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[Illustration: She suffered her hand to remain]
TO THE MEMORY OF ONE
WHOSE COMPANIONSHIP MADE THE HAPPINESS OF A LONG LIFE,
AND WHOSE LOSS HAS LEFT ME HELPLESS,
I DEDICATE THIS WORK,
WRITTEN IN BREAKING HEALTH AND BROKEN SPIRITS.
THE TASK, THAT ONCE WAS MY JOY AND MY PRIDE,
I HAVE LIVED TO FIND ASSOCIATED WITH MY SORROW:
IT IS NOT, THEN, WITHOUT A CAUSE I SAY,
I HOPE THIS EFFORT MAY BE MY LAST.
TRIESTE, _January 20, 1872_.
'Lord Kilgobbin' appeared originally as a serial, (illustrated by Luke
Fildes) in 'The Cornhill Magazine,' commencing in the issue for October
1870, and ending in the issue for March 1872. It was first published in
book form in three volumes in 1872, with the following title-page:
LORD KILGOBBIN | A TALE OF IRELAND IN OUR OWN TIME | BY | CHARLES LEVER,
LL.D. | AUTHOR OF | 'THE BRAMLEIGHS OF BISHOP'S FOLLY,' 'THAT BOY OF
NORCOTT'S,' | ETC., ETC. | IN THREE VOLUMES | [VOL. I.] | LONDON | SMITH,
ELDER, AND CO., 15 WATERLOO PLACE | 1872. | [THE RIGHT OF TRANSLATION IS
CHAP. I. KILGOBBIN CASTLE
II. THE PRINCE KOSTALERGI
III. THE CHUMS
IV. AT 'TRINITY'
V. HOME LIFE AT THE CASTLE
VI. THE 'BLUE COAT'
VII. THE COUSINS
VIII. SHOWING HOW FRIENDS MAY DIFFER
IX. A DRIVE THROUGH A BOG
X. THE SEARCH FOR ARMS
XI. WHAT THE PAPERS SAID OF IT
XII. THE JOURNEY TO THE COUNTRY
XIII. A SICK-ROOM
XIV. AT DINNER
XV. IN THE GARDEN AT DUSK
XVI. THE TWO 'KEARNEYS'
XVII. DICK'S REVERIE
XVIII. MATHEW KEARNEY'S 'STUDY'
XIX. AN UNWELCOME VISIT
XX. A DOMESTIC DISCUSSION
XXI. A SMALL DINNER-PARTY
XXII. A CONFIDENTIAL TALK
XXIII. A HAPHAZARD VICEROY
XXIV. TWO FRIENDS AT BREAKFAST
XXV. ATLEE'S EMBARRASSMENTS
XXVI. DICK KEARNEY'S CHAMBERS
XXVII. A CRAFTY COUNSELLOR
XXVIII. 'ON THE LEADS'
XXIX. ON A VISIT AT KILGOBBIN
XXX. THE MOATE STATION
XXXI. HOW THE 'GOATS' REVOLTED
XXXII. AN UNLOOKED-FOR PLEASURE
XXXIII. PLMNUDDM CASTLE, NORTH WALES
XXXIV. AT TEA-TIME
XXXV. A DRIVE AT SUNRISE
XXXVI. THE EXCURSION
XXXVII. THE RETURN
XXXVIII. O'SHEA'S BARN
XXXIX. AN EARLY GALLOP
XL. OLD MEMORIES
XLI. TWO FAMILIAR EPISTLES
XLII. AN EVENING IN THE DRAWING-ROOM
XLIII. SOME NIGHT-THOUGHTS
XLIV. THE HEAD CONSTABLE
XLV. SOME IRISHRIES
XLVI. SAGE ADVICE
XLVIII. HOW MEN IN OFFICE MAKE LOVE
XLIX. A CUP OF TEA
LII. A CHANCE AGREEMENT
LIII. A SCRAPE
LIV. HOW IT BEFELL
LV. TWO J.P.'S
LVI. BEFORE THE DOOR
LVII. A DOCTOR
LVIII. IN TURKEY
LIX. A LETTER-BAG
LX. A DEFEAT
LXI. A CHANGE OF FRONT
LXII. WITH A PASHA
LXIII. ATLEE ON HIS TRAVELS
LXIV. GREEK MEETS GREEK
LXV. IN TOWN
LXVI. ATLEB'S MESSAGE
LXVII. WALPOLE ALONE
LXVIII. THOUGHTS ON MARRIAGE
LXIX. AT KILGOBBIN CASTLE
LXX. ATLEE'S RETURN
LXXI. THE DRIVE
LXXII. THE SAUNTER IN TOWN
LXXIII. A DARKENED ROOM
LXXIV. AN ANGRY COLLOQUY
LXXV. MATHEW KEARNEY'S REFLECTIONS
LXXVI. VERY CONFIDENTIAL CONVERSATION
LXXVII. TWO YOUNG LADIES ON MATRIMONY
LXXVIII. A MISERABLE MORNING
LXXIX. PLEASANT CONGRATULATIONS
LXXX. A NEW ARRIVAL
LXXXI. AN UNLOOKED-FOR CORRESPONDENT
LXXXII. THE BREAKFAST-ROOM
LXXXIII. THE GARDEN BY MOONLIGHT
LXXXIV. NEXT MORNING
LXXXV. THE END
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
SHE SUFFERED HER HAND TO REMAIN
'WHAT LARK HAVE YOU BEEN ON, MASTER JOE?'
'ONE MORE SITTING I MUST HAVE, SIR, FOR THE HAIR'
'HOW THAT SONG MAKES ME WISH WE WERE BACK AGAIN WHERE I HEARD IT FIRST'
HE ENTERED, AND NINA AROSE AS HE CAME FORWARD
'YOU ARE RIGHT, I SEE IT ALL,' AND NOW HE SEIZED HER HAND AND KISSED IT
KATE, STILL DRESSED, HAD THROWN HERSELF ON THE BED, AND WAS SOUND ASLEEP
'IS NOT THAT AS FINE AS YOUR BOASTED CAMPAGNA?'
'YOU WEAR A RING OF GREAT BEAUTY--MAY I LOOK AT IT?'
'TRUE, THERE IS NO TENDER LIGHT THERE,' MUTTERED HE, GAZING AT HER EYES
HE KNELT DOWN ON ONE KNEE BEFORE HER
NINA CAME FORWARD AT THAT MOMENT
NINA KOSTALERGI WAS BUSILY ENGAGED IN PINNING UP THE SKIRT OF HER DRESS
THE BALCONY CREAKED AND TREMBLED, AND AT LAST GAVE WAY
'JUST LOOK AT THE CROWD THAT IS WATCHING US ALREADY'
'I SHOULD LIKE TO HAVE BACK MY LETTERS'
WALPOLE LOOKED KEENLY AT THE OTHER'S FACE AS HE READ THE PAPER
'I DECLARE YOU HAVE LEFT A TEAR UPON MY CHEEK,' SAID KATE
Some one has said that almost all that Ireland possesses of picturesque
beauty is to be found on, or in the immediate neighbourhood of, the
seaboard; and if we except some brief patches of river scenery on the Nore
and the Blackwater, and a part of Lough Erne, the assertion is not devoid
of truth. The dreary expanse called the Bog of Allen, which occupies a
tableland in the centre of the island, stretches away for miles--flat,
sad-coloured, and monotonous, fissured in every direction by channels of
dark-tinted water, in which the very fish take the same sad colour. This
tract is almost without trace of habitation, save where, at distant
intervals, utter destitution has raised a mud-hovel, undistinguishable from
the hillocks of turf around it.
Fringing this broad waste, little patches of cultivation are to be seen:
small potato-gardens, as they are called, or a few roods of oats, green
even in the late autumn; but, strangely enough, with nothing to show
where the humble tiller of the soil is living, nor, often, any visible
road to these isolated spots of culture. Gradually, however--but very
gradually--the prospect brightens. Fields with inclosures, and a cabin or
two, are to be met with; a solitary tree, generally an ash, will be seen;
some rude instrument of husbandry, or an ass-cart, will show that we are
emerging from the region of complete destitution and approaching a land of
at least struggling civilisation. At last, and by a transition that is not
always easy to mark, the scene glides into those rich pasture-lands and
well-tilled farms that form the wealth of the midland counties. Gentlemen's
seats and waving plantations succeed, and we are in a country of comfort
On this border-land between fertility and destitution, and on a tract which
had probably once been part of the Bog itself, there stood--there stands
still--a short, square tower, battlemented at top, and surmounted with a
pointed roof, which seems to grow out of a cluster of farm-buildings, so
surrounded is its base by roofs of thatch and slates. Incongruous, vulgar,
and ugly in every way, the old keep appears to look down on them--time-worn
and battered as it is--as might a reduced gentleman regard the unworthy
associates with which an altered fortune had linked him. This is all that
remains of Kilgobbin Castle.
In the guidebooks we read that it was once a place of strength and
importance, and that Hugh de Lacy--the same bold knight 'who had won all
Ireland for the English from the Shannon to the sea'--had taken this
castle from a native chieftain called Neal O'Caharney, whose family he had
slain, all save one; and then it adds: 'Sir Hugh came one day, with three
Englishmen, that he might show them the castle, when there came to him a
youth of the men of Meath--a certain Gilla Naher O'Mahey, foster-brother
of O'Caharney himself--with his battle-axe concealed beneath his cloak,
and while De Lacy was reading the petition he gave him, he dealt him such
a blow that his head flew off many yards away, both head and body being
afterwards buried in the ditch of the castle.'
The annals of Kilronan further relate that the O'Caharneys became adherents
of the English--dropping their Irish designation, and calling themselves
Kearney; and in this way were restored to a part of the lands and the
castle of Kilgobbin--'by favour of which act of grace,' says the chronicle,
'they were bound to raise a becoming monument over the brave knight, Hugh
de Lacy, whom their kinsman had so treacherously slain; but they did no
more of this than one large stone of granite, and no inscription thereon:
thus showing that at all times, and with all men, the O'Caharneys were
false knaves and untrue to their word.'
In later times, again, the Kearneys returned to the old faith of their
fathers and followed the fortunes of King James; one of them, Michael
O'Kearney, having acted as aide-de-camp at the 'Boyne,' and conducted the
king to Kilgobbin, where he passed the night after the defeat, and, as the
tradition records, held a court the next morning, at which he thanked the
owner of the castle for his hospitality, and created him on the spot a
viscount by the style and title of Lord Kilgobbin.
It is needless to say that the newly-created noble saw good reason to keep
his elevation to himself. They were somewhat critical times just then for
the adherents of the lost cause, and the followers of King William were
keen at scenting out any disloyalty that might be turned to good account
by a confiscation. The Kearneys, however, were prudent. They entertained
a Dutch officer, Van Straaten, on King William's staff, and gave such
valuable information besides as to the condition of the country, that no
suspicions of disloyalty attached to them.
To these succeeded more peaceful times, during which the Kearneys were
more engaged in endeavouring to reconstruct the fallen condition of their
fortunes than in political intrigue. Indeed, a very small portion of the
original estate now remained to them, and of what once had produced above
four thousand a year, there was left a property barely worth eight hundred.
The present owner, with whose fortunes we are more Immediately concerned,
was a widower. Mathew Kearney's family consisted of a son and a daughter:
the former about two-and-twenty, the latter four years younger, though to
all appearance there did not seem a year between them.
