Charles James Lever.

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

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The good things of life are not equal, I'm sure,
Then, how pleasant to make the "amende;"
To take from the wealthy, and give to the poor,
"Voila! que j'appelle, Contrabande."

Yet, as matters go, one must not deem it strange,
That even "La France et L'Irlande,"
If good wishes and friendship they simply exchange,
There are folks who call that, "Contrabande."

"_Vive la Contrabande, mes amis_," shouted out Jacques, as he arose
glass in hand, and made the room ring with the toast. And every voice
repeated the words, in such imitations as they were able.

"'Tis an elegant song, any way," said Lanty, "if one only understood it
all - and the tune's mighty like the 'Cruiskeen Lawn.'"

"Well, Harry," said Flahault, slapping his friend on the shoulder,
"will the song persuade you to turn smuggler? I fear not. You'd rather
practise your own 'Contrabande' among the bright eyes and dark locks of
the capital. Well, there are worse 'metiers.' I have had a turn at it
these fifteen years, and whether on the waters of Ontario, or Champlain,
or scudding along under the fog-banks of the Scheldt, I never grew
weary of it. But, now for a little business talk - where is the _Padre?_
where's Father Luke? was he not to have been here to-night?"

Mary whispered the answer in the captain's ear.

"_Ah! parbleu_," exclaimed he aloud - "is it so? Practising a little
'Contrebande' of his own - trying to see a poor fellow safe over the
frontier, into the next world."

"Fie for shame, Captain Jacques," said Mary, with pious horror. "That's
not the way to talk of the holy offices."

"I wish I had old Maurice Dulang here, the priest of Trois Rivières,
he's the boy could despatch them without trouble."

Neither Lanty nor Mary gave any encouragement to Flahault's new turn of
the conversation, and so, addressing himself to Talbot, he went on -

"We were dining together one day, at the little inn at Trois Rivières,
when a messenger came from Lachégon, for the Père to administer the last
rites to a 'mourant.' Maurice promised to be there in half-an-hour,
but never stirred - and though three other messengers came for him, the
answer was all the same - until, at last came word, '_Cest trop tard, il
est mort_.'

"'_Trop tard!_' said Maurice, 'not a bit of it; give me a pen and ink,
and some paper.' With that he folded a piece, note fashion, and wrote -

"'Mon cher Pierre - Fais ton petit possible pour cet pauvre diable, qui
s'est glissé hors du monde sans mes soins. Apparement il était bien
pressé; mais tu l'arrangera pour le mieux.

"'Ton viel ami.'

"'Maurice Dulang. "'St. Pierre, à la Conciergerie au Paradis.'

"'Put that in his mouth,' said Maurice, 'and there's no fear of him.'"

"'Twas a blessed gospel he gave him," said Mary, who did not comprehend
the French portion of the story, "and sure it's as good as any thing."

"We all thought so, Mary. Poor Maurice related the story at Lyons, when
he was led out to the guillotine - but though the Commissaire laughed
heartily, and enjoyed it much, they had found a breviary in his
portmanteau, and they couldn't let him off. Pauvre bête! To travel about
the world with the 'pièce de conviction' in his possession. What, Harry,
no more wine?"

"I thank you, no more for me, although that claret is a temptation."

"A bouquet, every glass of it! What say you, Master Lawler - does it suit
your palate?"

"I begin to think it a taste cold, or so, by this time," said Lanty;
"I'm not genteel enough for wine, God help me - but it's time to turn in,
any how - and there's Mary asleep already."

"I don't stir till I finish the flask," said Jacques, firmly; "and if
you won't drink, you needn't grudge me your company. It's hard to say
when we meet again. You go northward, Talbot, isn't that so?

"Yes, and that's the point I wish to come to - where and how shall I find
a mount? - I depended on this priest you spoke of to meet me, but he has
not made his appearance."

"You never fell upon your legs more fortunately - here's your man for a
horse, all Ireland over. Eh, Lanty, what's to be had now?"

"Devil a thing can be got for love or money," said Lanty. "If the
gentleman only told me yesterday - "

"Yesterday, Master Lanty, we were riding white horses in the Western
Ocean - but that's gone by - let us talk of to-day."

"My own hackney is here in the stable. If his honour likes him, I'll
sell him; but he's a fancy beast, and must have a fancy price."

"Has he strength and speed for a fast ride," said Talbot, "and will his
condition bear it?"

