She drew prettily, and it amused her to illustrate the curious tales the old man told her of rays and forays, the wild old life of savage chieftains and the scarcely less savage conquerors. On one of these—she called it 'The Return of O'Caharney'—she bestowed such labour and study, that her uncle would sit for hours watching the work, not knowing if his heart were more stirred by the claim of his ancestor's greatness, or by the marvellous skill that realised the whole scene before him. The head of the young chieftain was to be filled in when Dick came home. Meanwhile great persuasions were being used to induce Peter Gill to sit for a kern who had shared the exile of his masters, but had afterwards betrayed them to the English; and whether Gill had heard some dropping word of the part he was meant to fill, or that his own suspicion had taken alarm from certain directions the young lady gave as to the expression he was to assume, certain is it nothing could induce him to comply, and go down to posterity with the immortality of crime.
The little long-neglected drawing-room where Nina had set up her easel became now the usual morning lounge of the old man, who loved to sit and watch her as she worked, and, what amused him even more, listen while she talked. It seemed to him like a revival of the past to hear of the world, that gay world of feasting and enjoyment, of which for so many years he had known nothing; and here he was back in it again, and with grander company and higher names than he ever remembered. 'Why was not Kate like her?' would he mutter over and over to himself. Kate was a good girl, fine-tempered and happy-hearted, but she had no accomplishments, none of those refinements of the other. If he wanted to present her at 'the Castle' one of these days, he did not know if she would have tact enough for the ordeal; but Nina!—Nina was sure to make an actual sensation, as much by her grace and her style as by her beauty. Kearney never came into the room where she was without being struck by the elegance of her demeanour, the way she would rise to receive him, her step, her carriage, the very disposal of her drapery as she sat; the modulated tone of her voice, and a sort of purring satisfaction as she took his hand and heard his praises of her, spread like a charm over him, so that he never knew how the time slipped by as he sat beside her.
Have you ever written to your father since you came here?' asked he one day as they talked together.
'Yes, sir; and yesterday I got a letter from him. Such a nice letter, sir—no complainings, no reproaches for my running away; but all sorts of good wishes for my happiness. He owns he was sorry to have ever thought of the stage for me; but he says this lawsuit he is engaged in about his grandfather's will may last for years, and that he knew I was so certain of a great success, and that a great success means more than mere money, he fancied that in my triumph he would reap the recompense for his own disasters. He is now, however, far happier that I have found a home, a real home, and says, "Tell my lord I am heartily ashamed of all my rudeness with regard to him, and would willingly make a pilgrimage to the end of Europe to ask his pardon"; and say besides that "when I shall be restored to the fortune and rank of my ancestors"—you know,' added she, 'he is a prince—"my first act will be to throw myself at his feet, and beg to be forgiven by him."'
'What is the property? is it land?' asked he, with the half-suspectfulness of one not fully assured of what he was listening to.
'Yes, sir; the estate is in Delos. I have seen the plan of the grounds and gardens of the palace, which are princely. Here, on this seal,' said she, showing the envelope of her letter, 'you can see the arms; papa never omits to use it, though on his card he is written only "of the princes"—a form observed with us.'
'And what chance has he of getting it all back again?'
'That is more than I can tell you; he himself is sometimes very confident, and talks as if there could not be a doubt of it.'
'Used your poor mother to believe it?' asked he, half-tremulously.
'I can scarcely say, sir; I can barely remember her; but I have heard papa blame her for not interesting her high connections in England in his suit; he often thought that a word to the ambassador at Athens would have almost decided the case.'
'High connections, indeed!' burst he forth. 'By my conscience, they're pretty much out at elbows, like himself; and if we were trying to recover our own right to-morrow, the look-out would be bleak enough!'
'Papa is not easily cast down, sir; he has a very sanguine spirit.'
'Maybe you think it's what is wanting in my case, eh, Nina? Say it out, girl; tell me, I'd be the better for a little of your father's hopefulness, eh?'
'You could not change to anything I could like better than what you are,' said she, taking his hand and kissing it.
'Ah, you 're a rare one to say coaxing things,' said he, looking fondly on her. 'I believe you'd be the best advocate for either of us if the courts would let you plead for us.'
'I wish they would, sir,' said she proudly.
'What is that?' cried he suddenly; 'sure it's not putting myself you are in the picture!'
'Of course I am, sir. Was not the O'Caharney your ancestor? Is it likely that an old race had not traits of feature and lineament that ages of descent could not efface? I'd swear that strong brow and frank look must be an heirloom.'
''Faith, then, almost the only one!' said he, sighing. 'Who's making that noise out there?' said he, rising and going to the window. 'Oh, it's Kate with her dogs. I often tell her she 'd keep a pair of ponies for less than those troublesome brutes cost her.'
'They are great company to her, she says, and she lives so much in the open air.'
'I know she does,' said he, dropping his head and sitting like one whose thoughts had taken a brooding, despondent turn.
'One more sitting I must have, sir, for the hair. You had it beautifully yesterday: it fell over on one side with a most perfect light on a large lock here. Will you give me half an hour to-morrow, say?'
'I can't promise you, my dear. Peter Gill has been urging me to go over to Loughrea for the fair; and if we go, we ought to be there by Saturday, and have a quiet look at the stock before the sales begin.'
'And are you going to be long away?' said she poutingly, as she leaned over the back of his chair, and suffered her curls to fall half across his face.
'I'll be right glad to be back again,' said he, pressing her head down till he could kiss her cheek, 'right glad!'
THE 'BLUE GOAT'
The 'Blue Goat' in the small town of Moate is scarcely a model hostel. The entrance-hall is too much encumbered by tramps and beggars of various orders and ages, who not only resort there to take their meals and play at cards, but to divide the spoils and settle the accounts of their several 'industries,' and occasionally to clear off other scores which demand police interference. On the left is the bar; the right-hand being used as the office of a land-agent, is besieged by crowds of country-people, in whom, if language is to be trusted, the grievous wrongs of land-tenure are painfully portrayed—nothing but complaint, dogged determination, and resistance being heard on every side. Behind the bar is a long low-ceilinged apartment, the parlour par excellence, only used by distinguished visitors, and reserved on one especial evening of the week for the meeting of the 'Goats,' as the members of a club call themselves—the chief, indeed the founder, being our friend Mathew Kearney, whose title of sovereignty was 'Buck-Goat,' and whose portrait, painted by a native artist and presented by the society, figured over the mantel-piece. The village Van Dyck would seem to have invested largely in carmine, and though far from parsimonious of it on the cheeks and the nose of his sitter, he was driven to work off some of his superabundant stock on the cravat, and even the hands, which, though amicably crossed in front of the white-waistcoated stomach, are fearfully suggestive of some recent deed of blood. The pleasant geniality of the countenance is, however, reassuring. Nor—except a decided squint, by which the artist had ambitiously attempted to convey a humoristic drollery to the expression—is there anything sinister in the portrait.
An inscription on the frame announces that this picture of their respected founder was presented, on his fiftieth birthday, 'To Mathew Kearney, sixth Viscount Kilgobbin'; various devices of 'caprine' significance, heads, horns, and hoofs, profusely decorating the frame. If the antiquary should lose himself in researches for the origin of this society, it is as well to admit at once that the landlord's sign of the 'Blue Goat' gave the initiative to the name, and that the worthy associates derived nothing from classical authority, and never assumed to be descendants of fauns or satyrs, but respectable shopkeepers of Moate, and unexceptional judges of 'poteen.' A large jug of this insinuating liquor figured on the table, and was called 'Goat's-milk'; and if these humoristic traits are so carefully enumerated, it is because they comprised all that was specially droll or quaint in these social gatherings, the members of which were a very commonplace set of men, who discussed their little local topics in very ordinary fashion, slightly elevated, perhaps, in self-esteem, by thinking how little the outer world knew of their dulness and dreariness.
As the meetings were usually determined on by the will of the president, who announced at the hour of separation when they were to reassemble, and as, since his niece's arrival, Kearney had almost totally forgotten his old associates, the club-room ceased to be regarded as the holy of holies, and was occasionally used by the landlord for the reception of such visitors as he deemed worthy of peculiar honour.
It was on a very wet night of that especially rainy month in the Irish calendar, July, that two travellers sat over a turf fire in this sacred chamber, various articles of their attire being spread out to dry before the blaze, the owners of which actually steamed with the effects of the heat upon their damp habiliments. Some fishing-tackle and two knapsacks, which lay in a corner, showed they were pedestrians, and their looks, voice, and manner proclaimed them still more unmistakably to be gentlemen.
One was a tall, sunburnt, soldierlike man of six or seven-and-thirty, powerfully built, and with that solidity of gesture and firmness of tread sometimes so marked with strong men. A mere glance at him showed he was a cold, silent, somewhat haughty man, not given to hasty resolves or in any way impulsive, and it is just possible that a long acquaintance with him would not have revealed a great deal more. He had served in a half-dozen regiments, and although all declared that Henry Lockwood was an honourable fellow, a good soldier, and thoroughly 'safe'—very meaning epithet—there were no very deep regrets when he 'exchanged,' nor was there, perhaps, one man who felt he had lost his 'pal' by his going. He was now in the Carbineers, and serving as an extra aide-de-camp to the Viceroy.
