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Convict No. 25; or, the clearances of Westmeath : a story of the Whitefeet online

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ARANCES OF



MEATH




GIFT or



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" Convict No. 25 "

OR,

THE GLEARAIOES OF WESTiEATH

A STORY OF THE WHITEFEET



JAMES MURPHY

AUTHOR OF

"lays and legends of IRELAND"; *'THE INSIDE PASSENGER";
"HUGH ROACH, THE RIBBONMAN"; " THE SHAN VAN VOCHT";

"the forge of clohogue;" "the house in the rath";
''the flight from the cliffs,"

ETC., etc., etc.



H)ubltn :
JAMES DUFFY & CO., Ltd.

38 Westmoreland Street

1913



PRINTED BY
JAMES DUFFY AND CO., LTD.,

DUBLIN.



PREFACE TO FIRST EDITION,



When Ned Dowdall, at the battle of Ross, was firing from his
window on the advancing- troops, before glancing along the
shining barrels of the muskets which his wife kept ready loaded
to his hand, he was wont piously to exclaim : "If what I'm
going to do be a sin, may God forgive me for it ! "

Ned had come from the land of the Macamores ; had shot
snipe with home-made bullets among the Shilmaliers ; and, though
now engaged in peaceful trade as a saddler, could not resist the
temptation of trying whether or not his right hand had lost its
cunning, and whether his gun was as true pointed at a prancing
horseman as at a whirling bird on the wing.

He had some qualms, however, as to whether he was doing
quite right, which he soothed down by this little act of
anticipatory contrition. So, at any rate^ the people used to say
when - the hangings and shootings that succeeded the rebellion
over — they grew merry and light-hearted again. Whether it
was true or no, I cannot positively say. Ned is in his grave this
many a year — and it is not I that would tell a lie on him !

But his pious exclamation occurs to me just at present -for a
reason. When " Hugh Roach, the Ribbonman " first appeared,
there were some wl^o said that it were quite as well it had not
been published, because of the subject with which it dealt. And
the same objection may possibly be urged to "Convict No. 25,"
which treats of similar matters. Now, I should like to know
where an Irish Novelist is to look for the lights and shadows
necessary to a novel — where to look for the story of human
hopes and sorrows and passions — if it be not in the strife waged
for many years in Ireland between the dominant faction seeking
the extermination of the people, and the latter equally sternly
resolved to hold their homes? The one had all the authority
of the Government ; had the so-called law of the land at
their back ; had horse, foot and artillery at their hand for the
purpose : the latter had no one to look to for aid but to them-
selves.

Hunted and trampled, with nowhere to go — for America
seemed in these remote days a very land of exile and doom —
there was only one way open to the people, and they despairingly



331706



V].

adopted it — the way of secret combination. The calendars of
Tipperary — most terrible records in civilisation — tell the deeds
that followed : the heartless clearances and the fierce reprisals ;
the evictions, the stealthy bullet, the dock and the hangman's
rope. If there were levelled homesteads and ruined walls
shaming the face of day, the glare of blazing mansions flared
athwart the sky, startling the night ; if desolation encompassed
the crouching family in the shelterless hawn, it was not
unfrequently followed b)' mourning in the Hall or the Castle ;
and if there were a period of fierce and frenzied exultation
for the downfall of some evictor, it was terminated in addened
sorrow soon after by the sight of the forms dangling from the
prison battlements !

It was a veritable Dance of Death — such as Hogarth had
never dreamt of painting !

Looking back at these times now, one wonders what other
course was open to the people to follow. It brought many a
one to the scaffold ; but it is an undoubted truth that it saved
to thousands the shelter of an Irish roof who otherwise might
have been outcasts — or worse — on the streets of the cities of the
New World.

At any rate, I hold that the scenes of that period are fair and
legitimate field for the story-writer. But I can, if critics
condemn me, plead conditional repentance after the fashion of
Ned Dowdall.

J. M.

Note. — In issuing this, the fourth of the series of Irish
National Novels, I cannot otherwise than express my thanks to
my countrymen for the singular and extraordinary success which
has attended those previously published. They have served to
set aside, once and for ever, the statement that Irish Literature
would not be supported in Ireland. My belief and experience
are that, whenever anything in any way worthy of the Irish
people is presented to them, they are ready to give it a most
cordial, appreciative, and whole-hearted support.



PREFACE TO PRESENT EDITION.



