My lords of strogue, vol.., p.1
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       My Lords of Strogue, Vol. 2 (of 3), p.1
Download  in MP3 audio

         Part #2 of My Lords of Strogue series by Lewis Wingfield
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
My Lords of Strogue, Vol. 2 (of 3)


  Produced by Charles Bowen, from page scans provided by Google Books

  Transcriber's Notes:

  1. Page scan source: https://books.google.com/books?id=qecBAAAAQAAJ

  2. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].

  MY LORDS OF STROGUE.

  MY LORDS OF STROGUE.

  _A CHRONICLE OF IRELAND, FROM THE CONVENTION TO THE UNION_.

  BY

  HON. LEWIS WINGFIELD,

  AUTHOR OF 'LADY GRIZEL,' ETC.

  IN THREE VOLUMES.

  VOL. II.

  LONDON:

  RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON,

  Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen.

  1879.

  [_All Rights Reserved_.]

  'God of Battles! aid us; Let no despot's might Trample or degrade us, Seeking this our right! Arm us for the danger; Keep our craven fear To our breasts a stranger-- God of Battles! Hear!'

  CONTENTS OF VOL. II.

  CHAPTER

  I. A NIGHT AT CROW STREET.

  II. DOREEN'S PLANS.

  III. THE CLOVEN FOOT.

  IV. WE PIPED UNTO YOU.

  V. AWAY TO DONEGAL.

  VI. GLAS-AITCH-E.

  VII. SMITTEN WITH SERPENTS.

  VIII. MR. CURRAN LEAVES PARLIAMENT.

  IX. THE DUEL.

  X. THE BIRD AND THE FOWLER.

  XI. THE RISING OF THE TEMPEST.

  XII. DANGER.

  XIII. THE HURRY.

  XIV. VAE VICTIS!

  MY LORDS OF STROGUE

  CHAPTER I.

  A NIGHT AT CROW STREET.

  The dowager's words produced their effect upon Doreen, despite hervirtuous indignation. She no longer committed herself by indiscreetcommunings with the 'scatter-brained young men.' She seemed to begrowing lukewarm to the cause as the decisive moment approached,shirking responsibility in a way her character belied, to the surpriseof the patriots, amongst whom we must count Cassidy. The giantremarked with pained astonishment that she gave him no grateful lookwhen he whispered about the pikes, when he hinted with dark nods thatPhil and Biddy had been busy in the night; and he reflected withself-upbraiding that this change must be due to his ill-timed wooing.No doubt it was presumptuous in a 'half-mounted' to aspire to anheiress, but sure she should accept as a compliment a piece ofbungling for which her own charms were entirely responsible. Heresolved to be more careful in the future, striving to bridge thebreach by a nimble deference tempered by judicious sadness; and let noopportunity pass of making himself useful to the young earl. His handswere pretty full, thanks to my Lords Clare and Camden, who pursued thestormy tenor of their way with an edifying steadiness of purpose. Hegladly rode errands for Lord Glandore, did shopping for the countess,drank bumpers in the Castle-yard in company with Major Sirr, waitedabout in my Lord Clare's anteroom; became a ubiquitous, faithful, andgenerally useful personage. He brought news sometimes of the gravestmoment to the mysterious resorts where Dublin 'prentices werepretending to play ball; which hints resulted more frequently than notin a message smuggled in a loaf to the prisoners at Kilmainham and acourier sent galloping far away into the country.

  The electric cloud loomed near on the horizon. Lord Clare watched thethreatening vapour as it rolled, increasing hourly in volume, and,laughing, showed his gums. The ranks of the yeomanry were swelling dayby day, thanks to the exertions of large proprietors whose interest itwas to be well with the court; thanks to the complaisant alacrity ofthe squireens who acted at the beck of the great landowners. Smallriots took place both in the capital and in the provinces, tusslesbetween browbeaten peasants and a soldiery who grew hourly moreinsolent, which originated for the most part in taunts at the oldfaith. Rumours floating vaguely, none knew whence, became currentgossip, hints of a French invasion, of a landing somewhere in thenorth, which should set free the enslaved Catholics--of a Republicancrusade in favour of liberty of conscience. The Orange societies ofthe north took the alarm. 'Liberty of conscience indeed!' they cried.'We remember what happened in King James's time, when the nationalreligion was for a brief space triumphant; how Protestants weremassacred and their property destroyed. We will repel such an invasionwith all our might, and will just prick these presuming slaves alittle as a warning of what may follow.' There were excesses in Armaghand the cities of the north; wherein cottages were burnt, cattleconfiscated, their owners hewn in pieces. News of military outragesarrived in Dublin; and the public, growing uneasy, looked to theCastle to mark its attitude. Ever since Lord Camden's advent, peopleremarked, things had been going wrong. Traitors by dozens had beenimprisoned or executed. Coercion was the order of the day. But popularopinion had been divided; one party declaring that traitors must behanged for the security of the body politic, the opposite partycogently pointing out that if Government acted with more prudence, menwould not be driven into treason. But now the matter was taking a newform. One class, which had always been antagonistic to the other, wasshowing overt symptoms of the harshest tyranny. The Protestantascendency party had banded itself together in armed force at the callof Government for the protection of the land. It was obvious that thisarmed force must not be permitted to exert its strength against itsown brethren of another faith--to convert a deplorable harshness, ofwhich in memory of man the instances were isolated, into a regularlyorganised system like that of Elizabeth. Government must interferepromptly, men said. These savage squireens, who swaggered in theKing's colours, must be taught at once to curb their brutalproclivities, or a reign of terror would result such as shocked Europein '89.

