William Henry Giles Kingston.

A tale of the shore and ocean, or, The heir of Kilfinnan online

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amount of water. He accordingly requested the Dutchman, who spoke
English very well, to send his carpenter below, to make a report of her
condition. The man in a short time returned on deck with a pale face,
declaring he did not believe she would float for many hours longer. By
this time the wind had increased so much, and so heavy a sea was
running, that it was a matter of danger to pass between the two ships,
which were at some distance from each other. The boats, with the last
cargo of the prisoners, had left her, and were close alongside of the
_Cynthia_. Denham therefore ordered his own crew to make every effort
to stop the leaks, but they soon found, from the amount of water which
was pouring in, that this would be difficult, if not impossible.

"Well," he remarked to the Dutchman, after every effort had been made to
put a stop to the entrance of the water, "as soon as the boats return,
we must, I fear, abandon the ship. You have defended her nobly, and
perhaps have less cause to regret this occurrence than we have, who
hoped to carry her into port in triumph."

"You of course will return to your own ship as you please," answered the
Dutch officer; "but for my part I cannot desert my poor wounded fellows
below, and unless there is time to remove them, should the ship sink
beneath my feet, I must go down with her."



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

In vain Denham urged the brave Dutchman to save his own life, and
promised to use his best exertions in removing those who were least hurt
among the wounded men. He was looking anxiously for the return of the
boats. One, however, only was seen to put off from the side of the
frigate with the remainder of the prize crew, Mr Hansom deeming it
imprudent to allow more than necessary to make the passage. It was not
without considerable difficulty that this boat reached the side of the
prize. Again Denham urged the captain to quit her, but he refused on
the same plea as before. Indeed, it was very evident the boat herself
would only carry in one trip the prize crew. Denham had ordered all the
men to go into the boat, and at length finding that the Dutchman
persisted in remaining on board, he could not bring himself to desert
the brave fellow.

"Well," he said, "I will remain too, and assist the men on board to keep
the ship afloat, for I feel I have no business to detain my own people
with so great a risk."

"If you remain, Mr Denham, so will I," exclaimed Ned Davis, who had
followed his friend. "It may be, if we keep the pumps going, that the
ship will float until there is time to get more boats alongside."

Before he allowed the boat to shove off Denham wrote a short note to Mr
Hansom, begging him, unless the sea continued to increase, to send boats
to carry off the wounded people; "but," he concluded his note, "should
it do so, run no risk of losing any lives - leave us to the care of God."

The boat shoved off, and the sinking frigate was left to struggle alone
amidst the fast-rising sea.

The French crew, encouraged by the example of their gallant captain,
exerted themselves to the utmost to stop the leak, while those not thus
occupied stood manfully at the pumps. By this means the sorely battered
frigate continued to keep afloat, but each time the well was sounded it
was found that the water had gained somewhat upon her, in spite of all
the efforts made to free her of water.

Ned Davis was a host in himself, flying here and there, aiding in
stopping shot-holes, and then returning to take his spell at the pumps.

The young lieutenant anxiously looked out for any signs of change in the
weather, but that continued as bad as ever, till it became too evident
that the frigate could not much longer be made to swim.

Denham thought of suggesting that the wounded men should be brought on
deck, to give them a better chance of escaping; but the doctor said they
would thus to a certainty perish, and that if the ship went down it
would be more merciful to them not to allow them to see the approach of
their certain destruction.

The ensign was hoisted upside down, as a sign chat the ship was in great
distress, and guns were fired to draw the attention of the _Cynthia_ to
her. Denham anxiously watched the progress of his frigate, feeling sure
that from the mode in which the prize laboured in the sea she was not
likely to float much longer. In a short time the _Cynthia_ bore down
upon her, but already the sea ran so high that it was evidently a risk
to send a boat; and it would have been almost impossible to lower
wounded people into her. Again Denham urged the brave Dutchman, should
a boat be sent, to accompany him on board the frigate.

"No," he answered; "I have made up my mind to remain by these people,
and nothing shall induce me to desert them."

