Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 11/A Tipperary shot - Part 3


A TIPPERARY SHOT.

By the Author of “Myself and my Relatives,” “Little Flaggs,” &c.


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CHAPTER V. THE CAPPAMOYNE LANDS.

Some pleasant days of fishing and sightseeing served to while away one of the most agreeable weeks I had ever spent. St. John and Morley were obliged to return to Cahir before I was permitted to leave the hospitable house of the Barnetts; and after the week was concluded, our party there consisted of the host and his sister, Sir Percy Stedmole, Mr. Nugent, and myself. I need not say that every day now added to my admiration of Miss Barnett. When once slightly grazed by a love-dart, it is seldom that the wound is not repeated with more forcible and deadly aim. I looked forward to leaving Knockgriffin with the greatest despair, never having yet dared to breathe a syllable of my devotion to the object of it. The more I found how deeply my happiness for life was concerned in the issue of this attachment, the more I trembled at the bare idea of trying my fate. I could not think of remaining longer than a few days more at the Barnetts’, and it was not likely that I should be asked to Knockgriffin again. Sir Denis spoke of going to Harrowgate at the end of July, and after that he and his sister were to go to Paris; thus, in all probability, we might never meet again. My company would not be detached at Cashel for possibly more than a couple of months longer, and then Heaven only knew to what dismal point I might be banished. Very ardently I hoped that some good fortune would come to help me in my misery.

“I am going now to give my last orders respecting the Cappamoyne tenants,” said Sir Denis, one day after breakfast. “I prefer speaking to them myself, to deputing Doheny to go among them: he is too timid in giving my directions; and besides, it is scarcely fair, perhaps, to employ him on such a business. One should not impose too much upon an agent.”

Miss Barnett’s cheek changed colour rapidly as her brother spoke. She was first red, then pale, and again flushed with a feverish glow over her face; but she did not make any remark.

“If I were you, Barnett, I’d see the tenants hanged before I’d speak to one of them,” said Nugent, emphatically. “Take my advice, and leave the matter to Doheny: he knows how to come round those sort of fellows better than you do; and by the time you’re safe on the continent they’ll all be ejected peaceably. They know Doheny must obey your orders, and they’ll not be half so enraged with him as with yourself.”

“I will not expose him to more risk than is absolutely necessary,” returned Barnett, firmly. “It would be the act of a dastard to go off from Knockgriffin and leave him to encounter all the wrath of the Cappamoyne people alone. I must wait here till I see the cottages demolished, and——

“Then you’re a madman!” exclaimed Nugent, almost losing command of his temper.

“Decidedly you are foolhardy, Barnett,” said Sir Percy, who was looking thoughtfully on the ground. All the time I was looking at Miss Barnett, who suddenly raised her eyes and caught my earnest gaze. She had the aspect of a person nerving herself for a terrible trial.

“Will any one come out with me to Cappamoyne?” asked Sir Denis at length, gaily.

“Not a foot I’ll go,” said Nugent, bluntly, while he still looked almost fierce.

“I shall be engaged for the next two hours with business letters,” observed Sir Percy, after some hesitation. “But really, Barnett, you seem altogether too daring.”

“Never mind me, Stedmole,” interrupted Sir Denis. “I have made up my mind on that point. What say you to a walk, Captain Stapleton, or are you engaged also!” And I thought a rather quizzical smile played on my host’s face as he turned to address myself.

“I shall be most happy to accompany you,” said I, and as I spoke I observed that Miss Barnett’s eyes met mine again; and this time they expressed a feeling of interest and approbation that made my heart beat quicker than before.

Stedmole coughed, and drummed for a second on the table with his fingers. I thought he looked annoyed, as he hurried from the room a few moments afterwards.