  But Government did nothing of the kind. My Lord Clare held up hisdelicate hands in the lobby of the House of Lords, and, under shadowof William's statue, harangued passing senators upon the iniquity ofthe lower orders.

  'It is awful,' he declared in his rasping voice. 'What will Mr. Pittsay? He will withdraw your pensions, my poor gentlemen, unless you actwith decision. Arm your vassals, my lords. The French will come andmurder us in our beds. I vow the country is in danger. The Catholicsmust be shown their place.'

  That the country was in danger there could be little doubt; but it wasnot precisely from the side to which the crafty chancellor thought fitto point.

  Parliament met in solemn conclave, and did as it was told. Curran anda few others rose up in their places, solemnly protesting against apolicy which sprang from a hidden fear of the lower orders. An Act ofIndemnity was passed with regard to the proceedings in the north.Magistrates and petty officers were held to have behaved wisely inpermitting cottages to be burnt in the name of religion, in allowingfathers of families to be kidnapped in the night, and spirited away noone might tell whither. A profound feeling of wrath was stirred overall the land by the passing of this, and the Insurrection Bill whichallowed it; whereby, amongst other things, a power of arbitrarytransportation was given to magistrates, and outrages made legal whichtill now had been accomplished in defiance of the law. People sawclearly that the majority of both Lords and Commons were merely therepresentatives of their own greed and their own venality; thatnothing could free motherland from a vicious thraldom of unpatrioticselfishness but a r
eform of Parliament and a complete change in thesystem of Government. How was this to be accomplished? There was theknotty point. Was the threatened rising of the masses reallyinevitable? Could they accomplish their objects at all if Franceshould refuse substantial help? Was Government deliberately acting fora wicked purpose, or was the crime merely the negative one ofincapacity? Agitation-meetings blaming the executive were held aboutthe country, at which, when he heard of them, my Lord Clare expressedhis amazement, ingeniously stating in public that he was astonished atthe mildness of the Viceroy in not severely punishing the agitators.Such a hint was not lost upon his amateur colonels and militarymagistrates. They began to exhibit renewed examples of vigorous zeal,destroying property at pleasure, searching houses for arms, treatingthe inhabitants with such brutality that women fell into convulsionsand brought forth children before their time. A singular effect ofthese proceedings, which in itself spoke volumes, was a sudden moralreform among the peasantry. Men who had been drunken became reclaimed;fairs and markets were undisturbed by quarrelling; factions which hadbeen at feud for centuries smoked the pipe of peace together. Hatred,kept down by fear, festered in the hearts of the children of the soil.It was felt that a moment was imminent when man might endure no more,when a down-trodden race must conquer its persecutors or seek relieffrom misery in death.

  Doreen, from her retreat among the roses, watched the current ofevents which now rushed with rapid impetuosity towards an horizon ofblood; and as month followed month, each laden with its progressivefreight of trouble, wondered with beating heart that no news should bereceived from Tone. Had his projects failed? She knew that thedifficulties with which he was called to cope were immense. The lastletter she had had from him, long ago now, spoke of an expeditiongetting ready, which should start before the end of summer. It was nowAugust, and as she sat waiting week after week, both hope andexpectation waning, a feeling of heart-sickness crept over her, whichseemed to chill her life-blood and dry up her bones. One day,listlessly gazing as usual across the sea, she looked up and beheldred-polled Biddy making uncouth signals from the shrubbery--signalsshe had looked for so frequently in vain. A letter! Yes. It was--atlast! But it brought no comfort. An expedition was nearly ready; butthe leading spirit vacillated. General Hoche doubted whether theforces given to him were strong enough to do efficient service;whether the Irish were ready to receive them; whether the resources ofIreland had been truthfully laid before him.

