"It's a subject I feel no inclination whatsoever to discuss, Mr. Burke; it is a subject which, personally speaking, has never occupied from me one moment's thought; and, having said so much, I trust you will have the goodness to select some other topic for conversation."
"But I am so circumstanced, just now, Miss Clinton, that I cannot really change it. The truth is, that I have felt very much attached to you for some time past—upon my word and honor I have: it's a fact, I assure you, Miss Clinton; and I now beg to make you a tender of myself and—and—of all I am possessed of. I am a most ardent admirer of yours; and the upmost extent of my ambition is to become an accepted one. Do then, my dear Miss Clinton, allow me the charming privilege—pray, do."
"What will be the consequence if I do not?" she replied, smiling.
"Upon my word and honor, I shall go nearly distracted, and get quite melancholy; my happiness depends upon you, Miss Clinton; you are a very delightful girl, quite a nonpareil, and I trust you will treat me with kindness and consideration."
"Mr. Burke," replied the lady, "I am much obliged for the preference you express for me; but whether you are serious or in jest, I can only say that I have no notion of matrimony; that I have never had any notion of it; and that I can safely say, I have never seen the man whom I should wish to call my husband. You will oblige me very much, then, if in future you forbear to introduce this subject. Consider it a forbidden one, so far as I am concerned, for I feel quite unworthy of so gifted and accomplished a gentleman as Mr. Burke."
"You will not discard me surely, Miss Clinton?"
"On that subject, unquestionably."
"No, no, my dear Miss Clinton, you will not say so; do not be so cruel; you will distress me greatly, I assure you. I am very much deficient in firmness, and your cruelty will afflict me and depress my spirits."
"I trust not, Mr. Burke. Your spirits are naturally good, and I have no doubt but you will ultimately overcome this calamity—at least I sincerely hope so."
"Ah, Miss Clinton, you little know the heart I have, nor my capacity for feeling; my feelings, I assure you, are exceedingly tender, and I get quite sunk under disappointment. Come, Miss Clinton, you must not deprive me altogether of hope; it is too cruel. Do not say no forever."
The arch girl shook her head with something of mock solemnity, and replied, "I must indeed, Mr. Burke; the fatal no must be pronounced, and in connection with forever too; and unless you have much virtue to sustain you, I fear you run a great risk of dying a martyr to a negative. I would fain hope, however, that the virtue I allude to, and your well-known sense of religion, will support you under such a trial."
This was uttered in a tone of grave ironical sympathy that not only gave it peculiar severity, but intimated to Hycy that his character was fully understood.
"Well, Miss Clinton," said he, rising with a countenance in which there was a considerable struggle between self-conceit and mortification, a struggle which in fact was exceedingly ludicrous in its effect, "I must only hope that you probably may change your mind."
"Mr. Burke," said she, with a grave and serious dignity that was designed to terminate the interview, "there are subjects upon which a girl of delicacy and principle never can change her mind, and this I feel obliged to say, once for all, is one of them. I am now my uncle's housekeeper," she added, taking up a bunch of keys, "and you must permit me to wish you a good morning," saying which, with a cool but very polite inclination of her head, she dismissed Hycy the accomplished, who cut anything but a dignified figure as he withdrew.
"Well," said her brother, who was reading a newspaper in the parlor, "is the report favorable?"
"No," replied Hycy, "anything but favorable. I fear, Harry, you have not played me fair in this business."
"How is that?" asked the other, rather quickly.
"I fear you've prejudiced your sister against me, and that instead of giving me a clear stage, you gave me the 'no favor' portion of the adage only."
"I am not in the habit of stating a falsehood, Hycy, nor of having any assertion I make questioned; I have already told you, I think, that I would not prejudice my sister against you. I now repeat that I have not done so; but I cannot account for her prejudices against you any more than I shall attempt to contradict or combat them, so far from that I now tell you, that if she were unfortunately disposed to many you, I would endeavor to prevent her."
"And pray why so, Harry, if it is a fair question?"
"Perfectly fair; simply because I should not wish to see my sister married to a man unburthened with any kind of principle. In fact, without the slightest intention whatsoever, Hycy, to offer you offence, I must say that you are not the man to whom I should entrust Maria's peace and happiness; I am her only brother, and have a right to speak as I do. I consider it my duty."
"Certainly," replied Hycy, "if you think so, I cannot blame you; but I see clearly that you misunderstand my character—that is all."
They separated in a few minutes afterwards, and Hycy in a very serious and irritable mood rode homewards. In truth his prospects at this peculiar period were anything but agreeable. Here his love-suit, if it could be called so, had just been rejected by Miss Clinton, in a manner that utterly precluded all future hope in that quarter. With Kathleen Cavanagh he had been equally unsuccessful. His brother Edward was now at home, too, a favorite with, and inseparable from his father, who of late maintained any intercourse that took place between himself and Hycy, with a spirit of cool, easy sarcasm, that was worse than anger itself. His mother, also, in consequence of her unjustifiable attempts to defend her son's irregularities, had lost nearly all influence with her husband, and if the latter should withdraw, as he had threatened to do, the allowance of a hundred a year with which he supplied him, he scarcely saw on what hand he could turn. With Kathleen Cavanagh and Miss Clinton he now felt equally indignant, nor did his friend Harry escape a strong portion of his ill-will. Hycy, not being overburthened with either a love or practice of truth himself, could not for a moment yield credence to the assertion of young Clinton, that he took no stops to prejudice his sister against him. He took it for granted, therefore, that it was to his interference he owed the reception he had just got, and he determined in some way or other to repay him for the ill-services he had rendered him.
The feeling of doubt and uncertainty with which Bryan M'Mahon parted from his landlord and Fethertonge, the agent, after the interview we have already described, lost none of their strength by time. Hycy's memorial had been entrusted to Chevydale, who certainly promised to put his case strongly before the Commissioners of Excise; and Bryan at first had every reason to suppose that he would do so. Whether in consequence of that negligence of his promise, for which he was rather remarkable, or from some sinister influence that may have been exercised over him, it is difficult to say, but the fact was that Bryan had now only ten days between him and absolute ruin. He had taken the trouble to write to the Secretary of Excise to know if his memorial had been laid before them, and supported by Mr. Chevydale, who, he said, knew the circumstances, and received a reply, stating that no such memorial had been sent, and that Mr. Chevydale had taken no steps in the matter whatsoever. We shall not now enter into a detail of all the visits he had made to his landlord, whom he could never see a second time, however, notwithstanding repeated solicitations to that effect. Fethertonge he did see, and always was assured by him that his case was safe and in good hands.
"You are quite mistaken, Bryan," said he, "if you think that either he or I have any intention of neglecting your affair. You know yourself, however, that he has not a moment for anything at the present time but this confounded election. The contest will be a sharp one, but when it is over we will take care of you."
"Yes, but it will then be too late," replied Bryan; "I will be then a ruined man."
"But, my dear Bryan, will you put no confidence in your friends? I tell you you will not be ruined. If they follow up the matter so as to injure you, we shall have the whole affair overhauled, and justice done you; otherwise we shall bring it before Parliament."
"That may be all very well," replied Bryan, "but it is rather odd that he has not taken a single step in it yet."
"The memorial is before the Board," said the other, "for some time, and we expect an answer every day."
"But I know to the contrary," replied Bryan, "for here is a letther from the Secretary stating that no such memorial ever came before them."
"Never mind that," replied Fethertonge, "he may not have seen it. The Secretary! Lord bless you, he never reads a tenth of the memorials that go in. Show me the letter. See there now—he did not write it all; don't you see his signature is in a different, hand? Why will you not put confidence in your friends, Bryan?"
"Because," replied the independent and honest young fellow, "I don't think they're entitled to it—from me. They have neglected my business very shamefully, after having led me to think otherwise. I have no notion of any landlord suffering his tenant to be ruined before his face without lifting a finger to prevent it."
"Oh! fie, Bryan, you are now losing your temper. I shall say no more to you. Still I can make allowances. However, go home, and keep your mind easy, we shall take care of you, notwithstanding your ill humor. Stay—you pass Mr. Clinton's—will you be good! enough to call and tell Harry Clinton I wish to speak to him, and I will feel obliged?"
"Certainly, sir," replied Bryan, "with pleasure. I wish you good morning."
"Could it be possible," he added, "that the hint Hycy Burke threw out about young Clinton has any truth in it—'Harry Clinton will do you an injury;' but more he would not say. I will now watch him well, for I certainly cannot drame why he should be my enemy."
He met Clinton on the way, however, to whom he delivered the message.
"I am much obliged to you," said he, "I was already aware of it; but now that I have met you, M'Mahon, allow me to ask if you have not entrusted a memorial to the care of Mr. Chevydale, in order that it might be sent up strongly supported by him to the Board of Excise?"
"I have," said Bryan, "and it has been sent, if I am to believe Mr. Fethertonge."
"Listen to me, my honest friend—don't believe Fethertonge, nor don't rely on Chevydale, who will do nothing more nor less than the agent allows him. If you depend upon either or both, you are a ruined man, and I am very much afraid you are that already. It has not been sent; but observe that I mention this in confidence, and with an understanding that, for the present, you will not name me in the matter."