After some time a boat was seen approaching from the _Cynthia_. Denham
now feeling it was his duty to save his own life as well as that of his
people, ordered them to take the opportunity as she drew near of leaping
into her. A few of the French crew, who were not wounded, followed
their example. While Denham remained Davis refused to go into the boat.
At length it was evident that at any moment the prize might sink.

"Now," he exclaimed to Davis, "leap into her, and I will follow." He
shook the Dutchman warmly by the hand. "You are a brave man, my
friend," he said; "and though I would stay by you if I could assist in
saving your life, my duty to my men and to myself compels me to leave
you."

"Farewell," answered the Dutchman, seemingly unmoved.

"No time to lose, sir," shouted Davis from the boat.

Denham sprang from the side of the vessel; and scarcely had he reached
the boat, and taken his seat in the stern-sheets, when the bow of the
prize lifted high up above the sea, and then down she sank, lower and
lower, till the water washed over her deck, and finally closed again
above her masthead.

The frigate's boat had barely time to pull away clear of the vortex.
Several people were seen struggling in the waves; among them Denham
observed the brave captain, and, though not without great risk, he
ordered the boat to pull back, to endeavour to get him on board. Once,
as they neared the spot, he disappeared, and Denham feared he was lost
for ever. He again, however, rose, when Ned Davis, leaning over the
bows, caught hold of his jacket and succeeded in hauling him on board.
He was the only person among the prisoners who was saved, for before the
boat could reach the others, all disappeared beneath the waves. Happily
the boat had no great distance to go, for it was only by great exertions
and careful management that she was kept afloat. The whole of the
wounded and many others of the French crew perished.

The loss of their prize was a great disappointment to the officers and
ship's company of the _Cynthia_, as they had only the bare victory to
boast of, without being able to show the prize when they returned into
port; but far more did they mourn the death of their brave captain. No
one felt it more than Denham. To him he had been a warm and sincere
friend, besides which he knew the agony and grief it would cause to one
who was expecting his return. He dreaded having personally to
communicate what had occurred, and he was greatly relieved by finding
that the frigate was to put into Port Royal, Jamaica, to refit after the
action.

Mr Hansom did not forget to mention him in his despatches, as having
greatly contributed to gain the victory, by his courage in assisting to
lash the enemy's bowsprit to the _Cynthia's_ foremast.

"Depend upon it, Denham," observed Mr Hansom, "this will be marked in
your favour at the Admiralty; and when you have served your time as
lieutenant, you will obtain commander's rank. I wouldn't say this to
others, - but I have a notion that you have a friend at court, and a word
from the Earl, with so good an excuse, will be sure to gain whatever he
asks for you."

On reaching Port Royal Denham felt it was his duty to write to the Earl,
giving an account of the events that had occurred; but he did not allude
even to anything he himself had done, nor did he ask for the Earl's
interest for himself at the Admiralty.

Some few months after this Lord Kilfinnan gave up his appointment, and
returned with his family to his native land.



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

In a turret chamber in Kilfinnan Castle sat two young ladies. It was
apparently their private boudoir. It had been elegantly furnished, but
the drapery had somewhat faded, and the air of freshness it had once
possessed had long since departed. The window out of which the ladies
were gazing looked forth over the wide Atlantic, and the eldest was
dressed in deep mourning, apparently her usual costume, while the air of
sadness in her countenance seemed to be habitual. The younger one was
full of life and animation, though occasionally, as she looked up at her
friend, she, too, became sad.

"That is a strange story, Sophy, you were reading just now from the
newspaper," said the youngest, - "I mean about Lord Eden; I cannot
understand how a man of his rank and position should condescend to marry
a girl of low degree, however virtuous or excellent she might be. These
_mesalliances_ can never answer. Too soon the one of more refined
habits and ideas discovers a degree of coarseness and vulgarity in the
other, which must ultimately cause separation. No; my only notion of a
happy union is, that where people are of the same rank and education,
and all their sympathies are in unison - "

"You know so little of life, dear Nora, that I do not think you are
capable of judging," answered her cousin Sophy. "I do not say, however,
that in the main you are not right, but there may be exceptions, in
which true happiness may be found. I do not say Lord Eden is right in
marrying this girl. At the same time, she may have more natural
refinement than could be expected. I have heard of such instances."

