Charles James Lever.

The O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago online

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once more.

The heavy rain and the dense drift shut out for some minutes the view;
but when at last he saw the Bay what was his surprise to perceive that
the French fleet was no longer there; he turned his eyes on every side,
but the storm-lashed water bore no vessel on its surface, and save some
fishing craft at anchor in the little nooks and bays of the coast, not a
mast could be seen.

Scarcely able to credit the evidence of his senses, he knelt down on
the cliff, and bent his gaze steadily on the Bay; and when at length
re-assured and certain that no deception existed, he began to doubt
whether the whole had not been unreal, and that the excitement of his
interview with Mark had conjured the images his wishes suggested, The
faint flickering embers of an almost extinguished fire on the Smuggler's
Rock decided the question, and he knew at once that all had actually
happened.

He did not wait long to speculate on the reasons of this sudden
flight - enough for him that the most pressing danger was past, and time
afforded to rescue Mark from peril; and without a thought upon that
armament, whose menace had already filled him with apprehension, he sped
down the mountain in reckless haste, and never halted till he reached
the glen beneath. The violence of the storm - the beating rain, seemed to
excite him to higher efforts of strength and endurance, and his courage
appeared to rise as difficulties thickened around him. It was late in
the day, however, before he came in sight of the priest's cottage, and
where, as the gloom was falling, a twinkliug light now shone.

It was with a last effort of strength, almost exhausted by fatigue and
hunger, that Herbert gained the door; this lay, as usual, wide open, and
entering, he fell overcome upon a seat. The energy that had sustained
him hitherto seemed suddenly to have given way, and he lay back scarcely
conscious, and unable to stir. The confusion of sense, so general after
severe fatigue, prevented him for some time from hearing voices in the
little parlour beside him; but after a brief space he became aware of
this vicinity, when suddenly the well-known accents of Mark struck upon
his ear; he was speaking louder than was his wont, and evidently with
an effort to control his rising temper, while the priest, in a low, calm
voice, seemed endeavouring to dissuade and turn him from some purpose.

A brief silence ensued, during which Mark paced the room with slow and
heavy steps, then ceasing suddenly he said -

"Why was it, then, that we never heard of these scruples before,
sir? - why were we not told that unbelieving France was no fitting ally
for saintly Ireland? But why do I ask: had the whole fleet arrived in
safety - were there not thirteen missing vessels, we should hear less of
such Christian doubts."

"You are unjust, Mark," said the priest, calmly; "you know me too well
and too long, to put any faith in your reproaches. I refuse to address
the people, because I would not see them fall, or even conquer, in an
unjust cause. Raise the banner of the Church - - "

"The banner of the Church!" said Mark, with a mocking laugh.

"What does he say?" whispered a third voice, in French, as a new speaker
mingled in the dialogue.

"He talks of the banner of the Church!" said Mark, scoffingly.

"'Oui, parbleu,' if he likes it," replied the Frenchman, laughing; "it
smacks somewhat of the middle ages; but the old proverb is right, 'a bad
etiquette never spoiled good wine.'"

"Is it then in full canonicals, and with the smoke of censers, we are to
march against the Saxon?" said Mark, with a taunting sneer.

"Hear me out, Mark," interrupted the priest; "I didn't say that we were
yet prepared even for this; there is much to be done, far more indeed
than you wot of. Every expedition insufficiently planned and badly
supported, must be a failure; every failure retards the accomplishment
of our hopes; such must this enterprise be, if now - - '

"Now or never," interposed Mark, as he struck the table violently with
his clenched hand - "now, or never, for me at least. You have shown me to
these Frenchman, as a fool or worse. One with influence, and yet without
a man to back me - with courage, and you tell me to desert them - with
the confidence of my countrymen, and I come alone, unaccompanied,
unaccredited, to tell my own tale amongst them. What other indignities
have you in store for me, or in what other light am I next to figure?
But for that, and perhaps you would dare to go further, and say I am not
an O'Donoghue;" and in his passion Mark tore open a pocket-book, and
held before the old man's eyes the certificate of his baptism, written
in the priest's hand. "Yes, you have forced me to speak, of what I ever
meant to have buried in my own heart. There it is, read it, and bethink
you, how it becomes him who helped to rob me of my inheritance, to
despoil me of my honour also."