"I sartinly will not," replied Bryan, who was forcibly struck with the truth and warmth of interest that were evident in his language and manner; "and here is a letter that I received this very mornin' from the Secretary of Excise, stating that no memorial on my behalf has been sent up to them at all."
"Ay, just so; that is the true state of the matter."
"What, in God's name, am I to do, then?" asked Bryan, in a state of great and evident perplexity.
"I shall tell you; go to an honest man—I don't say, observe, that Chevydale is not honest; but he is weak and negligent, and altogether the slave and dupe of his agent. Go to-morrow morning early, about eight o'clock, fetch another memorial, and wait upon Major Vanston; state your case to him plainly and simply, and, my life for yours, he will not neglect you, at all events. Get a fresh memorial drawn up this very day."
"I can easily do that," said Bryan, "for I have a rough copy of the one I sent; it was Hycy Burke drew it up."
"Hycy Burke," repeated Clinton, starting with surprise, "do you tell me so?"
"Sartinly," replied the other, "why do you ask?"
Clinton shook his head carelessly. "Well," he said, "I am glad of it; it is better late than never. Hycy Burke"—he paused and looked serious a moment,—"yes," he added, "I am glad of it. Go now and follow my advice, and you will have at least a chance of succeeding, and perhaps of defeating your enemies, that is, if you have any."
The pressure of time rendered energy and activity necessary in the case of Bryan; and, accordingly, about eight o'clock next morning, he was seeking permission to speak to the man against whom he and his family had always conscientiously voted—because he had been opposed to the spirit and principles of their religion.
Major Vanston heard his case with patience, inquired more minutely into the circumstances, asked where Ahadarra was, the name of his landlord, and such other circumstance as were calculated to make the case clear.
"Pray, who drew up this memorial?" he asked.
"Mr. Hycy Burke, sir," replied Bryan.
"Ah, indeed," said he, glancing with a singular meaning at M'Mahon.
"You and Burke are intimate then?"
"Why, we are, sir," replied Bryan, "on very good terms."
"And now—Mr.'Burke has obliged you, I suppose, because you have obliged him?"
"Well, I don't know that he has obliged me much," said Bryan, "but I know that I have obliged him a good deal."
Vanston nodded and seemed satisfied.
"Very well," he proceeded; "but, with respect to this memorial. I can't promise you much. Leave it with me, however, and you shall probably hear from me again. I fear we are late in point of time; indeed, I have but faint hopes of it altogether, and I would not recommend you to form any strong expectations from the interference of any one; still, at the same time," he added, looking significantly at him, "I don't desire you to despair altogether."
"He has as much notion," thought Bryan, "of troubling his head about me or my memorial, as I have for standin' candidate for the county. D—n them all! they think of nobody but themselves!"
CHAPTER XVIII.—A Family Dialogue
—Ahadarra not in for it—Bryan's Vote.
Honest Jemmy Burke, we have already said, had brought home his second son, Edward, from school, for the purpose of training him to agricultural pursuits, having now abandoned all notions of devoting him to the Church, as he would have done had Hycy manifested towards him even the ordinary proofs of affection and respect.
"You druv me to it, Rosha," said he to his wife; "but I'll let you both know that I'm able to be masther in my own house still. You have made your pet what he is; but I tell you that if God hasn't said it, you'll curse one another with bitther hearts yet."
"Well, sure you have your own way," replied his wife, "but you wor ever and always self-willed and headstrong. However, it's all the mane blood that's in you; it breaks your heart to see your son a gintleman; but in spite of your strong brogues and felt caubeen, a gentleman he is, and a gentleman he will be, an' that's all I have to say about it. You'll tache your pet to hate his brother, I'll go bail."
"No, indeed, Rosha," he replied, "I know my duty to God and my childre' betther than to turn them against one another; but it's only a proof of how little you know about Edward and his warm and lovin' heart, when you spake as you do."
This indeed was true. Edward Burke was but a short time at home when he saw clearly how matters stood in the family. He was in fact a youth of a most affectionate and generous disposition, and instead of attempting to make the breach wider, as Hycy had he been in his place would have done, he did everything in his power to put the parties into a good state of feeling with each other, and to preserve peace and harmony in the family.
One morning, a few days after Hycy's rejection by Miss Clinton, they were all at breakfast, "the accomplished" being in one of his musical and polite moods, his father bland but sarcastic, and Edward in a state of actual pain on witnessing the wilful disrespect or rather contempt that was implied by Hycy towards his parents. "Well, Ned," said his father, "didn't we spend a pleasant evenin' in Gerald Cavanagh's last night? Isn't Kathleen a darlin'?"
"She is a delightful girl," replied Edward, "it can't be denied; indeed, I don't think I ever saw so beautiful a girl, and as for her figure, it is perfect—perfect."
"Ay," said the father, "and it's she that knows the difference between a decent sensible boy and a—gintleman—a highflyer. She was both kind and civil to you, Ned."
"I don't know as to the kindness," replied Edward; "but she was certainly civil and agreeable, and I don't think it's in her nature to be anything else."
"Except when she ought," said his father; "but listen, Ned—dress yourself up, get a buff waistcoat, a green jockey coat, a riding whip, and a pair o' shinin' top-boots, titivate yourself up like a dandy, then go to her wid lavendher water on your pocket-handkerchy, an' you'll see how she'll settle you. Be my sowl, you'll be the happy boy when you get her; don't you think so, Misther Hycy?"
"Unquestionably, Mr. Burke, when you speak you shame an Oracle; as for Master Ned—why—
"'I'm owre young,—I'm owre young, I'm owre young to marry yet, I'm owre young, 'twould be a sin To take me from my Daddy yet.'
I think, Master Edward, the Boy-god has already taken occupation; the vituline affection for the fair Katsey has set in; heigho, what a delightful period of life is that soft and lickful one of calf love, when the tongue rolls about the dripping lips, the whites of the eyes are turned towards the divine, the ox-eyed Katsey, and you are ready to stagger over and blare out the otherwise unutterable affection."
"Very well described, Hycy, I see you have not forgotten your Homer yet; but really Kathleen Cavanagh is a perfect Juno, and has the large, liquid, soft ox-eye in perfection."
"Let me look at you," said Hycy, turning round and staring at him with a good deal of surprise; "begad, brother Ned, let me ask where you got your connoisseurship upon women? eh? Oh, in the dictionary, I suppose, where the common people say everything is to be found. Observe me, Mr. Burke, you are taking your worthy son out of his proper vocation, the Church. Send him to 'Maynewth,' he is too good a connoisseur on beauty to be out of the Tribunal."
"Hycy," replied his brother, "these are sentiments that do you no credit, it is easy to sneer at religion or those who administer it,—much easier than to praise the one, it would appear, or imitate the virtues of the other."
"Beautiful rebuke," said Hycy, again staring at him; "why, Masther Edward, you are a prodigy of wonderful sense and unspotted virtue; love has made you eloquent—"'I gaed a waefu' gate yestreen, A gate, I fear, I'll dearly rue, I gat my death frae twa sweet e'en, Twa lovely e'en o' bonnie blue, &c, &c.'"
"I am not in love yet, Hycy, but as my father wishes to bring about a marriage between Kathleen and myself, you know," he added, smiling, "it will be my duty to fall in love with her as fast as I can."
"Dutiful youth! what a treasure you will prove to a dignified and gentlemanly parent,—to a fond and doting wife! Shall I however put forth my powers? Shall Hycy the accomplished interpose between Juno and the calf? What sayest thou, my most amiable maternal relative, and why sittest thou so silent and so sad?"
"Indeed, it's no wondher I would, Hycy," replied his mother, whom Edward's return had cast into complete dejection, "when I see your father strivin' to put between his own childre'."
"Me, Rosha!" exclaimed her husband; "God forgive you for that! but when I see that one of my childre' wont spake a word to me with respect or civility—no, not even in his natural voice, it is surely time for ma to try if I can't find affection in his brother."
"Ay," said she, "that's your own way of it; but it's easy seen that your eggin' up Ned agin his brother, bringin' ill will and bad feelin' among a family that was quiet before; ay, an' I suppose you'd be glad to see my heart broke too, and indeed I didn't care it was," and as she spoke the words? were accompanied by sobbings and tears.
"Alas!" said Hyoy, still in the mock heroic—"where is the pride and dignity of woman? Remember, oh maternal relative, that you are the mother of one Gracchus at least! Scorn the hydraulics, I say; abandon the pathetic; cast sorrow to the winds, and—give me another cup of tea."
Edward shook his head at him, as if remonstrating against this most undutiful and contemptuous style of conversation to his mother. "Don't give way to tears, my dear mother," he said; "indeed you do my father injustice; he has neither said nor done anything to turn me against Hycy. Why should he? So far from that, I know that he loves Hycy at heart, all that he wishes is that Hycy would speak to him in his natural voice, and treat him with respect, and the feeling that surely is due to him. And so Hycy will, father; I am sure he respects and loves you in spite of this levity and affectation. All we want is for each to give up a little of his own way—when you become more respectful, Hycy, my father's manner will change too: let us be at least sincere and natural with each other, and there is nothing that I can see to prevent us from living very happily."