Not a little unlike him in most respects was the man who sat opposite him—a pale, finely-featured, almost effeminate-looking young fellow, with a small line of dark moustache, and a beard en Henri Quatre, to the effect of which a collar cut in Van Dyck fashion gave an especial significance. Cecil Walpole was disposed to be pictorial in his get-up, and the purple dye of his knickerbocker stockings, the slouching plumage of his Tyrol hat, and the graceful hang of his jacket, had excited envy in quarters where envy was fame. He too was on the viceregal staff, being private secretary to his relative the Lord-Lieutenant, during whose absence in England they had undertaken a ramble to the Westmeath lakes, not very positive whether their object was to angle for trout or to fish for that 'knowledge of Ireland' so popularly sought after in our day, and which displays itself so profusely in platform speeches and letters to the Times. Lockwood, not impossibly, would have said it was 'to do a bit of walking' he had come. He had gained eight pounds by that indolent Phoenix-Park life he was leading, and he had no fancy to go back to Leicestershire too heavy for his cattle. He was not—few hunting men are—an ardent fisherman; and as for the vexed question of Irish politics, he did not see why he was to trouble his head to unravel the puzzles that were too much for Mr. Gladstone; not to say, that he felt to meddle with these matters was like interfering with another man's department. 'I don't suspect,' he would say, 'I should fancy John Bright coming down to "stables" and dictating to me how my Irish horses should be shod, or what was the best bit for a "borer."' He saw, besides, that the game of politics was a game of compromises: something was deemed admirable now that had been hitherto almost execrable; and that which was utterly impossible to-day, if done last year would have been a triumphant success, and consequently he pronounced the whole thing an 'imposition and a humbug.' 'I can understand a right and a wrong as well as any man,' he would say, 'but I know nothing about things that are neither or both, according to who's in or who's out of the Cabinet. Give me the command of twelve thousand men, let me divide them into three flying columns, and if I don't keep Ireland quiet, draft me into a West Indian regiment, that's all.' And as to the idea of issuing special commissions, passing new Acts of Parliament, or suspending old ones, to do what he or any other intelligent soldier could do without any knavery or any corruption, 'John Bright might tell us,' but he couldn't. And here it may be well to observe that it was a favourite form of speech with him to refer to this illustrious public man in this familiar manner; but always to show what a condition of muddle and confusion must ensue if we followed the counsels that name emblematised; nor did he know a more cutting sarcasm to reply to an adversary than when he had said, 'Oh, John Bright would agree with you,' or, 'I don't think John Bright could go further.'
Of a very different stamp was his companion. He was a young gentleman whom we cannot more easily characterise than by calling him, in the cant of the day, 'of the period.' He was essentially the most recent product of the age we live in. Manly enough in some things, he was fastidious in others to the very verge of effeminacy; an aristocrat by birth and by predilection, he made a parade of democratic opinions. He affected a sort of Crichtonism in the variety of his gifts, and as linguist, musician, artist, poet, and philosopher, loved to display the scores of things he might be, instead of that mild, very ordinary young gentleman that he was. He had done a little of almost everything: he had been in the Guards, in diplomacy, in the House for a brief session, had made an African tour, written a pleasant little book about the Nile, with the illustrations by his own hand. Still he was greater in promise than performance. There was an opera of his partly finished; a five-act comedy almost ready for the stage; a half-executed group he had left in some studio in Rome, showed what he might have done in sculpture. When his distinguished relative the Marquis of Danesbury recalled him from his post as secretary of legation in Italy, to join him at his Irish seat of government, the phrase in which he invited him to return is not without its significance, and we give it as it occurred in the context: 'I have no fancy for the post they have assigned me, nor is it what I had hoped for. They say, however, I shall succeed here. Nous verrons. Meanwhile, I remember your often remarking, "There is a great game to be played in Ireland." Come over at once, then, and let me have a talk with you over it. I shall manage the question of your leave by making you private secretary for the moment. We shall have many difficulties, but Ireland will be the worst of them. Do not delay, therefore, for I shall only go over to be sworn in, etc., and return for the third reading of the Church Bill, and I should like to see you in Dublin (and leave you there) when I go.'
Except that they were both members of the viceregal household, and English by birth, there was scarcely a tie between these very dissimilar natures; but somehow the accidents of daily life, stronger than the traits of disposition, threw them into intimacy, and they agreed it would be a good thing 'to see something of Ireland'; and with this wise resolve they had set out on that half-fishing excursion, which, having taken them over the Westmeath lakes, now was directing them to the Shannon, but with an infirmity of purpose to which lack of sport and disastrous weather were contributing powerfully at the moment we have presented them to our reader.
To employ the phrase which it is possible each might have used, they 'liked each other well enough'—that is, each found something in the other he 'could get on with'; but there was no stronger tie of regard or friendship between them, and each thought he perceived some flaw of pretension, or affected wisdom, or selfishness, or vanity, in the other, and actually believed he amused himself by its display. In natures, tastes, and dispositions, they were miles asunder, and disagreement between them would have been unceasing on every subject, had they not been gentlemen. It was this alone—this gentleman element—made their companionship possible, and, in the long run, not unpleasant. So much more has good-breeding to do in the common working of daily life than the more valuable qualities of mind and temperament.
Though much younger than his companion, Walpole took the lead in all the arrangements of the journey, determined where and how long they should halt, and decided on the route next to be taken; the other showing a real or affected indifference on all these matters, and making of his town-bred apathy a very serviceable quality in the midst of Irish barbarism and desolation. On politics, too—if that be the name for such light convictions as they entertained—they differed: the soldier's ideas being formed on what he fancied would be the late Duke of Wellington's opinion, and consisted in what he called 'putting down.' Walpole was a promising Whig; that is, one who coquets with Radical notions, but fastidiously avoids contact with the mob; and who, fervently believing that all popular concessions are spurious if not stamped with Whig approval, would like to treat the democratic leaders as forgers and knaves.
If, then, there was not much of similarity between these two men to attach them to each other, there was what served for a bond of union: they belonged to the same class in life, and used pretty nigh the same forms for their expression of like and dislike; and as in traffic it contributes wonderfully to the facilities of business to use the same money, so in the common intercourse of life will the habit to estimate things at the same value conduce to very easy relations, and something almost like friendship.
While they sat over the fire awaiting their supper, each had lighted a cigar, busying himself from time to time in endeavouring to dry some drenched article of dress, or extracting from damp and dripping pockets their several contents.
'This, then,' said the younger man—'this is the picturesque Ireland our tourist writers tell us of; and the land where the Times says the traveller will find more to interest him than in the Tyrol or the Oberland.'
'What about the climate?' said the other, in a deep bass voice.
'Mild and moist, I believe, are the epithets; that is, it makes you damp, and it keeps you so.'
'And the inns?'
'The inns, it is admitted, might be better; but the traveller is admonished against fastidiousness, and told that the prompt spirit of obligeance, the genial cordiality, he will meet with, are more than enough to repay him for the want of more polished habits and mere details of comfort and convenience.'
'Rotten humbug! I don't want cordiality from my innkeeper.'
'I should think not! As, for instance, a bit of carpet in this room would be worth more than all the courtesy that showed us in.'
'What was that lake called—the first place I mean?' asked Lockwood.
'Lough Brin. I shouldn't say but with better weather it might be pretty.'
A half-grunt of dissent was all the reply, and Walpole went on—
It's no use painting a landscape when it is to be smudged all over with Indian ink. There are no tints in mountains swathed in mist, no colour in trees swamped with moisture; everything seems so imbued with damp, one fancies it would take two years in the tropics to dry Ireland.'
'I asked that fellow who showed us the way here, why he didn't pitch off those wet rags he wore, and walk away in all the dignity of nakedness.'
A large dish of rashers and eggs, and a mess of Irish stew, which the landlord now placed on the table, with a foaming jug of malt, seemed to rally them out of their ill-temper; and for some time they talked away in a more cheerful tone.
'Better than I hoped for,' said Walpole.
'And that ale, too—I suppose it is called ale—is very tolerable.'
'It's downright good. Let us have some more of it.' And he shouted, 'Master!' at the top of his voice. 'More of this,' said Lockwood, touching the measure. 'Beer or ale, which is it?'
'Castle Bellingham, sir,' replied the landlord; 'beats all the Bass and Allsopp that ever was brewed.'
'You think so, eh?'
'I'm sure of it, sir. The club that sits here had a debate on it one night, and put it to the vote, and there wasn't one man for the English liquor. My lord there,' said he, pointing to the portrait, 'sent an account of it all to Saunders' newspaper.'
While he left the room to fetch the ale, the travellers both fixed their eyes on the picture, and Walpole, rising, read out the inscription—'Viscount Kilgobbin.'
'There's no such title,' said the other bluntly.
'Lord Kilgobbin—Kilgobbin? Where did I hear that name before?'
'In a dream, perhaps.'
'No, no. I have heard it, if I could only remember where and how! I say, landlord, where does his lordship live?' and he pointed to the portrait.
'Beyond, at the castle, sir. You can see it from the door without when the weather's fine.'
'That must mean on a very rare occasion!' said Lockwood gravely.
'No indeed, sir. It didn't begin to rain on Tuesday last till after three o'clock.'
'Magnificent climate!' exclaimed Walpole enthusiastically.
'It is indeed, sir. Glory be to God!' said the landlord, with an honest gravity that set them both off laughing.
'How about this club—does it meet often?'
'It used, sir, to meet every Thursday evening, and my lord never missed a night, but quite lately he took it in his head not to come out in the evenings. Some say it was the rheumatism, and more says it's the unsettled state of the country; though, the Lord be praised for it, there wasn't a man fired at in the neighbourhood since Easter, and he was a peeler.'
'One of the constabulary?'
'Yes, sir; a dirty, mean chap, that was looking after a poor boy that set fire to Mr. Hagin's ricks, and that was over a year ago.'
'And naturally forgotten by this time?'
'By coorse it was forgotten. Ould Mat Hagin got a presentment for the damage out of the grand-jury, and nobody was the worse for it at all.'
'And so the club is smashed, eh?'
'As good as smashed, sir; for whenever any of them comes now of an evening, he just goes into the bar and takes his glass there.'
