'I must say, sir,' said the priest, 'I am much more gratified to know that you are a Lieutenant of Lancers in Austria than a British Minister in Downing Street.'
'I have little doubt myself,' said the other, laughing, 'that I am more in my place; but of this I am sure, that if we were as mealy-mouthed with our Croats and Slovacks as you are with your Fenians, Austria would soon go to pieces.'
'There is, however, a higher price on that man Donogan's head than Austria ever offered for a traitor,' said Miller.
'I know how you esteem money here,' said Gorman, laughing. 'When all else fails you, you fall back upon it.'
'Why did I know nothing of these sentiments, young man, before I asked you under my roof?' said Miss Betty, in anger.
'You need never to have known them now, aunt, if these gentlemen had not provoked them, nor indeed are they solely mine. I am only telling you what you would hear from any intelligent foreigner, even though he chanced to be a liberal in his own country.'
'Ah, yes,' sighed the priest: 'what the young gentleman says is too true. The Continent is alarmingly infected with such opinions as these.'
'Have you talked on politics with young Kearney?' asked Miller.
'He has had no opportunity,' interposed Miss O'Shea. 'My nephew will be three weeks here on Thursday next, and neither Mathew nor his son have called on him.'
'Scarcely neighbourlike that, I must say,' cried Miller.
'I suspect the fault lies on my side,' said Gorman boldly. 'When I was little more than a boy, I was never out of that house. The old man treated me like a son. All the more, perhaps, as his own son was seldom at home, and the little girl Kitty certainly regarded me as a brother; and though we had our fights and squabbles, we cried very bitterly at parting, and each of us vowed we should never like any one so much again. And now, after all, here am I three weeks, within two hours' ride of them, and my aunt insists that my dignity requires I should be first called on. Confound such dignity! say I, if it lose me the best and the pleasantest friends I ever had in my life.'
'I scarcely thought of your dignity, Gorman O'Shea,' said the old lady, bridling, 'though I did bestow some consideration on my own.'
'I'm very sorry for it, aunt, and I tell you fairly—and there's no unpoliteness in the confession—that when I asked for my leave, Kilgobbin Castle had its place in my thoughts as well as O'Shea's Barn.'
'Why not say it out, young gentleman, and tell me that the real charm of coming here was to be within twelve miles of the Kearneys.'
'The merits of this house are very independent of contiguity,' said the priest; and as he eyed the claret in his glass, it was plain that the sentiment was an honest one.
'Fifty-six wine, I should say,' said Miller, as he laid down his glass.
'Forty-five, if Mr. Barton be a man of his word,' said the old lady reprovingly.
'Ah,' sighed the priest plaintively, 'how rarely one meets these old full-bodied clarets nowadays. The free admission of French wines has corrupted taste and impaired palate. Our cheap Gladstones have come upon us like universal suffrage.'
'The masses, however, benefit,' remarked Miller.
'Only in the first moment of acquisition, and in the novelty of the gain,' continued Father Luke; 'and then they suffer irreparably in the loss of that old guidance, which once directed appreciation when there was something to appreciate.'
'We want the priest again, in fact,' broke in Gorman.
'You must admit they understand wine to perfection, though I would humbly hope, young gentleman,' said the Father modestly, 'to engage your good opinion of them on higher grounds.'
'Give yourself no trouble in the matter, Father Luke,' broke in Miss Betty. 'Gorman's Austrian lessons have placed him beyond your teaching.'
'My dear aunt, you are giving the Imperial Government a credit it never deserved. They taught me as a cadet to groom my horse and pipeclay my uniform, to be respectful to my corporal, and to keep my thumb on the seam of my trousers when the captain's eye was on me; but as to what passed inside my mind, if I had a mind at all, or what I thought of Pope, Kaiser, or Cardinal, they no more cared to know it than the name of my sweetheart.'
'What a blessing to that benighted country would be one liberal statesman!' exclaimed Miller: 'one man of the mind and capacity of our present Premier!'
'Heaven forbid!' cried Gorman. 'We have confusion enough, without the reflection of being governed by what you call here "healing measures."'
'I should like to discuss that point with you,' said Miller.
'Not now, I beg,' interposed Miss O'Shea. 'Gorman, will you decant another bottle?'
'I believe I ought to protest against more wine,' said the priest, in his most insinuating voice; 'but there are occasions where the yielding to temptation conveys a moral lesson.'
'I suspect that I cultivate my nature a good deal in that fashion,' said Gorman, as he opened a fresh bottle.
'This is perfectly delicious,' said Miller, as he sipped his glass; 'and if I could venture to presume so far, I would ask leave to propose a toast.'
'You have my permission, sir,' said Miss Betty, with stateliness.
'I drink, then,' said he reverently, 'I drink to the long life, the good health, and the unbroken courage of the Holy Father.'
There was something peculiarly sly in the twinkle of the priest's black eye as he filled his bumper, and a twitching motion of the corner of his mouth continued even as he said, 'To the Pope.'
'The Pope,' said Gorman as he eyed his wine—
'"Der Papst lebt herrlich in der Welt."'
'What are you muttering there?' asked his aunt fiercely.
'The line of an old song, aunt, that tells us how his Holiness has a jolly time of it.'
'I fear me it must have been written in other days,' said Father Luke.
'There is no intention to desert or abandon him, I assure you,' said Miller, addressing him in a low but eager tone. 'I could never—no Irishman could—ally himself to an administration which should sacrifice the Holy See. With the bigotry that prevails in England, the question requires most delicate handling; and even a pledge cannot be given except in language so vague and unprecise as to admit of many readings.'
'Why not bring in a Bill to give him a subsidy, a something per annum, or a round sum down?' cried Gorman.
'Mr. Miller has just shown us that Exeter Hall might become dangerous. English intolerance is not a thing to be rashly aroused.'
'If I had to deal with him, I'd do as Bright proposed with your landlords here. I'd buy him out, give him a handsome sum for his interest, and let him go.'
'And how would you deal with the Church, sir?' asked the priest.
'I have not thought of that; but I suppose one might put it into commission, as they say, or manage it by a Board, with a First Lord, like the Admiralty.'
'I will give you some tea, gentlemen, when you appear in the drawing-room,' said Miss Betty, rising with dignity, as though her condescension in sitting so long with the party had been ill rewarded by her nephew's sentiments.
The priest, however, offered his arm, and the others followed as he left the room.
AN EARLY GALLOP
Mathew Kearney had risen early, an unusual thing with him of late; but he had some intention of showing his guest Mr. Walpole over the farm after breakfast, and was anxious to give some preliminary orders to have everything 'ship-shape' for the inspection.
To make a very disorderly and much-neglected Irish farm assume an air of discipline, regularity, and neatness at a moment's notice, was pretty much such an exploit as it would have been to muster an Indian tribe, and pass them before some Prussian martinet as a regiment of guards.
To make the ill-fenced and misshapen fields seem trim paddocks, wavering and serpentining furrows appear straight and regular lines of tillage, weed-grown fields look marvels of cleanliness and care, while the lounging and ragged population were to be passed off as a thriving and industrious peasantry, well paid and contented, were difficulties that Mr. Kearney did not propose to confront. Indeed, to do him justice, he thought there was a good deal of pedantic and 'model-farming' humbug about all that English passion for neatness he had read of in public journals, and as our fathers—better gentlemen, as he called them, and more hospitable fellows than any of us—had got on without steam-mowing and threshing, and bone-crushing, he thought we might farm our properties without being either blacksmiths or stokers.
'God help us,' he would say, 'I suppose we'll be chewing our food by steam one of these days, and filling our stomachs by hydraulic pressure. But for my own part, I like something to work for me that I can swear at when it goes wrong. There's little use in cursing a cylinder.'
To have heard him amongst his labourers that morning, it was plain to see that they were not in the category of machinery. On one pretext or another, however, they had slunk away one by one, so that at last he found himself storming alone in a stubble-field, with no other companion than one of Kate's terriers. The sharp barking of this dog aroused him in the midst of his imprecations, and looking over the dry-stone wall that inclosed the field, he saw a horseman coming along at a sharp canter, and taking the fences as they came like a man in a hunting-field. He rode well, and was mounted upon a strong wiry hackney—a cross-bred horse, and of little money value, but one of those active cats of horseflesh that a knowing hand can appreciate. Now, little as Kearney liked the liberty of a man riding over his ditches and his turnips when out of hunting season, his old love of good horsemanship made him watch the rider with interest and even pleasure. 'May I never!' muttered he to himself, 'if he's not coming at this wall.' And as the inclosure in question was built of large jagged stones, without mortar, and fully four feet in height, the upper course being formed of a sort of coping in which the stones stood edgewise, the attempt did look somewhat rash. Not taking the wall where it was slightly breached, and where some loose stones had fallen, the rider rode boldly at one of the highest portions, but where the ground was good on either side.
'He knows what he's at!' muttered Kearney, as the horse came bounding over and alighted in perfect safety in the field.
'Well done! whoever you are,' cried Kearney, delighted, as the rider removed his hat and turned round to salute him.
'And don't you know me, sir?' asked he.
''Faith, I do not,' replied Kearney; 'but somehow I think I know the chestnut. To be sure I do. There's the old mark on her knee, how ever she found the man who could throw her down. Isn't she Miss O'Shea's Kattoo?'
'That she is, sir, and I'm her nephew.'
'Are you?' said Kearney dryly.
The young fellow was so terribly pulled up by the unexpected repulse—more marked even by the look than the words of the other—that he sat unable to utter a syllable. 'I had hoped, sir,' said he at last, 'that I had not outgrown your recollection, as I can promise none of your former kindness to me has outgrown mine.'