Mathew Kearney himself was a man of about fifty-four or fifty-six; hale,
handsome, and powerful; his snow-white hair and bright complexion, with his
full grey eyes and regular teeth giving him an air of genial cordiality at
first sight which was fully confirmed by further acquaintance. So long as
the world went well with him, Mathew seemed to enjoy life thoroughly, and
even its rubs he bore with an easy jocularity that showed what a stout
heart he could oppose to Fortune. A long minority had provided him with a
considerable sum on his coming of age, but he spent it freely, and when it
was exhausted, continued to live on at the same rate as before, till at
last, as creditors grew pressing, and mortgages threatened foreclosure, he
saw himself reduced to something less than one-fifth of his former outlay;
and though he seemed to address himself to the task with a bold spirit and
a resolute mind, the old habits were too deeply rooted to be eradicated,
and the pleasant companionship of his equals, his life at the club in
Dublin, his joyous conviviality, no longer possible, he suffered himself
to descend to an inferior rank, and sought his associates amongst humbler
men, whose flattering reception of him soon reconciled him to his fallen
condition. His companions were now the small farmers of the neighbourhood
and the shopkeepers in the adjoining town of Moate, to whose habits and
modes of thought and expression he gradually conformed, till it became
positively irksome to himself to keep the company of his equals. Whether,
however, it was that age had breached the stronghold of his good spirits,
or that conscience rebuked him for having derogated from his station,
certain it is that all his buoyancy failed him when away from society,
and that in the quietness of his home he was depressed and dispirited to
a degree; and to that genial temper, which once he could count on against
every reverse that befell him, there now succeeded an irritable, peevish
spirit, that led him to attribute every annoyance he met with to some fault
or shortcoming of others.
By his neighbours in the town and by his tenantry he was always addressed
as 'My lord,' and treated with all the deference that pertained to such
difference of station. By the gentry, however, when at rare occasions he
met them, he was known as Mr. Kearney; and in the village post-office, the
letters with the name Mathew Kearney, Esq., were perpetual reminders of
what rank was accorded him by that wider section of the world that lived
beyond the shadow of Kilgobbin Castle.
Perhaps the impossible task of serving two masters is never more palpably
displayed than when the attempt attaches to a divided identity--when a man
tries to be himself in two distinct parts in life, without the slightest
misgiving of hypocrisy while doing so. Mathew Kearney not only did not
assume any pretension to nobility amongst his equals, but he would have
felt that any reference to his title from one of them would have been an
impertinence, and an impertinence to be resented; while, at the same time,
had a shopkeeper of Moate, or one of the tenants, addressed him as other
than 'My lord,' he would not have deigned him a notice.
Strangely enough, this divided allegiance did not merely prevail with the
outer world, it actually penetrated within his walls. By his son, Richard
Kearney, he was always called 'My lord'; while Kate as persistently
addressed and spoke of him as papa. Nor was this difference without
signification as to their separate natures and tempers.
Had Mathew Kearney contrived to divide the two parts of his nature, and
bequeathed all his pride, his vanity, and his pretensions to his son,
while he gave his light-heartedness, his buoyancy, and kindliness to his
daughter, the partition could not have been more perfect. Richard Kearney
was full of an insolent pride of birth. Contrasting the position of his
father with that held by his grandfather, he resented the downfall as
the act of a dominant faction, eager to outrage the old race and the old
religion of Ireland. Kate took a very different view of their condition.
She clung, indeed, to the notion of their good blood; but as a thing
that might assuage many of the pangs of adverse fortune, not increase or
embitter them; and 'if we are ever to emerge,' thought she, 'from this
poor state, we shall meet our class without any of the shame of a mushroom
origin. It will be a restoration, and not a new elevation.' She was a fine,
handsome, fearless girl, whom many said ought to have been a boy; but this
was rather intended as a covert slight on the narrower nature and peevish
temperament of her brother--another way, indeed, of saying that they should
have exchanged conditions.
The listless indolence of her father's life, and the almost complete
absence from home of her brother, who was pursuing his studies at the
Dublin University, had given over to her charge not only the household, but
no small share of the management of the estate--all, in fact, that an old
land-steward, a certain Peter Gill, would permit her to exercise; for Peter
was a very absolute and despotic Grand-Vizier, and if it had not been that
he could neither read nor write, it would have been utterly impossible to
have wrested from him a particle of power over the property. This happy
defect in his education--happy so far as Kate's rule was concerned--gave
her the one claim she could prefer to any superiority over him, and his
obstinacy could never be effectually overcome, except by confronting him
with a written document or a column of figures. Before these, indeed, he
would stand crestfallen and abashed. Some strange terror seemed to possess
him as to the peril of opposing himself to such inscrutable testimony--a
fear, be it said, he never felt in contesting an oral witness.
Peter had one resource, however, and I am not sure that a similar
stronghold has not secured the power of greater men and in higher
functions. Peter's sway was of so varied and complicated a kind; the duties
he discharged were so various, manifold, and conflicting; the measures
he took with the people, whose destinies were committed to him, were
so thoroughly devised, by reference to the peculiar condition of each
man--what he could do, or bear, or submit to--and not by any sense of
justice; that a sort of government grew up over the property full of
hitches, contingencies, and compensations, of which none but the inventor
of the machinery could possibly pretend to the direction. The estate being,
to use his own words, 'so like the old coach-harness, so full of knots,
splices, and entanglements, there was not another man in Ireland could make
it work, and if another were to try it, it would all come to pieces in his
Kate was shrewd enough to see this; and in the same way that she had
admiringly watched Peter as he knotted a trace here and supplemented a
strap there, strengthening a weak point, and providing for casualties even
the least likely, she saw him dealing with the tenantry on the property;
and in the same spirit that he made allowance for sickness here and
misfortune there, he would be as prompt to screw up a lagging tenant to
the last penny, and secure the landlord in the share of any season of
Had the Government Commissioner, sent to report on the state of
land-tenure in Ireland, confined himself to a visit to the estate of Lord
Kilgobbin--for so we like to call him--it is just possible that the Cabinet
would have found the task of legislation even more difficult than they have
already admitted it to be.
First of all, not a tenant on the estate had any certain knowledge of how
much land he held. There had been no survey of the property for years. 'It
will be made up to you,' was Gill's phrase about everything. 'What matters
if you have an acre more or an acre less?' Neither had any one a lease,
nor, indeed, a writing of any kind. Gill settled that on the 25th March and
25th September a certain sum was to be forthcoming, and that was all. When
'the lord' wanted them, they were always to give him a hand, which often
meant with their carts and horses, especially in harvest-time. Not that
they were a hard-worked or hard-working population: they took life very
easy, seeing that by no possible exertion could they materially better
themselves; and even when they hunted a neighbour's cow out of their wheat,
they would execute the eviction with a lazy indolence and sluggishness that
took away from the act all semblance of ungenerousness.
They were very poor, their hovels were wretched, their clothes ragged, and
their food scanty; but, with all that, they were not discontented, and very
far from unhappy. There was no prosperity at hand to contrast with their
poverty. The world was, on the whole, pretty much as they always remembered
it. They would have liked to be 'better off' if they knew how, but they did
not know if there were a 'better off,' much less how to come at it; and if
there were, Peter Gill certainly did not tell them of it.
If a stray visitor to fair or market brought back the news that there was
an agitation abroad for a new settlement of the land, that popular orators
were proclaiming the poor man's rights and denouncing the cruelties of
the landlord, if they heard that men were talking of repealing the laws
which secured property to the owner, and only admitted him to a sort of
partnership with the tiller of the soil, old Gill speedily assured them
that these were changes only to be adopted in Ulster, where the tenants
were rack-rented and treated like slaves. 'Which of you here,' would he
say, 'can come forward and say he was ever evicted?' Now as the term was
one of which none had the very vaguest conception--it might, for aught they
knew, have been an operation in surgery--the appeal was an overwhelming
success. 'Sorra doubt of it, but ould Peter's right, and there's worse
places to live in, and worse landlords to live under, than the lord.'
Not but it taxed Gill's skill and cleverness to maintain this quarantine
against the outer world; and he often felt like Prince Metternich in a like
strait--that it would only be a question of time, and, in the long run, the
newspaper fellows must win.
From what has been said, therefore, it may be imagined that Kilgobbin was
not a model estate, nor Peter Gill exactly the sort of witness from which
a select committee would have extracted any valuable suggestions for the
construction of a land-code.
Anything short of Kate Kearney's fine temper and genial disposition would
have broken down by daily dealing with this cross-grained, wrong-headed,
and obstinate old fellow, whose ideas of management all centred in craft
and subtlety--outwitting this man, forestalling that--doing everything by
halves, so that no boon came unassociated with some contingency or other by
which he secured to himself unlimited power and uncontrolled tyranny.
As Gill was in perfect possession of her father's confidence, to oppose him
in anything was a task of no mean difficulty; and the mere thought that the
old fellow should feel offended and throw up his charge--a threat he had
more than once half hinted--was a terror Kilgobbin could not have faced.
Nor was this her only care. There was Dick continually dunning her for
remittances, and importuning her for means to supply his extravagances. 'I
suspected how it would be,' wrote he once, 'with a lady paymaster. And when
my father told me I was to look to you for my allowance, I accepted the
information as a heavy percentage taken off my beggarly income. What could
you--what could any young girl--know of the requirements of a man going out
into the best society of a capital? To derive any benefit from associating
with these people, I must at least seem to live like them. I am received as
the son of a man of condition and property, and you want to bound my habits
by those of my chum, Joe Atlee, whose father is starving somewhere on the
pay of a Presbyterian minister. Even Joe himself laughs at the notion of
gauging my expenses by his.
'If this is to go on--I mean if you intend to persist in this plan--be
frank enough to say so at once, and I will either take pupils, or seek a
clerkship, or go off to Australia; and I care precious little which of the
'I know what a proud thing it is for whoever manages the revenue to come
forward and show a surplus. Chancellors of the Exchequer make great
reputations in that fashion; but there are certain economies that lie close
to revolutions; now don't risk this, nor don't be above taking a hint from
one some years older than you, though he neither rules his father's house
nor metes out his pocket-money.'
Such, and such like, were the epistles she received from time to time, and
though frequency blunted something of their sting, and their injustice gave
her a support against their sarcasm, she read and thought over them in a
spirit of bitter mortification. Of course she showed none of these letters
to her father. He, indeed, only asked if Dick were well, or if he were soon
going up for that scholarship or fellowship--he did not know which, nor
was he to blame--'which, after all, it was hard on a Kearney to stoop to
accept, only that times were changed with us! and we weren't what we used
to be'--a reflection so overwhelming that he generally felt unable to dwell
THE PRINCE KOSTALERGI
Mathew Kearney had once a sister whom he dearly loved, and whose sad fate
lay very heavily on his heart, for he was not without self-accusings on
the score of it. Matilda Kearney had been a belle of the Irish Court and a
toast at the club when Mathew was a young fellow in town; and he had been
very proud of her beauty, and tasted a full share of those attentions which
often fall to the lot of brothers of handsome girls.
Then Matty was an heiress, that is, she had twelve thousand pounds in her
own right; and Ireland was not such a California as to make a very pretty
girl with twelve thousand pounds an everyday chance. She had numerous
offers of marriage, and with the usual luck in such cases, there were
commonplace unattractive men with good means, and there were clever and
agreeable fellows without a sixpence, all alike ineligible. Matty had
that infusion of romance in her nature that few, if any, Irish girls are
free from, and which made her desire that the man of her choice should be
something out of the common. She would have liked a soldier who had won
distinction in the field. The idea of military fame was very dear to her
Irish heart, and she fancied with what pride she would hang upon the arm
of one whose gay trappings and gold embroidery emblematised the career
he followed. If not a soldier, she would have liked a great orator, some
leader in debate that men would rush down to hear, and whose glowing words
would be gathered up and repeated as though inspirations; after that a
poet, and perhaps--not a painter--a sculptor, she thought, might do.