He sighed heavily as he said this, and seemed overcome with sadness.
'I'm trying to remember why the name is so familiar to me. I know I have heard of Lord Kilgobbin before,' said Walpole.
'Maybe so,' said the landlord respectfully. 'You may have read in books how it was at Kilgobbin Castle King James came to stop after the Boyne; that he held a "coort" there in the big drawing-room—they call it the "throne-room" ever since—and slept two nights at the castle afterwards?'
'That's something to see, Walpole,' said Lockwood.
'So it is. How is that to be managed, landlord? Does his lordship permit strangers to visit the castle?'
'Nothing easier than that, sir,' said the host, who gladly embraced a project that should detain his guests at the inn. 'My lord went through the town this morning on his way to Loughrea fair; but the young ladies is at home; and you've only to send over a message, and say you'd like to see the place, and they'll be proud to show it to you.'
'Let us send our cards, with a line in pencil,' said Walpole, in a whisper to his friend.
'And there are young ladies there?' asked Lockwood.
'Two born beauties; it's hard to say which is handsomest,' replied the host, overjoyed at the attraction his neighbourhood possessed.
'I suppose that will do?' said Walpole, showing what he had written on his card.
'Despatch this at once. I mean early to-morrow; and let your messenger ask if there be an answer. How far is it off?'
'A little over twelve miles, sir; but I've a mare in the stable will "rowle" ye over in an hour and a quarter.'
'All right. We'll settle on everything after breakfast to-morrow.' And the landlord withdrew, leaving them once more alone.
'This means,' said Lockwood drearily, 'we shall have to pass a day in this wretched place.'
'It will take a day to dry our wet clothes; and, all things considered, one might be worse off than here. Besides, I shall want to look over my notes. I have done next to nothing, up to this time, about the Land Question.'
'I thought that the old fellow with the cow, the fellow I gave a cigar to, had made you up in your tenant-right affair,' said Lockwood.
'He gave me a great deal of very valuable information; he exposed some of the evils of tenancy at will as ably as I ever heard them treated, but he was occasionally hard on the landlord.'
'I suppose one word of truth never came out of his mouth!'
'On the contrary, real knowledge of Ireland is not to be acquired from newspapers; a man must see Ireland for himself—see it,' repeated he, with strong emphasis.
'And then, if he be a capable man, a reflecting man, a man in whom the perceptive power is joined to the social faculty—'
'Look here, Cecil, one hearer won't make a House: don't try it on speechifying to me. It's all humbug coming over to look at Ireland. You may pick up a little brogue, but it's all you'll pick up for your journey.' After this, for him, unusually long speech, he finished his glass, lighted his bedroom candle, and nodding a good-night, strolled away.
'I'd give a crown to know where I heard of you before!' said Walpole, as he stared up at the portrait.
'Only think of it!' cried Kate to her cousin, as she received Walpole's note. 'Can you fancy, Nina, any one having the curiosity to imagine this old house worth a visit? Here is a polite request from two tourists to be allowed to see the—what is it?—the interesting interior of Kilgobbin Castle!'
'Which I hope and trust you will refuse. The people who are so eager for these things are invariably tiresome old bores, grubbing for antiquities, or intently bent on adding a chapter to their story of travel. You'll say No, dearest, won't you?'
'Certainly, if you wish it. I am not acquainted with Captain Lockwood, nor his friend Mr. Cecil Walpole.'
'Did you say Cecil Walpole?' cried the other, almost snatching the card from her fingers. 'Of all the strange chances in life, this is the very strangest! What could have brought Cecil Walpole here?'
'You know him, then?'
'I should think I do! What duets have we not sung together? What waltzes have we not had? What rides over the Campagna? Oh dear! how I should like to talk over these old times again! Pray tell him he may come, Kate, or let me do it.'
'And papa away!'
'It is the castle, dearest, he wants to see, not papa! You don't know what manner of creature this is! He is one of your refined and supremely cultivated English—mad about archaeology and mediaeval trumpery. He'll know all your ancestors intended by every insane piece of architecture, and every puzzling detail of this old house; and he'll light up every corner of it with some gleam of bright tradition.'
'I thought these sort of people were bores, dear?' said Kate, with a sly malice in her look.
'Of course not. When they are well-bred and well-mannered—-'
'And perhaps well-looking?' chimed in Kate.
'Yes, and so he is—a little of the petit-maitre, perhaps. He's much of that school which fiction-writers describe as having "finely-pencilled eyebrows, and chins of almost womanlike roundness"; but people in Rome always called him handsome, that is if he be my Cecil Walpole.'
'Well, then, will you tell YOUR Cecil Walpole, in such polite terms as you know how to coin, that there is really nothing of the very slightest pretension to interest in this old place; that we should be ashamed at having lent ourselves to the delusion that might have led him here; and lastly, that the owner is from home?'
'What! and is this the Irish hospitality I have heard so much of—the cordial welcome the stranger may reckon on as a certainty, and make all his plans with the full confidence of meeting?'
'There is such a thing as discretion, also, to be remembered, Nina,' said Kate gravely.
'And then there's the room where the king slept, and the chair that—no, not Oliver Cromwell, but somebody else sat in at supper, and there's the great patch painted on the floor where your ancestor knelt to be knighted.'
'He was created a viscount, not a knight!' said Kate, blushing. 'And there is a difference, I assure you.'
'So there is, dearest, and even my foreign ignorance should know that much, and you have the parchment that attests it—a most curious document, that Walpole would be delighted to see. I almost fancy him examining the curious old seal with his microscope, and hear him unfolding all sorts of details one never so much as suspected.'
'Papa might not like it,' said Kate, bridling up. 'Even were he at home, I am far from certain he would receive these gentlemen. It is little more than a year ago there came here a certain book-writing tourist, and presented himself without introduction. We received him hospitably, and he stayed part of a week here. He was fond of antiquarianism, but more eager still about the condition of the people—what kind of husbandry they practised, what wages they had, and what food. Papa took him over the whole estate, and answered all his questions freely and openly. And this man made a chapter of his book upon us, and headed it, "Rack-renting and riotous living," distorting all he heard and sneering at all he saw.'
'These are gentlemen, dearest Kate,' said Nina, holding out the card. 'Come now, do tell me that I may say you will be happy to see them?'
'If you must have it so—if you really insist—'
'I do! I do!' cried she, half wildly. 'I should go distracted if you denied me. O Kate! I must own it. It will out. I do cling devotedly, terribly, to that old life of the past. I am very happy here, and you are all good, and kind, and loving to me; but that wayward, haphazard existence, with all its trials and miseries, had got little glimpses of such bliss at times that rose to actual ecstasy.'
'I was afraid of this,' said Kate, in a low but firm voice. 'I thought what a change it would be for you from that life of brightness and festivity to this existence of dull and unbroken dreariness.'
'No, no, no! Don't say that! Do not fancy that I am not happier than I ever was or ever believed I could be. It was the castle-building of that time that I was regretting. I imagined so many things, I invented such situations, such incidents, which, with this sad-coloured landscape here and that leaden sky, I have no force to conjure up. It is as though the atmosphere is too weighty for fancy to mount in it. You, my dearest Kate,' said she, drawing her arm round her, and pressing her towards her, 'do not know these things, nor need ever know them. Your life is assured and safe. You cannot, indeed, be secure from the passing accidents of life, but they will meet you in a spirit able to confront them. As for me, I was always gambling for existence, and gambling without means to pay my losses if Fortune should turn against me. Do you understand me, child?'
'Only in part, if even that,' said she slowly.
'Let us keep this theme, then, for another time. Now for ces messieurs. I am to invite them?'
'If there was time to ask Miss O'Shea to come over—'
'Do you not fancy, Kate, that in your father's house, surrounded with your father's servants, you are sufficiently the mistress to do without a chaperon? Only preserve that grand austere look you have listened to me with these last ten minutes, and I should like to see the youthful audacity that could brave it. There, I shall go and write my note. You shall see how discreetly and properly I shall word it.'
Kate walked thoughtfully towards a window and looked out, while Nina skipped gaily down the room, and opened her writing-desk, humming an opera air as she wrote:—
'DEAR MR. WALPOLE,—I can scarcely tell you the pleasure I feel at the prospect of seeing a dear friend, or a friend from dear Italy, whichever be the most proper to say. My uncle is from home, and will not return till the day after to-morrow at dinner; but my cousin, Miss Kearney, charges me to say how happy she will be to receive you and your fellow-traveller at luncheon to-morrow. Pray not to trouble yourself with an answer, but believe me very sincerely yours, 'NINA KOSTALERGI.'
'I was right in saying luncheon, Kate, and not dinner—was I not? It is less formal.'
'I suppose so; that is, if it was right to invite them at all, of which I have very great misgivings.'
'I wonder what brought Cecil Walpole down here?' said Nina, glad to turn the discussion into another channel. 'Could he have heard that I was here? Probably not. It was a mere chance, I suppose. Strange things these same chances are, that do so much more in our lives than all our plottings!'
'Tell me something of your friend, perhaps I ought to say your admirer, Nina!'
'Yes, very much my admirer; not seriously, you know, but in that charming sort of adoration we cultivate abroad, that means anything or nothing. He was not titled, and I am afraid he was not rich, and this last misfortune used to make his attention to me somewhat painful—to him I mean, not to me; for, of course, as to anything serious, I looked much higher than a poor Secretary of Legation.'
'Did you?' asked Kate, with an air of quiet simplicity.
'I should hope I did,' said she haughtily; and she threw a glance at herself in a large mirror, and smiled proudly at the bright image that confronted her. 'Yes, darling, say it out,' cried she, turning to Kate. 'Your eyes have uttered the words already.'