'But it took you three weeks to recall it, all the same,' said Kearney.
'It is true, sir, I am very nearly so long here; but my aunt, whose guest I am, told me I must be called on first; that—I'm sure I can't say for whose benefit it was supposed to be—I should not make the first visit; in fact, there was some rule about the matter, and that I must not contravene it. And although I yielded with a very bad grace, I was in a measure under orders, and dared not resist.'
'She told you, of course, that we were not on our old terms: that there was a coldness between the families, and we had seen nothing of each other lately?'
'Not a word of it, sir.'
'Nor of any reason why you should not come here as of old?'
'None, on my honour; beyond this piece of stupid etiquette, I never heard of anything like a reason.'
'I am all the better pleased with my old neighbour,' said Kearney, in his more genial tone. 'Not, indeed, that I ought ever to have distrusted her, but for all that—Well, never mind,' muttered he, as though debating the question with himself, and unable to decide it, 'you are here now—eh! You are here now.'
'You almost make me suspect, sir, that I ought not to be here now.'
'At all events, if you were waiting for me you wouldn't be here. Is not that true, young gentleman?'
'Quite true, sir, but not impossible to explain.' And he now flung himself to the ground, and with the rein over his arm, came up to Kearney's side. 'I suppose, but for an accident, I should have gone on waiting for that visit you had no intention to make me, and canvassing with myself how long you were taking to make up your mind to call on me, when I heard only last night that some noted rebel—I'll remember his name in a minute or two—was seen in the neighbourhood, and that the police were on his track with a warrant, and even intended to search for him here.'
'In my house—in Kilgobbin Castle?'
'Yes, here in your house, where, from a sure information, he had been harboured for some days. This fellow—a head-centre, or leader, with a large sum on his head—has, they say, got away; but the hope of finding some papers, some clue to him here, will certainly lead them to search the castle, and I thought I'd come over and apprise you of it at all events, lest the surprise should prove too much for your temper.'
'Do they forget I'm in the commission of the peace?' said Kearney, in a voice trembling with passion.
'You know far better than me how far party spirit tempers life in this country, and are better able to say whether some private intention to insult is couched under this attempt.'
'That's true,' cried the old man, ever ready to regard himself as the object of some secret malevolence. 'You cannot remember this rebel's name, can you?'
'It was Daniel something—that's all I know.'
A long, fine whistle was Kearney's rejoinder, and after a second or two he said, 'I can trust you, Gorman; and I may tell you they may be not so great fools as I took them for. Not that I was harbouring the fellow, mind you; but there came a college friend of Dick's here a few days back—a clever fellow he was, and knew Ireland well—and we called him Mr. Daniel, and it was but yesterday he left us and did not return. I have a notion now he was the head-centre they're looking for.'
'Do you know if he has left any baggage or papers behind him?'
'I know nothing about this whatever, nor do I know how far Dick was in his secret.'
'You will be cool and collected, I am sure, sir, when they come here with the search-warrant. You'll not give them even the passing triumph of seeing that you are annoyed or offended?'
'That I will, my lad. I'm prepared now, and I'll take them as easy as if it was a morning call. Come in and have your breakfast with us, and say nothing about what we've been talking over.'
'Many thanks, sir, but I think—indeed I feel sure—I ought to go back at once. I have come here without my aunt's knowledge, and now that I have seen you and put you on your guard, I ought to go back as fast as I can.'
'So you shall, when you feed your beast and take something yourself. Poor old Kattoo isn't used to this sort of cross-country work, and she's panting there badly enough. That mare is twenty-one years of age.'
'She's fresh on her legs—not a curb nor a spavin, nor even a wind-gall about her,' said the young man.
'And the reward for it all is to be ridden like a steeplechaser!' sighed old Kearney. 'Isn't that the world over? Break down early, and you are a good-for-nothing. Carry on your spirit, and your pluck, and your endurance to a green old age, and maybe they won't take it out of you!—always contrasting you, however, with yourself long ago, and telling the bystanders what a rare beast you were in your good days. Do you think they had dared to pass this insult upon me when I was five-and-twenty or thirty? Do you think there's a man in the county would have come on this errand to search Kilgobbin when I was a young man, Mr. O'Shea?'
'I think you can afford to treat it with the contempt you have determined to show it.'
'That's all very fine now,' said Kearney; 'but there was a time I'd rather have chucked the chief constable out of the window and sent the sergeant after him.'
'I don't know whether that would have been better,' said Gorman, with a faint smile.
'Neither do I; but I know that I myself would have felt better and easier in my mind after it. I'd have eaten my breakfast with a good appetite, and gone about my day's work, whatever it was, with a free heart and fearless in my conscience! Ay, ay,' muttered he to himself, 'poor old Ireland isn't what it used to be!'
'I'm very sorry, sir, but though I'd like immensely to go back with you, don't you think I ought to return home?'
'I don't think anything of the sort. Your aunt and I had a tiff the last time we met, and that was some months ago. We're both of us old and cross-grained enough to keep up the grudge for the rest of our lives. Let us, then, make the most of the accident that has led you here, and when you go home, you shall be the bearer of the most submissive message I can invent to my old friend, and there shall be no terms too humble for me to ask her pardon.'
'That's enough, sir. I'll breakfast here.'
'Of course you'll say nothing of what brought you over here. But I ought to warn you not to drop anything carelessly about politics in the county generally, for we have a young relative and a private secretary of the Lord-Lieutenant's visiting us, and it's as well to be cautious before him.'
The old man mentioned this circumstance in the cursory tone of an ordinary remark, but he could not conceal the pride he felt in the rank and condition of his guest. As for Gorman, perhaps it was his foreign breeding, perhaps his ignorance of all home matters generally, but he simply assented to the force of the caution, and paid no other attention to the incident.
'His name is Walpole, and he is related to half the peerage,' said the old man, with some irritation of manner.
A mere nod acknowledged the information, and he went on—
'This was the young fellow who was with Kitty on the night they attacked the castle, and he got both bones of his forearm smashed with a shot.'
'An ugly wound,' was the only rejoinder.
'So it was, and for a while they thought he'd lose the arm. Kitty says he behaved beautifully, cool and steady all through.'
Another nod, but this time Gorman's lips were firmly compressed.
'There's no denying it,' said the old man, with a touch of sadness in his voice—'there's no denying it, the English have courage; though,' added he afterwards, 'it's in a cold, sluggish way of their own, which we don't like here. There he is, now, that young fellow that has just parted from the two girls. The tall one is my niece—I must present you to her.'
Though both Kate Kearney and young O'Shea had greatly outgrown each other's recollection, there were still traits of feature remaining, and certain tones of voice, by which they were carried back to old times and old associations.
Amongst the strange situations in life, there are few stranger, or, in certain respects, more painful, than the meeting after long absence of those who, when they had parted years before, were on terms of closest intimacy, and who now see each other changed by time, with altered habits and manners, and impressed in a variety of ways with influences and associations which impart their own stamp on character.
It is very difficult at such moments to remember how far we ourselves have changed in the interval, and how much of what we regard as altered in another may not simply be the new standpoint from which we are looking, and thus our friend may be graver, or sadder, or more thoughtful, or, as it may happen, seem less reflective and less considerative than we have thought him, all because the world has been meantime dealing with ourselves in such wise that qualities we once cared for have lost much of their value, and others that we had deemed of slight account have grown into importance with us.
Most of us know the painful disappointment of revisiting scenes which had impressed us strongly in early life: how the mountain we regarded with a wondering admiration had become a mere hill, and the romantic tarn a pool of sluggish water; and some of this same awakening pursues us in our renewal of old intimacies, and we find ourselves continually warring with our recollections.
Besides this, there is another source of uneasiness that presses unceasingly. It is in imputing every change we discover, or think we discover in our friend, to some unknown influences that have asserted their power over him in our absence, and thus when we find that our arguments have lost their old force, and our persuasions can be stoutly resisted, we begin to think that some other must have usurped our place, and that there is treason in the heart we had deemed to be loyally our own.
How far Kate and Gorman suffered under these irritations, I do not stop to inquire, but certain it is, that all their renewed intercourse was little other than snappish reminders of unfavourable change in each, and assurances more frank than flattering that they had not improved in the interval.
'How well I know every tree and alley of this old garden!' said he, as they strolled along one of the walks in advance of the others. 'Nothing is changed here but the people.'
'And do you think we are?' asked she quietly.
'I should think I do! Not so much for your father, perhaps. I suppose men of his time of life change little, if at all; but you are as ceremonious as if I had been introduced to you this morning.'
'You addressed me so deferentially as Miss Kearney, and with such an assuring little intimation that you were not either very certain of that, that I should have been very courageous indeed to remind you that I once was Kate.'
'No, not Kate—Kitty,' rejoined he quickly.
'Oh yes, perhaps, when you were young, but we grew out of that.'
'Did we? And when?'
'When we gave up climbing cherry-trees, and ceased to pull each other's hair when we were angry.'
'Oh dear!' said he drearily, as his head sank heavily.
'You seem to sigh over those blissful times, Mr. O'Shea,' said she, 'as if they were terribly to be regretted.'
'So they are. So I feel them.'
'I never knew before that quarrelling left such pleasant associations.'
'My memory is good enough to remember times when we were not quarrelling—when I used to think you were nearer an angel than a human creature—ay, when I have had the boldness to tell you so.'
'You don't mean that?'
'I do mean it, and I should like to know why I should not mean it?'
'For a great many reasons—one amongst the number, that it would have been highly indiscreet to turn a poor child's head with a stupid flattery.'