With such aspirations as these, it is not surprising that she rejected the
offers of those comfortable fellows in Meath, or Louth, whose military
glories were militia drills, and whose eloquence was confined to the bench
At three-and-twenty she was in the full blaze of her beauty; at
three-and-thirty she was still unmarried, her looks on the wane, but her
romance stronger than ever, not untinged perhaps with a little bitterness
towards that sex which had not afforded one man of merit enough to woo
and win her. Partly out of pique with a land so barren of all that could
minister to imagination, partly in anger with her brother who had been
urging her to a match she disliked, she went abroad to travel, wandered
about for a year or two, and at last found herself one winter at Naples.
There was at that time, as secretary to the Greek legation, a young fellow
whom repute called the handsomest man in Europe; he was a certain Spiridion
Kostalergi, whose title was Prince of Delos, though whether there was such
a principality, or that he was its representative, society was not fully
agreed upon. At all events, Miss Kearney met him at a Court ball, when
he wore his national costume, looking, it must be owned, so splendidly
handsome that all thought of his princely rank was forgotten in presence of
a face and figure that recalled the highest triumphs of ancient art. It was
Antinous come to life in an embroidered cap and a gold-worked jacket, and
it was Antinous with a voice like Mario, and who waltzed to perfection.
This splendid creature, a modern Alcibiades in gifts of mind and graces,
soon heard, amongst his other triumphs, how a rich and handsome Irish girl
had fallen in love with him at first sight. He had himself been struck by
her good looks and her stylish air, and learning that there could be no
doubt about her fortune, he lost no time in making his advances. Before
the end of the first week of their acquaintance he proposed. She referred
him to her brother before she could consent; and though, when Kostalergi
inquired amongst her English friends, none had ever heard of a Lord
Kilgobbin, the fact of his being Irish explained their ignorance, not to
say that Kearney's reply, being a positive refusal of consent, so fully
satisfied the Greek that it was 'a good thing,' he pressed his suit with
a most passionate ardour: threatened to kill himself if she persisted in
rejecting him, and so worked upon her heart by his devotion, or on her
pride by the thought of his position, that she yielded, and within three
weeks from the day they first met, she became the Princess of Delos.
When a Greek, holding any public employ, marries money, his Government is
usually prudent enough to promote him. It is a recognition of the merit
that others have discovered, and a wise administration marches with the
inventions of the age it lives in. Kostalergi's chief was consequently
recalled, suffered to fall back upon his previous obscurity--he had been a
commission-agent for a house in the Greek trade--and the Prince of Delos
gazetted as Minister Plenipotentiary of Greece, with the first class of
St. Salvador, in recognition of his services to the state; no one being
indiscreet enough to add that the aforesaid services were comprised
in marrying an Irishwoman with a dowry of--to quote the _Athenian
Hemera_--'three hundred and fifty thousand drachmas.'
For a while--it was a very brief while--the romantic mind of the Irish girl
was raised to a sort of transport of enjoyment. Here was everything--more
than everything--her most glowing imagination had ever conceived. Love,
ambition, station all gratified, though, to be sure, she had quarrelled
with her brother, who had returned her last letters unopened. Mathew, she
thought, was too good-hearted to bear a long grudge: he would see her
happiness, he would hear what a devoted and good husband her dear Spiridion
had proved himself, and he would forgive her at last.
Though, as was well known, the Greek envoy received but a very moderate
salary from his Government, and even that not paid with a strict
punctuality, the legation was maintained with a splendour that rivalled,
if it did not surpass, those of France, England, or Russia. The Prince of
Delos led the fashion in equipage, as did the Princess in toilet; their
dinners, their balls, their fetes attracted the curiosity of even the
highest to witness them; and to such a degree of notoriety had the Greek
hospitality attained, that Naples at last admitted that without the Palazzo
Kostalergi there would be nothing to attract strangers to the capital.
Play, so invariably excluded from the habits of an embassy, was carried on
at this legation to such an excess that the clubs were completely deserted,
and all the young men of gambling tastes flocked here each night, sure
to find lansquenet or faro, and for stakes which no public table could
possibly supply. It was not alone that this life of a gambler estranged
Kostalergi from his wife, but that the scandal of his infidelities had
reached her also, just at the time when some vague glimmering suspicions of
his utter worthlessness were breaking on her mind. The birth of a little
girl did not seem in the slightest degree to renew the ties between them;
on the contrary, the embarrassment of a baby, and the cost it must entail,
were the only considerations he would entertain, and it was a constant
question of his--uttered, too, with a tone of sarcasm that cut her to the
heart: 'Would not her brother--the Lord Irlandais--like to have that baby?
Would she not write and ask him?' Unpleasant stories had long been rife
about the play at the Greek legation, when a young Russian secretary, of
high family and influence, lost an immense sum under circumstances which
determined him to refuse payment. Kostalergi, who had been the chief
winner, refused everything like inquiry or examination; in fact, he made
investigation impossible, for the cards, which the Russian had declared to
be marked, the Greek gathered up slowly from the table and threw into the
fire, pressing his foot upon them in the flames, and then calmly returning
to where the other stood, he struck him across the face with his open hand,
saying, as he did it: 'Here is another debt to repudiate, and before the
same witnesses also!'
The outrage did not admit of delay. The arrangements were made in an
instant, and within half an hour--merely time enough to send for a
surgeon--they met at the end of the garden of the legation. The Russian
fired first, and though a consummate pistol-shot, agitation at the insult
so unnerved him that he missed: his ball cut the knot of Kostalergi's
cravat. The Greek took a calm and deliberate aim, and sent his bullet
through the other's forehead. He fell without a word, stone dead.
Though the duel had been a fair one, and the _proces-verbal_ drawn up and
agreed on both sides showed that all had been done loyally, the friends
of the young Russian had influence to make the Greek Government not only
recall the envoy, but abolish the mission itself.
For some years the Kostalergis lived in retirement at Palermo, not knowing
nor known to any one. Their means were now so reduced that they had
barely sufficient for daily life, and though the Greek prince--as he was
called--constantly appeared on the public promenade well dressed, and in
all the pride of his handsome figure, it was currently said that his wife
was literally dying of want.
It was only after long and agonising suffering that she ventured to write
to her brother, and appeal to him for advice and assistance. But at last
she did so, and a correspondence grew up which, in a measure, restored the
affection between them. When Kostalergi discovered the source from which
his wretched wife now drew her consolation and her courage, he forbade her
to write more, and himself addressed a letter to Kearney so insulting and
offensive--charging him even with causing the discord of his home, and
showing the letter to his wife before sending it--that the poor woman, long
failing in health and broken down, sank soon after, and died so destitute,
that the very funeral was paid for by a subscription amongst her
countrymen. Kostalergi had left her some days before her death, carrying
the girl along with him, nor was his whereabouts learned for a considerable
When next he emerged into the world it was at Rome, where he gave lessons
in music and modern languages, in many in which he was a proficient. His
splendid appearance, his captivating address, his thorough familiarity with
the modes of society, gave him the entree to many houses where his talents
amply requited the hospitality he received. He possessed, amongst his other
gifts, an immense amount of plausibility, and people found it, besides,
very difficult to believe ill of that well-bred, somewhat retiring man,
who, in circumstances of the very narrowest fortunes, not only looked and
dressed like a gentleman, but actually brought up a daughter with a degree
of care and an amount of regard to her education that made him appear a
Nina Kostalergi was then about seventeen, though she looked at least three
years older. She was a tall, slight, pale girl, with perfectly regular
features--so classic in the mould, and so devoid of any expression, that
she recalled the face one sees on a cameo. Her hair was of wondrous
beauty--that rich gold colour which has _reflets_ through it, as the light
falls full or faint, and of an abundance that taxed her ingenuity to dress
it. They gave her the sobriquet of the Titian Girl at Rome whenever she
In the only letter Kearney had received from his brother-in-law after his
sister's death was an insolent demand for a sum of money, which he alleged
that Kearney was unjustly withholding, and which he now threatened to
enforce by law. 'I am well aware,' wrote he, 'what measure of honour or
honesty I am to expect from a man whose very name and designation are a
deceit. But probably prudence will suggest how much better it would be
on this occasion to simulate rectitude than risk the shame of an open
To this gross insult Kearney never deigned any reply; and now more than two
years passed without any tidings of his disreputable relative, when there
came one morning a letter with the Roman postmark, and addressed, '_A
Monsieur le Vicomte de Kilgobbin, a son Chateau de Kilgobbin, en Irlande._'
To the honour of the officials in the Irish post-office, it was forwarded
to Kilgobbin with the words, 'Try Mathew Kearney, Esq.,' in the corner.
A glance at the writing showed it was not in Kostalergi's hand, and, after
a moment or two of hesitation, Kearney opened it. He turned at once for the
writer's name, and read the words, 'Nina Kostalergi'--his sister's child!
'Poor Matty,' was all he could say for some minutes. He remembered the
letter in which she told him of her little girl's birth, and implored his
forgiveness for herself and his love for her baby.' I want both, my dear
brother,' wrote she; 'for though the bonds we make for ourselves by our
passions--' And the rest of the sentence was erased--she evidently thinking
she had delineated all that could give a clue to a despondent reflection.
The present letter was written in English, but in that quaint, peculiar
hand Italians often write. It began by asking forgiveness for daring to
write to him, and recalling the details of the relationship between them,
as though he could not have remembered it. 'I am, then, in my right,' wrote
she, 'when I address you as my dear, dear uncle, of whom I have heard so
much, and whose name was in my prayers ere I knew why I knelt to pray.'
Then followed a piteous appeal--it was actually a cry for protection. Her
father, she said, had determined to devote her to the stage, and already
had taken steps to sell her--she said she used the word advisedly--for
so many years to the impresario of the 'Fenice' at Venice, her voice and
musical skill being such as to give hope of her becoming a prima donna.
She had, she said, frequently sung at private parties at Rome, but only
knew within the last few days that she had been, not a guest, but a paid
performer. Overwhelmed with the shame and indignity of this false position,
she implored her mother's brother to compassionate her. 'If I could not
become a governess, I could be your servant, dearest uncle,' she wrote. 'I
only ask a roof to shelter me, and a refuge. May I go to you? I would beg
my way on foot if I only knew that at the last your heart and your door
would be open to me, and as I fell at your feet, knew that I was saved.'
Until a few days ago, she said, she had by her some little trinkets her
mother had left her, and on which she counted as a means of escape, but her
father had discovered them and taken them from her.
'If you answer this--and oh! let me not doubt you will--write to me to the
care of the Signori Cayani and Battistella, bankers, Rome. Do not delay,
but remember that I am friendless, and but for this chance hopeless.--Your
While Kearney gave this letter to his daughter to read, he walked up and
down the room with his head bent and his hands deep in his pockets.
'I think I know the answer you'll send to this, papa,' said the girl,
looking up at him with a glow of pride and affection in her face. 'I do not
need that you should say it.'
'It will take fifty--no, not fifty, but five-and-thirty pounds to bring her
over here, and how is she to come all alone?'
Kate made no reply; she knew the danger sometimes of interrupting his own
solution of a difficulty.
'She's a big girl, I suppose, by this--fourteen or fifteen?'
'Over nineteen, papa.'
