HotFreeBooks.com
Lord Kilgobbin
by Charles Lever
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Atlee felt that Walpole might, with very little exercise of courtesy, have dealt more considerately by him.

'I'm not exactly a valet,' muttered he to himself, 'to whom a man flings a waistcoat as he chucks a shilling to a porter. I am more than Mr. Walpole's equal in many things, which are not accidents of fortune.'

He knew scores of things he could do better than him; indeed, there were very few he could not.

Poor Joe was not, however, aware that it was in the 'not doing' lay Walpole's secret of superiority; that the inborn sense of abstention is the great distinguishing element of the class Walpole belonged to; and he might harass himself for ever, and yet never guess where it was that the distinction evaded him.

Atlee's manner at dinner was unusually cold and silent. He habitually made the chief efforts of conversation, now he spoke little and seldom. When Walpole talked, it was in that careless discursive way it was his wont to discuss matters with a familiar. He often put questions, and as often went on without waiting for the answers.

As they sat over the dessert and were alone, he adverted to the other's mission, throwing out little hints, and cautions as to manner, which Atlee listened to in perfect silence, and without the slightest sign that could indicate the feeling they produced.

'You are going into a new country, Atlee,' said he at last, 'and I am sure you will not be sorry to learn something of the geography.'

'Though it may mar a little of the adventure,' said the other, smiling.

'Ah, that's exactly what I want to warn you against. With us in England, there are none of those social vicissitudes you are used to here. The game of life is played gravely, quietly, and calmly. There are no brilliant successes of bold talkers, no coups de theatre of amusing raconteurs: no one tries to push himself into any position of eminence.'

A half-movement of impatience, as Atlee pushed his wine-glass before him, arrested the speaker.

'I perceive,' said he stiffly, 'you regard my counsels as unnecessary.'

'Not that, sir, so much as hopeless,' rejoined the other coldly.

'His Excellency will ask you, probably, some questions about this country: let me warn you not to give him Irish answers.'

'I don't think I understand you, sir.'

'I mean, don't deal in any exaggerations, avoid extravagance, and never be slapdash.'

'Oh, these are Irish, then?'

Without deigning reply to this, Walpole went on—

'Of course you have your remedy for all the evils of Ireland. I never met an Irishman who had not. But I beg you spare his lordship your theory, whatever it is, and simply answer the questions he will ask you.'

'I will try, sir,' was the meek reply.

'Above all things, let me warn you against a favourite blunder of your countrymen. Don't endeavour to explain peculiarities of action in this country by singularities of race or origin; don't try to make out that there are special points of view held that are unknown on the other side of the Channel, or that there are other differences between the two peoples, except such as more rags and greater wretchedness produce. We have got over that very venerable and time-honoured blunder, and do not endeavour to revive it.'

'Indeed!'

'Fact, I assure you. It is possible in some remote country-house to chance upon some antiquated Tory who still cherishes these notions; but you'll not find them amongst men of mind or intelligence, nor amongst any class of our people.'

It was on Atlee's lip to ask, 'Who were our people?' but he forbore by a mighty effort, and was silent.

'I don't know if I have any other cautions to give you. Do you?'

'No, sir. I could not even have reminded you of these, if you had not yourself remembered them.'

'Oh, I had almost forgotten it. If his Excellency should give you anything to write out, or to copy, don't smoke while you are over it: he abhors tobacco. I should have given you a warning to be equally careful as regards Lady Maude's sensibilities; but, on the whole, I suspect you'll scarcely see her.'

'Is that all, sir?' said the other, rising.

'Well, I think so. I shall be curious to hear how you acquit yourself—how you get on with his Excellency, and how he takes you; and you must write it all to me. Ain't you much too early? it's scarcely ten o'clock.'

'A quarter past ten; and I have some miles to drive to Kingstown.'

'And not yet packed, perhaps?' said the other listlessly.

'No, sir; nothing ready.'

'Oh! you'll be in ample time; I'll vouch for it. You are one of the rough-and-ready order, who are never late. Not but in this same flurry of yours you have made me forget something I know I had to say; and you tell me you can't remember it?'

'No, sir.'

'And yet,' said the other sententiously, 'the crowning merit of a private secretary is exactly that sort of memory. Your intellects, if properly trained, should be the complement of your chief's. The infinite number of things that are too small and too insignificant for him, are to have their place, duly docketed and dated, in your brain; and the very expression of his face should be an indication to you of what he is looking for and yet cannot remember. Do you mark me?'

'Half-past ten,' cried Atlee, as the clock chimed on the mantel-piece; and he hurried away without another word.

It was only as he saw the pitiable penury of his own scanty wardrobe that he could persuade himself to accept of Walpole's offer.

'After all,' he said, 'the loan of a dress-coat may be the turning-point of a whole destiny. Junot sold all he had to buy a sword, to make his first campaign; all I have is my shame, and here it goes for a suit of clothes!' And, with these words, he rushed down to Walpole's dressing-room, and not taking time to inspect and select the contents, carried off the box, as it was, with him. 'I'll tell him all when I write,' muttered he, as he drove away.



CHAPTER XXVI

DICK KEARNEY'S CHAMBERS

When Dick Kearney quitted Kilgobbin Castle for Dublin, he was very far from having any projects in his head, excepting to show his cousin Nina that he could live without her.

'I believe,' muttered he to himself, 'she counts upon me as another "victim." These coquettish damsels have a theory that the "whole drama of life" is the game of their fascinations and the consequences that come of them, and that we men make it our highest ambition to win them, and subordinate all we do in life to their favour. I should like to show her that one man at least refuses to yield this allegiance, and that whatever her blandishments do with others, with him they are powerless.'

These thoughts were his travelling-companions for nigh fifty miles of travel, and, like most travelling-companions, grew to be tiresome enough towards the end of the journey.

When he arrived in Dublin, he was in no hurry to repair to his quarters in Trinity; they were not particularly cheery in the best of times, and now it was long vacation, with few men in town, and everything sad and spiritless; besides this, he was in no mood to meet Atlee, whose free-and-easy jocularity he knew he would not endure, even with his ordinary patience. Joe had never condescended to write one line since he had left Kilgobbin, and Dick, who felt that in presenting him to his family he had done him immense honour, was proportionately indignant at this show of indifference. But, by the same easy formula with which he could account for anything in Nina's conduct by her 'coquetry,' he was able to explain every deviation from decorum of Joe Atlee's by his 'snobbery.' And it is astonishing how comfortable the thought made him, that this man, in all his smartness and ready wit, in his prompt power to acquire, and his still greater quickness to apply knowledge, was after all a most consummate snob.

He had no taste for a dinner at commons, so he ate his mutton-chop at a tavern, and went to the play. Ineffably bored, he sauntered along the almost deserted streets of the city, and just as midnight was striking, he turned under the arched portal of the college. Secretly hoping that Atlee might be absent, he inserted the key and entered his quarters.

The grim old coal-bunker in the passage, the silent corridor, and the dreary room at the end of it, never looked more dismal than as he surveyed them now by the light of a little wax-match he had lighted to guide his way. There stood the massive old table in the middle, with its litter of books and papers—memories of many a headache; and there was the paper of coarse Cavendish, against which he had so often protested, as well as a pewter-pot—a new infraction against propriety since he had been away. Worse, however, than all assaults on decency, were a pair of coarse highlows, which had been placed within the fender, and had evidently enjoyed the fire so long as it lingered in the grate.

'So like the fellow! so like him!' was all that Dick could mutter, and he turned away in disgust.

As Atlee never went to bed till daybreak, it was quite clear that he was from home, and as the college gates could not reopen till morning, Dick was not sorry to feel that he was safe from all intrusion for some hours. With this consolation, he betook him to his bedroom, and proceeded to undress. Scarcely, however, had he thrown off his coat than a heavy, long-drawn respiration startled him. He stopped and listened: it came again, and from the bed. He drew nigh, and there, to his amazement, on his own pillow, lay the massive head of a coarse-looking, vulgar man of about thirty, with a silk handkerchief fastened over it as nightcap. A brawny arm lay outside the bedclothes, with an enormous hand of very questionable cleanness, though one of the fingers wore a heavy gold ring.

Wishing to gain what knowledge he might of his guest before awaking him, Dick turned to inspect his clothes, which, in a wild disorder, lay scattered through the room. They were of the very poorest; but such still as might have belonged to a very humble clerk, or a messenger in a counting-house. A large black leather pocket-book fell from a pocket of the coat, and, in replacing it, Dick perceived it was filled with letters. On one of these, as he closed the clasp, he read the name, 'Mr. Daniel Donogan, Dartmouth Gaol.'

'What!' cried he, 'is this the great head-centre, Donogan, I have read so much of? and how is he here?'