"I have some money saved," said Burke, turning to his wife—"a good penny—too, more than the world thinks; and I declare to my God I would give it twice over if I could hear that young man," pointing to Hycy, "speak these words with the same heart and feelings of him that spoke them; but I fear that 'ud be a hopeless wish on my part, an' ever will."
"No, father," said Edward, "it will not—Hycy and you will soon understand one another. Hycy will see what, his duty towards you is, and, sooner than be the means of grieving your heart, he will change the foolish and thoughtless habit that offends you."
"Well, Edward, may God grant it," exclaimed his father rising up from breakfast, "and that's all I have to say——God grant it!"
"Why, Sir Oracle, junior," said Hycy, after his father had gone out, "or rather Solomon Secundus, if you are now an unfledged philosopher on our hand, what will you not be when your opinions are grown?"
"My dear brother," replied Edward, I cannot see what on earth you can propose to yourself by adopting this ridiculous style of conversation I cannot really see any object you can have in it. If it be to vex or annoy my father, can you blame him if he feels both vexed and annoyed at it.
"Most sapiently said, Solomon Secundus—
"'Solomon Lob was a ploughman stout, And a ranting cavalier; And, when the civil war broke out, It quickly did appear That Solomon Lob was six feet high, And fit for a grenadier. So Solomon Lob march'd boldly forth To sounds of bugle horns And a weary march had Solomon Lob, For Solomon Lob had corns. Row,—ra—ra—row—de—dow.'
"And so I wish you a good morning, most sapient Solomon. I go on business of importance affecting—the welfare of the nation, or rather of the empire at large—embracing all these regions, antipodial and otherwise, on which the sun never sets. Good morning, therefore; and, maternal relative, wishing the same to thee, with a less copious exhibition of the hydraulics, a-hem!"
"Where is he going, mother, do you know?" asked Edward.
"Indeed I don't know, Edward," she replied; "he seldom or never tells us anything about his motions; but it vexes me to think that his father won't make any allowance for his lightheartedness and fine spirits. Sure now, Edward, you know yourself it's not raisonable to have a young man like him mumpin' and mopin' about, as if there was a wake in the house?"
The only reply Edward made to this weak and foolish speech was, "Yes; but there is reason in everything, my dear mother. I have heard," he added, "that he is working for the Tory candidate, Vanston, and hope it is not true."
"Why," said his mother, "what differ does it make?"
"Why," replied the other, "that Vanston votes to keep us slaves, and Chevydale to give us our political freedom: the one is opposed to our religion and our liberty, and the other votes for both."
"Troth, as to religion," observed the mother, "the poor boy doesn't trouble his head much about it—bat it's not aisy for one that goes into jinteel society to do so—an' that's what makes Hycy ait mate of a Friday as fast as on any other day."
"I am sorry to hear that, mother," replied Edward; "but Hycy is a very young man still, and will mend all these matters yet."
"And that's what I'm tellin' his father," she replied; "and if you'd only see the way he looks at me, and puts a cuir (* a grin—mostly of contempt) upon him so bitther that it would a'most take the skin off one."
Edward's observations with respect to Hycy's having taken a part in forwarding the interests of Major Vanston were not without foundation. He and Bryan M'Mahon had of late been upon very good terms; and it so happened that in the course of one of their conversations about Kathleen Cavanagh, Bryan had mentioned to him the fact of Kathleen's having heard that he was pledged to vote with Vanston, and repeated the determination to which she had resolved to come if he should do so. Now, it so happened, that a portion of this was already well known to Hycy himself, who, in fact, was the very individual who had assured Major Vanston, and those who canvassed for him, that he himself had secured Bryan. On hearing now from Bryan that Kathleen had put the issue of their affection upon his political truth and consistency he resolved to avail himself of that circumstance if he could. On hearing, besides, however, that Harry Clinton had actually sent him (M'Mahon) to Vanston, and on being told, in the course of conversation, that that gentleman asked who had drawn up the memorial, he felt that every circumstance was turning in his favor; for he determined now to saddle Clinton with the odium which, in this treacherous transaction, was most likely to fall upon himself.
It is not our intention here to describe the brutal and disgraceful scenes that occur at an election. It is enough to say that, after a long, bitter, and tedious struggle, the last day of it arrived. Bryan M'Mahon, having fully satisfied himself that his landlord had not taken a single step to promote his interests in the matter of the memorial, resolved from the beginning not to vote in his favor, and, of course, not to vote at all.
On the morning of the last day, with the exception of himself alone, a single voter had not been left unpolled; and the position of the two candidates was very peculiar, both having polled exactly the same number of votes, and both being consequently equal.
Bryan, having left home early, was at breakfast about eleven o'clock, in a little recess off the bar of the head-inn, which was divided from one end of the coffee-room by a thin partition of boards, through which anything spoken in an ordinary tone of voice in that portion of the room could be distinctly heard. Our readers may judge of his surprise on hearing the following short but pithy dialogue of which he himself formed the subject matter. The speakers, with whom were assembled several of his landlord's committee, being no other than that worthy gentleman and his agent.
"What's to be done?" asked Chevydale; "here is what we call a dead heat. Can no one prevail on that obstinate scoundrel, the Ahadarra man—what do ye call, him? M'Master—M'Manus—-M'—eh?"
"M'Mahon," replied Fethertonge, "I fear not; but, at all events, we must try him again. Vote or not, however, we shall soon clear him out of Ahadarra—we shall punish his insolence for daring to withhold his vote; for, as sure as my name is Fethertonge, out he goes. The fine and distillation affair, however, will save us a good deal of trouble, and of course I am very glad you declined to have anything to do with the support of his petition. The fellow is nothing else than shuffler, as I told you. Vote or not, therefore, out of Ahadarra he goes; and, when he does, I have a good tenant to put in his place."
M'Mahon's blood boiled on hearing this language, and he inwardly swore that, let the consequences be what they might, a vote of his should never go to the support of such a man.
Again we return to Hycy Burke, who, when the day of the great struggle arrived, rode after breakfast on that same morning into Ballymacan, and inquired at the post-office if there were any letters for him.
"No," replied the postmaster; "but, if you see Bryan M'Mahon, tell him I have here one for him, from Major Vanston—it's his frank and his handwriting."
"I'm going directly to him," said Hycy, "and will bring it to him; so you had better hand it here."
The postmaster gave him the letter, and in a few minutes Hycy was on his way home with as much speed as his horse was capable of making.
"Nanny," said he, calling upon Nanny Peety, when he had put his horse in the stable and entered the parlor, "will you fetch me a candle and some warm water?"
"Yes, sir," said Nanny; "but you must wait till I boil some, for there's none hot."
"Be quick, then," said he, "for I'm in a devil of a hurry. Shut the door after you, I say. What is the reason that you never do so, often as I have spoken to you about it?"
"Becaise it's never done," she replied; "nobody ever bids me shut it but yourself, an' that's what makes me forget it."
"Well, I'll thank you," he said, "to pay more attention to what I say to you I have reason to think you both intrusive and ungrateful, Nanny; and, mark, unless you show me somewhat more submission, madam, you shall pitch your camp elsewhere. It was I brought you here."
"Ax your own conscience why, Mr. Hycy."
"Begone now and get me the hot water," he said, with a frown of anger and vexation, heightened probably by the state of agitation into which the possession of Vanston's letter had already put him.
We shall not follow him through all the ingenious and dishonorable manoeuvres by which he got the communication safely open-ed; it is enough to say that, in the course of a few minutes, he was enabled to peruse the contents of Vanston's communication, which were as follows:—
Sir,—I beg to enclose you a letter which I received yesterday from the Secretary to the Board of Excise, and to assure you that I feel much pleasure in congratulating you upon its contents, and the satisfactory result of your memorial.
"I am, sir, very sincerely yours,
"To Mr. Bryan M'Mahon,
"Sir,—I have had the honor of reading your communication in favor of Bryan M'Mahon, of Ahadarra, and of submitting that and his own memorial to the Commissioners of Excise, who, after maturely weighing the circumstances, and taking into consideration the excellent character which memoralist has received at your hands, have been pleased to reduce the fine originally imposed upon him to the sum of fifty pounds. The Commissioners are satisfied that memorialist, having been in no way connected with the illicit distillation which was carried on upon his property, is not morally liable to pay the penalty; but, as they have not the power of wholly remitting it they have reduced it as far the law has given them authority.
"I have the honor to be, sir, your faithful and obedient servant,
"To Major Vanston, &c, &c."
Hycy, having perused these documents, re-sealed them in such a manner as to evade all suspicion of their having been opened.
"Now," thought he, "what is to be done? Upon the strength of this, it is possible I may succeed in working up M'Mahon to vote for Vanston; for I know into what an enthusiasm of gratitude the generous fool will be thrown by them. If he votes for Vanston, I gain several points. First and foremost, the round some of three hundred. If I can get his vote, I establish my own veracity, which, as matters stand, will secure Vanston the election; I, also, having already secretly assured the Tory gentleman that I could secure him, or rather, I can turn my lie into truth, and make Vanston my friend. Secondly, knowing as I do, that it was by Harry Clinton's advice the clod-hopper went to him, I can shift the odium of his voting for Vanston upon that youth's shoulders, whose body, by the way, does not contain a single bone that I like; and, thirdly, having by his apostacy and treachery, as it will be called, placed an insurmountable barrier between himself and the divine Katsey, I will change my course with Jemmy, the gentleman—my sarcastic dad—return and get reconciled with that whelp of a brother of mine, and by becoming a good Christian, and a better Catholic, I have no doubt but I shall secure the 'Ox-eyed,' as I very happily named her the other morning. This, I think, will be making the most of the cards, and, as the moment is critical, I shall seek the clod-hopper and place this seasonable communication in his hands."
