day! You'll humbug him out
of his shirt, and faix it's the easiest way to get it after all."

"It's a mane way, Lanty," interposed Mary, with a look of pride; "it's
a dirty, mane way, and doesn't become an Irishman?"

"Wait till the time comes, Mary M'Kelly," said Lanty, half angrily, "and
maybe I'd be as ready as another."

"I wish it was come," said Mary, sighing; "I wish to the Virgin it was;
I'm tired heerin' of the preparations. Sorra one of me knows what
more they want, if the stout heart was there. There's eight barrels of
gunpowder in that rock there," said she, in a low whisper, "behind yer
back - you needn't stir, Lanty. Begorra, if a spark was in it, 'twould
blow you and me, and the house that's over us, as high as Hungry
mountain."

"The angels be near us!" said Lanty, making the sign of the cross.

"Ay," resumed Mary, "and muskets for a thousand min, and pikes for two
more. There's saddles and bridles, eighteen hogsheads full."

"True enough," chimed in Lanty; "and I have an order for five hundred
cavalry horses - the money to be paid out of the Bank of France. Musha, I
wish it was some place nearer home."

"Is it doubting them ye are, Lanty Lawler?"

"No, not a bit; but it's always time enough to get the beasts, when we
see the riders. I could mount two thousand men in a fortnight, any day,
if there was money to the fore; ay, and mount them well, too: not the
kind of devils I give the government, that won't stand three days of
hard work. Musha, Mary, but it's getting very late; that mutton will be
as dry as a stick."

"The French likes it best that way," said Mary, with a droll glance, as
though to intimate she guessed the speaker's object. "Take a look down
the road, Lanty, and try if you can hear any one coming."

Lanty arose from his comfortable corner with evident reluctance, and
laid down his pipe with a half sigh, as he moved slowly towards the door
of the cabin, which having unbarred he issued forth into the darkness.

"It's likely I'd hear any thing such a night as this," grumbled he to
himself, "with the trees snapping across, and the rocks tumbling down!
It's a great storm entirely."

"Is there any sign of them, Lanty?" cried Mary, as she held the door
ajar, and peeped out into the gloomy night.

"I couldn't see my hand fornint me."

"Do you hear nothing?"

"Faix I hear enough over my head; that was thunder! Is there any fear of
it getting at the powder, Mary?"

"Divil a fear; don't be unasy about that," said the stout-hearted Mary.
"Can you see nothing at all?"

"Sorra a thing, barrin' the lights up at Carrig-na-curra; they're moving
about there, at a wonderful rate. What's O'Donoghue doing at all?"

"'Tis the young boy, Herbert, is sick," said Mary, as she opened the
door to admit Lanty once more. "The poor child is in a fever. Kerry
O'Leary was down here this evening for lemons for a drink for him. Poor
Kerry! he was telling me, himself has a sore time of it, with that ould
Scotchman that's up there; nothing ever was like him for scoulding, and
barging, and abusing; and O'Donoghue now minds nothing inside or out,
but sits all day long in the big chair, just as if he was asleep. Maybe
he does take a nap sometimes, for he talks of bailiffs, and writs, and
all them things. Poor ould man! it's a bad end, when the law comes with
the grey hairs!"

"They've a big score with yourself, I'll be bound," said Lanty
inquiringly.

"Troth, I'd like to see myself charge them with any thing," said she,
indignantly. "It's to them and their's I owe the roof that's over me,
and my father, and my father's father before me owes it. Musha, it would
become me to take their money, for a trifle of wine and spirits, and tay
and tobacco, as if I wasn't proud to see them send down here - the raal
ould stock that's in it! Lanty, it must be very late by this. I'm afeard
something's wrong up in the bay."

"'Tis that same I was thinking myself," said Lanty, with a sly look
towards the roasted joint, whose savoury odour was becoming a temptation
overmuch for resistance.

"You've a smart baste in the stable," said Mary; "he has eaten his corn
by this time, and must be fresh enough; just put the saddle on him,
Lanty dear, and ride down the road a mile or two - do, and good luck
attend you."

