The Kellys and the O'Kellys, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter II

The Two Heiresses

Francis John Mountmorris O’Kelly, Lord Viscount Ballindine, was twenty-four years of age when he came into possession of the Ballindine property, and succeeded to an Irish peerage as the third viscount; and he is now twenty-six, at this time of O’Connell’s trial. The head of the family had for many years back been styled ‘The O’Kelly’, and had enjoyed much more local influence under that denomination than their descendants had possessed, since they had obtained a more substantial though not a more respected title. The O’Kellys had possessed large tracts of not very good land, chiefly in County Roscommon, but partly in Mayo and Galway. Their property had extended from Dunmore nearly to Roscommon, and again on the other side to Castlerea and Ballyhaunis. But this had been in their palmy days, long, long ago. When the government, in consideration of past services, in the year 1800, converted ‘the O’Kelly’ into Viscount Ballindine, the family property consisted of the greater portion of the land lying between the villages of Dunmore and Ballindine. Their old residence, which the peer still kept up, was called Kelly’s Court, and is situated in that corner of County Roscommnon which runs up between Mayo and Galway.

The first lord lived long enough to regret his change of title, and to lament the increased expenditure with which he had thought it necessary to accompany his more elevated rank. His son succeeded, and showed in his character much more of the new-fangled viscount than of the ancient O’Kelly. His whole long life was passed in hovering about the English Court. From the time of his father’s death, he never once put his foot in Ireland. He had been appointed, at different times from his youth upwards, Page, Gentleman in Waiting, Usher of the Black Rod, Deputy Groom of the Stole, Chief Equerry to the Princess Royal, (which appointment only lasted till the princess was five years old), Lord Gold Stick, Keeper of the Royal Robes; till, at last, he had culminated for ten halcyon years in a Lord of the Bedchamber. In the latter portion of his life he had grown too old for this, and it was reported at Ballindine, Dunmore, and Kelly’s Court with how much truth I don’t know that, since her Majesty’s accession, he had been joined with the spinster sister of a Scotch Marquis, and an antiquated English Countess, in the custody of the laces belonging to the Queen Dowager.

This nobleman, publicly useful as his life had no doubt been, had done little for his own tenants, or his own property. On his father’s death, he had succeeded to about three thousand a-year, and he left about one; and he would have spent or mortgaged this, had he not, on his marriage, put it beyond his own power to do so. It was not only by thriftless extravagance that he thus destroyed a property which, with care, and without extortion, would have doubled its value in the thirty-five years during which it was in his hands; but he had been afraid to come to Ireland, and had been duped by his agent. When he came to the title, Simeon Lynch had been recommended to him as a fit person to manage his property, and look after his interests; and Simeon had managed it well in that manner most conducive to the prosperity of the person he loved best in the world; and that was himself. When large tracts of land fell out of lease, Sim had represented that tenants could not be found that the land was not worth cultivating that the country was in a state which prevented the possibility of letting; and, ultimately put himself into possession, with a lease for ever, at a rent varying from half a crown to five shillings an acre.

The courtier lord had one son, of whom he made a soldier, but who never rose to a higher rank than that of Captain. About a dozen years before the date of my story, the Honourable Captain O’Kelly, after numerous quarrels with the Right Honourable Lord of the Bedchamber, had, at last, come to some family settlement with him; and, having obtained the power of managing the property himself, came over to live at his paternal residence of Kelly’s Court.

A very sorry kind of Court he found it neglected, dirty, and out of repair. One of the first retainers whom he met was Jack Kelly, the family fool. Jack was not such a fool as those who, of yore, were valued appendages to noble English establishments. He resembled them in nothing but his occasional wit. He was a dirty, barefooted, unshorn, ragged ruffian, who ate potatoes in the kitchen of the Court, and had never done a day’s work in his life. Such as he was, however, he was presented to Captain O’Kelly, as ‘his honour the masther’s fool.’

‘So, you’re my fool, Jack, are ye?’ said the Captain.

‘Faix, I war the lord’s fool ance; but I’ll no be anybody’s fool but Sim Lynch’s, now. I and the lord are both Sim’s fools now. Not but I’m the first of the two, for I’d never be fool enough to give away all my land, av’ my father’d been wise enough to lave me any.’

