Part 4 out of 12
assurance that when the day of these enormities arrived, O'Shea's Barn
Would be open to her as a refuge and a sanctuary; 'but not,' added she,
'with your cousin, for I'll not let the hussy cross my doors.'
For months now this strict quarantine had lasted, and except for the
interchange of some brief and very uninteresting notes, all intimacy had
ceased between the two houses--a circumstance, I am loth to own, which was
most ungallantly recorded every day after dinner by old Kearney, who drank
'Miss Betty's health, and long absence to her.' It was then with no small
astonishment Kate was overtaken in the avenue by Miss Betty on her old
chestnut mare Judy, a small bog-boy mounted on the croup behind to act as
groom; for in this way Paddy Walshe was accustomed to travel, without the
slightest consciousness that he was not in strict conformity with the ways
of Rotten Row and the 'Bois.'
That there was nothing 'stuck-up' or pretentious about this mode of being
accompanied by one's groom--a proposition scarcely assailable--was Miss
Betty's declaration, delivered in a sort of challenge to the world. Indeed,
certain ticklesome tendencies in Judy, particularly when touched with the
heel, seemed to offer the strongest protest against the practice; for
whenever pushed to any increase of speed or admonished in any way, the
beast usually responded by a hoist of the haunches, which invariably
compelled Paddy to clasp his mistress round the waist for safety--a
situation which, however repugnant to maiden bashfulness, time, and perhaps
necessity, had reconciled her to. At all events, poor Paddy's terror would
have been the amplest refutation of scandal, while the stern immobility of
Miss Betty during the embrace would have silenced even malevolence.
On the present occasion, a sharp canter of several miles had reduced Judy
to a very quiet and decorous pace, so that Paddy and his mistress sat
almost back to back--a combination that only long habit enabled Kate to
witness without laughing.
'Are you alone up at the castle, dear?' asked Miss Betty, as she rode
along at her side; 'or have you the house full of what the papers call
'We are quite alone, godmother. My brother is with us, but we have no
'I am glad of it. I've come over to "have it out" with your father, and
it's pleasant to know we shall be to ourselves.'
Now, as this announcement of having 'it out' conveyed to Kate's mind
nothing short of an open declaration of war, a day of reckoning on which
Miss O'Shea would come prepared with a full indictment, and a resolution to
prosecute to conviction, the poor girl shuddered at a prospect so certain
to end in calamity.
'Papa is very far from well, godmother,' said she, in a mild way.
'So they tell me in the town,' said the other snappishly. 'His brother
magistrates said that the day he came in, about that supposed attack--the
memorable search for arms--'
'Supposed attack! but, godmother, pray don't imagine we had invented all
that. I think you know me well enough and long enough to know--'
'To know that you would not have had a young scamp of a Castle aide-de-camp
on a visit during your father's absence, not to say anything about amusing
your English visitor by shooting down your own tenantry.'
'Will you listen to me for five minutes?'
'No, not for three.'
'Two, then--one even--one minute, godmother, will convince you how you
'I won't give you that. I didn't come over about you nor your affairs. When
the father makes a fool of himself, why wouldn't the daughter? The whole
country is laughing at him. His lordship indeed! a ruined estate and a
tenantry in rags; and the only remedy, as Peter Gill tells me, raising the
rents--raising the rents where every one is a pauper.'
'What would you have him do, Miss O'Shea?' said Kate, almost angrily.
'I'll tell you what I'd have him do. I'd have him rise of a morning before
nine o'clock, and be out with his labourers at daybreak. I'd have him
reform a whole lazy household of blackguards, good for nothing but waste
and wickedness. I'd have him apprentice your brother to a decent trade or
a light business. I'd have him declare he'd kick the first man that called
him "My lord"; and for yourself, well, it's no matter--'
'Yes, but it is, godmother, a great matter to me at least. What about
'Well, I don't wish to speak of it, but it just dropped out of my lips by
accident; and perhaps, though not pleasant to talk about, it's as well it
was said and done with. I meant to tell your father that it must be all
over between you and my nephew Gorman; that I won't have him back here on
leave as I intended. I know it didn't go far, dear. There was none of what
they call love in the case. You would probably have liked one another well
enough at last; but I won't have it, and it's better we came to the right
understanding at once.'
'Your curb-chain is loose, godmother,' said the girl, who now, pale as
death and trembling all over, advanced to fasten the link.
'I declare to the Lord, he's asleep!' said Miss Betty, as the wearied head
of her page dropped heavily on her shoulder. 'Take the curb off, dear, or
I may lose it. Put it in your pocket for me, Kate; that is, if you wear a
'Of course I do, godmother. I carry very stout keys in it, too. Look at
'Ay, ay. I liked all that, once on a time, well enough, and used to think
you'd be a good thrifty wife for a poor man; but with the viscount your
father, and the young princess your first cousin, and the devil knows what
of your fine brother, I believe the sooner we part good friends the better.
Not but if you like my plan for you, I'll be just as ready as ever to aid
'I have not heard the plan yet,' said Kate faintly.
'Just a nunnery, then--no more nor less than that. The "Sacred Heart" at
Namur, or the Sisters of Mercy here at home in Bagot Street, I believe, if
you like better--eh?'
'It is soon to be able to make up one's mind on such a point. I want a
little time for this, godmother.'
'You would not want time if your heart were in a holy work, Kate Kearney.
It's little time you'd be asking if I said, will you have Gorman O'Shea for
'There is such a thing as insult, Miss O'Shea, and no amount of long
intimacy can license that.'
'I ask your pardon, godchild. I wish you could know how sorry I feel.'
'Say no more, godmother, say no more, I beseech you,' cried Kate, and her
tears now gushed forth, and relieved her almost bursting heart. 'I'll take
this short path through the shrubbery, and be at the door before you,'
cried she, rushing away; while Miss Betty, with a sharp touch of the spur,
provoked such a plunge as effectually awoke Paddy, and apprised him that
his duties as groom were soon to be in request.
While earnestly assuring him that some changes in his diet should be
speedily adopted against somnolency, Miss Betty rode briskly on, and
reached the hall door.
'I told you I should be first, godmother,' said the girl; and the pleasant
ring of her voice showed she had regained her spirits, or at least such
self-control as enabled her to suppress her sorrow.
A DOMESTIC DISCUSSION
It is a not infrequent distress in small households, especially when some
miles from a market-town, to make adequate preparation for an unexpected
guest at dinner; but even this is a very inferior difficulty to that
experienced by those who have to order the repast in conformity with
certain rigid notions of a guest who will criticise the smallest deviation
from the most humble standard, and actually rebuke the slightest pretension
to delicacy of food or elegance of table-equipage.
No sooner, then, had Kate learned that Miss O'Shea was to remain for
dinner, than she immediately set herself to think over all the possible
reductions that might be made in the fare, and all the plainness and
simplicity that could be imparted to the service of the meal.
Napkins had not been the sole reform suggested by the Greek cousin. She had
introduced flowers on the table, and so artfully had she decked out the
board with fruit and ornamental plants, that she had succeeded in effecting
by artifice what would have been an egregious failure if more openly
attempted--the service of the dishes one by one to the guests without any
being placed on the table. These, with finger-glasses, she had already
achieved, nor had she in the recesses of her heart given up the hope of
seeing the day that her uncle would rise from the table as she did, give
her his arm to the drawing-room, and bow profoundly as he left her. Of the
inestimable advantages, social, intellectual, and moral, of this system,
she had indeed been cautious to hold forth; for, like a great reformer,
she was satisfied to leave her improvements to the slow test of time,
'educating her public,' as a great authority has called it, while she bided
the result in patience.
Indeed, as poor Mathew Kearney was not to be indulged with the luxury of
whisky-punch during his dinner, it was not easy to reply to his question,
'When am I to have my tumbler?' as though he evidently believed the
aforesaid 'tumbler' was an institution that could not be abrogated or
Coffee in the drawing-room was only a half-success so long as the gentlemen
sat over their wine; and as for the daily cigarette Nina smoked with it,
Kate, in her simplicity, believed it was only done as a sort of protest
at being deserted by those unnatural protectors who preferred poteen to
It was therefore in no small perturbation of mind that Kate rushed to
her cousin's room with the awful tidings that Miss Betty had arrived and
intended to remain for dinner.
'Do you mean that odious woman with the boy and band-box behind her on
horseback?' asked Nina superciliously.
'Yes, she always travels in that fashion; she is odd and eccentric in
scores of things, but a fine-hearted, honest woman, generous to the poor,
and true to her friends.'
'I don't care for her moral qualities, but I do bargain for a little
outward decency, and some respect for the world's opinion.'
'You will like her, Nina, when you know her.'
'I shall profit by the warning. I'll take care not to know her.'
'She is one of the oldest, I believe the oldest, friend our family has in
'What a sad confession, child; but I have always deplored longevity.'
'Don't be supercilious or sarcastic, Nina, but help me with your own good
sense and wise advice. She has not come over in the best of humours. She
has, or fancies she has, some difference to settle with papa. They seldom
meet without a quarrel, and I fear this occasion is to be no exception; so
do aid me to get things over pleasantly, if it be possible.'
'She snubbed me the only time I met her. I tried to help her off with her
bonnet, and, unfortunately, I displaced, if I did not actually remove, her
wig, and she muttered something "about a rope-dancer not being a dexterous
'O Nina, surely you do not mean--'
'Not that I was exactly a rope-dancer, Kate, but I had on a Greek jacket
that morning of blue velvet and gold, and a white skirt, and perhaps these
had some memories of the circus for the old lady.'
'You are only jesting now, Nina.'
'Don't you know me well enough to know that I never jest when I think, or
even suspect, I am injured?'
'It's not the word I wanted, but it will do; I used it in its French
'You bear no malice, I'm sure?' said the other caressingly.
'No!' replied she, with a shrug that seemed to deprecate even having a
thought about her.
'She will stay for dinner, and we must, as far as possible, receive her in
the way she has been used to here, a very homely dinner, served as she
has always seen it--no fruit or flowers on the table, no claret-cup, no
'I hope no tablecloth; couldn't we have a tray on a corner table, and every
one help himself as he strolled about the room?'
'Dear Nina, be reasonable just for this once.'
'I'll come down just as I am, or, better still, I'll take down my hair and
cram it into a net; I'd oblige her with dirty hands, if I only knew how to
'I see you only say these things in jest; you really do mean to help me
through this difficulty.'