There never was a proposition less acceptable to the individual to whom
it was made; to leave a warm fire-side was bad enough, but to issue
forth on a night it would have been inhumanity to expose a dog to, was
far too much for his compliance; yet Lanty did not actually refuse; no,
he had his own good reasons for keeping fair with Mary M'Kelly; so he
commenced a system of diplomatic delay and discussion, by which time at
least might be gained, in which it was possible the long-expected guests
would arrive, or the project fall to the ground on its own merits.

"Which way will they come, Mary?" said he, rising from his seat.

"Up the glen, to be sure - what other way could they from the Bay. You'll
hear them plain enough, for they shout and sing every step of the road,
as if it was their own; wild devils they are."

"Sing is it? musha, now, do they sing?"

"Ay, faix, the drollest songs ever ye heerd; French and Roosian
songs - sorra the likes of them going at all."

"Light hearts they have of their own."

"You may say that, Lanty Lawler; fair weather or foul, them's the boys
never change; but come now be alive, and get out the baste."

"I'm going, I'm going; it's myself would like to hear them sing a
Roosian song. Whisht! what's that? did ye hear a shout there?"

"Here they are; that's them," said Mary, springing towards the door,
and withdrawing the bolt, while a smart knock was heard, and the same
instant, a voice called out -

"Holloa! house ahoy!"

The door at the moment flew open, and a short, thick-set looking man,
in a large boat cloak, entered, followed by a taller figure, equally
muffled. The former dropping his heavy envelope, and throwing off an
oil-skin cap from his head, held out his arms wide as, he said -

"_Marie, ma mie! embrasse moi_;" and then, not waiting for a compliance
with the request, sprang forward, and clasped the buxom landlady in
his arms, and kissed her on each cheek, with an air compounded of true
feeling, and stage effect.

"Here's my friend and travelling companion, Henry Talbot, come to share
your hospitality, Mary," said he in English, to which the slightest
foreign accent lent a tone of recitative. "One of us, Mary - one of us."

The individual alluded to had by this time dropped his cloak to the
ground, and displayed the figure of a slight and very young man, whose
features were singularly handsome, save for a look of great effeminacy;
his complexion was fair as a girl's, and, flushed by exercise, the tint
upon his cheek was of a pale rose colour; he was dressed in a riding
coat, and top boots, which, in the fashion of the day, were worn short,
and wrinkled around the leg; his hair he wore without powder, and long
upon his neck; a heavy riding whip, ornamented with silver, the only
weapon he carried, composed his costume - one as unlike his companion's
as could be.

Captain Jacques Flahault was a stout-built, dark-complexioned fellow, of
some four or five and forty; his face a grotesque union of insolence and
drollery; the eyes black as jet, shaded by brows so arched, as to give
always the idea of laughing to a countenance, the lower part of which,
shrouded in beard and moustache, was intended to look stern and savage.

His dress was a short blue frock, beneath which he wore a jersey shirt,
striped in various colours, across which a broad buff leather belt,
loosely slung, supported four pistols and a dirk; jack boots reached
about the middle of the thigh, and were attached to his waist by thongs
of strong leather, no needless precaution apparently, as in their
looseness the wearer might at any moment have stepped freely from them;
a black handkerchief, loosely knotted round his neck, displayed a
throat brawny and massive as a bull's, and imparted to the whole head an
appearance of great size - the first impression every stranger conceived
regarding him.

"Ah! ah! Lawler, you here; how goes it, my old friend? Sit down here,
and tell me all your rogueries since we parted. _Par St, Pierre_, Henry,
this is the veriest _fripon_ in the kingdom" - Talbot bowed, and with a
sweetly courteous smile saluted Lanty, as if accepting the speech in the
light of an introduction - "a fellow that in the way of his trade could
cheat the Saint Père himself."

"Where's the others, Captain Jack?" said Mary, whose patience all this
time endured a severe trial - "where's the rest?"

"_Place pour la potage! Ma Mie!_ - soup before a story; you shall hear
every thing by and by. Let us have the supper at once."

Lanty chimed in a willing assent to this proposition, and in a few
moments the meat smoked upon the table, around which the whole party
took their places with evident good-will.

