Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

“ Very well, Sir T-" said the justice, evidently preparing for a victory.“ Very well,” he repeated, smacking his lips after another glass, “ we shall see.”

Now came the moment, and all eyes were upon the champion of humanity.

“ You see, gentlemen," said he, after a short pause, “every one of these rebels are able-bodied, all rascals of strony constitutions, and would sell at a good round sum a man, to our East and WestIndia planters, who would receive them with open arms; and after paying the expenses of their voyage, allow his Majesty King George ten pounds a man. Now, say we get rid of the rascals to the number of a million :—there are ten millions of pounds in good round figures, to tover the destruction of property, which the detestable devils are likely to be guilty of."

At the conclusion of this the Captain loudly applauded, and willingly confessed himself in the wrong. As for their other companions, they were dead to their brother patriot's eloquence, for the wine was “ so gently o'er their senses stealing,” that two only out of the four (the Baronet and Magistrate) could tell right hand from left. In this jovial state did the Colonel and myself leave them, heartily glad to retreat to another room lower down the ball, which was lighted and ready for our reception.

Colonel M-rang the bell, and a servant quickly made his appearance, upon which the Colonel rose, and leaning his hands upon the table, asked the attendant if all was ready, to which the latter applied in the affirmative. Beckoning him to retire, the Colonel addressed himself to me as follows:

“ Captain D—-, I have sent for you upon a case of great moment; if it was not necessary to be promptly attended to, I would not, after a hard day's march, have disturbed you, at least

had a little rest.” “ Colonel," said I, interrupting him, “I have but one life, which is at the service of my King and country.”

I congratulate you, sir, upon your zeal and loyalty," returned the Colonel, “ and will now acquaint you of the duty you are to go upon."

Drawing a paper from his bosom, he presented me with instructions from Major-General Needham.

“ You perceive, Captain,” said he, “that you will have a difficult task to perform: your prisoners, should you succeed, will be found to be men of wealth and standing, for which reason you will use double caution. Your guide, who is the government informant, will conduct you to where the Rebel General is to address bis men to-night, previous to marching upon Wexford to morrow, Should you succeed in capturing him and his council, the thanks of your General, and a speedy promotion, will be your reward."

Here the Colonel pulled the bell-rope, and the same man-servant

before you

again made his appearance, followed by a red-haired young man, the proprietor of small sparkling eyes, and large bushy whiskers. As the fellow entered, he made a rude bow, with a clumsy scrape of the foot. The Colonel gave me to understand, this was my guide, who would take me to the very spot where the council were to assemble. Giving orders to O'Donnel to pick twenty men for the occasion, the Colonel and I followed, to see everything in order; and in about an hour I was on the road,

Our first hour's march was cross country and extremely heavy, and by the second, we had done six miles; still we had two more to cover, ere we came in sight of the spot. I was not altogether well-pleased with the familiarity of my guide, or, as I might say, the informer, for that was the light in which I privately held him. His looks were waggish, and an inquiring eye might read rogue in every feature. On his head, and cocked on one side, he wore a small caubeen, supported by a strong bunch of red curly hair; in his right hand was a small thick stick, which he twirled between his fingers with an amazing rapidity. But what took my attention most was the unconcern with which the fellow played off his impudence. When O'Donnel, by whose side he walked or trotted - for the fellow could not, or would not, keep time with the military step-attempted to check him, he would make no answer, but pull up the waistband of his breeches by a sudden hitch, screw up his mouth to a dry shrill whistle, twirl his stick between his fingers, and then set off at a bound, similar to that of a disturbed rabbit. But for his being an informer, I could have appreciated his dry waggishness.

We now drew near our journey's end, and, following our guide, turned up a small lane off the main road. We had not proceeded above a quarter of a mile up the booreen, when my attention was directed to a peasant boy, who lay sleeping upon a ditch: pointing him out to my guide, I made an offer to disturb him, but was dissuaded from it by his giving me to understand it was no other than a half-natural (fool), and might be dangerous to our cause, as we were now so near, that the least disturbance would be the signal for the escape of the council

. It was now past twelve, and the night mild, save a slight breeze now and then rustling in the long grass, which, as it waved to and fro, sent forth a low and solitary wail. Having gained the extremity of the booreen, we turned to the left and entered a winding valley, bounded on one side by a deep and rapid streani, while, on the other, large trees of poplar rose majestically, shading the moonbeams from our view. It was, indeed, a lonely spot, and the more we penetrated the valley, the thicker appeared the trees, and the darker the

For the first time, my guide, without any challenge from me, spoke as follows:

Captain, sir, tell the sojers to halt.”

scene.

66

The word was given, and my men were still.

“ Now,” he continued, “ as we are near the Abbey, where they are sure to be, let every man walk aisy enough not to kill a worm, for they have ears like a fox; and when I enter, Captain, be on the look out for the wave of my hand, at the small door-way; and when I wave the signal, come to me for yer life, or I'm a dead man, that's all.”

The fellow spoke in such measured and sober accents, that I noted every word, and was determined to act up to the letter of his advice. Following him with as little noise as the darkness would allow, we soon emerged from the valley, and ascended a small hill to the right. We could now faintly trace the Abbey in the distance, sunk in a considerable valley, it's head peeping above the large trees, which clustered round and hid it from our view. Turning to the right of the little hill, we followed our guide down a gentle slope, which brought us suddenly in front of the ruined Abbey.

66 Here it is, Captain,” said he, in so low a whisper, that I was forced to incline my head to catch the purport.

Placing my men under the shade of a thick hedge, O'Donnel and myself watched him as he jumped, rather than ran, towards the ruin. Assured by my sergeant that the muskets were carefully loaded, I waited patiently the signal, and in the mean time drew my sword. The fellow had not been absent above five minutes, when the hand waved: giving the word march, in a low whisper, I pressed forward, closely followed by my men.