'But why a difficulty? what reason can you offer for all this absurd
submission to the whims of a very tiresome old woman? Is she very rich, and
do you expect an heritage?'
'No, no; nothing of the kind.'
'Does she load you with valuable presents? Is she ever ready to commemorate
birthdays and family festivals?'
'Has she any especial quality or gift beyond riding double and a bad
temper? Oh, I was forgetting; she is the aunt of her nephew, isn't
she?--the dashing lancer that was to spend his summer over here?'
'You were indeed forgetting when you said this,' said Kate proudly, and her
face grew scarlet as she spoke.
'Tell me that you like him or that he likes you; tell me that there is
something, anything, between you, child, and I'll be discreet and mannerly,
too; and more, I'll behave to the old lady with every regard to one who
holds such dear interests in her keeping. But don't bandage my eyes, and
tell me at the same time to look out and see.'
'I have no confidences to make you,' said Kate coldly. 'I came here to ask
a favour--a very small favour, after all--and you might have accorded it
without question or ridicule.'
'But which you never need have asked, Kate,' said the other gravely. 'You
are the mistress here; I am but a very humble guest. Your orders are
obeyed, as they ought to be; my suggestions may be adopted now and
then--partly in caprice, part compliment--but I know they have no
permanence, no more take root here than--than myself.'
'Do not say that, my dearest Nina,' said Kate, as she threw herself on her
neck and kissed her affectionately again and again. 'You are one of us, and
we are all proud of it. Come along with me, now, and tell me all that
you advise. You know what I wish, and you will forgive me even in my
'Where's your brother?' asked Nina hastily.
'Gone out with his gun. He'll not be back till he is certain Miss Betty has
taken her departure.'
'Why did he not offer to take me with him?'
'Over the bog, do you mean?'
'Anywhere; I'd not cavil about the road. Don't you know that I have days
when "don't care" masters me--when I'd do anything, go anywhere--'
'Marry any one?' said the other, laughing.
'Yes, marry any one, as irresponsibly as if I was dealing with the destiny
of some other that did not regard me. On these days I do not belong to
myself, and this is one of them.'
'I know nothing of such humours, Nina; nor do I believe it a healthy mind
that has them.'
'I did not boast of my mind's health, nor tell you to trust to it. Come,
let us go down to the dinner-room, and talk that pleasant leg-of-mutton
talk you know you are fond of.'
'And best fitted for, say that,' said Kate, laughing merrily.
The other did not seem to have heard her words, for she moved slowly away,
calling on Kate to follow her.
A SMALL DINNER-PARTY
It is sad to have to record that all Kate's persuasions with her cousin,
all her own earnest attempts at conciliation, and her ably-planned schemes
to escape a difficulty, were only so much labour lost. A stern message
from her father commanded her to make no change either in the house or the
service of the dinner--an interference with domestic cares so novel on
his part as to show that he had prepared himself for hostilities, and was
resolved to meet his enemy boldly.
'It's no use, all I have been telling you, Nina,' said Kate, as she
re-entered her room, later in the day. 'Papa orders me to have everything
as usual, and won't even let me give Miss Betty an early dinner, though he
knows she has nine miles of a ride to reach home.'
'That explains somewhat a message he has sent myself,' replied Nina, 'to
wear my very prettiest toilet and my Greek cap, which he admired so much
the other day.'
'I am almost glad that _my_ wardrobe has nothing attractive,' said Kate,
half sadly. 'I certainly shall never be rebuked for my becomingness.'
'And do you mean to say that the old woman would be rude enough to extend
her comments to _me_?'
'I have known her do things quite as hardy, though I hope on the present
occasion the other novelties may shelter you.'
'Why isn't your brother here? I should insist on his coming down in
discreet black, with a white tie and that look of imposing solemnity young
Englishmen assume for dinner.'
'Dick guessed what was coming, and would not encounter it.'
'And yet you tell me you submit to all this for no earthly reason. She can
leave you no legacy, contribute in no way to your benefit. She has neither
family, fortune, nor connections; and, except her atrocious manners and
her indomitable temper, there is not a trait of her that claims to be
'Oh yes; she rides capitally to hounds, and hunts her own harriers to
'I am glad she has one quality that deserves your favour.'
'She has others, too, which I like better than what they call
accomplishments. She is very kind to the poor, never deterred by any
sickness from visiting them, and has the same stout-hearted courage for
every casualty in life.'
'A commendable gift for a squaw, but what does a gentlewoman want with this
'Look out of the window, Nina, and see where you are living! Throw your
eyes over that great expanse of dark bog, vast as one of the great
campagnas you have often described to us, and bethink you how mere
loneliness--desolation--needs a stout heart to bear it; how the simple
fact that for the long hours of a summer's day, or the longer hours of a
winter's night, a lone woman has to watch and think of all the possible
casualties lives of hardship and misery may impel men to. Do you imagine
that she does not mark the growing discontent of the people? see their
careworn looks, dashed with a sullen determination, and hear in their
voices the rising of a hoarse defiance that was never heard before? Does
she not well know that every kindness she has bestowed, every merciful act
she has ministered, would weigh for nothing in the balance on the day that
she will be arraigned as a landowner--the receiver of the poor man's rent!
And will you tell me after this she can dispense with courage?'
'_Bel paese davvero!_' muttered the other.
'So it is,' cried Kate; 'with all its faults I'd not exchange it for the
brightest land that ever glittered in a southern sun. But why should I tell
you how jarred and disconcerted we are by laws that have no reference to
our ways--conferring rights where we were once contented with trustfulness,
and teaching men to do everything by contract, and nothing by affection,
nothing by good-will.'
'No, no, tell me none of all these; but tell me, shall I come down in my
Suliote jacket of yellow cloth, for I know it becomes me?'
'And if we women had not courage,' went on Kate, not heeding the question,
'what would our men do? Should we see them lead lives of bolder daring than
the stoutest wanderer in Africa?'
'And my jacket and my Theban belt?'
'Wear them all. Be as beautiful as you like, but don't be late for dinner.'
And Kate hurried away before the other could speak.
When Miss O'Shea, arrayed in a scarlet poplin and a yellow gauze
turban--the month being August--arrived in the drawing-room before dinner,
she found no one there--a circumstance that chagrined her so far that she
had hurried her toilet and torn one of her gloves in her haste. 'When they
say six for the dinner-hour, they might surely be in the drawing-room by
that hour,' was Miss Betty's reflection as she turned over some of the
magazines and circulating-library books which since Nina's arrival had
found their way to Kilgobbin. The contemptuous manner in which she treated
_Blackwood_ and _Macmillan_, and the indignant dash with which she flung
Trollope's last novel down, showed that she had not been yet corrupted by
the light reading of the age. An unopened country newspaper, addressed to
the Viscount Kilgobbin, had however absorbed all her attention, and she
was more than half disposed to possess herself of the envelope, when Mr.
His bright blue coat and white waistcoat, a profusion of shirt-frill, and
a voluminous cravat proclaimed dinner-dress, and a certain pomposity of
manner showed how an unusual costume had imposed on himself, and suggested
an important event.
'I hope I see Miss O'Shea in good health?' said he, advancing.
'How are you, Mathew?' replied she dryly. 'When I heard that big bell
thundering away, I was so afraid to be late that I came down with one
bracelet, and I have torn my glove too.'
'It was only the first bell--the dressing-bell,' he said.
'Humph! That's something new since I was here last,' said she tartly.
'You remind me of how long it is since you dined with us, Miss O'Shea.'
'Well, indeed, Mathew, I meant to be longer, if I must tell the truth. I
saw enough the last day I lunched here to show me Kilgobbin was not what
it used to be. You were all of you what my poor father--who was always
thinking of the dogs--used to call "on your hind-legs," walking about very
stately and very miserable. There were three or four covered dishes on
the table that nobody tasted; and an old man in red breeches ran about in
half-distraction, and said, "Sherry, my lord, or Madeira?" Many's the time
I laughed over it since.' And, as though to vouch for the truth of the
mirthfulness, she lay back in her chair and shook with hearty laughter.
Before Kearney could reply--for something like a passing apoplexy had
arrested his words--the girls entered, and made their salutations.
'If I had the honour of knowing you longer, Miss Costigan,' said Miss
O'Shea--for it was thus she translated the name Kostalergi--'I'd ask you
why you couldn't dress like your cousin Kate. It may be all very well in
the house, and it's safe enough here, there's no denying it; but my name's
not Betty if you'd walk down Kilbeggan without a crowd yelling after you
and calling names too, that a respectable young woman wouldn't bargain for;
eh, Mathew, is that true?'
'There's the dinner-bell now,' said Mathew; 'may I offer my arm?'
'It's thin enough that arm is getting, Mathew Kearney,' said she, as he
walked along at her side. 'Not but it's time, too. You were born in the
September of 1809, though your mother used to deny it; and you're now a
year older than your father was when he died.'
'Will you take this place?' said Kearney, placing her chair for her. 'We
're a small party to-day. I see Dick does not dine with us.'
'Maybe I hunted him away. The young gentlemen of the present day are frank
enough to say what they think of old maids. That's very elegant, and I'm
sure it's refined,' said she, pointing to the mass of fruit and flowers so
tastefully arranged before her. 'But I was born in a time when people liked
to see what they were going to eat, Mathew Kearney, and as I don't intend
to break my fast on a stockgilly-flower, or make a repast of raisins, I
prefer the old way. Fill up my glass whenever it's empty,' said she to the
servant, 'and don't bother me with the name of it. As long as I know the
King's County, and that's more than fifty years, we've been calling Cape
'If we know what we are drinking, Miss O'Shea, I don't suppose it matters
'Nothing at all, Mathew. Calling you the Viscount Kilgobbin, as I read a
while ago, won't confuse me about an old neighbour.'
'Won't you try a cutlet, godmother?' asked Kate hurriedly.
'Indeed I will, my dear. I don't know why I was sending the man away. I
never saw this way of dining before, except at the poorhouse, where each
poor creature has his plateful given him, and pockets what he can't eat.'
And here she laughed long and heartily at the conceit.
Kearney's good-humour relished the absurdity, and he joined in the laugh,
while Nina stared at the old woman as an object of dread and terror.
'And that boy that wouldn't dine with us. How is he turning out, Mathew?
They tell me he's a bit of a scamp.'
'He's no such thing, godmother. Dick is as good a fellow and as
right-minded as ever lived, and you yourself would be the first to say it
if you saw him,' cried Kate angrily.