He accordingly rode rapidly into town again, where he had not been many minutes when he met M'Mahon, burning with indignation at the language of his landlord and the agent.
"I cannot have patience, Hycy," he exclaimed, "under such scoundrelly language as this; and while I have breath in my body, he never shall have my vote!"
"What's the matter, Bryan?" he asked; "you seem flushed."
"I do, Hycy, because I am flushed, and not without reason. I tell you that my landlord, Chevydale, is a scoundrel, and Fethertonge a deceitful villain."
"Pooh, man, is that by way of information? I thought you had something in the shape of novelty to tell me. What has happened, however, and why are you in such a white heat of indignation?"
M'Mahon immediately detailed the conversation which he had overheard behind the bar of the inn, and we need scarcely assure our readers that Hycy did not omit the opportunity of throwing oil upon the fire which blazed so strongly.
"Bryan," said he, "I know the agent to be a scoundrel, and what is nearer the case still, I have every reason—but you must not ask me to state them yet,—I have every reason to suspect that it is Fethertonge, countenanced by Chevydale, who is at the bottom of the distillation affair that has ruined you. The fact is, they are anxious to get you out of Ahadarra, and thought that by secretly ruining you, they could most plausibly effect it."
"I have now no earthly doubt of it, Hycy," replied the other.
"You need not," replied Hycy; "and maybe I'm not far astray when I say, that the hook-nosed old Still-hound, Clinton, is not a thousand miles from the plot. I could name others connected with some of them—but I wont, now."
When M'Mahon recollected the conversation which both Clinton and the agent had held with him, with respect to violating the law, the truth of Hycy's remark flashed upon him at once, and of course deepened his indignation almost beyond endurance.
"They are two d—d scoundrels," pursued Hycy, "and I have reasons, besides, for suspecting that it was their wish, if they could have done it successfully, to have directed your suspicions against myself."
M'Mahon was, in fact, already convinced of this, and felt satisfied that he saw through and understood the whole design against him, and was perfectly aware of those who had brought him to ruin.
"By the way," said Hycy, "let me not forget that I have been looking for you this hour or two; here is a letter I got for you in! the post-office this morning. It has Vanston's frank, and I think is in his handwriting."
M'Mahon's face, on perusing the letter, beamed with animation and delight. "Here, Hycy," said he, "read that; I'm safe yet, thank God, and not a ruined man, as the villains thought to make me."
"By my soul and honor, Bryan," exclaimed the other, "that is noble on the part of Vanston, especially towards an individual from whom, as well as from his whole family, he has ever experienced the strongest opposition. However, if I were in your coat, I certainly would not suffer him to outdo me in generosity. Good heavens! only contrast such conduct with that of the other scoundrel, his opponent, and then see the conclusion you must come to."
"Let Vanston be what he may, he's an honest man," replied Bryan, "and in less than ten minutes I'll have him the sittin' member. I would be ungrateful and ungenerous, as you say, Hycy, not to do so. Come along—come along, I bid you. I don't care what they say. The man that saved me—who was his enemy—from ruin, will have my vote."
They accordingly proceeded towards the court house, and on their way Hycy addressed him as follows:—"Now, Bryan, in order to give your conduct an appearance of greater generosity, I will pretend to dissuade you against voting for Vanston, or, rather, I will endeavor, as it were, to get your vote for Chevydale. This will make the act more manly and determined on your part, and consequently one much more high-minded and creditable to your reputation. You will show them, besides, that you are not the cowardly slave of your landlord."
It was accordingly so managed; the enthusiastic gratitude of the young man overcame all considerations; and in a few minutes Major Vanston was declared by the sheriff duly elected, by a majority of one vote only.
It is no part of our intention to describe the fierce sensation which this victory created among the greater portion of the people. The tumult occasioned by their indignation and fury was outrageous and ruffianly as usual; but as the election had now terminated, it soon ceased, and the mobs began to disperse to their respective homes. Bryan for some three hours or so was under the protection of the military, otherwise he would have been literally torn limb from limb. In the mean time we must follow Hycy.
This worthy and straightforward young gentleman, having now accomplished his purpose, and been the means of M'Mahon having exposed himself to popular vengeance, took the first opportunity of withdrawing from him secretly, and seeking Vanston's agent. Having found him, and retired out of hearing, he simply said—
"I will trouble you for three hundred."
"You shall have it," replied that honest gentleman; "you shall have it. We fully acknowledge the value of your services in this matter; it is to them we owe our return."
"There is no doubt in the matter," replied Hycy; "but you know not my difficulty, nor the dexterous card I had to play in accomplishing my point."
"We are sensible of it all," replied the other; "here," said he, pulling out his pocket-book, "are three notes for one hundred each."
"Give me two fifties," said Hycy, "instead of this third note, and you will oblige me. By the way, here is the major." With this the other immediately complied, without the major having been in any way cognizant of the transaction.
On entering the inner room where they stood, Vanston shook hands most cordially with Hycy, and thanked him in very warm language for the part he took, to which he had no hesitation in saying he owed his return.
"Look upon me henceforth as a friend, Mr. Burke," he added, "and a sincere one, who will not forget the value of your influence with the young man whose vote has gained me the election. I have already served him essentially,—in fact saved him from ruin, and I am very glad of it."
"I really feel very much gratified, Major Vanston, that I have had it in my power," replied Hycy, "to render you any service of importance; and if I ever should stand in need of a favor at your hands, I shall not hesitate to ask it."
"Nor I to grant it, Mr. Burke, if it be within the reach of my influence."
"In the mean time," said Hycy, "will you oblige me with a single franc?"
"Certainly, Mr. Burke; with half a dozen of them."
"Thank you, sir, one will be quite sufficient; I require no more."
The major, however, gave him half a dozen of them, and after some further chat, and many expressions of obligation on the part of the new M.P., Hycy withdrew.
CHAPTER XIX.—Bryan Bribed—is Rejected by Kathleen.
In the course of about two or three hours after the transaction already stated, old Peety Dim was proceeding towards the post-office with a letter, partly in his closed hand, and partly up the inside of his sleeve, so as that it might escape observation. The crowds were still tumultuous, but less so than in the early part of the day; for, as we said, they were diminishing in numbers, those who had been so long from home feeling a natural wish to return to their families and the various occupations and duties of life which they had during this protracted contest been forced to neglect. Peety had got as far as the market-house—which was about the centre of the street—on his way, we say, to the post-office, when he met his daughter Nanny, who, after a few words of inquiry, asked him where he was going.
"Faith, an' that's more than I dare tell you," he replied.
"Why," she said, "is there a saicret in it, I'm sure you needn't keep it from me, whatever it is."
This she added in a serious and offended tone, which, however, was not lost on the old man.
"Well," said he, "considherin' the man he is, an' what you know about him, I think I may as well tell you. It's a letther I'm bringin' to slip into the post-office, unknownst."
"Is it from Hycy?" she asked.
"From Hycy, and no other."
"I'll hould a wager," she replied, "that that's the very letther I seen him openin' through the key hole doar this mornin'. Do you know who it's to?" she inquired.
"Oh, the sorra know; he said it was a love-letther, and that he did not wish to be seen puttin' it in himself."
"Wait," said she, "give it to me here for a minute; here's Father M'Gowan comin' up, and I'll ax him who it's directed to."
She accordingly took the letter out of his hand, and approaching the priest, asked him the name of the person to whom it was addressed.
"Plaise your reverence," she said, "what name's on the back of this?—I mane," said she, "who is goin' to?"
The priest looked at it, and at once replied, "It is goin' to Bryan M'Mahon, of Ahadarra, the traitor, and it comes from Major Vanston, the enemy to his liberty and religion, that his infamous vote put into Parliament, to rivet our chains, and continue our degradation. So there, girl, you have now the bigot from whom it comes, and the apostate to whom it goes. Who gave it to you?"
Nanny, who from some motives of her own, felt reluctant to mention Hycy's name in the matter, hastily replied, "A person, plaise your reverence, from Major Vanston."
"Very well, girl, discharge your duty," said the priest; "but I tell you the devil will never sleep well till he has his clutches in the same Major, as well as in the shameless apostate he has corrupted."
Having uttered these words, he passed on, and Nanny in a minute or two afterwards returned the letter to her father, who with his own hands put it into the post-office.
"Now," said she to her father, "the people is scatterin' themselves homewards; and the streets is gettin' clear—but listen—that letter is directed to Bryan M'Mahon; will you keep about the post-office here; Bryan's in town, an' it's likely when the danger's over that he may be passin'. Now you know that if he does, the people in the shop where the post-office is kep' will see him, an' maybe he'll get the letter to-day, or I'll tell you what, watch Hycy; take my word for it, he has some scheme afoot."
"Hycy's no favorite wid you, Nanny."
"Why you know he's not, an' indeed I don't know why he's one wid you."