'Something about insufferable vanity and conceit, and I own to both! Oh, why is it that my high spirits have so run away with me this morning that I have forgotten all reserve and all shame? But the truth is, I feel half wild with joy, and joy in my nature is another name for recklessness.'
'I sincerely hope not,' said Kate gravely. 'At any rate, you give me another reason for wishing to have Miss O'Shea here.'
'I will not have her—no, not for worlds, Kate, that odious old woman, with her stiff and antiquated propriety. Cecil would quiz her.'
'I am very certain he would not; at least, if he be such a perfect gentleman as you tell me.'
'Ah, but you'd never know he did it. The fine tact of these consummate men of the world derives a humoristic enjoyment in eccentricity of character, which never shows itself in any outward sign beyond the heightened pleasure they feel in what other folks might call dulness or mere oddity.'
'I would not suffer an old friend to be made the subject of even such latent amusement.'
'Nor her nephew, either, perhaps?'
'The nephew could take care of himself, Nina; but I am not aware that he will be called on to do so. He is not in Ireland, I believe.'
'He was to arrive this week. You told me so.'
'Perhaps he did; I had forgotten it!' and Kate flushed as she spoke, though whether from shame or anger it was not easy to say. As though impatient with herself at any display of temper, she added hurriedly, 'Was it not a piece of good fortune, Nina? Papa has left us the key of the cellar, a thing he never did before, and only now because you were here!'
'What an honoured guest I am!' said the other, smiling.
'That you are! I don't believe papa has gone once to the club since you came here.'
'Now, if I were to own that I was vain of this, you'd rebuke me, would not you?'
'Our love could scarcely prompt to vanity.'
'How shall I ever learn to be humble enough in a family of such humility?' said Nina pettishly. Then quickly correcting herself, she said, 'I'll go and despatch my note, and then I'll come back and ask your pardon for all my wilfulness, and tell you how much I thank you for all your goodness to me.'
And as she spoke she bent down and kissed Kate's hand twice or thrice fervently.
'Oh, dearest Nina, not this—not this!' said Kate, trying to clasp her in her arms; but the other had slipped from her grasp, and was gone.
'Strange girl,' muttered Kate, looking after her. 'I wonder shall I ever understand you, or shall we ever understand each other?'
SHOWING HOW FRIENDS MAY DIFFER
The morning broke drearily for our friends, the two pedestrians, at the 'Blue Goat.' A day of dull aspect and soft rain in midsummer has the added depression that it seems an anachronism. One is in a measure prepared for being weather-bound in winter. You accept imprisonment as the natural fortune of the season, or you brave the elements prepared to let them do their worst, while, if confined to house, you have that solace of snugness, that comfortable chimney-corner which somehow realises an immense amount of the joys we concentrate in the word 'Home.' It is in the want of this rallying-point, this little domestic altar, where all gather together in a common worship, that lies the dreary discomfort of being weather-bound in summer, and when the prison is some small village inn, noisy, disorderly, and dirty, the misery is complete.
'Grand old pig that!' said Lockwood, as he gazed out upon the filthy yard, where a fat old sow contemplated the weather from the threshold of her dwelling.
'I wish she'd come out. I want to make a sketch of her,' said the other.
'Even one's tobacco grows too damp to smoke in this blessed climate,' said Lockwood, as he pitched his cigar away. 'Heigh-ho! We 're too late for the train to town, I see.'
'You'd not go back, would you?'
'I should think I would! That old den in the upper castle-yard is not very cheery or very nice, but there is a chair to sit on, and a review and a newspaper to read. A tour in a country and with a climate like this is a mistake.'
'I suspect it is,' said Walpole drearily.
'There is nothing to see, no one to talk to, nowhere to stop at!'
'All true,' muttered the other. 'By the way, haven't we some plan or project for to-day—something about an old castle or an abbey to see?'
'Yes, and the waiter brought me a letter. I think it was addressed to you, and I left it on my dressing-table. I had forgotten all about it. I'll go and fetch it.'
Short as his absence was, it gave Walpole time enough to recur to his late judgment on his tour, and once more call it a 'mistake, a complete mistake.' The Ireland of wits, dramatists, and romance-writers was a conventional thing, and bore no resemblance whatsoever to the rain-soaked, dreary-looking, depressed reality. 'These Irish, they are odd without being droll, just as they are poor without being picturesque; but of all the delusions we nourish about them, there is not one so thoroughly absurd as to call them dangerous.'
He had just arrived at this mature opinion, when his friend re-entered and handed him the note.
'Here is a piece of luck. Per Bacco!' cried Walpole, as he ran over the lines. 'This beats all I could have hoped for. Listen to this—"Dear Mr. Walpole,—I cannot tell you the delight I feel in the prospect of seeing a dear friend, or a friend from dear Italy, which is it? "'
'Who writes this?'
'A certain Mademoiselle Kostalergi, whom I knew at Rome; one of the prettiest, cleverest, and nicest girls I ever met in my life.'
'Not the daughter of that precious Count Kostalergi you have told me such stories of?'
'The same, but most unlike him in every way. She is here, apparently with an uncle, who is now from home, and she and her cousin invite us to luncheon to-day.'
'What a lark!' said the other dryly.
'We'll go, of course?'
'In weather like this?'
'Why not? Shall we be better off staying here? I now begin to remember how the name of this place was so familiar to me. She was always asking me if I knew or heard of her mother's brother, the Lord Kilgobbin, and, to tell truth, I fancied some one had been hoaxing her with the name, and never believed that there was even a place with such a designation.'
'Kilgobbin does not sound like a lordly title. How about Mademoiselle—what is the name?'
'Kostalergi; they call themselves princes.'
'With all my heart. I was only going to say, as you've got a sort of knack of entanglement—is there, or has there been, anything of that sort here?'
'Flirtation—a little of what is called "spooning"—but no more. But why do you ask?'
'First of all, you are an engaged man.'
'All true, and I mean to keep my engagement. I can't marry, however, till I get a mission, or something at home as good as a mission. Lady Maude knows that; her friends know it, but none of us imagine that we are to be miserable in the meantime.'
'I'm not talking of misery. I'd only say, don't get yourself into any mess. These foreign girls are very wide-awake.'
'Don't believe that, Harry; one of our home-bred damsels would give them a distance and beat them in the race for a husband. It's only in England girls are trained to angle for marriage, take my word for it.'
'Be it so—I only warn you that if you get into any scrape I'll accept none of the consequences. Lord Danesbury is ready enough to say that, because I am some ten years older than you, I should have kept you out of mischief. I never contracted for such a bear-leadership; though I certainly told Lady Maude I'd turn Queen's evidence against you if you became a traitor.'
'I wonder you never told me that before,' said Walpole, with some irritation of manner.
'I only wonder that I told it now!' replied the other gruffly.
'Then I am to take it, that in your office of guardian, you'd rather we'd decline this invitation, eh?'
'I don't care a rush for it either way, but, looking to the sort of day it is out there, I incline to keep the house.'
'I don't mind bad weather, and I'll go,' said Walpole, in a way that showed temper was involved in the resolution.
Lockwood made no other reply than heaping a quantity of turf on the fire, and seating himself beside it.
When a man tells his fellow-traveller that he means to go his own road—that companionship has no tie upon him—he virtually declares the partnership dissolved; and while Lockwood sat reflecting over this, he was also canvassing with himself how far he might have been to blame in provoking this hasty resolution.
'Perhaps he was irritated at my counsels, perhaps the notion of anything like guidance offended him; perhaps it was the phrase, "bear-leadership," and the half-threat of betraying him, has done the mischief.' Now the gallant soldier was a slow thinker; it took him a deal of time to arrange the details of any matter in his mind, and when he tried to muster his ideas there were many which would not answer the call, and of those which came, there were not a few which seemed to present themselves in a refractory and unwilling spirit, so that he had almost to suppress a mutiny before he proceeded to his inspection.
Nor did the strong cheroots, which he smoked to clear his faculties and develop his mental resources, always contribute to this end, though their soothing influence certainly helped to make him more satisfied with his judgments.
'Now, look here, Walpole,' said he, determining that he would save himself all unnecessary labour of thought by throwing the burden of the case on the respondent—'Look here; take a calm view of this thing, and see if it's quite wise in you to go back into trammels it cost you some trouble to escape from. You call it spooning, but you won't deny you went very far with that young woman—farther, I suspect, than you've told me yet. Eh! is that true or not?'
He waited a reasonable time for a reply, but none coming, he went on—'I don't want a forced confidence. You may say it's no business of mine, and there I agree with you, and probably if you put me to the question in the same fashion, I'd give you a very short answer. Remember one thing, however, old fellow—I've seen a precious deal more of life and the world than you have! From sixteen years of age, when you were hammering away at Greek verbs and some such balderdash at Oxford, I was up at Rangoon with the very fastest set of men—ay, of women too—I ever lived with in all my life. Half of our fellows were killed off by it. Of course people will say climate, climate! but if I were to give you the history of one day—just twenty-four hours of our life up there—you'd say that the wonder is there's any one alive to tell it.'
He turned around at this, to enjoy the expression of horror and surprise he hoped to have called up, and perceived for the first time that he was alone. He rang the bell, and asked the waiter where the other gentleman had gone, and learned that he had ordered a car, and set out for Kilgobbin Castle more than half an hour before.
'All right,' said he fiercely. 'I wash my hands of it altogether! I'm heartily glad I told him so before he went.' He smoked on very vigorously for half an hour, the burden of his thoughts being perhaps revealed by the summing-up, as he said, 'And when you are "in for it," Master Cecil, and some precious scrape it will be, if I move hand or foot to pull you through it, call me a Major of Marines, that's all—just call me a Major of Marines!' The ineffable horror of such an imputation served as matter for reverie for hours.