"I'll answer for it - you may push on to Cork in a hand gallop, if you
give him ten minutes' rest, and a glass of whiskey at Macroom."

"That's enough - what's his price?"

"Take a look at him first," replied Lanty, "for if you are judge of a
beast, you'll not refuse what I ask you." With these words he lighted
a candle, and placed it in an old iron lantern, which hung against the
wall, and opening a small door at the back of the cabin, proceeded, by a
narrow passage cut in the rock, towards the stable, followed by Talbot,
Flahault remaining where he was, as if sunk in meditation. Scarcely,
however, had the two figures disappeared in the distance, when he shook
Mary violently by the shoulder, and whispered in a quick, but collected
tone -

"Mary - Mary, I say - is that fellow all safe?"

"Ay is he safe," said she, resuming her wonted calmness in a second.
"Why do you ask now?"

"I'll tell you why - for myself I care not a sous - I'm here to-day,
away to-morrow - but Talbot's deep in the business - his neck's in the
halter - can we trust Lawler on his account - a man of rank and large
fortune as he is, cannot be spared - what say you?"

"You may trust him, Captain," said Mary, "he knows his life would not be
his own two hours if he turned informer - and then this Mr. Talbot, he's
a great man you tell me?"

"He's a near kinsman of a great peer, and has a heavy stake in the
game - that's all I know, Mary - and, indeed, the present voyage was more
to bring him over, than any thing else - but hush, here they come."

"You shall have your money - you've no objection to French gold, I
hope - for several years I have seen no other," said Talbot entering.

"I know it well," said Lanty, "and would just as soon take it, as if it
had King George on it."

"You said forty pounds, fifty Louis is not far off - will that do?" said
the youth, as he emptied a heavily filled purse of gold, upon the table,
and pushed fifty pieces towards the horse-dealer.

"As well as the best, sir," said Lanty, as he stored the money in his
long leathern pocket-book, and placed it within his breast pocket.

"Will Mrs. M'Kelly accept this small token, as a keepsake," said the
youth, while he took from around his neck a fine gold chain of Venetian
work, and threw it gallantly over Mary's; "this is the first shelter
I have found, after a long exile from my native land; and you, my old
comrade, I have left you the pistols you took a fancy too, they are
in the lugger - and so, now good-bye, all, I must take to the road at
once - I should like to have met the priest, but all chance of that seems
over."

Many and affectionate were the parting salutations between the young man
and the others; for, although he had mingled but little in the evening's
conversation, his mild and modest demeanour, added to the charm of
his good looks, had won their favourable opinions; besides that he was
pledged to a cause which had all their sympathies.

While the last good-bye was being spoken, Lanty had saddled and bridled
the hackney, and led him to the door. The storm was still raging
fiercely, and the night dark as ever.

"You'd better go a little ways up the glen, Lanty, beside him," said
Mary, as she looked out into the wild and dreary night.

"'Tis what I mean to do," said Lanty, "I'll show him as far as the turn
of the road."

Though the stranger declined the proffered civility, Lanty was firm in
his resolution, and the young man, vaulting lightly into the saddle,
called out a last farewell: to the others, and rode on beside his guide.

Mary had scarcely time to remove the remains of the supper, when Lanty
re-entered the cabin.

"He's the noble-hearted fellow, any way," said he, "and never took a
shilling off the first price I asked him;" and with that he put his
hand into his breast pocket to examine, once more, the strange coin of
France. With a start, a tremendous oath broke from him - "My money - my
pocket-book is lost," exclaimed he, in wild excitement, while he
ransacked pocket after pocket of his dress. "Bad luck to that glen, I
dropt it out there, and with the torrent of water that's falling, it
will never be found - och, murther, this is too bad."

In vain the others endeavoured to comfort and console him - all their
assurances of its safety, and the certainty of its being discovered the
next morning, were in vain. Lanty re-lighted the lantern, and muttering
maledictions on the weather, the road, and his? own politeness, he
issued forth to search after his treasure, an occupation which, with all
his perseverance, was unsuccessful; for when day was breaking, he was
still groping along the road, cursing his hard fate, and every thing
which had any share in inflicting it.

"The money is not the worst of it," said Lanty, as he threw himself
down, exhausted and worn out, on his bed. "The money's not the worst of
it - there was papers in that book, I wouldn't have seen for double the
amount."