Arrived to where the guide stood, I found the entrance, being a side one, would admit but of a single file. I therefore determined to rush in boldly, so that my men, by a speedy entrance, might be able to form, with the greatest facility, to meet any opposition, which I felt confident would be offered by men whose lives were at stake.

• Now, Captain," whispered my guide, jumping in boldly. Waving my sword, I followed in an instant, but not perceiving through the faint light, the depth of my descent, 1 stumbled forward and was caught by both arms as firmly as if secured by a vice. One after another tumbled in my men, who were no sooner in than as firmly secured. Rage and disappointment filled me with madness. I saw, when too late, that treachery had done its work; that the very trap we had prepared for others, had now enclosed ourselves. Yet I was but the necessary agent of my superiors, whose orders I had sworn to obey. With our arms bound behind us, we were led towards a small altar, where were lying bands of men, some armed with pikes; others with pistols stuck in rude belts, composed of old harness; some stretched on the cold ground as if fatigued, others kneeling and praying: groups were here and there, as if meditating upon something about to happen, and looking at me with an air of indifference: certain it was, none offered to insult us, though we could not help it if they had thought proper to do so. After my first indignation had subsided, I inquired for their commander; one of my guard informed me, he was expected every moment, and told me, as he was a true patriarch (patriot), I might take heart. O'Donnel and my men were removed to an inner apartment; as for myself, I expected nothing short of being piked to death. Indeed, what milder sentence could I expect? Had we succeeded, I doubt not but the castle authorities would have hanged every one we captured, without benefit of clergy. In such a strain was my mind, when I was disturbed by a hoarse voice singing to a wild, though an impassioned air.

I listened, and looking to my left beheld an old man standing in a recess, which in time of yore contained an altar, else an effigy of the patron saint; or it may have been the confessional, where pious men were wont to open their hearts to Heaven and receive forgiveness.

His singing created a sudden sensation amongst such of the groups as were not praying; those whom I thought asleep, sprang to their feet and grasped their pikes with an energy which for a moment discomposed me. As the old man proceeded in his song their eyes seemed to flash fire, and now and then I caught their furious gaze. But when the song got to its height, the old man sprang from the recess into the centre of the chapel. Continuing the song, of which I caught a line or two, he addressed himself to one man in particular with, “ Is your hand on your pike?" To which the other (I should say a captain, from his being singled out) replied

“Oh yes! and our hearts are in the cause of the right,
And the tyrants shall fall in their pride of might;
The slaves shall be free--though the tyrants all cry no;
For the hand of the bondman shall dual the blow,

And the red fire will glare from the mountain-top.” The captain was proceeding thus, when a cry of the General, the General,” from a dozen voices at the entrance, cut him short. All now resumed their arms and fell into regular squares. As he entered, a body of musketeers followed him, and formed a kind of guard of honour.

When he gained the centre of the aisle, all lowered arms; and those who had formed squares, now, and without orders, arranged themselves into a semicircle before him. There was a dead silence for a few seconds; at length a figure enveloped in a large cloak walked slowly from the recess, in which the old man a few minutes before was standing. He was followed by another and another, in all six, who bowed to him respectfully. A low conversation took place between them, each delivering to him a paper which he carefully placed inside his sword belt. I stood (expecting he would have noticed me) as firm as if I was a spectator, not a prisoner; still he did not deign to look at me, which confirmed my suspicions that I was reserved for the pike. At length the general made a movement in the direction of where I stood; but passing me rapidly, he turned into the recess, and in a moment was out of sight. He was quickly followed by the strange-looking men, who had but a few minutes before passed through it to meet him. The guard of musketeers took their station, three on each side of the recess, and standing so that the rays of the small lamp which burned upon the altar fell upon them, I could plainly perceive they had never paid for their muskets, which belonged to the soldiers whom they had disarmed and bound prisoners. As for the safety of my men, the first law of nature had nigh banished it from my thoughts; and at length, after making up my mind to meet the pike like a man, I determined to use all my endeavours to have their lives spared. I had no sooner fallen into this resolution, than I was disturbed by the cry of "prisoners;" the fellows who had charge of me with a rough civility led the way, telling me “the giniral was a gentleman of the ould stock," and “if I was to die, he'd give me a decent berrin." I was marched to the recess, and turning a little nook entered a spacious apartment. Here the general was seated at a large oaken table, filled with papers, and his council ranged on each side. The general rose upon my entrance, and made a slight inclination of the body; I returned the compliment, though with less dignity, in consequence of my position as a prisoner.

“ Prisoner," said he, "you have fallen a victim to a system which is the invention of your own party,—I need not mention that of the spy. Nothing can be inore vile than the tyranny which they practise; their cruelties to the unfortunate men whom by perjury they bring in guilty of treason, has engendered in the hearts of the patriot army a wild, but I must say, a retributive spirit of revenge. The person whom you took for an informer, and led you amongst us this night, was not actuated by any such passion. He was on his way from Dublin to take the command his country had assigned him in the struggle for independence; and though disguised as you found him, would have fallen into the hands of the sanguinary North Cork militia, but for presenting himself as an informer to Major-General Needbam, who was then in conversation with your commanding officer, Colonel Maxwell, to whom he was handed over.”

The General paused, and looking towards one of the council who handed him a paper, he proceeded

“ Unbind the prisoners !”

The officer who acted as door-keeper drew a knife from his belt, which he unclasped; my cords were severed, and once more

« ZurückWeiter »