  To Tone's chagrin Hoche informed the Directory that it was fitting,before their ships and treasure were committed to the waters,that somebody of weight should come to France from Ireland, tocorroborate Tone's statements and bring the latest news. It wasvexatious--despairing! What was to be done? In this new strait theyoung patriot urgently applied to his friend Miss Wolfe, to consultwith the United Irishmen as to some one being sent without delay. Oneof the Emmetts, Russell, Neilson, anybody who knew anything. She mustsee to this, or all was lost; for if no satisfactory tidings werespeedily received the expedition would be diverted to some otherpurpose, and Ireland left to fight her battles single-handed. In histrouble he had made statements which were rash, no doubt--had promisedlarge sums to France, in the name of the future Directory of Ireland,and had said that many men of property desired the Revolution. Whoeverwas sent over must, to prevent further parleying, corroborate thesestatements. She must show extra caution however in dealing with thisbusiness, for a Judas was abroad, more than one, perhaps--there couldbe no doubt of that. Mr. Pitt seemed informed of everything thatpassed in Ireland--and in Paris too, for that matter. Caution anddespatch were needful above all things.

  Doreen laid down this letter to consider it, with a presentiment ofevil. The fevered workings of our distempered minds are not soterrible as the sledge-hammer blows which sometimes fall on us. Eventhe harassed conjectures born of fear prove less dreadful thanrealities. This was a blow which numbed her faculties. For herfather's sake, who loved the fleshpots, she had resolved to be a calmspectator of the coming struggle--to mark the arrival of the Frenchconvoy and its certain triumph; to crown the successful heroes inprivate with metaphorical laurels; to forego for her living father'ssake the joy of publicly helping in the emancipation of her deadmother's people. But here was something which put all her resolutionsto flight.

  The entire scaffolding threatened to tumble about the ears of thosewho held her sympathies; and it seemed that it might be in her powerto prevent that catastrophe. So long as neutrality was likely to dothe Catholic party no harm, she was prepared to sacrifice the vanitieswhich hang about picturesque heroism--to view the glorious results asa mere spectator instead of walking in the procession under thetriumphal arches. But this letter woefully changed the face of theprospect. It was quite possible apparently (and she felt cold as sherealised it) that the gorgeous fabric in which her soul revelled wasto vanish into air, and that she might afterwards be accused of havingby apathy brought about its crumbling! What was she to do? What in thescale was this twaddle of the dowager's--this buckram rubbish of anold school--this bit of red-tape, which might come to be the halter ofliberty! But then her father--could she possibly have a right to bringsuffering on him--to be in her own person the Nemesis who should dealpunishment on him for his time-serving weakness?

  The tumult within her was such that her ears throbbed and her throatseemed closing--yet her unaided judgment must settle this questionwith calm pros and cons. There is nothing so clearing to a healthyintellect, temporarily clouded, as strong muscular exertion. MissWolfe stepped into the cockleshell which was her own, and went for arow upon the bay.

  She watched the shadows of the herring-boats, listened absently to therhythmed cry of the fisherfolk as they landed the produce of theirnight's labour on the little quay, nodded in acknowledgment of theirsalutes, rowed herself with firm nervous strokes into mid-water, andthen drifted. The freshness of a light breeze and the exertion seemedto string her nerves and clear her mind. She lay back in the lightshallop, and trailing her brown fingers in the water, meditated. No!Her allegiance was due equally to both parents. Her father had casthis lot with the mammon of unrighteousness and gleaned the pleasantresult of the proceeding. That was no reason for her to betray hermother's people. Much as she loved her father she differed widely fromhis views. She would keep in the background as much as might be, forhis sake; but it certainly behoved her to act with promptitude andenergy now. Send somebody over! Whom was she to send? Who wasimportant enough for the mission? In whom might complete faith beplaced? Cassidy was too bungling and stupid. Moreover he knew no wordof French, and would be sure to make mistakes. Robert Emmett? Tooyoung, too romantic; a student in Trinity besides, whose lengthenedabsence would be remarked. Thomas Emmett, alas! was in durance vile.Whom might she send? Whom? If Terence would only take thingsseriously, he was the very man for the undertaking. What a pity shehad not used her influence with him to good purpose, Miss Wolfethought with compunction. The Judith and Holofernes idea was idiotic,of course; but Terence was a fish that might have been played with asatisfactory result. Yet, after all, could the sacredness of the causejustify her in enacting Delilah to his Samson? Surely not. Withhumiliation she admitted that the trick would be unworthy of one wholived under the roof of Strogue.

  Terence had grown dreadfully cross of late. Once or twice her hearthad bounded, for she had seemed to see that he was moody and disturbedon account of the way events were marching. Certainly he came homesometimes from the Four-courts with fierce denunciations on his lipsanent the culpable folly of Lord Camden--but then he always calmeddown again, when he was no longer hungry, hoping for better days, ifLord Clare would really take the helm. His belief in Lord Clare wasthe blindness which might be expected from a too simple mind.