Barnett and I were soon on the way to the devoted homesteads of about fifteen small householders, called cottiers in Ireland; and my companion beguiled our walk with much pleasant chat, pointing out here and there what he wished to be done towards improving his estate. Occasionally I ventured, far his sister’s sake, to remonstrate with him upon the danger of exposing himself to the anger of so many wild people; but he met all my efforts with arguments that he considered unanswerable.

“I would as soon be dead at once as always living in a state of dread,” he said, gravely. “Unless I choose to part with my family property, I must remain occasionally in Tipperary; and what would be the use of having a property at all if I dared not plan any reasonable improvement on it? If we allowed ourselves to be terrified into a meek acquiescence with all the requirements of our tenantry in this county we might soon expect to become the ejected ourselves. We should tremble at the idea of asking for rent or oven at issuing orders to our workmen. I must have my own way with my own property; and if I am shot for it, of course there will be an end to me and my plans.”

“Consider what a blow it would be to your sister if anything should befall you,” murmured I.

“Oh yes! poor Louisa would feel it much; but just look at those terrible little cabins scattered over there, so black and dirty: they are a disgrace to any landlord.”

We were now very near to the objectionable locale; and as we approached the dwellings I observed that the few men visible in the vicinity bad a dogged, downcast air. Some touched their bats sulkily as we passed, others kept digging pertinaciously at their patches of ground without lifting their heads. As we came near a cottage rather cleaner than the rest, with a few china roses and some woodbine clustering round its walls, a tall, dark-haired young man, apparently about twenty-five, with a handsome face and figure, came forth to meet us, and, looking my companion full in the face, he touched his straw hat slightly as he observed—“And so, Sir Denis, you’ve determined that we’re to give up possession of our holdings hereabouts at once?”

“Yes; you knew that long ago, Ryan. I hope you are making preparations to give up your house. There is only a month or six weeks to delay now,” replied Barnett.

“And do you call that justice, or humanity, Sir Denis?” inquired the young man, still looking full at his landlord. “Do you expect that luck or grace can attend the man, high or low, that takes the old roof tree from his neighbour’s head? That spot of ground, and the cottage on it, have been in my father’s family for upwards of seventy years, and it’s mine now; and I’d rather stop inside its walls than live in another place three times as good, Nothing will make up to me for its loss, Sir Denis. If I have to leave Cappamoyne I’ll leave Ireland altogether. I’ll never take up with any other spot in Tipperary.”

“You are standing in the way of your own interests, Ryan,” said Barnett. “All those who give up their holdings quietly will preserve my favour; but those who occasion trouble cannot expect the same consideration. Every house on this land must be vacated by the end of July, or else the law will have to interfere.

You know I have been a kind landlord through the last five years. I have never made an ejectment of any tenant in all that time; and have forgiven the payment of many arrears, and scarcely ever pressed for rent at an inconvenient time. Mr. Doheny has received orders from me to act in every instance with kindness and forbearance.”

Ryan muttered something that sounded to my ears very like “He daren’t do anything else;” but Barnett did not seem to hear the scarcely-audible comment.

“There’s more than me unwilling to quit Cappamoyne,” continued Ryan aloud. “I’m the only firebrand among the tenants on the land. I honour the family you belong to, Sir Denis. My father and grandfather served the Barnetts faithfully, and gloried in the prosperity of Knockgriffin; but there’s such a thing as being roused up to forget the past, and think only of present wrong. Believe me, Sir Denis, I’d as lief be dead as cast out of my father’s holding at Cappamoyne!”

The man looked unflinchingly as he spoke both at my companion and myself, his dark eye gleaming with a bandit light that seemed to express more than his words did. His countenance was agitated, and his earnestness made me pity him from my heart; though, of course, I felt a natural distrust of him, on my friend’s account.

“Come, come, Ryan,” said Barnett gaily. “Never mind about leaving that poor cabin yonder. I’ll give you a cottage at Carrickfinn, where you and Mary will live as happily as the day is long. You are going to marry our pretty Moll Killery at once I hear?”