Long after the old smuggler was standing out to sea the next day, Lanty
Lawler wandered backwards and forwards in the glen, now searching among
the wet leaves that lay in heaps by the way side, or, equally in vain,
sounding every rivulet and water-course which swept past. His search,
was fruitless; and well it might be - the road was strewn with fragments
of rocks and tree-tops for miles - while even yet the swollen stream tore
wildly past, cutting up the causeway in its passage, and foaming on amid
the wreck of the hurricane.

Yet the entire of that day did he persevere, regardless of the beating
rain, and the cold, drifting wind, to pace to and fro, his heart bent
upon recovering what he had lost.

"Yer sowl is set upon money; devil a doubt of it, Lanty," said Mary,
as dripping with wet,# and shaking with cold, he at last re-entered the
cabin; "sorra one of me would go rooting there, for a crock of goold, if
I was sure to find it."

"It is not the money, Mary, I tould you before - it's something else was
in the pocket-book," said he, half angrily, while he sat down to brood
in silence over his misfortune.

"'Tis a letter from your sweetheart, then," said she, with a spice of
jealous malice in her manner, for Lanty had more than once paid
his addresses to Mary, whose wealth was reported to be something
considerable.

"May be it is, and may be it is not," was the cranky reply.

"Well, she'll have a saving husband, any way," said Mary, tartly, "and
one that knows how to keep a good grip of the money."

The horse-dealer made no answer to this enconium on his economy, but
with eyes fixed on the ground, pondered on his loss; meanwhile Mrs.
M'Kelly's curiosity, piqued by her ineffectual efforts to obtain
information, grew each instant stronger, and at last became
irrepressible.

"Can't you say what it is you've lost? sure there's many a one goes by,
here, of a Saturday to market - and if you leave the token - "

"There's no use in it - sorra bit," said he, despondingly.

"You know your own saycrets best," said Mary, foiled at every effort;
"and they must be the dhroll saycrets too, when you're so much afraid of
their being found out."

"Troth then," said Lanty, as a ray of his old gallantry shot across his
mind; "troth then, there isn't one I'd tell a saycrct too as soon as
yourself, Mary M'Kelly; you know the most of my heart already, and Why
wouldn't you know it all?"

"Faix it's little I care to hear about it," said Mary, with an
affectation of indifference, the most finished coquetry could not have
surpassed. "Ye may tell it, or no, just as ye plaze."

"That's it now," cried Lanty - "that's the way of women, the whole world
over; keep never minding them, and bad luck to peace or case you get;
and then try and plaze them, and see what thanks you have. I was going
to tell you all about it."

"And why don't you?" interrupted she, half fearing lest she might have
pulled the cord over-tight already; "why don't you tell it, Lanty
dear?"

These last words settled the matter. Like the feather that broke the
camel's back, these few and slight syllables were all that was wanting
to overcome the horse-dealer's resistance.

"Well, here it is now," said he, casting, as he spoke, a cautious glance
around, lest any chance listener should overhear him. "There was in that
pocket-book, a letter, sealed with three big seals, that Father Luke
gave me yesterday morning, and said to me, 'Lanty Lawler, I'm going over
to Ballyvourney, and after that, I'm going on to Cork, and it's mighty
likely I'll go as far as Dublin, for the Bishop may be there, and if
he is, I must follow him; and here's a letter,' says he, 'that you must
give the O'Donoghue with your own hands' - them was the words - 'with your
own hands, Lanty; and now swear you'll not leave it to any one else, but
do as I tell you;' and, faix, I took my oath of it, and see, now, it's
lost; may I never, but I don't know how I'll ever face him again; and
sure God knows what was in it." "And there was three seals on it," said
Mary, musingly, as if such extraordinary measures of secrecy could bode
nothing good.

"Each of them as big as a half-crown - and it was thick inside too; musha
'twas the evil day I ever set eyes on it!" and with this allusion to the
lost money, which, by an adroitness of superstition, he coupled with the
bad luck the letter had brought him, Lanty took his farewell of Mary,
and, with a heavy heart, set out on his journey.




CHAPTER XI. MISTAKES ON ALL SIDES.