'So would the young lady yonder, if I might judge from her blushes,' said
Miss Betty, looking at Nina. 'Not indeed but it's only now I'm remembering
that you're not a boy. That little red cap and that thing you wear round
your throat deceived me.'
'It is not the lot of every one to be so fortunate in a head-dress as Miss
O'Shea,' said Nina, very calmly.
'If it's my wig you are envying me, my dear,' replied she quietly, 'there's
nothing easier than to have the own brother of it. It was made by Crimp, of
Nassau Street, and box and all cost four pound twelve.'
'Upon my life, Miss Betty,' broke in Kearney, 'you are tempting me to an
extravagance.' And he passed his hand over his sparsely-covered head as he
'And I would not, if I was you, Mathew Kearney,' said she resolutely. 'They
tell me that in that House of Lords you are going to, more than half of
them are bald.'
There was no possible doubt that she meant by this speech to deliver a
challenge, and Kate's look, at once imploring and sorrowful, appealed to
her for mercy.
'No, thank you,' said Miss Betty to the servant who presented a dish,
'though, indeed, maybe I'm wrong, for I don't know what's coming.'
'This is the _menu_,' said Nina, handing a card to her.
'The bill of fare, godmother,' said Kate hastily.
'Well, indeed, it's a kindness to tell me, and if there is any more
novelties to follow, perhaps you'll be kind enough to inform me, for I
never dined in the Greek fashion before.'
'The Russian, I believe, madam, not the Greek,' said Nina.
'With all my heart, my dear. It's about the same, for whatever may happen
to Mathew Kearney or myself, I don't suspect either of us will go to live
'You'll not refuse a glass of port with your cheese?' said Kearney.
'Indeed I will, then, if there's any beer in the house, though perhaps it's
too vulgar a liquor to ask for.'
While the beer was being brought, a solemn silence ensued, and a less
comfortable party could not easily be imagined.
When the interval had been so far prolonged that Kearney himself saw the
necessity to do something, he placed his napkin on the table, leaned
forward with a half-motion of rising, and, addressing Miss Betty, said,
'Shall we adjourn to the drawing-room and take our coffee?'
'I'd rather stay where I am, Mathew Kearney, and have that glass of port
you offered me a while ago, for the beer was flat. Not that I'll detain the
young people, nor keep yourself away from them very long.'
When the two girls withdrew, Nina's look of insolent triumph at Kate
betrayed the tone she was soon to take in treating of the old lady's good
'You had a very sorry dinner, Miss Betty, but I can promise you an honest
glass of wine,' said Kearney, filling her glass.
'It's very nice,' said she, sipping it, 'though, maybe, like myself, it's
just a trifle too old.'
'A good fault, Miss Betty, a good fault.'
'For the wine, perhaps,' said she dryly, 'but maybe it would taste better
if I had not bought it so dearly.'
'I don't think I understand you.'
'I was about to say that I have forfeited that young lady's esteem by the
way I obtained it. She'll never forgive me, instead of retiring for my
coffee, sitting here like a man--and a man of that old hard-drinking
school, Mathew, that has brought all the ruin on Ireland.'
'Here's to their memory, anyway,' said Kearney, drinking off his glass.
'I'll drink no toasts nor sentiments, Mathew Kearney, and there's no
artifice or roguery will make me forget I'm a woman and an O'Shea.'
'Faix, you'll not catch me forgetting either,' said Mathew, with a droll
twinkle of his eye, which it was just as fortunate escaped her notice.
'I doubted for a long time, Mathew Kearney, whether I'd come over myself,
or whether I 'd write you a letter; not that I'm good at writing, but,
somehow, one can put their ideas more clear, and say things in a way that
will fix them more in the mind; but at last I determined I'd come, though
it's more than likely it's the last time Kilgobbin will see me here.'
'I sincerely trust you are mistaken, so far.'
'Well, Mathew, I'm not often mistaken! The woman that has managed an estate
for more than forty years, been her own land-steward and her own law-agent,
doesn't make a great many blunders; and, as I said before, if Mathew has no
friend to tell him the truth among the men of his acquaintance, it's well
that there is a woman to the fore, who has courage and good sense to go up
and do it.'
She looked fixedly at him, as though expecting some concurrence in the
remark, if not some intimation to proceed; but neither came, and she
'I suppose you don't read the Dublin newspapers?' said she civilly.
'I do, and every day the post brings them.'
'You see, therefore, without my telling you, what the world is saying about
you. You see how they treat "the search for arms," as they head it, and
"the Maid of Saragossa!" O Mathew Kearney! Mathew Kearney! whatever
happened the old stock of the land, they never made themselves ridiculous.'
'Have you done, Miss Betty?' asked he, with assumed calm.
'Done! Why, it's only beginning I am,' cried she. 'Not but I'd bear a deal
of blackguarding from the press--as the old woman said when the soldier
threatened to run his bayonet through her: "Devil thank you, it's only your
trade." But when we come to see the head of an old family making ducks and
drakes of his family property, threatening the old tenants that have been
on the land as long as his own people, raising the rent here, evicting
there, distressing the people's minds when they've just as much as they can
to bear up with--then it's time for an old friend and neighbour to give a
timely warning, and cry "Stop.'"
'Have you done, Miss Betty?' And now his voice was more stern than before.
'I have not, nor near done, Mathew Kearney. I've said nothing of the way
you're bringing up your family--that son, in particular--to make him think
himself a young man of fortune, when you know, in your heart, you'll leave
him little more than the mortgages on the estate. I have not told you
that it's one of the jokes of the capital to call him the Honourable Dick
Kearney, and to ask him after his father the viscount.'
'You haven't done yet, Miss O'Shea?' said he, now with a thickened voice.
'No, not yet,' replied she calmly--'not yet; for I'd like to remind you
of the way you're behaving to the best of the whole of you--the only one,
indeed, that's worth much in the family--your daughter Kate.'
'Well, what have I done to wrong _her_?' said he, carried beyond his
prudence by so astounding a charge.
'The very worst you could do, Mathew Kearney; the only mischief it was in
your power, maybe. Look at the companion you have given her! Look at the
respectable young lady you've brought home to live with your decent child!'
'You'll not stop?' cried he, almost choking with passion.
'Not till I've told you why I came here, Mathew Kearney; for I'd beg you to
understand it was no interest about yourself or your doings brought me.
I came to tell you that I mean to be free about an old contract we once
made--that I revoke it all. I was fool enough to believe that an alliance
between our families would have made me entirely happy, and my nephew
Gorman O'Shea was brought up to think the same. I have lived to know
better, Mathew Kearney: I have lived to see that we don't suit each other
at all, and I have come here to declare to you formally that it's all off.
No nephew of mine shall come here for a wife. The heir to Shea's Barn
shan't bring the mistress of it out of Kilgobbin Castle.'
'Trust _me_ for that, old lady,' cried he, forgetting all his good manners
in his violent passion.
'You'll be all the freer to catch a young aide-de-camp from the Castle,'
said she sneeringly; 'or maybe, indeed, a young lord--a rank equal to your
'Haven't you said enough?' screamed he, wild with rage.
'No, nor half, or you wouldn't be standing there, wringing your hands with
passion and your hair bristling like a porcupine. You'd be at my feet,
Mathew Kearney--ay, at my feet.'
'So I would, Miss Betty,' chimed he in, with a malicious grin, 'if I was
only sure you'd be as cruel as the last time I knelt there. Oh dear! oh
dear! and to think that I once wanted to marry that woman!'
'That you did! You'd have put your hand in the fire to win her.'
'By my conscience, I'd have put myself altogether there, if I had won her.'
'You understand now, sir,' said she haughtily, 'that there's no more
'Thank God for the same!' ejaculated he fervently.
'And that no nephew of mine comes courting a daughter of yours?'
'For his own sake, he'd better not.'
'It's for his own sake I intend it, Mathew Kearney. It's of himself I'm
thinking. And now, thanking you for the pleasant evening I've passed, and
your charming society, I'll take my leave.'
'I hope you'll not rob us of your company till you take a dish of tea,'
said he, with well-feigned politeness.
'It's hard to tear one's self away, Mr. Kearney; but it's late already.'
'Couldn't we induce you to stop the night, Miss Betty?' asked he, in a tone
of insinuation. 'Well, at least you'll let me ring to order your horse?'
'You may do that if it amuses you, Mathew Kearney; but, meanwhile, I'll
just do what I've always done in the same place--I'll just go look for my
own beast and see her saddled myself; and as Peter Gill is leaving you
to-morrow, I'll take him back with me to-night.'
'Is he going to you?' cried he passionately.
'He's going to _me_, Mr. Kearney, with your leave, or without it, I don't
know which I like best.' And with this she swept out of the room, while
Kearney closed his eyes and lay back in his chair, stunned and almost
A CONFIDENTIAL TALK
Dick Kearney walked the bog from early morning till dark without firing a
shot. The snipe rose almost at his feet, and wheeling in circles through
the air, dipped again into some dark crevice of the waste, unnoticed by
him! One thought only possessed, and never left him, as he went. He had
overheard Nina's words to his sister, as he made his escape over the fence,
and learned how she promised to 'spare him'; and that if not worried about
him, or asked to pledge herself, she should be 'merciful,' and not entangle
the boy in a hopeless passion.
He would have liked to have scoffed at the insolence of this speech, and
treated it as a trait of overweening vanity; he would have gladly accepted
her pity as a sort of challenge, and said, 'Be it so; let us see who will
come safest out of this encounter,' and yet he felt in his heart he could
First of all, her beauty had really dazzled him, and the thousand graces
of a manner of which he had known nothing captivated and almost bewildered
him. He could not reply to her in the same tone he used to any other. If
he fetched her a book or a chair, he gave it with a sort of deference that
actually reacted on himself, and made him more gentle and more courteous,
for the time. 'What would this influence end in making me?' was his
question to himself. 'Should I gain in sentiment or feeling? Should I have
higher and nobler aims? Should I be anything of that she herself described
so glowingly, or should I only sink to a weak desire to be her slave, and
ask for nothing better than some slight recognition of my devotion? I take
it that she would say the choice lay with _her_, and that I should be the
one or the other as she willed it, and though I would give much to believe
her wrong, my heart tells me that I cannot. I came down here resolved to
resist any influence she might attempt to have over me. Her likeness
showed me how beautiful she was, but it could not tell me the dangerous
fascination of her low liquid voice, her half-playful, half-melancholy
smile, and that bewitching walk, with all its stately grace, so that every
fold as she moves sends its own thrill of ecstasy. And now that I know all
these, see and feel them, I am told that to me they can bring no hope! That
I am too poor, too ignoble, too undistinguished, to raise my eyes to such
attraction. I am nothing, and must live and die nothing.