“It’s not settled yet, sir,” replied the young man, for once assuming an abashed air. “You see, one can’t think of such things when they don’t know whether they may be here or a thousand miles off, or may be worse, before three or four months are gone by. Suppose now, your honour, you were to be deprived of Knockgriffin, and the mansion, and all your ancestor’s property, I’ll engage you’d think a while before you’d settle about marrying.”

“I would not hesitate long if I was to get a much finer estate in place of the old one,” replied Sir Denis, good humouredly. “You know, Ryan, you will be able to bring your wife to a much better cottage at Carrickfinn than this house at Cappamoyne.”

“I’ll never bring her to Carrickfinn, Sir Denis,” said the young man, gloomily.

“You can do as you please about that,” resumed Barnett, relapsing into dignified gravity; “but, remember, that Mr. Doheny has received directions to take up the lands and houses of Cappamoyne before August.” And with these words my friend walked away from his discomfited tenant.

“We passed over the devoted ground; and Barnett called in at almost every cabin to give his last personal orders respecting their evacuation at the end of a few weeks. There were tears on the part of the women of the families; remonstrances, and, in many instances, sharp words on the part of the men.

One most beautiful young woman in particular was very earnest in her appeals to the humanity of Sir Denis. This was pretty Mary Killery, Ryan’s sweetheart; and I certainly never saw a lovelier specimen of Irish beauty than she was, with her rich brunette complexion, dark glossy hair, flashing black eyes, and exquisitely chiselled features, while her air and figure possessed that native dignity which is so common among the Limerick and Tipperary women.

“For God’s sake, Sir Denis, think what you’re about,” she said, as she followed us for a little way from the door of her father’s house; “it’s not only for our sakes, but for your own. There’s upwards of forty people here at Cappamoyne, and who knows which of them would be ready to do an evil turn any day? Oh, for the love of Heaven, and the blessed Virgin, do what you can to prevent bloodshed, and disorder, and, maybe, hanging in the front of Clonmel gaol before the summer’s out!”

Barnett tried to joke and laugh her out of her distress, but in vain. She wrung her hands; and the tears gathered in her large, lustrous eyes as she continued her prayers.

“Can’t the English gentleman there put in a word for us?” she asked at length, appealing for my intercession. “Oh, sir, tell Sir Denis he may have cause to repent driving out so many poor tenants from their houses; and Miss Louisa, maybe, will have many a long year of bitter grief to spend for the work of a few days!”

I was quite unable to say anything in reply to this address; and after a time Barnett and I hurried onwards, coming out once more upon the less uncivilised portions of the estate. It was impossible for me, of course, to surmise correctly how this unhappy business of ejectment would turn out. I was sorely concerned for my friend, though I could not help admiring the courage with which he determined to persevere in doing what seemed to him right and proper. I could only hope sincerely that he might be safe on the continent before steps might be taken to sacrifice him to the wild spirit of revenge that had for so many years characterised the lawless peasantry of Tipperary.

CHAPTER VI. THE FIRST THREATENING LETTER.

Miss Barnett received her brother and me with cheeks flushed, still from nervous excitement, when we returned from our morning walk, and narrated what had been done and said during our visit to Cappamoyne.

“They are determined to fight it out to the last moment,” observed Sir Denis, as we sat down to luncheon; “but they will find that I am not to be trifled with.”

“Ay, or maybe you’ll find out that they won’t be trifled with,” said Nugent, gruffly. “Dreadful people these Tipperary ruffians!” ejaculated Sir Percy Stedmole.

“Were you not afraid of becoming a marked man, Captain Stapleton, by appearing with my brother on his dangerous rounds to-day?” asked Miss Barnett, looking at me with a smile in her eye.

“Not at all; I should like, however, to be such a hero as Sir Denis. I was playing a very passive part in the morning’s proceedings—risking nothing, and of course with nothing to fear.”

“Don’t be so sure of that,” growled Nugent. “You know I told you Barnett was dangerous company. Many a man’s shot in the wrong place in these parts, Captain. I knew two or three myself that got the bullets intended for their friends.”