'But were you a child? If I'm right, you were not very far from fifteen at the time I speak of.'
'How shocking that you should remember a young lady's age!'
'That is not the point at all,' said he, as though she had been endeavouring to introduce another issue.
'And what is the point, pray?' asked she haughtily.
'Well, it is this—how many have uttered what you call stupid flatteries since that time, and how have they been taken.'
'Is this a question?' asked she. 'I mean a question seeking to be answered?'
'I hope so.'
'Assuredly, then, Mr. O'Shea, however time has been dealing with me, it has contrived to take marvellous liberties with you since we met. Do you know, sir, that this is a speech you would not have uttered long ago for worlds?'
'If I have forgotten myself as well as you,' said he, with deep humility, 'I very humbly crave pardon. Not but there were days, 'added he, 'when my mistake, if I made one, would have been forgiven without my asking.'
'There's a slight touch of presumption, sir, in telling me what a wonderful person I used to think you long ago.'
'So you did,' cried he eagerly. 'In return for the homage I laid at your feet—as honest an adoration as ever a heart beat with—you condescended to let me build my ambitions before you, and I must own you made the edifice very dear to me.'
'To be sure, I do remember it all, and I used to play or sing, "Mein Schatz ist ein Reiter," and take your word that you were going to be a Lancer—
"In file arrayed, With helm and blade, And plume in the gay wind dancing."
I'm certain my cousin would be charmed to see you in all your bravery.'
'Your cousin will not speak to me for being an Austrian.'
'Has she told you so?'
'Yes, she said it at breakfast.'
'That denunciation does not sound very dangerously; is it not worth your while to struggle against a misconception?'
'I have had such luck in my present attempt as should scarcely raise my courage.'
'You are too ingenious by far for me, Mr. O'Shea,' said she carelessly. 'I neither remember so well as you, nor have I that nice subtlety in detecting all the lapses each of us has made since long ago. Try, however, if you cannot get on better with Mademoiselle Kostalergi, where there are no antecedents to disturb you.'
'I will; that is if she let me.'
'I trust she may, and not the less willingly, perhaps, as she evidently will not speak to Mr. Walpole.'
'Ah, indeed, and is he here?' he stopped and hesitated; and the full bold look she gave him did not lessen his embarrassment.
'Well, sir,' asked she, 'go on: is this another reminiscence?'
'No, Miss Kearney; I was only thinking of asking you who this Mr. Walpole was.'
'Mr. Cecil Walpole is a nephew or a something to the Lord-Lieutenant, whose private secretary he is. He is very clever, very amusing—sings, draws, rides, and laughs at the Irish to perfection. I hope you mean to like him.'
'Of course, or I should not have bespoken your sympathy. My cousin used to like him, but somehow he has fallen out of favour with her.'
'Was he absent some time?' asked he, with a half-cunning manner.
'Yes, I believe there was something of that in it. He was not here for a considerable time, and when we saw him again, we almost owned we were disappointed. Papa is calling me from the window, pray excuse me for a moment.' She left him as she spoke, and ran rapidly back to the house, whence she returned almost immediately. 'It was to ask you to stop and dine here, Mr. O'Shea,' said she. 'There will be ample time to send back to Miss O'Shea, and if you care to have your dinner-dress, they can send it.'
'This is Mr. Kearney's invitation?' asked he.
'Of course; papa is the master at Kilgobbin.'
'But will Miss Kearney condescend to say that it is hers also.'
'Certainly, though I'm not aware what solemnity the engagement gains by my co-operation.'
'I accept at once, and if you allow me, I'll go back and send a line to my aunt to say so.'
'Don't you remember Mr. O'Shea, Dick?' asked she, as her brother lounged up, making his first appearance that day.
'I'd never have known you,' said he, surveying him from head to foot, without, however, any mark of cordiality in the recognition.
'All find me a good deal changed!' said the young fellow, drawing himself to his full height, and with an air that seemed to say—'and none the worse for it.'
'I used to fancy I was more than your match,' rejoined Dick, smiling; 'I suspect it's a mistake I am little likely to incur again.'
'Don't, Dick, for he has got a very ugly way of ridding people of their illusions,' said Kate, as she turned once more and walked rapidly towards the house.
TWO FAMILIAR EPISTLES
There were a number of bolder achievements Gorman O'Shea would have dared rather than write a note; nor were the cares of the composition the only difficulties of the undertaking. He knew of but one style of correspondence—the report to his commanding officer, and in this he was aided by a formula to be filled up. It was not, then, till after several efforts, he succeeded in the following familiar epistle:—
'DEAR AUNT,—Don't blow up or make a rumpus, but if I had not taken the mare and come over here this morning, the rascally police with their search-warrant might have been down upon Mr. Kearney without a warning. They were all stiff and cold enough at first: they are nothing to brag of in the way of cordiality even yet—Dick especially—but they have asked me to stay and dine, and, I take it, it is the right thing to do. Send me over some things to dress with—and believe me your affectionate nephew,
'I send the mare back, and shall walk home to-morrow morning.
'There's a great Castle swell here, a Mr. Walpole, but I have not made his acquaintance yet, and can tell nothing about him.'
* * * * *
Towards a late hour of the afternoon a messenger arrived with an ass-cart and several trunks from O'Shea's Barn, and with the following note:—
'DEAR NEPHEW GORMAN,—O'Shea's Barn is not an inn, nor are the horses there at public livery. So much for your information. As you seem fond of "warnings," let me give you one, which is, To mind your own affairs in preference to the interests of other people. The family at Kilgobbin are perfectly welcome—so far as I am concerned—to the fascinations of your society at dinner to-day, at breakfast to-morrow, and so on, with such regularity and order as the meals succeed. To which end, I have now sent you all the luggage belonging to you here.—I am, very respectfully, your aunt, ELIZABETH O'SHEA.'
The quaint, old-fashioned, rugged writing was marked throughout by a certain distinctness and accuracy that betoken care and attention—there was no evidence whatever of haste or passion—and this expression of a serious determination, duly weighed and resolved on, made itself very painfully felt by the young man as he read.
'I am turned out—in plain words, turned out!' said he aloud, as he sat with the letter spread out before him. 'It must have been no common quarrel—not a mere coldness between the families—when she resents my coming here in this fashion.' That innumerable differences could separate neighbours in Ireland, even persons with the same interests and the same religion, he well knew, and he solaced himself to think how he could get at the source of this disagreement, and what chance there might be of a reconciliation.
Of one thing he felt certain. Whether his aunt were right or wrong, whether tyrant or victim, he knew in his heart all the submission must come from the others. He had only to remember a few of the occasions in life in which he had to entreat his aunt's forgiveness for the injustice she had herself inflicted, to anticipate what humble pie Mathew Kearney must partake of in order to conciliate Miss Betty's favour.
'Meanwhile,' he thought, and not only thought, but said too—'Meanwhile, I am on the world.'
Up to this, she had allowed him a small yearly income. Father Luke, whose judgment on all things relating to continental life was unimpeachable, had told her that anything like the reputation of being well off or connected with wealthy people would lead a young man into ruin in the Austrian service; that with a sum of 3000 francs per annum—about L120—he would be in possession of something like the double of his pay, or rather more, and that with this he would be enabled to have all the necessaries and many of the comforts of his station, and still not be a mark for that high play and reckless style of living that certain young Hungarians of family and large fortune affected; and so far the priest was correct, for the young Gorman was wasteful and extravagant from disposition, and his quarter's allowance disappeared almost when it came. His money out, he fell back at once to the penurious habits of the poorest subaltern about him, and lived on his florin-and-half per diem till his resources came round again. He hoped—of course he hoped—that this momentary fit of temper would not extend to stopping his allowance.
'She knows as well as any one,' muttered he, 'that though the baker's son from Prague, or the Amtmann's nephew from a Bavarian Dorf, may manage to "come through" with his pay, the young Englishman cannot. I can neither piece my own overalls, nor forswear stockings, nor can I persuade my stomach that it has had a full meal by tightening my girth-strap three or four holes.
'I'd go down to the ranks to-morrow rather than live that life of struggle and contrivance that reduces a man to playing a dreary game with himself, by which, while he feels like a pauper, he has to fancy he felt like a gentleman. No, no, I'll none of this. Scores of better men have served in the ranks. I'll just change my regiment. By a lucky chance, I don't know a man in the Walmoden Cuirassiers. I'll join them, and nobody will ever be the wiser.'
There is a class of men who go through life building very small castles, and are no more discouraged by the frailty of the architecture than is a child with his toy-house. This was Gorman's case; and now that he had found a solution of his difficulties in the Walmoden Cuirassiers, he really dressed for dinner in very tolerable spirits. 'It's droll enough,' thought he, 'to go down to dine amongst all these "swells," and to think that the fellow behind my chair is better off than myself.' The very uncertainty of his fate supplied excitement to his spirits, for it is amongst the privileges of the young that mere flurry can be pleasurable.
When Gorman reached the drawing-room, he found only one person. This was a young man in a shooting-coat, who, deep in the recess of a comfortable arm-chair, sat with the Times at his feet, and to all appearance as if half dozing.
He looked around, however, as young O'Shea came forward, and said carelessly, 'I suppose it's time to go and dress—if I could.'
O'Shea making no reply, the other added, 'That is, if I have not overslept dinner altogether.'
'I hope not, sincerely,' rejoined the other, 'or I shall be a partner in the misfortune.'
'Ah, you 're the Austrian,' said Walpole, as he stuck his glass in his eye and surveyed him.
'Yes; and you are the private secretary of the Governor.'