A DRIVE THROUGH A BOG
While Lockwood continued thus to doubt and debate with himself, Walpole was already some miles on his way to Kilgobbin. Not, indeed, that he had made any remarkable progress, for the 'mare that was to rowle his honour over in an hour and a quarter,' had to be taken from the field where she had been ploughing since daybreak, while 'the boy' that should drive her, was a little old man who had to be aroused from a condition of drunkenness in a hayloft, and installed in his office.
Nor were these the only difficulties. The roads that led through the bog were so numerous and so completely alike that it only needed the dense atmosphere of a rainy day to make it matter of great difficulty to discover the right track. More than once were they obliged to retrace their steps after a considerable distance, and the driver's impatience always took the shape of a reproach to Walpole, who, having nothing else to do, should surely have minded where they were going. Now, not only was the traveller utterly ignorant of the geography of the land he journeyed in, but his thoughts were far and away from the scenes around him. Very scattered and desultory thoughts were they, at one time over the Alps and with 'long-agoes': nights at Rome clashing with mornings on the Campagna; vast salons crowded with people of many nations, all more or less busy with that great traffic which, whether it take the form of religion, or politics, or social intrigue, hate, love, or rivalry, makes up what we call 'the world'; or there were sunsets dying away rapidly—as they will do—over that great plain outside the city, whereon solitude and silence are as much masters as on a vast prairie of the West; and he thought of times when he rode back at nightfall beside Nina Kostalergi, when little flashes would cross them of that romance that very worldly folk now and then taste of, and delight in, with a zest all the greater that the sensation is so new and strange to them. Then there was the revulsion from the blaze of waxlights and the glitter of diamonds, the crash of orchestras and the din of conversation, the intoxication of the flattery that champagne only seems to 'accentuate,' to the unbroken stillness of the hour, when even the footfall of the horse is unheard, and a dreamy doubt that this quietude, this soothing sense of calm, is higher happiness than all the glitter and all the splendour of the ball-room, and that in the dropping words we now exchange, and in the stray glances, there is a significance and an exquisite delight we never felt till now; for, glorious as is the thought of a returned affection, full of ecstasy the sense of a heart all, all our own, there is, in the first half-doubtful, distrustful feeling of falling in love, with all its chances of success or failure, something that has its moments of bliss nothing of earthly delight can ever equal. To the verge of that possibility Walpole had reached—but gone no further—with Nina Kostalergi. The young men of the age are an eminently calculating and prudent class, and they count the cost of an action with a marvellous amount of accuracy. Is it the turf and its teachings to which this crafty and cold-blooded spirit is owing? Have they learned to 'square their book' on life by the lessons of Ascot and Newmarket, and seen that, no matter how probably they 'stand to win' on this, they must provide for that, and that no caution or foresight is enough that will not embrace every casualty of any venture?
There is no need to tell a younger son of the period that he must not marry a pretty girl of doubtful family and no fortune. He may have his doubts on scores of subjects: he may not be quite sure whether he ought to remain a Whig with Lord Russell, or go in for Odgerism and the ballot; he may be uncertain about Colenso, and have his misgivings about the Pentateuch; he may not be easy in his mind about the Russians in the East, or the Americans in the West; uncomfortable suspicions may cross him that the Volunteers are not as quick in evolution as the Zouaves, or that England generally does not sing 'Rule Britannia' so lustily as she used to do. All these are possible misgivings, but that he should take such a plunge as matrimony, on other grounds than the perfect prudence and profit of the investment, could never occur to him.
As to the sinfulness of tampering with a girl's affections by what in slang is called 'spooning,' it was purely absurd to think of it. You might as well say that playing sixpenny whist made a man a gambler. And then, as to the spooning, it was partie egale, the lady was no worse off than the gentleman. If there were by any hazard—and this he was disposed to doubt—'affections' at stake, the man 'stood to lose' as much as the woman. But this was not the aspect in which the case presented itself, flirtation being, in his idea, to marriage what the preliminary canter is to the race—something to indicate the future, but so dimly and doubtfully as not to decide the hesitation of the waverer.
If, then, Walpole was never for a moment what mothers call serious in his attentions to Mademoiselle Kostalergi, he was not the less fond of her society; he frequented the places where she was likely to be met with, and paid her that degree of 'court' that only stopped short of being particular by his natural caution. There was the more need for the exercise of this quality at Rome, since there were many there who knew of his engagement with his cousin, Lady Maude, and who would not have hesitated to report on any breach of fidelity. Now, however, all these restraints were withdrawn. They were not in Italy, where London, by a change of venue, takes its 'records' to be tried in the dull days of winter. They were in Ireland, and in a remote spot of Ireland, where there were no gossips, no clubs, no afternoon-tea committees, to sit on reputations, and was it not pleasant now to see this nice girl again in perfect freedom? These were, loosely stated, the thoughts which occupied him as he went along, very little disposed to mind how often the puzzled driver halted to decide the road, or how frequently he retraced miles of distance. Men of the world, especially when young in life, and more realistic than they will be twenty years later, proud of the incredulity they can feel on the score of everything and everybody, are often fond of making themselves heroes to their own hearts of some little romance, which shall not cost them dearly to indulge in, and merely engage some loose-lying sympathies without in any way prejudicing their road in life. They accept of these sentimentalities as the vicar's wife did the sheep in the picture, pleased to 'have as many as the painter would put in for nothing.'
Now, Cecil Walpole never intended that this little Irish episode—and episode he determined it should be—should in any degree affect the serious fortunes of his life. He was engaged to his cousin, Lady Maude Bickerstaffe, and they would be married some day. Not that either was very impatient to exchange present comfort—and, on her side, affluence—for a marriage on small means, and no great prospects beyond that. They were not much in love. Walpole knew that the Lady Maude's fortune was small, but the man who married her must 'be taken care of,' and by either side, for there were as many Tories as Whigs in the family, and Lady Maude knew that half-a-dozen years ago, she would certainly not have accepted Walpole; but that with every year her chances of a better parti were diminishing; and, worse than all this, each was well aware of the inducements by which the other was influenced. Nor did the knowledge in any way detract from their self-complacence or satisfaction with the match.
Lady Maude was to accompany her uncle to Ireland, and do the honours of his court, for he was a bachelor, and pleaded hard with his party on that score to be let off accepting the viceroyalty.
Lady Maude, however, had not yet arrived, and even if she had, how should she ever hear of an adventure in the Bog of Allen!
But was there to be an adventure? and, if so, what sort of adventure? Irishmen, Walpole had heard, had all the jealousy about their women that characterises savage races, and were ready to resent what, in civilised people, no one would dream of regarding as matter for umbrage. Well, then, it was only to be more cautious—more on one's guard—besides the tact, too, which a knowledge of life should give—
'Eh, what's this? Why are you stopping here?'
This was addressed now to the driver, who had descended from his box, and was standing in advance of the horse.
'Why don't I drive on, is it?' asked he, in a voice of despair. 'Sure, there's no road.'
'And does it stop here?' cried Walpole in horror, for he now perceived that the road really came to an abrupt ending in the midst of the bog.
'Begorra, it's just what it does. Ye see, your honour,' added he, in a confidential tone, 'it's one of them tricks the English played us in the year of the famine. They got two millions of money to make roads in Ireland, but they were so afraid it would make us prosperous and richer than themselves, that they set about making roads that go nowhere. Sometimes to the top of a mountain, or down to the sea, where there was no harbour, and sometimes, like this one, into the heart of a bog.'
'That was very spiteful and very mean, too,' said Walpole.
'Wasn't it just mean, and nothing else! and it's five miles we'll have to go back now to the cross-roads. Begorra, your honour, it's a good dhrink ye'll have to give me for this day's work.'
'You forget, my friend, that but for your own confounded stupidity, I should have been at Kilgobbin Castle by this time.'
'And ye'll be there yet, with God's help!' said he, turning the horse's head. 'Bad luck to them for the road-making, and it's a pity, after all, it goes nowhere, for it's the nicest bit to travel in the whole country.'
'Come now, jump up, old fellow, and make your beast step out. I don't want to pass the night here.'
'You wouldn't have a dhrop of whisky with your honour?'
'Of course not.'
'Nor even brandy?'
'No, not even brandy.'
'Musha, I'm thinking you must be English,' muttered he, half sulkily.
'And if I were, is there any great harm in that?'
'By coorse not; how could ye help it? I suppose we'd all of us be better if we could. Sit a bit more forward, your honour; the belly band does be lifting her, and as you're doing nothing, just give her a welt of that stick in your hand, now and then, for I lost the lash off my whip, and I've nothing but this!' And he displayed the short handle of what had once been a whip, with a thong of leather dangling at the end.
'I must say I wasn't aware that I was to have worked my passage,' said Walpole, with something between drollery and irritation.
'She doesn't care for bating—stick her with the end of it. That's the way. We'll get on elegant now. I suppose you was never here before?'
'No; and I think I can promise you I'll not come again.'
'I hope you will, then, and many a time too. This is the Bog of Allen you're travelling now, and they tell there's not the like of it in the three kingdoms.'
'I trust there's not!'
'The English, they say, has no bogs. Nothing but coal.'
'Erin, ma bouchal you are! first gem of the say! that's what Dan O'Connell always called you. Are you gettin' tired with the stick?'
'I'm tired of your wretched old beast, and your car, and yourself, too,' said Walpole; 'and if I were sure that was the castle yonder, I'd make my way straight to it on foot.'
'And why wouldn't you, if your honour liked it best? Why would ye be beholden to a car if you'd rather walk. Only mind the bog-holes: for there's twenty feet of water in some of them, and the sides is so straight, you'll never get out if you fall in.'
'Drive on, then. I'll remain where I am; but don't bother me with your talk; and no more questioning.'