  As the damsel drifted she built castles for herself. If Terence, whowas manly enough and true enough, would only take things a little more_au serieux!_ If men would only be true to their first impulse forgood, what a much better world it would be! for, taken unawares, it isnearly always our good an
gel who speaks first. He is always awake, iftimid; but his dusky, coarse-natured fellow snores so loudly, that itis no easy matter to make out clearly what he counsels. Terence grewindignant often; was very hot over the Indemnity Bill and Insurrectionditto, but neither ever disturbed his sleep one jot, or interfered inthe smallest degree with his capacity for grouse and claret. What apity it was! A dependable man, a man of rank, whose heart was in theright place if it would but speak--a man who, from his position, wouldwith a breath remove Hoche's scruples. But there was no use inthinking of him. Somebody must be sent, and speedily, or the interestsof the United Irishmen would be compromised. Somebody must besent--but who?

  The young lady became aware that she was drifting out to sea--that itwould require all her nautical science and muscular power to bring herfrail boat to port by sunset; and she was bound to be home again bysunset on this especial evening, because it was a 'lady's night' atCrow Street Theatre, and my lady had warned her that loyal ladies must'show' there, because the Viceroy would be present, supported by agalaxy of beauty. So she handled her sculls like a true connexion ofthe pirate-earls; and as the warm blood tingled in her veins with theexertion, sent her little bark dancing over the water, her brainworking busily the while.

  She decided that it was not possible to stand aloof at this juncture.Tone--the hero, at whose shrine she worshipped--conjured her to act.She would meet at Crow Street, probably, several of the prominentUnited Irishmen, and must choose her opportunity to confer secretlywith them. Who could be sent to Paris with safety? None but Cassidy.What a pity he was so stupid! He meant well--of that she felt assured;but he would plead poverty--that was little matter, for she had jewelswhich might be pledged. But might he claim something more? Love-makingand conspiracy do not go well together. A certain scene at the kennelsrecurred to her mind; and it was with a flush, more due to displeasurethan healthful exercise, that at length she shot her boat beside thelanding-stage. An unaccustomed shadow caused her to start and lookupwards. A man was looking at her, with his thin legs apart and hisarms folded across his chest--a little man, with elf-locks hangingabout his face, and a strange melancholy smile upon his lips.

  'Faix! and ye're a grand boatwoman, Miss Doreen,' Mr. Curran said;'and ye look mighty well fingering those planks. I've bin watching youthis half-hour, and wondering too--wondering whether, if I had beenout alone where you were, I could ever be coaxed to return.'

  Doreen looked up quickly at him. Had something dreadful come to pass?Something dreadful was happening hourly with exasperating monotony.'We didn't expect you over to-day. Is Sara with you?'

  'No. I trotted over on my nag to see if Terence had returned; and mustgo back at once, as Sara wants to go to Crow Street.'

  'Is there anything new?' the young lady inquired, with averted face,as she fastened up her boat. She was constantly fretting morbidlyabout the slowness of Tim's tread, as people will who are devouredwith impatience, and yet half-dread the fulfilment of their wishes.

  'New! No,' grunted the small lawyer. 'Would to heaven there were! Nochange could be for the worse. I have been engrossed these two dayspast in the Orr trial. Didn't Terence tell you? Well, well, hewouldn't shock ye. It's nothing new, faith! And there's no goodtalking of such things at home. They gave the verdict against us,despite all that I could urge; and the injustice was so glaringthat Terence flew in a passion. Upon my word, he looked as fierceas his brother, the Prince of Cherokees! He vowed there was somemistake--that he would in person explain matters to the Viceroy(foolish lad--not to have learnt better by this time!); and so Itrotted over to hear if he had succeeded in his suit.'

  'What was the case?'

  'Nothing particularly novel--another of the many evil results of thechancellor's Insurrection Bill,' grumbled Curran. 'One of its clausesbreathes dire vengeance against such as administer illegal oaths.Rubbish! considering what you and I, young lady, know about a greenbough in Britain's crown. Such oaths will be administered so long asthis corrupt _regime_ continues--just as they have been for five yearsand more. A fine would meet the case--and it should be a light one;for indeed the provocation is not slight. But now such administeringhas become penal. A soldier--a drunken fellow in the Fencibles--comesforward, swears that one Orr--a harmless, obscure farmer, against whomhe probably has a grudge--has induced him to take the oath, "Are youstraight? as straight as a rush," and the rest. Maybe he has, maybe hehasn't--that's not the point; the jury retire, and remain closed upfor hours--all through last night--far into this morning, andby-and-by give in a verdict of guilty. That farmer, who, on myconscience, I believe was innocent, is swinging by this time unlessTerence's mission has been successful.'