Captain O’Kelly soon found out the manner in which the agent had managed his father’s affairs. Simeon Lynch was dismissed, and proceedings at common law were taken against him, to break such of the leases as were thought, by clever attorneys, to have the ghost of a flaw in them. Money was borrowed from a Dublin house, for the purpose of carrying on the suit, paying off debts, and making Kelly’s Court habitable; and the estate was put into their hands. Simeon Lynch built himself a large staring house at Dunmore, defended his leases, set up for a country gentleman on his own account, and sent his only son, Barry, to Eton merely because young O’Kelly was also there, and he was determined to show, that he was as rich and ambitious as the lord’s family, whom he had done so much to ruin.

Kelly’s Court was restored to such respectability as could ever belong to so ugly a place. It was a large red stone mansion, standing in a demesne of very poor ground, ungifted by nature with any beauty, and but little assisted by cultivation or improvement. A belt of bald-looking firs ran round the demesne inside the dilapidated wall; but this was hardly sufficient to relieve the barren aspect of the locality. Fine trees there were none, and the race of O’Kellys had never been great gardeners.

Captain O’Kelly was a man of more practical sense, or of better education, than most of his family, and he did do a good deal to humanise the place. He planted, tilled, manured, and improved; he imported rose-trees and strawberry-plants, and civilised Kelly’s Court a little. But his reign was not long. He died about five years after he had begun his career as a country gentleman, leaving a widow and two daughters in Ireland; a son at school at Eton; and an expensive lawsuit, with numerous ramifications, all unsettled.

Francis, the son, went to Eton and Oxford, was presented at Court by his grandfather, and came hack to Ireland at twenty-two, to idle away his time till the old lord should die. Till this occurred, he could neither call himself the master of the place, nor touch the rents. In the meantime, the lawsuits were dropped, both parties having seriously injured their resources, without either of them obtaining any benefit. Barry Lynch was recalled from his English education, where he had not shown off to any great credit; and both he and his father were obliged to sit down prepared to make the best show they could on eight hundred pounds a-year, and to wage an underhand internecine war with the O’Kellys.

Simeon and his son, however, did not live altogether alone. Anastasia Lynch was Barry’s sister, and older than him by about ten years. Their mother had been a Roman Catholic, whereas Sim was a Protestant; and, in consequence, the daughter had been brought up in the mother’s, and the son in the father’s religion. When this mother died, Simeon, no doubt out of respect to the memory of the departed, tried hard to induce his daughter to prove hem religious zeal, and enter a nunnery; but this, Anty, though in most things a docile creature, absolutely refused to do. Her father advised, implored, and threatened; but in vain; and the poor girl became a great thorn in the side of both father and son. She had neither beauty, talent, nor attraction, to get her a husband; and her father was determined not to encumber his already diminished property with such a fortune as would make her on that ground acceptable to any respectable suitor.

Poor Anty led a miserable life, associating neither with superiors nor inferiors, and her own position was not sufficiently declared to enable her to have any equals. She was slighted by her father and the servants, and bullied by her brother; and was only just enabled, by humble, unpresuming disposition, to carry on her tedious life from year to year without grumbling.

In the meantime, the ci-devant Black Rod, Gold Stick, Royal Equerry, and Lord of the Bedchamber, was called away from his robes and his finery, to give an account of the manner in which he had renounced the pomps and vanities of this wicked world; and Frank became Lord Ballindine, with, as I have before said, an honourable mother, two sisters, a large red house, and a thousand a-year. He was not at all a man after the pattern of his grandfather, but he appeared as little likely to redeem the old family acres. He seemed to be a reviving chip of the old block of the O’Kellys. During the two years he had been living at Kelly’s Court as Frank O’Kelly, he had won the hearts of all the tenants of all those who would have been tenants if the property had not been sold, and who still looked up to him as their ‘raal young masther’ and of the whole country round. The ‘thrue dhrop of the ould blood’, was in his veins; and, whatever faults he might have, he wasn’t likely to waste his time and his cash with furs, laces, and hangings.

This was a great comfort to the neighbourhood, which had learned heartily to despise the name of Lord Ballindine; and Frank was encouraged in shooting, hunting, racing in preparing to be a thorough Irish gentleman, and in determining to make good the prophecies of his friends, that he would be, at last, one more ‘raal O’Kelly to brighten the country.’

And if he could have continued to be Frank O’Kelly, or even ‘the O’Kelly’, he would probably have done well enough, for he was fond of his mother and sisters, and he might have continued to hunt, shoot, and farm on his remaining property without further encroaching on it. But the title was sure to be his ruin. When he felt himself to be a lord, he could not be content with the simple life of a country gentleman; or, at any rate, without taking the lead in the country. So, as soon as the old man was buried, he bought a pack of harriers, and despatched a couple of race-horses to the skilful hands of old Jack Igoe, the Curragh trainer.