"You must unsay these words, sir," said the priest in an accent as stern
and commanding as Mark's own; "I was never a party to any fraud, nor
was I in this country when your father sold his estates."

"I care not how it happened," cried Mark, passionately. "When my
own father could do this thing, it matters little to me who were his
accomplices;" and he tore the paper in fragments, and scattered them
over the floor. "Another and a very different cause brought me here.
The French fleet has arrived."

The priest here muttered something in a low tone, to which Mark quietly
replied -

"And if they have, it is because their anchors were dragging; you would
not have the vessels go ashore on the rocks; the next tide they'll stand
up the Bay again. The people that should have been ready to welcome
them, hold back. The whole country round is become suddenly craven; of
the hundreds that rallied round me a month since, seventeen appeared
this morning, and they were wretches more eager for pillage than the
field of honourable warfare. It is come then to this, you either come
forth, at once, to harangue the people, and recall them to their sworn
allegiance, or the expedition goes on without you - go on it shall."

Here he turned sharply round, and said a few words in French, to which
the person addressed replied -

"Certainly; the French Republic does not send a force like this for the
benefit of a sea voyage."

"Desert the cause, then," continued Mark, in a tone of denunciation;
"desert us, and by G - d, your fate will be worse than that of our more
open enemies. To-night the force will land; to-morrow we march all day,
aye and all night too: the blazing chapels shall light the way."

"Take care, rash boy, take care; the vengeance of outraged heaven is
more terrible than you think of. Whatever be the crime and guilt of
others, remember that you are an Irishman; that what the alien may do in
recklessness, is sacrilege in him who is the son of the soil."

"Save me, then, from this guilt - save me from myself," cried Mark, in
an accent of tender emotion. "I cannot desert this cause, and oh, do not
make it one of dishonour to me."

The old man seemed overcome by this sudden appeal to his affections, and
made no reply, and the deep breathing of Mark, as his chest heaved in
strong emotion, was the only sound in the stillness. Herbert, who
had hitherto listened with that vague half consciousness of reality
excessive fatigue inflicts, became suddenly aware that the eventful
moment was come, when, should the priest falter or hesitate, Mark might
succeed in his request, and all hope of rescuing him be lost for ever.
With the energy of a desperate resolve he sprang forward, and entered
the room just as the priest was about to reply.

"No, Father, no," cried he, wildly; "be firm, be resolute; if this
unhappy land is to be the scene of bloodshed, let not her sons be found
in opposing ranks."

"This from you, Herbert!" said Mark, reproachfully, as he fixed a cold,
stern gaze upon his brother.

"And why not from him," said the priest, hastily. "Is he not an Irishman
in heart and spirit? Is not the land as dear to him as to us?"

"I give you joy upon the alliance, Father," said Mark, with a scornful
laugh. "Herbert is a Protestant."

"What! - did I hear aright?" said the old man, as with a face pale as
death, he tottered forwards, and caught the youth by either arm. "Is
this true, Herbert? Tell me, boy, this instant, that it is not so."

"It is true, sir, most true; and if I have hitherto spared you the pain
it might occasion you, believe me it was not from any shame the avowal
might cost _me_."

The priest staggered back, and fell heavily into a chair; a livid
hue spread itself over his features, and his eyes grew glassy and
lustreless.

"We may well be wretched and miserable," exclaimed he with a faint sigh,
"when false to heaven, who is to wonder that we are traitors to each
other."

The French officer - for such he was - muttered some words into Mark's
ear, who replied - "I cannot blame you for feeing impatient; this is
no time for fooling. Now for the glen. Farewell, Father. Herbert, we'll
meet again soon;" and without waiting to hear more, he hastened from the
room with his companion.

Herbert stood for a second or two undecided. He wished to say something,
yet knew not what, or how. At last approaching the old man's chair, he
said -

"There is yet time to avert the danger; the people are irresolute - many
actually averse to the rising; my brother will fall by his rashness."

"Better to do so than survive in dishonour," said the priest, snatching
rudely away his hand from Herbert's grasp. "Leave me, young man - go;
this is a poor and an humble roof; but never till now has it sheltered
the apostate."

"I never thought I should hear these words, here," said Herbert, mildly;
"but I cannot part from you in anger."