  The two walked up the steep path, which led to the Abbey terrace, insilence. Doreen was thinking that her resolve was right. It should beno fault of hers if the French fleet failed to come with healing onits wings. Curran was plunged in sadness, for he was beginning tobe convinced that the triumphal car of Government would bear himdown--chosen champion, as he believed himself--with its overpoweringweight, as it did others. Of what use was his eloquence as an advocatein presence of packed juries and bribed witnesses? It was talking tothe wall--or worse, for at least the wall serves its purpose withoutshame, and is washed white, and receives no bribes; Major Sirr'sjuries and witnesses were accustomed, on the other hand, to arrangetheir affairs in a jovial fashion in the major's sanctum before cominginto court. There was little of the whitewash about them!

  When Doreen conducted the lawyer into the tapestry-saloon, my lady wasconcerned at her eccentric little friend's dejection; and easilyprevailed on him to dine before returning to the Priory. Terence didnot appear, which was of evil augury; so his chief took theopportunity of the ladies retiring to their toilet, to mount his nagand gallop homewards, with a leaden weight within his breast.

  Neither the dowager nor her niece were theatre-going people. Theformer held dim uncomplimentary opinions about the private lives ofactresses, and her pride of caste revolted at the familiar behaviourof the gallery, who were given to homely conversation with theirbetters in the boxes, and to making rude comments upon the proceedingson the stage. Miss Wolfe disliked the play, because mimic woes andmimic laughter were alike an insult to the soreness of her heart, andthe too real sorrows of the world in which she lived. Yet both werecompelled by fashion to show themselves in Crow Street whenever aspecially prominent goddess of _ton_ thought fit to command a night.On such occasions the auditorium was illuminated with wax candles; therank of the metropolis in diamonds and feathers filled the boxes;pit-tickets were freely distributed among the tradespeople with whomthe lady dealt, whilst she took up her own position at the extreme endof the refection-room (a fine gallery erected by Mr. Fred. Jones, themanager), bowing a welcome to all who rallied round her.

  On this particular evening the Lady-Lieutenant herself had commandedthe performance, so all the adherents of the Castle were there instate--members of the peerage in brand-new uniforms; the cabinet,consisting of the chancellor, the chief secretary, the speaker, andthe attorney--and such a show of female beauty as Dublin can alwaysboast. Lady Camden held quite a court in the refection-room, supportedby Lord Clare, whose arrogant countenance beamed with theconsciousness of strength. My Lord Camden had shuffled away to thecurtained viceregal box, pretending to be engrossed with thewretchedness of Lucy Lockit; the fact being that his conscience beganto worry him, and that he withdrew from public gaze as much asceremony would permit.

  My lord chancellor was not a man ever to lurk in corners, or to shun afew paltry hisses. He stood forward beside the Viceroy's wife, noddingto the crowds who bowed before him with a loathsome smirk, too coldlyoverbearing to reck what men thought of him, provided they bent theknee. He had reached at this time the acme of his power. His word waslaw. He browbeat his comrades in the cabinet till honest Arthur Wolfequite winced. He had undertaken to mould into shape a corrupt upperclass, and his first move had been to give a rein to their badpassions. His second was to cultivate an unusual urbanity; for
itwould be needful by-and-by to win the members of the Bar, and to layin a good stock of promising raw material in the shape of young M.P.'sjust rough from grass. He made a point, too, of being particularlycivil to girls, for he said that if the confidence of the females in ahouse is won, the men may be counted on as gained. Satan found nofooting in Paradise till he made sure of Eve.

  So my Lord Clare tripped hither and thither in his natty attire,complimenting one, grinning at another; suggesting an ice to a younglady; confounding a sheepish youth by offering his jewelled snuff-box;laughing a hyena-laugh at some feeble joke; making himself so pleasantthat folks stared in wonder. Ladies of highest rank rustled up andcurtseyed, then formed into a parterre of shot silks and waving plumesbehind my Lady Camden. It was a magnificent spectacle of brilliancyand wealth.

  What mattered the cries of those who sat in darkness? what signifiedthe cloud that was rolling quickly nearer? The Countess of Glandore, agrand sight, in the family jewels, swept into her place, led forwardby Mr. Wolfe, who had advanced to meet his sister; whilst Lord Clareraised Doreen's fingers to his lips with a gallant bow, vowing thather father should be proud of such rare charms. And well he might, andwas, indeed, for there lingered on the girl's face a heightened colourwhich gave a lustre to her eye, while the roundness of her tall figurewas shown off at its very best by a tightfitting robe of yellow crape,elaborately embroidered with silver tassels. Her dark coils of hairwere knotted round her head in a plain thick diadem, raised highbehind to show its noble contour where it joined her neck; while theolive skin seemed to acquire a richer hue by contrast with a palecoral necklet and long ear-drops. Lord Clare looked at her with ahalf-sarcastic smile, and said:

  'Will you walk in the lobby and survey the house? I always like toshow myself with a lovely girl upon my arm. There is a sight there,too, that will please you, I think.'