Frank was a very handsome fellow, full six feet high, with black hair, and jet-black silky whiskers, meeting under his chin the men said he dyed them, and the women declared he did not. I am inclined, myself, to think he must have done so, they were so very black. He had an eye like a hawk, round, bright, and bold; a mouth and chin almost too well formed for a man; and that kind of broad forehead which conveys rather the idea of a generous, kind, openhearted disposition, than of a deep mind or a commanding intellect.

Frank was a very handsome fellow, and he knew it; and when he commenced so many ill-authorised expenses immediately on his grandfather’s death, he consoled himself with the idea, that with his person and rank, he would soon be able, by some happy matrimonial speculation, to make up for what he wanted in wealth. And he had not been long his own master, before he met with the lady to whom he destined the honour of doing so.

He had, however, not properly considered his own disposition, when he determined upon looking out for great wealth; and on disregarding other qualifications in his bride, so that he obtained that in sufficient quantity. He absolutely fell in love with Fanny Wyndham, though her twenty thousand pounds was felt by him to be hardly enough to excuse him in doing so certainly not enough to make his doing so an accomplishment of his prudential resolutions. What would twenty thousand pounds do towards clearing the O’Kelly property, and establishing himself In a manner and style fitting for a Lord Ballindine! However, he did propose to her, was accepted, and the match, after many difficulties, was acceded to by the lady’s guardian, the Earl of Cashel. It was stipulated, however, that the marriage should not take place till the lady was of age; and at the time of the bargain, she wanted twelve months of that period of universal discretion. Lord Cashel had added, in his prosy, sensible, aristocratic lecture on the subject to Lord Ballindine, that he trusted that, during the interval, considering their united limited income, his lordship would see the wisdom of giving up his hounds, or at any rate of withdrawing from the turf.

Frank pooh-poohed at the hounds, said that horses cost nothing in Connaught, and dogs less, and that he could not well do there without them; but promised to turn in his mind what Lord Cashel had said about the turf; and, at last, went so far as to say that when a good opportunity offered of backing out, he would part with Finn M’Coul and Granuell as the two nags at Igoe’s were patriotically denominated.

They continued, however, appearing in the Curragh lists in Lord Ballindine’s name, as a part. of Igoe’s string; and running for Queen’s whips, Wellingtons and Madrids, sometimes with good and sometimes with indifferent success. While their noble owner, when staying at Grey Abbey, Lord Cashel’s magnificent seat near Kilcullen, spent too much of his time (at least so thought the earl and Fanny Wyndham) in seeing them get their gallops, and in lecturing the grooms, and being lectured by Mr Igoe. Nothing more, however, could be done; and it was trusted that when the day of the wedding should come, he would be found minus the animals. What, however, was Lord Cashel’s surprise, when, after an absence of two months from Grey Abbey, Lord Ballindine declared, in the earl’s presence, with an air of ill-assumed carelessness, that he had been elected one of the stewards of the Curragh, in the room of Walter Blake, Esq., who had retired in rotation from that honourable office! The next morning the earl’s chagrin was woefully increased by his hearing that that very valuable and promising Derby colt, Brien Boru, now two years old, by Sir Hercules out of Eloisa, had been added to his lordship’s lot.

Lord Cashel felt that he could not interfere, further than by remarking that it appeared his young friend was determined to leave the turf with ‚clat; and Fanny Wyndham could only be silent and reserved for one evening. This occurred about four months before the commencement of my tale, and about five before the period fixed for the marriage; but, at the time at which Lord Ballindine will be introduced in person to the reader, he had certainly made no improvement in his manner of going on. He had, during this period, received from Lord Cashel a letter intimating to him that his lordship thought some further postponement advisable; that it was as well not to fix any day; and that, though his lordship would always be welcome at Grey Abbey, when his personal attendance was not required at the Curragh, it was better that no correspondence by letter should at present be carried on between him and Miss Wyndham; and that Miss Wyndham herself perfectly agreed in the propriety of these suggestions.

Now Grey Abbey was only about eight miles distant from the Curragh, and Lord Ballindine had at one time been in the habit of staying at his friend’s mansion, during the period of his attendance at the race-course; but since Lord Cashel had shown an entire absence of interest in the doings of Finn M’Coul, and Fanny had ceased to ask after Granuell’s cough, he had discontinued doing so, and had spent much of his time at his friend Walter Blake’s residence at the Curragh. Now, Handicap Lodge offered much more dangerous quarters for him than did Grey Abbey.