'Only we don't call him Governor. We say Viceroy here.'
'With all my heart, Viceroy be it.'
There was a pause now—each, as it were, standing on his guard to resent any liberty of the other. At last Walpole said, 'I don't think you were in the house when that stupid stipendiary fellow called here this morning?'
'No; I was strolling across the fields. He came with the police, I suppose?'
'Yes, he came on the track of some Fenian leader—a droll thought enough anywhere out of Ireland, to search for a rebel under a magistrate's roof; not but there was something still more Irish in the incident.'
'How was that?' asked O'Shea eagerly.
'I chanced to be out walking with the ladies when the escort came, and as they failed to find the man they were after, they proceeded to make diligent search for his papers and letters. That taste for practical joking, that seems an instinct in this country, suggested to Mr. Kearney to direct the fellows to my room, and what do you think they have done? Carried off bodily all my baggage, and left me with nothing but the clothes I'm wearing!'
'What a lark!' cried O'Shea, laughing.
'Yes, I take it that is the national way to look at these things; but that passion for absurdity and for ludicrous situations has not the same hold on us English.'
'I know that. You are too well off to be droll.'
'Not exactly that; but when we want to laugh we go to the Adelphi.'
'Heaven help you if you have to pay people to make fun for you!'
Before Walpole could make rejoinder, the door opened to admit the ladies, closely followed by Mr. Kearney and Dick.
'Not mine the fault if I disgrace your dinner-table by such a costume as this,' cried Walpole.
'I'd have given twenty pounds if they'd have carried off yourself as the rebel!' said the old man, shaking with laughter. 'But there's the soup on the table. Take my niece, Mr. Walpole; Gorman, give your arm to my daughter. Dick and I will bring up the rear.'
AN EVENING IN THE DRAWING-ROOM
The fatalism of youth, unlike that of age, is all rose-coloured. That which is coming, and is decreed to come, cannot be very disagreeable. This is the theory of the young, and differs terribly from the experiences of after-life. Gorman O'Shea had gone to dinner with about as heavy a misfortune as could well befall him, so far as his future in life was concerned. All he looked forward to and hoped for was lost to him: the aunt who, for so many years, had stood to him in place of all family, had suddenly thrown him off, and declared that she would see him no more; the allowance she had hitherto given him withdrawn, it was impossible he could continue to hold his place in his regiment. Should he determine not to return, it was desertion—should he go back, it must be to declare that he was a ruined man, and could only serve in the ranks. These were the thoughts he revolved while he dressed for dinner, and dressed, let it be owned, with peculiar care; but when the task had been accomplished, and he descended to the drawing-room, such was the elasticity of his young temperament, every thought of coming evil was merged in the sense of present enjoyment, and the merry laughter which he overheard as he opened the door, obliterated all notion that life had anything before him except what was agreeable and pleasant.
'We want to know if you play croquet, Mr. O'Shea?' said Nina as he entered. 'And we want also to know, are you a captain, or a Rittmeister, or a major? You can scarcely be a colonel.'
'Your last guess I answer first. I am only a lieutenant, and even that very lately. As to croquet, if it be not your foreign mode of pronouncing cricket, I never even saw it.'
'It is not my foreign mode of pronouncing cricket, Herr Lieutenant,' said she pertly, 'but I guessed already you had never heard of it.'
'It is an out-of-door affair,' said Dick indolently, 'made for the diffusion of worked petticoats and Balmoral boots.'
'I should say it is the game of billiards brought down to universal suffrage and the million,' lisped out Walpole.
'Faith,' cried old Kearney, 'I'd say it was just football with a stick.'
'At all events,' said Kate, 'we purpose to have a grand match to-morrow. Mr. Walpole and I are against Nina and Dick, and we are to draw lots for you, Mr. O'Shea.'
'My position, if I understand it aright, is not a flattering one,' said he, laughing.
'We'll take him,' cried Nina at once. 'I'll give him a private lesson in the morning, and I'll answer for his performance. These creatures,' added she, in a whisper, 'are so drilled in Austria, you can teach them anything.'
Now, as the words were spoken O'Shea caught them, and drawing close to her, said, 'I do hope I'll justify that flattering opinion.' But her only recognition was a look of half-defiant astonishment at his boldness.
A very noisy discussion now ensued as to whether croquet was worthy to be called a game or not, and what were its laws and rules—points which Gorman followed with due attention, but very little profit; all Kate's good sense and clearness being cruelly dashed by Nina's ingenious interruptions and Walpole's attempts to be smart and witty, even where opportunity scarcely offered the chance.
'Next to looking on at the game,' cried old Kearney at last, 'the most tiresome thing I know of is to hear it talked over. Come, Nina, and give me a song.'
'What shall it be, uncle?' said she, as she opened the piano.
'Something Irish, I'd say, if I were to choose for myself. We've plenty of old tunes, Mr. Walpole,' said Kearney, turning to that gentleman, 'that rebellion, as you call it, has never got hold of. There's "Cushla Macree" and the "Cailan deas cruidhte na Mbo."'
'Very like hard swearing that,' said Walpole to Nina; but his simper and his soft accent were only met by a cold blank look, as though she had not understood his liberty in addressing her. Indeed, in her distant manner, and even repelling coldness, there was what might have disconcerted any composure less consummate than his own. It was, however, evidently Walpole's aim to assume that she felt her relation towards him, and not altogether without some cause; while she, on her part, desired to repel the insinuation by a show of utter indifference. She would willingly, in this contingency, have encouraged her cousin, Dick Kearney, and even led him on to little displays of attention; but Dick held aloof, as though not knowing the meaning of this favourable turn towards him. He would not be cheated by coquetry. How many men are of this temper, and who never understand that it is by surrendering ourselves to numberless little voluntary deceptions of this sort, we arrive at intimacies the most real and most truthful.
She next tried Gorman, and here her success was complete. All those womanly prettinesses, which are so many modes of displaying graceful attraction of voice, look, gesture, or attitude, were especially dear to him. Not only they gave beauty its chief charm, but they constituted a sort of game, whose address was quickness of eye, readiness of perception, prompt reply, and that refined tact that can follow out one thought in a conversation just as you follow a melody through a mass of variations.
Perhaps the young soldier did not yield himself the less readily to these captivations that Kate Kearney's manner towards him was studiously cold and ceremonious.
'The other girl is more like the old friend,' muttered he, as he chatted on with her about Rome, and Florence, and Venice, imperceptibly gliding into the language which the names of places suggested.
'If any had told me that I ever could have talked thus freely and openly with an Austrian soldier, I'd not have believed him,' said she at length, 'for all my sympathies in Italy were with the National party.'
'But we were not the "Barbari" in your recollection, mademoiselle,' said he. 'We were out of Italy before you could have any feeling for either party.'
'The tradition of all your cruelties has survived you, and I am sure, if you were wearing your white coat still, I'd hate you.'
'You are giving me another reason to ask for a longer leave of absence,' said he, bowing courteously.
'And this leave of yours—how long does it last?'
'I am afraid to own to myself. Wednesday fortnight is the end of it; that is, it gives me four days after that to reach Vienna.'
'And presenting yourself in humble guise before your colonel, to say, "Ich melde mich gehorsamst."'
'Not exactly that—but something like it.'
'I'll be the Herr Oberst Lieutenant,' said she, laughing; 'so come forward now and clap your heels together, and let us hear how you utter your few syllables in true abject fashion. I'll sit here, and receive you.' As she spoke, she threw herself into an arm-chair, and assuming a look of intense hauteur and defiance, affected to stroke an imaginary moustache with one hand, while with the other she waved a haughty gesture of welcome.
'I have outstayed my leave,' muttered Gorman, in a tremulous tone. 'I hope my colonel, with that bland mercy which characterises him, will forgive my fault, and let me ask his pardon.' And with this, he knelt down on one knee before her, and kissed her hand.
'What liberties are these, sir?' cried she, so angrily, that it was not easy to say whether the anger was not real.
'It is the latest rule introduced into our service,' said he, with mock humility.
'Is that a comedy they are acting yonder,' said Walpole, 'or is it a proverb?'
'Whatever the drama,' replied Kate coldly, 'I don't think they want a public.'
'You may go back to your duty, Herr Lieutenant,' said Nina proudly, and with a significant glance towards Kate. 'Indeed, I suspect you have been rather neglecting it of late.' And with this she sailed majestically away towards the end of the room.
'I wish I could provoke even that much of jealousy from the other,' muttered Gorman to himself, as he bit his lip in passion. And certainly, if a look and manner of calm unconcern meant anything, there was little that seemed less likely.
'I am glad you are going to the piano, Nina,' said Kate. 'Mr. Walpole has been asking me by what artifice you could be induced to sing something of Mendelssohn.'
'I am going to sing an Irish ballad for that Austrian patriot, who, like his national poet, thinks "Ireland a beautiful country to live out of."' Though a haughty toss of her head accompanied these words, there was a glance in her eye towards Gorman that plainly invited a renewal of their half-flirting hostilities.
'When I left it, you had not been here,' said he, with an obsequious tone, and an air of deference only too marked in its courtesy.
A slight, very faint blush on her cheek showed that she rather resented than accepted the flattery, but she appeared to be occupied in looking through the music-books, and made no rejoinder.
'We want Mendelssohn, Nina,' said Kate.
'Or at least Spohr,' added Walpole.
'I never accept dictation about what I sing,' muttered Nina, only loud enough to be overheard by Gorman. 'People don't tell you what theme you are to talk on; they don't presume to say, "Be serious or be witty." They don't tell you to come to the aid of their sluggish natures by passion, or to dispel their dreariness by flights of fancy; and why are they to dare all this to us who speak through song?'
