A MAN OF OUR TIMES
Volume Two of Two
By Charles Lever.
With Illustrations By Phiz.
DAVENPORT DUNN: A MAN OF OUR DAY
CHAPTER I. THE TELEGRAPHIC DESPATCH
When Mr. Davenport Dunn entered the drawing-room before dinner on that
day, his heart beat very quickly as he saw Lady Augusta Arden was there
alone. In what spirit she remembered the scene of the morning,--whether
she felt resentment
towards him for his presumption, was disposed to
scoff down his pretensions, or to regard them, if not with favor,
with at least forgiveness, were the themes on which his mind was yet
dwelling. The affable smile with which she now met him did more to
resolve these doubts than all his casuistry.
"Was it not very thoughtful
of me," said she, "to release
morning, and suffer you to address yourself to the important things
which claimed your attention? I really am quite vain of my self-denial."
"And yet, Lady Augusta," said he, in a low tone, "I had felt more
flattered if you had been less mindful of the exigency, and been more
interested in what I then was speaking
"What a selfish
speech!" said she, laughing. "Now that my forbearance
has given you all the benefits it could confer, you turn round and say
you are not grateful
for it. I suppose," added she, half pettishly, "the
despatch was not very pressing after all, and that this was the cause of
"I am unable
to say," replied he, calmly.
"What do you mean? Surely, when you read it--"
"But I have not read it,--there it is still, just as you saw-it," said
he, producing the packet
with the seal unbroken.
"But really, Mr. Dunn," said she, and her face flushed up as she spoke,
"this does not impress
me with the wonderful aptitude for affairs men
ascribe to you. Is it usual to treat these messages so cavalierly?"
"It never happened with me till this morning, Lady Augusta," said he, in
the same low tone. "Carried away by an impulse
which I will not try to
account for, I had dared to speak to you of myself and of my future in a
way that showed how eventful to both might prove the manner in which you
"Well, Dunn," cried Lord Glengariff, entering, "I suppose you have made
a day of work of it; we have never seen you since breakfast."
"On the contrary, my Lord," replied he, in deep confusion, "I have taken
in the widest sense. Never wrote a line,--not looked into a
"Wouldn't even open a telegraphic message which came to his hands this
morning," said Lady Augusta, with a malicious
drollery in her glance
"Incredible!" cried my Lord.
"Quite true, I assure your Lordship," said Dunn, in deeper confusion,
and not knowing
what turn to give his explanation.
"The fact is," broke in Lady Augusta, hurriedly, "Mr. Dunn was so
implicit in his obedience
to our prescription of perfect rest and
repose, that he made it a point of honor not even to read a telegram
"I must say it is very flattering
to us," said Lord Glengariff; "but now
let us reward
the loyalty, and let him see what his news is."
Dunn looked at Lady Augusta, who, with the very slightest motion
head, gave consent, and he broke open the despatch.
Dunn crushed the paper angrily
in his hand when he finished reading
and muttered some low words of angry meaning.
"Nothing disagreeable, I trust?" asked his Lordship.
"Yes, my Lord, something even worse than disagreeable," said he; then
flattening out the crumpled paper, he held it to him to read.
Lord Glengariff, putting on his spectacles, perused the document
and then, turning towards Dunn, in a voice of deep agitation, said,
"This is very disastrous
indeed; are you prepared for it?"
Without attending to the question, Dunn took the despatch
Glengariff, and handed it to Lady Augusta.
"A run for gold!" cried she, suddenly. "An attempt to break the Ossory
Bank! What does it all mean? Who are they that make this attack?"
"Opponents--some of them political, some commercial, a few, perhaps, men
personally unfriendly,--enemies of what they call my success!" and he
sighed heavily on the last word. "Let me see," said he, slowly, after a
pause; "to-day is Thursday--to-morrow will be the 28th--heavy payments
are required for the Guatemala Trunk Line,--something more than forty
thousand pounds to be made up. The Parma Loan, second instalment, comes
on the 80th."
"Dinner, my Lord," said a servant, throwing open the door.
"A thousand pardons, Lady Augusta," said Dunn, offering
his arm. "I am
really shocked at obtruding these annoyances upon your notice. You
see, my Lord," added he, gayly, "one of the penalties of admitting the
'working-men of life' into your society."
It was only as they passed on towards the dinner-room that Lord
Glengariff noticed Miss Kellett's absence.
"She has a headache
or a cold, I believe," said Lady Augusta,
carelessly; and they sat down to dinner.