Though Dick Kearney was not usually quick of apprehension, he was not long here in guessing what the situation meant: it was clear enough that Donogan, being a friend of Joe Atlee, had been harboured here as a safe refuge. Of all places in the capital, none were so secure from the visits of the police as the college; indeed, it would have been no small hazard for the public force to have invaded these precincts. Calculating therefore that Kearney was little likely to leave Kilgobbin at present, Atlee had installed his friend in Dick's quarters. The indiscretion was a grave one; in fact, there was nothing—even to expulsion itself—might not have followed on discovery.

'So like him! so like him!' was all he could mutter, as he arose and walked about the room.

While he thus mused, he turned into Atlee's bedroom, and at once it appeared why Mr. Donogan had been accommodated in his room. Atlee's was perfectly destitute of everything: bed, chest of drawers, dressing-table, chair, and bath were all gone. The sole object in the chamber was a coarse print of a well-known informer of the year '98, 'Jemmy O'Brien,' under whose portrait was written, in Atlee's hand, 'Bought in at fourpence-halfpenny, at the general sale, in affectionate remembrance of his virtues, by one who feels himself to be a relative.—J.A.' Kearney tore down the picture in passion, and stamped upon it; indeed, his indignation with his chum had now passed all bounds of restraint.

'So like him in everything!' again burst from him in utter bitterness.

Having thus satisfied himself that he had read the incident aright, he returned to the sitting-room, and at once decided that he would leave Donogan to his rest till morning.

'It will be time enough then to decide what is to be done,' thought he.

He then proceeded to relight the fire, and drawing a sofa near, he wrapped himself in a railway-rug, and lay down to sleep. For a long time he could not compose himself to slumber: he thought of Nina and her wiles—ay, they were wiles; he saw them plainly enough. It was true he was no prize—no 'catch,' as they call it—to angle for, and such a girl as she was could easily look higher; but still he might swell the list of those followers she seemed to like to behold at her feet offering up every homage to her beauty, even to their actual despair. And he thought of his own condition—very hopeless and purposeless as it was.

'What a journey, to be sure, was life without a goal to strive for. Kilgobbin would be his one day; but by that time would it be able to pay off the mortgages that were raised upon it? It was true Atlee was no richer, but Atlee was a shifty, artful fellow, with scores of contrivances to go windward of fortune in even the very worst of weather. Atlee would do many a thing he would not stoop to.'

And as Kearney said this to himself, he was cautious in the use of his verb, and never said 'could,' but always 'would' do; and oh dear! is it not in this fashion that so many of us keep up our courage in life, and attribute to the want of will what we well know lies in the want of power.

Last of all he bethought himself of this man Donogan, a dangerous fellow in a certain way, and one whose companionship must be got rid of at any price. Plotting over in his mind how this should be done in the morning, he at last fell fast asleep.

So overcome was he by slumber, that he never awoke when that venerable institution called the college woman—the hag whom the virtue of unerring dons insists o imposing as a servant on resident students—entered, made up the fire, swept up the room, and arranged the breakfast-table. It was only as she jogged his arm to ask him for an additional penny to buy more milk, that he awoke and remembered where he was.

'Will I get yer honour a bit of bacon?' asked she, in a tone intended to be insinuating.

'Whatever you like,' said he drowsily.

'It's himself there likes a rasher—when he can get it,' said she, with a leer, and a motion of her thumb towards the adjoining room.

'Whom do you mean?' asked he, half to learn what and how much she knew of his neighbour.

'Oh! don't I know him well?—Dan Donogan,' replied she, with a grin. 'Didn't I see him in the dock with Smith O'Brien in '48, and wasn't he in trouble again after he got his pardon; and won't he always be in trouble?'

'Hush! don't talk so loud,' cried Dick warningly.

'He'd not hear me now if I was screechin'; it's the only time he sleeps hard; for he gets up about three or half-past—before it's day—and he squeezes through the bars of the window, and gets out into the park, and he takes his exercise there for two hours, most of the time running full speed and keeping himself in fine wind. Do you know what he said to me the other day? "Molly," says he, "when I know I can get between those bars there, and run round the college park in three minutes and twelve seconds, I feel that there's not many a gaol in Ireland can howld, and the divil a policeman in the island could catch, me."' And she had to lean over the back of a chair to steady herself while she laughed at the conceit.

'I think, after all,' said Kearney, 'I'd rather keep out of the scrape than trust to that way of escaping it.'

'He wouldn't,' said she. 'He'd rather be seducin' soldiers in Barrack Street, or swearing in a new Fenian, or nailing a death-warnin' on a hall door, than he'd be lord mayor! If he wasn't in mischief he'd like to be in his grave.'

'And what comes of it all?' said Kearney, scarcely giving any exact meaning to his words.

'That's what I do be saying myself,' cried the hag. 'When they can transport you for singing a ballad, and send you to pick oakum for a green cravat, it's time to take to some other trade than patriotism!' And with this reflection she shuffled away, to procure the materials for breakfast.

The fresh rolls, the watercress, a couple of red herrings devilled as those ancient damsels are expert in doing, and a smoking dish of rashers and eggs, flanked by a hissing tea-kettle, soon made their appearance, the hag assuring Kearney that a stout knock with the poker on the back of the grate would summon Mr. Donogan almost instantaneously—so rapidly, indeed, and with such indifference as to raiment, that, as she modestly declared, 'I have to take to my heels the moment I call him,' and the modest avowal was confirmed by her hasty departure.

The assurance was so far correct, that scarcely had Kearney replaced the poker, when the door opened, and one of the strangest figures he had ever beheld presented itself in the room. He was a short, thick-set man with a profusion of yellowish hair, which, divided in the middle of the head, hung down on either side to his neck—beard and moustache of the same hue, left little of the face to be seen but a pair of lustrous blue eyes, deep-sunken in their orbits, and a short wide-nostrilled nose, which bore the closest resemblance to a lion's. Indeed, a most absurd likeness to the king of beasts was the impression produced on Kearney as this wild-looking fellow bounded forward, and stood there amazed at finding a stranger to confront him.

His dress was a flannel-shirt and trousers, and a pair of old slippers which had once been Kearney's own.

'I was told by the college woman how I was to summon you, Mr. Donogan,' said Kearney good-naturedly. 'You are not offended with the liberty?'

'Are you Dick?' asked the other, coming forward.

'Yes. I think most of my friends know me by that name.'

'And the old devil has told you mine?' asked he quickly.

'No, I believe I discovered that for myself. I tumbled over some of your things last night, and saw a letter addressed to you.'

'You didn't read it?'

'Certainly not. It fell out of your pocket-book, and I put it back there.'

'So the old hag didn't blab on me? I'm anxious about this, because it's got out somehow that I'm back again. I landed at Kenmare in a fishing-boat from the New York packet, the Osprey, on Tuesday fortnight, and three of the newspapers had it before I was a week on shore.'

'Our breakfast is getting cold; sit down here and let me help you. Will you begin with a rasher?'

Not replying to the invitation, Donogan covered his plate with bacon, and leaning his arm on the table, stared fixedly at Kearney.

'I'm as glad as fifty pounds of it,' muttered he slowly to himself.

'Glad of what?'

'Glad that you're not a swell, Mr. Kearney,' said he gravely. '"The Honourable Richard Kearney," whenever I repeated that to myself, it gave me a cold sweat. I thought of velvet collars and a cravat with a grand pin in it, and a stuck-up creature behind both, that wouldn't condescend to sit down with me.'

'I'm sure Joe Atlee gave you no such impression of me.'

A short grunt that might mean anything was all the reply.

'He was my chum, and knew me better,' reiterated the other.

'He knows many a thing he doesn't say, and he says plenty that he doesn't know. "Kearney will be a swell," said I, "and he'll turn upon me just out of contempt for my condition.'"

'That was judging me hardly, Mr. Donogan.'

'No, it wasn't; it's the treatment the mangy dogs meet all the world over. Why is England insolent to us, but because we're poor—answer me that? Are we mangy? Don't you feel mangy?—I know I do!'

Dick smiled a sort of mild contradiction, but said nothing.

'Now that I see you, Mr. Kearney,' said the other, 'I'm as glad as a ten-pound note about a letter I wrote you—'

'I never received a letter from you.'

'Sure I know you didn't! haven't I got it here?' And he drew forth a square-shaped packet and held it up before him. 'I never said that I sent it, nor I won't send it now: here's its present address,' added he, as he threw it on the fire and pressed it down with his foot.

'Why not have given it to me now?' asked the other.

'Because three minutes will tell you all that was in it, and better than writing; for I can reply to anything that wants an explanation, and that's what a letter cannot. First of all, do you know that Mr. Claude Barry, your county member, has asked for the Chiltern, and is going to resign?'