'Just because you alone can do these things,' said Gorman, in the same low voice as she had spoken in.
'Can I help you in your search, dearest?' said Kate, coming over to the piano.
'Might I hope to be of use?' asked Walpole.
'Mr. O'Shea wants me to sing something for him,' said Nina coldly. 'What is it to be?' asked she of Gorman. With the readiness of one who could respond to any sudden call upon his tact, Gorman at once took up a piece of music from the mass before him, and said, 'Here is what I have been searching for.' It was a little Neapolitan ballad, of no peculiar beauty, but one of those simple melodies in which the rapid transition from deep feeling to a wild, almost reckless, gaiety imparts all the character.
'Yes, I'll sing that,' said Nina; and almost in the same breath the notes came floating through the air, slow and sad at first, as though labouring under some heavy sorrow; the very syllables faltered on her lips like a grief struggling for utterance—when, just as a thrilling cadence died slowly away, she burst forth into the wildest and merriest strain, something so impetuous in gaiety, that the singer seemed to lose all control of expression, and floated away in sound with every caprice of enraptured imagination. When in the very whirlwind of this impetuous gladness, as though a memory of a terrible sorrow had suddenly crossed her, she ceased; then, in tones of actual agony, her voice rose to a cry of such utter misery as despair alone could utter. The sounds died slowly away as though lingeringly. Two bold chords followed, and she was silent.
None spoke in the room. Was this real passion, or was it the mere exhibition of an accomplished artist, who could call up expression at will, as easily as a painter could heighten colour? Kate Kearney evidently believed the former, as her heaving chest and her tremulous lip betrayed, while the cold, simpering smile on Walpole's face, and the 'brava, bravissima' in which he broke the silence, vouched how he had interpreted that show of emotion.
'If that is singing, I wonder what is crying,' cried old Kearney, while he wiped his eyes, very angry at his own weakness.' And now will any one tell me what it was all about?'
'A young girl, sir,' replied Gorman, 'who, by a great effort, has rallied herself to dispel her sorrow and be merry, suddenly remembers that her sweetheart may not love her, and the more she dwells on the thought, the more firmly she believes it. That was the cry, "He never loved me," that went to all our hearts.'
'Faith, then, if Nina has to say that,' said the old man, 'Heaven help the others.'
'Indeed, uncle, you are more gallant than all these young gentlemen,' said Nina, rising and approaching him.
'Why they are not all at your feet this moment is more than I can tell. They're always telling me the world is changed, and I begin to see it now.'
'I suspect, sir, it's pretty much what it used to be,' lisped out Walpole. 'We are only less demonstrative than our fathers.'
'Just as I am less extravagant than mine,' cried Kilgobbin, 'because I have not got it to spend.'
'I hope Mademoiselle Nina judges us more mercifully,' said Walpole.
'Is that song a favourite of yours?' asked she of Gorman, without noticing Walpole's remark in any way.
'No,' said he bluntly; 'it makes me feel like a fool, and, I am afraid, look like one too, when I hear it.'
'I'm glad there's even that much blood in you,' cried old Kearney, who had caught the words. 'Oh dear! oh dear! England need never be afraid of the young generation.'
'That seems to be a very painful thought to you, sir,' said Walpole.
'And so it is,' replied he. 'The lower we bend, the more you'll lay on us. It was your language, and what you call your civilisation, broke us down first, and the little spirit that fought against either is fast dying out of us.'
'Do you want Mr. Walpole to become a Fenian, papa?' asked Kate.
'You see, they took him for one to-day,' broke in Dick, 'when they came and carried off all his luggage.'
'By the way,' interposed Walpole, 'we must take care that that stupid blunder does not get into the local papers, or we shall have it circulated by the London press.'
'I have already thought of that,' said Dick, 'and I shall go into Moate to-morrow and see about it.'
'Does that mean to say that you desert croquet?' said Nina imperiously.
'You have got Lieutenant O'Shea in my place, and a better player than me already.'
'I fear I must take my leave to-morrow,' said Gorman, with a touch of real sorrow, for in secret he knew not whither he was going.
'Would your aunt not spare you to us for a few days?' said the old man. 'I am in no favour with her just now, but she would scarcely refuse what we would all deem a great favour.'
'My aunt would not think the sacrifice too much for her,' said Gorman, trying to laugh at the conceit.
'You shall stay,' murmured Nina, in a tone only audible to him; and by a slight bow he acknowledged the words as a command.
'I believe my best way,' said Gorman gaily, 'will be to outstay my leave, and take my punishment, whatever it be, when I go back again.'
'That is military morality,' said Walpole, in a half-whisper to Kate, but to be overheard by Nina. 'We poor civilians don't understand how to keep a debtor and creditor account with conscience.'
'Could you manage to provoke that man to quarrel with you?' said Nina secretly to Gorman, while her eyes glanced towards Walpole.
'I think I might; but what then? He wouldn't fight, and the rest of England would shun me.'
'That is true,' said she slowly. 'When any is injured here, he tries to make money out of it. I don't suppose you want money?'
'Not earned in that fashion, certainly. But I think they are saying good-night.'
'They're always boasting about the man that found out the safety-lamp,' said old Kearney, as he moved away; 'but give me the fellow that invented a flat candlestick!'
When Gorman reached his room, into which a rich flood of moonlight was streaming, he extinguished his candle, and, seating himself at the open window, lighted his cigar, seriously believing he was going to reflect on his present condition, and forecast something of the future. Though he had spoken so cavalierly of outstaying his time, and accepting arrest afterwards, the jest was by no means so palatable now that he was alone, and could own to himself that the leave he possessed was the unlimited liberty to be houseless and a vagabond, to have none to claim, no roof to shelter him.
His aunt's law-agent, the same Mr. McKeown who acted for Lord Kilgobbin, had once told Gorman that all the King's County property of the O'Sheas was entailed upon him, and that his aunt had no power to alienate it. It is true the old lady disputed this position, and so strongly resented even allusion to it, that, for the sake of inheriting that twelve thousand pounds she possessed in Dutch stock, McKeown warned Gorman to avoid anything that might imply his being aware of this fact.
Whether a general distrust of all legal people and their assertions was the reason, or whether mere abstention from the topic had impaired the force of its truth, or whether—more likely than either—he would not suffer himself to question the intentions of one to whom he owed so much, certain is it young O'Shea almost felt as much averse to the belief as the old lady herself, and resented the thought of its being true, as of something that would detract from the spirit of the affection she had always borne him, and that he repaid by a love as faithful.
'No, no. Confound it!' he would say to himself. 'Aunt Betty loves me, and money has no share in the affection I bear her. If she knew I must be her heir, she'd say so frankly and freely. She'd scorn the notion of doling out to me as benevolence what one day would be my own by right. She is proud and intolerant enough, but she is seldom unjust—never so willingly and consciously. If, then, she has not said O'Shea's Barn must be mine some time, it is because she knows well it cannot be true. Besides, this very last step of hers, this haughty dismissal of me from her house, implies the possession of a power which she would not dare to exercise if she were but a life-tenant of the property. Last of all, had she speculated ever so remotely on my being the proprietor of Irish landed property, it was most unlikely she would so strenuously have encouraged me to pursue my career as an Austrian soldier, and turn all my thoughts to my prospects under the Empire.'
In fact, she never lost the opportunity of reminding him how unfit he was to live in Ireland or amongst Irishmen.
Such reflections as I have briefly hinted at here took him some time to arrive at, for his thoughts did not come freely, or rapidly make place for others. The sum of them, however, was that he was thrown upon the world, and just at the very threshold of life, and when it held out its more alluring prospects.
There is something peculiarly galling to the man who is wincing under the pang of poverty to find that the world regards him as rich and well off, and totally beyond the accidents of fortune. It is not simply that he feels how his every action will be misinterpreted and mistaken, and a spirit of thrift, if not actual shabbiness, ascribed to all that he does, but he also regards himself as a sort of imposition or sham, who has gained access to a place he has no right to occupy, and to associate on terms of equality with men of tastes and habits and ambitions totally above his own. It was in this spirit he remembered Nina's chance expression, 'I don't suppose you want money!' There could be no other meaning in the phrase than some foregone conclusion about his being a man of fortune. Of course she acquired this notion from those around her. As a stranger to Ireland, all she knew, or thought she knew, had been conveyed by others. 'I don't suppose you want money' was another way of saying, 'You are your aunt's heir. You are the future owner of the O'Shea estates. No vast property, it is true; but quite enough to maintain the position of a gentleman.'
'Who knows how much of this Lord Kilgobbin or his son Dick believed?' thought he. 'But certainly my old playfellow Kate has no faith in the matter, or if she have, it has little weight with her in her estimate of me.
'It was in this very room I was lodged something like five years ago. It was at this very window I used to sit at night, weaving Heaven knows what dreams of a future. I was very much in love in those days, and a very honest and loyal love it was. I wanted to be very great, and very gallant, and distinguished, and above all, very rich; but only for her, only that she might be surrounded with every taste and luxury that became her, and that she should share them with me. I knew well she was better than me—better in every way: not only purer, and simpler, and more gentle, but more patient, more enduring, more tenacious of what was true, and more decidedly the enemy of what was merely expedient. Then, was she not proud? not with the pride of birth or station, or of an old name and a time-honoured house, but proud that whatever she did or said amongst the tenantry or the neighbours, none ever ventured to question or even qualify the intention that suggested it. The utter impossibility of ascribing a double motive to her, or of imagining any object in what she counselled but the avowed one, gave her a pride that accompanied her through every hour of life.
