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and were struggling on through the dimness of a hazy
day, sinking into twilight. Suddenly, my mysterious
rival turned his horse full upon me, and, to my utter
amazement, discharged a pistol at my head.

The discharge was so close, that I escaped only by
the swerving of my horse at the flash. I felt my face
burn, and in the impulse of the pain made a blind
blow at him with my whip. He had drawn out
another pistol in an instant, which the blow luckily
dashed out of his hand. No words passed between
us, but I made a bound to seize him. He slipped
away from my grasp, and, striking in the spur, gal-
loped furiously forward, I in pursuit. The twilight
had now deepened, and he plunged into a lane bounded
on both sides by steep hedges, and which, from some
former himting in this quarter, I knew to be a cul-de-
sac. This doubled my determination to make myself
master of the assassin : for, even in the hurry of the
moment I had formed some conception of my having
seen his face before, and that the attempt to put me
out of the way was connected, in some way or other,
with public afiairs.

The question was soon decided. He reached
the end of the lane, which was shut in with a
wall of about the height of a man. His horse shied


at the obstacle. The rider, with an oath and a des-
perate exertion, pushed him at it again. I was now
within a few yards of him, and arrived only in time to
see the animal make a convulsive spring, touch with
his hinder feet on the top of the wall, and roll over. My
Irish horse cleared it in the native style, and I found
my enemy crushed under his hunter, and evidently
in the pangs of death. He had been flung on a heap
of stones, and the weight of the falling horse had
broken his spine. I poured some brandy down his
throat, relieved him from the incumbrance of the
hunter, and attempted to give him hope. But he told
me " that it was useless ; that he felt death coming on,
and that I was the last man who should wish him
to live, — he had pledged himself to my extinction."
In his agony ; his recollections grew wild, and he
talked of events in France and Spain; where he
seemed to have done some deeds, which affected him
with peculiar horror in the prospect of his dissolution.
But, after a brief period of those terrible disclo-
sures, his pains suddenly ceased, his mind gi'ew clear ;
and he acknowledged — that he was one of the leading
agents in a National Conspiracy to republicanize
Ireland. " You are too kind," said he, " to one, who
now sees the madness of the whole design, and is sen-
sible of the guilt of taking away the lives of honourable
men." A lapse of weakness here tied his tongue ;
and I brought him a draught of water from a spring
which gurgled beside the wall. He thanked me, and
proceeded to say, that my "character for vigilance
and activity had alarmed the principal conspirators,
and that he, thinking all crimes meritorious in a


popular cause, had resolved to signalize the com-
mencement of his services, by putting the English
secretary to death, on the first occasion."

For this purpose, he had pursued my steps for
some time in the metropolis, but without finding a
fitting opportunity. The intelligence of my hunting
days in the north gave him renewed expectations,
and he had followed me in various disguises ; had
been present at dinners and balls, where I was the
principal guest ; had even frequently conversed with
me on public and foreign topics ; in fact, had haunted
me, with a case of pistols constantly in his bosom ;
yet had never been able to find the exact opportunity
of despatching me-without eclat.

He had, at last, determined to give up the object, as
altogether hopeless ; and w^as already prepared to act
on a bolder scale, by heading open rebellion; when he
heard of my intending to hunt on this day. It was to
be his last experiment ; " and how rejoiced I am," said
he, " that it has failed !" He now remained for a while
in apparent meditation, and then suddenly raising
himself on his arm, said, in a calm and manly tone —
" One thing I still can do in this world, if it may
not be too late. — Leave me here ; I must die ; go
back in all haste to your friends, and tell them to
prepare, either to fly, or to defend their lives. — This
is the night appointed for the insurrection. Fifty
thousand men are armed in the mountains, and
ready for the signal to march on the principal
towns. The few troops in the country are to be
made prisoners in their barracks. The govern-
ment stores are to be divided among the people.


Before twelve hours are over, we shall have a force of
a hundred thousand men on foot ; and a republic
will be proclaimed."