'She is candid enough, at all events. There is no rhapsody about her when
she talks of poverty. She chronicles every stage of the misery, as though
she had felt them all; and how unlike it she looks! There is an almost
insolent well-being about her that puzzles me. She will not heed this, or
suffer that, because it looks mean. Is this the subtle worship she offers
Wealth, and is it thus she offers up her prayer to Fortune?
'But why should she assume I must be her slave?' cried he aloud, in a sort
of defiance. 'I have shown her no such preference, nor made any advances
that would show I want to win her favour. Without denying that she is
beautiful, is it so certain it is the kind of beauty I admire? She has
scores of fascinations--I do not deny it; but should I say that I trust
her? And if I should trust her and love her too, where must it all end in?
I do not believe in her theory that love will transform a fellow of my
mould into a hero, not to say that I have my own doubt if she herself
believes it. I wonder if Kate reads her more clearly? Girls so often
understand each other by traits we have no clue to; and it was Kate who
asked her, almost in tone of entreaty, "to spare me," to save me from a
hopeless passion, just as though I were some peasant-boy who had set his
affection on a princess. Is that the way, then, the world would read our
respective conditions? The son of a ruined house or the guest of a beggared
family leaves little to choose between! Kate--the world--would call my lot
the better of the two. The man's chance is not irretrievable, at least such
is the theory. Those half-dozen fellows, who in a century or so contrive
to work their way up to something, make a sort of precedent, and tell the
others what they might be if they but knew how.
'I'm not vain enough to suppose I am one of these, and it is quite plain
that she does not think me so.' He pondered long over this thought, and
then suddenly cried aloud, 'Is it possible she may read Joe Atlee in this
fashion? is that the stuff out of which she hopes to make a hero?' There
was more bitterness in this thought than he had first imagined, and there
was that of jealousy in it too that pained him deeply.
Had she preferred either of the two Englishmen to himself, he could have
understood and, in a measure, accepted it. They were, as he called them,
'swells.' They might become, he knew not what. The career of the Saxon
in fortune was a thing incommensurable by Irish ideas; but Joe was like
himself, or in reality less than himself, in worldly advantages.
This pang of jealousy was very bitter; but still it served to stimulate him
and rouse him from a depression that was gaining fast upon him. It is true,
he remembered she had spoken slightingly of Joe Atlee. Called him noisy,
pretentious, even vulgar; snubbed him openly on more than one occasion, and
seemed to like to turn the laugh against him; but with all that she had
sung duets with him, corrected some Italian verses he wrote, and actually
made a little sketch in his note-book for him as a souvenir. A souvenir!
and of what? Not of the ridicule she had turned upon him! not the jest she
had made upon his boastfulness. Now which of these two did this argue: was
this levity, or was it falsehood? Was she so little mindful of honesty that
she would show these signs of favour to one she held most cheaply, or was
it that her distaste to this man was mere pretence, and only assumed to
After all, Joe Atlee was a nobody; flattery might call him an adventurer,
but he was not even so much. Amongst the men of the dangerous party he
mixed with he was careful never to compromise himself. He might write the
songs of rebellion, but he was little likely to tamper with treason itself.
So much he would tell her when he got back. Not angrily, nor passionately,
for that would betray him and disclose his jealousy, but in the tone of a
man revealing something he regretted--confessing to the blemish of one
he would have liked better to speak well of. There was not, he thought,
anything unfair in this. He was but warning her against a man who was
unworthy of her. Unworthy of her! What words could express the disparity
between them? Not but if she liked him--and this he said with a certain
bitterness--or thought she liked him, the disproportion already ceased to
Hour after hour of that long summer day he walked, revolving such thoughts
as these; all his conclusions tending to the one point, that _he_ was not
the easy victim she thought him, and that, come what might, _he_ should not
be offered up as a sacrifice to her worship of Joe Atlee.
'There is nothing would gratify the fellow's vanity,' thought he, 'like a
successful rivalry of him! Tell him he was preferred to me, and he would be
ready to fall down and worship whoever had made the choice.'
By dwelling on all the possible and impossible issues of such an
attachment, he had at length convinced himself of its existence, and even
more, persuaded himself to fancy it was something to be regretted and
grieved over for worldly considerations, but not in any way regarded as
As he came in sight of home and saw a light in the small tower where Kate's
bedroom lay, he determined he would go up to his sister and tell her so
much of his mind as he believed was finally settled, and in such a way as
would certainly lead her to repeat it to Nina.
'Kate shall tell her that if I have left her suddenly and gone back
to Trinity to keep my term, I have not fled the field in a moment of
faint-heartedness. I do not deny her beauty. I do not disparage one of her
attractions, and she has scores of them. I will not even say that when I
have sat beside her, heard her low soft voice, and watched the tremor of
that lovely mouth vibrating with wit, or tremulous with feeling, I have
been all indifference; but this I will say, she shall not number _me_
amongst the victims of her fascinations; and when she counts the trinkets
on her wrist that record the hearts she has broken--a pastime I once
witnessed--not one of them shall record the initial of Dick Kearney.'
[Illustration: Kate, still dressed, had thrown herself on the bed, and was
With these brave words he mounted the narrow stair and knocked at his
sister's door. No answer coming, he knocked again, and after waiting a few
seconds, he slowly opened the door and saw that Kate, still dressed, had
thrown herself on her bed, and was sound asleep. The table was covered with
account-books and papers; tax-receipts, law-notices, and tenants' letters
lay littered about, showing what had been the task she was last engaged on;
and her heavy breathing told the exhaustion which it had left behind it.
'I wish I could help her with her work,' muttered he to himself, as a pang
of self-reproach shot through him. This certainly should have been his own
task rather than hers; the question was, however, Could he have done it?
And this doubt increased as he looked over the long column of tenants'
names, whose holdings varied in every imaginable quantity of acres,
roods, and perches. Besides these there were innumerable small details of
allowances for this and compensation for that. This one had given so many
days' horse-and-car hire at the bog; that other had got advances 'in
seed-potatoes'; such a one had a claim for reduced rent, because the
mill-race had overflowed and deluged his wheat crop; such another had fed
two pigs of 'the lord's' and fattened them, while himself and his own were
Through an entire column there was not one case without its complication,
either in the shape of argument for increased liability or claim for
compensation. It was makeshift everywhere, and Dick could not but ask
himself whether any tenant on the estate really knew how far he was
hopelessly in debt or a solvent man? It only needed Peter Gill's peculiar
mode of collecting the moneys due, and recording the payment by the notched
stick, to make the complication perfect; and there, indeed, upon the table,
amid accounts and bills and sale warrants, lay the memorable bits of wood
themselves, as that worthy steward had deposited them before quitting his
Peter's character, too, written out in Kate's hand, and only awaiting her
father's signature, was on the table--the first intimation Dick Kearney had
that old Gill had quitted his post.
'All this must have occurred to-day,' thought Dick; 'there were no
evidences of these changes when I left this morning! Was it the backwater
of my disgrace, I wonder, that has overwhelmed poor Gill?' thought he, 'or
can I detect Miss Betty's fine Roman hand in this incident?'
In proportion to the little love he bore Miss O'Shea, were his convictions
the stronger that she was the cause of all mischief. She was one of those
who took very 'utilitarian' notions of his own career, and he bore her
small gratitude for the solicitude. There were short sentences in pencil
along the margin of the chief book in Kate's handwriting which could not
fail to strike him as he read them, indicating as they did her difficulty,
if not utter incapacity, to deal with the condition of the estate. Thus:--
'There is no warranty for this concession. It cannot be continued.'--'The
notice in this case was duly served, and Gill knows that it was to papa's
generosity they were indebted for remaining.'--'These arrears have never
been paid, on that point I am positive!'--'Malone's holding was not
fairly measured, he has a just claim to compensation, and shall have
it.'--'Hannigan's right to tenancy must not be disputed, but cannot be used
as a precedent by others on the same part of the estate, and I will state
why.'--'More of Peter Gill's conciliatory policy! The Regans, for having
been twice in gaol, and once indicted, and nearly convicted of Ribbonism,
have established a claim to live rent-free! This I will promise to
rectify.'--'I shall make no more allowances for improvements without a
guarantee, and a penalty besides on non-completion.'
And last of all came these ominous words:--
'It will thus be seen that our rent-roll since '64 has been progressively
decreasing, and that we have only been able to supply our expenses by sales
of property. Dick must be spoken to on this, and at once.'
Several entries had been already rubbed out, and it was clear that she had
been occupied in the task of erasion on that very night. Poor girl! her
sleep was the heavy repose of one utterly exhausted; and her closely
clasped lips and corrugated brow showed in what frame of intense thought
she had sunk to rest. He closed the book noiselessly, as he looked at her,
replaced the various objects on the table, and rose to steal quietly away.
The accidental movement of a chair, however, startled her; she turned, and
leaning on her elbow, she saw him as he tried to move away. 'Don't go,
Dick, don't go. I'm awake, and quite fresh again. Is it late?'
'It's not far from one o'clock,' said he, half-roughly, to hide his
emotion; for her worn and wearied features struck him now more forcibly
than when she slept.
'And are you only returned now? How hungry you must be. Poor fellow--have
you dined to-day?'
'Yes; I got to Owen Molloy's as they were straining the potatoes, and sat
down with them, and ate very heartily too.'
'Weren't they proud of it? Won't they tell how the young lord shared their
meal with them?'
'I don't think they are as cordial as they used to be, Kate; they did not
talk so openly, nor seem at their ease, as I once knew them. And they did
one thing, significant enough in its way, that I did not like. They quoted
the county newspaper twice or thrice when we talked of the land.'
'I am aware of that, Dick; they have got other counsellors than their
landlords now,' said she mournfully, 'and it is our own fault if they
'What, are you turning Nationalist, Kitty?' said he, laughing.
'I was always a Nationalist in one sense,' said she, 'and mean to continue
so; but let us not get upon this theme. Do you know that Peter Gill has
'What, for America?'
'No; for "O'Shea's Barn." Miss Betty has taken him. She came here to-day to
"have it out" with papa, as she said; and she has kept her word. Indeed,
not alone with him, but with all of us--even Nina did not escape.'
'Insufferable old woman. What did she dare to say to Nina?'