So long as the servants were present the conversation ranged over
commonplace events and topics, little indeed passing, since each seemed
too deeply impressed with grave forebodings for much inclination
mere talking. Once alone--and Lord Glengariff took the earliest moment
to be so--they immediately resumed the subject of the ill-omened
"You are, at all events, prepared, Dunn?" said the Earl; "this onslaught
does not take you by surprise?"
"I am ashamed
to say it does, my Lord," said he, with a painful
"I was never less suspectful of any malicious
design upon me. I was, for
the first time perhaps in all my life, beginning
to feel strong in the
consciousness that I had faithfully
performed my allotted part in
the world, advanced
the great interests of my country and of humanity
generally. This blow has, therefore, shocked me deeply."
"What a base ingratitude!" exclaimed Lady Augusta, indignantly.
"After all," said Dunn, generously, "let us remember that I am not
a fair judge in my own cause. Others have taken, it may be, another
reading of my character; they may deem me narrow-minded, selfish,
and ambitious. My very success--I am not going to deny it has been
great--may have provoked its share of enmity. Why, the very vastness
of my projects were a sort of standingreproach
speculators and small scheme-mongers."
"So that it has really come upon you unawares?" said the Earl, reverting
to his former remark.
"Completely so, my Lord. The tranquil
ease and happiness I have enjoyed
under this roof--the first real holiday
in a long life of toil--are the
best evidences I can offer how little I could have anticipated such a
"Still I fervently
hope it will not prove more than inconvenience," said
"Not even so much, my Lord, as regards money. I cannot believe that the
movement will be general. There is no panic in the country, rents are
paid, prices remunerating, markets better than we have seen them for
years; the sound sense and intelligence
of the people will soon detect
in this attack the prompting of some personal malice. In all likelihood
a few thousands will meet the whole demand."
"I am so glad to hear you say so!" said Lady Augusta, smiling. "Really,
when I think of all our persuasions to detain
you here, I never could
acquit us of some sort of share in any disaster
your delay might have
"Oh, Dunn would never connect his visit here with such consequences,
I 'm certain," said the Earl.
"Assuredly not, my Lord," said he; and as his eyes met those of Lady
Augusta, he grew red, and felt confused.
"Are your people--your agents and men of business, I mean," said the
Earl--"equal to such an emergency
as the present, or will they have to
look to _you_ for guidance
"Merely to meet the demand for gold is a simple matter, my Lord,"
said Dunn, "and does not require any effort of mind or forethought. To
prevent the back-water of this rushing flood submerging and engulfing
other banking-houses; to defend, in a word, the lines of our rivals and
enemies; to save from the consequences of their recklessness the very
men who have assailed us,--these are weighty cares!"
"And are you bound in honor to take this trouble in their behalf?"
"No, my Lord, not in honor any more than in law, but bound by the debt
we owe to that commercialcommunity
by whose confidence we have acquired
fortune. My position at the head of the great industrialmovement
this country imposes upon me the great responsibility
that 'no injury
the republic' Against the insane
attacks of party hate,
factious violence, or commercial
knavery, I am expected to do my duty,
nay, more, I am expected to be provided with means to meet whatever
emergency may arise,--defeat this scheme, expose
other. Am I wrong in calling
these weighty cares?"
Self-glorification was not usually one of Davenport Dunn's
weaknesses,--indeed, "self," in any respect, was not a theme on which
he was disposed to dwell,--and yet now, for reasons which may better be
suspected than alleged, he talked in a spirit of even vain exultation
of his plans, his station, and his influence. If it was something to
display before the peer claims to national respect, which, if not so
ancient, were scarcely less imposing
than his own, it was more pleasing
still to dilate
upon a theme to which the peer's daughter listened so
eagerly. It was, besides, a grand occasion to exhibit
the vast range of
resources, the widespread
influences, and far-reaching
the great commercial
man, to show him, not the mere architect
of his own
fortune, but the founder
of a nation's prosperity. While he thus held
forth, and in a strain
to which fervor had lent a sort of eloquence, a
servant entered with another despatch.
"Oh! I trust this brings you better news," cried Lady Augusta, eagerly;
and, as he broke the envelope, he thanked her with a grateful
"Well?" interposed she, anxiously, as he gazed at the lines without
"Just as I said," muttered Dunn, in a deep and suppressed voice,--"a
systematic plot, a deep-laid scheme
"Is it still about the Bank?" asked the Earl, whose interest had been
excited by the tenor of the recent conversation.