It is now nearly thirty years since * * Convict No. 25 " was
first published. This *' superb story" — as the Freeman's Journal
called it on its first appearance — seems to retain its popularity in
undiminished degree. From America, from Australia and other
far-away lands orders come for it in shoals to Dublin. Perhaps
this is because the incidents narrated therein appeal especially to
the men — and their descendants — who were cruelly evicted, torn
from their homes, and forced across the sea to foreign countries.
In Ireland things have changed in these thirty years very
much for the better. Landlordism has been done away with —
and it was high time ! The people are themselves their own
landlords now, and evictions are things of the past. But the
stories of the sufferings of the people, so late even as forty years
ago, will not readily die out of peoples* minds — least of all from
those who suffered the bitter pangs of eviction and are now
resident abroad. It is to commemorate some of these episodes
the story has been written.

JAMES MURPHY.
Dub tin y igrj.



CONTENTS



CHAP. PAGE

I. RUPERT CLARENDON - - - I

II. THE RUNAWAY - - - - l6

III. GRANGEMORE CASTLE - - - 29

IV. THE colonel's STORY - - "37

V. IN THE CONVICT YARD - - - 49
VI. THE HAUNTED CONVICT - - - 61

Vn. THE MARCH - - - * 75

VIII. THE CONVICT CELL - - - 84

IX. THE RUINED CASTLE - - '9^

X. THE LEAGUE OF THE WHITEFEET - I08

XI. THE RECOVERY - - - - 13O

XII. ORCHARD COTTAGE - - - I40

XIII. ON THE CONVICT SHIP - - - 150

XIV. THE APPARITION - - - "157
XV. THE SEER AND THE CYCLONE - - 160

XVI. THE DROWNING SHIP - - "173

XVII. MEETING OF THE WHITEFEET - - 1 92

XVIII. THE FAIRIES OF ORCHARD HOUSE - 2o8

XIX. IN FREEDOM - - - - 23 1

XX. A SUMMER NIGHT AT ORCHARD COTTAGE - 241

XXI. MIDNIGHT SCENES AT THE ORCHARD - 254

XXII. UNEXPECTED VISITORS - - - 264

XXIII. A RIDE BY NIGHT - - - 278

XXIV. THE BURNING OF GRANGEMORE - - 284
XXV. THE LEADERS IN COUNCIL - - 304



VUl-



CONTENTS.



CHAP.

XXVI. IN PRISON AGAIN

XXVII. BACK IN CLARE

XXVIII. WHAT THE SHANNON BORE

XXIX. THE RESCUE

XXX. ANOTHER WAIF FROM THE SEA

XXXI. BOUND AGAIN

XXXII. THE LAST PARTING

XXXIII. NEMESIS -

XXXIV. MIDNIGHT ON THE SHANNON
XXXV. CONCLUSION



PAGE

334
344
354
364
379
390
400
412
42a



u



CONVICT No. 25 ;

OR,

THE CLEARANCES OF WESTMEATH



CHAPTER I.

RUPERT CLARENDON.

" You are a long time driving, I suppose ? "
" Driving, is it ? Faix you might say that."
" And know the road well ? "
" Sorra bit but I do — every inch ov id. Why wouldn't I ?

when I have crossed it day an' night, Sunday an' week-day,

for nigh forty years."

" I wonder you were not afraid — driving at night ? "

" Afraid is it — what would I be afeard ov ? "

" The country is in such a disturbed state."

" So it is ; but I didn't disturb it."

" And such dreadful reports in circulation about the

doings of the people ? "

" Faix, sir^ here's how it is ! " said the coachman, turning

round to address his querist, who sat beside him on the

box of the stage-coach, going from Dublin to Athlone ;

" here's how it is ! I don't meddle or make wid anyone.

I carry all, gentle and simple. I carry the poor man as well

A



2 , . '[CONVICT No. 2<,:'

as the rich man. An' the man that's going to be hanged
as well as the judge that's going to hang him. Why would
I be afeard, then ? "

" But the country is very disturbed — isn't it ?"

" Blood-and-tundher ! to be sure it is disturbed ; but for
all that, you might travel from Grangemore to Collochstown
wid your pockets full of gold, and sorra wan 'ud touch you.
A blind man might carry all the diamonds in Dublin Castle
through the lonesomest lanes in it, an' sorra wan he'd be
the less from the time he'd lave the ould Castle of Grange
till he'd warm his legs at Freeney's fireside at Collochstown.
Not one. You're not long in Ireland, I think ?"

"' No, I only came into Dublin yesterday."

" An' you're goin' to Athlone ? "

" Yes ; I'm going to Athlone."

" Goin' to join the rigemint ? "

"Yes; the 84th." The young fellow tapped a valise
which was by his side, and on which the words " Rupert
Clarendon, 84th Regiment — for Athlone," appeared in white
square letters, in confirmation of what he said.