'She got off the cheapest of us all, Dick,' said she, laughing. 'It was
only some stupid remark she made her about looking like a boy, or being
dressed like a rope-dancer. A small civility of this sort was her share of
the general attention.'
'And how did Nina take the insolence?'
'With great good-temper, or good-breeding. I don't know exactly which
covered the indifference she displayed, till Miss Betty, when taking her
leave, renewed the impertinence in the hall, by saying something about the
triumphant success such a costume would achieve in the circus, when Nina
curtsied, and said: "I am charmed to hear you say so, madam, and shall wear
it for my benefit; and if I could only secure the appearance of yourself
and your little groom, my triumph would be, indeed, complete." I did not
dare to wait for more, but hurried out to affect to busy myself with the
saddle, and pretend that it was not tightly girthed.'
'I'd have given twenty pounds, if I had it, to have seen the old woman's
face. No one ever ventured before to pay her back with her own money.'
'But I give you such a wrong version of it, Dick. I only convey the
coarseness of the rejoinder, and I can give you no idea of the ineffable
grace and delicacy which made her words sound like a humble apology. Her
eyelids drooped as she curtsied, and when she looked up again, in a way
that seemed humility itself, to have reproved her would have appeared
'She is a finished coquette,' said he bitterly; 'a finished coquette.'
Kate made no answer, though he evidently expected one; and after waiting a
while, he went on: 'Not but her high accomplishments are clean thrown away
in such a place as this, and amongst such people. What chance of fitting
exercise have they with my father or myself? Or is it on Joe Atlee she
would try the range of her artillery?'
'Not so very impossible this, after all,' muttered Kate quietly.
'What, and is it to _that_ her high ambitions tend? Is _he_ the prize she
would strive to win?'
'I can be no guide to you in this matter, Dick. She makes no confidences
with me, and of myself I see nothing.'
'You have, however, some influence over her.'
'No; not much.'
'I did not say much; but enough to induce her to yield to a strong
entreaty, as when, for instance, you implored her to spare your
brother--that poor fellow about to fall so hopelessly in love--'
'I'm not sure that my request did not come too late after all,' said she,
with a laughing malice in her eye.
'Don't be too sure of that,' retorted he, almost fiercely.
'Oh, I never bargained for what you might do in a moment of passion or
'There is neither one nor the other here. I am perfectly cool, calm, and
collected, and I tell you this, that whoever your pretty Greek friend is to
make a fool of, it shall not be Dick Kearney.'
'It might be very nice fooling, all the same, Dick.'
'I know--that is, I believe I know--what you mean. You have listened to
some of those high heroics she ascends to in showing what the exaltation
of a great passion can make of any man who has a breast capable of the
emotion, and you want to see the experiment tried in its least favourable
conditions--on a cold, soulless, selfish fellow of my own order; but, take
my word for it, Kate, it would prove a sheer loss of time to us both.
Whatever she might make of me, it would not be a _hero_; and whatever I
should strive for, it would not be her _love_.'
'I don't think I'd say that if I were a man.'
He made no answer to these words, but arose and walked the room with hasty
steps. 'It was not about these things I came here to talk to you, Kitty,'
said he earnestly. 'I had my head full of other things, and now I cannot
remember them. Only one occurs to me. Have you got any money? I mean a mere
trifle--enough to pay my fare to town?'
'To be sure I have that much, Dick; but you are surely not going to leave
'Yes. I suddenly remembered I must be up for the last day of term in
Trinity. Knocking about here--I'll scarcely say amusing myself--I had
forgotten all about it. Atlee used to jog my memory on these things when he
was near me, and now, being away, I have contrived to let the whole escape
me. You can help me, however, with a few pounds?'
'I have got five of my own, Dick; but if you want more--'
'No, no; I'll borrow the five of your own, and don't blend it with more, or
I may cease to regard it as a debt of honour.'
'And if you should, my poor dear Dick--'
'I'd be only pretty much what I have ever been, but scarcely wish to be any
longer,' and he added the last words in a whisper. 'It's only to be a brief
absence, Kitty,' said he, kissing her; 'so say good-bye for me to the
others, and that I shall be soon back again.'
'Shall I kiss Nina for you, Dick?'
'Do; and tell her that I gave you the same commission for Miss O'Shea, and
was grieved that both should have been done by deputy!'
And with this he hurried away.
A HAPHAZARD VICEROY
When the Government came into office, they were sorely puzzled where to
find a Lord-Lieutenant for Ireland. It is, unhappily, a post that the men
most fitted for generally refuse, while the Cabinet is besieged by a class
of applicants whose highest qualification is a taste for mock-royalty
combined with an encumbered estate.
Another great requisite, beside fortune and a certain amount of ability,
was at this time looked for. The Premier was about, as newspapers call it,
'to inaugurate a new policy,' and he wanted a man who knew nothing about
Ireland! Now, it might be carelessly imagined that here was one of those
essentials very easily supplied. Any man frequenting club-life or dining
out in town could have safely pledged himself to tell off a score or two
of eligible Viceroys, so far as this qualification went. The Minister,
however, wanted more than mere ignorance: he wanted that sort of
indifference on which a character for impartiality could so easily be
constructed. Not alone a man unacquainted with Ireland, but actually
incapable of being influenced by an Irish motive or affected by an Irish
view of anything.
Good-luck would have it that he met such a man at dinner. He was an
ambassador at Constantinople, on leave from his post, and so utterly dead
to Irish topics as to be uncertain whether O'Donovan Rossa was a Fenian
or a Queen's Counsel, and whether he whom he had read of as the 'Lion of
Judah' was the king of beasts or the Archbishop of Tuam!
The Minister was pleased with his new acquaintance, and talked much to him,
and long. He talked well, and not the less well that his listener was a
fresh audience, who heard everything for the first time, and with all the
interest that attaches to a new topic. Lord Danesbury was, indeed, that
'sheet of white paper' the head of the Cabinet had long been searching for,
and he hastened to inscribe him with the characters he wished.
'You must go to Ireland for me, my lord,' said the Minister. 'I have met
no one as yet so rightly imbued with the necessities of the situation. You
must be our Viceroy.'
Now, though a very high post and with great surroundings, Lord Danesbury
had no desire to exchange his position as an ambassador, even to become a
Lord-Lieutenant. Like most men who have passed their lives abroad, he grew
to like the ways and habits of the Continent. He liked the easy indulgences
in many things, he liked the cosmopolitanism that surrounds existence, and
even in its littleness is not devoid of a certain breadth; and best of all
he liked the vast interests at stake, the large questions at issue, the
fortunes of states, the fate of dynasties! To come down from the great
game, as played by kings and kaisers, to the small traffic of a local
government wrangling over a road-bill, or disputing over a harbour, seemed
too horrible to confront, and he eagerly begged the Minister to allow him
to return to his post, and not risk a hard-earned reputation on a new and
'It is precisely from the fact of its being new and untried I need you,'
was the reply, and his denial was not accepted.
Refusal was impossible; and with all the reluctance a man consents to what
his convictions are more opposed to even than his reasons, Lord Danesbury
gave in, and accepted the viceroyalty of Ireland.
He was deferential to humility in listening to the great aims and noble
conceptions of the mighty Minister, and pledged himself--as he could safely
do--to become as plastic as wax in the powerful hands which were about to
He was gazetted in due course, went over to Dublin, made a state entrance,
received the usual deputations, complimented every one, from the Provost of
Trinity College to the Chief Commissioner of Pipewater; praised the coast,
the corporation, and the city; declared that he had at length reached the
highest goal of his ambition; entertained the high dignitaries at dinner,
and the week after retired to his ancestral seat in North Wales, to recruit
after his late fatigue, and throw off the effects of that damp, moist
climate which already he fancied had affected him.
He had been sworn in with every solemnity of the occasion; he had sat on
the throne of state, named the officers of his household, made a master of
the horse, and a state steward, and a grand chamberlain; and, till stopped
by hearing that he could not create ladies and maids of honour, he fancied
himself every inch a king; but now that he had got over to the tranquil
quietude of his mountain home, his thoughts went away to the old channels,
and he began to dream of the Russians in the Balkan and the Greeks in
Thessaly. Of all the precious schemes that had taken him months to weave,
what was to come of them _now_? How and with what would his successor,
whoever he should be, oppose the rogueries of Sumayloff or the chicanery of
Ignatief? what would any man not trained to the especial watchfulness of
this subtle game know of the steps by which men advanced? Who was to watch
Bulgaria and see how far Russian gold was embellishing the life of Athens?
There was not a hungry agent that lounged about the Russian embassy in
Greek petticoats and pistols whose photograph the English ambassador did
not possess, with a biographical note at the back to tell the fellow's name
and birthplace, what he was meant for, and what he cost. Of every interview
of his countrymen with the Grand-Vizier he was kept fully informed, and
whether a forage magazine was established on the Pruth, or a new frigate
laid down at Nickolief, the news reached him by the time it arrived at St.
Petersburg. It is true he was aware how hopeless it was to write home about
these things. The ambassador who writes disagreeable despatches is a bore
or an old woman. He who dares to shake the security by which we daily boast
we are surrounded, is an alarmist, if not worse. Notwithstanding this, he
held his cards well 'up' and played them shrewdly. And now he was to turn
from this crafty game, with all its excitement, to pore over constabulary
reports and snub justices of the peace!
But there was worse than this. There was an Albanian spy who had been much
employed by him of late, a clever fellow, with access to society, and great
facilities for obtaining information. Seeing that Lord Danesbury should not
return to the embassy, would this fellow go over to the enemy? If so, there
were no words for the mischief he might effect. By a subordinate position
in a Greek government-office, he had often been selected to convey
despatches to Constantinople, and it was in this way his lordship first
met him; and as the fellow frankly presented himself with a very momentous
piece of news, he at once showed how he trusted to British faith not to
betray him. It was not alone the incalculable mischief such a man might do
by change of allegiance, but the whole fabric on which Lord Danesbury's
reputation rested was in this man's keeping; and of all that wondrous
prescience on which he used to pride himself before the world, all the
skill with which he baffled an adversary, and all the tact with which he
overwhelmed a colleague, this same 'Speridionides' could give the secret
and show the trick.
How much more constantly, then, did his lordship's thoughts revert to the
Bosporus than the Liffey! all this home news was mean, commonplace, and
vulgar. The whole drama--scenery, actors, plot--all were low and ignoble;
and as for this 'something that was to be done for Ireland,' it would of
course be some slowly germinating policy to take root now, and blossom in
another half-century: one of those blessed parliamentary enactments which
men who dealt in heroic remedies like himself regarded as the chronic
placebo of the political quack.