  Calmly she took his arm. Etiquette demanded that she should remain inthe theatre for half-an-hour. It mattered little how she killed thetime; nevertheless her eyes wandered restlessly about in search ofCassidy, to whom she was resolved to speak if possible. Suddenly shestarted and turned scarlet. In an upper box, talking earnestlytogether, were Cassidy and young Robert; with them Tom Emmett,Russell, and the rest, whom she supposed to be safe under lock and keywithin Kilmainham gaol.

  'I thought you would be surprised,' drawled the chancellor. 'See howGovernment is maligned! The proceedings of those young gentlemen weresuch that we were obliged to lock them up. We could not do otherwise,you know. But having given them this lesson, you see we've humanelylet them out again. Let us hope they'll be wise--wiser, for instance,than Mr. Tone appears to be--who is indeed singularly foolish. Heseems to imagine that men of property will rally to his standard whenhe arrives with his precious expedition. Oh, my country! How truly isthy colour green! Here is an adventurer without a sou, grandiloquentlypromising to pay vast debts of gratitude!'

  Doreen looked up in the speaker's face suspiciously. The very languageof the letter she had received that day! Her aunt's warning, hithertoforgotten, flashed across her. '_See that your correspondence is nottampered with_.' Verily, Tone was right. There was a Judas playing adevilish game somewhere.

  'Mr. Tone has been long absent,' she said, with a troubled face.

  'None the less mischievous,' retorted the other, carelessly. 'But hisclaws are cut, for we know all he does as soon as it is done. Now, ifGovernment has erred, is it not on the side of leniency?'

  'The fox was very civil to the bird on the tree-branch,' Mr. Curranobserved dryly, who with Sara now joined them, 'until the fowl wasfool enough to drop his cake! Your lordship is a bad Irishman, weknow; but you should not take us for a race of idiots. The people aretoo quiet. You miss the trenchant articles in Tom Emmett's newspaper.You perceive that even the Orange outrages of Armagh have failed togoad the poor cowed creatures to rebellion. Give them more rope, mylord, and they'll certainly hang themselves--aye, and me too amongstthem, I dare say!'

  Lord Clare coloured slightly, and bit his lip, but answered nothing.

  'At a moment when the foe is at our gates,' Curran pursuedbitterly--'for the French armament at Brest is surely meant forIreland--do you strive to unite all parties against a common enemy?No! Look at the scenes which are daily enacted under your auspices inthe north. Robbery, rape, and murder; one brother at another brother'sthroat. Yet I am wrong. We are of one accord on one point. You areuniting us as one man against the conciliation of our animosities andthe consolidation of our strength. Alas for Erin! Rent by faction asshe is, there is nothing for her but a bridewell or a guard-house--thegrinding tyranny of England or the military despotism of France!'

  Arthur Wolfe, who was always endeavouring to prevent these two fromsnarling, here interposed, and dragged the irascible little lawyeraway. The chancellor, however, fired a parting shot--crying out in atone of airy innocence:

  'On my honour, I know not what you'd have. We give every one as muchliberty as possible. Look up at the gallery this moment. Every man init has a bludgeon or shillalagh--and they're all staring at the boxwhere the ex-prisoners are. I vow they look monstrous dangerous. It'sbrave of my lord-lieutenant to sit there so quietly!'

  It was true that all eyes were turned from time to time to thatparticular box, as though something unusual might be expected to takeplace. Meanwhile the unconscious lady-lieutenant in the refection-roomcontinued to smirk and bow, highly pleased at the full gatheringaround her.

  Stout Madam Gillin panted through the crowd in an amazing turban ofcoquelicot and gold, distributing hearty handshakes to the right andleft; and Norah looked so pretty as she brought up the rear, that theCountess of Glandore's ire was kindled, and she glanced anxiouslyabout for her elder son. He was not present though, for he never wouldgo anywhere where there were high-born young ladies.

  Mrs. Gillin too was looking out for somebody, and, perceiving Curran,beckoned him with her fan.

  'The young man,' she said in an undertone--'you know who I mean--Ihear from old Jug that he's mighty annoyed about this Orr case. Indeedit's bad enough i' faith, but don't let him be rash.'

  'Terence?' Curran replied; 'I've been expecting him every moment.'

  'He's not here,' returned Mrs. Gillin. 'His man Phil's below withorders to await his coming. I don't like his getting mixed up in thesethings. It's not his place, you know. If his mother had a grain ofgoodness--but there! I can't mention her with patience.'

  Curran looked grave, and hurried away to cross-question Phil. It wassingular that Terence should not have appeared. The two ladies,between whom there was the bond of a secret, looked each other in theeyes, and temptation was too much for my lady to resist.