'Last of all, she believed in me—believed I was going to be one day something very famous and distinguished: a gallant soldier, whose very presence gave courage to the men who followed him, and with a name repeated in honour over Europe. The day was too short for these fancies, for they grew actually as we fed them, and the wildest flight of imagination led us on to the end of the time when there would be but one hope, one ambition, and one heart between us.
'I am convinced that had any one at that time hinted to her that I was to inherit the O'Shea estates, he would have dealt a most dangerous blow to her affection for me. The romance of that unknown future had a great share in our compact. And then we were so serious about it all—the very gravity it impressed being an ecstasy to our young hearts in the thought of self-importance and responsibility. Nor were we without our little tiffs—those lovers' quarrels that reveal what a terrible civil war can rage within the heart that rebels against itself. I know the very spot where we quarrelled; I could point to the miles of way we walked side by side without a word; and oh! was it not on that very bed I have passed the night sobbing till I thought my heart would break, all because I had not fallen at her feet and begged her forgiveness ere we parted? Not that she was without her self-accusings too; for I remember one way in which she expressed sorrow for having done me wrong was to send me a shower of rose-leaves from her little terraced garden; and as they fell in shoals across my window, what a balm and bliss they shed over my heart! Would I not give every hope I have to bring it all back again? to live it over once more—to lie at her feet in the grass, affecting to read to her, but really watching her long black lashes as they rested on her cheek, or that quivering lip as it trembled with emotion. How I used to detest that work which employed the blue-veined hand I loved to hold within my own, kissing it at every pause in the reading, or whenever I could pretext a reason to question her! And now, here I am in the self-same place, amidst the same scenes and objects. Nothing changed but herself! She, however, will remember nothing of the past, or if she does, it is with repugnance and regret; her manner to me is a sort of cold defiance, not to dare to revive our old intimacy, nor to fancy that I can take up our acquaintanceship from the past. I almost fancied she looked resentfully at the Greek girl for the freedom to which she admitted me—not but there was in the other's coquetry the very stamp of that levity other women are so ready to take offence at; in fact, it constitutes amongst women exactly the same sort of outrage, the same breach of honour and loyalty, as cheating at play does amongst men, and the offenders are as much socially outlawed in one case as in the other. I wonder, am I what is called falling in love with the Greek—that is, I wonder, have the charms of her astonishing beauty and the grace of her manner, and the thousand seductions of her voice, her gestures, and her walk, above all, so captivated me that I do not want to go back on the past, and may hope soon to repay Miss Kate Kearney by an indifference the equal of her own? I don't think so. Indeed, I feel that even when Nina was interesting me most, I was stealing secret glances towards Kate, and cursing that fellow Walpole for the way he was engaging her attention. Little the Greek suspected, when she asked if "I could not fix a quarrel on him," with what a motive it was that my heart jumped at the suggestion! He is so studiously ceremonious and distant with me; he seems to think I am not one of those to be admitted to closer intimacy. I know that English theory of "the unsafe man," by which people of unquestionable courage avoid contact with all schooled to other ways and habits than their own. I hate it. "I am unsafe," to his thinking. Well, if having no reason to care for safety be sufficient, he is not far wrong. Dick Kearney, too, is not very cordial. He scarcely seconded his father's invitation to me, and what he did say was merely what courtesy obliged. So that in reality, though the old lord was hearty and good-natured, I believe I am here now because Mademoiselle Nina commanded me, rather than from any other reason. If this be true, it is, to say the least, a sorry compliment to my sense of delicacy. Her words were, "You shall stay," and it is upon this I am staying.'
As though the air of the room grew more hard to breathe with this thought before him, he arose and leaned half-way out of the window.
As he did so, his ear caught the sound of voices. It was Kate and Nina, who were talking on the terrace above his head.
'I declare, Nina,' said Kate, 'you have stripped every leaf off my poor ivy-geranium; there's nothing left of it but bare branches.'
'There goes the last handful,' said the other, as she threw them over the parapet, some falling on Gorman as he leaned out. 'It was a bad habit I learned from yourself, child. I remember when I came here, you used to do this each night, like a religious rite.'
'I suppose they were the dried or withered leaves that I threw away,' said Kate, with a half-irritation in her voice.
'No, they were not. They were oftentimes from your prettiest roses, and as I watched you, I saw it was in no distraction or inadvertence you were doing this, for you were generally silent and thoughtful some time before, and there was even an air of sadness about you, as though a painful thought was bringing its gloomy memories.'
'What an object of interest I have been to you without suspecting it,' said Kate coldly.
'It is true,' said the other, in the same tone; 'they who make few confidences suggest much ingenuity. If you had a meaning in this act and told me what it was, it is more than likely I had forgotten all about it ere now. You preferred secrecy, and you made me curious.'
'There was nothing to reward curiosity,' said she, in the same measured tone; then, after a moment, she added, 'I'm sure I never sought to ascribe some hidden motive to you. When you left my plants leafless, I was quite content to believe that you were mischievous without knowing it.'
'I read you differently,' said Nina. 'When you do mischief you mean mischief. Now I became so—so—what shall I call it, intriguee about this little "fetish" of yours, that I remember well the night you first left off and never resumed it.'
'And when was that?' asked Kate carelessly.
'On a certain Friday, the night Miss O'Shea dined here last; was it not a Friday?'
'Fridays, we fancy, are unlucky days,' said Kate, in a voice of easy indifference.
'I wonder which are the lucky ones?' said Nina, sighing. 'They are certainly not put down in the Irish almanac. By the way, is not this a Friday?'
'Mr. O'Shea will not call it amongst his unlucky days,' said Kate laughingly.
'I almost think I like your Austrian,' said the other.
'Only don't call him my Austrian.'
'Well, he was yours till you threw him off. No, don't be angry: I am only talking in that careless slang we all use when we mean nothing, just as people employ counters instead of money at cards; but I like him: he has that easy flippancy in talk that asks for no effort to follow, and he says his little nothings nicely, and he is not too eager as to great ones, or too energetic, which you all are here. I like him.'
'I fancied you liked the eager and enthusiastic people, and that you felt a warm interest in Donogan's fate.'
'Yes, I do hope they'll not catch him. It would be too horrid to think of any one we had known being hanged! And then, poor fellow, he was very much in love.'
'Poor fellow!' sighed out Kate.
'Not but it was the only gleam of sunlight in his existence; he could go away and fancy that, with Heaven knows what chances of fortune, he might have won me.'
'Poor fellow!' cried Kate, more sorrowfully than before.
'No, far from it, but very "happy fellow" if he could feed his heart with such a delusion.'
'And you think it fair to let him have this delusion?'
'Of course I do. I'd no more rob him of it than I'd snatch a life-buoy from a drowning man. Do you fancy, child, that the swimmer will always go about with the corks that have saved his life?'
'These mock analogies are sorry arguments,' said Kate.
'Tell me, does your Austrian sing? I see he understands music, but I hope he can sing.'
'I can tell you next to nothing of my Austrian—if he must be called so. It is five years since we met, and all I know is how little like he seems to what he once was.'
'I'm sure he is vastly improved: a hundred times better mannered; with more ease, more quickness, and more readiness in conversation. I like him.'
'I trust he'll find out his great good-fortune—that is, if it be not a delusion.'
For a few seconds there was a silence—a silence so complete that Gorman could hear the rustle of a dress as Nina moved from her place, and seated herself on the battlement of the terrace. He then could catch the low murmuring sounds of her voice, as she hummed an air to herself, and at length traced it to be the song she had sung that same evening in the drawing-room. The notes came gradually more and more distinct, the tones swelled out into greater fulness, and at last, with one long-sustained cadence of thrilling passion, she cried, 'Non mi amava—non mi amava!' with an expression of heart-breaking sorrow, the last syllables seeming to linger on the lips as if a hope was deserting them for ever. 'Oh, non mi amava!' cried she, and her voice trembled as though the avowal of her despair was the last effort of her strength. Slowly and faintly the sounds died away, while Gorman, leaning out to the utmost to catch the dying notes, strained his hearing to drink them in. All was still, and then suddenly, with a wild roulade that sounded at first like the passage of a musical scale, she burst out into a fit of laughter, crying 'Non mi amava,' through the sounds, in a half-frantic mockery. 'No, no, non mi amava,' laughed she out, as she walked back into the room. The window was now closed with a heavy bang, and all was silent in the house.
'And these are the affections we break our hearts for!' cried Gorman, as he threw himself on his bed, and covered his face with both his hands.
THE HEAD CONSTABLE
The Inspector, or, to use the irreverent designation of the neighbourhood, the Head Peeler, who had carried away Walpole's luggage and papers, no sooner discovered the grave mistake he had committed, than he hastened to restore them, and was waiting personally at Kilgobbin Castle to apologise for the blunder, long before any of the family had come downstairs. His indiscretion might cost him his place, and Captain Curtis, who had to maintain a wife and family, three saddle-horses, and a green uniform with more gold on it than a field-marshal's, felt duly anxious and uneasy for what he had done.
'Who is that gone down the road?' asked he, as he stood at the window, while a woman was setting the room in order.
'Sure it's Miss Kate taking the dogs out. Isn't she always the first up of a morning?' Though the captain had little personal acquaintance with Miss Kearney, he knew her well by reputation, and knew therefore that he might safely approach her to ask a favour. He overtook her at once, and in a few words made known the difficulty in which he found himself.
'Is it not after all a mere passing mistake, which once apologised for is forgotten altogether?' asked she. 'Mr. Walpole is surely not a person to bear any malice for such an incident?'