'I am well aware,' cried he aloud, 'for what they are sending me over. I am
to "make a case" in Ireland for a political legislation, and the bill is
already drawn and ready; and while I am demonstrating to Irish Churchmen
that they will be more pious without a religion, and the landlords richer
without rent, the Russians will be mounting guard at the Golden Horn, and
the last British squadron steaming down the Levant.'
It was in a temper kindled by these reflections he wrote this note:--
PLMNUDDM CASTLE, NORTH WALES.
'DEAR WALPOLE,--I can make nothing out of the papers you have sent me; nor
am I able to discriminate between what you admit to be newspaper slander
and the attack on the castle with the unspeakable name. At all events, your
account is far too graphic for the Treasury lords, who have less of the
pictorial about them than Mr. Mudie's subscribers. If the Irish peasants
are so impatient to assume their rights that they will not wait for the
"Hatt-Houmaioun," or Bill in Parliament that is to endow them, I suspect a
little further show of energy might save us a debate and a third reading. I
am, however, far more eager for news from Therapia. Tolstai has been twice
over with despatches; and Boustikoff, pretending to have sprained his
ankle, cannot leave Odessa, though I have ascertained that he has laid down
new lines of fortification, and walked over twelve miles per day. You may
have heard of the great "Speridionides," a scoundrel that supplied me with
intelligence. I should like much to get him over here while I am on my
leave, confer with him, and, if possible, save him _from the necessity of
other engagements_. It is not every one could be trusted to deal with a man
of this stamp, nor would the fellow himself easily hold relations with any
but a gentleman. Are you sufficiently recovered from your sprained arm to
undertake this journey for me? If so, come over at once, that I may give
you all necessary indications as to the man and his whereabouts.
'Maude has been "on the sick-list," but is better, and able to ride out
to-day. I cannot fill the law-appointments till I go over, nor shall I go
over till I cannot help it. The Cabinet is scattered over the Scotch lakes.
C. alone in town, and preparing for the War Ministry by practising the
goose-step. Telegraph, if possible, that you are coming, and believe me
TWO FRIENDS AT BREAKFAST
Irishmen may reasonably enough travel for climate, they need scarcely go
abroad in search of scenery. Within even a very short distance from the
capital, there are landscapes which, for form, outline, and colour, equal
some of the most celebrated spots of continental beauty.
One of these is the view from Bray Head over the wide expanse of the Bay of
Dublin, with Howth and Lambay in the far distance. Nearer at hand lies the
sweep of that graceful shore to Killiney, with the Dalky Islands dotting
the calm sea; while inland, in wild confusion, are grouped the Wicklow
Mountains, massive with wood and teeming with a rich luxuriance.
When sunlight and stillness spread colour over the blue mirror of the
sea--as is essential to the scene--I know of nothing, not even Naples or
Amalfi, can surpass this marvellous picture.
It was on a terrace that commanded this view that Walpole and Atlee sat
at breakfast on a calm autumnal morning; the white-sailed boats scarcely
creeping over their shadows; and the whole scene, in its silence and
softened effect, presenting a picture of almost rapturous tranquillity.
'With half-a-dozen days like this,' said Atlee, as he smoked his cigarette,
in a sort of languid grace, 'one would not say O'Connell was wrong in his
glowing admiration for Irish scenery. If I were to awake every day for a
week to this, I suspect I should grow somewhat crazy myself about the green
'And dash the description with a little treason too,' said the other
superciliously. 'I have always remarked the ingenious connection with which
Irishmen bind up a love of the picturesque with a hate of the Saxon.'
'Why not? They are bound together in the same romance. Can you look on the
Parthenon and not think of the Turk?'
'Apropos of the Turk,' said the other, laying his hand on a folded letter
which lay before him, 'here's a long letter from Lord Danesbury about that
wearisome "Eastern question," as they call the ten thousand issues that
await the solution of the Bosporus. Do you take interest in these things.'
'Immensely. After I have blown myself with a sharp burst on home politics,
I always take a canter among the Druses and the Lebanites; and I am such
an authority on the "Grand Idea," that Rangabe refers to me as "the
illustrious statesman whose writings relieve England from the stain of
universal ignorance about Greece."'
'And do you know anything on the subject?'
'About as much as the present Cabinet does of Ireland. I know all the
clap-traps: the grand traditions that have sunk down into a present
barbarism--of course, through ill government; the noble instincts depraved
by gross usage; I know the inherent love of freedom we cherish, which makes
men resent rents as well as laws, and teaches that taxes are as great a
tyranny as the rights of property.'
'And do the Greeks take this view of it?'
'Of course they do; and it was in experimenting on them that your great
Ministers learned how to deal with Ireland. There was but one step from
Thebes to Tipperary. Corfu was "pacified"--that's the phrase for it--by
abolishing the landlords. The peasants were told they might spare a little
if they liked to the ancient possessor of the soil; and so they took the
ground, and they gave him the olive-trees. You may imagine how fertile
these were, when the soil around them was utilised to the last fraction of
'Is that a fair statement of the case?'
'Can you ask the question? I'll show it to you in print.'
'Perhaps written by yourself?'
'And why not? What convictions have not broken on my mind by reading my own
writings? You smile at this; but how do you know your face is clean till
you look in a glass?'
Walpole, however, had ceased to attend to the speaker, and was deeply
engaged with the letter before him.
'I see here,' cried he, 'his Excellency is good enough to say that some
mark of royal favour might be advantageously extended to those Kilgobbin
people, in recognition of their heroic defence. What should it be, is the
'Confer on him the peerage, perhaps.'
'That is totally out of the question.'
'It was Kate Kearney made the defence; why not give her a commission in the
army?--make it another "woman's right."'
'You are absurd, Mr. Atlee.'
'Suppose you endowed her out of the Consolidated Fund? Give her twenty
thousand pounds, and I can almost assure you that a very clever fellow I
know will marry her.'
'A strange reward for good conduct.'
'A prize of virtue. They have that sort of thing in France, and they say it
gives a great support to purity of morals.'
'Young Kearney might accept something, if we knew what to offer him.'
'I'd say a pair of black trousers; for I think I'm now wearing his last in
'Mr. Atlee,' said the other grimly, 'let me remind you once again, that the
habit of light jesting--_persiflage_--is so essentially Irish, you should
keep it for your countrymen; and if you persist in supposing the career of
a private secretary suits you, this is an incongruity that will totally
unfit you for the walk.'
'I am sure you know your countrymen, sir, and I am grateful for the
Walpole's cheek flushed at this, and it was plain that there was a hidden
meaning in the words which he felt, and resented.
'I do not know,' continued Walpole, 'if I am not asking you to curb one
of the strongest impulses of your disposition; but it rests entirely with
yourself whether my counsel be worth following.'
'Of course it is, sir. I shall follow your advice to the letter, and keep
all my good spirits and my bad manners for my countrymen.'
It was evident that Walpole had to exercise some strong self-control not to
reply sharply; but he refrained, and turned once more to Lord Danesbury's
letter, in which he was soon deeply occupied. At last he said: 'His
Excellency wants to send me out to Turkey to confer with a man with whom he
has some confidential relations. It is quite impossible that, in my present
state of health, I could do this. Would the thing suit you, Atlee--that is,
if, on consideration, I should opine that _you_ would suit _it_?'
'I suspect,' replied Atlee, but with every deference in his manner, 'if you
would entertain the last part of the contingency first, it would be more
convenient to each of us. I mean whether I were fit for the situation.'
'Well, perhaps so,' said the other carelessly; 'it is not at all
impossible, it may be one of the things you would acquit yourself well in.
It is a sort of exercise for tact and discretion--an occasion in which that
light hand of yours would have a field for employment, and that acute skill
in which I know you pride yourself as regards reading character--'
'You have certainly piqued my curiosity,' said Atlee.
'I don't know that I ought to have said so much; for, after all, it remains
to be seen whether Lord Danesbury would estimate these gifts of yours as
highly as I do. What I think of doing is this: I shall send you over to his
Excellency in your capacity as my own private secretary, to explain how
unfit I am in my present disabled condition to undertake a journey. I shall
tell my lord how useful I have found your services with regard to Ireland,
how much you know of the country and the people, and how worthy of trust I
have found your information and your opinions; and I shall hint--but only
hint, remember--that, for the mission he speaks of, he might possibly
do worse than fix upon yourself. As, of course, it rests with him to be
like-minded with me or not upon this matter--to take, in fact, his own
estimate of Mr. Atlee from his own experiences of him--you are not to know
anything whatever of this project till his Excellency thinks proper to open
it to you. You understand that?'
'Your mission will be to explain--when asked to explain--certain
difficulties of Irish life and habits, and if his lordship should direct
conversation to topics of the East, to be careful to know nothing of the
subject whatever--mind that.'
'I shall be careful. I have read the _Arabian Nights_--but that's all.'
'And of that tendency to small joking and weak epigram I would also caution
you to beware; they will have no success in the quarter to which you are
going, and they will only damage other qualities which you might possibly
Atlee bowed a submissive acquiescence.
'I don't know that you'll see Lady Maude Bickerstaffe, his lordship's
niece.' He stopped as if he had unwittingly uttered an awkwardness, and
then added--'I mean she has not been well, and may not appear while you are
at the castle; but if you should--and if, which is not at all likely, but
still possible, you should be led to talk of Kilgobbin and the incident
that has got into the papers, you must be very guarded in all you say. It
is a county family of station and repute. We were there as visitors. The
ladies--I don't know that I 'd say very much of the ladies.'
'Except that they were exceedingly plain in looks, and somewhat _passees_
besides,' added Atlee gravely.
'I don't see why you should say that, sir,' replied the other stiffly. 'If
you are not bent on compromising me by an indiscretion, I don't perceive
the necessity of involving me in a falsehood.'
'You shall be perfectly safe in my hands,' said Atlee.
'And that I may be so, say as little about me as you can. I know the
injunction has its difficulties, Mr. Atlee, but pray try and observe it.'
The conversation had now arrived at a point in which one angry word more
must have produced a rupture between them; and though Atlee took in the
whole situation and its consequences at a glance, there was nothing in the
easy jauntiness of his manner that gave any clue to a sense of anxiety or
'Is it likely,' asked he at length, 'that his Excellency will advert to the
idea of recognising or rewarding these people for their brave defence?'