  'These are indeed dangerous times,' she remarked sweetly to LadyCamden, 'when it behoves us all to do our duty. I beg you will assurehis excellency that Glandore will not shrink from his. He can be oflittle use here where so many have come forward; but he will retire toDonegal as soon as it shall seem needful to watch over his tenants inthe interest of Government. And I should not be surprised--but it is aterrible indiscretion--_if when things are settled he should bringback with him a bride_.'

  The stroke went home. Norah turned deadly pale; and Madam Gillin, whohad commenced confidences about flannel with a neighbour, foundherself suddenly called upon to attend to her daughter, who wasfainting. Scarcely had the court circle gathered round the girl, thana new source of commotion became evident in the lobby. High words werebeing bandied, with a low accompaniment of murmuring. The harshaccents of the chancellor were ringing in remonstrance; Doreen, who,despite her aunt's frowns, had handed her pouncet-box to Madam Gillin,became aware that the other voice was Terence's, raised in unusualindignation. She was quickly carried by the stream to the scene of thedisturbance.

  Yes; it was Terence, sure enough--in his boots; his hair disordered; alook of menace on his white face; and Lord Clare was striving to barhis passage. Honest Phil behind, firing-iron in hand as usual, stoodwatching his master's eye.

  'Let me pas
s, my lord!' the young man was saying fiercely. 'Aninnocent man's life hangs on a thread. I have striven to see hisexcellency for hours, but have been prevented. He is in his box Iknow, and I will see him. It cannot be that he knows what's happening!The conscience-stricken jury have repented of their crime, they havemade solemn oath that they convicted Orr (God have mercy on them!)when they had been made hopelessly drunk by Major Sirr. Even that'snot all. The soldier, too, is afraid of what he's done, and owns thathe had a private reason for his malice. Orr will be hanged at dawnunless Lord Camden signs his respite. I'm sure his excellency cannotknow what's passing! It's the effect of this horrible one-witness lawof yours. Even Caiaphas and his Sanhedrim dared not, in the greatjudicial murder, to set aside the law which demands at least twowitnesses. Even Jezebel suborned two men of Belial to bring about theend of Naboth!'

  Perceiving that the throng were in favour of the pleader, Lord Clarestrove to draw away the son of his old friend, lest the public shouldthink fit to take an inconvenient part in the discussion--an effort inwhich he found unexpected help from Curran. The party retreatedtherefore into an adjoining cloak-room, followed only by a few, whilePhil kept doughty guard without, and Lady Camden tried to look as ifshe were not flustered.

  'Oh, that drunkenness should be employed to procure the murder of aman!' Terence cried in agitation. 'If Orr dies, this will be the mostsavage act which has disgraced even our tribunals. I have striven tobelieve in the honesty of Government. Let us go together and explainto his excellency while there's yet time!'

  The chancellor laid his hand on the young man's shoulder as if tosoothe a petulant child; while Curran sat on a table with arms crossedand a sour smile flitting about his lips.

  'Young gentleman,' Lord Clare said, 'take the advice of an older manand your mother's friend. Keep aloof from these matters, and don'tgive credence to grandams' tales. We understand what we are doing, andwant no dictation from raw youths--we are satisfied of Orr's guilt.You are keeping bad company, as I warned you once' (with a furtiveside-glance at Mr. Curran), 'and will get yourself into trouble!'

  Terence's arms dropped to his sides, and he stood thinking. Awhispering without could plainly be distinguished through the closeddoor. He looked for help to his chief, who had spoken out so bravelyat the trial, but who now swung his legs in silence.

  Presently he sighed, and passing both hands over his face, saidslowly: 'Then they were right--I could not, and would not believe it.The lord-lieutenant, then, is a passive instrument in the hands ofwicked men--he is made, for a purpose, grossly, inhumanly, to abusethe royal prerogative of mercy, of which the King himself is but atrustee for the benefit of his people. Some of those jurymen werethreatened by suborned fellow-jurors--their tottering consciencesdeadened for awhile by drink; but they have woke to remorse in time.You say this hideous farce may not be stopped! Beware, Lord Clare!Remember to whom you must answer for this man's life! It's true--alltrue--and I am helpless!'

  Lord Clare was provoked. Things were assuming an awkward andunexpected phase. It would not do to have a scandal in the theatre.Suppressing his wrath, he whispered to Mr. Curran before leaving theapartment:

  'This boy must not be made a scapegoat. I rely on you to use yourinfluence over him for his family's sake. He has listened to idlegossip, and ardent youth is easily set ablaze. This is most untoward.I will remove their excellencies at once and disappoint those donkeyswho are greedily on the look-out for an _esclandre_.'

  His rasping voice was heard presently above the hum in polishedperiods, deploring that false reports should so easily be credited;explaining that the too sensitive Viceroy must be protected from hisown softness, calling for their excellencies' coach without delay.