"I, on the contrary, Sophy, remember hearing my father speak of a very
different case, in which a country girl was taken out of her sphere, and
educated, and, I think, became the wife of one of our ministers. As
long as she was at rest, she appeared very elegant, but if she got at
all excited, or, as was sometimes the case, lost her temper, she then
exhibited her real condition; and if, as I consider, it is very bad for
a man to marry a person of inferior rank, surely it is much worse for a
lady to marry one who is her inferior."

Sophy smiled sadly.

"No; I shall hold to my own opinion," said Nora, "and I do not think
that anybody would induce me to marry a person, however elegant and
refined he might appear, unless I knew he was of gentle blood."

The conversation of the young ladies was interrupted by Sophy
exclaiming -

"Bring the glass, Nora; I see a vessel standing in for the bay. Her
canvas looks very white and shining. I believe she is a man-of-war."

The telescope, which stood on a stand, had been, for some purpose,
removed from the window, and it was now brought to its usual place by
Nora. They both looked through it, one after the other.

"Yes, there can be no doubt of the matter," said Nora; "her square
yards, her tall masts and white canvas show at once what she is. She
does not appear to me to be a frigate. I think she is a smaller
vessel - a corvette, - and very beautiful vessels they are."

While this conversation was going forward, the ship rapidly approached
the shore, under a wide spread of canvas. They had soon an opportunity
of ascertaining her character. At length she stood into the bay, and,
furling her sails, came to an anchor. The wind was at that time
sufficiently from the north to enable her to obtain perfect shelter, and
she floated calmly on the smooth waters. It was still early in the day.
They watched for a short time, but no boat could put off to approach
the Castle, though they fancied they saw one standing in for another
part of the bay.

At that time Ireland was suffering, as she had long been, from her usual
chronic disorder - discontent. Disturbances had occurred here and there
in the west and south among the Riband Men, or White Boys, or United
Irishmen, by which names the rebels were at different times and places
known. The Government, therefore, had considered it necessary to send
vessels of war to cruise up and down the coast, that their blue-jackets
and marines might render such assistance as might be required. This was
so generally the case at present, that the arrival of the corvette did
not cause any unusual sensation among the inhabitants of the coast who
lived near enough to the sea to observe her. Several men-of-war had in
the same way entered the bay of late, and, after remaining a few days,
had taken their departure. The young ladies had arranged that, later in
the day, they would take a ride over the downs, and, after calling on
Miss O'Reilly, at the Vicarage, look in upon some of the poor people
whom they were in the habit of visiting.

Meantime, we must go to the other end of the bay, where an old man might
be seen descending the narrow gorge which led down to the small cove
where the Widow O'Neil resided. It was Father O'Rourke. He proceeded
on in a somewhat meditative mood, until he reached the cottage. He
opened the door, and found the widow sitting on the usual stool,
employed in mending her nets.

"And what brings you here, Father O'Rourke?" she said, looking up at him
with a glance which showed that he was not a favourite of hers.

"Widow, I have come to speak about a matter of importance," he answered.
"I hear, in spite of all my warnings, and all the instruction I have
given you, by which you would be sure to find your way to heaven, that
you still go to that heretic minister, Mr Jamieson, as you used to do
when I before warned you. Now, I tell you, widow, if you love your
soul, you must go there no more. I am not going to be warning you for
ever. Do you hear my words? Do you intend to obey them?"

"Father O'Rourke," said the widow, looking calmly at him, "I have a
great respect for your office, and for the holy religion of which you
are a priest; there is nothing I have ever said against that. I am a
good Catholic, as I have always been, and you shall not be the person to
throw a stone at me; but if I go to the Vicarage, I go to hear the
gentle words of that poor blind lady, and the minister never speaks
anything to me but what is faithful and true. He is a good man, Father
O'Rourke, and I wish I was as sure of going to heaven as he is: that is
what I have got to tell you."