In the meantime, his friends in Connaught were delighted at the prospect of his bringing home a bride. Fanny’s twenty thousand were magnified to fifty, and the capabilities even of fifty were greatly exaggerated; besides, the connection was so good a one, so exactly the thing for the O’Kellys! Lord Cashel was one of the first resident noblemen in Ireland, a representative peer, a wealthy man, and possessed of great influence; not unlikely to be a cabinet minister if the Whigs came in, and able to shower down into Connaught a degree of patronage, such as had never yet warmed that poor unfriended region. And Fanny Wyndham was not only his lordship’s ward, but his favourite niece also! The match was, in every way, a good one, and greatly pleasing to all the Kellys, whether with an O or without, for ‘shure they were all the one family.’

Old Simeon Lynch and his son Barry did not participate in the general joy. They had calculated that their neighbour was on the high road to ruin, and that he would soon have nothing but his coronet left. They could not, therefore, bear the idea of his making so eligible a match. They had, moreover, had domestic dissensions to disturb the peace of Dunmore House. Simeon had insisted on Barry’s taking a farm into his own hands, and looking after it. Barry had declared his inability to do so, and had nearly petrified the old man by expressing a wish to go to Paris. Then, Barry’s debts had showered in, and Simeon had pledged himself not to pay them. Simeon had threatened to disinherit Barry; and Barry had called his father a d d obstinate old fool.

These quarrels had got to the ears of the neighbours, and it was being calculated that, in the end, Barry would get the best of the battle when, one morning, the war was brought to an end by a fit of apoplexy, and the old man was found dead in his chair. And then a terrible blow fell upon the son; for a recent will was found in the old man’s desk, dividing his property equally, and without any other specification between Barry and Anty.

This was a dreadful blow to Barry. He consulted with his friend Molloy, the attorney of Tuam, as to the validity of the document and the power of breaking it; but in vain. It was properly attested, though drawn up in the old man’s own hand-writing; and his sister, whom he looked upon but as little better than a head main-servant, had not only an equal right to all the property, but was equally mistress of the house, the money at the bank, the wine in the cellar, and the very horses in the stable.

This was a hard blow; but Barry was obliged to bear it. At first, he showed his ill-humour plainly, enough in his treatment of his sister; but he soon saw that this was folly, and that, though her quiet disposition prevented her from resenting it, such conduct would drive her to marry some needy man. Then he began, with an ill grace, to try what coaxing would do. He kept, however, a sharp watch on all her actions; and on once hearing that, in his absence, the two Kelly girls from the hotel had been seen walking with her, he gave her a long lecture on what was due to her own dignity, and the memory of her departed parents.

He made many overtures to her as to the divisions of the property; but, easy and humble as Anty was, she was careful enough to put her name to nothing that could injure her rights. They had divided the money at the banker’s, and she had once rather startled Barry by asking him for his moiety towards paying the butcher’s bill; and his dismay was completed shortly afterwards by being informed, by a steady old gentleman in Dunmore, whom he did not like a bit too well, that he had been appointed by Miss Lynch to manage her business and receive her rents.

As soon as it could be decently done, after his father’s burial, Barry took himself off to Dublin, to consult his friends there as to what he should do; but he soon returned, determined to put a bold face on it, and come to some understanding with his sister.

He first proposed to her to go and live in Dublin, but she said she preferred Dunmore. He then talked of selling the house, and to this she agreed. He next tried to borrow money for the payment of his debts; on which she referred him to the steady old man. Though apparently docile and obedient, she would not put herself in his hands, nor would her agent allow him to take any unfair advantage of her.

Whilst this was going on, our friend Martin Kelly had set his eye upon the prize, and, by means of his sister’s intimacy with Anty, and his own good hooks, had succeeded in obtaining from her half a promise to become his wife. Anty had but little innate respect for gentry; and, though she feared her brother’s displeasure, she felt no degradation at the idea of uniting herself to a man in Martin Kelly’s rank. She could not, however, be brought to tell her brother openly, and declare her determination; and Martin had, at length, come to the conclusion that he must carry her off, before delay and unforeseen changes might either alter her mind, or enable her brother to entice her out of the country.

Thus matters stood at Dunmore when Martin Kelly started for Dublin, and at the time when he was about to wait on his patron at Morrison’s hotel.

Both Martin and Lord Ballindine (and they were related in some distant degree, at least so always said the Kellys, and I never knew that the O’Kellys denied it) both the young men were, at the time, anxious to get married, and both with the same somewhat mercenary views; and I have fatigued the reader with the long history of past affairs, in order to imbue him, if possible, with some interest in the ways and means which they both adopted to accomplish their objects.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01