  'Can nothing more be done for Orr? It is too awful!' the junior askedhis chief, clinging to his coat with anxious hands.

  'If aught could be done, should I have remained silent?' was the dryrejoinder.

  Then the lawyer bethought him of his child in the crush, and salliedforth in search of her.

  Master Phil, with instinctive respect for a great man, stood asidewhen the chancellor made his exit, allowing the cloak-room to beflooded with eager inquirers. First entered Cassidy and Doreen,burning to hear news.

  Terence roused himself from his reverie, and, clasping a hand of each,muttered in choking words:

  'I have fought against conviction long enough. There are limits to anhonest man's forbearance. Cassidy! I'll take the oath.'

  The giant knitted his brows, and, staring at the cornice, whistled.Doreen darted forth such a golden flash from her cairngorm eyes asflooded the heart of the tempest-tossed young man with a gleam ofsunshine.

  'Oh, cousin!' he murmured. 'You who are my star! Forgive me for havingmistrusted the direction of your guidance! I am easy-going, and notprone to believe evil. But my eyes are opened now. Ireland's soil issick with the blood of centuries. A little while, and please God sheshall bleed no more!'

  'Mr. Cassidy!' the girl said, with heaving breast and such a joyousconfusion as prevented her from reading the giant's face, 'did I notsay to you just now that after darkness comes the morning? Surelynight must be at its blackest now, Terence. I take you at your word.This change is a miracle wrought by heaven in the nick of time toprevent Theobald's efforts from being frustrated. I see it, and amgrateful. A champion must be tried, you know,' she whispered, smiling,'and pass through the ordeal which is to prove his faith. I give youyours at once. It is urgently needful that some one should startforthwith for France, to act in concert there with Theobald. Can youmake up your mind to this? Yes or no--there is no time forhesitation.'

  Terence, a prey still to overmastering agitation, clasped the brownhand that was like a leaf in both of his, while the giant's frown wasfixed on one and then the other.

  'I told you one day,' the young man whispered, 'that for one reward Iwould set at naught the traditions of my family. If I succeed in thetask which you assign to me----'

  A shade passed across the sunlight of Doreen's enthusiasm. Howpersistently people tried to rehearse love-passages on the floor ofthe charnel-house!

  'Do not let us talk of such things,' she faltered dreamily. 'Mr.Cassidy, you can see the oath administered this evening. Come straighthome, Terence--and I'll manage to meet you when the rest are gone tobed. You will have to start betimes, _mon preux chevalier_; and returnas quickly as you may, bearing good news. See to the taking of theoath, Mr. Cassidy, and for once do not make mistakes.'

  'I will see to all!' ejaculated the giant, hoarsely; 'though I risk myneck in doing it.'

  Another warm pressure of the hand--a lingering look--and Doreen wasgone. My lady had harshly summoned her, dismayed at Mr. Curran'srecital of the scene, and had bade her don her mantle--wrapt herselfin the contemplation of fresh troubles. Madam Gillin, too, hadlistened to his story, and her round, good-humoured face was drawn outas she listened to inordinate length.

  'I can't stand this,' she said by-and-by, to Mr. Curran, as he cloakedher. 'That magnificent dowager who has trundled off in the grandcarriage will--as I judge--leave difficulties to unravel themselves.She doesn't like the boy, and would be glad he should come to ruin forreasons buried in her stony heart. But I promised his father to be aguardian angel, and, please God, I will. You must keep him out ofmischief--do you hear?'

  Keep him out of mischief! Easier said than done; but it was worthtrying for. Mr. Curran, unaware of the interchange of sundry tenderglances in the cloak-room, did not despair of success. He elbowed inthe throng till he met his junior, and bade him be in attendance earlyat the Four-courts.

  'The Four-courts!' scoffed Terence, with lamentable disrespect. 'Whenjustice dies, why dally with her empty robes? I've other fish to fry.'

  'Sure it's Misthress Doreen that's been at him,' laughed big Cassidy,with rather forced indifference. 'Who'd be proof against the blarneyof the Dhas Astore?'

  'Has Miss Wolfe been up to anything? what?' demanded the lawyer,knitting his shaggy eyebrows.

  'It's a match
they'll be making of it--Lord love the purty pair!'bawled the nettled giant. 'The gintleman's to be complimented who'sthus favoured.'

  'Is this true?' Curran inquired. 'Has she been persuading you to makea fool of yourself? I turned you out of my house, though I love youlike a son, to withdraw you from what might prove a dangerousatmosphere. Maybe I'd better have kept you after all.'

  'Perhaps, if I succeed in this mission, she may be mine!' Terencemuttered in ecstasy, oblivious for the moment of the fate of thecondemned.

  'And for such a vague _perhaps_,' Curran retorted in disgust, 'thesegoslings will risk their lives!'

 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll
Add comment

Add comment