“You had better take care of me, Stapleton,” said Barnett, smiling. “In future I must expect to be shunned, like the plague, by all my former acquaintances.”

“And the deuce pity you,” observed Mr. Nugent, politely.

“You evidently think us all very cowardly, Barnett,” said Sir Percy, languidly.

“Oh, not all perhaps,” resumed Sir Denis, quietly. And then there was a silence of some minutes.

We did not go out anywhere again that day. Barnett was occupied with business matters, and closeted for a long time with his vulgar, round-headed, little agent, Mr. Timothy Doheny, whose position at the present crisis was certainly not a very enviable one; yet he did not seem to mind it in the least. Habit has decidedly a vast deal to say to courage; and if women were not cooped up by our social customs in the way they are at present, I have a pretty firm persuasion that the greater part of them would turn out quite as brave under trying circumstances as our so-called superior sex. The wonder is, that they are not turned idiots completely by the system pursued in their education, training, and social condition. Miss Barnett was one of the few women I was ever acquainted with who had the gift of thinking and acting independently, and this was probably owing to her having a fortune that raised her above the petty necessities of the larger portion of her fellow-women. The possession of wealth, and the consciousness of being removed from the dismal alternative of sacrificing herself for a disagreeable matrimonial alliance in order to become rich—or sinking into poverty and semi-starvation as a portionless single woman—gave her a dignity that was very charming. She never seemed setting herself out to gain admiration: but when it was accorded she received it quietly, as a thing of course. We, men, often fancy ourselves very captivating, when alas! all the feeling that we inspire in the fair creatures who seem at our feet, is the desire of sharing our position and our purse. Witness, for instance, how hard it is for a penniless fellow, however handsome, to win an heiress, who is at the same time a beauty. The lovely girls with large fortunes, somehow, always contrive to fall in love with men of rank and title. They “esteem” the others, but adore these, even if they be old and ugly. We object to the gentler sex entering our colleges, studying for prizes and undergoing competitive examinations, lest, forsooth, they lose the softness so charming in our eyes. Alas! alas! I fear we are very green for our pains. Competing with each other for prizes in Greek or Latin or Algebra, would not be half so likely to degrade them as the competition going on so perseveringly among them at the present moment. I know the sex pretty well, dear reader, and what their training and dependent position generally make them capable of. My good male friend, have you never felt both disgust and pity when you have watched the simperings, the feverish efforts, the paltry, easily-discovered manœuvres of some poor girl who seizes upon yourself as the only probable way she has of escaping from the misery of becoming a governess, or living in dismal obscurity and in want at home? Oh! sad it is indeed that we can never be quite sure what we may be married for by the women who know perhaps too well what they have married us for, and why they have fawned upon us, and cajoled us, and pretended to love us, when probably we may have only inspired them with feelings akin to disgust all the while. Cold as Miss Barnett was, stately as she seemed, I adored her all the more for it. I knew that if I could succeed in winning her, she would indeed be a prize worth treasuring. That noble, high-souled countenance never could belong to a being who harboured mean or unworthy sentiments in her heart. Yet who was I that I could dare to aspire to her hand? Was I good enough or great enough to presume to tell her my love? The more I dwelt upon her superiority the more I determined not to expose myself to the danger of becoming ridiculous in her eyes. The days were passing away. It was now Wednesday, and I must leave Knockgriffin on Saturday evening. Only three days more to stay in that enchanted spot, and then a long separation—a separation that might last perhaps for ever in this world!

“Why, oh why did I ever see her? Why was I asked to dwell under the same roof?” were the words that often rose to my mind.

“Can nothing be done for me in my despair—nothing?”

