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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Death of Colonel Goring
By James Anthony Froude (1818–1894)
 
From ‘Two Chiefs of Dunboy’

FATALLY mistaking what was intended for a friendly warning, the colonel conceived that there was some one in the forge whom the smith wanted to conceal.  1
  “I may return or not,” he said; “but I must first have a word with these strangers of yours. We can meet as friends for once, with nothing to dispute over.”  2
  Minahan made no further attempt to prevent him from going in. If gentlemen chose to have their quarrels, he muttered between his teeth, it was no business of his.  3
  Goring pushed open the door and entered. By the dim light—for the shutter that had been thrown back had been closed again, and the only light came from a window in the roof—he made out three figures standing together at the further end of the forge, in one of whom, though he tried to conceal himself, he instantly recognized his visitor of the previous evening.  4
  “You here, my man?” he said. “You left my house two hours ago. Why are you not on your way home?”  5
  Sylvester, seeing he was discovered, turned his face full round, and in a voice quietly insolent, replied, “I fell in with some friends of mine on the road. We had a little business together, and it is good luck that has brought your honor to us while we are talking, for the jintlemen here have a word or two they would like to be saying to ye, colonel, before ye leave them.”  6
  “To me!” said Goring, turning from Sylvester to the two figures, whose faces were still covered by their cloaks. “If these gentlemen are what I suppose them to be, I am glad to meet them, and will hear willingly what they may have to say.”  7
  “Perhaps less willingly than you think, Colonel Goring,” said the taller of the two, who rose and stepped behind him to the door, which he closed and barred. Goring, looking at him with some surprise, saw that he was the person whom he had met on the mountains, and had afterwards seen at the funeral at Derreen. The third man rose from a bench on which he had been leaning, lifted his cap, and said:—  8
  “There is an old proverb, sir, that short accounts make long friends. There can be no friendship between you and me, but the account between us is of very old standing. I have returned to Ireland, only for a short stay; I am about to leave it, never to come back. A gentleman and a soldier, like yourself, cannot wish that I should go while that account is still unsettled. Our fortunate meeting here this morning provides us with an opportunity.”  9
  It was Morty’s voice that he heard, and Morty’s face that he saw as he became accustomed to the gloom. He looked again at the pretended messenger from the carded curate, and he then remembered the old Sylvester who had brought the note from Lord Fitzmaurice to the agent from Kenmare. In an instant the meaning of the whole situation flashed across him. It was no casual re-encounter. He had been enticed into the place where he found himself, with some sinister and perhaps deadly purpose. A strange fatality had forced him again and again into collision with the man of whose ancestral lands he had come into possession. Once more, by a deliberate and treacherous contrivance, he and the chief of the O’Sullivans had been brought face to face together, and he was alone, without a friend within call of him; unless his tenant, who as he could now see had intended to give him warning, would interfere further in his defense. And of this he knew Ireland well enough to be aware that there was little hope.  10
  He supposed that they intended to murder him. The door, at which he involuntarily glanced, was fastened by this time with iron bolts. He was a man of great personal strength and activity, but in such a situation neither would be likely to avail him. Long inured to danger, and ready at all moments to meet whatever peril might threaten him, he calmly faced his adversary and said:—  11
  “This meeting is not accidental, as you would have me believe. You have contrived it. Explain yourself further.”  12
  “Colonel Goring,” said Morty Sullivan, “you will recall the circumstances under which we last parted. Enemy as you are and always have been to me and mine, I will do you the justice to say that on that occasion you behaved like a gentleman and a man of courage. But our quarrel was not fought out. Persons present interfered between us. We are now alone, and can complete what was then left unfinished.”  13
  “Whether I did well or ill, sir,” the colonel answered, “in giving you the satisfaction which you demanded of me at the time you speak of, I will not now say. But I tell you that the only relations which can exist between us at present are those between a magistrate and a criminal who has forfeited his life. If you mean to murder me, you can do it; you have me at advantage. You can thus add one more to the list of villainies with which you have stained an honorable name. If you mean that I owe you a reparation for personal injuries, such as the customs of Ireland allow one gentleman to require from another, this, as you well know, is not the way to ask for it. But I acknowledge no such right. When I last encountered you I but partly knew you. I now know you altogether. You have been a pirate on the high seas. Your letters of marque do not cover you, for you are a subject of the King, and have broken your allegiance. Such as you are, you stand outside the pale of honorable men, and I should degrade the uniform I wear if I were to stoop to measure arms with you.”  14