'No, I have not heard it.'

'Well, it's a fact. They are going to make him a second secretary somewhere, and pension him off. He has done his work: he voted an Arms Bill and an Insurrection Act, and he had the influenza when the amnesty petition was presented, and sure no more could be expected from any man.'

'The question scarcely concerns me; our interest in the county is so small now, we count for very little.'

'And don't you know how to make your influence greater?'

'I cannot say that I do.'

'Go to the poll yourself, Richard Kearney, and be the member.'

'You are talking of an impossibility, Mr. Donogan. First of all, we have no fortune, no large estates in the county, with a wide tenantry and plenty of votes; secondly, we have no place amongst the county families, as our old name and good blood might have given us; thirdly, we are of the wrong religion, and, I take it, with as wrong politics; and lastly, we should not know what to do with the prize if we had won it.'

'Wrong in every one of your propositions—wholly wrong,' cried the other. 'The party that will send you in won't want to be bribed, and they'll be proud of a man who doesn't overtop them with his money. You don't need the big families, for you'll beat them. Your religion is the right one, for it will give you the Priests; and your politics shall be Repeal, and it will give you the Peasants; and as to not knowing what to do when you're elected, are you so mighty well off in life that you've nothing to wish for?'

'I can scarcely say that,' said Dick, smiling.

'Give me a few minutes' attention,' said Donogan, 'and I think I'll show you that I've thought this matter out and out; indeed, before I sat down to write to you, I went into all the details.'

And now, with a clearness and a fairness that astonished Kearney, this strange-looking fellow proceeded to prove how he had weighed the whole difficulty, and saw how, in the nice balance of the two great parties who would contest the seat, the Repealer would step in and steal votes from both.

He showed not only that he knew every barony of the county, and every estate and property, but that he had a clear insight into the different localities where discontent prevailed, and places where there was something more than discontent.

'It is down there,' said he significantly, 'that I can be useful. The man that has had his foot in the dock, and only escaped having his head in the noose, is never discredited in Ireland. Talk Parliament and parliamentary tactics to the small shopkeepers in Moate, and leave me to talk treason to the people in the bog.'

'But I mistake you and your friends greatly,' said Kearney, 'if these were the tactics you always followed; I thought that you were the physical-force party, who sneered at constitutionalism and only believed in the pike.'

'So we did, so long as we saw O'Connell and the lawyers working the game of that grievance for their own advantage, and teaching the English Government how to rule Ireland by a system of concession to them and to their friends. Now, however, we begin to perceive that to assault that heavy bastion of Saxon intolerance, we must have spies in the enemy's fortress, and for this we send in so many members to the Whig party. There are scores of men who will aid us by their vote who would not risk a bone in our cause. Theirs is a sort of subacute patriotism; but it has its use. It smashes an Established Church, breaks down Protestant ascendency, destroys the prestige of landed property, and will in time abrogate entail and primogeniture, and many another fine thing; and in this way it clears the ground for our operations, just as soldiers fell trees and level houses lest they interfere with the range of heavy artillery.'

'So that the place you would assign me is that very honourable one you have just called a "spy in the camp"?'

'By a figure I said that, Mr. Kearney; but you know well enough what I meant was, that there's many a man will help us on the Treasury benches that would not turn out on Tallaght; and we want both. I won't say,' added he, after a pause, 'I'd not rather see you a leader in our ranks than a Parliament man. I was bred a doctor, Mr. Kearney, and I must take an illustration from my own art. To make a man susceptible of certain remedies, you are often obliged to reduce his strength and weaken his constitution. So it is here. To bring Ireland into a condition to be bettered by Repeal, you must crush the Church and smash the bitter Protestants. The Whigs will do these for us, but we must help them. Do you understand me now?'

'I believe I do. In the case you speak of, then, the Government will support my election.'

'Against a Tory, yes; but not against a pure Whig—a thorough-going supporter, who would bargain for nothing for his country, only something for his own relations.'

'If your project has an immense fascination for me at one moment, and excites my ambition beyond all bounds, the moment I turn my mind to the cost, and remember my own poverty, I see nothing but hopelessness.'

'That's not my view of it, nor when you listen to me patiently, will it, I believe, be yours. Can we have another talk over this in the evening?'

'To be sure! we'll dine here together at six.'

'Oh, never mind me, think of yourself, Mr. Kearney, and your own engagements. As to the matter of dining, a crust of bread and a couple of apples are fully as much as I want or care for.'

'We'll dine together to-day at six,' said Dick, 'and bear in mind, I am more interested in this than you are.'



CHAPTER XXVII

A CRAFTY COUNSELLOR

As they were about to sit down to dinner on that day, a telegram, re-directed from Kilgobbin, reached Kearney's hand. It bore the date of that morning from Plmnuddm Castle, and was signed 'Atlee.' Its contents were these: 'H. E. wants to mark the Kilgobbin defence with some sign of approval. What shall it be? Reply by wire.'

'Read that, and tell us what you think of it.'

'Joe Atlee at the Viceroy's castle in Wales!' cried the other. 'We're going up the ladder hand over head, Mr. Kearney! A week ago his ambition was bounded on the south by Ship Street, and on the east by the Lower Castle Yard.'

'How do you understand the despatch?' asked Kearney quickly.

'Easily enough. His Excellency wants to know what you'll have for shooting down three—I think they were three—Irishmen.'

'The fellows came to demand arms, and with loaded guns in their hands.'

'And if they did! Is not the first right of a man the weapon that defends him? He that cannot use it or does not possess it, is a slave. By what prerogative has Kilgobbin Castle within its walls what can take the life of any, the meanest, tenant on the estate?'

'I am not going to discuss this with you; I think I have heard most of it before, and was not impressed when I did so. What I asked was, what sort of a recognition one might safely ask for and reasonably expect?'

'That's not long to look for. Let them support you in the county. Telegraph back, "I'm going to stand, and, if I get in, will be a Whig whenever I am not a Nationalist. Will the party stand by me?"'

'Scarcely with that programme.'

'And do you think that the priests' nominees, who are three-fourths of the Irish members, offer better terms? Do you imagine that the men that crowd the Whig lobby have not reserved their freedom of action about the Pope, and the Fenian prisoners, and the Orange processionists? If they were not free so far, I'd ask you with the old Duke, How is Her Majesty's Government to be carried on?'

Kearney shook his head in dissent.

'And that's not all,' continued the other; 'but you must write to the papers a flat contradiction of that shooting story. You must either declare that it never occurred at all, or was done by that young scamp from the Castle, who happily got as much as he gave.'

'That I could not do,' said Kearney firmly.

'And it is that precisely that you must do,' rejoined the other. 'If you go into the House to represent the popular feeling of Irishmen, the hand that signs the roll must not be stained with Irish blood.'

'You forget; I was not within fifty miles of the place.'

'And another reason to disavow it. Look here, Mr. Kearney: if a man in a battle was to say to himself, I'll never give any but a fair blow, he'd make a mighty bad soldier. Now, public life is a battle, and worse than a battle in all that touches treachery and falsehood. If you mean to do any good in the world, to yourself and your country, take my word for it, you'll have to do plenty of things that you don't like, and, what's worse, can't defend.'

'The soup is getting cold all this time. Shall we sit down?'

'No, not till we answer the telegram. Sit down and say what I told you.'

'Atlee will say I'm mad. He knows that I have not a shilling in the world.'

'Riches is not the badge of the representation,' said the other.

'They can at least pay the cost of the elections.'

'Well, we'll pay ours too—not all at once, but later on; don't fret yourself about that.'

'They'll refuse me flatly.'

'No, we have a lien on the fine gentleman with the broken arm. What would the Tories give for that story, told as I could tell it to them? At all events, whatever you do in life, remember this—that if asked your price for anything you have done, name the highest, and take nothing if it's refused you. It's a waiting race, but I never knew it fail in the end.'

Kearney despatched his message, and sat down to the table, far too much flurried and excited to care for his dinner. Not so his guest, who ate voraciously, seldom raising his head and never uttering a word. 'Here's to the new member for King's County,' said he at last, and he drained off his glass; 'and I don't know a pleasanter way of wishing a man prosperity than in a bumper. Has your father any politics, Mr. Kearney?'

'He thinks he's a Whig, but, except hating the Established Church and having a print of Lord Russell over the fireplace, I don't know he has other reason for the opinion.'

'All right; there's nothing finer for a young man entering public life than to be able to sneer at his father for a noodle. That's the practical way to show contempt for the wisdom of our ancestors. There's no appeal the public respond to with the same certainty as that of the man who quarrels with his relations for the sake of his principles, and whether it be a change in your politics or your religion, they're sure to uphold you.'

'If differing with my father will ensure my success, I can afford to be confident,' said Dick, smiling.