"There was a time when you never left me without my blessing, Herbert,"
said the priest, his eyes swimming in tears as he spoke; "kneel now, my
child."

Herbert knelt at the priest's feet, when placing his hand on the
young man's head, he muttered a fervent prayer over him, saying, as he
concluded -

"And may He who knows all hearts, direct and guide yours, and bring you
back from your wanderings, if you have strayed from truth."

He kissed the young man's forehead, and then covering his eyes with his
hands, sat lost in his own sorrowful thoughts.

At this moment Herbert heard his name whispered by a voice without; he
stole silently from the room, and on reaching the little porch, found
Kerry O'Leary, who, wet through and wearied, had reached the cottage,
after several hours' endeavour to cross the watercourses, swollen into
torrents by the rain.

"A letter from Carrig-na-curra, sir," said Kerry; for heartily sick
of his excursion, he adopted the expedient of pretending to mistake to
which brother the letter was addressed, and thus at once terminate his
unpleasant mission.

The note began, "My dear son;" and, without the mention of a name, simply
entreated his immediate return home. Thither Herbert felt both duty and
inclination called him, and without a moment's delay left the cottage,
and, accompanied by Kerry, set out for Carrig-na-curra.

The night was dark and starless, as they plodded onward, and as the rain
ceased, the wind grew stronger, while for miles inland the roaring of
the sea could be heard like deep continuous thunder. Herbert, too much
occupied with his own thoughts, seldom spoke, nor did Kerry, exhausted
as he felt himself, often break silence as they went. As they drew near
the castle, however, a figure crossed the road, and advancing towards
them said -

"Good night."

"Who could that be, Kerry?" said Herbert, as the stranger passed on.

"I know the voice well," said Kerry, "though he thought to disguise it.
That's Sam Wylie, and it's not for any thing good he's here."

Scarcely were the words spoken, when four fellows sprang down upon and
seized them.

"This is our man," said one of the party, as he held Herbert by the
collar, with a grasp there was no resisting; "but secure the other
also."

Herbert's resistance was vain, although spiritedly made, and stifling
his cries for aid, they carried him along for some little distance to a
spot, where a chaise was standing with four mounted dragoons on either
side. Into this he was forced, and seated between two men in plain
clothes, the word was given to start.

"You know your orders if a rescue be attempted," said a voice, Herbert
at once knew to be Hemsworth's.

The answer was lost in the noise of the wheels; for already the horses
were away at the top of their speed, giving the escort all they could do
to keep up beside them.




CHAPTER XLVII. THE DAY OF RECKONING

Never had the O'Donoghue and Kate passed a day of more painful anxiety,
walking from window to window, whenever a view of the glen might be
obtained, or listening to catch among the sounds of the storm for
something that should announce Mark's return; their fears increased as
the hours stole by, and yet no sign of his coming appeared.

The old castle shook to its very foundations, as the terrific gale
tore along the glen, and the occasional crash of some old fragment of
masonry, would be heard high above the roaring wind - while in the
road beneath were scattered branches of trees, slates, and tiles, all
evidencing the violence of the hurricane. Under shelter of the great
rock, a shivering flock of mountain sheep were gathered, with here and
there amidst them a heifer or a wild pony, all differences of habit
merged in the common instinct of safety. Within doors every thing looked
sad and gloomy; the kitchen, where several country people, returning
from the market, had assembled, waiting in the vain hope of a favourable
moment to proceed homeward, did not present any of its ordinary signs
of gaiety. There was no pleasant sound of happy voices; no laughter,
no indulgence in the hundred little narratives of personal adventure by
which the peasant can beguile the weary time. They all sat around the
turf fire, either silent, or conversing in low cautious whispers, while
Mrs. Branagan herself smoked her pipe in a state of moody dignity, that
added its shade of awe to the solemnity of the scene.

It was a strange feature of the converse, nor would it be worth to
mention here, save as typifying the wonderful caution and reserve of the
people in times of difficulty; but no one spoke of the "rising," nor
did any allude, except distantly, to the important military preparations
going forward at Macroom. The fear of treachery was at the moment
universal; the dread that informers were scattered widely through the
land, prevailed everywhere, and the appearance of a stranger, or of a
man from a distant part of the country, was always enough to silence all
free and confidential intercourse. So it was now - none spoke of anything
but the dreadful storm - the injury it might do the country - how the
floods would carry away a bridge here, or a mill there, what roads would
be impassable - what rivers would no longer be ford-able - some had not
yet drawn home their turf from the bog, and were now in despair of
ever reaching it - another had left his hay in a low callow, and never
expected to see it again - while a few, whose speculations took a wider
field ventured to expatiate on the terrible consequences of the gale
at sea, a topic which when suggested led to many a sorrowful tale of
shipwreck on the coast.