Sir Percy Stedmole seemed now to devote himself entirely to Miss Barnett, for, as in my own case, the term of his stay at Knockgriffin was drawing to an end; though he was differently situated from me, inasmuch as I knew he looked forward to meeting the Barnetts at Harrowgate, and had spoken also of accompanying them to Paris; while I should be obliged to vegetate in gloom and wretchedness in some desolate Irish quarter, bereft of every hope.

“Perseverance can do much,” thought I, in bitterness of heart. “Sir Percy will have so many opportunities of seeing Miss Barnett that he may win her yet; and of all men in the world I would like him least to become her husband!”

While still at Knockgriffin I received a note from Travers to this effect:—

Dear Stapleton,—They say we are to be ordered to Templemore almost immediately, to prepare for going to Limerick, where the regiment, bag and baggage, are to be sent at once. Of course, we can’t expect to be at head-quarters long; so must make up our minds for a sojourn at some place as delightful as this regal city, where the dogs and pigs seem to increase and multiply daily. How are you getting on at yonder Tipperary mansion? It is said your host has very little chance of surviving many weeks, as he is booked for the end of most landlords in this locale. You ought to have been making up to the pretty heiress, Miss Barnett, all this time, as report speaks highly of her thousands; and if you won her you might afford to give up ‘sojerin,’ and settle down into a rational being. You must be here by Saturday without fail, as very likely we will get the rout on Monday. With all good wishes for your success with the heiress, believe me,

“Yours truly,
George Travers.”

There was also a letter from my mother, running thus:—

My dear Richard,—If you knew what anxiety I suffer daily about you in that dreadful Tipperary you would write oftener than you do to me. I would like to receive a line, if possible, every day, to be assured that you remain uninjured in the midst of hourly perils among lawless, savage people. I trust sincerely that you will not expose yourself to danger, or gain the ill-will of the peasantry by taking the part of anyone against them. I would by no means wish you to behave in a way unbecoming the character of an officer and a brave man; but, pray, always try to get rid of any duty, such as quelling riots, helping in ejectments, and other matters obnoxious to the barbarians of that unfortunate county; also I hear it is dangerous for persons to be on friendly and familiar terms with anyone who is unpopular with his tenantry, which I hope is not the case with Sir Denis Barnett. I wish, my dear son, you were safe out of Tipperary. I shall never have a moment’s peace till I hear of your being ordered elsewhere.

“Your most anxious and
Affectionate mother,
Catherine Stapleton.”

“Heigh-ho, my mother!” said I, as I finished reading this epistle. “I have been done for in Tipperary already—shot regularly through the heart with a deadly aim, and no hope of recovery. Better, perhaps, to have been assassinated in the usual Tipperary form, than lingering and suffering as I am now!”

Wednesday ended; then came Thursday, a wet day, with no stirring abroad, and much billiard playing in the afternoon, and loitering in and out of the rooms, looking at the sky, snatching up a book in the library and vainly trying to read it, or going through the conservatory and overlooking the exotics there. Had I been able to go out and walk I might not have been so utterly wretched; but that was impossible. It was one of those heavy-rainy days of the full summer time—warm, fragrant, and hopeless as to clearing up. Miss Barnett was hid away all the afternoon, invisible to the eyes of mortal men, and I felt undeniably miserable. Is there anything much more dreary than a wet day in the country, when you are cooped up in a large house, watching the rain-streams as they fall from the leaden sky, deluging grass and foliage, and especially if you happen to be out of spirits?

“If to-morrow is fine, we might ride to see Athassel Abbey,” said Sir Denis, as he and I stood looking out of the window. “I shall have some business to do at Golden, and must start early, as the distance is considerable.”

“Then the ruin of Athassel will be on the way?” said I, caring very little, if the truth is told, where I rode to.

“Yes, we shall pass it going to Golden; and the country along that direction is worth seeing, being well cultivated and really picturesque. You should not leave Tipperary without admiring our ‘Golden Vale’ that we are so proud of.”

“Leave Tipperary!” I mentally repeated, while my heart sank. “Would to Heaven I had never beheld a spot of its ground!”