But the coachman had already seen the luggage disposed
in the interior of the coach, and did not need confirmation
of his statement.

" I carried a gentleman of your name down here many
years ago. Colonel Rupert Clarendon — was he any relation
of yours ?"

" He was, poor fellow — he was my uncle I"

'' I thought as much. As soon as I saw the name and
looked at yourself, I said to myself, * that young gentleman
is mighty like poor Colonel Clarendon that was shot in the
quarry — I'll engage he's a relation'."



RUPERT CLARENDON. 3

" Well, so I am. You have a good memory to recollect it."
" Recollect it ! It's as fresh in my head as if it happened
yesterday."

'' It's a long time ago now," said the youth, a little re-
flectively.

" It is, that," said the coachman. "It's nigh twenty-two
years, if it is not more. I remember it as well as yesterday.
I drove him down to Athlone, sitting on the very seat you
are sitting on now. And a fine, pleasant, hearty gentleman
he was. God forgive him his sins !"

" I have only a very slight remembrance of him, though I
was called after him," said the young officer. "I think — at
least we always so understood it — he met foul play on that
occasion."

"Sorra foul play. It was all fair and square. There
were plenty around him to see fair play done. 'Twas all
the work of a mornin'."

" I forget the incidents. It was very little spoken of in
our family. It occasioned awful sorrow. I was but a child,
but I well remember the blinds being pulled down and the
house darkened at our place in Devonshire. And I remem-
ber the body coming home to be buried, and the funeral at
which all the tenantry marched. I remember well the
shock it gave us all, It was about an election, I think."

" So it was," assented the coachman. " I remember the
morning well. I was driving by when they were carryin'
the body up from the quarry on a door to put it into the
carriage that was standing on the roadside.'*
"Dead?"

"The bullet went right through his breast. Sir
Hardinge ^"



4 ''CONVICT No. 25."

"Who?"

" Sir Hardinge Hargrave. 'Twas he that shot him !
You'll see his place as we pass."

" How did it happen — I mean what brought it about ?"

" Well, you see 'twas election times — an' the boys were a
little disorderly — shouting and cheering for their own man
an' against the other, nothing more."

" Yes," assented the officer, listening with keen intent to
the narrative.

" Well, they got worse — I mean noisier — up to twelve
o'clock ; bekaise, don't you see, whin they saw the voters
comin' up, guarded by the bailiffs an' the like, to the pollin'
place, they wanted to drag 'em off the cars, an' let 'em vote
free."

" Couldn't they do that without any interference ? "

" God bless you ! no ; they couldn't. How could they ? "

" Why not ? "

" Why they were all Sir Hardinge's tenants, and for three
or four weeks afore the election they had all to come into
the Big House — that's his house — the name is Grangemore
Castle, but the people call it, for shortness, the Big House.
So there they wor kept until the pollin' day, drinkin' and
feastin' an' so on, becoorse. Sir Hardinge expected them to
vote the way he wanted."

" Yes, that was natural enough ; their interests were
identical with his — were they not ?"

" Faix, an' that's what they weren't/' said the coachman;
" for his candidate was a bad man, an' hard on the people,
takin' their land from 'em, an' turnin' 'em out — an' the
people had a man ov their own to put in. So, to make a
long story short, the voters were pulled off the cars ; an'



RUPERT CLARENDON.



5



very glad they were to be pulled off, bekaise if they voted
at all they should vote with the landlord, an' agin their
consciences, or be turned out ov their farms."

"That was a curious way of conducting an election, if
the people could not vote as they liked. What was the use
of their having votes so ? "

" Sorra use. If Ould Nick — God betune us an' harm ! —
wor put up, they'd have to vote for him, when the landlords
tould 'em."

"Surely they were at liberty to vote for the man they
considered best to make the laws for them. They had to
take an oath that they voted for the best man according to
their belief — had they not ? "

"Sorra may care if they took a thousand oaths, they
might take the chance of bein' turned out on the high road,
or votin' as the landlord wished."

" But it was the men they elected who had to make the
laws for them ? " said the young gentleman, a little puzzled
over this feature of the Constitution.

" Faix, an' it wasn't — but who wor to make the laws agin
'em," said the coachman with a grin. " But, for 'em or
agin 'em, they should vote for the landlord's man, even if
they knew he'd make laws to send 'em all to Botany Bay.
So, as I said, the poor voters were glad to have their friends
to pull 'em off — an' pulled off they wor."

"Yes."