It was while they were thus, in low and muttering voices, talking over
these sad themes, that Kate, unable any longer to endure the suspense of
silent watching, descended the stairs, and entered the kitchen, to try
and learn there some tidings of events. The people stood up respectfully
as she came forward, and while each made his or her humble obeisance, a
muttered sound ran through them, in Irish, of wonder and astonishment
at her grace and beauty; for, whatever be the privations of the Irish
peasant, however poor and humble his lot in life, two faculties pertain
to him like instincts - a relish for drollery, and an admiration for
beauty - these are claims that ever find acknowledgment from him, and in
his enjoyment of either, he can forget himself, and all the miseries of
his condition. The men gazed on her as something more than mortal, the
character of her features heightened by costume strange to their eyes,
seemed to astonish almost as much as it captivated them - while the
women, with more critical discernment, examined her more composedly,
but, perhaps, with not less admiration; Mrs. Branagan, at the same time
throwing a proud glance around, as though to say, "You didn't think to
see the likes of that, in these parts."

Kate happened on this occasion to look more than usually handsome. With
a coquetry it is not necessary to explain, she had dressed herself most
becomingly, and in that style which distinctly marks a French woman - the
only time in his life Mark had ever remarked her costume was when she
wore this dress, and she had not forgotten the criticism.

"I didn't mean to disturb you," said Kate, with her slightly foreign
accent; "pray sit down again - well, then, I must leave you, if you
won't - every one let's me have my own way - is it not true, Mrs.
Branagan?"

Mrs. Branagan's reply was quite lost in the general chorus of the
others, as she said -

"And why wouldn't you, God bless you for a raal beauty!" while a
powerful looking fellow, with dark beard and whiskers, struck his stick
violently against the ground, and cried out in his enthusiasm -

"Let me see the man that would say agin it - that's all."

Kate smiled at the speaker, not all ungrateful for such rude chivalry,
and went on - "I wanted to hear if you have any news from the town - was
there any stir among the troops, or anything extraordinary going forward
there?"

Each looked at the other as if unwilling to take the reply upon himself,
when at last an old man, with a head as white as snow, answered -

"Yes, my lady, the soldiers is all under arms since nine o'clock, then
came news that the French was in the Bay, and the army was sent for to
Cork."

"No, 'tis Limerick I heerd say," cried another.

"Limerick indeed! sorra bit, 'tis from Dublin they're comin wid cannons;
but it's no use, for the French is sailed off again as quick as they
come."

"The French fleet gone! - left the Bay - surely you must mistake," said
Kate, eagerly.

"Faix, I won't be sure, my lady; but here's Tom McCarthy seen them going
away, a little after twelve o'clock."

The man thus appealed to, seemed in nowise satisfied with the allusions
to him, and threw a quick distrustful look around, as though far from
feeling content with the party before whom he should explain, a feeling
that increased considerably as every eye was now turned towards him.

Kate, with a ready tact that never failed her, saw his difficulty, and
approaching close to where he stood, said, in a voice only audible by
himself - -

"Tell me what you saw in the Bay, do not have any fear of _me_."

M'Carthy, who was dressed in the coarse blue jacket of a fisherman!
possessed that sharp intelligence so often found among those of his
calling, and seemed at once to have his mind relieved by this mark of
confidence.

"I was in the boat, my lady," said he, "that rowed Master Mark out to
the French frigate, and waited for him alongside to bring him back. He
was more than an hour on board talking with the officers, sometimes down
in the cabin, and more times up on the quarter-deck, where there was a
fierce-looking man, with a blue uniform, lying on a white skin - a white
bear, Master Mark tould me it was. The officer was wounded in the leg
before he left France, and the sea voyage made it bad again, but, for
all that, he laughed and joked away like the others."

"And they were laughing then, and in good spirits?" said Kate.