'So she is, I was forgetting. That scoundrel, her father, might come after
her; he'd have the right if he wished to enforce it, and what a scandal
he'd bring upon us all!'
'But would he care to do it? Is he not more likely to be glad to be
disembarrassed of her charge?'
'Not if he was going to sell her--not if he could convert her into money.'
'He has never been in England; he may not know how far the law would give
him any power over her.'
'Don't trust that, Kate; a blackguard always can find out how much is in
his favour everywhere. If he doesn't know it now, he'd know it the day
after he landed.' He paused an instant, and then said: 'There will be the
devil to pay with old Peter Gill, for he'll want all the cash I can scrape
together for Loughrea fair. He counts on having eighty sheep down there at
the long crofts, and a cow or two besides. That's money's worth, girl!'
Another silence followed, after which he said, 'And I think worse of the
Greek scoundrel than all the cost.'
'Somehow, I have no fear that he'll come here?'
'You'll have to talk over Peter, Kitty'--he always said Kitty when he meant
to coax her. 'He'll mind you, and at all events, you don't care about his
grumbling. Tell him it's a sudden call on me for railroad shares, or'--and
here he winked knowingly--'say, it's going to Rome the money is, and for
'That's an excellent thought, papa,' said she, laughing; 'I'll certainly
tell him the money is going to Rome, and you'll write soon--you see with
what anxiety she expects your answer.'
'I'll write to-night when the house is quiet, and there's no racket
nor disturbance about me.' Now though Kearney said this with a perfect
conviction of its truth and reasonableness, it would have been very
difficult for any one to say in what that racket he spoke of consisted, or
wherein the quietude of even midnight was greater than that which prevailed
there at noonday. Never, perhaps, were lives more completely still or
monotonous than theirs. People who derive no interests from the outer
world, who know nothing of what goes on in life, gradually subside into a
condition in which reflection takes the place of conversation, and lose all
zest and all necessity for that small talk which serves, like the changes
of a game, to while away time, and by the aid of which, if we do no more,
we often delude the cares and worries of existence.
A kind good-morning when they met, and a few words during the day--some
mention of this or that event of the farm or the labourers, and rare enough
too--some little incident that happened amongst the tenants, made all the
materials of their intercourse, and filled up lives which either would very
freely have owned were far from unhappy.
Dick, indeed, when he came home and was weather-bound for a day, did lament
his sad destiny, and mutter half-intelligible nonsense of what he would
not rather do than descend to such a melancholy existence; but in all
his complainings he never made Kate discontented with her lot, or desire
anything beyond it.
'It's all very well,' he would say, 'till you know something better.'
'But I want no better.'
'Do you mean you'd like to go through life in this fashion?'
'I can't pretend to say what I may feel as I grow older; but if I could be
sure to be as I am now, I could ask nothing better.'
'I must say, it's a very inglorious life?' said he, with a sneer.
'So it is, but how many, may I ask, are there who lead glorious lives? Is
there any glory in dining out, in dancing, visiting, and picnicking? Where
is the great glory of the billiard-table, or the croquet-lawn? No, no, my
dear Dick, the only glory that falls to the share of such humble folks as
we are, is to have something to do, and to do it.'
Such were the sort of passages which would now and then occur between them,
little contests, be it said, in which she usually came off the conqueror.
If she were to have a wish gratified, it would have been a few more
books--something besides those odd volumes of Scott's novels, _Zeluco_ by
Doctor Moore, and _Florence McCarthy_, which comprised her whole library,
and which she read over and over unceasingly. She was now in her usual
place--a deep window-seat--intently occupied with Amy Robsart's sorrows,
when her father came to read what he had written in answer to Nina. If it
was very brief it was very affectionate. It told her in a few words that
she had no need to recall the ties of their relationship; that his heart
never ceased to remind him of them; that his home was a very dull one, but
that her cousin Kate would try and make it a happy one to her; entreated
her to confer with the banker, to whom he remitted forty pounds, in what
way she could make the journey, since he was too broken in health himself
to go and fetch her. 'It is a bold step I am counselling you to take. It is
no light thing to quit a father's home, and I have my misgivings how far I
am a wise adviser in recommending it. There is, however, a present peril,
and I must try, if I can, to save you from it. Perhaps, in my old-world
notions, I attach to the thought of the stage ideas that you would
only smile at; but none of our race, so far as I know, fell to that
condition--nor must you while I have a roof to shelter you. If you would
write and say about what time I might expect you, I will try to meet you
on your landing in England at Dover. Kate sends you her warmest love, and
longs to see you.'
This was the whole of it. But a brief line to the bankers said that any
expense they judged needful to her safe convoy across Europe would be
gratefully repaid by him.
'Is it all right, dear? Have I forgotten anything?' asked he, as Kate read
'It's everything, papa--everything. And I _do_ long to see her.'
'I hope she's like Matty--if she's only like her poor mother, it will make
my heart young again to look at her.'
In that old square of Trinity College, Dublin, one side of which fronts
the Park, and in chambers on the ground-floor, an oak door bore the
names of 'Kearney and Atlee.' Kearney was the son of Lord Kilgobbin;
Atlee, his chum, the son of a Presbyterian minister in the north of
Ireland, had been four years in the university, but was still in his
freshman period, not from any deficiency of scholarlike ability to push
on, but that, as the poet of the _Seasons_ lay in bed, because he 'had
no motive for rising,' Joe Atlee felt that there need be no urgency
about taking a degree which, when he had got, he should be sorely
puzzled to know what to do with. He was a clever, ready-witted, but
capricious fellow, fond of pleasure, and self-indulgent to a degree that
ill suited his very smallest of fortunes, for his father was a poor man,
with a large family, and had already embarrassed himself heavily by the
cost of sending his eldest son to the university. Joe's changes of
purpose--for he had in succession abandoned law for medicine, medicine
for theology, and theology for civil engineering, and, finally, gave
them all up--had so outraged his father that he declared he would not
continue any allowance to him beyond the present year; to which Joe
replied by the same post, sending back the twenty pounds inclosed him,
and saying: 'The only amendment I would make to your motion is--as to
the date--let it begin from to-day. I suppose I shall have to swim
without corks some time. I may as well try now as later on.'
[Illustration: 'What lark have you been on, Master Joe?']
The first experience of his 'swimming without corks' was to lie in bed two
days and smoke; the next was to rise at daybreak and set out on a long
walk into the country, from which he returned late at night, wearied and
exhausted, having eaten but once during the day.
Kearney, dressed for an evening party, resplendent with jewellery, essenced
and curled, was about to issue forth when Atlee, dusty and wayworn, entered
and threw himself into a chair.
'What lark have you been on, Master Joe?' he said. 'I have not seen you for
three days, if not four!'
'No; I've begun to train,' said he gravely. 'I want to see how long a
fellow could hold on to life on three pipes of Cavendish per diem. I take
it that the absorbents won't be more cruel than a man's creditors, and will
not issue a distraint where there are no assets, so that probably by the
time I shall have brought myself down to, let us say, seven stone weight, I
shall have reached the goal.'
This speech he delivered slowly and calmly, as though enunciating a very
'What new nonsense is this? Don't you think health worth something?'
'Next to life, unquestionably; but one condition of health is to be alive,
and I don't see how to manage that. Look here, Dick, I have just had a
quarrel with my father; he is an excellent man and an impressive preacher,
but he fails in the imaginative qualities. Nature has been a niggard to him
in inventiveness. He is the minister of a little parish called Aghadoe, in
the North, where they give him two hundred and ten pounds per annum. There
are eight in family, and he actually does not see his way to allow me one
hundred and fifty out of it. That's the way they neglect arithmetic in our
'Has he reduced your allowance?'
'He has done more, he has extinguished it.'
'Have you provoked him to this?'
'I have provoked him to it.'
'But is it not possible to accommodate matters? It should not be very
difficult, surely, to show him that once you are launched in life--'
'And when will that be, Dick?' broke in the other. 'I have been on the
stocks these four years, and that launching process you talk of looks just
as remote as ever. No, no; let us be fair; he has all the right on his
side, all the wrong is on mine. Indeed, so far as conscience goes, I have
always felt it so, but one's conscience, like one's boots, gets so pliant
from wear, that it ceases to give pain. Still, on my honour, I never
hip-hurraed to a toast that I did not feel: there goes broken boots to one
of the boys, or, worse again, the cost of a cotton dress for one of the
sisters. Whenever I took a sherry-cobbler I thought of suicide after it.
Self-indulgence and self-reproach got linked in my nature so inseparably,
it was hopeless to summon one without the other, till at last I grew to
believe it was very heroic in me to deny myself nothing, seeing how sorry I
should be for it afterwards. But come, old fellow, don't lose your evening;
we'll have time enough to talk over these things--where are you going?'
'To the Clancys'.'
'To he sure; what a fellow I am to forget it was Letty's birthday, and I
was to have brought her a bouquet! Dick, be a good fellow and tell her
some lie or other--that I was sick in bed, or away to see an aunt or a
grandmother, and that I had a splendid bouquet for her, but wouldn't let
it reach her through other hands than my own, but to-morrow--to-morrow she
shall have it.'
'You know well enough you don't mean anything of the sort.'
'On my honour, I'll keep my promise. I've an old silver watch yonder--I
think it knows the way to the pawn-office by itself. There, now be off, for
if I begin to think of all the fun you're going to, I shall just dress and
'No, I'd not do that,' said Dick gravely, 'nor shall I stay long myself.
Don't go to bed, Joe, till I come back. Good-bye.'
'Say all good and sweet things to Letty for me. Tell her--' Kearney did not
wait for his message, but hurried down the steps and drove off.
Joe sat down at the fire, filled his pipe, looked steadily at it, and then
laid it on the mantel-piece. 'No, no, Master Joe. You must be thrifty now.
You have smoked twice since--I can afford to say--since dinner-time, for
you haven't dined. It is strange, now that the sense of hunger has passed
off, what a sense of excitement I feel. Two hours back I could have been a
cannibal. I believe I could have eaten the vice-provost--though I should
have liked him strongly devilled--and now I feel stimulated. Hence it is,
perhaps, that so little wine is enough to affect the heads of starving
people--almost maddening them. Perhaps Dick suspected something of this,
for he did not care that I should go along with him. Who knows but he may
have thought the sight of a supper might have overcome me. If he knew but
all. I'm much more disposed to make love to Letty Clancy than to go in for
galantine and champagne. By the way, I wonder if the physiologists are
aware of that? It is, perhaps, what constitutes the ethereal condition of
love. I'll write an essay on that, or, better still, I'll write a review of
an imaginary French essay. Frenchmen are permitted to say so much more than
we are, and I'll be rebukeful on the score of his excesses. The bitter way
in which a Frenchman always visits his various incapacities--whether it be
to know something, or to do something, or to be something--on the species
he belongs to; the way in which he suggests that, had he been consulted on
the matter, humanity had been a much more perfect organisation, and able
to sustain a great deal more of wickedness without disturbance, is great
fun. I'll certainly invent a Frenchman, and make him an author, and then
demolish him. What if I make him die of hunger, having tasted nothing for
eight days but the proof-sheets of his great work--the work I am then
reviewing? For four days--but stay--if I starve him to death, I cannot tear
his work to pieces. No; he shall be alive, living in splendour and honour,
a frequenter of the Tuileries, a favoured guest at Compiegne.'