"While Mary performed her attentions as hostess, by heaping up each
plate, and ever supplying the deficiency caused by the appetite of
the guests, the others eat on like hungry men. Captain Jacques alone
intermingling with the duties of the table, a stray remark from time to
time.

"_Ventre bleu!_ how it blows; if it veers more to the southard, there
will be a heavy strain on that cable. _Trinquons mon ami, Trinquons
toujours; Ma belle Marie_, you eat nothing."

"'Tis unasy I am, Captain Jack, about what's become of the others," said
Mrs. M'Kelly.

"Another bumper, _Ma Mie_, and I'm ready for the story - the more as it
is a brief one. _Allons donc_ - now for it. We left the bay about nine
o'clock, or half-past, perhaps, intending to push forward to the glen at
once, and weigh with the morning's tide, for it happens that this time
our cargo is destined for a small creek, on the north-west coast; our
only business here being to land my friend, Harry" - here Talbot bowed
and smiled - "and to leave two hogsheads of Bourdeaux, for that very
true-hearted, kind, _brave homme_, Hemsworth, at the Lodge there. You
remember last winter we entered into a compact with him to stock his
cellar, provided no information of our proceedings reached the revenue
from any quarter. Well, the wine was safely stored in one of the caves
on the coast, and we started with a light conscience; we had neither
despatches nor run-brandy to trouble us - nothing to do but eat our
supper; saluer madame" - here he turned round, and with an air of mock
respect kissed Mary's hand - "and get afloat again. As we came near the
'Lodge,' I determined to make my visit a brief one; and so leaving all
my party, Harry included, outside, I approached the house, which, to my
surprise, showed lights from nearly every window. This made me cautious,
and so I crept stealthily to a low window, across which the curtain
was but loosely drawn, and _Mort de ma vie!_ what did I behold, but the
prettiest face in Europe. _Une ange de beauté_. She was leaning over
a table copying a drawing, or a painting of some sort or other. _Tête
bleu!_ here was a surprise. I had never seen her before, although I was
with Hemsworth a dozen times."

"Go on - go on," said Lanty, whose curiosity was extreme to hear what
happened next.

"_Eh bien_ - I tried the sash, but it was fastened. I then went round
the house, and examined the other windows, one after the other - all the
same. _Que faire!_ I thought of knocking boldly at the back-door, but
then I should have no chance of a peep at _la belle_ in that way."

"What did you want with a peep at her?" asked Mary, gruffly.

"_Diable!_ what did I want? _Pour l'admirer, l'adorer_ - or, at least to
make my respects, as becomes a stranger, and a Frenchman. _Pursuivons_.
There was no _entrée_, without some noise - so I preferred the room
she was in, to any other, and gently disengaging my dirk, I slipped it
between the two sashes, to lift up the latch that fastened them. _Mort
bleu!_ the weapon slipped, and came slap through the pane, with a
tremendous fracas. She started up, and screamed - there was no use in any
more delay. I put my foot through the window, and pushed open the sash
at once - but before I was well in the room, bells were ringing in every
quarter of the house, and men's voices calling aloud, and shouting to
each other - when, suddenly, the door opened, and whiz went a pistol-ball
close by my head, and shattered the shutter behind me. My fellows,
outside, hearing the shot, unslung their pieces, and before I could
get down to them, poured in a volley - why, wherefore, or upon whom, the
devil himself, that instigated them, can tell. The garrison mustered
strong, however, and replied - that they did, by Jove, for one of ours,
Emile de Louvois, is badly wounded. I sounded the retreat, but the
scoundrels would not mind me - and before I was able to prevent it,
_tête bleu!_ they had got round to the farmyard, and set fire to the
corn-stacks; in a second, the corn and hay blazed up, and enveloped
house and all in smoke. I sounded the retreat once more, and off the
villains scampered, with poor Emile, to the boat; and I, finding my
worthy friend here an inactive spectator of the whole from a grove near
the road, resolved not to give up my supper - and so, _me voici!_ - but
come, can none of you explain this affair? What is Hemsworth doing,
with all this armed household, and this captive princess?"