"Throth an' he is, many a shillin' an' sixpence he throws me,—always does indeed wherever he meets me."
"No matter, maybe the day will soon come when you'll change your opinion of him, that's all I say, except to keep your eye on him; and I'll tell you why I bid you, some day soon."
"Well, achora, maybe I may change my opinion of him; but at present I say he is my favorite, an' will be so, till I know worse about him."
Nanny, having bade him good-bye, and repeated her wish that the old man would watch the post-office for some time, proceeded up the street in the direction of the grocer's, to whom she had been dispatched for groceries.
Two hours more had now elapsed, the crowds were nearly dispersed, and the evening was beginning to set in, when Hycy Burke called at the post-office, and for the second time during the day, asked if there was a letter for him.
The post-master searched again, and replied, "No; but here's another for Bryan M'Mahon."
"What!" he exclaimed, "another for Bryan! Why he must have an extensive correspondence, this Bryan M'Mahon. I wonder who it's from."
"There's no wonder at all about it," replied the post-master, "it's from Major Vanston. Here's his frank and handwriting in the direction and all."
"Allow me to look," said Hycy, glancing at it. "Yes, you are quite right, that is the gallant Major's hand, without any mistake whatsoever. I will not fetch him this letter," he proceeded, "because I know not when I may see him; but if I see him, I shall tell him."
Peety Dim, who had so placed himself in the shop attached to the post-office, on seeing Hycy approach, that he might overhear this conversation without being seen, felt, considerably surprised that Hycy should seem to have been ignorant that there was a letter for M'Mahon, seeing that it was he himself who had sent it there. He consequently began to feel that there was some mystery in the matter; but whatever it might be, he knew that it was beyond his power to develop.
On coming forward from the dark part of the shop, where he had been standing, he asked the post-master if there was a second letter for M'Mahon.
"No," replied the man, "there is only the one. If you see him, tell him there's a letter from Major Vanston in the office for him."
We must still trace Hycy's motions. On leaving the post-office, he went directly to the Head Inn, where he knew Bryan M'Mahon was waiting until the town should become perfectly calm and quiet. Here he found Bryan, whose mind was swayed now to one side and now to another, on considering the principle on which he had voted, and the consequences to which that act might expose him.
"I know I will have much to endure," he thought, while pacing the room by himself in every way, "but I little value anything the world at large may think or say, so that I don't lose the love and good opinion of Kathleen Cavanagh."
"Why, Bryan," said Hycy, as he entered, "I think you must provide a secretary some of these days, your correspondence is increasing so rapidly."
"How is that?" inquired the other.
"Simply that there's another letter in the post-office for you, and if I don't mistake, from the same hand—that of our friend the Major."
"I'm not aware of anything he could have to write to me about now," replied Bryan; "I wonder what can it be?"
"If you wish I shall fetch you the letter," said Hycy, "as you have an objection I suppose to go out until the town is empty."
"Thank you, Hycy, I'll feel obliged to you if you do; and Hycy, by the way, I am sorry that you and I ever mistook or misunderstood one another; but sich things happen to the best of friends, and why should we hope to escape?"
"Speak only for yourself, Bryan," replied Hycy, "the misunderstanding was altogether on your side, not on mine. I always knew your value and esteemed you accordingly. I shall fetch your letter immediately."
On returning he placed the document aforesaid in M'Mahon's hands, and said, in imitation of his friend Teddy Phats—"Come now, read her up." Bryan opened the letter, and in the act of doing so a fifty pound note presented itself, of which, as it had been cut in two, one half fell to the ground.
"Hallo!" exclaimed Hycy, suddenly taking it up, "this looks well—what have we here? A fifty pound note!"
"Yes," replied Bryan; "but why cut in two? here however is something written, too—let me see—
"'Accept this as an earnest of better things for important services. The fine imposed upon you has been reduced to fifty pounds—this will pay it.
"A DEEPLY OBLIGED FRIEND.'"
The two young men looked at each other for some time without speaking. At length M'Mahon's face became crimsoned with indignation!
"Who could have dared to do this?" said he, once more looking at the bank-note and the few lines that accompanied it. "Who durst suppose that a M'Mahon would sell his vote for a bribe? Did Vanston suppose that money would sway me? for this I am sure must be his work."
"Don't be too sure of that," replied Hycy; "don't be too sure that it's not some one that wishes you worse than Vanston does. In my opinion, Bryan, that letter and the note contained in it were sent to you by some one who wishes to have it whispered abroad that you were bribed. It surely could not be Vanston's interest to injure your character or your circumstances in any sense; and I certainly think him too honorable to deal in an anonymous bribe of that kind."
"Some scoundrel has done it, that's clear; but what would you have me to do, Hycy? You are up to life and know the world a great deal better than I do; how ought I to act now?"
"I'll tell you candidly, my dear Bryan, how I think you ought to act, or at least how I would act myself if I were in your place." He then paused for a minute and proceeded:—"You know I may be wrong, Bryan, but I shall advise you at all events honestly, and to the best of my ability. I would keep this letter and this note, and by the way, what else can you do?—I would say nothing whatsoever about it. The secret, you know, rests with yourself and me, with the exception of the party that sent it. Now, mark me, I say—if the party that sent this be a friend, there will be no more about it—it will drop into the grave; but if it came from an enemy the cry of bribery will be whispered about, and there will be an attack made on your character. In this case you can be at no loss as to the source from whence the communication came—Fethertonge will then most assuredly be the man; or, harkee, who knows but the whole thing is an electioneering trick resorted to for the purpose of impugning your vote, and of getting Vanston out on petition and scrutiny. Faith and honor, Bryan, I think that this last is the true reading."
"I'm inclined to agree with you there," replied Bryan, "that looks like the truth; and even then I agree with you still that Fethertonge is at the bottom of it. Still how am I to act?"
"In either case, Bryan, precisely as I said. Keep the letter and the bank-note; say nothing about it—that is clearly your safest plan; do not let them out of your hands, for the time may come when it will be necessary to your own character to show them."
"Well, then, I will be guided by you, Hycy. As you say no one knows the secret but yourself and me; if it has come from a friend he will say nothing about it, but if it has come from an enemy it will be whispered about; but at all events I have you as proof that it did not come to me by any bargain of mine."
Hycy spoke not a word, but clapped him approvingly on the shoulder, as much as to say—"Exactly so, that is precisely the fact," and thus ended the dialogue.
We all know that the clearer the mirror the slighter will be the breath necessary to stain it; on the breast of an unsullied shirt the most minute speck will be offensively visible. So it is with human character and integrity. Had Bryan M'Mahon belonged to a family of mere ordinary reputation—to a family who had generally participated in all the good and evil of life, as they act upon and shape the great mass of society, his vote might certainly have created much annoyance to his party for a very brief period—just as other votes given from the usual motives—sometimes right and honorable—sometimes wrong and corrupt—usually do. In his case, however, there was something calculated to startle and alarm all those who knew and were capable of appreciating the stainless honor and hereditary integrity of the family. The M'Mahon's, though inoffensive and liberal in their intercourse with the world, even upon matters of a polemical nature, were nevertheless deeply and devotedly attached to their own religion, and to all those who in any way labored or contributed to relieve it of its disabilities, and restore those who professed it to that civil liberty which had been so long denied them. This indeed was very natural on the part of the M'Mahons, who would sooner have thought of taking to the highway, or burning their neighbor's premises, than supporting the interests or strengthening the hands of any public man placed, in a position to use a hostile influence against them. There was only one other family in the barony, who in all that the M'Mahon's felt respecting their religion and civil liberty, Were far in advance of them. These were the Cavanaghs, between whom and the M'Mahons their existed so many strong points of resemblance that they only differed from the others in degree—especially on matters connected with religion and its privileges. In these matters the Cavanaghs were firm, stern, and inflexible—nay, so heroic was the enthusiasm and so immovable the attachment of this whole family to their creed, that we have no hesitation whatever in saying that they would have laid down their lives in its defence, or for its promotion, had such a sacrifice been demanded from them. On such a family, then, it is scarcely necessary to describe the effects of what was termed Bryan M'Mahon's apostacy. The intelligence came upon them in fact like a calamity. On the very evening before, Gerald Cavanagh, now a fierce advocate for Edward Burke, having, in compliance with old Jemmy, altogether abandoned Hycy, had been urging upon Kathleen the prudence and propriety of giving Bryan M'Mahon up, and receiving the address of young Burke, who was to inherit the bulk of his father's wealth and property; and among other arguments against M'Mahon he stated a whisper then gaining ground, that it was his intention to vote for Vanston.
"But I know to the contrary, father," said Kathleen, "for I spoke to him on that very subject, and Bryan M'Mahon is neither treacherous nor cowardly, an' won't of course abandon his religion or betray it into the hands of its enemies. Once for all, then," she added, calmly, and with a smile full of affection and good humor, "I say you may spare both yourself and me a great deal of trouble, my dear father, I grant you that I like and esteem Edward Burke as a friend, an' I think that he really is what his brother Hycy wishes himself to be thought—a true gentleman—but that is all, father, you know; for I would scorn to conceal it, that Bryan M'Mahon has my affections, and until he proves false to his God, his religion, and his country, I will never prove false to him nor withdraw my affections from him."