'I am coming to that, if you will spare me a little patience: Saxon
slowness is a blemish you'll have to grow accustomed to. If Lord Danesbury
should know that you are an acquaintance of the Kilgobbin family, and ask
you what would be a suitable mode of showing how their conduct has been
appreciated in a high quarter, you should be prepared with an answer.'
Atlee's eyes twinkled with a malicious drollery, and he had to bite his
lips to repress an impertinence that seemed almost to master his prudence,
and at last he said carelessly--
'Dick Kearney might get something.'
'I suppose you know that his qualifications will be tested. You bear that
in mind, I hope--'
'Yes. I was just turning it over in my head, and I thought the best thing
to do would be to make him a Civil Service Commissioner. They are the only
people taken on trust.'
'You are severe, Mr. Atlee. Have these gentlemen earned this dislike on
'Do you mean by having rejected me? No, that they have not. I believe I
could have survived that; and if, however, they had come to the point of
telling me that they were content with my acquirements, and what is
called "passed me," I fervently believe I should have been seized with an
'Mr. Atlee's opinion of himself is not a mean one,' said Walpole, with a
'On the contrary, sir, I have occasion to feel pretty often in every
twenty-four hours what an ignominious part a man plays in life who has to
affect to be taught what he knows already--to be asking the road where he
has travelled every step of the way--and to feel that a threadbare coat and
broken boots take more from the value of his opinions than if he were a
knave or a blackleg.'
'I don't see the humility of all this.'
'I feel the shame of it, though,' said Atlee; and as he arose and walked
out upon the terrace, the veins in his forehead were swelled and knotted,
and his lips trembled with suppressed passion.
In a tone that showed how thoroughly indifferent he felt to the other's
irritation, Walpole went on to say: 'You will then make it your business,
Mr. Atlee, to ascertain in what way most acceptable to those people at
Kilgobbin his Excellency may be able to show them some mark of royal
favour--bearing in mind not to commit yourself to anything that may raise
great expectations. In fact, a recognition is what is intended, not a
Atlee's eyes fell upon the opal ring, which he always wore since the day
Walpole had given it to him, and there was something so significant in the
glance that the other flushed as he caught it.
'I believe I appreciate the distinction,' said Atlee quietly. 'It is to be
something in which the generosity of the donor is more commemorated than
the merits of the person rewarded, and, consequently, a most appropriate
recognition of the Celt by the Saxon. Do you think I ought to go down to
Kilgobbin Castle, sir?'
'I am not quite sure about that; I'll turn it over in my mind. Meanwhile
I'll telegraph to my lord that, if he approves, I shall send you over to
Wales; and you had better make what arrangements you have to make, to be
ready to start at a moment.'
'Unfortunately, sir, I have none. I am in the full enjoyment of such
complete destitution, that I am always ready to go anywhere.'
Walpole did not notice the words, but arose and walked over to a
writing-table to compose his message for the telegraph.
'There,' said he, as he folded it, 'have the kindness to despatch this at
once, and do not be out of the way about five, or half-past, when I shall
expect an answer.'
'Am I free to go into town meanwhile?' asked Atlee.
Walpole nodded assent without speaking.
'I wonder if this sort of flunkeydom be good for a man,' muttered Atlee to
himself as he sprang down the stairs. 'I begin to doubt it. At all events,
I understand now the secret of the first lieutenant's being a tyrant: he
has once been a middy. And so I say, let me only reach the ward-room, and
Heaven help the cockpit!'
When Atlee returned to dress for dinner, he was sent for hurriedly by
Walpole, who told him that Lord Danesbury's answer had arrived with the
order, 'Send him over at once, and write fully at the same time.'
'There is an eleven o'clock packet, Atlee, to-night,' said he: 'you must
manage to start by that. You'll reach Holyhead by four or thereabouts, and
can easily get to the castle by mid-day.'
'I wish I had had a little more time,' muttered the other. 'If I am to
present myself before his Excellency in such a "rig" as this--'
'I have thought of that. We are nearly of the same size and build; you are,
perhaps, a trifle taller, but nothing to signify. Now Buckmaster has
just sent me a mass of things of all sorts from town; they are in my
dressing-room, not yet unpacked. Go up and look at them after dinner: take
what suits you--as much--all, if you like--but don't delay now. It only
wants a few minutes of seven o'clock.'
Atlee muttered his thanks hastily, and went his way. If there was a
thoughtfulness in the generosity of this action, the mode in which it
was performed--the measured coldness of the words--the look of impassive
examination that accompanied them, and the abstention from anything that
savoured of apology for a liberty--were all deeply felt by the other.
It was true, Walpole had often heard him tell of the freedom with which he
had treated Dick Kearney's wardrobe, and how poor Dick was scarcely sure he
could call an article of dress his own, whenever Joe had been the first
to go out into the town. The innumerable straits to which he reduced that
unlucky chum, who had actually to deposit a dinner-suit at an hotel to save
it from Atlee's rapacity, had amused Walpole; but then these things were
all done in the spirit of the honest familiarity that prevailed between
them--the tie of true _camaraderie_ that neither suggested a thought of
obligation on one side nor of painful inferiority on the other. Here it
was totally different. These men did not live together with that daily
interchange of liberties which, with all their passing contentions, so
accustom people to each other's humours as to establish the soundest and
strongest of all friendships. Walpole had adopted Atlee because he
found him useful in a variety of ways. He was adroit, ready-witted, and
intelligent; a half-explanation sufficed with him on anything--a mere hint
was enough to give him for an interview or a reply. He read people readily,
and rarely failed to profit by the knowledge. Strange as it may seem,
the great blemish of his manner--his snobbery--Walpole rather liked than
disliked it. I was a sort of qualifying element that satisfied him, as
though it said, 'With all that fellow's cleverness, he is not "one of us."
He might make a wittier reply, or write a smarter note; but society has
its little tests--not one of which he could respond to.' And this was an
inferiority Walpole loved to cherish and was pleased to think over.
Atlee felt that Walpole might, with very little exercise of courtesy, have
dealt more considerately by him.
'I'm not exactly a valet,' muttered he to himself, 'to whom a man flings a
waistcoat as he chucks a shilling to a porter. I am more than Mr. Walpole's
equal in many things, which are not accidents of fortune.'
He knew scores of things he could do better than him; indeed, there were
very few he could not.
Poor Joe was not, however, aware that it was in the 'not doing' lay
Walpole's secret of superiority; that the inborn sense of abstention is the
great distinguishing element of the class Walpole belonged to; and he
might harass himself for ever, and yet never guess where it was that the
distinction evaded him.
Atlee's manner at dinner was unusually cold and silent. He habitually made
the chief efforts of conversation, now he spoke little and seldom. When
Walpole talked, it was in that careless discursive way it was his wont to
discuss matters with a familiar. He often put questions, and as often went
on without waiting for the answers.
As they sat over the dessert and were alone, he adverted to the other's
mission, throwing out little hints, and cautions as to manner, which Atlee
listened to in perfect silence, and without the slightest sign that could
indicate the feeling they produced.
'You are going into a new country, Atlee,' said he at last, 'and I am sure
you will not be sorry to learn something of the geography.'
'Though it may mar a little of the adventure,' said the other, smiling.
'Ah, that's exactly what I want to warn you against. With us in England,
there are none of those social vicissitudes you are used to here. The game
of life is played gravely, quietly, and calmly. There are no brilliant
successes of bold talkers, no _coups de theatre_ of amusing _raconteurs_:
no one tries to push himself into any position of eminence.'
A half-movement of impatience, as Atlee pushed his wine-glass before him,
arrested the speaker.
'I perceive,' said he stiffly, 'you regard my counsels as unnecessary.'
'Not that, sir, so much as hopeless,' rejoined the other coldly.
'His Excellency will ask you, probably, some questions about this country:
let me warn you not to give him Irish answers.'
'I don't think I understand you, sir.'
'I mean, don't deal in any exaggerations, avoid extravagance, and never be
'Oh, these are Irish, then?'
Without deigning reply to this, Walpole went on--
'Of course you have your remedy for all the evils of Ireland. I never met
an Irishman who had not. But I beg you spare his lordship your theory,
whatever it is, and simply answer the questions he will ask you.'
'I will try, sir,' was the meek reply.
'Above all things, let me warn you against a favourite blunder of your
countrymen. Don't endeavour to explain peculiarities of action in this
country by singularities of race or origin; don't try to make out that
there are special points of view held that are unknown on the other side of
the Channel, or that there are other differences between the two peoples,
except such as more rags and greater wretchedness produce. We have got over
that very venerable and time-honoured blunder, and do not endeavour to
'Fact, I assure you. It is possible in some remote country-house to chance
upon some antiquated Tory who still cherishes these notions; but you'll not
find them amongst men of mind or intelligence, nor amongst any class of our
It was on Atlee's lip to ask, 'Who were our people?' but he forbore by a
mighty effort, and was silent.
'I don't know if I have any other cautions to give you. Do you?'
'No, sir. I could not even have reminded you of these, if you had not
yourself remembered them.'
'Oh, I had almost forgotten it. If his Excellency should give you anything
to write out, or to copy, don't smoke while you are over it: he abhors
tobacco. I should have given you a warning to be equally careful as regards
Lady Maude's sensibilities; but, on the whole, I suspect you'll scarcely
'Is that all, sir?' said the other, rising.
'Well, I think so. I shall be curious to hear how you acquit yourself--how
you get on with his Excellency, and how he takes you; and you must write it
all to me. Ain't you much too early? it's scarcely ten o'clock.'
'A quarter past ten; and I have some miles to drive to Kingstown.'
'And not yet packed, perhaps?' said the other listlessly.
'No, sir; nothing ready.'
'Oh! you'll be in ample time; I'll vouch for it. You are one of the
rough-and-ready order, who are never late. Not but in this same flurry of
yours you have made me forget something I know I had to say; and you tell
me you can't remember it?'
'And yet,' said the other sententiously, 'the crowning merit of a private
secretary is exactly that sort of memory. _Your_ intellects, if properly
trained, should be the complement of your chief's. The infinite number of
things that are too small and too insignificant for _him_, are to have
their place, duly docketed and dated, in _your_ brain; and the very
expression of his face should be an indication to you of what he is looking
for and yet cannot remember. Do you mark me?'
'Half-past ten,' cried Atlee, as the clock chimed on the mantel-piece; and
he hurried away without another word.
It was only as he saw the pitiable penury of his own scanty wardrobe that
he could persuade himself to accept of Walpole's offer.