'I don't know that, Miss Kearney,' said he doubtingly. 'His papers have been thoroughly ransacked, and old Mr. Flood, the Tory magistrate, has taken copies of several letters and documents, all of course under the impression that they formed part of a treasonable correspondence.'
'Was it not very evident that the papers could not have belonged to a Fenian leader? Was not any mistake in the matter easily avoided?'
'Not at once, because there was first of all a sort of account of the insurrectionary movement here, with a number of queries, such as, "Who is M——?" "Are F. Y—— and McCausland the same person?" "What connection exists between the Meath outrages and the late events in Tipperary?" "How is B—— to explain his conduct sufficiently to be retained in the Commission of the Peace?" In a word, Miss Kearney, all the troublesome details by which a Ministry have to keep their own supporters in decent order, are here hinted at, if not more, and it lies with a batch of red-hot Tories to make a terrible scandal out of this affair.'
'It is graver than I suspected,' said she thoughtfully.
'And I may lose my place,' muttered Curtis, 'unless, indeed, you would condescend to say a word for me to Mr. Walpole.'
'Willingly, if it were of any use, but I think my cousin, Mademoiselle Kostalergi, would be likelier of success, and here she comes.'
Nina came forward at that moment, with that indolent grace of movement with which she swept the greensward of the lawn as though it were the carpet of a saloon. With a brief introduction of Mr. Curtis, her cousin Kate, in a few words, conveyed the embarrassment of his present position, and his hope that a kindly intercession might avert his danger.
'What droll people you must be not to find out that the letters of a Viceroy's secretary could not be the correspondence of a rebel leader,' said Nina superciliously.
'I have already told Miss Kearney how that fell out,' said he; 'and I assure you there was enough in those papers to mystify better and clearer heads.'
'But you read the addresses, and saw how the letters began, "My dear Mr. Walpole," or "Dear Walpole"?'
'And thought they had been purloined. Have I not found "Dear Clarendon" often enough in the same packet with cross-bones and a coffin.'
'What a country!' said Nina, with a sigh.
'Very like Greece, I suppose,' said Kate tartly; then, suddenly, 'Will you undertake to make this gentleman's peace with Mr. Walpole, and show how the whole was a piece of ill-directed zeal?'
'Well, indiscreet, if you like it better.'
'And you fancied, then, that all the fine linen and purple you carried away were the properties of a head-centre?'
'We thought so.'
'And the silver objects of the dressing-table, and the ivory inlaid with gold, and the trifles studded with turquoise?'
'They might have been Donogan's. Do you know, mademoiselle, that this same Donogan was a man of fortune, and in all the society of the first men at Oxford when—a mere boy at the time—he became a rebel?'
'How nice of him! What a fine fellow!'
'I'd say what a fool!' continued Curtis. 'He had no need to risk his neck to achieve a station, the thing was done for him. He had a good house and a good estate in Kilkenny; I have caught salmon in the river that washes the foot of his lawn.'
'And what has become of it; does he still own it?'
'Not an acre—not a rood of it; sold every square yard of it to throw the money into the Fenian treasury. Rifled artillery, Colt's revolvers, Remington's, and Parrot guns have walked off with the broad acres.'
'Fine fellow—a fine fellow!' cried Nina enthusiastically.
'That fine fellow has done a deal of mischief,' said Kate thoughtfully.
'He has escaped, has he not?' asked Nina.
'We hope not—that is, we know that he is about to sail for St. John's by a clipper now in Belfast, and we shall have a fast steam-corvette ready to catch her in the Channel. He'll be under Yankee colours, it is true, and claim an American citizenship; but we must run risks sometimes, and this is one of those times.'
'But you know where he is now? Why not apprehend him on shore?'
'The very thing we do not know, mademoiselle. I'd rather be sure of it than have five thousand pounds in my hand. Some say he is here, in the neighbourhood; some that he is gone south; others declare that he has reached Liverpool. All we really do know is about the ship that he means to sail in, and on which the second mate has informed us.'
'And all your boasted activity is at fault,' said she insolently, 'when you have to own you cannot track him.'
'Nor is it so easy, mademoiselle, where a whole population befriend and feel for him.'
'And if they do, with what face can you persecute what has the entire sympathy of a nation?'
'Don't provoke answers which are sure not to satisfy you, and which you could but half comprehend; but tell Mr. Curtis you will use your influence to make Mr. Walpole forget this mishap.'
'But I do want to go to the bottom of this question. I will insist on learning why people rebel here.'
'In that case, I'll go home to breakfast, and I'll be quite satisfied if I see you at luncheon,' said Kate.
'Do, pray, Mr. Curtis, tell me all about it. Why do some people shoot the others who are just as much Irish as themselves? Why do hungry people kill the cattle and never eat them? And why don't the English go away and leave a country where nobody likes them? If there be a reason for these things, let me hear it.'
'Bye-bye,' said Kate, waving her hand, as she turned away.
'You are so ungenerous,' cried Nina, hurrying after her; 'I am a stranger, and would naturally like to learn all that I could of the country and the people; here is a gentleman full of the very knowledge I am seeking. He knows all about these terrible Fenians. What will they do with Donogan if they take him?'
'Transport him for life; they'll not hang him, I think.'
'That's worse than hanging. I mean—that is—Miss Kearney would rather they'd hang him.'
'I have not said so,' replied Kate, 'and I don't suspect I think so, either.'
'Well,' said Nina, after a pause, 'let us go back to breakfast. You'll see Mr. Walpole—he's sure to be down by that time; and I'll tell him what you wish is, that he must not think any more of the incident; that it was a piece of official stupidity, done, of course, out of the best motives; and that if he should cut a ridiculous figure at the end, he has only himself to blame for the worse than ambiguity of his private papers.'
'I do not know that I 'd exactly say that,' said Kate, who felt some difficulty in not laughing at the horror-struck expression of Mr. Curtis's face.
'Well, then, I'll say—this was what I wished to tell you, but my cousin Kate interposed and suggested that a little adroit flattery of you, and some small coquetries that might make you believe you were charming, would be the readiest mode to make you forget anything disagreeable, and she would charge herself with the task.'
'Do so,' said Kate calmly; 'and let us now go back to breakfast.'
That which the English irreverently call 'chaff' enters largely as an element into Irish life; and when Walpole stigmatised the habit to Joe Atlee as essentially that of the smaller island, he was not far wrong. I will not say that it is a high order of wit—very elegant, or very refined; but it is a strong incentive to good-humour—a vent to good spirits; and being a weapon which every Irishman can wield in some fashion or other, establishes that sort of joust which prevailed in the melee tournaments, and where each tilted with whom he pleased.
Any one who has witnessed the progress of an Irish trial, even when the crime was of the very gravest, cannot fail to have been struck by the continual clash of smart remark and smarter rejoinder between the Bench and the Bar; showing how men feel the necessity of ready-wittedness, and a promptitude to repel attack, in which even the prisoner in the dock takes his share, and cuts his joke at the most critical moment of his existence.
The Irish theatre always exhibits traits of this national taste; but a dinner-party, with its due infusion of barristers, is the best possible exemplification of this give and take, which, even if it had no higher merit, is a powerful ally of good-humour, and the sworn foe to everything like over-irritability or morbid self-esteem. Indeed, I could not wish a very conceited man, of a somewhat grave temperament and distant demeanour, a much heavier punishment than a course of Irish dinner-parties; for even though he should come out scathless himself, the outrages to his sense of propriety, and the insults to his ideas of taste, would be a severe suffering.
That breakfast-table at Kilgobbin had some heavy hearts around the board. There was not, with the exception of Walpole, one there who had not, in the doubts that beset his future, grave cause for anxiety; and yet to look at, still more to listen to them, you would have said that Walpole alone had any load of care upon his heart, and that the others were a light-hearted, happy set of people, with whom the world went always well. No cloud!—not even a shadow to darken the road before them. Of this levity, for I suppose I must give it a hard name—the source of much that is best and worst amongst us—our English rulers take no account, and are often as ready to charge us with a conviction, which was no more than a caprice, as they are to nail us down to some determination, which was simply a drollery; and until some intelligent traveller does for us what I lately perceived a clever tourist did for the Japanese, in explaining their modes of thought, impulses, and passions to the English, I despair of our being better known in Downing Street than we now are.
Captain Curtis—for it is right to give him his rank—was fearfully nervous and uneasy, and though he tried to eat his breakfast with an air of unconcern and carelessness, he broke his egg with a tremulous hand, and listened with painful eagerness every time Walpole spoke.
'I wish somebody would send us the Standard; when it is known that the Lord-Lieutenant's secretary has turned Fenian,' said Kilgobbin, 'won't there be a grand Tory out-cry over the unprincipled Whigs?'
'The papers need know nothing whatever of the incident,' interposed Curtis anxiously, 'if old Flood is not busy enough to inform them.'
'Who is old Flood?' asked Walpole.
'A Tory J.P., who has copied out a considerable share of your correspondence,' said Kilgobbin.
'And four letters in a lady's hand,' added Dick, 'that he imagines to be a treasonable correspondence by symbol.'
'I hope Mr. Walpole,' said Kate, 'will rather accept felony to the law than falsehood to the lady.'
'You don't mean to say—' began Walpole angrily; then correcting his irritable manner, he added, 'Am I to suppose my letters have been read?'
'Well, roughly looked through,' said Curtis. 'Just a glance here and there to catch what they meant.'
'Which I must say was quite unnecessary,' said Walpole haughtily.
'It was a sort of journal of yours,' blundered out Curtis, who had a most unhappy knack of committing himself, 'that they opened first, and they saw an entry with Kilgobbin Castle at the top of it, and the date last July.'