'Your sister has her notions about Ireland, hasn't she?'

'Yes, I believe she has; but she fancies that laws and Acts of Parliament are not the things in fault, but ourselves and our modes of dealing with the people, that were not often just, and were always capricious. I am not sure how she works out her problem, but I believe we ought to educate each other; and that in turn, for teaching the people to read and write, there are scores of things to be learned from them.'

'And the Greek girl?'

'The Greek girl'—began Dick haughtily, and with a manner that betokened rebuke, and which suddenly changed as he saw that nothing in the other's manner gave any indication of intended freedom or insolence—'The Greek is my first cousin, Mr. Donogan,' said he calmly; 'but I am anxious to know how you have heard of her, or indeed of any of us.'

'From Joe—Joe Atlee! I believe we have talked you over—every one of you—till I know you all as well as if I lived in the castle and called you by your Christian names. Do you know, Mr. Kearney'—and his voice trembled now as he spoke—'that to a lone and desolate man like myself, who has no home, and scarcely a country, there is something indescribably touching in the mere picture of the fireside, and the family gathered round it, talking over little homely cares and canvassing the changes of each day's fortune. I could sit here half the night and listen to Atlee telling how you lived, and the sort of things that interested you.'

'So that you'd actually like to look at us?'

Donogan's eyes grew glassy, and his lips trembled, but he could not utter a word.

'So you shall, then,' cried Dick resolutely. 'We'll start to-morrow by the early train. You'll not object to a ten miles' walk, and we'll arrive for dinner.'

'Do you know who it is you are inviting to your father's house? Do you know that I am an escaped convict, with a price on my head this minute? Do you know the penalty of giving me shelter, or even what the law calls comfort?'

'I know this, that in the heart of the Bog of Allen, you'll be far safer than in the city of Dublin; that none shall ever learn who you are, nor, if they did, is there one—the poorest in the place—would betray you.'

'It is of you, sir, I'm thinking, not of me,' said Donogan calmly.

'Don't fret yourself about us. We are well known in our county, and above suspicion. Whenever you yourself should feel that your presence was like to be a danger, I am quite willing to believe you'd take yourself off.'

'You judge me rightly, sir, and I am proud to see it; but how are you to present me to your friends?'

'As a college acquaintance—a friend of Atlee's and of mine—a gentleman who occupied the room next me. I can surely say that with truth.'

'And dined with you every day since you knew him. Why not add that?'

He laughed merrily over this conceit, and at last Donogan said, 'I've a little kit of clothes—something decenter than these—up in Thomas Street, No. 13, Mr. Kearney; the old house Lord Edward was shot in, and the safest place in Dublin now, because it is so notorious. I'll step up for them this evening, and I'll be ready to start when you like.'

'Here's good fortune to us, whatever we do next,' said Kearney, filling both their glasses; and they touched the brims together, and clinked them before they drained them.



CHAPTER XXVIII

'ON THE LEADS'

Kate Kearney's room was on the top of the castle, and 'gave' by a window over the leads of a large square tower. On this space she had made a little garden of a few flowers, to tend which was of what she called her 'dissipations.'



Some old packing-cases filled with mould sufficed to nourish a few stocks and carnations, a rose or two, and a mass of mignonette, which possibly, like the children of the poor, grew up sturdy and healthy from some of the adverse circumstances of their condition. It was a very favourite spot with her; and if she came hither in her happiest moments, it was here also her saddest hours were passed, sure that in the cares and employments of her loved plants she would find solace and consolation. It was at this window Kate now sat with Nina, looking over the vast plain, on which a rich moonlight was streaming, the shadows of fast-flitting clouds throwing strange and fanciful effects over a space almost wide enough to be a prairie.

'What a deal have mere names to do with our imaginations, Nina!' said Kate. 'Is not that boundless sweep before us as fine as your boasted Campagna? Does not the night wind career over it as joyfully, and is not the moonlight as picturesque in its breaks by turf-clamp and hillock as by ruined wall and tottering temple? In a word, are not we as well here, to drink in all this delicious silence, as if we were sitting on your loved Pincian?'

'Don't ask me to share such heresies. I see nothing out there but bleak desolation. I don't know if it ever had a past; I can almost swear it will have no future. Let us not talk of it.'

'What shall we talk of?' asked Kate, with an arch smile.

'You know well enough what led me up here. I want to hear what you know of that strange man Dick brought here to-day to dinner.'

'I never saw him before—never even heard of him.'

'Do you like him?'

'I have scarcely seen him.'

'Don't be so guarded and reserved. Tell me frankly the impression he makes on you. Is he not vulgar—very vulgar?'

'How should I say, Nina? Of all the people you ever met, who knows so little of the habits of society as myself? Those fine gentlemen who were here the other day shocked my ignorance by numberless little displays of indifference. Yet I can feel that they must have been paragons of good-breeding, and that what I believed to be a very cool self-sufficiency, was in reality the very latest London version of good manners.'

'Oh, you did not like that charming carelessness of Englishmen that goes where it likes and when it likes, that does not wait to be answered when it questions, and only insists on one thing, which is—"not to be bored." If you knew, dearest Kate, how foreigners school themselves, and strive to catch up that insouciance, and never succeed—never!'

'My brother's friend certainly is no adept in it.'

'He is insufferable. I don't know that the man ever dined in the company of ladies before; did you remark that he did not open the door as we left the dinner-room? and if your brother had not come over, I should have had to open it for myself. I declare I'm not sure he stood up as we passed.'

'Oh yes; I saw him rise from his chair.'

'I'll tell you what you did not see. You did not see him open his napkin at dinner. He stole his roll of bread very slyly from the folds, and then placed the napkin, carefully folded, beside him.'

'You seem to have observed him closely, Nina.'

'I did so, because I saw enough in his manner to excite suspicion of his class, and I want to know what Dick means by introducing him here.'

'Papa liked him; at least he said that after we left the room a good deal of his shyness wore off, and that he conversed pleasantly and well. Above all, he seems to know Ireland perfectly.'

'Indeed!' said she, half disdainfully.

'So much so that I was heartily sorry to leave the room when I heard them begin the topic; but I saw papa wished to have some talk with him, and I went.'

'They were gallant enough not to join us afterwards, though I think we waited tea till ten.'

'Till nigh eleven, Nina; so that I am sure they must have been interested in their conversation.'

'I hope the explanation excuses them.'

'I don't know that they are aware they needed an apology. Perhaps they were affecting a little of that British insouciance you spoke of—'

'They had better not. It will sit most awkwardly on their Irish habits.'

'Some day or other I'll give you a formal battle on this score, Nina, and I warn you you'll not come so well out of it.'

'Whenever you like. I accept the challenge. Make this brilliant companion of your brother's the type, and it will test your cleverness, I promise you. Do you even know his name?'

'Mr. Daniel, my brother called him; but I know nothing of his country or of his belongings.'

'Daniel is a Christian name, not a family name, is it not? We have scores of people like that—Tommasina, Riccardi, and such like—in Italy, but they mean nothing.'

'Our friend below-stairs looks as if that was not his failing. I should say that he means a good deal.'

'Oh, I know you are laughing at my stupid phrase—no matter; you understand me, at all events. I don't like that man.'

'Dick's friends are not fortunate with you. I remember how unfavourably you judged of Mr. Atlee from his portrait.'

'Well, he looked rather better than his picture—less false, I mean; or perhaps it was that he had a certain levity of manner that carried off the perfidy.'

'What an amiable sort of levity!'

'You are too critical on me by half this evening,' said Nina pettishly; and she arose and strolled out upon the leads.

For some time Kate was scarcely aware she had gone. Her head was full of cares, and she sat trying to think some of them 'out,' and see her way to deal with them. At last the door of the room slowly and noiselessly opened, and Dick put in his head.

'I was afraid you might be asleep, Kate,' said he, entering, 'finding all so still and quiet here.'

'No. Nina and I were chatting here—squabbling, I believe, if I were to tell the truth; and I can't tell when she left me.'

'What could you be quarrelling about?' asked he, as he sat down beside her.

'I think it was with that strange friend of yours. We were not quite agreed whether his manners were perfect, or his habits those of the well-bred world. Then we wanted to know more of him, and each was dissatisfied that the other was so ignorant; and, lastly, we were canvassing that very peculiar taste you appear to have in friends, and were wondering where you find your odd people.'

'So then you don't like Donogan?' said he hurriedly.

'Like whom? And you call him Donogan!'

'The mischief is out,' said he. 'Not that I wanted to have secrets from you; but all the same, I am a precious bungler. His name is Donogan, and what's more, it's Daniel Donogan. He was the same who figured in the dock at, I believe, sixteen years of age, with Smith O'Brien and the others, and was afterwards seen in England in '59, known as a head-centre, and apprehended on suspicion in '60, and made his escape from Dartmoor the same year. There's a very pretty biography in skeleton, is it not?'