'By coorse I won't—why would I? Isn't your honour a gentleman, and haven't you a right to say what you plaze; and what am I but a poor boy, earning his bread. Just the way it is all through the world; some has everything they want and more besides, and others hasn't a stitch to their backs, or maybe a pinch of tobacco to put in a pipe.'
This appeal was timed by seeing that Walpole had just lighted a fresh cigar, whose fragrant fumes were wafted across the speaker's nose.
Firm to his determination to maintain silence, Walpole paid no attention to the speech, nor uttered a word of any kind; and as a light drizzling rain had now begun to fall, and obliged him to shelter himself under an umbrella, he was at length saved from his companion's loquacity. Baffled, but not beaten, the old fellow began to sing, at first in a low, droning tone; but growing louder as the fire of patriotism warmed him, he shouted, to a very wild and somewhat irregular tune, a ballad, of which Walpole could not but hear the words occasionally, while the tramping of the fellow's feet on the foot-board kept time to his song:—
''Tis our fun they can't forgive us, Nor our wit so sharp and keen; But there's nothing that provokes them Like our wearin' of the green. They thought Poverty would bate us, But we'd sell our last "boneen" And we'll live on cowld paytatees, All for wearin' of the green. Oh, the wearin' of the green—the wearin' of the green! 'Tis the colour best becomes us Is the wearin' of the green!'
'Here's a cigar for you, old fellow, and stop that infernal chant.'
'There's only five verses more, and I'll sing them for your honour before I light the baccy.'
'If you do, then, you shall never light baccy of mine. Can't you see that your confounded song is driving me mad?'
'Faix, ye're the first I ever see disliked music,' muttered he, in a tone almost compassionate.
And now as Walpole raised the collar of his coat to defend his ears, and prepared, as well as he might, to resist the weather, he muttered, 'And this is the beautiful land of scenery; and this the climate; and this the amusing and witty peasant we read of. I have half a mind to tell the world how it has been humbugged!' And thus musing, he jogged on the weary road, nor raised his head till the heavy clash of an iron gate aroused him, and he saw that they were driving along an approach, with some clumps of pretty but young timber on either side.
'Here we are, your honour, safe and sound,' cried the driver, as proudly as if he had not been five hours over what should have been done in one and a half. 'This is Kilgobbin. All the ould trees was cut down by Oliver Cromwell, they say, but there will be a fine wood here yet. That's the castle you see yonder, over them trees; but there's no flag flying. The lord's away. I suppose I'll have to wait for your honour? You'll be coming back with me?'
'Yes, you'll have to wait.' And Walpole looked at his watch, and saw it was already past five o'clock.
THE SEARCH FOR ARMS
When the hour of luncheon came, and no guests made their appearance, the young girls at the castle began to discuss what they should best do. 'I know nothing of fine people and their ways,' said Kate—'you must take the whole direction here, Nina.'
'It is only a question of time, and a cold luncheon can wait without difficulty.'
And so they waited till three, then till four, and now it was five o'clock; when Kate, who had been over the kitchen-garden, and the calves' paddock, and inspecting a small tract laid out for a nursery, came back to the house very tired, and, as she said, also very hungry. 'You know, Nina,' said she, entering the room, 'I ordered no dinner to-day. I speculated on our making our dinner when your friends lunched; and as they have not lunched, we have not dined; and I vote we sit down now. I'm afraid I shall not be as pleasant company as that Mr.—do tell me his name—Walpole—but I pledge myself to have as good a appetite.'
Nina made no answer. She stood at the open window; her gaze steadily bent on the strip of narrow road that traversed the wide moor before her.
'Ain't you hungry? I mean, ain't you famished, child?' asked Kate.
'No, I don't think so. I could eat, but I believe I could go without eating just as well.'
'Well, I must dine; and if you were not looking so nice and fresh, with a rose-bud in your hair and your white dress so daintily looped up, I'd ask leave not to dress.'
'If you were to smooth your hair, and, perhaps, change your boots—'
'Oh I know, and become in every respect a little civilised. My poor dear cousin, what a mission you have undertaken among the savages. Own it honestly, you never guessed the task that was before you when you came here.'
'Oh, it's very nice savagery, all the same,' said the other, smiling pleasantly.
'There now!' cried Kate, as she threw her hat to one side, and stood arranging her hair before the glass. 'I make this toilet under protest, for we are going in to luncheon, not dinner, and all the world knows, and all the illustrated newspapers show, that people do not dress for lunch. And, by the way, that is something you have not got in Italy. All the women gathering together in their garden-bonnets and their morning-muslins, and the men in their knickerbockers and their coarse tweed coats.'
'I declare I think you are in better spirits since you see these people are not coming.'
'It is true. You have guessed it, dearest. The thought of anything grand—as a visitor; anything that would for a moment suggest the unpleasant question, Is this right? or, Is that usual? makes me downright irritable. Come, are you ready? May I offer you my arm?'
And now they were at table, Kate rattling away in unwonted gaiety, and trying to rally Nina out of her disappointment.
'I declare Nina, everything is so pretty I am ashamed to eat. Those chickens near you are the least ornamental things I see. Cut me off a wing. Oh, I forgot, you never acquired the barbarous art of carving.'
'I can cut this,' said Nina, drawing a dish of tongue towards her.
'What! that marvellous production like a parterre of flowers? It would be downright profanation to destroy it.'
'Then shall I give you some of this, Kate?'
'Why, child, that is strawberry-cream. But I cannot eat all alone; do help yourself.'
'I shall take something by-and-by.'
'What do young ladies in Italy eat when they are—no, I don't mean in love—I shall call it—in despair?'
'Give me some of that white wine beside you. There! don't you hear a noise? I'm certain I heard the sound of wheels.'
'Most sincerely I trust not. I wouldn't for anything these people should break in upon us now. If my brother Dick should drop in I'd welcome him, and he would make our little party perfect. Do you know, Nina, Dick can be so jolly. What's that? there are voices there without.'
As she spoke the door was opened, and Walpole entered. The young girls had but time to rise from their seats, when—they never could exactly say how—they found themselves shaking hands with him in great cordiality.
'And your friend—where is he?'
'Nursing a sore throat, or a sprained ankle, or a something or other. Shall I confess it—as only a suspicion on my part, however—that I do believe he was too much shocked at the outrageous liberty I took in asking to be admitted here to accept any partnership in the impertinence?'
'We expected you at two or three o'clock,' said Nina.
'And shall I tell you why I was not here before? Perhaps you'll scarcely credit me when I say I have been five hours on the road.'
'Five hours! How did you manage that?'
'In this way. I started a few minutes after twelve from the inn—I on foot, the car to overtake me.' And he went on to give a narrative of his wanderings over the bog, imitating, as well as he could, the driver's conversations with him, and the reproaches he vented on his inattention to the road. Kate enjoyed the story with all the humoristic fun of one who knew thoroughly how the peasant had been playing with the gentleman, just for the indulgence of that strange, sarcastic temper that underlies the Irish nature; and she could fancy how much more droll it would have been to have heard the narrative as told by the driver of the car.
'And don't you like his song, Mr. Walpole!'
'What, "The Wearing of the Green"? It was the dreariest dirge I ever listened to.'
'Come, you shall not say so. When we go into the drawing-room, Nina shall sing it for you, and I'll wager you recant your opinion.'
'And do you sing rebel canticles, Mademoiselle Kostalergi?'
'Yes, I do all my cousin bids me. I wear a red cloak. How is it called?'
'That's the name, but I'm not going to say it; and when we go abroad—that is, on the bog there, for a walk—we dress in green petticoats and wear very thick shoes.'
'And, in a word, are very generally barbarous.'
'Well, if you be really barbarians,' said Walpole, filling his glass, 'I wonder what I would not give to be allowed to join the tribe.'
'Oh, you'd want to be a sachem, or a chief, or a mystery-man at least; and we couldn't permit that,' cried Kate.
'No; I crave admission as the humblest of your followers.'
'Shall we put him to the test, Nina?'
'How do you mean?' cried the other.
'Make him take a Ribbon oath, or the pledge of a United Irishman. I've copies of both in papa's study.'
'I should like to see these immensely,' said Walpole.
'I'll see if I can't find them,' cried Kate, rising and hastening away.
For some seconds after she left the room there was perfect silence. Walpole tried to catch Nina's eye before he spoke, but she continued steadily to look down, and did not once raise her lids.
'Is she not very nice—is she not very beautiful?' asked she, in a low voice.
'It is of you I want to speak.'
And he drew his chair closer to her, and tried to take her hand, but she withdrew it quickly, and moved slightly away.
'If you knew the delight it is to me to see you again, Nina—well, Mademoiselle Kostalergi. Must it be Mademoiselle?'
'I don't remember it was ever "Nina,"' said she coldly.
'Perhaps only in my thoughts. To my heart, I can swear, you were Nina. But tell me how you came here, and when, and for how long, for I want to know all. Speak to me, I beseech you. She'll be back in a moment, and when shall I have another instant alone with you like this? Tell me how you came amongst them, and are they really all rebels?'
Kate entered at the instant, saying, 'I can't find it, but I'll have a good search to-morrow, for I know it's there.'
'Do, by all means, Kate, for Mr. Walpole is very anxious to learn if he be admitted legitimately into this brotherhood—whatever it be; he has just asked me if we were really all rebels here.'
'I trust he does not suppose I would deceive him,' said Kate gravely. 'And when he hears you sing "The blackened hearth—the fallen roof," he'll not question you, Nina.—Do you know that song, Mr. Walpole?'
He smiled as he said 'No.'
'Won't it be so nice,' said she, 'to catch a fresh ingenuous Saxon wandering innocently over the Bog of Allen, and send him back to his friends a Fenian!'