Without perceiving it, he had now taken his pipe, lighted it, and was
smoking away. 'By the way, how those same Imperialists have played the
game!--the two or three middle-aged men that Kinglake says, "put their
heads together to plan for a livelihood." I wish they had taken me into the
partnership. It's the sort of thing I'd have liked well; ay, and I could
have done it, too! I wonder,' said he aloud--'I wonder if I were an emperor
should I marry Letty Clancy? I suspect not. Letty would have been flippant
as an empress, and her cousins would have made atrocious princes of the
imperial family, though, for the matter of that--Hullo! Here have I been
smoking without knowing it! Can any one tell us whether the sins we do
inadvertently count as sins, or do we square them off by our inadvertent
good actions? I trust I shall not be called on to catalogue mine. There,
my courage is out!' As he said this he emptied the ashes of his pipe, and
gazed sorrowfully at the empty bowl.
'Now, if I were the son of some good house, with a high-sounding name, and
well-to-do relations, I'd soon bring them to terms if they dared to cast me
off. I'd turn milk or muffin man, and serve the street they lived in. I'd
sweep the crossing in front of their windows, or I'd commit a small theft,
and call on my high connections for a character--but being who and what I
am, I might do any or all o these, and shock nobody.
'Next to take stock of my effects. Let me see what my assets will bring
when reduced to cash, for this time it shall be a sale.' And he turned to a
table where paper and pens were lying, and proceeded to write. 'Personal,
sworn under, let us say, ten thousand pounds. Literature first. To divers
worn copies of _Virgil_, _Tacitus_, _Juvenal_, and _Ovid_, Caesar's
_Commentaries_, and _Catullus_; to ditto ditto of _Homer_, _Lucian_,
_Aristophanes_, _Balzac_, _Anacreon_, Bacon's _Essays_, and Moore's
_Melodies_; to Dwight's _Theology_--uncut copy, Heine's _Poems_--very much
thumbed, _Saint Simon_--very ragged, two volumes of _Les Causes Celebres_,
Tone's _Memoirs_, and Beranger's _Songs_; to Cuvier's _Comparative
Anatomy_, Shroeder on _Shakespeare_, Newman's _Apology_, Archbold's
_Criminal Law_ and _Songs of the Nation_; to Colenso, East's _Cases for
the Crown_, Carte's _Ormonde_, and _Pickwick_. But why go on? Let us call
it the small but well-selected library of a distressed gentleman, whose
cultivated mind is reflected in the marginal notes with which these volumes
abound. Will any gentleman say, "L10 for the lot"? Why the very criticisms
are worth--I mean to a man of literary tastes--five times the amount. No
offer at L10? Who is it that says "five"? I trust my ears have deceived me.
You repeat the insulting proposal? Well, sir, on your own head be it! Mr.
Atlee's library--or the Atlee collection is better--was yesterday disposed
of to a well-known collector of rare books, and, if we are rightly
informed, for a mere fraction of its value. Never mind, sir, I bear you no
ill-will! I was irritable, and to show you my honest animus in the matter,
I beg to present you in addition with this, a handsomely-bound and gilt
copy of a sermon by the Reverend Isaac Atlee, on the opening of the new
meeting-house in Coleraine--a discourse that cost my father some sleepless
nights, though I have heard the effect on the congregation was dissimilar.
'The pictures are few. Cardinal Cullen, I believe, is Kearney's; at all
events, he is the worse for being made a target for pistol firing, and the
archiepiscopal nose has been sorely damaged. Two views of Killarney in
the weather of the period--that means July, and raining in torrents--and
consequently the scene, for aught discoverable, might be the Gaboon.
Portrait of Joe Atlee, _aetatis_ four years, with a villainous squint, and
something that looks like a plug in the left jaw. A Skye terrier, painted,
it is supposed, by himself; not to recite unframed prints of various
celebrities of the ballet, in accustomed attitudes, with the Reverend Paul
Bloxham blessing some children--though from the gesture and the expression
of the juveniles it might seem cuffing them--on the inauguration of the
Sunday school at Kilmurry Macmacmahon.
'Lot three, interesting to anatomical lecturers and others, especially
those engaged in palaeontology. The articulated skeleton of an Irish giant,
representing a man who must have stood in his no-stockings eight feet four
inches. This, I may add, will be warranted as authentic, in so far that I
made him myself out of at least eighteen or twenty big specimens, with a
few slight "divergencies" I may call them, such as putting in eight more
dorsal vertebrae than the regulation, and that the right femur is two
inches longer than the left. The inferior maxillary, too, was stolen from a
"Pithacus Satyrus" in the Cork Museum by an old friend, since transported
for Fenianism. These blemishes apart, he is an admirable giant, and fully
as ornamental and useful as the species generally.
'As to my wardrobe, it is less costly than curious; an alpaca paletot of a
neutral tint, which I have much affected of late, having indisposed me to
other wear. For dinner and evening duty I usually wear Kearney's, though
too tight across the chest, and short in the sleeves. These, with a silver
watch which no pawnbroker--and I have tried eight--will ever advance
more on than seven-and-six. I once got the figure up to nine shillings
by supplementing an umbrella, which was Dick's, and which still remains,
"unclaimed and unredeemed."
'Two o'clock, by all that is supperless! evidently Kearney is enjoying
himself. Ah, youth, youth! I wish I could remember some of the spiteful
things that are said of you--not but on the whole, I take it, you have the
right end of the stick. Is it possible there is nothing to eat in this
inhospitable mansion?' He arose and opened a sort of cupboard in the wall,
scrutinising it closely with the candle. '"Give me but the superfluities of
life," says Gavarni, "and I'll not trouble you for its necessaries." What
would he say, however, to a fellow famishing with hunger in presence of
nothing but pickled mushrooms and Worcester sauce! Oh, here is a crust!
"Bread is the staff of life." On my oath, I believe so; for this eats
devilish like a walking-stick.
'Hullo! back already?' cried he, as Kearney flung wide the door and
entered. 'I suppose you hurried away back to join me at supper.'
'Thanks; but I have supped already, and at a more tempting banquet than
this I see before you.'
'Was it pleasant? was it jolly? Were the girls looking lovely? Was the
champagne-cup well iced? Was everybody charming? Tell me all about it. Let
me have second-hand pleasure, since I can't afford the new article.'
'It was pretty much like every other small ball here, where the garrison
get all the prettiest girls for partners, and take the mammas down to
'Cunning dogs, who secure flirtation above stairs and food below! And what
is stirring in the world? What are the gaieties in prospect? Are any of my
old flames about to get married?'
'I didn't know you had any.'
'Have I not! I believe half the parish of St. Peter's might proceed against
me for breach of promise; and if the law allowed me as many wives as
Brigham Young, I'd be still disappointing a large and interesting section
of society in the suburbs.'
'They have made a seizure on the office of the _Pike_, carried off the
press and the whole issue, and are in eager pursuit after Madden, the
'What for? What is it all about?'
'A new ballad he has published; but which, for the matter of that, they
were singing at every corner as I came along.'
'Was it good? Did you buy a copy?'
'Buy a copy? I should think not.'
'Couldn't your patriotism stand the test of a penny?'
'It might if I wanted the production, which I certainly did not; besides,
there is a run upon this, and they were selling it at sixpence.'
'Hurrah! There's hope for Ireland after all! Shall I sing it for you, old
fellow? Not that you deserve it. English corruption has damped the little
Irish ardour that old rebellion once kindled in your heart; and if you
could get rid of your brogue, you're ready to be loyal. You shall hear it,
however, all the same.' And taking up a very damaged-looking guitar, he
struck a few bold chords, and began:--
'Is there anything more we can fight or can hate for?
The "drop" and the famine have made our ranks thin.
In the name of endurance, then, what do we wait for?
Will nobody give us the word to begin?
'Some brothers have left us in sadness and sorrow,
In despair of the cause they had sworn to win;
They owned they were sick of that cry of "to-morrow";
Not a man would believe that we meant to begin.
'We've been ready for months--is there one can deny it?
Is there any one here thinks rebellion a sin?
We counted the cost--and we did not decry it,
And we asked for no more than the word to begin?
'At Vinegar Hill, when our fathers were fighters,
With numbers against them, they cared not a pin;
They needed no orders from newspaper writers,
To tell them the day it was time to begin.
'To sit here in sadness and silence to bear it,
Is harder to face than the battle's loud din;
'Tis the shame that will kill me--I vow it, I swear it?
Now or never's the time, if we mean to begin.'
There was a wild rapture in the way he struck the last chords, that, if it
did not evince ecstasy, seemed to counterfeit enthusiasm.
'Very poor doggerel, with all your bravura,' said Kearney sneeringly.
'What would you have? I only got three-and-six for it.'
'You! Is that thing yours?'
'Yes, sir; that thing is mine. And the Castle people think somewhat more
gravely about it than you do.'
'At which you are pleased, doubtless?'
'Not pleased, but proud, Master Dick, let me tell you. It's a very
stimulating reflection to the man who dines on an onion, that he can spoil
the digestion of another fellow who has been eating turtle.'
'But you may have to go to prison for this.'
'Not if you don't peach on me, for you are the only one who knows the
authorship. You see, Dick, these things are done cautiously. They are
dropped into a letter-box with an initial letter, and a clerk hands the
payment to some of those itinerant hags that sing the melody, and who
can be trusted with the secret as implicitly as the briber at a borough
'I wish you had a better livelihood, Joe.'
'So do I, or that my present one paid better. The fact is, Dick, patriotism
never was worth much as a career till one got to the top of the profession.
But if you mean to sleep at all, old fellow, "it's time to begin,"' and he
chanted out the last words in a clear and ringing tone, as he banged the
door behind him.
It was while the two young men were seated at breakfast that the post
arrived, bringing a number of country newspapers, for which, in one shape
or other, Joe Atlee wrote something. Indeed, he was an 'own correspondent,'
dating from London, or Paris, or occasionally from Rome, with an easy
freshness and a local colour that vouched for authenticity. These journals
were of a very political tint, from emerald green to the deepest orange;
and, indeed, between two of them--the _Tipperary Pike_ and the _Boyne
Water_, hailing from Carrickfergus--there was a controversy of such
violence and intemperance of language, that it was a curiosity to see the
two papers on the same table: the fact being capable of explanation, that
they were both written by Joe Atlee--a secret, however, that he had not
confided even to his friend Kearney.
'Will that fellow that signs himself Terry O'Toole in the _Pike_ stand
this?' cried Kearney, reading aloud from the _Boyne Water_:--
'"We know the man who corresponds with you under the signature of Terry
O'Toole, and it is but one of the aliases under which he has lived since
he came out of the Richmond Bridewell, filcher, forger, and false witness.
There is yet one thing he has never tried, which is to behave with a little
courage. If he should, however, be able to persuade himself, by the aid
of his accustomed stimulants, to accept the responsibility of what he has
written, we bind ourselves to pay his expenses to any part of France or
Belgium, where he will meet us, and we shall also bind ourselves to give
him what his life little entitles him to, a Christian burial afterwards.
'I am just reading the answer,' said Joe. 'It is very brief: here it is:--
"'If 'No Surrender'--who has been a newsvender in your establishment since
you yourself rose from that employ to the editor's chair--will call at this
office any morning after distributing his eight copies of your daily issue,
we promise to give him such a kicking as he has never experienced during
his literary career. TERRY O'TOOLE.'"
'And these are the amenities of journalism,' cried Kearney.
'For the matter of that, you might exclaim at the quack doctor of a fair,
and ask, Is this the dignity of medicine?' said Joe. 'There's a head and a
tail to every walk in life: even the law has a Chief-Justice at one end and
a Jack Ketch at the other.'
'Well, I sincerely wish that those blackguards would first kick and then
shoot each other.'