'But, my dear Dick, how are you connected with him?'

'Not very seriously. Don't be afraid. I'm not compromised in any way, nor does he desire that I should be. Here is the whole story of our acquaintance.'

And now he told what the reader already knows of their first meeting and the intimacy that followed it.

'All that will take nothing from the danger of harbouring a man charged as he is,' said she gravely.

'That is to say, if he be tracked and discovered.'

'It is what I mean.'

'Well, one has only to look out of that window, and see where we are, and what lies around us on every side, to be tolerably easy on that score.'

And, as he spoke, he arose and walked out upon the terrace.

'What, were you here all this time?' asked he, as he saw Nina seated on the battlement, and throwing dried leaves carelessly to the wind.

'Yes, I have been here this half-hour, perhaps longer.'

'And heard what we have been saying within there?'

'Some chance words reached me, but I did not follow them.'

'Oh, it was here you were, then, Nina!' cried Kate. 'I am ashamed to say I did not know it.'

'We got so warm in discussing your friend's merits or demerits, that we parted in a sort of huff,' said Nina. 'I wonder was he worth quarrelling for?'

'What should you say?' asked Dick inquiringly, as he scanned her face.

'In any other land, I might say he was—that is, that some interest might attach to him; but here, in Ireland, you all look so much brighter, and wittier, and more impetuous, and more out of the common than you really are, that I give up all divination of you, and own I cannot read you at all.'

'I hope you like the explanation,' said Kate to her brother, laughing.

'I'll tell my friend of it in the morning,' said Dick; 'and as he is a great national champion, perhaps he'll accept it as a defiance.'

'You do not frighten me by the threat,' said Nina calmly.

Dick looked from her face to her sister's and back again to hers, to discern if he might how much she had overheard; but he could read nothing in her cold and impassive bearing, and he went his way in doubt and confusion.



CHAPTER XXIX

ON A VISIT AT KILGOBBIN

Before Kearney had risen from his bed the next morning, Donogan was in his room, his look elated and his cheek glowing with recent exercise. 'I have had a burst of two hours' sharp walking over the bog,' cried he; 'and it has put me in such spirits as I have not known for many a year. Do you know, Mr. Kearney, that what with the fantastic effects of the morning mists, as they lift themselves over these vast wastes—the glorious patches of blue heather and purple anemone that the sun displays through the fog—and, better than all, the springiness of a soil that sends a thrill to the heart, like a throb of youth itself, there is no walking in the world can compare with a bog at sunrise! There's a sentiment to open a paper on nationalities! I came up with the postboy, and took his letters to save him a couple of miles. Here's one for you, I think from Atlee; and this is also to your address, from Dublin; and here's the last number of the Pike, and you'll see they have lost no time. There's a few lines about you. "Our readers will be grateful to us for the tidings we announce to-day, with authority—that Richard Kearney, Esq., son of Mathew Kearney, o Kilgobbin Castle, will contest his native county at the approaching election. It will be a proud day for Ireland when she shall see her representation in the names of those who dignify the exalted station they hold in virtue of their birth and blood, by claims of admitted talent and recognised ability. Mr. Kearney, junior, has swept the university of its prizes, and the college gate has long seen his name at the head of her prizemen. He contests the seat in the National interest. It is needless to say all our sympathies, and hopes, and best wishes go with him."'

Dick shook with laughing while the other read out the paragraph in a high-sounding and pretentious tone.

'I hope,' said Kearney at last, 'that the information as to my college successes is not vouched for on authority.'

'Who cares a fig about them? The phrase rounds off a sentence, and nobody treats it like an affidavit.'

'But some one may take the trouble to remind the readers that my victories have been defeats, and that in my last examination but one I got "cautioned."'

'Do you imagine, Mr. Kearney, the House of Commons in any way reflects college distinction? Do you look for senior-wranglers and double-firsts on the Treasury bench? and are not the men who carry away distinction the men of breadth, not depth? Is it not the wide acquaintance with a large field of knowledge, and the subtle power to know how other men regard these topics, that make the popular leader of the present day? and remember, it is talk, and not oratory, is the mode. You must be commonplace, and even vulgar, practical, dashed with a small morality, so as not to be classed with the low Radical; and if then you have a bit of high-faluting for the peroration, you'll do. The morning papers will call you a young man of great promise, and the whip will never pass you without a shake-hands.'

'But there are good speakers.'

'There is Bright—I don't think I know another—and he only at times. Take my word for it, the secret of success with "the collective wisdom" is reiteration. Tell them the same thing, not once or twice or even ten, but fifty times, and don't vary very much even the way you tell it. Go on repeating your platitudes, and by the time you find you are cursing your own stupid persistence, you may swear you have made a convert to your opinions. If you are bent on variety, and must indulge it, ring your changes on the man who brought these views before them—yourself, but beyond these never soar. O'Connell, who had a variety at will for his own countrymen, never tried it in England: he knew better. The chawbacons that we sneer at are not always in smock-frocks, take my word for it; they many of them wear wide-brimmed hats and broadcloth, and sit above the gangway. Ay, sir,' cried he, warming with the theme, 'once I can get my countrymen fully awakened to the fact of who and what are the men who rule them, I'll ask for no Catholic Associations, or Repeal Committees, or Nationalist Clubs—the card-house of British supremacy will tumble of itself; there will be no conflict, but simply submission.'

'We're a long day's journey from these convictions, I suspect,' said Kearney doubtfully.

'Not so far, perhaps, as you think. Do you remark how little the English press deal in abuse of us to what was once their custom? They have not, I admit, come down to civility; but they don't deride us in the old fashion, nor tell us, as I once saw, that we are intellectually and physically stamped with inferiority. If it was true, Mr. Kearney, it was stupid to tell it to us.'

'I think we could do better than dwell upon these things.'

'I deny that: deny it in toto. The moment you forget, in your dealings with the Englishman, the cheap estimate he entertains, not alone of your brains and your skill, but of your resolution, your persistence, your strong will, ay, your very integrity, that moment, I say, places him in a position to treat you as something below him. Bear in mind, however, how he is striving to regard you, and it's your own fault if you're not his equal, and something more perhaps. There was a man more than the master of them all, and his name was Edmund Burke; and how did they treat him? How insolently did they behave to O'Connell in the House till he put his heel on them? Were they generous to Sheil? Were they just to Plunket? No, no. The element that they decry in our people they know they have not got, and they'd like to crush the race, when they cannot extinguish the quality.'

Donogan had so excited himself now that he walked up and down the room, his voice ringing with emotion, and his arms wildly tossing in all the extravagance of passion. 'This is from Joe Atlee,' said Kearney, as he tore open the envelope:—

'"DEAR DICK,—I cannot account for the madness that seems to have seized you, except that Dan Donogan, the most rabid dog I know, has bitten you. If so, for Heaven's sake have the piece cut out at once, and use the strongest cautery of common sense, if you know of any one who has a little to spare. I only remembered yesterday that I ought to have told you I had sheltered Dan in our rooms, but I can already detect that you have made his acquaintance. He is not a bad fellow. He is sincere in his opinions, and incorruptible, if that be the name for a man who, if bought to-morrow, would not be worth sixpence to his owner.

'"Though I resigned all respect for my own good sense in telling it, I was obliged to let H. E. know the contents of your despatch, and then, as I saw he had never heard of Kilgobbin, or the great Kearney family, I told more lies of your estated property, your county station, your influence generally, and your abilities individually, than the fee-simple of your property, converted into masses, will see me safe through purgatory; and I have consequently baited the trap that has caught myself; for, persuaded by my eloquent advocacy of you all, H. E. has written to Walpole to make certain inquiries concerning you, which, if satisfactory, he, Walpole, will put himself in communication with you, as to the extent and the mode to which the Government will support you. I think I can see Dan Donogan's fine hand in that part of your note which foreshadows a threat, and hints that the Walpole story would, if published abroad, do enormous damage to the Ministry. This, let me assure you, is a fatal error, and a blunder which could only be committed by an outsider in political life. The days are long past since a scandal could smash an administration; and we are so strong now that arson or forgery could not hurt, and I don't think that infanticide would affect us.

'"If you are really bent on this wild exploit, you should see Walpole, and confer with him. You don't talk well, but you write worse, so avoid correspondence, and do all your indiscretions verbally. Be angry if you like with my candour, but follow my counsel.