That evening at dinner I found it hard to support any conversation. Miss Barnett was placid, stately, and calm as usual, often seeming absorbed in reflection. I knew that she was thinking of her brother. I did not presume to imagine that my approaching departure would give her an hour’s regret. Once or twice when I alluded to the subject of my leaving Knockgriffin, and subsequent removal from Tipperary altogether, she betrayed no sign of feeling, that I could see, even had I been the veriest coxcomb in the kingdom. It was terrible to think that I had only one other day to live before my fate must, perhaps, be sealed for ever!

Were I inclined to moralise I might here remark that what really did occur the next day seemed very like as though ordained to point out to me how little any mortal could dare to reckon upon what a day might bring forth. Miss Barnett complained of having caught cold that evening, from going out in the damp to look after some favourite flowers, and she certainly appeared very ill.

The next morning was brilliantly fine, the sun shining, the birds singing gladly. We were all apparently in better spirits than the day before; yet Miss Barnett was still suffering from severe headache, though she made her appearance at breakfast and looked even worse than on the last evening. Mr. Nugent was to go away from Knockgriffin that day, and could not accompany us in our ride to Golden; and as Sir Percy was not willing to go with us either, it was unlikely that Barnett and I would have anyone to break our tête-à-tête all the way, for Miss Barnett’s headache rendered her quite unable to be of the party. We were discussing the subject of the ride when the post-bag was brought in. It contained a few papers and only one solitary letter to Sir Denis, who read it, while his face flushed the least shade deeper in colour than before.

“What is it, Denis?” asked his sister, whose eyes had intently watched the epistle from the first moment it had been drawn from. the bag. It was a dirty-looking, vulgar letter, evidently from some one of humble rank.

“The first of its kind I have ever received,” said Barnett. “Listen to the contents, my friends.” And he read out:—

Sir Denis Barnett,—You had best keep at home on to-morrow, Friday, for it is intended to shoot you dead when you appear; and you certainly deserve death, as a reward for what you are about to inflict on innocent, unoffending beings, who will be in wait for you, no matter where you go. Remember your father, and repent, or else fly the land as secretly as you can. I wish you well; but I love my comrades, and myself better. Mind, you can’t say you wern’t warned in time, by

One who is Wronged.

Pale as ashes Miss Barnett grew while her brother read aloud the letter, and then flung it across the table for her to inspect more closely.

She made no remark; but held it tightly in her fingers, as if scarcely conscious of what she did.

“There now,” said Nugent, looking deeply concerned, “that’s how it has turned out.”

“Of course you won’t ride now,” observed Sir Percy, turning to his host.

“My mind has not changed in the least,” replied Barnett. “I must go to Golden; but I will not ask anyone to accompany me unless they particularly choose to do so.”

“Oh, I wish I had not this headache!” exclaimed Miss Barnett, rising to leave the room. “For God’s sake, Denis, do not ride out alone to-day!”

“He will not be alone if he must go, Miss Barnett,” replied I. “I have promised to accompany him in his ride to-day.”

“Thanks,” she said hurriedly, in a low tone, as I held the door open for her; “but persuade him not to go if you can:” and then she disappeared, probably to give vent to her excited feelings in a burst of tears.

“Is it of necessity, Sir Denis, that you go out to-day?” I asked, as I sat down again.

“Yes, my dear fellow; and now since receiving this friendly letter I must go faster than ever. If I stayed at home to-day I might never expect to live in Tipperary again with peace, credit, or comfort. Threatening letters would be poured in upon me if I turned a servant away, changed my gardener, or drowned a puppy. I should not be able to follow my own judgment in anything, public or private, under penalty of death. But recollect, Stapleton, I do not wish you to come with me.”

“But we agreed upon that point last night, Sir Denis,” said I; “if you ride out I must accompany you.”

“Just as you please. So now let us order our horses, and get ready at once. What an exquisite morning!”