'They'll do nothing of the kind! It's just as likely that they wrote the
whole correspondence at the same table and with the same jug of punch
'If so, I don't envy you your career or your comrades.'
'It's a lottery with big prizes in the wheel all the same! I could tell you
the names of great swells, Master Dick, who have made very proud places for
themselves in England by what you call "journalism." In France it is the
one road to eminence. Cannot you imagine, besides, what capital fun it is
to be able to talk to scores of people you were never introduced to? to
tell them an infinity of things on public matters, or now and then about
themselves; and in so many moods as you have tempers, to warn them, scold,
compassionate, correct, console, or abuse them? to tell them not to be
over-confident or bumptious, or purse-proud--'
'And who are _you_, may I ask, who presume to do all this?'
'That's as it may be. We are occasionally Guizot, Thiers, Prevot Paradol,
Lytton, Disraeli, or Joe Atlee.'
'Modest, at all events.'
'And why not say what I feel--not what I have done, but what is in me to
do? Can't you understand this: it would never occur to me that I could
vault over a five-bar gate if I had been born a cripple? but the conscious
possession of a little pliant muscularity might well tempt me to try it.'
'And get a cropper for your pains.'
'Be it so. Better the cropper than pass one's life looking over the top
rail and envying the fellow that had cleared it; but what's this? here's a
letter here: it got in amongst the newspapers. I say, Dick, do you stand
this sort of thing?' said he, as he read the address.
'Stand what sort of thing?' asked the other, half angrily.
'Why, to be addressed in this fashion? The Honourable Richard Kearney,
Trinity College, Dublin.'
'It is from my sister,' said Kearney, as he took the letter impatiently
from his hand; 'and I can only tell you, if she had addressed me otherwise,
I'd not have opened her letter.'
'But come now, old fellow, don't lose temper about it. You have a right to
this designation, or you have not--'
'I'll spare all your eloquence by simply saying, that I do not look on
you as a Committee of Privilege, and I'm not going to plead before you.
Besides,' added he, 'it's only a few minutes ago you asked me to credit you
for something you have not shown yourself to be, but that you intended and
felt that the world should see you were, one of these days.'
'So, then, you really mean to bring your claim before the Lords?'
Kearney, if he heard, did not heed this question, but went on to read his
letter. 'Here's a surprise!' cried he. 'I was telling you, the other day,
about a certain cousin of mine we were expecting from Italy.'
'The daughter of that swindler, the mock prince?'
'The man's character I'll not stand up for, but his rank and title are
alike indisputable,' said Kearney haughtily.
'With all my heart. We have soared into a high atmosphere all this day, and
I hope my respiration will get used to it in time. Read away!'
It was not till after a considerable interval that Kearney had recovered
composure enough to read, and when he did so it was with a brow furrowed
'My dear Dick,--We had just sat down to tea last night, and papa was
fidgeting about the length of time his letter to Italy had remained
unacknowledged, when a sharp ring at the house-door startled us. We had
been hearing a good deal of searches for arms lately in the neighbourhood,
and we looked very blankly at each other for a moment. We neither of us
said so, but I feel sure our thoughts were on the same track, and that we
believed Captain Rock, or the head-centre, or whatever be his latest title,
had honoured us with a call. Old Mathew seemed of the same mind too, for
he appeared at the door with that venerable blunderbuss we have so often
played with, and which, if it had any evil thoughts in its head, I must
have been tried for a murder years ago, for I know it was loaded since I
was a child, but that the lock has for the same space of time not been
on speaking terms with the barrel. While, then, thus confirmed in our
suspicions of mischief by Mat's warlike aspect, we both rose from the
table, the door opened, and a young girl rushed in, and fell--actually
threw herself into papa's arms. It was Nina herself, who had come all the
way from Rome alone, that is, without any one she knew, and made her way to
us here, without any other guidance than her own good wits.
'I cannot tell you how delighted we are with her. She is the loveliest
girl I ever saw, so gentle, so nicely mannered, so soft-voiced, and so
winning--I feel myself like a peasant beside her. The least thing she
says--her laugh, her slightest gesture, the way she moves about the room,
with a sort of swinging grace, which I thought affected at first, but now I
see is quite natural--is only another of her many fascinations.
'I fancied for a while that her features were almost too beautifully
regular for expression, and that even when she smiled and showed her lovely
teeth, her eyes got no increase of brightness; but, as I talked more with
her, and learned to know her better, I saw that those eyes have meanings of
softness and depths in them of wonderful power, and, stranger than all, an
archness that shows she has plenty of humour.
'Her English is charming, but slightly foreign; and when she is at a loss
for a word, there is just that much of difficulty in finding it which gives
a heightened expression to her beautifully calm face, and makes it lovely.
You may see how she has fascinated me, for I could go on raving about her
'She is very anxious to see you, and asks me over and over again, Shall you
like her? I was almost candid enough to say "too well." I mean that you
could not help falling in love with her, my dear Dick, and she is so much
above us in style, in habit, and doubtless in ambition, that such would
be only madness. When she saw your photo she smiled, and said, "Is he not
superb?--I mean proud?" I owned you were, and then she added, "I hope he
will like me." I am not perhaps discreet if I tell you she does not like
the portrait of your chum, Atlee. She says "he is very good-looking, very
clever, very witty, but isn't he false?" and this she says over and over
again. I told her I believed not; that I had never seen him myself, but
that I knew that you liked him greatly, and felt to him as a brother. She
only shook her head, and said, "_Badate bene a quel che dico_. I mean,"
said she, "_I'm right,_ but he's very nice for all that!" If I tell you
this, Dick, it is just because I cannot get it out of my head, and I will
keep saying over and over to myself--"If Joe Atlee be what she suspects,
why does she call him very nice for all that?" I said you intended to ask
him down here next vacation, and she gave the drollest little laugh in
the world--and does she not look lovely when she shows those small pearly
teeth? Heaven help you, poor Dick, when you see her! but, if I were you,
I should leave Master Joe behind me, for she smiles as she looks at his
likeness in a way that would certainly make me jealous, if I were only
Joe's friend, and not himself.
'We sat up in Nina's room till nigh morning, and to-day I have scarcely
seen her, for she wants to be let sleep, after that long and tiresome
journey, and I take the opportunity to write you this very rambling
epistle; for you may feel sure I shall be less of a correspondent now than
when I was without companionship, and I counsel you to be very grateful if
you hear from me soon again.
'Papa wants to take Duggan's farm from him, and Lanty Moore's meadows,
and throw them into the lawn; but I hope he won't persist in the plan;
not alone because it is a mere extravagance, but that the county is very
unsettled just now about land-tenure, and the people are hoping all
sorts of things from Parliament, and any interference with them at
this time would be ill taken. Father Cody was here yesterday, and told
me confidentially to prevent papa--not so easy a thing as he thinks,
particularly if he should come to suspect that any intimidation was
intended--and Miss O'Shea unfortunately said something the other day that
papa cannot get out of his head, and keeps on repeating. "So, then, it's
our turn now," the fellows say; "the landlords have had five hundred years
of it; it's time we should come in." And this he says over and over with a
little laugh, and I wish to my heart Miss Betty had kept it to herself. By
the way, her nephew is to come on leave, and pass two months with her; and
she says she hopes you will be here at the same time, to keep him company;
but I have a notion that another playfellow may prove a dangerous rival to
the Hungarian hussar; perhaps, however, you would hand over Joe Atlee to
'Be sure you bring us some new books, and some music, when you come, or
send them, if you don't come soon. I am terrified lest Nina should think
the place dreary, and I don't know how she is to live here if she does not
take to the vulgar drudgeries that fill my own life. When she abruptly
asked me, "What do you do here?" I was sorely puzzled to know what to
answer, and then she added quickly: "For my own part, it's no great matter,
for I can always dream. I'm a great dreamer!" Is it not lucky for her,
Dick? She'll have ample time for it here.
'I suppose I never wrote so long a letter as this in my life; indeed I
never had a subject that had such a fascination for myself. Do you know,
Dick, that though I promised to let her sleep on till nigh dinner-time, I
find myself every now and then creeping up gently to her door, and only
bethink me of my pledge when my hand is on the lock; and sometimes I even
doubt if she is here at all, and I am half crazy at fearing it may be all a
'One word for yourself, and I have done. Why have you not told us of the
examination? It was to have been on the 10th, and we are now at the 18th.
Have you got--whatever it was? the prize, or the medal, or--the reward, in
short, we were so anxiously hoping for? It would be such cheery tidings
for poor papa, who is very low and depressed of late, and I see him always
reading with such attention any notice of the college he can find in the
newspaper. My dear, dear brother, how you would work hard if you only knew
what a prize success in life might give you. Little as I have seen of her,
I could guess that she will never bestow a thought on an undistinguished
man. Come down for one day, and tell me if ever, in all your ambition, you
had such a goal before you as this?
'The hoggets I sent in to Tullamore fair were not sold; but I believe Miss
Betty's steward will take them; and, if so, I will send you ten pounds next
week. I never knew the market so dull, and the English dealers now are only
eager about horses, and I'm sure I couldn't part with any if I had them.
With all my love, I am your ever affectionate sister,
'I have just stepped into Nina's room and stolen the photo I send you. I
suppose the dress must have been for some fancy ball; but she is a hundred
million times more beautiful. I don't know if I shall have the courage to
confess my theft to her.'
'Is that your sister, Dick?' said Joe Atlee, as young Kearney withdrew the
carte from the letter, and placed it face downwards on the breakfast-table.
'No,' replied he bluntly, and continued to read on; while the other, in the
spirit of that freedom that prevailed between them, stretched out his hand
and took up the portrait.
'Who is this?' cried he, after some seconds. 'She's an actress. That's
something like what the girl wears in _Don Caesar de Bazan_. To be sure, she
is Maritana. She's stunningly beautiful. Do you mean to tell me, Dick, that
there's a girl like that on your provincial boards?'
'I never said so, any more than I gave you leave to examine the contents of
my letters,' said the other haughtily.
'Egad, I'd have smashed the seal any day to have caught a glimpse of such
a face as that. I'll wager her eyes are blue grey. Will you have a bet on
'When you have done with your raptures, I'll thank you to hand the likeness
'But who is she? what is she? where is she? Is she the Greek?'
'When a fellow can help himself so coolly to his information as you do, I
scarcely think he deserves much aid from others; but, I may tell you, she
is not Maritana, nor a provincial actress, nor any actress at all, but a
young lady of good blood and birth, and my own first cousin.'
'On my oath, it's the best thing I ever knew of you.'
Kearney laughed out at this moment at something in the letter, and did not
hear the other's remark.
'It seems, Master Joe, that the young lady did not reciprocate the
rapturous delight you feel, at sight of _your_ picture. My sister
says--I'll read you her very words--"she does not like the portrait of your
friend Atlee; he may be clever and amusing, she says, but he is undeniably
false." Mind that--undeniably false.'
'That's all the fault of the artist. The stupid dog would place me in so
strong a light that I kept blinking.'
'No, no. She reads you like a book,' said the other.
'I wish to Heaven she would, if she would hold me like one.'
'And the nice way she qualifies your cleverness, by calling you amusing.'
'She could certainly spare that reproach to her cousin Dick,' said he,
laughing; 'but no more of this sparring. When do you mean to take me down
to the country with you? The term will be up on Tuesday.'
'That will demand a little consideration now. In the fall of the year,
perhaps. When the sun is less powerful the light will be more favourable to
'My poor Dick, I cram you with good advice every day; but one counsel I
never cease repeating, "Never try to be witty." A dull fellow only cuts his
finger with a joke; he never catches it by the handle. Hand me over that
letter of your sister's; I like the way she writes. All that about the pigs
and the poultry is as good as the _Farmer's Chronicle_.'