'"See him, and show him, if you are able, that, all questions of nationality apart, he may count upon your vote; that there are certain impracticable and impossible conceits in politics—like repeal, subdivision of land, restoration of the confiscated estates, and such like—on which Irishmen insist on being free to talk balderdash, and air their patriotism; but that, rightfully considered, they are as harmless and mean just as little as a discussion on the Digamma, or a debate on perpetual motion. The stupid Tories could never be brought to see this. Like genuine dolts, they would have an army of supporters, one-minded with them in everything. We know better, and hence we buy the Radical vote by a little coquetting with communism, and the model working-man and the rebel by an occasional gaol-delivery, and the Papist by a sop to the Holy Father. Bear in mind, Dick—and it is the grand secret of political life—it takes all sort of people to make a 'party.' When you have thoroughly digested this aphorism, you are fit to start in the world.

'"If you were not so full of what I am sure you would call your 'legitimate ambitions,' I'd like to tell you the glorious life we lead in this place. Disraeli talks of 'the well-sustained splendour of their stately lives,' and it is just the phrase for an existence in which all the appliances to ease and enjoyment are supplied by a sort of magic, that never shows its machinery, nor lets you hear the sound of its working. The saddle-horses know when I want to ride by the same instinct that makes the butler give me the exact wine I wish at my dinner. And so on throughout the day, 'the sustained splendour' being an ever-present luxuriousness that I drink in with a thirst that knows no slaking.

'"I have made a hit with H.E., and from copying some rather muddle-headed despatches, I am now promoted to writing short skeleton sermons on politics, which, duly filled out and fattened with official nutriment, will one day astonish the Irish Office, and make one of the Nestors of bureaucracy exclaim, 'See how Danesbury has got up the Irish question.'

'"I have a charming collaborateur, my lord's niece, who was acting as his private secretary up to the time of my arrival, and whose explanation of a variety of things I found to be so essential that, from being at first in the continual necessity of seeking her out, I have now arrived at a point at which we write in the same room, and pass our mornings in the library till luncheon. She is stunningly handsome, as tall as the Greek cousin, and with a stately grace of manner and a cold dignity of demeanour I'd give my heart's blood to subdue to a mood of womanly tenderness and dependence. Up to this, my position is that of a very humble courtier in the presence of a queen, and she takes care that by no momentary forgetfulness shall I lose sight of the 'situation.'

'"She is engaged, they say, to be married to Walpole; but as I have not heard that he is heir-apparent, or has even the reversion to the crown of Spain, I cannot perceive what the contract means.

'"I rode out with her to-day by special invitation, or permission—which was it?—and in the few words that passed between us, she asked me if I had long known Mr. Walpole, and put her horse into a canter without waiting for my answer.

'"With H. E. I can talk away freely, and without constraint. I am never very sure that he does not know the things he questions me on better than myself—a practice some of his order rather cultivate; but, on the whole, our intercourse is easy. I know he is not a little puzzled about me, and I intend that he should remain so.

'"When you have seen and spoken with Walpole, write me what has taken place between you; and though I am fully convinced that what you intend is unmitigated folly, I see so many difficulties in the way, such obstacles, and such almost impossibilities to be overcome, that I think Fate will be more merciful to you than your ambitions, and spare you, by an early defeat, from a crushing disappointment.

'"Had you ambitioned to be a governor of a colony, a bishop, or a Queen's messenger—they are the only irresponsible people I can think of—I might have helped you; but this conceit to be a Parliament man is such irredeemable folly, one is powerless to deal with it.

'"At all events, your time is not worth much, nor is your public character of a very grave importance. Give them both, then, freely to the effort, but do not let it cost you money, nor let Donogan persuade you that you are one of those men who can make patriotism self-supporting.

'"H. E. hints at a very confidential mission on which he desires to employ me; and though I should leave this place now with much regret, and a more tender sorrow than I could teach you to comprehend, I shall hold myself at his orders for Japan if he wants me. Meanwhile, write to me what takes place with Walpole, and put your faith firmly in the good-will and efficiency of yours truly,

'"JOE ATLEE.

'"If you think of taking Donogan down with you to Kilgobbin, I ought to tell you that it would be a mistake. Women invariably dislike him, and he would do you no credit.'"

Dick Kearney, who had begun to read this letter aloud, saw himself constrained to continue, and went on boldly, without stop or hesitation, to the last word.

'I am very grateful to you, Mr. Kearney, for this mark of trustfulness, and I'm not in the least sore about all Joe has said of me.'

'He is not over complimentary to myself,' said Kearney, and the irritation he felt was not to be concealed.

'There's one passage in his letter,' said the other thoughtfully, 'well worth all the stress he lays on it. He tells you never to forget it "takes all sorts of men to make a party." Nothing can more painfully prove the fact than that we need Joe Atlee amongst ourselves! And it is true, Mr. Kearney,' said he sternly, 'treason must now, to have any chance at all, be many-handed. We want not only all sorts of men, but in all sorts of places; and at tables where rebel opinions dared not be boldly announced and defended, we want people who can coquet with felony, and get men to talk over treason with little if any ceremony. Joe can do this—he can write, and, what is better, sing you a Fenian ballad, and if he sees he has made a mistake, he can quiz himself and his song as cavalierly as he has sung it! And now, on my solemn oath I say it, I don't know that anything worse has befallen us than the fact that there are such men as Joe Atlee amongst us, and that we need them—ay, sir, we need them!'

'This is brief enough, at any rate,' said Kearney, as he broke open the second letter:—

'"DUBLIN CASTLE, Wednesday Evening.

'"DEAR SIR,—Would you do me the great favour to call on me here at your earliest convenient moment? I am still an invalid, and confined to a sofa, or would ask for permission to meet you at your chambers.—Believe me, yours faithfully,

CECIL WALPOLE."'

'That cannot be delayed, I suppose?' said Kearney, in the tone of a question.

'Certainly not.'

'I'll go up by the night-mail. You'll remain where you are, and where I hope you feel you are with a welcome.'

'I feel it, sir—I feel it more than I can say.' And his face was blood-red as he spoke.

'There are scores of things you can do while I am away. You'll have to study the county in all its baronies and subdivisions. There, my sister can help you; and you'll have to learn the names and places of our great county swells, and mark such as may be likely to assist us. You'll have to stroll about in our own neighbourhood, and learn what the people near home say of the intention, and pick up what you can of public opinion in our towns of Moate and Kilbeggan.'

'I have bethought me of all that—-' He paused here and seemed to hesitate if he should say more; and after an effort, he went on: 'You'll not take amiss what I'm going to say, Mr. Kearney. You'll make full allowance for a man placed as I am; but I want, before you go, to learn from you in what way, or as what, you have presented me to your family? Am I a poor sizar of Trinity, whose hard struggle with poverty has caught your sympathy? Am I a chance acquaintance, whose only claim on you is being known to Joe Atlee? I'm sure I need not ask you, have you called me by my real name and given me my real character?'

Kearney flushed up to the eyes, and laying his hand on the other's shoulder, said, 'This is exactly what I have done. I have told my sister that you are the noted Daniel Donogan, United Irishman and rebel.'

'But only to your sister?'

'To none other.'

'She'll not betray me, I know that.'

'You are right there, Donogan. Here's how it happened, for it was not intended.' And now he related how the name had escaped him.

'So that the cousin knows nothing?'

'Nothing whatever. My sister Kate is not one to make rash confidences, and you may rely on it she has not told her.'

'I hope and trust that this mistake will serve you for a lesson, Mr. Kearney, and show you that to keep a secret, it is not enough to have an honest intention, but a man must have a watch over his thoughts and a padlock on his tongue. And now to something of more importance. In your meeting with Walpole, mind one thing: no modesty, no humility; make your demands boldly, and declare that your price is well worth the paying; let him feel that, as he must make a choice between the priests and the nationalists, we are the easier of the two to deal with: first of all, we don't press for prompt payment; and, secondly, we'll not shock Exeter Hall! Show him that strongly, and tell him that there are clever fellows amongst us who'll not compromise him or his party, and will never desert him on a close division. Oh dear me, how I wish I was going in your place.'

'So do I, with all my heart; but there's ten striking, and we shall be late for breakfast.'



CHAPTER XXX

THE MOATE STATION

The train by which Miss Betty O'Shea expected her nephew was late in its arrival at Moate, and Peter Gill, who had been sent with the car to fetch him over, was busily discussing his second supper when the passengers arrived.

'Are you Mr. Gorman O'Shea, sir?' asked Peter of a well-dressed and well-looking young man, who had just taken his luggage from the train.

'No; here he is,' replied he, pointing to a tall, powerful young fellow, whose tweed suit and billycock hat could not completely conceal a soldierlike bearing and a sort of compactness that comes of 'drill.'

'That's my name. What do you want with me?' cried he, in a loud but pleasant voice.

'Only that Miss Betty has sent me over with the car for your honour, if it's plazing to you to drive across.'