"Is the 'Lodge' burned down?" said Lanty, whose interest in the
inhabitants had a somewhat selfish origin.

"No, they got the fire tinder. I saw a wild-looking devil mount one of
the ricks, with a great canvas sail all wetted, and drag it over the
burning stack - and before I left the place, the Lodge was quite safe."

"I'm sorry for it," said Mary, with a savage determination. "I'm sorry
to the heart's core. Luck nor grace never was in the glen, since the
first stone of it was laid - nor will be again, till it is a ruin! Why
didn't they lay it in ashes, when they were about it?"

"Faith, it seemed to me," said Talbot, in a low soft voice, "they would
have asked nothing better. I never saw such bull-dogs in my life. It was
all you could do, Flahault, to call them off."

"True enough," replied Jacques, laughing. "They enjoy a _brisée_ like
that with all their hearts."

"The English won't stay long here, after this night," was Lanty's sage
reflection, but one which he did not utter aloud in the present company.
And then, in accordance with Jacques' request, he proceeded to explain
by what different tenants the Lodge became occupied since his last
visit; and that an English baronet and his daughter, with a household
of many servants, had replaced Hemsworth and his few domestics. At every
stage of the recital, Flahault stopped the narrative, to give him
time to laugh. To him the adventure was full of drollery. Even the
recollection of his wounded comrade little damped his enjoyment of a
scene, which might have been attended by the saddest results; and he
chuckled a hundred times over what he suspected the Englishman must
feel, on this, his first visit to Ireland. "I could rob the mail
to-morrow, for the mere fun of reading his letters to his friends," said
he. "_Mort bleu!_ what a description of Irish rapparrees, five hundred
in number, armed with pikes."

"I wish ye'd gave him the cause to do it," said Mary, bitterly - "what
brings them here? who wants them? or looks for them?"

"You are right, Mary," said Talbot, mildly. "Ireland for the Irish!"

"Ay, Ireland for the Irish!" repeated Mary and Lanty; and the sentiment
was drank with all the honours of a favoured toast.

For some time the party continued to discuss Flahault's story, and
calculate on every possible turn the affair might give rise to. All
agreeing, finally, on one point, that Sir Marmaduke would scarcely
venture to protract his stay in a country, where his visit had been
signalized by such a reception. The tone of the conversation seemed
little to accord with Captain Jacques' humour, whose convivial
temperament found slight pleasure in protracted or argumentative
discussions of any kind.

"_Que le diable l'importe_," cried he, at last. "This confounded talk
has stopped the bottle this half-hour. Come, Talbot, let's have a song,
my lad; never shake your head, _mon enfant,_ - - Well, then, here goes."

Thus saying, Flahault pushed back his chair a little from the table, and
in a rich deep bass voice, which rung through the high rafters of the
cabin, chanted out the following rude verses, to a French vaudeville
air - giving the final _e_ of the French words, at the end of each
line, that peculiar accentuation of _a_ - which made the word sound
_contrabanda!_

Though this information as to Captain Jacques' performance seems of
little moment, yet such was the fact, that any spirit the doggerel
possessed could only be attributed to the manner of the singer, and the
effect produced by the intonation we have mentioned.

LA CONTRABANDE.

A bumper, "mes enfans," to swallow your care,
A full bumper, we pledge, "a L'Irlande;"
The land of "belles femmes" - le pays de bonne chere,
"Et toujours de la Contrabande."


Some like to make love, and some like to make war,
Some of beauty obey "la commande;"
But what is a glance from an eye, "bleu," or "noir,"
Except it be, "la Contrabande."

When a prince takes the cash that a peasant can't spare,
And lets him lie down "sur la lande;"
Call it, as you like - but the truth is, I swear,
"C'est bien pire que - la Contrabande."

Stolen kisses are ever the sweetest, we're told,
They sink like a "navire qui fende;"
And what's true of a kiss, is the same, too, of gold,
They're both, in their way, "Contrabande!"

When kings take your money, they won't even say,
"Mon ami le Dieu vous le rende;"
While even the priest, for a blessing takes pay,
"C'est partout et toujours, Contrabande."



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 8 of 41)