The other made no other reply than by coolly folding up the letter and
placing it in his pocket; and then, after a pause, he said--
'I shall tell Miss Kearney the favourable impression her epistolary powers
have produced on my very clever and accomplished chum, Mr. Atlee.'
'Do so; and say, if she'd take me for a correspondent instead of you, she'd
be "exchanging with a difference." On my oath,' said he seriously, 'I
believe a most finished education might be effected in letter-writing. I'd
engage to take a clever girl through a whole course of Latin and Greek,
and a fair share of mathematics and logic, in a series of letters, and her
replies would be the fairest test of her acquirement.'
'Shall I propose this to my sister?'
'Do so, or to your cousin. I suspect Maritana would be an apter pupil.'
'The bell has stopped. We shall be late in the hall,' said Kearney,
throwing on his gown hurriedly and hastening away; while Atlee, taking some
proof-sheets from the chimney-piece, proceeded to correct them, a slight
flicker of a smile still lingering over his dark but handsome face.
Though such little jarring passages as those we have recorded were nothing
uncommon between these two young men, they were very good friends on the
whole, the very dissimilarity that provoked their squabbles saving them
from any more serious rivalry. In reality, no two people could be less
alike: Kearney being a slow, plodding, self-satisfied, dull man, of
very ordinary faculties; while the other was an indolent, discursive,
sharp-witted fellow, mastering whatever he addressed himself to with ease,
but so enamoured of novelty that he rarely went beyond a smattering of
anything. He carried away college honours apparently at will, and might,
many thought, have won a fellowship with little effort; but his passion
was for change. Whatever bore upon the rogueries of letters, the frauds of
literature, had an irresistible charm for him; and he once declared that he
would almost rather have been Ireland than Shakespeare; and then it was his
delight to write Greek versions of a poem that might attach the mark of
plagiarism to Tennyson, or show, by a Scandinavian lyric, how the laureate
had been poaching from the Northmen. Now it was a mock pastoral in most
ecclesiastical Latin that set the whole Church in arms; now a mock despatch
of Baron Beust that actually deceived the _Revue des Deux Mondes_ and
caused quite a panic at the Tuileries. He had established such relations
with foreign journals that he could at any moment command insertion for
a paper, now in the _Memorial Diplomatique_, now in the _Golos_ of St.
Petersburg, or the _Allgemeine Zeitung_; while the comment, written also
by himself, would appear in the _Kreuz Zeitung_ or the _Times_; and the
mystification became such that the shrewdest and keenest heads were
constantly misled, to which side to incline in a controversy where all the
wires were pulled by one hand. Many a discussion on the authenticity of a
document, or the veracity of a conversation, would take place between the
two young men; Kearney not having the vaguest suspicion that the author of
the point in debate was then sitting opposite to him, sometimes seeming to
share the very doubts and difficulties that were then puzzling himself.
While Atlee knew Kearney in every fold and fibre of his nature, Kearney had
not the very vaguest conception of him with whom he sat every day at meals,
and communed through almost every hour of his life. He treated Joe, indeed,
with a sort of proud protection, thinking him a sharp, clever, idle fellow,
who would never come to anything higher than a bookseller's hack or an
'occasional correspondent.' He liked his ready speech, and his fun, but he
would not consent to see in either evidences of anything beyond the amusing
qualities of a very light intelligence. On the whole, he looked down upon
him, as very properly the slow and ponderous people in life do look down
upon their more volatile brethren, and vote them triflers. Long may it be
so! There would be more sunstrokes in the world, if it were not that the
shadows of dull men made such nice cool places for the others to walk in!
HOME LIFE AT THE CASTLE
The life of that quaint old country-house was something very strange and
odd to Nina Kostalergi. It was not merely its quiet monotony, its unbroken
sameness of topics as of events, and its small economies, always appearing
on the surface; but that a young girl like Kate, full of life and spirits,
gay, handsome, and high-hearted--that she should go her mill-round of these
tiresome daily cares, listening to the same complaints, remedying the same
evils, meeting the same difficulties, and yet never seem to resent an
existence so ignoble and unworthy! This was, indeed, scarcely credible.
As for Nina herself--like one saved from shipwreck--her first sense of
security was full of gratitude. It was only as this wore off that she began
to see the desolation of the rock on which she had clambered. Not that
her former life had been rose-tinted. It had been of all things the most
harassing and wearing--a life of dreary necessitude--a perpetual struggle
with debt. Except play, her father had scarcely any resource for a
livelihood. He affected, indeed, to give lessons in Italian and French to
young Englishmen; but he was so fastidious as to the rank and condition of
his pupils, so unaccommodating as to his hours and so unpunctual, that it
was evident that the whole was a mere pretence of industry, to avoid the
reproach of being utterly dependent on the play-table; besides this, in
his capacity as a teacher he obtained access to houses and acceptance
with families where he would have found entrance impossible under other
He was polished and good-looking. All his habits bespoke familiarity with
society; and he knew to the nicest fraction the amount of intimacy he might
venture on with any one. Some did not like him--the man of a questionable
position, the reduced gentleman, has terrible prejudices to combat. He
must always be suspected--Heaven knows of what, but of some covert design
against the religion or the pocket, or the influence of those who admit
him. Some thought him dangerous because his manners were insinuating, and
his address studiously directed to captivate. Others did not fancy his
passion for mixing in the world, and frequenting society to which his
straitened means appeared to deny him rightful access; but when he had
succeeded in introducing his daughter to the world, and people began to
say, 'See how admirably M. Kostalergi has brought up that girl! how nicely
mannered she is, how ladylike, how well bred, what a linguist, what a
musician!' a complete revulsion took place in public opinion, and many
who had but half trusted, or less than liked him before, became now his
stanchest friends and adherents. Nina had been a great success in society,
and she reaped the full benefit of it. Sufficiently well born to be
admitted, without any special condescension, into good houses, she was in
manner and style the equal of any; and though her dress was ever of the
cheapest and plainest, her fresh toilet was often commented on with praise
by those who did not fully remember what added grace and elegance the
wearer had lent it.
From the wealthy nobles to whom her musical genius had strongly recommended
her, numerous and sometimes costly presents were sent in acknowledgment of
her charming gifts; and these, as invariably, were converted into money
by her father, who, after a while, gave it to be understood that the
recompense would be always more welcome in that form.
Nina, however, for a long time knew nothing of this; she saw herself sought
after and flattered in society, selected for peculiar attention wherever
she went, complimented on her acquirements, and made much of to an extent
that not unfrequently excited the envy and jealousy of girls much more
favourably placed by fortune than herself. If her long mornings and
afternoons were passed amidst solitude and poverty, vulgar cares, and
harassing importunities, when night came, she emerged into the blaze of
lighted lustres and gilded salons, to move in an atmosphere of splendour
and sweet sounds, with all that could captivate the senses and exalt
imagination. This twofold life of meanness and magnificence so wrought upon
her nature as to develop almost two individualities. The one hard, stern,
realistic, even to grudgingness; the other gay, buoyant, enthusiastic, and
ardent; and they who only saw her of an evening in all the exultation of
her flattered beauty, followed about by a train of admiring worshippers,
addressed in all that exaggeration of language Italy sanctions, pampered by
caresses, and honoured by homage on every side, little knew by what dreary
torpor of heart and mind that joyous ecstasy they witnessed had been
preceded, nor by what a bound her emotions had sprung from the depths of
brooding melancholy to this paroxysm of delight; nor could the worn-out and
wearied followers of pleasure comprehend the intense enjoyment produced
by sights and sounds which in their case no fancy idealised, no soaring
imagination had lifted to the heaven of bliss.
Kostalergi seemed for a while to content himself with the secret resources
of his daughter's successes, but at length he launched out into heavy play
once more, and lost largely. It was in this strait that he bethought him of
negotiating with a theatrical manager for Nina's appearance on the stage.
These contracts take the precise form of a sale, where the victim, in
consideration of being educated, and maintained, and paid a certain amount,
is bound, legally bound, to devote her services to a master for a given
time. The impresario of the 'Fenice' had often heard from travellers of
that wonderful mezzo-soprano voice which was captivating all Rome, where
the beauty and grace of the singer were extolled not less loudly. The great
skill of these astute providers for the world's pleasure is evidenced in
nothing more remarkably than the instinctive quickness with which they
pounce upon the indications of dramatic genius, and hasten away--half
across the globe if need be--to secure it. Signor Lanari was not slow to
procure a letter of introduction to Kostalergi, and very soon acquainted
him with his object.
Under the pretence that he was an old friend and former schoolfellow,
Kostalergi asked him to share their humble dinner, and there, in that
meanly-furnished room, and with the accompaniment of a wretched and
jangling instrument, Nina so astonished and charmed him by her performance,
that all the habitual reserve of the cautious bargainer gave way, and he
burst out into exclamations of enthusiastic delight, ending with--'She is
mine! she is mine! I tell you, since Persiani, there has been nothing like
Nothing remained now but to reveal the plan to herself, and though
certainly neither the Greek nor his guest were deficient in descriptive
power, or failed to paint in glowing colours the gorgeous processions of
triumphs that await stage success, she listened with little pleasure to it
all. She had already walked the boards of what she thought a higher arena.
She had tasted flatteries unalloyed with any sense of decided inferiority;
she had moved amongst dukes and duchesses with a recognised station, and
received their compliments with ease and dignity. Was all this reality of
condition to be exchanged for a mock splendour, and a feigned greatness?
was she to be subjected to the licensed stare and criticism and coarse
comment, it may be, of hundreds she never knew, nor would stoop to know?
and was the adulation she now lived in to be bartered for the vulgar
applause of those who, if dissatisfied, could testify the feeling as openly
and unsparingly? She said very little of what she felt in her heart, but no
sooner alone in her room at night, than she wrote that letter to her uncle
entreating his protection.
It had been arranged with Lanari that she should make one appearance at a
small provincial theatre so soon as she could master any easy part, and
Kostalergi, having some acquaintance with the manager at Orvieto, hastened
off there to obtain his permission for her appearance. It was of this brief
absence she profited to fly from Rome, the banker conveying her as far as
Civita Vecchia, whence she sailed direct for Marseilles. And now we see
her, as she found herself in the dreary old Irish mansion, sad, silent, and
neglected, wondering whether the past was all a dream, or if the unbroken
calm in which she now lived was not a sleep.
Conceding her perfect liberty to pass her time how she liked, they exacted
from her no appearance at meals, nor any conformity with the ways of
others, and she never came to breakfast, and only entered the drawing-room
a short time before dinner. Kate, who had counted on her companionship and
society, and hoped to see her sharing with her the little cares and duties
of her life, and taking interest in her pursuits, was sorely grieved at
her estrangement, but continued to believe it would wear off with time
and familiarity with the place. Kearney himself, in secret, resented
the freedom with which she disregarded the discipline of his house, and
grumbled at times over foreign ways and habits that he had no fancy to
see under his roof. When she did appear, however, her winning manners,
her grace, and a certain half-caressing coquetry she could practise to
perfection, so soothed and amused him that he soon forgot any momentary
displeasure, and more than once gave up his evening visit to the club at
Moate to listen to her as she sang, or hear her sketch off some trait of
that Roman society in which British pretension and eccentricity often
figured so amusingly.