The occurrence so briefly mentioned by Flahault, of the night attack
on the "Lodge." was not so easily treated by the residents; and so many
different versions of the affair were in circulation, that Miss Travers,
the only one whose information could have thrown any light upon it, was
confused by the many marvels she heard, and totally unable to recall to
mind what had really taken place. Sir Marmaduke himself examined.
the servants, and compared their testimony; but fear and exaggeration
conspired to make the evidence valueless. Some asserting that there were
at least a hundred assailants surrounding the house at one time - others,
that they wore a kind of uniform, and had their faces blackened - some
again had seen parties prowling about the premises during the day, and
could positively swear to one man, "a tall fellow in a ragged blue coat,
and without shoes or stockings" - no uncommon phenomena in those parts.
But the butler negatived all these assertions, and stoutly maintained
that there had been neither attack nor assailants - that the whole affair
was a device of Terry's, to display his zeal and bravery; and, in short,
that he had set fire to the rick in the haggard, and "got up" the affray
for his own benefit.

In proportion as any fact occurred to throw discredit on the testimony
of each, he who proffered it became a thousand times more firm and
resolute in his assertion - circumstances dubious a moment before, were
then suddenly remembered and sworn to, with numerous little aids to
corroboration newly recalled to mind. To one point, however, all the
evidence more or less converged, and that was, to accuse Terry of
being the cause, or at least an accomplice in the transaction. Poor
fellow - his own devotedness had made enemies for him every where - the
alacrity with which he mounted the burning stack was an offence not soon
to be forgotten by those who neither risked life nor limb; nor were the
taunts he lavished on their sluggish backwardness to be forgiven now.
Unhappily, too, Terry was not a favourite among the servants: he
had never learnt how much deference is due from the ragged man to the
pampered menial of a rich household; he had not been trained to that
subserviency of demeanour which should mark the intercourse of a
poor, houseless, friendless creature like himself, with the tagged
and lace-covered servants of a wealthy master. Terry, by some strange
blunder of his nature, imagined that, in his freedom and independence,
he was the better man of the two; he knew that to do nothing, was
the prerogative of the great; and as he fulfilled that condition to a
considerable extent, he fancied he should enjoy its privileges also. For
this reason he had ever regarded the whole class of servants as greatly
his inferiors; and although he was ready and willing to peril his life
at any moment for Sir Marmaduke or his daughter, the merest common-place
services he would refuse to the others, without a moment's hesitation.
Neither intimidation could awe, nor bribery bend him - his nature knew
not what fear was in any shape, save one - that of being apprehended and
shot for a deserter - and as to any prospect of buying his good offices,
that was totally out of the question.

In an Irish household Terry's character would have been appreciated at
once. The respect which is never refused to any bereavement, but, in
particular, to that greatest of all afflictions, would have secured for
him, there, both forgiveness and affection - his waywardness and caprice
would have been a law to the least good-tempered servant of the family;
but Sir Marmaduke's retainers were all English, and had about as much
knowledge of, or sympathy with, such a creature, as he himself possessed
of London life and manners.

As his contempt was not measured by any scale of prudence, but coolly
evinced on every occasion of their intercourse, they, one and all,
detested him beyond bounds - most, asserting that he was a thoroughpaced
knave, whose folly was a garb assumed to secure a life of idleness - and
all, regarding him in the light of a spy, ever ready to betray them to
their master.

When, therefore, one after another, the servants persisted in either
openly accusing or insinuating suggestions against Terry, Sir Marmaduke
became sorely puzzled. It was true, he himself had witnessed his conduct
the night before; but if their version was correct, all his daring,
energy, and boldness were so many proofs against him. He was, indeed,
reluctant to think so badly of the poor fellow - but how discredit the
evidence of his entire household? His butler had been in his service for
years - and oh! what a claim for all the exercise of evil influence - for
all the petty tyranny of the low-minded and the base-born - tracking
its way through eaves-dropping, and insinuating its venom in moments of
unguarded freedom. His footman too - but why go on? His daughter alone
rejected the notion with indignation; but in her eager vindication of
the poor fellow's honour, her excitement militated against success - for
age thus ever pronounces upon youth, and too readily confounds a
high-spirited denunciation of wrong, with a mistaken, ill-directed
enthusiasm. He listened, it is true, to all she said of Terry's
devotedness and courage - of his artless, simple nature - of his
single-minded, gentle character; but by a fatal tendency, too frequent
as we advance in years, the scales of doubt ever lean against, and
not to the side favourable to human nature, and as he shook his head
mournfully, he said -

"I wish I did not suspect him."

"Send for him at least," said his daughter, as with an effort she
restrained the emotion that agitated her; "speak to him yourself."

"To what end, my child, if he really is innocent?"

"Oh! yes, indeed - indeed he is," she exclaimed, as the tears at length
fell fast upon heir cheek.