The intelligence was startling, though not wholly
unexpected. I demanded the names of the leaders ;
but, on that head he refused to make any answer. I
next enquired, " whether the rebel directory had any
hope of assistance from the Continent." " That I
can fully answer," said he, now almost at his last
gasp ; " for I myself was the negotiator. It is but
a month, since I was in Paris. The government
agreed to send twenty sail of the line, with ten
thousand troops, and Hoche, the favourite general
of the republic, to the north ; or, in case of unex-
pected obstacles, to the south of Ireland. I have
been looking out for their flag, from hour to hour."
The man sank back on the ground. I prepared to
seek for help, if there were any to be found near
that desolate place. He grasped my hand ; his was
icy. " No," said he, " I must now be left alone ;
I am dying — and I am not sorry to die. I am free
from your blood, and I shall escape the horrors
which I see at hand. Men in health, and men
dying, think differently of those things. Farewell!"
He gave my hand a convulsive clasp, and expired.

My situation was now an anxious one. Night had
fallen, and the hour was full of peril to those whom
I had left behind ; it was even possible, that the in-
surrection might have already broken out. Sounds,
which seemed to me, in the stillness of the hour, to
be the signals of the peasantry — the echoes of horns,
and the trampling of bodies of horse — began to rise


upon the gust ; and yet I was unwilling to leave my
unfortunate victim on the ground. At length, a loud
shout, and the firing of musketry, on the skirts of the
wood, awoke me to a sense of the real danger of my
situation. I forced my way through the thickets,
and saw a skirmish between a large mass of armed
men, and a picket of troops in a village on the
borders of the grove. There was now no time to be
lost. I returned to the spot where the body lay,
placed my hand on its forehead, to ascertain whether
any remnant of life lingered there ; found all cold ;
and, remounting my horse, speeded my dreary and
difficult way back to the mansion.


" Look—
Our lamp is spent, is out. Good sirs, take heart,
We'll bury liini ; and then what's brave, what's noble,
We'll do it — after the high Roman fashion,
And make Death proud to take us. — Come, away,
The case of that high spirit now is cold."


To my surprise, I found the windows blazing
with lights, carriages arriving, and all the signs of a
night of gala. I had forgotten, that this was my
noble entertainer's birthday, and that the whole
circle of the neighbouring nobles and gentlemen had
been for the last month invited. — There were to be
private theatricals, followed by a ball and supper.
The whole country continued to pour in. Full of
my disastrous intelligence, my first inquiry was for
the noble host ; but, he was not to be seen. I was
at length informed, under the seal of secrecy, by his
secretary ; that some information of popular move-
ments within a few miles, having been conveyed to
him late in the day, he had put himself at the head
of a squadron of his yeomanry, to ascertain the nature
of the disturbance ; and, as it was then too late to


countermand the invitations to the ball ; he had given
strict orders, that the cause of his absence should be
concealed, and that the entertainments should go on,
as if he were present.

Agreeing that this was the wisest thing which
could be done, to avoid unnecessary alarm ; which
paralyses action beforehand, and renders every thing
ridiculous after ; I seldom felt it more difficult to play
my part than on this occasion. As a minister, any
solicitude on my side, was sure to be magnified into
actual disaster ; and I was forced to keep an un-
embarrassed countenance. But, I immediately sent
out servants in every direction, to bring me intelli-
gence of the actual state of affairs, and above all, to
ascertain what had delayed their master. Though
all this was done with the utmost secrecy, it was
impossible to suppress the general feeling, that some-
thing extraordinary must have occurred, to withdraw
from his own hospitable roof, and so long detain,
the lord of the mansion, distinguished as he was for
the most polished courtesy.

As the hour waned, the enquiries became more ur-
gent, the dance languished, and the showy crowd
forming into groups, and wandering through the sa-
loons, or gathered to the windows, had evidently lost
all the spirit of festivity. To my astonishment, strong
opinions began to find utterance ; and I discovered,
that his lordship, in his general and lofty disregard
of the shades of popular sentiment, had among his
guests some individuals, whose rank and wealth had
not preserved them from the taint of republicanism.
As it was not my purpose, to make a ball-room the


scene of a political squabble, and as I felt it due to
mv official position, to avoid any unnecessary en-
tanglement in the obscure follies of provincial par-
tizanship, I, at first, tried to laugh down the topic.
But, a young orator, a heated and fluent enthu-
siast, recently returned from a continental excursion,
gave so stirring a picture of the glories of French
independence, and the glittering advantages which
must accrue to all countries following the example ;
that I was forced to stand on my defence.