Like a faithful son of the Church, too, he never wearied hearing of the
Pope and of the Cardinals, of glorious ceremonials of the Church, and
festivals observed with all the pomp and state that pealing organs,
and incense, and gorgeous vestments could confer. The contrast between
the sufferance under which his Church existed at home and the honours
and homage rendered to it abroad, were a fruitful stimulant to that
disaffection he felt towards England, and would not unfrequently lead him
away to long diatribes about penal laws and the many disabilities which had
enslaved Ireland, and reduced himself, the descendant of a princely race,
to the condition of a ruined gentleman.
To Kate these complainings were ever distasteful; she had but one
philosophy, which was 'to bear up well,' and when, not that, 'as well as
you could.' She saw scores of things around her to be remedied, or, at
least, bettered, by a little exertion, and not one which could be helped
by a vain regret. For the loss of that old barbaric splendour and profuse
luxury which her father mourned over, she had no regrets. She knew that
these wasteful and profligate livers had done nothing for the people either
in act or in example; that they were a selfish, worthless, self-indulgent
race, caring for nothing but their pleasures, and making all their
patriotism consist in a hate towards England.
These were not Nina's thoughts. She liked all these stories of a time of
power and might, when the Kearneys were great chieftains, and the old
castle the scene of revelry and feasting.
She drew prettily, and it amused her to illustrate the curious tales the
old man told her of rays and forays, the wild old life of savage chieftains
and the scarcely less savage conquerors. On one of these--she called it
'The Return of O'Caharney'--she bestowed such labour and study, that her
uncle would sit for hours watching the work, not knowing if his heart
were more stirred by the claim of his ancestor's greatness, or by the
marvellous skill that realised the whole scene before him. The head of the
young chieftain was to be filled in when Dick came home. Meanwhile great
persuasions were being used to induce Peter Gill to sit for a kern who had
shared the exile of his masters, but had afterwards betrayed them to the
English; and whether Gill had heard some dropping word of the part he was
meant to fill, or that his own suspicion had taken alarm from certain
directions the young lady gave as to the expression he was to assume,
certain is it nothing could induce him to comply, and go down to posterity
with the immortality of crime.
The little long-neglected drawing-room where Nina had set up her easel
became now the usual morning lounge of the old man, who loved to sit and
watch her as she worked, and, what amused him even more, listen while she
talked. It seemed to him like a revival of the past to hear of the world,
that gay world of feasting and enjoyment, of which for so many years he
had known nothing; and here he was back in it again, and with grander
company and higher names than he ever remembered. 'Why was not Kate like
her?' would he mutter over and over to himself. Kate was a good girl,
fine-tempered and happy-hearted, but she had no accomplishments, none of
those refinements of the other. If he wanted to present her at 'the Castle'
one of these days, he did not know if she would have tact enough for the
ordeal; but Nina!--Nina was sure to make an actual sensation, as much by
her grace and her style as by her beauty. Kearney never came into the
room where she was without being struck by the elegance of her demeanour,
the way she would rise to receive him, her step, her carriage, the very
disposal of her drapery as she sat; the modulated tone of her voice, and a
sort of purring satisfaction as she took his hand and heard his praises
of her, spread like a charm over him, so that he never knew how the time
slipped by as he sat beside her.
Have you ever written to your father since you came here?' asked he one day
as they talked together.
'Yes, sir; and yesterday I got a letter from him. Such a nice letter,
sir--no complainings, no reproaches for my running away; but all sorts of
good wishes for my happiness. He owns he was sorry to have ever thought
of the stage for me; but he says this lawsuit he is engaged in about his
grandfather's will may last for years, and that he knew I was so certain
of a great success, and that a great success means more than mere money,
he fancied that in my triumph he would reap the recompense for his own
disasters. He is now, however, far happier that I have found a home, a real
home, and says, "Tell my lord I am heartily ashamed of all my rudeness with
regard to him, and would willingly make a pilgrimage to the end of Europe
to ask his pardon"; and say besides that "when I shall be restored to
the fortune and rank of my ancestors"--you know,' added she, 'he is a
prince--"my first act will be to throw myself at his feet, and beg to be
forgiven by him."'
'What is the property? is it land?' asked he, with the half-suspectfulness
of one not fully assured of what he was listening to.
'Yes, sir; the estate is in Delos. I have seen the plan of the grounds and
gardens of the palace, which are princely. Here, on this seal,' said she,
showing the envelope of her letter, 'you can see the arms; papa never omits
to use it, though on his card he is written only "of the princes"--a form
observed with us.'
'And what chance has he of getting it all back again?'
'That is more than I can tell you; he himself is sometimes very confident,
and talks as if there could not be a doubt of it.'
'Used your poor mother to believe it?' asked he, half-tremulously.
'I can scarcely say, sir; I can barely remember her; but I have heard papa
blame her for not interesting her high connections in England in his suit;
he often thought that a word to the ambassador at Athens would have almost
decided the case.'
'High connections, indeed!' burst he forth. 'By my conscience, they're
pretty much out at elbows, like himself; and if we were trying to recover
our own right to-morrow, the look-out would be bleak enough!'
'Papa is not easily cast down, sir; he has a very sanguine spirit.'
'Maybe you think it's what is wanting in my case, eh, Nina? Say it out,
girl; tell me, I'd be the better for a little of your father's hopefulness,
'You could not change to anything I could like better than what you are,'
said she, taking his hand and kissing it.
'Ah, you 're a rare one to say coaxing things,' said he, looking fondly on
her. 'I believe you'd be the best advocate for either of us if the courts
would let you plead for us.'
'I wish they would, sir,' said she proudly.
'What is that?' cried he suddenly; 'sure it's not putting myself you are in
'Of course I am, sir. Was not the O'Caharney your ancestor? Is it likely
that an old race had not traits of feature and lineament that ages of
descent could not efface? I'd swear that strong brow and frank look must be
''Faith, then, almost the only one!' said he, sighing. 'Who's making that
noise out there?' said he, rising and going to the window. 'Oh, it's Kate
with her dogs. I often tell her she 'd keep a pair of ponies for less than
those troublesome brutes cost her.'
'They are great company to her, she says, and she lives so much in the open
'I know she does,' said he, dropping his head and sitting like one whose
thoughts had taken a brooding, despondent turn.
'One more sitting I must have, sir, for the hair. You had it beautifully
yesterday: it fell over on one side with a most perfect light on a large
lock here. Will you give me half an hour to-morrow, say?'
[Illustration: 'One more sitting I must have, sir, for the hair']
'I can't promise you, my dear. Peter Gill has been urging me to go over to
Loughrea for the fair; and if we go, we ought to be there by Saturday, and
have a quiet look at the stock before the sales begin.'
'And are you going to be long away?' said she poutingly, as she leaned over
the back of his chair, and suffered her curls to fall half across his face.
'I'll be right glad to be back again,' said he, pressing her head down till
he could kiss her cheek, 'right glad!'
THE 'BLUE GOAT'
The 'Blue Goat' in the small town of Moate is scarcely a model hostel.
The entrance-hall is too much encumbered by tramps and beggars of various
orders and ages, who not only resort there to take their meals and play at
cards, but to divide the spoils and settle the accounts of their several
'industries,' and occasionally to clear off other scores which demand
police interference. On the left is the bar; the right-hand being used as
the office of a land-agent, is besieged by crowds of country-people, in
whom, if language is to be trusted, the grievous wrongs of land-tenure
are painfully portrayed--nothing but complaint, dogged determination,
and resistance being heard on every side. Behind the bar is a long
low-ceilinged apartment, the parlour _par excellence_, only used by
distinguished visitors, and reserved on one especial evening of the
week for the meeting of the 'Goats,' as the members of a club call
themselves--the chief, indeed the founder, being our friend Mathew Kearney,
whose title of sovereignty was 'Buck-Goat,' and whose portrait, painted
by a native artist and presented by the society, figured over the
mantel-piece. The village Van Dyck would seem to have invested largely in
carmine, and though far from parsimonious of it on the cheeks and the nose
of his sitter, he was driven to work off some of his superabundant stock
on the cravat, and even the hands, which, though amicably crossed in front
of the white-waistcoated stomach, are fearfully suggestive of some recent
deed of blood. The pleasant geniality of the countenance is, however,
reassuring. Nor--except a decided squint, by which the artist had
ambitiously attempted to convey a humoristic drollery to the expression--is
there anything sinister in the portrait.
An inscription on the frame announces that this picture of their respected
founder was presented, on his fiftieth birthday, 'To Mathew Kearney, sixth
Viscount Kilgobbin'; various devices of 'caprine' significance, heads,
horns, and hoofs, profusely decorating the frame. If the antiquary should
lose himself in researches for the origin of this society, it is as well
to admit at once that the landlord's sign of the 'Blue Goat' gave the
initiative to the name, and that the worthy associates derived nothing
from classical authority, and never assumed to be descendants of fauns or
satyrs, but respectable shopkeepers of Moate, and unexceptional judges of
'poteen.' A large jug of this insinuating liquor figured on the table, and
was called 'Goat's-milk'; and if these humoristic traits are so carefully
enumerated, it is because they comprised all that was specially droll
or quaint in these social gatherings, the members of which were a very
commonplace set of men, who discussed their little local topics in very
ordinary fashion, slightly elevated, perhaps, in self-esteem, by thinking
how little the outer world knew of their dulness and dreariness.
As the meetings were usually determined on by the will of the president,
who announced at the hour of separation when they were to reassemble, and
as, since his niece's arrival, Kearney had almost totally forgotten his old
associates, the club-room ceased to be regarded as the holy of holies, and
was occasionally used by the landlord for the reception of such visitors as
he deemed worthy of peculiar honour.
It was on a very wet night of that especially rainy month in the Irish
calendar, July, that two travellers sat over a turf fire in this sacred
chamber, various articles of their attire being spread out to dry before
the blaze, the owners of which actually steamed with the effects of the
heat upon their damp habiliments. Some fishing-tackle and two knapsacks,
which lay in a corner, showed they were pedestrians, and their looks,
voice, and manner proclaimed them still more unmistakably to be gentlemen.
One was a tall, sunburnt, soldierlike man of six or seven-and-thirty,
powerfully built, and with that solidity of gesture and firmness of tread
sometimes so marked with strong men. A mere glance at him showed he was a
cold, silent, somewhat haughty man, not given to hasty resolves or in any
way impulsive, and it is just possible that a long acquaintance with him
would not have revealed a great deal more. He had served in a half-dozen
regiments, and although all declared that Henry Lockwood was an honourable
fellow, a good soldier, and thoroughly 'safe'--very meaning epithet--there
were no very deep regrets when he 'exchanged,' nor was there, perhaps,
one man who felt he had lost his 'pal' by his going. He was now in the
Carbineers, and serving as an extra aide-de-camp to the Viceroy.
Not a little unlike him in most respects was the man who sat opposite
him--a pale, finely-featured, almost effeminate-looking young fellow,
with a small line of dark moustache, and a beard _en Henri Quatre_, to
the effect of which a collar cut in Van Dyck fashion gave an especial
significance. Cecil Walpole was disposed to be pictorial in his get-up,
and the purple dye of his knickerbocker stockings, the slouching plumage
of his Tyrol hat, and the graceful hang of his jacket, had excited envy
in quarters where envy was fame. He too was on the viceregal staff, being
private secretary to his relative the Lord-Lieutenant, during whose absence
in England they had undertaken a ramble to the Westmeath lakes, not very
positive whether their object was to angle for trout or to fish for that
'knowledge of Ireland' so popularly sought after in our day, and which
displays itself so profusely in platform speeches and letters to the Times.