"For all that," replied her father, "it's strongly suspected that he's goin' over to the tories, an' will vote for Vanston to-morrow."
Kathleen rose with a glowing cheek, and an eye sparkling with an enthusiastic trust in her lover's faith; "No, father," said she, "by the light of heaven above us, he will never vote for Vanston—unless Vanston becomes the friend of our religion. I have only one worthless life, but if I had a thousand, and that every one of them was worth a queen's, I'd stake them all on Bryan M'Mahon's truth. If he ever turns traitor—let me die before I hear it, I pray God this night!"
As she spoke, the tears of pride, trust, and the noble attachment by which she was moved, ran down her cheeks; in fact, the natural dignity and high moral force of her character awed them, and her father completely subdued, simply replied:—
"Very well, Kathleen; I'll say no more, dear; I won't press the matter on you again, and so I'll tell Jemmy Burke."
Kathleen, after wiping away her tears, thanked him, and said with a smile, and in spite of the most boundless confidence in the integrity of her lover, "never, at any rate, father, until Bryan M'Mahon turns a traitor to his religion and his country."
On the evening of the next day, or rather late at night, her father returned from the scene of contest, but very fortunately for Kathleen's peace of mind during that night, he found on inquiry that she and Hanna had been for a considerable time in bed. The following morning Hanna, who always took an active share in the duties of the family, and who would scarcely permit her sister to do anything, had been up a short time before her, and heard from her mother's lips the history of Bryan's treachery, as it was now termed by all. We need scarcely say that she was deeply affected, and wept bitterly. Kathleen, who rose a few minutes afterwards, thought she saw her sister endeavoring to conceal her face, but the idea passed away without leaving anything like a fixed impression upon it. Hanna, who was engaged in various parts of the house, contrived still to keep her face from the observation of her sister, until at length the latter was ultimately struck by the circumstance as well as by Hanna's unusual silence. Just as her father had entered to breakfast, a sob reached her ears, and on going over to inquire if anything were wrong, Hanna, who was now fairly overcome, and could conceal her distress no longer, ran over, and throwing herself on Kathleen's neck, she exclaimed in a violent burst of grief, "Kathleen, my darling sister, what will become of you! It's all true. Bryan has proved false and a traitor; he voted for Vanston yesterday, and that vote has put the bitter enemy of our faith into Parliament."
"Bryan M'Mahon a traitor!" exclaimed Kathleen; "no, Hanna—no, I say—a thousand times no. It could not be—the thing is impossible—impossible!"
"It is as true as God's in heaven, that he voted yesterday for Vanston," said her father; "I both seen him and heard him, an' that vote it was that gained Vanston the election."
Hanna, whose arms were still around her sister's neck, felt her stagger beneath her on hearing those words from her father.
"You say you saw him, father, and h'ard him vote for Vanston. You say you did?"
"I both seen the traitor an' h'ard him," replied the old man.
"Hanna, dear, let me sit down," said Kathleen, and Hanna, encircling her with one hand, drew a chair over with the other, on which, with a cheek pale as death, her sister sat, whilst Hanna still wept with her arms about her. After a long silence, she at last simply said:—
"I must bear it; but in this world my happiness is gone."
"Don't take it so much to heart avourneen," said her mother; "but, any way, hadn't you betther see himself, an' hear what he has to say for himself. Maybe, afther all, it's not so bad as it looks. See him, Kathleen; maybe there's not so much harm in it yet."
"No, mother, see him I will not, in that sense—Bryan M'Mahon a traitor! Am I a dreamer? I am not asleep, and Bryan M'Mahon is false to God and his country! I did think that he would give his life for both, if he was called upon to do so; but not that he would prove false to them as he has done."
"He has, indeed," said her father, "and the very person you hate so much, bad as you think him, did all in his power to prevent him from doin' the black deed. I seen that, too, and h'ard it. Hycy persuaded him as much as he could against it; but he wouldn't listen to him, nor pay him any attention."
"Kathleen," said her sister, "the angels in heaven fell, and surely it isn't wonderful that even a good man should be tempted and fall from the truth as they did?"
Kathleen seemed too much abstracted by her distress to hear this. She looked around at them all, one after another, and said in a low, composed, and solemn voice, "All is over now between that young man and me—and here is one request which I earnestly entreat you—every one of you—to comply with."
"What is it darling?" said her mother.
"It is," she replied, "never in my hearing to mention his name while I live. As for myself, I will never name him!"
"And think, after all," observed her father, "of poor Hycy bein' true to his religion!"
It would seem that her heart was struggling to fling the image of M'Mahon from it, but without effect. It was likely she tried to hate him for his apostacy, but she could not. Still, her spirit was darkened with scorn and indignation at the act of dishonor which she felt her lover had committed, just as the atmosphere is by a tempest. In fact, she detested what she considered the baseness and treachery of the vote; but could not of a sudden change a love so strong, so trusting, and so pure as hers, into the passions of enmity and hatred. No sooner, however, had her father named Hycy Burke with such approval, than the storm within her directed itself against him, and she said, "For God's sake, father, name not that unprincipled wretch to me any more. I hate and detest him more than any man living he has no good quality to redeem him. Ah! Hanna, Hanna, and is it come to this? The dream of my happiness has vanished, and I awake to nothing now but affliction and sorrow. As for happiness, I must think of that no more, father, after breakfast, do you go up to that young man and tell him the resolution I have come to, and that it is over for ever between him and. me."
Soon after this, she once more exacted a promise from them to observe a strict silence on the unhappy event which had occurred, and by no means ever to attempt offering her consolation. These promises they religiously kept, and from this forth neither M'Mahon's name nor his offence were made the topics of any conversation that occurred between them.
CHAPTER XX.—M'Mahon is Denounced from the Altar
—Receives his Sentence from Kathleen, and Resolves to Emigrate.
Whatever difficulty Bryan M'Mahon had among his family in defending the course he had taken at the election, he found that not a soul belonging to his own party would listen to any defense from him. The indignation, obloquy, and spirit of revenge with which he was pursued and harassed, excited in his heart, as they would in that of any generous man conscious of his own integrity, a principle of contempt and defiance, which, however they required independence in him, only made matters far worse than they otherwise would have been. He expressed neither regret nor repentance for having voted as he did; but on the contrary asserted with a good deal of warmth, that if the same course lay open to him he would again pursue it.
"I will never vote for a scoundrel," said he, "and I don't think that there is anything in my religion that makes it a duty on me to do so. If my religion is to be supported by scoundrels, the sooner it is forced to depend on itself the better. Major Vanston is a good landlord, and supports the rights of his tenantry, Catholic as well as Protestant; he saved me from ruin when my own landlord refused to interfere for me, an' Major Vanston, if he's conscientiously opposed to my religion, is an honest man at all events, and an honest man I'll ever support against a rogue, and let their politics go where they generally do, go to the devil."
Party is a blind, selfish, infatuated monster, brutal and vehement, that knows not what is meant by reason, justice, liberty, or truth. M'Mahon, merely because he gave utterance with proper spirit to sentiments of plain common sense, was assailed by every description of abuse, until he knew not where to take refuge from that cowardly and ferocious tyranny which in a hundred shapes proceeded from the public mob. On the Sunday after the election, his parish priest, one of those political fire-brands, who whether under a mitre or a white band, are equally disgraceful and detrimental to religion and the peaceful interests of mankind—this man, we say, openly denounced him from the altar, in language which must have argued but little reverence for the sacred place from which it was uttered, and which came with a very bad grace from one who affected to be an advocate for liberty of conscience and a minister of peace.
"Ay," he proceeded, standing on the altar, "it is well known to our disgrace and shame how the election was lost. Oh, well may I say to our disgrace and shame. Little did I think that any one, bearing the once respectable name of M'Mahon upon him, should turn from the interests of his holy church, spurn all truth, violate all principle, and enter into a league of hell with the devil and the enemies of his church. Yes, you apostate," he proceeded, "you have entered into a league with him, and ever since there is devil within you. You sold yourself to his agent and representative, Vanston, You got him to interfere for you with the Board of Excise, and the fine that was justly imposed on you for your smugglin' and distillin' whiskey—not that I'm runin' down our whiskey, because it's the best drinkin of that kind we have, and drinks beautiful as scalhleen, wid a bit of butther and sugar in it—but it's notorious that you went to Vanston, and offered if he'd get the fine off you, that you'd give him your vote; an' if that's not sellin' yourself to the devil, I don't know what is. Judas did the same thing when he betrayed our Savior—the only difference is—that he got a thirty shilling note—an' God knows it was a beggarly bargain—when his hand was in he ought to have done the thing dacent—and you got the fine taken off you; that's the difference—that's the difference. But there's more to come—more corruption where that was. Along wid the removal of the fine you got a better note than Mr. Judas got. Do you happen to know anything about a fifty pound note cut in two halves? Eh? Am I tickling you? Do you happen to know anything about that, you traicherous apostate? If you don't, I do; and plaise God before many hours the public will know enough of it, too. How dare you, then, polute the house of God, or come in presence of His Holy altar, wid such a crust of crimes upon your soul? Can you deny that you entered into a league of hell wid the devil and Major Vanston, and that you promised him your vote if he'd get the fine removed?"