'Make me what you please, but don't send me away.'
'Tell me, really, what would you do if we made you take the oath?'
'Betray you, of course, the moment I got up to Dublin.'
Nina's eyes flashed angrily, as though such jesting was an offence.
'No, no, the shame of such treason would be intolerable; but you'd go your way and behave as though you never saw us.'
'Oh, he could do that without the inducement of a perjury,' said Nina, in Italian; and then added aloud, 'Let's go and make some music. Mr. Walpole sings charmingly, Kate, and is very obliging about it—at least he used to be.'
'I am all that I used to be—towards that,' whispered he, as she passed him to take Kate's arm and walk away.
'You don't mean to have a thick neighbourhood about you,' said Walpole. 'Have you any people living near?'
'Yes, we have a dear old friend—a Miss O'Shea, a maiden lady, who lives a few miles off. By the way, there's something to show you—an old maid who hunts her own harriers.'
'What! are you in earnest?'
'On my word, it is true! Nina can't endure her; but Nina doesn't care for hare-hunting, and, I'm afraid to say, never saw a badger drawn in her life.'
'And have you?' asked he, almost with horror in his tone.
'I'll show you three regular little turnspit dogs to-morrow that will answer that question.'
'How I wish Lockwood had come out here with me,' said Walpole, almost uttering a thought.
'That is, you wish he had seen a bit of barbarous Ireland he'd scarcely credit from mere description. But perhaps I'd have been better behaved before him. I'm treating you with all the freedom of an old friend of my cousin's.'
Nina had meanwhile opened the piano, and was letting her hands stray over the instrument in occasional chords; and then in a low voice, that barely blended its tones with the accompaniment, she sang one of those little popular songs of Italy, called 'Stornelli'—-wild, fanciful melodies, with that blended gaiety and sadness which the songs of a people are so often marked by.
'That is a very old favourite of mine,' said Walpole, approaching the piano as noiselessly as though he feared to disturb the singer; and now he stole into a chair at her side. 'How that song makes me wish we were back again, where I heard it first,' whispered he gently.
'I forget where that was,' said she carelessly.
'No, Nina, you do not,' said he eagerly; 'it was at Albano, the day we all went to Pallavicini's villa.'
'And I sang a little French song, "Si vous n'avez rien a me dire," which you were vain enough to imagine was a question addressed to yourself; and you made me a sort of declaration; do you remember all that?'
'Every word of it.'
'Why don't you go and speak to my cousin; she has opened the window and gone out upon the terrace, and I trust you understand that she expects you to follow her.' There was a studied calm in the way she spoke that showed she was exerting considerable self-control.
'No, no, Nina, it is with you I desire to speak; to see you that I have come here.'
'And so you do remember that you made me a declaration? It made me laugh afterwards as I thought it over.'
'Made you laugh!'
'Yes, I laughed to myself at the ingenious way in which you conveyed to me what an imprudence it was in you to fall in love with a girl who had no fortune, and the shock it would give your friends when they should hear she was a Greek.'
'How can you say such painful things, Nina? how can you be so pitiless as this?'
'It was you who had no pity, sir; I felt a deal of pity; I will not deny it was for myself. I don't pretend to say that I could give a correct version of the way in which you conveyed to me the pain it gave you that I was not a princess, a Borromeo, or a Colonna, or an Altieri. That Greek adventurer, yes—you cannot deny it, I overheard these words myself. You were talking to an English girl, a tall, rather handsome person she was—I shall remember her name in a moment if you cannot help me to it sooner—a Lady Bickerstaffe—'
'Yes, there was a Lady Maude Bickerstaffe; she merely passed through Rome for Naples.'
'You called her a cousin, I remember.'
'There is some cousinship between us; I forget exactly in what degree.'
'Do try and remember a little more; remember that you forgot you had engaged me for the cotillon, and drove away with that blonde beauty—and she was a beauty, or had been a few years before—at all events, you lost all memory of the daughter of the adventurer.'
'You will drive me distracted, Nina, if you say such things.'
'I know it is wrong and it is cruel, and it is worse than wrong and cruel, it is what you English call underbred, to be so individually disagreeable, but this grievance of mine has been weighing very heavily on my heart, and I have been longing to tell you so.'
'Why are you not singing, Nina?' cried Kate from the terrace. 'You told me of a duet, and I think you are bent on having it without music.'
'Yes, we are quarrelling fiercely,' said Nina. 'This gentleman has been rash enough to remind me of an unsettled score between us, and as he is the defaulter—'
'I dispute the debt.'
'Shall I be the judge between you?' asked Kate.
'On no account; my claim once disputed, I surrender it,' said Nina.
'I must say you are very charming company. You won't sing, and you'll only talk to say disagreeable things. Shall I make tea, and see if it will render you more amiable?'
'Do so, dearest, and then show Mr. Walpole the house; he has forgotten what brought him here, I really believe.'
'You know that I have not,' muttered he, in a tone of deep meaning.
'There's no light now to show him the house; Mr. Walpole must come to-morrow, when papa will be at home and delighted to see him.'
'May I really do this?'
'Perhaps, besides, your friend will have found the little inn so insupportable, that he too will join us. Listen to that sigh of poor Nina's and you'll understand what it is to be dreary!'
'No; I want my tea.'
'And it shall have it,' said Kate, kissing her with a petting affectation as she left the room.
'Now one word, only one,' said Walpole, as he drew his chair close to her: 'If I swear to you—'
'What's that? who is Kate angry with?' cried Nina, rising and rushing towards the door. 'What has happened?'
'I'll tell you what has happened,' said Kate, as with flashing eyes and heightened colour she entered the room. 'The large gate of the outer yard, that is every night locked and strongly barred at sunset, has been left open, and they tell me that three men have come in, Sally says five, and are hiding in some of the outhouses.'
'What for? Is it to rob, think you?' asked Walpole.
'It is certainly for nothing good. They all know that papa is away, and the house so far unprotected,' continued Kate calmly. 'We must find out to-morrow who has left the gate unbolted. This was no accident, and now that they are setting fire to the ricks all round us, it is no time for carelessness.'
'Shall we search the offices and the outbuildings?' asked Walpole.
'Of course not; we must stand by the house and take care that they do not enter it. It's a strong old place, and even if they forced an entrance below, they couldn't set fire to it.'
'Could they force their way up?' asked Walpole.
'Not if the people above have any courage. Just come and look at the stair; it was made in times when people thought of defending themselves.' They issued forth now together to the top of the landing, where a narrow, steep flight of stone steps descended between two walls to the basement-storey. A little more than half-way down was a low iron gate or grille of considerable strength; though, not being above four feet in height, it could have been no great defence, which seemed, after all, to have been its intention. 'When this is closed,' said Kate, shutting it with a heavy bang, 'it's not such easy work to pass up against two or three resolute people at the top; and see here,' added she, showing a deep niche or alcove in the wall, 'this was evidently meant for the sentry who watched the wicket: he could stand here out of the reach of all fire.'
'Would you not say she was longing for a conflict?' said Nina, gazing at her.
'No, but if it comes I'll not decline it.'
'You mean you'll defend the stair?' asked Walpole.
She nodded assent.
'What arms have you?'
'Plenty; come and look at them. Here,' said she, entering the dining-room, and pointing to a large oak sideboard covered with weapons, 'Here is probably what has led these people here. They are going through the country latterly on every side, in search of arms. I believe this is almost the only house where they have not called.'
'And do they go away quietly when their demands are complied with?'
'Yes, when they chance upon people of poor courage, they leave them with life enough to tell the story.—What is it, Mathew?' asked she of the old serving-man who entered the room.
'It's the "boys," miss, and they want to talk to you, if you'll step out on the terrace. They don't mean any harm at all.'
'What do they want, then?'
'Just a spare gun or two, miss, or an ould pistol, or a thing of the kind that was no use.'
'Was it not brave of them to come here, when my father was from home? Aren't they fine courageous creatures to come and frighten two lone girls—eh, Mat?'
'Don't anger them, miss, for the love of Joseph! don't say anything hard; let me hand them that ould carbine there, and the fowling-piece; and if you'd give them a pair of horse-pistols, I'm sure they'd go away quiet.'
A loud noise of knocking, as though with a stone, at the outer door, broke in upon the colloquy, and Kate passed into the drawing-room, and opened the window, out upon the stone terrace which overlooked the yard: 'Who is there?—who are you?—what do you want?' cried she, peering down into the darkness, which, in the shadow of the house, was deeper.
'We've come for arms,' cried a deep hoarse voice.
'My father is away from home—come and ask for them when he's here to answer you.'
A wild, insolent laugh from below acknowledged what they thought of this speech.
'Maybe that was the rayson we came now, miss,' said a voice, in a lighter tone.
'Fine courageous fellows you are to say so! I hope Ireland has more of such brave patriotic men.'
'You'd better leave that, anyhow,' said another, and as he spoke he levelled and fired, but evidently with intention to terrify rather than wound, for the plaster came tumbling down from several feet above her head; and now the knocking at the door was redoubled, and with a noise that resounded through the house.
'Wouldn't you advise her to give up the arms and let them go?' said Nina, in a whisper to Walpole; but though she was deadly pale there was no tremor in her voice.
'The door is giving way, the wood is completely rotten. Now for the stairs. Mr. Walpole, you're going to stand by me?'
'I should think so, but I'd rather you'd remain here. I know my ground now.'
'No, I must be beside you. You'll have to keep a rolling fire, and I can load quicker than most people. Come along now, we must take no light with us—follow me.'
'Take care,' said Nina to Walpole as he passed, but with an accent so full of a strange significance it dwelt on his memory long after.
'What was it Nina whispered you as you came by?' said Kate.
'Something about being cautious, I think,' said he carelessly.