'What about this broiled bone, Miller?' asked O'Shea. 'I rather think I like the notion better than when you proposed it.'

'I suspect you do,' said the other; 'but we'll have to step over to the "Blue Goat." It's only a few yards off, and they'll be ready, for I telegraphed them from town to be prepared as the train came in.'

'You seem to know the place well.'

'Yes. I may say I know something about it. I canvassed this part of the county once for one of the Idlers, and I secretly determined, if I ever thought of trying for a seat in the House, I'd make the attempt here. They are a most pretentious set of beggars these small townsfolk, and they'd rather hear themselves talk politics, and give their notions of what they think "good for Ireland," than actually pocket bank-notes; and that, my dear friend, is a virtue in a constituency never to be ignored or forgotten. The moment, then, I heard of M——'s retirement, I sent off a confidential emissary down here to get up what is called a requisition, asking me to stand for the county. Here it is, and the answer, in this morning's Freeman. You can read it at your leisure. Here we are now at the "Blue Goat"; and I see they are expecting us.'

Not only was there a capital fire in the grate, and the table ready laid for supper, but a half-dozen or more of the notabilities of Moate were in waiting to receive the new candidate, and confer with him over the coming contest.

'My companion is the nephew of an old neighbour of yours, gentlemen,' said Miller; 'Captain Gorman O'Shea, of the Imperial Lancers of Austria. I know you have heard of, if you have not seen him.'

A round of very hearty and demonstrative salutations followed, and O'Gorman was well pleased at the friendly reception accorded him.

Austria was a great country, one of the company observed. They had got liberal institutions and a free press, and they were good Catholics, who would give those heretical Prussians a fine lesson one of these days; and Gorman O'Shea's health, coupled with these sentiments, was drank with all the honours.

'There's a jolly old face that I ought to remember well,' said Gorman, as he looked up at the portrait of Lord Kilgobbin over the chimney. 'When I entered the service, and came back here on leave, he gave me the first sword I ever wore, and treated me as kindly as if I was his son.'

The hearty speech elicited no response from the hearers, who only exchanged significant looks with each other, while Miller, apparently less under restraint, broke in with, 'That stupid adventure the English newspapers called "The gallant resistance of Kilgobbin Castle" has lost that man the esteem of Irishmen.'

A perfect burst of approval followed these words; and while young O'Shea eagerly pressed for an explanation of an incident of which he heard for the first time, they one and all proceeded to give their versions of what had occurred; but with such contradictions, corrections, and emendations that the young man might be pardoned if he comprehended little of the event.

'They say his son will contest the county with you, Mr. Miller,' cried one.

'Let me have no weightier rival, and I ask no more.'

'Faix, if he's going to stand,' said another, 'his father might have taken the trouble to ask us for our votes. Would you believe it, sir, it's going on six months since he put his foot in this room?'

'And do the "Goats" stand that?' asked Miller.

'I don't wonder he doesn't care to come into Moate. There's not a shop in the town he doesn't owe money to.'

'And we never refused him credit—-'

'For anything but his principles,' chimed in an old fellow, whose oratory was heartily relished.

'He's going to stand in the National interest,' said one.

'That's the safe ticket when you have no money,' said another.

'Gentlemen,' said Miller, who rose to his legs to give greater importance to his address:—'If we want to make Ireland a country to live in, the only party to support is the Whig Government! The Nationalist may open the gaols, give license to the press, hunt down the Orangemen, and make the place generally too hot for the English. But are these the things that you and I want or strive for? We want order and quietness in the land, and the best places in it for ourselves to enjoy these blessings. Is Mr. Casey down there satisfied to keep the post-office in Moate when he knows he could be the first secretary in Dublin, at the head office, with two thousand a year? Will my friend Mr. McGloin say that he'd rather pass his life here than be a Commissioner of Customs, and live in Merrion Square? Ain't we men? Ain't we fathers and husbands? Have we not sons to advance and daughters to marry in the world, and how much will Nationalism do for these?

'I will not tell you that the Whigs love us or have any strong regard for us; but they need us, gentlemen, and they know well that, without the Radicals, and Scotland, and our party here, they couldn't keep power for three weeks. Now why is Scotland a great and prosperous country? I'll tell you. Scotland has no sentimental politics. Scotland says, in her own homely adage, "Claw me and I'll claw thee." Scotland insists that there should be Scotchmen everywhere—in the Post-Office, in the Privy Council, in the Pipewater, and in the Punjab! Does Scotland go on vapouring about an extinct nationality or the right of the Stuarts? Not a bit of it. She says, Burn Scotch coal in the navy, though the smoke may blind you and you never get up steam! She has no national absurdities: she neither asks for a flag nor a Parliament. She demands only what will pay. And it is by supporting the Whigs you will make Ireland as prosperous as Scotland. Literally, the Fenians, gentlemen, will never make my friend yonder a baronet, or put me on the Bench; and now that we are met here in secret committee, I can say all this to you and none of it get abroad.

'Mind, I never told you the Whigs love us, or said that we love the Whigs; but we can each of us help the other. When they smash the Protestant party, they are doing a fine stroke of work for Liberalism in pulling down a cruel ascendency and righting the Romanists. And when we crush the Protestants, we are opening the best places in the land to ourselves by getting rid of our only rivals. Look at the Bench, gentlemen, and the high offices of the courts. Have not we Papists, as they call us, our share in both? And this is only the beginning, let me tell you. There is a university in College Green due to us, and a number of fine palaces that their bishops once lived in, and grand old cathedrals whose very names show the rightful ownership; and when we have got all these—as the Whigs will give them one day—even then we are only beginning. And now turn the other side, and see what you have to expect from the Nationalists. Some very hard fighting and a great number of broken heads. I give in that you'll drive the English out, take the Pigeon-House Fort, capture the Magazine, and carry away the Lord-Lieutenant in chains. And what will you have for it, after all, but another scrimmage amongst yourselves for the spoils. Mr. Mullen, of the Pike, will want something that Mr. Darby McKeown, of the Convicted Felon, has just appropriated; Tom Casidy, that burned the Grand Master of the Orangemen, finds that he is not to be pensioned for life; and Phil Costigan, that blew up the Lodge in the Park, discovers that he is not even to get the ruins as building materials. I tell you, my friends, it's not in such convulsions as these that you and I, and other sensible men like us, want to pass our lives. We look for a comfortable berth and quarter-day; that's what we compound for—quarter-day—and I give it to you as a toast with all the honours.'

And certainly the rich volume of cheers that greeted the sentiment vouched for a hearty and sincere recognition of the toast.

'The chaise is ready at the door, councillor,' cried the landlord, addressing Mr. Miller, and after a friendly shake-hands all round, Miller slipped his arm through O'Shea's and drew him apart.

'I'll be back this way in about ten days or so, and I'll ask you to present me to your aunt. She has got above a hundred votes on her property, and I think I can count upon you to stand by me.'

'I can, perhaps, promise you a welcome at the Barn,' muttered the young fellow in some confusion; 'but when you have seen my aunt, you'll understand why I give you no pledges on the score of political support.'

'Oh, is that the way?' asked Miller, with a knowing laugh.

'Yes, that's the way, and no mistake about it,' replied O'Shea, and they parted.



CHAPTER XXXI

HOW THE 'GOATS' REVOLTED

In less than a week after the events last related, the members of the 'Goat Club' were summoned to an extraordinary and general meeting, by an invitation from the vice-president, Mr. McGloin, the chief grocer and hardware dealer of Kilbeggan. The terms of this circular seemed to indicate importance, for it said—'To take into consideration a matter of vital interest to the society.'

Though only the denizen of a very humble country town, McGloin possessed certain gifts and qualities which might have graced a higher station. He was the most self-contained and secret of men; he detected mysterious meanings in every—the smallest—event of life; and as he divulged none of his discoveries, and only pointed vaguely and dimly to the consequences, he got credit for the correctness of his unuttered predictions as completely as though he had registered his prophecies as copyright at Stationers' Hall. It is needless to say that on every question, religious, social, or political, he was the paramount authority of the town. It was but rarely indeed that a rebellious spirit dared to set up an opinion in opposition to his; but if such a hazardous event were to occur, he would suppress it with a dignity of manner which derived no small aid from the resources of a mind rich in historical parallel; and it was really curious for those who believe that history is always repeating itself, to remark how frequently John McGloin represented the mind and character of Lycurgus, and how often poor old, dreary, and bog-surrounded Moate recalled the image of Sparta and its 'sunny slopes.'