"I can," replied Bryan; "there's not one word of truth in it."
"Do you hear that, my friends?" exclaimed the priest; "he calls your priest a liar upon the altar of the livin' God."
Here M'Mahon was assailed by such a storm of groans and hisses as, to say the least of it, was considerably at variance with the principles of religion and the worship of God.
"Do you deny," the priest proceeded, "that you received a bribe of fifty pounds on the very day you voted? Answer me that."
"I did receive a fifty-pound note in a—"
Further he could not proceed. It was in vain that he attempted to give a true account of the letter and its enclosure; the enmity was not confined to either groans or hisses. He was seized upon in the very chapel, dragged about in all directions, kicked, punched, and beaten, until the apprehension of having a murder committed in presence of God's altar caused the priest to interfere. M'Mahon, however, was ejected from the chapel; but in such a state that, for some minutes, it could scarcely be ascertained whether he was alive or dead. After he had somewhat recovered, his friends assisted him home, where he lay confined to a sick bed for better than a week.
Such is a tolerably exact description of scenes which have too frequently taken place in the country, to the disgrace of religion and the dishonor of God. We are bound to say, however, that none among the priesthood encourage or take a part in them, unless those low and bigoted firebrands who are alike remarkable for vulgarity and ignorance, and who are perpetually inflamed by that meddling spirit which tempts them from the quiet path of duty into scenes of political strife and enmity, in which they seem to be peculiarly at home. Such scenes are repulsive to the educated priest, and to all who, from superior minds and information, are perfectly aware that no earthly or other good, but, on the contrary, much bitterness, strife, and evil, ever result from them.
Gerald Cavanagh was by no means so deeply affected by M'Mahon's vote as were his two daughters. He looked upon the circumstance as one calculated to promote the views which he entertained for Kathleen's happiness. Ever since the notion of her marriage with Hycy Burke or his brother—it mattered little to him which—he felt exceedingly dissatisfied with her attachment to M'Mahon. Of this weakness, which we may say, was the only one of the family, we have already spoken. He lost little time, however, in going to communicate his daughter's determination to that young man. It so happened, however, that, notwithstanding three several journeys made for the purpose, he could not see him; the fact being that Bryan always happened to be from home when he went. Then came the denouncing scene which we have just described, when his illness put it out of his power, without danger to himself, to undergo anything calculated to discompose or disturb him. The popular feeling, however, was fearfully high and indignant against him. The report went that he had called Father M'Pepper, the senior curate, a liar upon the very altar; and the commencement of his explanation with respect to the fifty-pound note, was, not unnaturally—since they would not permit him to speak—construed into an open admission of his having been bribed.
This was severe and trying enough, but it was not all. Chevydale, whom he unseated by his vote, after having incurred several thousand pounds of expense, was resolved to make him suffer for the loss of his seat, as well as for having dared to vote against him—a purpose in which he was strongly supported, or into which, we should rather say, he was urged by Fethertonge, who, in point of fact, now that the leases had dropped, was negotiating a beneficial bargain with the gauger, apart from Chevydale's knowledge, who was a feeble, weak-minded man, without experience or a proper knowledge of his duties. In fact, he was one of,those persons who, having no fixed character of their own, are either good or evil, according to the principles of those by whom they happen for the time to be managed. If Chevydale had been under the guidance of a sensible and humane agent, he would have been a good landlord; but the fact being otherwise, he was, in Fethertonge's hands, anything but what a landlord ought to be. Be this as it may, the period of M'Mahon's illness passed away, and, on rising from his sick bed, he found the charge of bribery one of universal belief, against which scarcely any person had the courage to raise a voice. Even Hycy suffered himself, as it were, with great regret and reluctance, to become at length persuaded of its truth. Kathleen, on hearing that he himself had been forced to admit it in the chapel, felt that the gloom which had of late wrapped her in its shadow now became so black and impervious that she could see nothing distinctly. The two facts—that is to say, the vote and the bribery—seemed to her like some frightful hallucination which lay upon her spirits—some formidable illusion that haunted her night and day, and filled her whole being with desolation and sorrow.
With respect to his own feelings, there was but one thought which gave him concern, and this was an apprehension that Kathleen might be carried away by the general prejudice which existed against him.
"I know Kathleen, however," he would say; "I know her truth, her good sense, and her affection; and, whatever the world may say, she won't follow its example and condemn me without a hearing. I will see her tomorrow and explain all to her. Father," he added, "will you ask Dora if she will walk with me to the Long-shot Meadow? I think a stroll round it will do me good. I haven't altogether recovered my strength yet."
"To be sure I will go with you, Bryan," said the bright-eyed and affectionate sister; "to be sure I will; it's on my way to Gerald Cavanagh's; and I'm going down to see how they are, and to know if something I heard about them is thrue. I want to satisfy myself; but they musn't get on their high horse with me, I can tell them."
"You never doubted me, Dora," said Bryan, as they went along—"you never supposed for a moment that I could"—he paused. "I know," he added, "that it doesn't look well; but you never supposed that I acted from treachery, or deceit, or want of affection or respect for my religion? You don't suppose that what all the country is ringin' with—that I took a bribe or made a bargain with Vanston—is true?"
"Why do you ask me such questions?" she replied. "You acted on the spur of the minute; and I say, afther what you heard from the landlord and agent, if you had voted for him you'd be a mane, pitiful hound, unworthy of your name and family. You did well to put him out. If I had been in your place, 'out you go,' I'd say, 'you're not the man for my money.' Don't let what the world says fret you, Bryan; sure, while you have Kathleen and me at your back, you needn't care about them. At any rate, it's well for Father M'Pepper that I'm not a man, or, priest as he is, I'd make a stout horsewhip tiche him to mind his religion, and not intermeddle in politics where he has no business."
"Why, you're a great little soldier, Dora," replied Bryan, smiling on her with affectionate admiration.
"I hate anything tyrannical or overbearing," she replied, "as I do anything that's mane and ungenerous."
"As to Father M'Pepper, we're not to take him as an example of what his brother priests in general are or ought to be. The man may think he is doing only his duty; but, at all events, Dora, he has proved to me, very much at my own cost, I grant, that he has more zeal than discretion! May God forgive him; and that's the worst I wish him. When did you see or hear from Kathleen? I long to give her an explanation of my conduct, because I know she will listen to raison."
"That's more than I know yet, then," replied Dora. "She has awful high notions of our religion, an' thinks we ought to go about huntin' after martyrdom. Yes, faix, she thinks we ought to lay down our lives for our religion or our counthry, if we were to be called on to do so. Isn't that nice doctrine? She's always reading books about them."
"It is, Dora, and thrue doctrine; and so we ought—that is, if our deaths would serve either the one or the other."
"And would you die for them, if it went to that? because if you would, I would; for then I'd know that I ought to do it."
"I don't know, Dora, whether I'd have strength or courage to do so, but I know one who would."
"I know too—Kathleen."
"Kathleen? you have said it. She would, I am certain, lay down her life for either her religion or the welfare of her country, if such a sacrifice could be necessary."
"Bryan, I have heard a thing about her, and I don't know whether I ought to tell it to you or not."
"I lave that to your own discretion, Dora; but you haven't heard, nor can you tell me anything, but what must be to her credit."
"I'll tell you, then; I heard it, but I won't believe it till I satisfy myself—that your family daren't name your name to her at home, and that everything is to be over between you. Now, I'm on my way there to know whether this is true or not; if it is, I'll think less of her than I ever did."
"And I won't Dora; but will think more highly of her still. She thinks I'm as bad as I'm reported to be."
"And that's just what she ought not to think. Why not see you and ask you the raison of it like a—ha! ha!—I was goin' to say like a man? Sure if she was as generous as she ought to be, she'd call upon you to explain yourself; or, at any rate, she'd defend you behind your back, and, when the world's against you, whether you wor right or wrong."
"She'd do nothing at the expense of truth," replied her brother.
"Truth!" exclaimed the lively and generous girl, now catching the warmth from her own enthusiasm, "truth! who'd regard truth—"
"Dora!" exclaimed Bryan, with a seriocomic smile.
"Ha! ha! ha!—truth! what was I sayin'? No, I didn't mean to say anything against truth; oh, no, God forgive me!" she added, immediately softening, whilst her bright and beautiful eyes filled with tears, "oh, no, nor against my darlin' Kathleen either; for, Bryan, I'm tould that she has never smiled since; and that the color that left her cheeks when she heard of your vote has never come back to it; and that, in short, her heart is broken. However, I'll soon see her, and maybe I won't plade your cause; no lawyer could match me. Whisht!" she exclaimed, "isn't that Gerald himself comin' over to us?"
"It is," replied Bryan, "let us meet him;" and, as he spoke, they turned their steps towards him. As they met, Bryan, forgetting everything that had occurred, and influenced solely by the habit of former friendship and good feeling, extended his hand with an intention of clasping that of his old acquaintance, but the latter withdrew, and refused to meet this usual exponent of good will.
"Well, Gerald," said M'Mahon, smiling, "I see you go with the world too; but, since you won't shake hands with me, allow me to ask your business."
"To deliver a message to you from my daughter, and she'd not allow me to deliver it to any one but yourself. I came three times to see you before your sickness, but I didn't find jou at home."