" Well, Sir Hardinge was greatly vexed ; an' he wanted
the soldiers to fire on the people, an he read the Riot Act
wance or twice. But yer uncle, the colonel, wouldn't fire
on the people. Between you an' me, I think he knew how
the whole thing was ; so hot words passed between 'em,
and I think Sir Hardinge called the colonel a coward."



6 ''CONVICT No. 25."

A flush of hot blood mounted into the youth's face and
temples at this portion of the narrative, but he said nothing.

" They went out in the mornin' just a little after sunrise :
an', as I tould you, when I came up in the mornin', bowlin'
along pleasantly, the first thing I saw was the carriage
standin' on the road, above the quarry, an' the people
carry in' the dead body on a doore up the side of the hill."

" There was some suspicion of foul play — was there not ?
At least I heard so — that his pistol had been wetted."

*' I never heard that. Sir Hardinge was always very
handy with the pistols — an' was always ready to go out.
Sorra wan readier in the whole country round. That's wan
good thing that can be said of him anyhow."

Rather struck with the nature of this strange encomium,
the officer asked —

" What sort of man is this Sir Hardinge — I suppose he
still lives ? "

" Is it as a landlord you mean ? "

" Every way. Generally."

" Faix, as a gentleman, there's ne'er a finer in the country ;
keeps a grand house ; sees plenty ov company ; an' houlds
his head high among the quality. He keeps the finest
hunters in the country, and spends his money freely. A
good shot and a good horseman, an' what more would you
want? But as a landlord ^"

" Well, as a landlord ?" said the officer, seeing the other
hesitate a little.

" As a landlord," said the coachman, dropping his voice
a little, for which there did not seem much necessity, none
being on the stage coach but the two — "he's the devil
entirely."



RUPERT CLARENDON. 7

«* How is that ? "

" Why he's got a notion — an' bein' a proud, high- handed
man, he makes it a point to carry out whatever he takes in
his head — that he'd make more ov his land be makin' it
into large grazing farms, besides makin' the country nicer to
look at. He does not like — nor does his lady, who is from
Scotland, where everything, I suppose, is fine and grand —
to see the thatched houses, an' the little pratie gardens, an'
the little childher, here an' there an' everywhere on the
estate j so he's turnin' 'em out as fast as he can."

" Do they pay him rent ? "

** Sorra may care whether they do or not ; out they must
go when he takes the notion. An' out they are goin' as fast
as he can turn 'em out. Some of 'em he can't well turn
out, bekaise they have laises ; but he's thryin' to break the
laises. An' there's no doubt at all but break 'em he will,
bekaise he has plenty of money and can bring 'em from
coort to coort."

"Well, after all, he has a right to do what he likes with
his estate, has he not ? It's his own, you know. The people
can go elsewhere, can they not ? "

" Where would they go ? "

" I don't know — anywhere I "

"To beg?"

" No, not to beg — certainly not."

** To the poorhouse, then ?"

" No, not there either."

"Where, then?"

** To get farms elsewhere," said the young officer, rather
pushed into the corner by these queries.

" God help you ! There's no farm to be had \ there's no



8 ''CONVICT No. 25."

work to be had. There's nothing before them but to beg —
an' they'll be put in gaol as vagrants if they do that — or go
to the workhouse."

" Well, it is hard on them," said the youth.

" You might say that. You'd know it better if you were
to be livin' among them."

" And that, I suppose, is what leads to the disturbances ?"

'' That's what leads to the disturbances ; an' that's what
leads to the regiments that are in Athlone, more than enough
to conquer the whole counthry; an' that's what leads to
your bein' on the coach to-day," said the driver.

"Very odd," said the youth, " that the man who shot my
uncle should be the means of bringing me to the same place.
It is rather a curious coincidence."

The reflection occupied his mind for some time, and the
conversation lapsed.

The day was a beautiful one in June, and the freshness
of the morning had scarcely given way to the heat of the
noon, as the four horses of the coach bowled merrily along
the high road that led from the metropolis to Athlone. It
was in the days before the smoke of the engine had appeared
among the pleasant fields of Westmeath, and before the
railway carriage had supplanted the stage-coach. The warm
sun of the summer day made the country, always rich and
lovely, look at its best ; and, as its light bathed the fields
and the groves and and the white houses of the farmers in
a flood of glory, the traveller, though little accustomed to
taking notice of scenery, could not help being struck with
the pleasantness of the landscape.

Occasionally a little stream, winding its tiny way among
the bordering meadows of the Shannon, crossed their road ;



RUPERT CLARENDON. 9

and, as the light fell on its clear waters, it turned it, as it
shone in the distance, into a ribbon of sparkling silver.