'After all,' he said, 'the loan of a dress-coat may be the turning-point of
a whole destiny. Junot sold all he had to buy a sword, to make his first
campaign; all I have is my shame, and here it goes for a suit of clothes!'
And, with these words, he rushed down to Walpole's dressing-room, and not
taking time to inspect and select the contents, carried off the box, as it
was, with him. 'I'll tell him all when I write,' muttered he, as he drove
DICK KEARNEY'S CHAMBERS
When Dick Kearney quitted Kilgobbin Castle for Dublin, he was very far from
having any projects in his head, excepting to show his cousin Nina that he
could live without her.
'I believe,' muttered he to himself, 'she counts upon me as another
"victim." These coquettish damsels have a theory that the "whole drama of
life" is the game of their fascinations and the consequences that come
of them, and that we men make it our highest ambition to win them, and
subordinate all we do in life to their favour. I should like to show her
that one man at least refuses to yield this allegiance, and that whatever
her blandishments do with others, with him they are powerless.'
These thoughts were his travelling-companions for nigh fifty miles of
travel, and, like most travelling-companions, grew to be tiresome enough
towards the end of the journey.
When he arrived in Dublin, he was in no hurry to repair to his quarters in
Trinity; they were not particularly cheery in the best of times, and now it
was long vacation, with few men in town, and everything sad and spiritless;
besides this, he was in no mood to meet Atlee, whose free-and-easy
jocularity he knew he would not endure, even with his ordinary patience.
Joe had never condescended to write one line since he had left Kilgobbin,
and Dick, who felt that in presenting him to his family he had done him
immense honour, was proportionately indignant at this show of indifference.
But, by the same easy formula with which he could account for anything in
Nina's conduct by her 'coquetry,' he was able to explain every deviation
from decorum of Joe Atlee's by his 'snobbery.' And it is astonishing how
comfortable the thought made him, that this man, in all his smartness and
ready wit, in his prompt power to acquire, and his still greater quickness
to apply knowledge, was after all a most consummate snob.
He had no taste for a dinner at commons, so he ate his mutton-chop at a
tavern, and went to the play. Ineffably bored, he sauntered along the
almost deserted streets of the city, and just as midnight was striking, he
turned under the arched portal of the college. Secretly hoping that Atlee
might be absent, he inserted the key and entered his quarters.
The grim old coal-bunker in the passage, the silent corridor, and the
dreary room at the end of it, never looked more dismal than as he surveyed
them now by the light of a little wax-match he had lighted to guide his
way. There stood the massive old table in the middle, with its litter of
books and papers--memories of many a headache; and there was the paper of
coarse Cavendish, against which he had so often protested, as well as a
pewter-pot--a new infraction against propriety since he had been away.
Worse, however, than all assaults on decency, were a pair of coarse
highlows, which had been placed within the fender, and had evidently
enjoyed the fire so long as it lingered in the grate.
'So like the fellow! so like him!' was all that Dick could mutter, and he
turned away in disgust.
As Atlee never went to bed till daybreak, it was quite clear that he was
from home, and as the college gates could not reopen till morning, Dick was
not sorry to feel that he was safe from all intrusion for some hours. With
this consolation, he betook him to his bedroom, and proceeded to undress.
Scarcely, however, had he thrown off his coat than a heavy, long-drawn
respiration startled him. He stopped and listened: it came again, and from
the bed. He drew nigh, and there, to his amazement, on his own pillow, lay
the massive head of a coarse-looking, vulgar man of about thirty, with a
silk handkerchief fastened over it as nightcap. A brawny arm lay outside
the bedclothes, with an enormous hand of very questionable cleanness,
though one of the fingers wore a heavy gold ring.
Wishing to gain what knowledge he might of his guest before awaking
him, Dick turned to inspect his clothes, which, in a wild disorder, lay
scattered through the room. They were of the very poorest; but such
still as might have belonged to a very humble clerk, or a messenger in a
counting-house. A large black leather pocket-book fell from a pocket of the
coat, and, in replacing it, Dick perceived it was filled with letters.
On one of these, as he closed the clasp, he read the name, 'Mr. Daniel
Donogan, Dartmouth Gaol.'
'What!' cried he, 'is this the great head-centre, Donogan, I have read so
much of? and how is he here?'
Though Dick Kearney was not usually quick of apprehension, he was not
long here in guessing what the situation meant: it was clear enough that
Donogan, being a friend of Joe Atlee, had been harboured here as a safe
refuge. Of all places in the capital, none were so secure from the visits
of the police as the college; indeed, it would have been no small hazard
for the public force to have invaded these precincts. Calculating therefore
that Kearney was little likely to leave Kilgobbin at present, Atlee had
installed his friend in Dick's quarters. The indiscretion was a grave
one; in fact, there was nothing--even to expulsion itself--might not have
followed on discovery.
'So like him! so like him!' was all he could mutter, as he arose and walked
about the room.
While he thus mused, he turned into Atlee's bedroom, and at once it
appeared why Mr. Donogan had been accommodated in his room. Atlee's was
perfectly destitute of everything: bed, chest of drawers, dressing-table,
chair, and bath were all gone. The sole object in the chamber was a coarse
print of a well-known informer of the year '98, 'Jemmy O'Brien,'
under whose portrait was written, in Atlee's hand, 'Bought in at
fourpence-halfpenny, at the general sale, in affectionate remembrance of
his virtues, by one who feels himself to be a relative.--J.A.' Kearney tore
down the picture in passion, and stamped upon it; indeed, his indignation
with his chum had now passed all bounds of restraint.
'So like him in everything!' again burst from him in utter bitterness.
Having thus satisfied himself that he had read the incident aright, he
returned to the sitting-room, and at once decided that he would leave
Donogan to his rest till morning.
'It will be time enough then to decide what is to be done,' thought he.
He then proceeded to relight the fire, and drawing a sofa near, he wrapped
himself in a railway-rug, and lay down to sleep. For a long time he could
not compose himself to slumber: he thought of Nina and her wiles--ay, they
were wiles; he saw them plainly enough. It was true he was no prize--no
'catch,' as they call it--to angle for, and such a girl as she was could
easily look higher; but still he might swell the list of those followers
she seemed to like to behold at her feet offering up every homage to
her beauty, even to their actual despair. And he thought of his own
condition--very hopeless and purposeless as it was.
'What a journey, to be sure, was life without a goal to strive for.
Kilgobbin would be his one day; but by that time would it be able to pay
off the mortgages that were raised upon it? It was true Atlee was no
richer, but Atlee was a shifty, artful fellow, with scores of contrivances
to go windward of fortune in even the very worst of weather. Atlee would do
many a thing _he_ would not stoop to.'
And as Kearney said this to himself, he was cautious in the use of his
verb, and never said 'could,' but always 'would' do; and oh dear! is it
not in this fashion that so many of us keep up our courage in life, and
attribute to the want of will what we well know lies in the want of power.
Last of all he bethought himself of this man Donogan, a dangerous fellow in
a certain way, and one whose companionship must be got rid of at any price.
Plotting over in his mind how this should be done in the morning, he at
last fell fast asleep.
So overcome was he by slumber, that he never awoke when that venerable
institution called the college woman--the hag whom the virtue of unerring
dons insists o imposing as a servant on resident students--entered, made up
the fire, swept up the room, and arranged the breakfast-table. It was only
as she jogged his arm to ask him for an additional penny to buy more milk,
that he awoke and remembered where he was.
'Will I get yer honour a bit of bacon?' asked she, in a tone intended to be
'Whatever you like,' said he drowsily.
'It's himself there likes a rasher--when he can get it,' said she, with a
leer, and a motion of her thumb towards the adjoining room.
'Whom do you mean?' asked he, half to learn what and how much she knew of
'Oh! don't I know him well?--Dan Donogan,' replied she, with a grin.
'Didn't I see him in the dock with Smith O'Brien in '48, and wasn't he in
trouble again after he got his pardon; and won't he always be in trouble?'
'Hush! don't talk so loud,' cried Dick warningly.
'He'd not hear me now if I was screechin'; it's the only time he sleeps
hard; for he gets up about three or half-past--before it's day--and he
squeezes through the bars of the window, and gets out into the park, and he
takes his exercise there for two hours, most of the time running full speed
and keeping himself in fine wind. Do you know what he said to me the other
day? "Molly," says he, "when I know I can get between those bars there, and
run round the college park in three minutes and twelve seconds, I feel that
there's not many a gaol in Ireland can howld, and the divil a policeman in
the island could catch, me."' And she had to lean over the back of a chair
to steady herself while she laughed at the conceit.
'I think, after all,' said Kearney, 'I'd rather keep out of the scrape than
trust to that way of escaping it.'
'_He_ wouldn't,' said she. 'He'd rather be seducin' soldiers in Barrack
Street, or swearing in a new Fenian, or nailing a death-warnin' on a hall
door, than he'd be lord mayor! If he wasn't in mischief he'd like to be in
'And what comes of it all?' said Kearney, scarcely giving any exact meaning
to his words.
'That's what I do be saying myself,' cried the hag. 'When they can
transport you for singing a ballad, and send you to pick oakum for a green
cravat, it's time to take to some other trade than patriotism!' And with
this reflection she shuffled away, to procure the materials for breakfast.
The fresh rolls, the watercress, a couple of red herrings devilled as those
ancient damsels are expert in doing, and a smoking dish of rashers and
eggs, flanked by a hissing tea-kettle, soon made their appearance, the hag
assuring Kearney that a stout knock with the poker on the back of the grate
would summon Mr. Donogan almost instantaneously--so rapidly, indeed, and
with such indifference as to raiment, that, as she modestly declared, 'I
have to take to my heels the moment I call him,' and the modest avowal was
confirmed by her hasty departure.
The assurance was so far correct, that scarcely had Kearney replaced the
poker, when the door opened, and one of the strangest figures he had ever
beheld presented itself in the room. He was a short, thick-set man with a
profusion of yellowish hair, which, divided in the middle of the head, hung
down on either side to his neck--beard and moustache of the same hue, left
little of the face to be seen but a pair of lustrous blue eyes, deep-sunken
in their orbits, and a short wide-nostrilled nose, which bore the closest
resemblance to a lion's. Indeed, a most absurd likeness to the king of
beasts was the impression produced on Kearney as this wild-looking fellow
bounded forward, and stood there amazed at finding a stranger to confront
His dress was a flannel-shirt and trousers, and a pair of old slippers
which had once been Kearney's own.