'There was nothing political in that, I'm sure,' said Walpole.
'No, not exactly, but a trifle rebellious, all the same; the words, "We this evening learned a Fenian song, 'The time to begin,' and rather suspect it is time to leave off; the Greek better-looking than ever, and more dangerous."'
Curtis's last words were drowned in the laugh that now shook the table; indeed, except Walpole and Nina herself, they actually roared with laughter, which burst out afresh, as Curtis, in his innocence, said, 'We could not make out about the Greek, but we hoped we'd find out later on.'
'And I fervently trust you did,' said Kilgobbin.
'I'm afraid not; there was something about somebody called Joe, that the Greek wouldn't have him, or disliked him, or snubbed him—indeed, I forget the words.'
'You are quite right, sir, to distrust your memory,' said Walpole; 'it has betrayed you most egregiously already.'
'On the contrary,' burst in Kilgobbin, 'I am delighted with this proof of the captain's acuteness; tell us something more, Curtis.'
'There was then, "From the upper castle yard, Maude," whoever Maude is, "says, 'Deny it all, and say you never were there,' not so easy as she thinks, with a broken right arm, and a heart not quite so whole as it ought to be."'
'There, sir—with the permission of my friends here—I will ask you to conclude your reminiscences of my private papers, which can have no possible interest for any one but myself.'
'Quite wrong in that,' cried Kilgobbin, wiping his eyes, which had run over with laughter. 'There's nothing I'd like so much as to hear more of them.'
'What was that about his heart?' whispered Curtis to Kate; 'was he wounded in the side also?'
'I believe so,' said she dryly; 'but I believe he has got quite over it by this time.'
'Will you say a word or two about me, Miss Kearney?' whispered he again; 'I'm not sure I improved my case by talking so freely; but as I saw you all so outspoken, I thought I'd fall into your ways.'
'Captain Curtis is much concerned for any fault he may have committed in this unhappy business,' said Kate, 'and he trusts that the agitation and excitement of the Donogan escape will excuse him.'
'That's your policy now,' interposed Kilgobbin. 'Catch the Fenian fellow, and nobody will remember the other incident.'
'We mean to give out that we know he has got clear away to America,' said Curtis, with an air of intense cunning. 'And to lull his suspicions, we have notices in print to say that no further rewards are to be given for his apprehension; so that he'll get a false confidence, and move about as before.'
'With such acuteness as yours on his trail, his arrest is certain,' said Walpole gravely.
'Well, I hope so, too,' said Curtis, in good faith for the compliment.' Didn't I take up nine men for the search of arms here, though there were only five? One of them turned evidence,' added he gravely;' he was the fellow that swore Miss Kearney stood between you and the fire after they wounded you.'
'You are determined to make Mr. Walpole your friend,' whispered Nina in his ear; 'don't you see, sir, that you are ruining yourself?'
'I have often been puzzled to explain how it was that crime went unpunished in Ireland,' said Walpole sententiously.
'And you know now?' asked Curtis.
'Yes; in a great measure, you have supplied me with the information.'
'I believe it's all right now,' muttered the captain to Kate. 'If the swell owns that I have put him up to a thing or two, he'll not throw me over.'
'Would you give me three minutes of your time?' whispered Gorman O'Shea to Lord Kilgobbin, as they arose from table.
'Half an hour, my boy, or more if you want it. Come along with me now into my study, and we'll be safe there from all interruption.'
'So then you're in a hobble with your aunt,' said Mr. Kearney, as he believed he had summed up the meaning of a very blundering explanation by Gorman O'Shea; 'isn't that it?'
'Yes, sir; I suppose it comes to that.'
'The old story, I've no doubt, if we only knew it—as old as the Patriarchs: the young ones go into debt, and think it very hard that the elders dislike the paying it.'
'No, no; I have no debts—at least, none to speak of.'
'It's a woman, then? Have you gone and married some good-looking girl, with no fortune and less family? Who is she?'
'Not even that, sir,' said he, half impatient at seeing how little attention had been bestowed on his narrative.
''Tis bad enough, no doubt,' continued the old man, still in pursuit of his own reflections; 'not but there's scores of things worse; for if a man is a good fellow at heart, he'll treat the woman all the better for what she has cost him. That is one of the good sides of selfishness; and when you have lived as long as me, Gorman, you'll find out how often there's something good to be squeezed out of a bad quality, just as though it were a bit of our nature that was depraved, but not gone to the devil entirely.'
'There is no woman in the case here, sir,' said O'Shea bluntly, for these speculations only irritated him.
'Ho, ho! I have it, then,' cried the old man. 'You've been burning your fingers with rebellion. It's the Fenians have got a hold of you.'
'Nothing of the kind, sir. If you'll just read these two letters. The one is mine, written on the morning I came here: here is my aunt's. The first is not word for word as I sent it, but as well as I can remember. At all events, it will show how little I had provoked the answer. There, that's the document that came along with my trunks, and I have never heard from her since.'
'"Dear Nephew,"' read out the old man, after patiently adjusting his spectacles—'"O'Shea's Barn is not an inn,"—And more's the pity,' added he; 'for it would be a model house of entertainment. You'd say any one could have a sirloin of beef or a saddle of mutton; but where Miss Betty gets hers is quite beyond me. "Nor are the horses at public livery,"' read he out. 'I think I may say, if they were, that Kattoo won't be hired out again to the young man that took her over the fences. "As you seem fond of warnings,"' continued he, aloud—'Ho, ho! that's at you for coming over here to tell me about the search-warrant; and she tells you to mind your own business; and droll enough it is. We always fancy we're saying an impertinence to a man when we tell him to attend to what concerns him most. It shows, at least, that we think meddling a luxury. And then she adds, "Kilgobbin is welcome to you," and I can only say you are welcome to Kilgobbin—ay, and in her own words—"with such regularity and order as the meals succeed."—"All the luggage belonging to you," etc., and "I am, very respectfully, your Aunt." By my conscience, there was no need to sign it! That was old Miss Betty all the world over!' and he laughed till his eyes ran over, though the rueful face of young O'Shea was staring at him all the time. 'Don't look so gloomy, O'Shea,' cried Kearney: 'I have not so good a cook, nor, I'm sorry to say, so good a cellar, as at the Barn; but there are young faces, and young voices, and young laughter, and a light step on the stairs; and if I know anything, or rather, if I remember anything, these will warm a heart at your age better than '44 claret or the crustiest port that ever stained a decanter.'
'I am turned out, sir—sent adrift on the world,' said the young man despondently.
'And it is not so bad a thing after all, take my word for it, boy. It's a great advantage now and then to begin life as a vagabond. It takes a deal of snobbery out of a fellow to lie under a haystack, and there's no better cure for pretension than a dinner of cold potatoes. Not that I say you need the treatment—far from it—but our distinguished friend Mr. Walpole wouldn't be a bit the worse of such an alterative.'
'If I am left without a shilling in the world?'
'Then you must try what you can do on sixpence—the whole thing is how you begin. I used not to be able to eat my dinner when I did not see the fellow in a white tie standing before the sideboard, and the two flunkeys in plush and silk stockings at either side of the table; and when I perceived that the decanters had taken their departure, and that it was beer I was given to drink, I felt as if I had dined, and was ready to go out and have a smoke in the open air; but a little time, even without any patience, but just time, does it all.'
'Time won't teach a man to live upon nothing.'
'It would be very hard for him if it did; let him begin by having few wants, and work hard to supply means for them.'
'Work hard! why, sir, if I laboured from daylight to dark, I'd not earn the wages of the humblest peasant, and I'd not know how to live on it.'
'Well, I have given you all the philosophy in my budget, and to tell you the truth, Gorman, except so far as coming down in the world in spite of myself, I know mighty little about the fine precepts I have been giving you; but this I know, you have a roof over your head here, and you're heartily welcome to it; and who knows but your aunt may come to terms all the sooner, because she sees you here?'
'You are very generous to me, and I feel it deeply,' said the young man; but he was almost choked with the words.
'You have told me already, Gorman, that your aunt gave you no other reason against coming here than that I had not been to call on you; and I believe you—believe you thoroughly; but tell me now, with the same frankness, was there nothing passing in your mind—had you no suspicions or misgivings, or something of the same kind, to keep you away? Be candid with me now, and speak it out freely.'
'None, on my honour; I was sorely grieved to be told I must not come, and thought very often of rebelling, so that indeed, when I did rebel, I was in a measure prepared for the penalty, though scarcely so heavy as this.'
'Don't take it to heart. It will come right yet—everything comes right if we give it time—and there's plenty of time to the fellow who is not five-and-twenty. It's only the old dogs, like myself, who are always doing their match against time, are in a hobble. To feel that every minute of the clock is something very like three weeks of the almanac, flurries a man, when he wants to be cool and collected. Put your hat on a peg, and make your home here. If you want to be of use, Kitty will show you scores of things to do about the garden, and we never object to see a brace of snipe at the end of dinner, though there's nobody cares to shoot them; and the bog trout—for all their dark colour—are excellent catch, and I know you can throw a line. All I say is, do something, and something that takes you into the open air. Don't get to lying about in easy-chairs and reading novels; don't get to singing duets and philandering about with the girls. May I never, if I'd not rather find a brandy-flask in your pocket than Tennyson's poems!'
'Say it out frankly, Kate,' cried Nina, as with flashing eyes and heightened colour she paced the drawing-room from end to end, with that bold sweeping stride which in moments of passion betrayed her. 'Say it out. I know perfectly what you are hinting at.'