Still, the gallant republican was not to be repelled ;
he poured out upon me, as he warmed with the theme,
so vast a catalogue of public injuries, in language so
menacing, that I was forced to ask him, whether I
was standing in the midst of a Jacobin club ; whether
his object was actually to establish a democracy, to
govern by the guillotine, to close up the churches, and
inscribe the tombs with " death is an eternal sleep."
Our dispute had now attracted general notice. He
answered with still more vehement and elaborate
detail. I had evidently the majority on my side ; but
many adhered to him, and those, too, men of con-
sequence, and of obvious determination.

The ladies shrank affrighted, as the contest grew
more angry ; and the usual and unhappy result of
political discussion in Ireland, an exchange of cards,
was about to take place ; when one of the servants
brought me a small packet of papers, which had been
found on the body of the assassin. Glancing over
them, I saw a list of the leaders of the insurrection,
and, the first name in the paper, that of my anta-


gonist. I crushed the document in my hand, and
beckoned him to a window. There, alone, and out
of hearing of the guests, who, however, followed us
anxiously with their eyes, I charged him with his
guilt. He denied it fiercely. I gave him five mi-
nutes to consider, whether he would confess, or abide
the consequences. His countenance visibly exhibited
the perturbation of his mind ; he turned pale and
red alternately, shuddered, then braced himself up
with desperate resolution, and finally ended by
denying and defying everything. — It was not in my
nature, to press upon this moment of agony ; but,
telling him, that nothing but compassion prevented
my ordering his arrest on the spot ; I again warned
him to make his peace in time with the government,
by a solemn abjuration of his design.

I have the whole scene before me still. This man
was destined to a memorable, and a melancholy, fate.
I never remember a countenance more expressive of in-
tellectual refinement ; but there was a look of strange
and feverish restlessness in his large deep-seated
eye, almost ominous of his future career. He was
still young, though he had already gone through
vicissitudes, enough to darken the longest life. He
had been, a few years before, called to the bar, the
favourite profession of the Irish gentry ; where he
had exhibited talents of a remarkable order ; but an
impatience of the slow success of his profession
drove him to the hazards of political change. He
had married, and thus increased his difficulties ; until
party came athwart him with its promises of bound-


less honour and rapid fortune. His sanguine nature
embraced the temptation at once ; but the parlia-
mentary opposition was too deliberate and too frigid
for his boiling blood ; he plunged into the deeper
and wilder region of conspiracy, took the lead, which
is so soon assigned to the brilliant and the bold, and
became the soul of the tremendous faction which was
ready to proclaim the separation of the empire.

He had but now returned from France, with a
commission in the army of the Republic, and a plan
agreed on with the Directory for the invasion of Ire-
land, but those were discoveries to be made here-
after. On this night I saw nothing but a gallant
enthusiast, filled with classic recollections, inflamed
with the ardour of conscious ability, and deluded by
dreams of political perfection. My sense of the utter
ruin which he was preparing for himself was so strong,
that I pressed him from point to point ; until he was
forced to take refuge in flight, and darting from me,
burst open a door which led to the demesne. While
I paused, not unwilling to give him the opportunity
to escape, I heard a wild burst of wailing, and a con-
fusion of voices outside. At the next moment, I saw
the fugitive return, with a tottering step, a bloodless
countenance, and a look of horror. Without a word,
he pointed to the door ; I followed the direction, and
saw, what might well justify his feelings. The troop
of yeomanry had been attacked on their return from
patrolling the country ; an ambuscade had been laid
for them by a large force of the insurgents, in one
of the narrow roads which bordered the demesne ;
and where, from its vicinity, they had imagined