"What's the message, Gerald?"
"The message, Bryan, is—that you are never to spake to her, nor will she ever more name your name. She will never be your wife; for she says that the heart that forgets its duty to God, and the hand that has been soiled by a bribe, can never be anything to her but the cause of shame and sorrow; and she bids me say that her happiness is gone and her heart broken. Now, farewell, and think of the girl you have lost by disgracin' your religion and your name."
Bryan paused for a moment, as if irresolute how to act, and exchanged glances with his high-minded little sister.
"Tell Kathleen, from me," said the latter, "that if she had a little more feeling, and a little less pride or religion, I don't know which, she'd be more of a woman and less of a saint. My brother, tell her, has disgraced neither his religion nor his name, and that he has too much of the pride of an injured man to give back any answer to sich a message. That's my answer, and not his, and you may ask her if it's either religion or common justice that makes her condemn him she loved without a hearing? Goodbye, now, Gerald; give my love to Hanna, and tell her she's worth a ship-load of her stately sister."
Bryan remained silent. In fact, he felt so completely overwhelmed that he was incapable of uttering a syllable. On seeing Cavanagh return, he was about to speak, when he looked upon the glowing cheeks, flashing eyes, and panting bosom of his heroic little sister.
"You are right, my darling Dora. I must be proud on receiving such a message. Kathleen has done me injustice, and I must be proud in my own defence."
The full burthen of this day's care, however, had not been yet laid upon him. On returning home, he heard from one of his laborers that a notice to quit his farm of Ahadarra had been left at his house. This, after the heavy sums of money which he had expended in its improvement and reclamation, was a bitter addition to what he was forced to suffer. On hearing of this last circumstance, and after perusing the notice which the man, who had come on some other message, had brought with him, he looked around him on every side for a considerable time. At length he said, "Dora, is not this a fine country?"
"It is," she replied, looking at him with surprise.
"Would you like," he added, "to lave it?"
"To lave it, Bryan!" she replied. "Oh, no, not to lave it;" and as she spoke, a deadly paleness settled upon her face.
"Poor Dora," he said, after surveying her for a time with an expression of love and compassion, "I know your saicret, and have done so this long time; but don't be cast down. You have been a warm and faithful little friend to me, and it will go hard or I'll befriend you yet."
Dora looked up into his face, and as she did, her eyes filled with tears. "I won't deny what you know, Bryan," she replied; "and unless he——"
"Well, dear, don't fret; he and I will have a talk about it; but, come what may, Dora, in this neglected and unfortunate country I will not stay. Here, now, is a notice to quit my farm, that I have improved at an expense of seven or eight hundred pounds, an' its now goin' to be taken out of my hands, and every penny I expended on it goes into the pocket of the landlord or agent, or both, and I'm to be driven out of house and home without a single farthing of compensation for the buildings and other improvements that I made on that farm."
"It's a hard and cruel case," said Dora; "an there can be no doubt but that the landlord and Fethertonge are both a pair of great rogues. Can't you challenge them, an' fight them?"
"Why, what a soldier you are, Dora!" replied her brother, smiling; "but you don't know that their situation in life and mine puts that entirely out o' the question. If a landlord was to be called upon to fight every tenant he neglects, or is unjust to, he would have a busy time of it. No, no, Dora dear, my mind's made up. We will lave the country. We will go to America; but, in the mean time, I'll see what I can do for you."
"Bryan, dear," she said in a voice of entreaty, "don't think of it. Oh, stay in your own country. Sure what other country could you like as well?"
"I grant you that, Dora; but the truth is, there seems to be a curse over it; whatever's the raison of it, nothing goes right in it. The landlords in general care little about the state and condition of their tenantry. All they trouble themselves about is their rents. Look at my own case, an' that's but one out of thousands that's happenin' every day in the country. Grantin' that he didn't sarve me with this notice to quit, an' supposin' he let me stay in the farm, he'd rise it on me in sich a way as that I could hardly live in it; an' you know, Dora, that to be merely strugglin' an' toilin' all one's life is anything but a comfortable prospect. Then, in consequence of the people depondin upon nothing but the potato for food, whenever that fails, which, in general, it does every seventh or eighth year, there's a famine, an' then the famine is followed by fever an' all kinds of contagious diseases, in sich a way that the kingdom is turned into one great hospital and grave-yard. It's these things that's sendin' so many thousands out of the country; and if we're to go at all, let us go like the rest, while we're able to go, an' not wait till we become too poor either to go or stay with comfort."
"Well, I suppose," replied his sister, "that what you say is true enough; but for all that I'd rather bear anything in my own dear country than go to a strange one. Do you think I'd not miss the summer sun rising behind the Althadawan hills? an' how could I live without seein' him set behind Mallybeney? An' then to live in a country where I'd not see these ould hills, the green glens, and mountain rivers about us, that have all grown into my heart. Oh, Bryan, dear, don't think of it—don't think of it."
"Dora," replied the other, his fine countenance overshadowed with, deep emotion as he spoke, "you cannot love these ould hills, as you cull them, nor these beautiful glens, nor the mountain rivers better than I do. It will go to my heart to leave them; but leave them I will—ay, and when I go, you know that I will leave behind me one that's dearer ten thousand times than them all. Kathleen's message has left me a heavy and sorrowful heart."
"I pity her now," replied the kind-hearted girl; "but, still, Bryan, she sent you a harsh message. Ay, I pity her, for did you observe how the father looked when he said that she bid him tell you her happiness was gone, and her heart broken; still, she ought to have seen yourself and heard your defence."
"I can neither blame her, nor will; neither can I properly justify my vote, I grant; it was surely very wrong or she wouldn't feel it as she does. Indeed. I think I oughtn't to have voted at all."
"I differ with you there, Bryan," replied Dora, with animation, "I would rather, ten times over, vote wrongly, than not vote from cowardice. It's a mane, skulkin', shabby thing, to be afeard to vote when one has a vote—it's unmanly."
"I know it is; and it was that very thought that made me vote. I felt that it would look both mane and cowardly not to vote, and accordingly I did vote."
"Ay, and you did right," replied his spirited sister, "and I don't care who opposes you, I'll support you for it, through thick and thin."
"And I suppose you may say through right and wrong, too?"
"Ay, would I," she replied; "eh?—what am I sayin?—throth, I'm a little madcap, I think. No, I won't support you through right and wrong—it's only when you're right you may depend on me."
They had now been more than an hour strolling about the fields, when Bryan, who did not feel himself quite so strong as he imagined he was, proposed to return to his father's, where, by the way, he had been conveyed from the chapel on the Sunday when he had been so severely maltreated.
They accordingly did so, for he felt himself weak, and unable to prolong his walk to any greater distance.
CHAPTER XXI.—Thomas M'Mahon is forced to determine on Emigration.
Gerald Cavanaugh felt himself secretly relieved by the discharge of his message to M'Mahon.
"It is good," thought he, "to have that affair settled, an' all expectation of her marriage with him knocked up. I'll be bound a little time will cool the foolish girl, and put Edward Burke in the way of succeeding. As for Hycy, I see clearly that whoever is to succeed, he's not the man—an' the more the pity, for the sorra one of them all so much the gentleman, nor will live in sich style."
The gloom which lay upon the heart of Kathleen Cavanagh was neither moody nor captious, but on the contrary remarkable for a spirit of extreme gentleness and placidity. From the moment she had come to the resolution of discarding M'Mahon, she was observed to become more silent than she had ever been, but at the same time her deportment was characterized by a tenderness towards the other members of the family that was sorrowful and affecting to the last degree. Her sister Hanna's sympathy was deep and full of sorrow. None of them, however, knew her force of character, nor the inroads which, under guise of this placid calm, strong grief was secretly making on her health and spirits. The paleness, for instance, which settled on her cheeks, when the news of her lover's apostacy, as it was called, and as she considered it, reached her, never for one moment left it afterwards, and she resembled some exquisitely chiselled statue moving by machinery, more than anything else to which we can compare her.
She was sitting with Hanna when her father returned, after having delivered her message to M'Mahon. The old man seemed, if one could judge by his features, to feel rather satisfied, as in fact was the case, and after having put up his good hat, and laid aside his best coat, he said, "I have delivered your message, Kathleen, an' dear knows I'm glad there's an end to that business—it never had my warm heart."
"It always had mine, then," replied Hanna, "an' I think we ought not to judge our fellow creatures too severely, knowin' as we do that there's no such thing as perfection in this world. What the sorra could have come over him, or tempted him to vote as he did? What did he say, father, when you brought him the message?"
"Afther I declared it," replied her father, "he was struck dumb, and never once opened his lips; but if he didn't spake, his sister Dora did."
"An' what did she say—generous and spirited little Dora!—what did she say, father?"
He then repeated the message as accurately as he could—for the honest old man was imbued with too conscientious a love for truth to disguise or conceal a single syllable that had been intrusted to him on either side—"Throth," said he, "the same Dora has the use of her tongue when she pleases; 'ax her,' said she, spakin' of Kathleen, here, 'if it's either religion or common justice that makes her condemn my brother without hearin' his defence. Good-bye, now,' says she; 'give my love to Hanna, and tell her 'she's worth a ship-load of her stately sister.'"