"Oh, Widow O'Neil, those are evil words you are speaking!" exclaimed the
priest; "you are just disobeying the holy mother Church; you are just
doing what will bring you down the road to destruction, and I tell you,
I believe it was your obstinacy, and your love for those heretics, that
was the cause of the loss of your son. He is gone, and I hope he is
gone to glory, for it is not for the want of me saying masses for his
soul, if he has not; for sure I am, that, if he had remained here, and
listened longer to the instruction of that false heretic, he would have
gone the way you are so anxious to go, Widow O'Neil."

The widow now stood up, throwing from her the nets, which had hitherto
been on her knees. She stepped back a pace or two, and stretched out
her hands.

"Father O'Rourke," she exclaimed, "it is not the truth you are speaking
to me! My boy never learned anything but what was good when he went to
the Vicarage: and more than that, though you say he has gone from this
world, there is something deep down in my heart which tells me he is
still alive. If he were dead, my heart would feel very different to
what it does now. I tell you, Father O'Rourke, I believe my son is
alive, and will come back some day to see me. I know he will. Do you
think I doubt his love? Do I doubt my love for him? No. Father
O'Rourke, you are a childless man yourself, and you do not know what the
love of a mother is for her child, and I do not think you know what the
love of a child is for its mother - a fond, loving mother, as I have
been, - not such a child as mine. The day will come when Dermot will
stand here, as you are standing here; but he will not be blaming his old
mother as you are blaming her. He will come to speak words of comfort
and consolation into my ear. Instead of that, Father O'Rourke, you have
brought nothing but cursing. You tell me I am in the downward road to
destruction. Is that the way you should speak to a lone widow, because
she loves her son, and likes those to speak who knew him, and who would
talk about him to her and praise him, and who tell her what a noble,
clever youth he was?"

"Widow O'Neil!" exclaimed Father O'Rourke, an angry frown gathering on
his brow, "year after year I have spoken to you as I am now speaking. I
have warned you before, I have warned your boy Dermot. I tell you, he
would not take the warning, and he would have suffered the consequences
of his disobedience, but I do care for your soul, and it is on account
of that soul that I want you to put faith in the holy mother Church. If
you do, all will be right, but if you go and listen to the words of that
Protestant minister, all will be wrong, and you, Widow O'Neil, will have
to go and live for ever with the accursed; ay, for ever and ever in fire
and torment." With such force and energy did the priest speak, and so
fierce did he look, that for the moment he made the poor old woman
tremble and turn pale with fear. She quickly, however, recovered
herself.

"You may go, Father O'Rourke," she exclaimed. "Once I was your slave,
but I am your slave no longer. I am a poor ignorant woman, but I have
had the truth told me, and that truth has made me free of you; say what
you will, I do not fear you."

The priest on hearing these words positively stamped on the ground, and
gnashed his teeth with anger. He was not one of the polished fathers of
the Church, who have been taught from their youth to conceal their
feelings. He was certainly not a trained disciple of Ignatius Loyola.
Again and again he stamped, and then uttering a fearful anathema on the
occupant of the hut, he turned round, and slamming the door, left her as
he had often before done, and hastened upwards towards the cliffs.

While this scene was enacting below, a young naval officer, who had
landed from a boat which had come from the corvette, lately brought up
in the bay, had climbed to the summit of the downs, and was taking his
way across them towards the gorge, up which the priest was hastening.
He had, however, not got very far, when he heard a voice singing a wild
and plaintive Irish air. He stopped to listen, and as he did so, a
figure, dressed in fantastic fashion, appeared from behind some broken
ground in the neighbourhood of the downs. She advanced towards him, and
then suddenly stopped, looking eagerly in his face.

"Who are you, stranger - who are you who come to these shores? It is not
good for you to be alone here; if you come, come with armed men, with
muskets on their shoulders and swords by their sides, for that slight
weapon that you carry would avail you nothing against the enemies you
are likely to meet here. Go back, I tell you, the way you came. I may
seem silly and mad, and mad and silly I am, but I can sing; few can sing
like me. Now listen stranger, listen to my song." She burst forth
again in the same wild strains which at first attracted the young
officer's attention.

"But what reason could you give me why I should follow your advice? I
like your song, however; can you not sing me another?"