"Yes, my Lord; they insist on making me out a bubble
adventurer, a Heaven knows what of duplicity and intrigue. I would
simply ask them: 'Is the wealth
with which this same Davenport Dunn has
enriched you real, solid, and tangible; are the guineas mint-stamped;
are the shares true representatives of value?' But why do I talk of
these people? If they render me no gratitude, they owe me none,--my
aims were higher and greater than ever _they_ or _their_ interests
comprehended." From the haughtydefiance
of his tone, his voice fell
suddenly to a low and quick key, as he said: "This message informs me
that the demand upon the Ossory to-morrow will be a great concerted
movement. Barnard, the man I myself returned last election
borough, is to head it; he has canvassed the county for holders of
our notes, and such is the panic that the magistrates have sent for an
increased force of police and two additional
companies of infantry. My
man of business asks, 'What is to be done?'"
"And what _is_ to be done?" asked the Earl.
"Meet it, my Lord. Meet the demand as our duty requires us."
There was a calm dignity
in the manner Dunn spoke the words that had its
full effect upon the Earl and his daughter. They saw this "man of the
people" display, in a moment of immense
peril, an amount
of cool courage
that no dissimulation could have assumed. As they could, and did indeed
say afterwards, when relating the incident, "We were sitting at the
dessert, chatting away freely
about one thing or another, when the
arrived by telegraph
that an organized attack was to
be made against his credit by a run for gold. You should really
have seen him," said Lady Augusta, "to form any idea of the splendid
composure he manifested. The only thing like emotion
he exhibited was
a sort of haughty
disdain, a proud pity, for men who should have thus
requited the great services he had been rendering to the country."
It is but just to own that he did perform his part well; he acted it,
too, as theatrical
critics would say, "chastely;" that is, there was no
rant, no exaggeration,--not a trait too much, not a tint too strong.
"I wish I knew of any way to be of service to you in this emergency,
Dunn," said the Earl, as they returned to the drawing-room; "I'm no
capitalist, nor have I a round sum at my command--"
"My dear Lord," broke in Dunn, with much feeling, "of money I can
I want. Baring, Hope, Rothschild, any of them
me with millions, if I needed them, to-morrow, which
happily, however, I do not. There is still a want which they cannot
supply, but which, I am proud to say, I have no longer to fear. The
of your Lordship and Lady Augusta has laid me under an
obligation--" Here Mr. Dunn's voice faltered; the Earl grasped his hand
with a generous
clasp, and Lady Augusta carried her handkerchief
eyes as she averted her head.
"What a pack of hypocrites!" cries our reader, in disgust. No, not
so. There was a dash of reality
through all this deceit. They _were_
moved,--their own emotions, the tones of their own voices, the workings
of their own natures, _had_ stirred some amount
of honest sentiment
their hearts; how far it was alloyed by less worthy
feeling, to what
extent fraud and trickery mingled there, we are not going to tell
you,--perhaps we could not, if we would.
"You mean to go over to Kilkenny, then, to-morrow, Dunn?" asked his
Lordship, after a painful
"Yes, my Lord, my presence is indispensable."
"Will you allow Lady Augusta and myself to accompany you? I believe and
trust that men like myself have not altogether
lost the influence they
once used to wield in this country, and I am vain enough to imagine I
may be useful."
"Oh, my Lord, this overwhelms me!" said Dunn, and covered his eyes with
CHAPTER II. "THE RUN FOR GOLD"
The great Ossory Bank, with its million sterling
of paid-up capital, its
royal charter, its titled directory, and its shares at a premium, stood
at the top of Patrick Street, Kilkenny, and looked, in the splendor
its plate-glass windows and the security
of its iron railings, the very
type of solvency and safety. The country squire
ascended the hall-door
steps with a sort of feeling of acquaintanceship, for he had known the
Viscount who once lived there in days before the Union, and the farmer
experienced a sense of trustfulness in depositing his hard-earned gains
in what he regarded as a temple
of Croesus. What an air of prosperity
and business did the interior
present! The massive
noiselessly at the slightest touch, meet emblem
of the secrecy
prevailed, and the facility
that pervaded all transactions, within. What
alacrity, too, in that numerous band of clerks who counted and cashed
and checked unceasingly! How calmly
they passed from desk to desk, a
word, a mere whisper, serving for converse; and then what a grand and
about that back office with its double doors,
within which some venerable
cashier, bald-headed and pursy, stole
at intervals to consult
who dwelt within! In the spacious