themselves secure. As they moved down this defile,
with their noble commandant at their head, a heavy-
fire of musketry assailed them fi:*om both sides ; and
as the assailants were unapproachable, they had no
resource but to gallop on. But they had no sooner
reached the wider part of the road, than they found
themselves fired on again, from behind a barricade of
carts and waggons drawn across the road. The
affair now seemed desperate ; the muzzles of the
muskets almost touched their breasts, and every shot
told. Their pistols could keep up only a random
fire, and their sabres were wholly useless. They
were now falling helplessly and fast ; when the earl
ordered them to charge the insurgents in front, and
force their way over the barricade at all risks. He
bravely led the way, and they burst through, under
a volley from the rebels. A ball fatally struck him,
as he was in the act of cheering on his men, and he
dropped dead from his horse, without a groan. The
troop, furious at their loss, had inflicted a desperate
slaughter, cleared the road, and had now brought the
dead body of their lord to that mansion, where he
had so long presided as the example of every high-
toned quality, and which his fate was now to turn
into a scene of terror and woe.

The melancholy tidings could no longer be sup-
pressed, and the ball-room was filled with screams
and faintings. The corpse was brought in, borne on
the arms of the yeomanry, most of them wounded,
and looking ghastly, from loss of blood and the agita-
tion of the encounter. The guests crowded round
the sofa on which the body was laid, with all the


varieties of sorrow and strong emotion conceivable,
under the loss of a common and honoured friend.
Tears fell down many a manly cheek ; sobs were
heard on every side, mingled M'ith outcries of indig-
nation against the rebellious spirit by which so
deep a calamity had been produced. But all other
considerations were quickly absorbed, in the sense of
general danger. A tremendous shout was heard
round the mansion, followed bj' the discharge of
musketry and the clashing of pikes. All rushed to
the windows, and we saw the hills in a blaze with
fires, and the country crowded with the armed
force of the insun*ection.

The insurrection had broken out; there could now be
no scepticism on the subject. Some hundreds of the
insurgents were already filling the grounds in front of
the mansion ; and, from the shouts which rose in every
quarter, and still more from the fires which blazed on
every hill round the horizon, the numbers of the
insurgents must have amounted to thousands. It was
evident that we were in a pitfall, and that resistance
was only the protraction of a fate which was now-
inevitable. The shrieks of the females, and the de-
spondency of the men, who naturally thought that
their last hour was come, were enough to dishearten
all resolution. For a few minutes, the only orders
which I could give were, to bar the doors and close
the windows. The m.ultitude, new to hostile enter-
prizes, had till now kept at some distance, warned by
their losses in the skirmish with the yeomanry, and
probably expecting the arrival of troops. But, the
sight of our precautions, few and feeble as they were,
E 2


gave them new courage ; and discharges of musketry
began to drop their bullets into the midst of our
startled assemblage. It is only justice to the national
intrepidity to say, that every measure vi^hich I pro-
posed for defence was unhesitatingly adopted ; and
that one of my chief difficulties was to prevent rash
sallies, which must have only terminated in loss of life.
The short interval now allowed to us was employed in
barricading the mansion, which was built almost with
the strength of a fortress, and posting every man who
could handle a musket or pistol, at the windows.

Still, I knew that this species of defence could
not last long ; and my only hope for our lives
was, that the firing might bring some of the
troops who patrolled the country to our assistance.
But the discharges became closer and heavier, and
yet, no sound of succour was to be heard. My situ-
ation became more anxious every moment : all looked
up to me for their guidance ; and though my garrison
were brave and obedient, as became the high-spirited
sons of Ireland, there seemed the strongest proba-
bility that the night would end in a general massacre.
But, there was no faint-heartedness under our roof;
our fire was stoutly kept up whenever the assailants
came within range ; and as I hurried from chamber to
chamber, to ascertain the condition of our defence
and give directions, I found all firm. Still the ter-
rors of the females — the sight of the first women of
the province flying for refuge to every corner where
they might escape the balls, which now poured into
every window ; the actual wounds of some, visible
by the blood streaming down their dresses ; the


horror-stricken looks of the groups dinging to each
other for hopeless protection ; and the actual sem-
blance of death in others, fainting on the sofas and
floors, and all this under an incessant roar of mus-
ketry — made me often wish that I could give way to
the gallant impatience of my friends within the
mansion, and take the desperate hazard of charging
into the midst of the multitude.