" That's a very pretty girl," said the youth, as they drove
up to one of these tiny rivulets — awakening the attention of
the coachman, who, letting the horses go along at their own
pace, was busy filling his pipe.

The object to which he devoted his attention was a young
girl, standing in her bare feet, on one of the flat stepping-
stones which crossed the brook. A tubfull of clothes
beside her on the bank, and a beetle in her hand, declared
her occupation. Her head was bare j and the brown locks,
tied negligently at the back, rose in waving masses over her
forehead. Her face, which was strikingly handsome, was
rendered even more so by the flush of healthy exercise
which suffused it, giving to her an air of exceeding anima-
tion and attractiveness. The sleeves of her dress were
turned up above the elbows, displaying a pair of white arms
which would have served to a sculptor as a model for those
of Venus ; and as she raised them to her throat to draw
tighter the dress over her breast — which, to give her more
freedom at her work, she had left partly bare — he should
have been blind to whatever is beautiful in this world who
failed to notice and admire their exquisite roundness. She
had been too busy at her work to mind the approach of the
coach ; or, perhaps, the splash of the wooden beetle on
the wet clothes prevented her from hearing it, but it had
almost come up to her before her attention v/as attracted.
Her first impulse, taken unawares, was to fasten over her
throat the dress which she had left open ; and it was when
the first blush of startled surprise had covered her face with
an additional and attractive glow, in which innocence was



10 ''CONVICT No. 25."

blended with beauty and health, that the youth's eyes fell
on her.

Whether it was that her white arms, uplifted to her throat,
made her face beam with such a contrasting glow of health
and blushing innocence, or that the rosiness of her counte-
nance made her arms look of such exquisite whiteness, it
would be difficult to say ; but unconsciously the traveller
found himself admiring both with intense surprise.

If a nymph had arisen from one of the deep pools
whereon the eddies gathered and sparkled, it could not have
astonished him more. Indeed, as she poised herself on her
two bare feet, which almost rivalled her arms in their snowy
whiteness, it appeared to him as if she really did in some
way belong to the stream. And if she had suddenly dis-
appeared beneath its sparkling surface, it would have seemed
the most natural thing in the world.

But the young girl did not disappear beneath the water
that murmured musically against the stepping-stones whereon
she stood. A look, indeed, came into her eyes betokening
an intention of running away, but probably the fact that the
meadow sward around her gave but little shelter for hiding,
or that the surprise was too sudden to give her time to do
anything but stand still — or both together, fastened her to
her post ; but there she stood, the first surprise over, and
bravely held her ground.

She might be about eighteen or perhaps twenty years of
age, one would think, judging from the rounded bust she
displayed ; but her face was youthful-looking even for that.

*' That's the prettiest girl I ever saw," said the traveller
in an undertone to the driver.

The latter, looking up, glanced in the direction indicated



RUPERT CLARENDON, ii

by the speaker, and let his eyes fall on the girl. As he did
so, he promptly pulled up the horses, which had been going
along of their own accord at a leisurely trot.

" What, Maury ! is this you ? I did not expect to see
you here," said the coachman, with great animation, as he
descended from his seat and leant over the battlement of
the little bridge — which at its highest was not more than
four or five feet over the surface of the stream, and not much
more than double that distance from the water-nymph.

" I am too far to shake hands with you, Joe," said the
girl laughingly, as, having pinned her dress, she dropped
the beetle beside her, and proceeded tp tie up the masses
of waving hair which fell in attractive disorder over her neck.
" I never heard you coming up."

" Ah, that's always the way with people in love, Maury,
they sometimes can't hear or see," said the driver pleasantly.

" Can't they ?"

" No ; they can't."

" You've experience, I suppose, Joe," said the young girl
laughingly, as, having arranged her hair temporarily to her
satisfaction, she took up the wooden beetle again in her hand.

" I can see it. by you — if I haven't aself," said Joe.

" No ; you cannot."

"Why not?"

" Because I'm not in love "

" I'd like to hear what Kevin would say to that."

"What Kevin?"

" Oh ! yes. ' What Kevin ?* Take care I don't tell him
when he comes back."

"Tell what?"

" Everything."



12 ''CONVICT No. 25."

'' Sorra bit but you may tell him — anything you like. So
drive off with your horses now. You're a nice mail driver,
you are, stopping on the road at every hand's turn to torment
people."

" I wouldn't stop for anyone but yourself," said the driver,
with a mock air of gallantry.

" Wouldn't you, though?"

" No, I wouldn't."

" Well, don't stop for me aither. I have my work to do."

" An' nice work it is."

" Is it ? " said the girl, as she threw her eyes, lighted up
in a gleam of pleasure by this badinage between herself and