'Stay where you are, Mathew,' said the girl, in a severe tone, to the old servant, who was officiously pressing forward with a light.
'Go back!' cried she, as he persisted in following her.
'That's the worst of all our troubles here, Mr. Walpole,' said she boldly; 'you cannot depend on the people of your own household. The very people you have nursed in sickness, if they only belong to some secret association, will betray you!' She made no secret of her words, but spoke them loud enough to be heard by the group of servants now gathered on the landing. Noiseless she tripped down the stairs, and passed into the little dark alcove, followed by Walpole, carrying any amount of guns and carbines under his arm.
'These are loaded, I presume?' said he.
'All, and ready capped. The short carbine is charged with a sort of canister shot, and keep it for a short range—if they try to pass over the iron gate. Now mind me, and I will give you the directions I heard my father give on this spot once before. Don't fire till they reach the foot of the stair.'
'I cannot hear you,' said he, for the din beneath, where they battered at the door, was now deafening.
'They'll be in in another moment—there, the lock has fallen off—the door has given way,' whispered she; 'be steady now, no hurry—steady and calm.'
As she spoke, the heavy oak door fell to the ground, and a perfect silence succeeded to the late din. After an instant, muttering whispers could be heard, and it seemed as if they doubted how far it was safe to enter, for all was dark within. Something was said in a tone of command, and at the moment one of the party flung forward a bundle of lighted straw and tow, which fell at the foot of the stairs, and for a few seconds lit up the place with a red lurid gleam, showing the steep stair and the iron bars of the little gate that crossed it.
'There's the iron wicket they spoke of,' cried one. 'All right, come on!' And the speaker led the way, cautiously, however, and slowly, the others after him.
'No, not yet,' whispered Kate, as she pressed her hand upon Walpole's.
'I hear voices up there,' cried the leader from below. 'We'll make them leave that, anyhow.' And he fired off his gun in the direction of the upper part of the stair; a quantity of plaster came clattering down as the ball struck the ceiling.
'Now,' said she. 'Now, and fire low!'
He discharged both barrels so rapidly that the two detonations blended into one, and the assailants replied by a volley, the echoing din almost sounding like artillery. Fast as Walpole could fire, the girl replaced the piece by another; when suddenly she cried, 'There is a fellow at the gate—the carbine—the carbine now, and steady.' A heavy crash and a cry followed his discharge, and snatching the weapon from him, she reloaded and handed it back with lightning speed. 'There is another there,' whispered she; and Walpole moved farther out, to take a steadier aim. All was still, not a sound to be heard for some seconds, when the hinges of the gate creaked and the bolt shook in the lock. Walpole fired again, but as he did so, the others poured in a rattling volley, one shot grazing his cheek, and another smashing both bones of his right arm, so that the carbine fell powerless from his hand. The intrepid girl sprang to his side at once, and then passing in front of him, she fired some shots from a revolver in quick succession. A low, confused sound of feet and a scuffling noise followed, when a rough, hoarse voice cried out, 'Stop firing; we are wounded, and going away.'
'Are you badly hurt?' whispered Kate to Walpole.
'Nothing serious: be still and listen!'
'There, the carbine is ready again. Oh, you cannot hold it—leave it to me,' said she.
From the difficulty of removal, it seemed as though one of the party beneath was either killed or badly wounded, for it was several minutes before they could gain the outer door.
'Are they really retiring?' whispered Walpole.
'Yes; they seem to have suffered heavily.'
'Would you not give them one shot at parting—that carbine is charged?' asked he anxiously.
'Not for worlds,' said she; 'savage as they are, it would be ruin to break faith with them.'
'Give me a pistol, my left hand is all right.' Though he tried to speak with calmness, the agony of pain he was suffering so overcame him that he leaned his head down, and rested it on her shoulder.
'My poor, poor fellow,' said she tenderly, 'I would not for the world that this had happened.'
'They're gone, Miss Kate, they've passed out at the big gate, and they're off,' whispered old Mathew, as he stood trembling behind her.
'Here, call some one, and help this gentleman up the stairs, and get a mattress down on the floor at once; send off a messenger, Sally, for Doctor Tobin. He can take the car that came this evening, and let him make what haste he can.'
'Is he wounded?' said Nina, as they laid him down on the floor. Walpole tried to smile and say something, but no sound came forth.
'My own dear, dear Cecil,' whispered Nina, as she knelt and kissed his hand, 'tell me it is not dangerous.' He had fainted.
WHAT THE PAPERS SAID OF IT
The wounded man had just fallen into a first sleep after his disaster, when the press of the capital was already proclaiming throughout the land the attack and search for arms at Kilgobbin Castle. In the National papers a very few lines were devoted to the event; indeed, their tone was one of party sneer at the importance given by their contemporaries to a very ordinary incident. 'Is there,' asked the Convicted Felon, 'anything very strange or new in the fact that Irishmen have determined to be armed? Is English legislation in this country so marked by justice, clemency, and generosity that the people of Ireland prefer to submit their lives and fortunes to its sway, to trusting what brave men alone trust in—their fearlessness and their daring? What is there, then, so remarkable in the repairing to Mr. Kearney's house for a loan of those weapons of which his family for several generations have forgotten the use?' In the Government journals the story of the attack was headed, 'Attack on Kilgobbin Castle. Heroic resistance by a young lady'; in which Kate Kearney's conduct was described in colours of extravagant eulogy. She was alternately Joan of Arc and the Maid of Saragossa, and it was gravely discussed whether any and what honours of the Crown were at Her Majesty's disposal to reward such brilliant heroism. In another print of the same stamp the narrative began: 'The disastrous condition of our country is never displayed in darker colours than when the totally unprovoked character of some outrage has to be recorded by the press. It is our melancholy task to present such a case as this to our readers to-day. If it was our wish to exhibit to a stranger the picture of an Irish estate in which all the blessings of good management, intelligence, kindliness, and Christian charity were displayed; to show him a property where the wellbeing of landlord and tenant were inextricably united, where the condition of the people, their dress, their homes, their food, and their daily comforts, could stand comparison with the most favoured English county, we should point to the Kearney estate of Kilgobbin; and yet it is here, in the very house where his ancestors have resided for generations, that a most savage and dastardly attack is made; and if we feel a sense of shame in recording the outrage, we are recompensed by the proud elation with which we can recount the repulse—the noble and gallant achievement of an Irish girl. History has the record of more momentous feats, but we doubt that there is one in the annals of any land in which a higher heroism was displayed than in this splendid defence by Miss Kearney.' Then followed the story; not one of the papers having any knowledge of Walpole's presence on the occasion, or the slightest suspicion that she was aided in any way.
Joe Atlee was busily engaged in conning over and comparing these somewhat contradictory reports, as he sat at his breakfast, his chum Kearney being still in bed and asleep after a late night at a ball. At last there came a telegraphic despatch for Kearney; armed with which, Joe entered the bedroom and woke him.
'Here's something for you, Dick,' cried he. 'Are you too sleepy to read it?'
'Tear it open and see what it is, like a good fellow,' said the other indolently.
'It's from your sister—at least, it is signed Kate. It says: "There is no cause for alarm. All is going on well, and papa will be back this evening. I write by this post."'
'What does all that mean?' cried Dick, in surprise.
'The whole story is in the papers. The boys have taken the opportunity of your father's absence from home to make a demand for arms at your house, and your sister, it seems, showed fight and beat them off. They talk of two fellows being seen badly wounded, but, of course, that part of the story cannot be relied on. That they got enough to make them beat a retreat is, however, certain; and as they were what is called a strong party, the feat of resisting them is no small glory for a young lady.'
'It was just what Kate was certain to do. There's no man with a braver heart.'
I wonder how the beautiful Greek behaved? I should like greatly to hear what part she took in the defence of the citadel. Was she fainting or in hysterics, or so overcome by terror as to be unconscious?'
'I'll make you any wager you like, Kate did the whole thing herself. There was a Whiteboy attack to force the stairs when she was a child, and I suppose we rehearsed that combat fully fifty—ay, five hundred times. Kate always took the defence, and though we were sometimes four to one, she kept us back.'
'By Jove! I think I should be afraid of such a young lady.'
'So you would. She has more pluck in her heart than half that blessed province you come from. That's the blood of the old stock you are often pleased to sneer at, and of which the present will be a lesson to teach you better.'
'May not the lovely Greek be descended from some ancient stock too? Who is to say what blood of Pericles she had not in her veins? I tell you I'll not give up the notion that she was a sharer in this glory.'
'If you've got the papers with the account, let me see them, Joe. I've half a mind to run down by the night-mail—that is, if I can. Have you got any tin, Atlee?'
'There were some shillings in one of my pockets last night. How much do you want?'
'Eighteen-and-six first class, and a few shillings for a cab.'
'I can manage that; but I'll go and fetch you the papers, there's time enough to talk of the journey.'
The newsman had just deposited the Croppy on the table as Joe returned to the breakfast-table, and the story of Kilgobbin headed the first column in large capitals. 'While our contemporaries,' it began, 'are recounting with more than their wonted eloquence the injuries inflicted on three poor labouring men, who, in their ignorance of the locality, had the temerity to ask for alms at Kilgobbin Castle yesterday evening, and were ignominiously driven away from the door by a young lady, whose benevolence was administered through a blunderbuss, we, who form no portion of the polite press, and have no pretension to mix in what are euphuistically called the "best circles" of this capital, would like to ask, for the information of those humble classes among which our readers are found, is it the custom for young ladies to await the absence of their fathers to entertain young gentlemen tourists? and is a reputation for even heroic courage not somewhat dearly purchased at the price of the companionship of the admittedly most profligate man of a vicious and corrupt society? The heroine who defended Kilgobbin can reply to our query.'