But, a new danger awaited us ; a succession of
shrieks from one of the upper apartments caught
my ear, and, on hurrying to the spot^ and forcing my
way through a crowd of women half frantic with
terror ; I saw some of the outbuildings, immediately
connected with the mansion, wrapped in a sheet of
fire. The insurgents had at last found out the true
way to subdue our resistance ; and we obviously had
no alternative, but to throw ourselves on their mercy,
or die with arms in our hands. Yet, to surrender,
was perhaps only to suffer a more protracted death,
degraded by shame ; and when I gave a glance on the
helplessness of the noble and beautiful women around
me, and thought of the agony which must be felt by
us, on seeing them thrown into the power of the as-
sassins who were now roaring with triumph and ven-
geance; I dismissed all thoughts of submission at once,
and determined to take the chances of resistance, while
any man among us had the power to draw a trigger.

In rushing through the mansion, to make its de-
fenders in the front aware of the new riiisfortune
which threatened us, I happened to pass through
the ball-room, where the corpse of its noble and
brave master lay. One figure was standing there,
E 3


with his back to me, and evidently gazing on the
body. All else was solitary. Of all the friends,
guests, and domestics, not one had remained. But,
loud as were the shouts outside, and constant as was
the crashing of the musketry, I could hear a groan,
which seemed to come from the very heart of that
lonely bystander. I sprang towards him ; he turned
at the sound of my step, and to my surprise, I saw
the face of the man, whose share in the insurrection
I had so singularly ascertained. I had a loaded
musket in my hand, and my first impulse, in the
indignation of the moment, was to discharge its con-
tents through his heart. But, he looked at me with
a countenance of such utter dejection, that I dropped
its muzzle to the ground, and demanded " What had
brought him there, and at such a time ?" " This !" he
exclaimed, pointing to the pallid form on the sofa.
" To that man I owed every thing. To his protec-
tion, to his generosity, to his nobleness of heart, I
owed my education, my hopes, all my prospects in
life. I should have died a thousand deaths rather
than see a hair of his head touched — and now, there
he lies." He sank upon his knees, took the hand
of the dead, and wept over it in agony.

But, I had no leisure to wait upon his remorse ;
the volleys were pouring in, and the glare of the
burning buildings showed me, that the flames were
making fearful progress. " This," said I, " is your
work. This murder is but the first-fruits of your
treason ; probably every life in this house will be given
over to butchery within the hour." He sprang on
his feet. " No, no," he cried, we are not murderers.


This is the frenzy of the populace. Regeneration
must not begin by massacre."

The thought suddenly struck me, that I might
make his fears, or his compunctions, at the moment,

" You are at my mercy," said I. " I might justly
put you to death at the instant, as a rebel, in the fact;
or I might deliver you up to the law, when your fate
would be inevitable, I can make no compromise.
But, if you would make such atonement to your own
conscience, as may be found in undoing a part of the
desperate work which you have done, — go out to
those robbers and murderers who are now thirsting for
our blood, and put a stop to their atrocities, if you
can ; save the lives of those in the house ; or, if you
cannot, die in the only attempt which can retrieve
your memory."

He looked at me with a lack-lustre eye for a mo-
ment, and uttered a few wild words, as if his mind
was wandering. I sternly repeated my demand, and
at length, he agreed to try his influence with the
multitude. I threw open the door, and sent him out,
adding the words — " I shall have my eye upon you.
If I find you swerve, I shall fire at you, in preference
to any other man in the mob. We shall die together."
He went forth, and I heard his recognition by the
rebels, in their loud shouts, and their heavier fire
against our feeble defences. But, after a few mo-
ments, the shouting and the fire ceased together.
There was a pause ; from its strangeness after the
tumult of the last hour, scarcely less startling than
the uproar. They appeared to be deliberating on
E 4


his proposition. But while we remained in this sus-
pense, another change came ; loud altercations were
heard ; and the pause was interrupted by a renewed
rush to the assault. We now looked upon all as
hopeless, and expected only to perish in the flames,

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Online LibraryGeorge CrolyMarston, or, The soldier and statesman (Volume 3) → online text (page 5 of 19)