"Well then, be it so," said Sir Marmaduke, as he rung the bell, and
ordered Terry to be sent for.

[Illustration: 119]

While Miss Travers sat with her head buried in her hands, her father
paced slowly up and down the room; and so absorbed was he in his
thoughts, that he had not noticed Terry, who had meanwhile entered the
room, and now stood respectfully beside, the door. When the old man's
eyes did fall on him, he started back, with horror and astonishment.
The poor fellow's clothes were actually reduced to a mass of burned
rags - one sleeve was completely gone, and, there, could be seen his
bare arm scorched and blackened by the fire - a bandage of coarse linen
wrapping the hand and fingers - a deep cut marked his brow - and his hair
was still matted and clotted with the blood - awhile his face was of the
colour of death itself.

"Can you doubt him now, father," whispered the young girl, as she gazed
on the poor fellow, whose wandering eyes roamed over the ornaments of
the chamber, in total unconsciousness of himself and his sufferings.

"Well, Terry," said Sir Marmaduke after a pause, "what account do you
give of last night's business?"

"That's a picture of Keim-an-Eigh," said Terry, as he fixed his large
eyes, open to their widest extent, on a framed drawing on the wall.
"There's the Eagle's Cliff, and that's Murrow Waterfall - and there's
the lake - ay, and see if there isn't a boat on it. Well, well, but it's
beautiful - one could walk up the shepherd's path there, where the goat
is - ay, there's a fellow going up - musha, that's me - I'm going over to
Cubber-na-creena, by the short cut."

"Tell me all you know of what happened last night, Terry," repeated Sir
Marmaduke.

"It was a great fire, devil a doubt of it," said Terry, eagerly; "the
blaze from the big stack was twice as high as the roof; but when I put
the wet sail of the boat on it, it all went into black smoke; it nearly
choked me."

"How did it catch fire first, Terry? can you tell us that?"

"They put a piece of tindir in it; I gave them an ould rag, and they
rubbed it over with powder, and set it burning.'

"Who were they that did this?"

"The fellows that threw me down - what fine pistols they had, with silver
all over them! They said that they would not beat me at all, and they
didn't either. When I gave them the rag, they said, 'Now, my lad, we'll
show you a fine fire;' and, true for them, I never seen a grander."

In this vague, rambling strain, did Terry reply to every question put
to him, his thoughts ever travelling in one narrow circle. Who they were
that fired the haggard, how many, and what kind of appearance they wore,
he knew nothing of whatever; for in addition to his natural imbecility
of mind, the shock of the adventure, and the fever of his wounds and
bruises, had utterly routed the small remnant of understanding which
usually served to guide him.

To one question only did his manner evince hesitation and doubt in the
answer, and that was, when Sir Marmaduke asked him, how it happened that
he should have been up at the Lodge at so late an hour, since the doors
were all locked and barred a considerable time previous.

Terry's face flushed scarlet at the question, and he made no reply; he
stole a sharp, quick glance towards Miss Travers, beneath his eyelids,
but as rapidly withdrew it again, when his colour grew deeper and
deeper.

The old man marked the embarrassment, and all his suspicions were
revived at once. "You must tell me this, Terry," said he, in a voice of
some impatience; "I insist upon knowing it."

"Yes, Terry, speak it out freely; you can have no cause for
concealment," said Sybella, encouragingly.

"I'll not tell it!" said he, after a pause of some seconds, during
which he seemed to have been agitating within himself all the reasons on
either side - "I'll not tell it."

"Come, sir," said Sir Marmaduke angrily, "I must and will know this;
your hesitation has a cause, and it shall be known."

The boy started at the tones so unusual to his ears, and stared at the
speaker in mute astonishment.

"I am not displeased with you, Terry - at least I shall not be, if you
speak freely and openly to me. Now, then, answer my question - What
brought you about the Lodge at so late an hour?"

"I'll not tell," said the youth resolutely.

"For shame, Terry," said Sybella, in a low, soothing voice, as she drew
near him; "how can you speak thus to my father. You would not have _me_
displeased with you?"

The boy's face grew pale as death, and his lips quivered with agitation,
while his eyes, glazed with heavy tears, were turned downwards; still he
never spoke a word.

"Well, what think you of him, now?" said Sir Marmaduke in a whisper to
his daughter.

"That he is innocent - perfectly innocent," replied she, triumphantly.



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 9 of 41)