"'Tis that you may call it. I never heerd such pleasant gentlemen
before, and the sailors too was just the same - sorra bit would
sarve them, but making us drink a bottle of rum apiece, for luck,
I suppose - devil a one had a sorrowful face on him but Master Mark,
whatever was the matter with him, he wouldn' eat anything either, and
the only glass of wine he drank, you'd think it was poison, the face he
made at it - more by token he flung the glass overboard when he finished
it. And to be sure the Frenchmen weren't in fault, they treated him like
a brother - one would be shaking hands wid him - another wid his arm round
his shoulders, and" - here Tom blushed and stammered, and at last stopped
dead short.

"Well, go on, what were you going to say?"

"Faix, I'm ashamed then - but 'tis true enough - saving your presence, I
saw two of them kiss him."

Kate could not help laughing at Tom's astonishment at this specimen of
French greeting - while for the first time, perhaps, did the feeling of
the peasant occur to herself, and the practice she had often witnessed
abroad, without remark, became suddenly repugnant to her delicacy.

"And did Master Mark come back alone," asked she, after a minute's
hesitation.

"No, my lady, there was a little dark man wid gould epaulettes, and
a sword on him, that came too. I heerd them call him, Mr. Morris, but
sorra word of English or Irish he had."

"And where did they land, and which way did they take afterwards?"

"I put them ashore at Glengariff, and they had horses there to take them
up the country. I heerd they were going first to Father Rourke's in the
glen."

"And then, after that?"

"Sorra a one of me knows. I never set eyes on them since - I was trying
to get a warp out for one of the French ships, for the anchors was
dragging - they came to the wrong side of the island, and got into the
north channel, and that was the reason they had to cut their cables and
stand out to sea till the gale is over, but there's not much chance of
that for some time."

Kate did not speak for several minutes, and at length said -

"The people, tell me of them, were they in great numbers along the
coast, were there a great many of them with Mr. Mark when he came down
to the shore?"

"I'll tell you no He, my lady; there was not - there was some boys from
Castletown, and down thereabouts, but the O'Learys and the Sullivans,
the McCarthys - my own people - and the Neals wasn't there; and sure
enough it was no wonder if Master Mark was angry, when he looked about
and saw the fellows was following him. 'Be off,' says he, 'away wid ye,
'tis for pillage and robbery the likes of ye comes down here - if the men
that should have heart and courage in the cause won't come forward, I'll
never head ruffians like you to replace them.' Them's the words he said,
and hard words they were."

"Poor fellow," said Kate, as she wiped away a tear from her eye, "none
stand by him, not one, and why is this the case," asked she, eagerly,
"have the people grown faint-hearted - are there cowards amongst them?"

"There's as bad," said M'Carthy, in a low, cautious whisper - .
"there's traitors, that would rather earn blood money, than live
honestly - there's many a one among them scheming to catch Master Mark
himself, and he is lucky if he escapes at last."

"There's horses now, coming up the road, and fast they're coming too,"
said one of the country people, and the quick clattering of a gallop
could be heard along the plashy road.

Kate's heart beat almost audibly, and she bounded from the spot, and up
the stairs. The noise of the approaching horses came nearer, and at last
stopped before the door.

"It is him - it is Mark," said she to herself, in an ecstasy of delight,
and with trembling fingers withdrew the heavy bolt, and undid the chain,
while, with an effort of strength the emergency alone conferred, she
threw wide the massive door, clasped and framed with iron.

"Oh, how I have watched for you," exclaimed she, as a figure,
dismounting hastily, advanced towards her, and the same instant the
roice revealed Hemsworth, as he said -

"If I could think this greeting were indeed meant for me, Miss
O'Donoghue, I should call this moment the happiest of my life."

"I thought it was my cousin," said Kate, as almost fainting, she fell
back into a seat, "but you may have tidings of him, can you tell if he
is safe?"

"I expected to have heard this intelligence from you," said he, as
recovering from the chagrin of his disappointment, he resumed his
habitual deference of tone; "has he not returned?"

"No, we have not seen him, nor has the messenger yet come back. Herbert
also is away, and we are here alone."

As Hemsworth offered her his arm to return to the drawing-room, he
endeavoured to reassure her on the score of Mark's safety, while he



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe O'Donoghue: Tale of Ireland Fifty Years Ago → online text (page 38 of 41)