  The sallow olive of Morty’s cheek turned livid. He clutched the bench before him, till the muscles of his hands stood out like knots of rope.  15
  “You are in my power, colonel,” he said: “do not tempt me too far. If my sins have been many, my wrongs are more. It must be this or worse. One word from me, and you are a dead man.”  16
  He laid four pistols on the smith’s tool-chest. “Take a pair of them,” he said. “They are loaded alike. Take which you please. Let us stand on the opposite sides of this hovel, and so make an end. If I fall, I swear on my soul you shall have no hurt from any of my people. My friend Connell is an officer of mine, but he holds a commission besides in the Irish Brigade. There is no better-born gentleman in Kerry. His presence here is your sufficient security. You shall return to Dunboy as safe from harm as if you had the Viceroy’s body-guard about you, or your own boat’s crew that shot down my poor fellows at Glengariff. To this I pledge you my honor.”  17
  “Your honor!” said Goring; “your honor! And you tempted me here by a lying tale, sent by the lips of yonder skulking rascal. That alone, sir, were there nothing else, would have sufficed to show what you are.”  18
  A significant click caught the ear of both the speakers. Looking round, they saw Sylvester had cocked a pistol.  19
  “Drop that,” said Morty, “or by God! kinsman of mine though you be, I will drive a bullet through the brain of you. Enough of this, sir,” he said, turning to Goring. “Time passes, and this scene must end. I would have arranged it otherwise, but you yourself know that by this way alone I could have brought you to the meeting. Take the pistols, I say, or by the bones of my ancestors that lie buried under Dunboy Castle yonder, I will call in my men from outside, and they shall strip you bare, and score such marks on you as the quartermaster leaves on the slaves that you hire to fight your battles. Prince Charles will laugh when I tell him in Paris how I served one at least of the hounds that chased him at Culloden.”  20
  The forge in which this scene was going on was perfectly familiar to Goring, for he had himself designed it and built it. There was the ordinary broad open front to the road, constructed of timber, which was completely shut. The rest of the building was of stone, and in the wall at the back there was a small door leading into a field, and thence into the country. Could this door be opened, there was a chance, though but a faint one, of escape. A bar lay across, but of no great thickness. The staple into which it ran was slight. A vigorous blow might shatter both.  21
  Sylvester caught the direction of Goring’s eye, caught its meaning, and threw himself in the way. The colonel snatched a heavy hammer which stood against the wall. With the suddenness of an electric flash he struck Sylvester on the shoulder, broke his collar-bone, and hurled him back senseless, doubled over the anvil. A second stroke, catching the bar in the middle, shattered it in two, and the door hung upon the latch. Morty and Connell, neither of whom had intended foul play, hesitated, and in another moment Goring would have been free and away. Connell, recovering himself, sprang forward and closed with him. The colonel, who had been the most accomplished wrestler of his regiment, whirled him round, flung him with a heavy fall on the floor, and had his hand on the latch when, half stunned as he was, Connell recovered his feet, drew a skene, and rushed at Colonel Goring again. So sudden it all was, so swift the struggle, and so dim the light, that from the other end it was hard to see what was happening. Wrenching the skene out of Connell’s hands, and with the hot spirit of battle in him, Colonel Goring was on the point of driving it into his assailant’s side.  22
  “Shoot, Morty! shoot, or I am a dead man!” Connell cried.  23
  Morty, startled and uncertain what to do, had mechanically snatched up a pistol when Sylvester was struck down. He raised his hand at Connell’s cry. It shook from excitement, and locked together as the two figures were, he was as likely to hit friend as foe. Again Connell called, and Morty fired and missed; and the mark of the bullet is still shown in the wall of the smithy as a sacred reminiscence of a fight for Irish liberty. The second shot went true to its mark. Connell had been beaten down, though unwounded, and Goring’s tall form stood out above him in clear view. This time Morty’s hand did not fail him. A shiver passed through Goring’s limbs. His arms dropped. He staggered back against the door, and the door yielded, and he fell upon the ground outside. But it was not to rise and fly. The ball had struck him clean above the ear, and buried itself in the brain. He was dead.  24
 
 
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