"Yes," she answered, "mad Kathleen has many a song in her head, but it
does not always come when called for, it is only as the fit seizes her
that she can bring it forth. Never mind listening to my song, however,
but follow my advice. There is your boat even now out in the bay; go,
make a signal to it to come back to you, or evil will befall you."

"I can scarcely suppose that, provided I do not leave the shore,"
answered the officer. "I thank you, however, for your advice, but I do
not purpose wandering far from where I now am."

"Even here where you stand you are not safe; but I have warned you once,
and I cannot warn you more," exclaimed the mad woman, as with wild
gestures she retreated back to the spot from which she appeared to have
come. The young officer watched her till she disappeared. A shade of
melancholy came over his countenance.

"I might have asked her about some of the people hereabouts," he said to
himself. "Her warning perhaps is not to be despised; I will sit down
here, and wait till the boat returns."

The officer was approaching the edge of the cliff when Father O'Rourke
reached the downs; seeing the stranger, he advanced towards him. The
temper of the priest had not calmed down, so it seemed, since his
encounter with the poor widow. As he approached the young officer, he
looked at him earnestly.

"What brings you here?" he exclaimed. "What business have armed men to
come upon our coasts, let me ask you?"

"Really, sir," said the officer, drawing himself up, "I bear his
Majesty's commission as commander of yonder sloop of war, and in the
performance of my duty, I have landed on the shores of this bay; but I
do not understand why I should be thus roughly spoken to by one
especially, who, judging from his appearance, is a catholic priest."

"You judge rightly, young man," answered Father O'Rourke, "but I am not
to be deceived by appearances, and though you may call yourself what you
will, I suspect you to be either the commander of a privateer, if not
rather of a vile buccaneer. We have had visits before now from such
gentry, and I should advise you to leave our shores without delay."

"I cannot understand your meaning," exclaimed the officer; "I repeat, I
came here in the performance of my duty, and I little expected to be
treated thus by the first stranger I might meet."

The priest seemed to think that he had proceeded too far; whatever might
have been his motive in thus insulting one whom he must have known was a
naval officer, or for some reason, he thought fit suddenly to change his
tactics.

"Pardon me, sir," he said in a soothing voice, which he well knew how to
assume, "I see that I was mistaken in my first supposition, and to prove
my sincerity, I shall be happy if I can render to you any service in my
power."

"I willingly accept your apologies," answered the officer, regarding the
priest intently, as if to ascertain whether he was to be trusted. "On
my way along the shore, I intend visiting some of the little coves I see
to the northward of these downs, and now, sir, perhaps you can inform me
whether I am likely to find any people residing among them?"

"But few, if any," answered the priest, "they are nearly all dead or
gone away who once lived there; the curse of your country has been upon
them. The aged and the young, the married and the single, the widow and
her children, have all been swept away."

"Yes, I have heard that great changes have taken place in this
neighbourhood of late years," answered the young officer, a shade of
melancholy crossing his countenance. "And now, sir, in spite of the
somewhat rough way in which you first addressed me, I wish you good
morning, and thank you for your information."

Father O'Rourke had, all the time he was speaking, been examining the
countenance of the young officer.

"Ah, to be sure, I was somewhat irritated by a trifle just before I met
you, but your politeness has conquered me," he answered blandly, "and I
beg you, should you come near my humble abode, to believe that I shall
be happy to receive you. We poor, oppressed Catholics have little to
offer our guests, but to such as I possess you will be welcome. Our
business is to look after the souls of our parishioners. If we can but
show them the right way to heaven we should be content."

The young officer seemed somewhat inclined to smile at these remarks of
the priest.

"I will not fail to avail myself of your invitation," he answered, "but
at present I do not intend to extend my walk along the sea-shore."

"Well then, sir, as you have wished me good morning, I must wish you the
same, and a pleasant walk to you, only let me advise you to be cautious
where you go; it isn't just the safest part of the country for a king's
officer to be found wandering in by himself. However, sir, I have given
you a friendly warning, and now again farewell." The priest, somewhat


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Online LibraryWilliam Henry Giles KingstonA tale of the shore and ocean, or, The heir of Kilfinnan → online text (page 11 of 17)