Now, there is one feature of Ireland which I am not quite sure is very generally known or appreciated on the other side of St. George's Channel, and this is the fierce spirit of indignation called up in a county habitually quiet, when the newspapers bring it to public notice as the scene of some lawless violence. For once there is union amongst Irishmen. Every class, from the estated proprietor to the humblest peasant, is loud in asserting that the story is an infamous falsehood. Magistrates, priests, agents, middlemen, tax-gatherers, and tax-payers rush into print to abuse the 'blackguard'—he is always the blackguard—who invented the lie; and men upwards of ninety are quoted to show that so long as they could remember, there never was a man injured, nor a rick burned, nor a heifer hamstrung in the six baronies round! Old newspapers are adduced to show how often the going judge of assize has complimented the grand-jury on the catalogue of crime; in a word, the whole population is ready to make oath that the county is little short of a terrestrial paradise, and that it is a district teeming with gentle landlords, pious priests, and industrious peasants, without a plague-spot on the face of the county, except it be the police-barrack, and the company of lazy vagabonds with crossbelts and carbines that lounge before it. When, therefore, the press of Dublin at first, and afterwards of the empire at large, related the night attack for arms at Kilgobbin Castle, the first impulse of the county at large was to rise up in the face of the nation and deny the slander! Magistrates consulted together whether the high-sheriff should not convene a meeting of the county. Priests took counsel with the bishop, whether notice should not be taken of the calumny from the altar. The small shopkeepers of the small towns, assuming that their trade would be impaired by these rumours of disturbance—just as Parisians used to declaim against barricades in the streets—are violent in denouncing the malignant falsehoods upon a quiet and harmless community; so that, in fact, every rank and condition vied with its neighbour in declaring that the whole story was a base tissue of lies, and which could only impose upon those who knew nothing of the county, nor of the peaceful, happy, and brother-like creatures who inhabited it.

It was not to be supposed that, at such a crisis, Mr. John McGloin would be inactive or indifferent. As a man of considerable influence at elections, he had his weight with a county member, Mr. Price; and to him he wrote, demanding that he should ask in the House what correspondence had passed between Mr. Kearney and the Castle authorities with reference to this supposed outrage, and whether the law-officers of the Crown, or the adviser of the Viceroy, or the chiefs of the local police, or—to quote the exact words—'any sane or respectable man in the county' believed on word of the story. Lastly, that he would also ask whether any and what correspondence had passed between Mr. Kearney and the Chief Secretary with respect to a small house on the Kilgobbin property, which Mr. Kearney had suggested as a convenient police-station, and for which he asked a rent of twenty-five pounds per annum; and if such correspondence existed, whether it had any or what relation to the rumoured attack on Kilgobbin Castle?

If it should seem strange that a leading member of the 'Goat Club' should assail its president, the explanation is soon made: Mr. McGloin had long desired to be the chief himself. He and many others had seen, with some irritation and displeasure, the growing indifference of Mr. Kearney for the 'Goats.' For many months he had never called them together, and several members had resigned, and many more threatened resignation. It was time, then, that some energetic steps should be taken. The opportunity for this was highly favourable. Anything unpatriotic, anything even unpopular in Kearney's conduct, would, in the then temper of the club, be sufficient to rouse them to actual rebellion; and it was to test this sentiment, and, if necessary, to stimulate it, Mr. McGloin convened a meeting, which a bylaw of the society enabled him to do at any period when, for the three preceding months, the president had not assembled the club.

Though the members generally were not a little proud of their president, and deemed it considerable glory to them to have a viscount for their chief, and though it gave great dignity to their debates that the rising speaker should begin 'My Lord and Buck Goat,' yet they were not without dissatisfaction at seeing how cavalierly he treated them, what slight value he appeared to attach to their companionship, and how perfectly indifferent he seemed to their opinions, their wishes, or their wants.

There were various theories in circulation to explain this change of temper in their chief. Some ascribed it to young Kearney, who was a 'stuck-up' young fellow, and wanted his father to give himself greater airs and pretensions. Others opinioned it was the daughter, who, though she played Lady Bountiful among the poor cottiers, and affected interest in the people, was in reality the proudest of them all. And last of all, there were some who, in open defiance of chronology, attributed the change to a post-dated event, and said that the swells from the Castle were the ruin of Mathew Kearney, and that he was never the same man since the day he saw them.

Whether any of these were the true solution of the difficulty or not, Kearney's popularity was on the decline at the moment when this unfortunate narrative of the attack on his castle aroused the whole county and excited their feelings against him. Mr. McGloin took every step of his proceeding with due measure and caution: and having secured a certain number of promises of attendance at the meeting, he next notified to his lordship, how, in virtue of a certain section of a certain law, he had exercised his right of calling the members together; and that he now begged respectfully to submit to the chief, that some of the matters which would be submitted to the collective wisdom would have reference to the 'Buck Goat' himself, and that it would be an act of great courtesy on his part if he should condescend to be present and afford some explanation.

That the bare possibility of being called to account by the 'Goats' would drive Kearney into a ferocious passion, if not a fit of the gout, McGloin knew well; and that the very last thing on his mind would be to come amongst them, he was equally sure of: so that in giving his invitation there was no risk whatever. Mathew Kearney's temper was no secret; and whenever the necessity should arise that a burst of indiscreet anger should be sufficient to injure a cause, or damage a situation, 'the lord' could be calculated on with a perfect security. McGloin understood this thoroughly; nor was it matter of surprise to him that a verbal reply of 'There is no answer' was returned to his note; while the old servant, instead of stopping the ass-cart as usual for the weekly supply of groceries at McGloin's, repaired to a small shop over the way, where colonial products were rudely jostled out of their proper places by coils of rope, sacks of rape-seed, glue, glass, and leather, amid which the proprietor felt far more at home than amidst mixed pickles and mocha.

Mr. McGloin, however, had counted the cost of his policy: he knew well that for the ambition to succeed his lordship as Chief of the Club, he should have to pay by the loss of the Kilgobbin custom; and whether it was that the greatness in prospect was too tempting to resist, or that the sacrifice was smaller than it might have seemed, he was prepared to risk the venture.

The meeting was in so far a success that it was fully attended. Such a flock of 'Goats' had not been seen by them since the memory of man, nor was the unanimity less remarkable than the number; and every paragraph of Mr. McGloin's speech was hailed with vociferous cheers and applause, the sentiment of the assembly being evidently highly National, and the feeling that the shame which the Lord of Kilgobbin had brought down upon their county was a disgrace that attached personally to each man there present; and that if now their once happy and peaceful district was to be proclaimed under some tyranny of English law, or, worse still, made a mark for the insult and sarcasm of the Times newspaper, they owed the disaster and the shame to no other than Mathew Kearney himself.

'I will now conclude with a resolution,' said McGloin, who, having filled the measure of allegation, proceeded to the application. 'I shall move that it is the sentiment of this meeting that Lord Kilgobbin be called on to disavow, in the newspapers, the whole narrative which has been circulated of the attack on his house; that he declare openly that the supposed incident was a mistake caused by the timorous fears of his household, during his own absence from home: terrors aggravated by the unwarrantable anxiety of an English visitor, whose ignorance of Ireland had worked upon an excited imagination; and that a copy of the resolution be presented to his lordship, either in letter or by a deputation, as the meeting shall decide.'

While the discussion was proceeding as to the mode in which this bold resolution should be most becomingly brought under Lord Kilgobbin's notice, a messenger on horseback arrived with a letter for McGloin. The bearer was in the Kilgobbin livery, and a massive seal, with the noble lord's arms, attested the despatch to be from himself.

'Shall I put the resolution to the vote, or read this letter first, gentlemen?' said the chairman.

'Read! read!' was the cry, and he broke the seal. It ran thus:—

'Mr. McGloin,—Will you please to inform the members of the "Goat Club" at Moate that I retire from the presidency, and cease to be a member of that society? I was vain enough to believe at one time that the humanising element of even one gentleman in the vulgar circle of a little obscure town, might have elevated the tone of manners and the spirit of social intercourse. I have lived to discover my great mistake, and that the leadership of a man like yourself is far more likely to suit the instincts and chime in with the sentiments of such a body.—Your obedient and faithful servant,

Kilgobbin.'

The cry which followed the reading of this document can only be described as a howl. It was like the enraged roar of wild animals, rather than the union of human voices; and it was not till after a considerable interval that McGloin could obtain a hearing. He spoke with great vigour and fluency. He denounced the letter as an outrage which should be proclaimed from one end of Europe to the other; that it was not their town, or their club, or themselves had been insulted, but Ireland! that this mock-lord (cheers)—this sham viscount—(greater cheers)—this Brummagem peer, whose nobility their native courtesy and natural urbanity had so long deigned to accept as real, should now be taught that his pretensions only existed on sufferance, and had no claim beyond the polite condescension of men whom it was no stretch of imagination to call the equals of Mathew Kearney. The cries that received this were almost deafening, and lasted for some minutes.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse