One by one, the men dropped in. No news had yet been heard as to the decision of the council. It was dark when the tanner himself entered. His face was stern and pale.
"It is settled," he said shortly. "The council have broken up. I have just spoken to one of the members. They and the officers are unanimously in favour of accepting the terms of James."
Exclamations of anger broke from some of the men.
"I cannot say aught against it," the tanner said, "though my heart feels well-nigh broken. Had we only men here, I should say let us fight to the last, but look at all these women and children! Think what thousands and thousands of them are in the town. Truly, I cannot blame the council that they have decided not to bring this terrible suffering upon the city."
"The Lord will provide for his own," a minister, who had come in with his flock, said. "Friend, I had looked for better things from you. I thought that you were steadfast in the cause of the Lord, and now that the time of trouble comes, you fall away at once. Remember how Sennacherib and his host died before Jerusalem. Cannot the Lord protect Londonderry likewise?"
"The age of miracles is past," the tanner said. "Did we not see, in Germany, how Magdeburg and other Protestant cities were destroyed, with their inhabitants, by the Papists? No, Brother Williams, the wicked are suffered to work their will here, when they are stronger than the godly, and we must look for no miracles. I am ready to fight, and, had the council decided otherwise, would have done my share to the last; but my heart sickens, as I look round on the women, the weak, and ailing. Did James demand that we should renounce our religion, I would say let us all die by sword or Famine rather than consent; but he has offered toleration to all, that none shall suffer for what has been done, and that the property as well as the lives of all shall be respected.
"Truly, it seems to me that resistance would be not bravery, but a sort of madness. There are promises of aid from England; but how long may we have to wait for them? And there are but ten days' provisions in the town. If these English officers of King William think that resistance is hopeless, why should I, who know nought of war, set myself against them?"
"Because they have not faith," the minister said, "and you should have faith; because they think only of carnal weapons, and you should trust to the Lord. Remember Leyden, how help came when all seemed lost."
"I do," the tanner replied, "and I remember how the women and children suffered and died, how they dropped in the streets and perished with famine in their houses. I remember this, and I shrink from saying 'let us resist to the end.' I should rejoice if they had decided that Derry should be deserted, that the women and children should be sent away to shelter in the mountains of Donegal, and that every man should march out and do combat with the army of James. We are numerous, and far better armed than the Papists, and victory might be ours; but, were it otherwise, were every man fated to fall on the field, I would still say let us march forward. It is not death that I fear, but seeing these weak and helpless ones suffer. I should not envy the feelings of the men who decided on resistance, when the time came that the women and children were dying of hunger around them. There is a time to fight; and a time to sheath the sword, and to wait until a chance of drawing it successfully again arrives; and methinks that, having such good terms offered, the present is the time for waiting."
The preacher waved his hand impatiently, and, wrapping himself in his cloak, left the house without another word. The next day the capitulation was signed, and the following day the army of James was seen approaching, and presently halted, on a hill within cannon shot of the town.
Londonderry stands in a bend of the river Foyle, and the position which the army took up at once isolated it from the surrounding country. The offer of capitulation had already been sent out to General Hamilton by Captain White, the bearer receiving instructions to stipulate that the army should not advance within four miles of the town, until all was ready to hand over the city. In the meantime, General Rosen, who was in chief command of the army, stationed it so as to extend from one corner of the bend of the river to the other, and so to cut off all communication between the city and the surrounding country; but, in the course of the day, a country gentleman named Murray made his way through their lines, with a body of cavalry, and rode up to the gate of the town.
The governor refused to open it, but, in spite of his orders, some of the townspeople opened the gate, and Murray rode into the town, and, going from point to point, exhorted the people not to surrender but to resist to the last, accusing the governor and council of foul treachery, in thus handing over the city.
The confusion and excitement in the streets was now great, and, while this was going on, the governor sent a trumpeter to the king, requiring one hour's time before the city should surrender.
Rosen took no notice of this, and, believing that all was arranged, rode forward with the king and a portion of the army. But Murray's exhortations and passionate harangues had their effect. A number of the townspeople ran to the walls, and, loading the cannon, opened, with these and their muskets, a heavy fire on the approaching troops. Several of the soldiers were killed, and among them was Captain Troy, who was riding close to the king.
Astonished at this unexpected resistance, the troops drew back, as they were entirely without means of making an assault upon the city. The governor and council at once sent Archdeacon Hamilton to the royal camp, to excuse themselves for what had happened, and to explain that the firing was the action of a turbulent body of men, whom they were unable to restrain, and whom they represented as drunken rebels. The better class of citizens, they said, were all resolved to surrender dutifully, and were doing all they could to persuade the common people to do the same.
As the royal artillery had not yet arrived, James drew off his troops to Saint Johnston. Murray, with a body of horse, went out and skirmished with them, but returned into the town on hearing that the council still intended to surrender, and again harangued the people.
Eight thousand men assembled on the parade, and, after listening to a passionate harangue, declared that they would resist to the last. They at once chose a preacher named Walker, and a Mr. Baker, as joint governors, appointed Murray as general in the field, divided themselves into eight regiments, and took the entire control of the city into their hands. Archdeacon Hamilton, Lundy, and several of the principal citizens at once left the town, in disguise, and were allowed to pass through the besieging army.
John Whitefoot had been present at all the events which had taken place that day, and, although he had quite agreed with his cousin that resistance would do no good to the cause, and would entail fearful sufferings on the besieged, he was carried away by the general enthusiasm, and shouted as loudly as any in reply to the exhortations of Murray. The tanner was also present. John was by his side, and saw that he was deeply moved by the speech, but he did not join in the acclamations. When all was over, he laid his hand on John's shoulder:
"The die is cast, my boy. I am glad that no act or voice of mine has had aught to do with bringing it about, and that the weight of what is to come will not rest upon my conscience. But, now that it is decided, I shall not be one to draw back, but will do my share with what strength the Lord has given me."
"May I join one of the regiments, too?" John asked. "I am young, but I am as strong as many men."
"It were better not, at present, John. Before the end comes, every arm that can bear weapon may be needed, but, at present, there is no reason why you should do so. Doubtless, plenty of work will be found for younger hands, besides absolute fighting, but I think not that there will be much fighting, save against famine. Our walls are strong, and we have well-nigh forty pieces of cannon, while they say that James has but six pieces, and most of these are small.
"Methinks, then, that they will not even attempt to take the city by storm. Why should they waste men in doing so, when they can starve us out? It is famine we have to fight, in this sort of war. I do not think that James has, in all Ireland, cannon sufficient to batter down our walls; but ten days will bring our provisions to an end. It will be with us as with Leyden. We have only to suffer and wait. If it be God's will, succour will come in time. If not, we must even perish."
With his spirits somewhat damped by his cousin's view of the case, John returned with him to the house. He would willingly enough have gone out, to fight against the besiegers, but the thought of the long slow agony of starvation was naturally terrible to a lad of good health and appetite.
The mob of Derry had shown good sense in the choice which they made of their governors. Baker, indeed, who was a military man, was a mere cipher in the matter. Walker was, in reality, the sole governor. He was a man of energy and judgment, as well as enthusiastic and fanatical, and he at once gave evidence of his fitness for the post, and set himself diligently to work to establish order in the town.
He issued orders that all unable to bear arms, who wished to leave the town, could do so, while the able-bodied men, now formed into regiments, were assigned every man his place, and every regiment its quarter, on the walls. No less than thirty thousand fugitives, exclusive of the garrison, were shut up in the walls of Derry, and the army which was besieging the town numbered twenty thousand.
The guns of the besiegers soon opened fire, and those on the walls replied briskly. The besiegers threw up works, but carried on the siege but languidly, feeling sure that famine must, ere long, force the town to surrender; and fearing, perhaps, to engage the fresh and ill-trained levies against a multitude, animated by the desperate resolution and religious fanaticism of the defenders of the town.
Now that the die was once cast, there was no longer any difference of opinion among the inhabitants, and all classes joined enthusiastically in the measures for defence. All provisions in the town were given into one common store, to be doled out in regular rations, and so made to last as long as possible; and, as these rations were, from the first, extremely small, the sufferings of the besieged really began from the first day.
John Whitefoot found that there was but little for him to do, and spent much of his time on the walls, watching the throwing up of works by the besiegers.
A regular cannonade was now kept up on both sides; but, though the shot occasionally fell inside the town, the danger to the inhabitants from this source was but slight; for, of the six guns possessed by the besiegers, five were very small, and one only was large enough to carry shell. All day the various chapels were open, and here the preachers, by their fiery discourses, kept up the spirits and courage of the people who thronged these buildings. The women spent most of their time there, and the men, when off duty from the walls, however fatigued they might be with their labour, flocked at once to the chapels, to pray for strength to resist and for early succour. Never were the whole population of the town more deeply animated by religious excitement, never a whole population more thoroughly and unanimously determined to die, rather than surrender.
When not upon the walls or in chapel, John spent much of his time in amusing the children, of whom there were many in the tanner's house. The change from their country quarters, the crowded town, the privation of milk, and the scantiness and unfitness of their rations, soon began to tell upon the little ones, and John felt thankful, indeed, that his mind had been stored with stories from his varied reading of the last two or three years. With these, he was able to interest and quiet the children, who sat round him with wrapt attention, while the booming of the guns and the occasional rattling of musketry outside passed unheeded.
Scarce a day passed without active fighting, the initiative being always taken by the besieged, for, in the royal army, the policy of blockade rather than assault was steadily adhered to. The besieged, however, continually sallied out, and attacked the parties engaged in throwing up works. There was no settled plan of operations; but the commander on each portion of the walls led out his men against the enemy, whenever he thought he saw a favourable opportunity. The fights which ensued were stoutly contested, and many were killed, but no advantage was gained on either side. If it was the intention of the besieged to incite the Royalists to make an attack upon the city, they failed altogether, and, indeed, would have served their purpose better had they remained quietly within the walls, for the energy and desperation with which they fought were well calculated to deter even the most energetic commander from attacking a town defended by eight or nine thousand men, animated by such fiery energy.
So confident, indeed, were the besieged, that the gates were often left open, and taunting invitations to come on and take Derry were shouted to the besiegers. The supply of provisions found to be stored away was vastly greater than had been expected, for many of the fugitives had brought in large stores, and a great number of the inhabitants had been, for weeks, making preparation for the siege, by buying up quantities of grain and storing it in their cellars.
Thus, up to the end of the first month, although the allowance of food was short, no real suffering was undergone by the inhabitants; but, as time went on, the supplies doled out became smaller and smaller, and dysentery and fever broke out in the crowded town.
Fierce disputes arose between those belonging to the Established Church and the Nonconformists, and it was with the greatest difficulty that Governor Walker prevented the two parties from engaging in open strife. Day and night, the besiegers' fire continued, and many were killed by the shells which fell in the city. The fighting men on the walls were far better off than those who had nothing to do but to wait and suffer, and it was among the women and children, chiefly, that disease at first made its victims.
For a time, the children of the families who had taken refuge with the tanner remained healthy. The visitors were lodged for the most part in the cellars, so as to be in shelter from the fire of the enemy's mortar; but John Whitefoot suggested to his cousin that the children would soon pine and sicken, unless they had air. The tanner gave his consent to John's establishing a shelter in the yard. A corner was chosen, and a number of casks were placed along by either wall; on these beams were laid, for it happened that the tanner had intended, shortly before the siege, to build a large shed, and had got the timber together for the purpose.
On the timber, bark from the now disused pits was heaped to a depth of some feet, which would effectually break the fall of any shell which might light upon it, and, along the front of this low triangular building, two lines of sacks filled with tan were placed. These would suffice to prevent any fragment of a shell, which might fall and burst in the courtyard, from entering the shelter; save by the opening, about a foot deep, between the top of the sacks and the beams.
When the whole was completed, John gathered the children there, and made it their headquarters, and established himself as captain of the castle, as he called it.
The elders entered warmly into his plans. It was a great relief, to them, to have the house cleared of the eighteen or twenty children. Their mothers had no longer any anxiety for their safety, and the children themselves looked upon it as great fun. There was plenty of air here, and, in a short time, John persuaded the parents to allow the children to sleep, as well as to pass the day, in the shelter. Here he told them stories, constructed toys for them, and kept them amused and quiet, appointing as his lieutenants three or four of the oldest of the girls, who had the little ones under their special charge. John was rewarded, for his pains, by seeing that the children kept their health far better than did those of their neighbours, and, up to the end of May, not one of them had succumbed, although several of the parents had already fallen victims to dysentery and fever.
Thus the month of May passed. With June, the hardships rapidly increased; but, on the 13th, shouts of joy were heard in the streets. John ran out to ascertain the cause, and learned that a fleet of thirty ships had appeared in Lough Foyle, and was approaching the city. The inhabitants, frantic with joy, ran to the walls, and both sides suspended their fire to watch the approaching fleet.
Suddenly, the ships were seen to turn and sail away. The people could not believe that they were deserted; but, when they saw that the fleet was really making off, curses and cries of lamentation and grief rose from the crowd.
Why Major General Kirk, who commanded the force on board the ships, which were laden with provisions, did not attempt to sail up to Londonderry, which, as was afterwards proved, they could have done without difficulty, was never satisfactorily explained. The besiegers had erected two or three small forts on the banks of the river, but these were quite incapable of arresting the passage of the fleet, had it been commanded by a man of any resolution. Kirk anchored in Lough Swilly, and contented himself with sending messages to the town, to hold out to the last.
A fresh search was now made for provisions, and parties of men entered houses which had been abandoned, or whose inmates had died, and dug up the floors of the cellars. Several considerable deposits of grain were discovered, and many inhabitants, moved by the intensity of the general suffering, voluntarily brought out hoards which they had hitherto kept secret.
Early in the siege, the water in the wells had become turbid and muddy, partly owing, it was thought, to the concussion of the ground by the constant firing, partly by the extra supplies which were drawn from them. As the time went on, many of them dried altogether, and the water in the others became so muddy that it had to be filtered through cloth or sacking, before it could be drunk.
During fishing expeditions, previous to the commencement of the siege, John had more than once had a drink of water from the well of a peasant, living in a little hut near the river bank. This hut lay between the outposts of the two parties, and had, at the commencement of the siege, been deserted by its owner. After the water became bad, John set out every evening with a bucket, leaving the town just before the gates were shut, and making straight down to the river. When it became dark, he crawled along under the shelter of the banks, unperceived by the outposts of either party, until close to the hut. Then he filled his bucket at the well, and returned as he had come, lying down to sleep on the bank, well in the rear of the Protestant outposts, until morning; when, as soon as the gates were opened, he carried home the precious supply.
It was this, as much as the light and air, which kept the children in comparative health; but, on the further diminution of rations which took place after Kirk's fleet retired, they began to fade rapidly.
The horses had now been killed for food. The sufferings of the besieged inhabitants became greater daily, and numbers died from sheer starvation. The little inhabitants of John Whitefoot's castle were mere skeletons. Most of their parents were dead, and a mournful silence pervaded the town, save when the bells of the chapels called to prayer, or the yells of the mob announced that the lower orders were breaking into houses in search of food.
John could stand the sight of the faces of the suffering children no longer. He was himself faint and ill from hunger, for he had, each day, given a portion of his own scanty rations to the weakest of the children, and he determined to try and get them some food, or to die in the attempt.
He set out at his usual hour in the evening. The tide was high, but just running out, and, entering the river, he floated down with the stream. Keeping close under the bank, he passed the batteries which the besiegers had erected there without notice, dived under the great boom which they had constructed across the river, directly Kirk's expedition had retired, and continued to float down to the mouth of the river, where he landed and boldly struck across the country, for he was now beyond the lines of the besiegers. He knew that his friend Walter was in the Royalist army, for one of the last mails which entered the city had told him that he was to accompany his father, and that Captain Davenant's troop would most likely form part of any army that might march for the north.
By the morning, his clothes had dried upon him, and he then boldly entered the Royalist camp, mingling with the peasants who were bringing in provisions for sale. He soon learned where Captain Davenant's troop was stationed, and made his way thither. He stood watching for some time until he saw Walter come out of a tent, and he then approached him. Walter looked up, but did not recognize, in the thin and pallid lad before him, his former companion.
"Do you want anything?" he asked.
"Don't you know me, Walter?" John said.
Walter started, and gazed at him earnestly.
"Good heavens!" he exclaimed at last. "Why, it can't be John!"
"It is what remains of me," John replied, with a faint smile.
"Why, what on earth have you been doing to yourself, John?"
"I have been starving, in there," John said, pointing to the city.
"Come into the tent, John," Walter said, grasping his friend's arm, and then letting it fall again, with an exclamation of horror at its thinness. "You needn't be afraid. My father is out—not that that would make any difference."
John entered the tent, and sat exhausted upon a box. Walter hastened to get some food, which he set before him, and poured out a large cup of wine and water, and then stood, looking on in awed silence, while John devoured his meal.
"I have wondered, a thousand times," he said at last, when John had finished, "what you were doing in there, or whether you left before the siege began. How did you get out?"
"I floated down the river to the mouth, beyond your lines, last night; and then worked round here. I thought I might find you."
"Well, I am glad indeed that you are out," Walter said. "Every time the mortar sent a shell into the town, I was thinking of you, and wishing that I could share meals with you, for, of course, we know that you are suffering horribly in the town."
"Horribly!" John repeated. "You can have no idea what it is, Walter, to see children suffer. As for men, if it is the will of God, they must bear it, but it is awful for children. I have had eighteen of them under my charge through the siege, and to see them getting thinner and weaker, every day, till the bones look as if they would come through the skin, and their eyes get bigger and bigger, and their voices weaker, is awful. At last I could stand it no longer, and I have come out to fetch some food for them."
"To fetch food!" Walter repeated. "Do you mean to say you are thinking of going back again?"
"That I am," John said. "I am going to take some food in to them. You will help me, won't you, Walter? It isn't for the men that fight, but for little children, who know nothing about King James, or King William, or the Protestants, or the Catholics, but who are just God's creatures, and are dying of hunger. No one could grudge food to infants like these."
"I will help you, of course, John," Walter said, "if I can; but now, tell me all about it."
John then gave an account of all he had been doing throughout the siege.
"And now what have you been doing, Walter? Fighting?"
"No. I have not been doing any fighting, except that, once or twice, I was out with the troop, when they had a skirmish with your horsemen, but I kept in the rear. I hope, ere long, my father will let me enter, but he is waiting to see what comes of it. No. I have been idle enough. Well, of course, I know all the officers in the cavalry now, and pretty nearly all the officers in the camp, and then, with these constant skirmishes and attacks by your people and ours, there is always plenty to interest one. General Hamilton has been conducting the siege lately, but General Rosen returned yesterday and took the command; but there's really not much to do. We know you cannot hold out much longer."
"I don't know," John said quietly. "I think that, as long as a man has strength enough to hold his arms, Derry will not surrender. When you march in, it will be to a city of dead people. We had such hopes when the fleet came. If the people could have caught Kirk, they would have torn him in pieces. He had five thousand soldiers on board, and, if he had landed them, we could have sallied out and fought, instead of dying of hunger."
"Yes," Walter agreed, "we should have retired at once. We have only seven or eight thousand men here now, and if five thousand English soldiers had landed, we must have raised the siege at once. I can tell you that, though he is on the other side, I was almost as angry at Kirk's cowardice as you must have been. I shall be glad when this awful business is over. I knew it was bad enough before, but after what you have told me about the women and children, I shall never think of anything else, and I will gladly help you in any way I can. There can't be any treason in trying to prevent children from starving to death. What do you want me to do?"
"What would do the children more good than anything, the women say, would be milk. If I could get a keg that would hold two or three gallons—and a watertight box with about twenty pounds of bread, I could swim back with them just as I came. I would show you the exact spot where I landed, and would come out again in four days. If you could put a supply ready for me, every fourth night, among the bushes at the mouth of the river, with a little lantern to show me the exact spot, I could come down with the tide, get the things, and float back again when the tide turns."
"I could do that, easily enough," Walter said. "The mouth of the river is quite beyond our lines. But it is very risky for you, John. You might get shot, if a sentry were to see you."
"I do not think that there is much fear of that," John said. "Just floating along as I do, without swimming at all, there is only just my face above water, and it would be hardly possible for a sentry to see me; but if I were shot, I could not die in a better cause."
"I think, John, if you don't mind, I should like to tell my father. I am quite sure he would not object, and, in case you should happen to get caught, you could refer at once to him to prove that you were not a spy. They make very short work of spies. But if you were to demand to be brought to Captain Davenant, and say you were acting in accordance with his knowledge, no doubt they would bring you."
"Do as you think best, Walter, but don't tell him, unless you feel almost sure that he will not object."
"There is no fear of that," Walter said. "He is constantly lamenting over the sufferings of the people of Derry, and has, all along, been in favour of attempting to storm the place by force, so as to put a stop to all this useless suffering. Now, John, you had better lie down on that straw bed of mine, and get a sleep. After that, you will be ready for another meal. I will tell Larry to go out among the market people, and buy three gallons of milk and twenty pounds of bread. There are plenty of small spirit kegs about, which will do capitally for the milk, and I don't think that we can have anything better than one of them for the bread. We can head it up, and make it watertight. How do you mean to get into the town? I should have thought that they were likely to be seized."
"So they would be," John said. "I shall hide them in some bushes at the foot of the walls, at the side of the town facing the river. There are only a few sentries there. Then, when it is light, I shall go in and tell my cousin; and get him, after dark, to lower a rope from the wall. I shall of course be below, to tie on the kegs. He can then walk with them boldly through the street to our house, which is only a short distance from that part of the walls. If anyone saw him, they would only suppose he was taking home water from one of the wells."
John was soon fast asleep. Walter sat watching him until, two hours later, his father returned with his troop. John still slept on, while Walter told his father the errand on which he had come.
"He is a brave lad," Captain Davenant said, "and I honour him for his conduct. It is not many men who, at a time like this, would risk their lives for a number of children who are not any relation to them. Certainly, I will gladly assist him. I am sick at heart at all this. My only consolation is, that it is brought on solely by the acts of these men, who, though comparatively a handful, set themselves up against the voice of all Ireland. If they had risen when an English army arrived to their assistance, I should say nothing against it. As it is, without doing any good to their cause, they are entailing this horrible suffering upon thousands of women and children.
"By all means, help the poor lad, and if he should fall into the hands of our people, let him mention my name. Rosen would no doubt disapprove of it, but I cannot help that. All the Irish gentlemen in the army would agree that I had done rightly, and, even if they didn't, my own conscience would be quite sufficient for me to act upon. I am fighting against the king's enemies, not warring against women and children.
"How soundly the poor lad sleeps, and how changed he is! He is a mere skeleton. I should not have known him in the least. If this is the condition into which a strong, healthy lad has fallen, what must the women and children have suffered! I wish Kirk had not turned coward, but had landed his troops. We could then have brought up our scattered forces, and could have fought them in a fair field, with something like equal forces. That would have been vastly more to my taste than starving them, like rats in a hole."
Chapter 5: The Relief Of Derry.
It was late in the afternoon before John woke. He started up, as his eyes fell upon Captain Davenant.
"You have had a good sleep, and I hope you are all the better for it," Captain Davenant said, kindly. "My son has been telling me all about your expedition, and I honour you very much, for the courage you have shown in thus risking your life to get food for those starving children. I quite approve of the promise Walter has given to assist you, and if you should, by any chance, be taken prisoner, I will stand your friend."
John expressed his gratitude warmly.
"It is a sad thing, in these civil wars, when friends are arrayed against friends," Captain Davenant said. "Who would have thought, three months ago, that you and Walter would be arrayed on opposite sides? It is true you are neither of you combatants, but I have no doubt you would gladly have joined in some of the sallies, just as Walter is eager to be riding in my troop. If we must fight, I wish, at any rate, that it could be so managed that all the suffering should fall upon the men who are willing to take up the sword, and not upon the women and children. My heart bleeds as I ride across the country. At one time, one comes upon a ruined village, burned by the midnight ruffians who call themselves rapparees, and who are a disgrace to our cause. At another, upon a place sacked and ruined by one of the bands of horsemen from Enniskillen, who are as cruel and merciless as the rapparees. Let the armies fight out their quarrels, I say, but let peaceful people dwell in quiet and safety. But wholesale atrocities have ever been the rule on both sides, in warfare in Ireland, and will, I suppose, remain so to the end.
"And now, we are just going to have dinner, and another hearty meal will do you good. Each night, when my son brings down the supplies for you, he will bring a substantial meal of cold meat and bread, and you must give me your promise, now, that you will eat this at once. You will need it, after being so long in the water, and having another swim before you, besides. Although I approve of sending in milk for the children, I can be no party to the supply of food for the garrison. Do you promise?"
"Yes, sir, I promise," John said, "though I would rather save all but a mouthful or two for the people who are starving at home. Still, of course, if you insist upon it, I will promise."
"I do insist upon it, John. The lives of these children of yours depend on your life, and even one good meal, every four days, will help you to keep enough strength together to carry out the kind work you have undertaken."
Larry now brought in the dinner. He had been told by Walter of John's arrival, but he otherwise would have failed to recognize, in him, the boy who had sometimes come down to the village with Walter.
"Are you quite well, Larry?" John asked him.
"I am," Larry replied; "but I need not ask the same question of yourself, for you are nothing but skin and bone, entirely. Dear, dear, I wouldn't have known you at all, at all, and such a foine colour as ye used to have."
"I don't think starving would suit you, Larry," Captain Davenant said with a smile.
"Sure an' it wouldn't, yer honour. It's always ready to eat I am, though, as mother says, the victuals don't seem to do me much good, anyway."
"You won't be able to come out and go back again the same night next week, John," Captain Davenant said, presently. "The tide won't suit, so you must come up here, as you have done today. You will always find a hearty welcome, and Walter shall go down and meet you early in the morning, near the mouth of the river, so you can come up with him; and then, if you fall in with any of the other parties, no questions will be asked. I think everyone in camp knows him now.
"I wonder what your grandfather would say, if he saw you sitting here at dinner with Walter and me?"
"I am afraid he would disown me, then and there, without listening to explanations."
"I have no doubt it's a sore grievance to him that he is not in Derry, at present," Captain Davenant said.
"I am sure it is," John replied; "but the fasting would be a great trial to him. My grandfather is a capital trencherman. Still, I am sure he would have borne his part."
"That he would," Captain Davenant agreed. "He and the men of his class are thorough, fanatics as I consider them. Hard and pitiless as they proved themselves, to those against whom they fought, one cannot but admire them, for they were heart and soul in their cause. There was no flinching, no half measures, no concessions for the sake of expediency. On the ground on which they took their stand, they conquered or died. Would that a like spirit animated all my countrymen!"
After nightfall, Larry brought round Walter's horse, saddled, and his own rough pony. Walter mounted the former, and John the latter. The two kegs were slung across Walter's horse.
"Will you meet me at the clump of trees, half a mile out of camp, Larry?" Walter said. "In the dark, no one will notice the difference between you and John."
Captain Davenant had furnished Walter with a password, and now walked beside the two boys till they were well beyond the camp, and then returned to his tent. The lads made their way, without meeting with anyone, down to the mouth of the river. The kegs were then taken off the horse and placed in the water—they floated just above the surface.
"That is exactly right," John said. "They will not show any more than will my face. When I come down next time, I shall fill them with water, so as to keep them just at this level."
"I am afraid the moon will be up next time, John."
"Yes, it will. I shall lay some boughs of bush across my face and the kegs, so that there will be no fear of my face showing; and if a sentry should happen to catch sight of it, he will suppose that it is merely a bush drifting in the stream."
"Well, goodbye, John, and may you get through without trouble."
"I have no fear, Walter. I am in God's hands, and He will take me safely through, if He thinks fit."
The journey was achieved without detection, the only difficulty being the sinking of the kegs under the boom; this, however, was successfully accomplished, and by midnight, the kegs were safely hidden in some bushes at the foot of the wall, and there John lay down and waited for morning.
As he entered the yard, the children ran out to meet him. There were no loud rejoicings; they had no longer strength or spirit to shout and laugh; but the joy in the thin worn faces was more eloquent than any words could have been.
"We have missed you so, John. We have wanted you so much. Lucy and Kate and Deby were so bad yesterday, and they did cry so for you. We were all so hungry. We don't mind so much, when you are here to talk to us and tell us stories. Why did you stop away, John, when we wanted you so?"
"I went away to see if I could manage to get you something to eat."
"And did you?" was the anxious cry.
"I have got a little; but you must wait till evening, and then you will each have—" and he stopped.
"What, John? Oh, do tell us!"
"You will each have some milk and bread.
"Not much, dears," he went on, as there was a cry of gladness, which was pitiful from the intensity of joy it expressed, "but there will be some for tonight, and a little curds and whey and bread for you tomorrow and next day, and I hope always, as long as this lasts. Now go, dears, into your castle. I will come to you presently. I have brought you some water, as usual."
"I am heartily glad to see you back, John," his cousin said, as he entered the house. "The children were in a sad state without you, yesterday. I suppose you can tell me, now, what you have been doing. You told me you would be away two nights, and begged me not to ask any questions; but, although I know you to be discreet and prudent, I have been worrying."
"I will tell you now," John said, and he recounted the details of the expedition which he had accomplished.
"And you have swum the river twice, and been in the camp of the Papists. Truly it is surprising, John, and I know not what to do. Should your visit there be discovered, you will assuredly be accused of treachery."
"They may accuse me of what they like," John said quietly. "I have done it, and I am going to do it again, every fourth night, and there is the milk and bread at the foot of the wall, ready for you to haul up as soon as it gets dark."
"It ought to be fairly divided," the tanner said.
"It will be fairly divided, between our children," John said; "but nobody else will get a drop or a crumb. I have risked my life to get it for them. If other people want to get it, let them do the same. Besides, as I told you, Captain Davenant and his son both procured it for me for the sake of the children, and them only, and I should be breaking faith with them if any others touched it, save those for whom it was given me. It is little enough among eighteen children for four days—a pound of bread and a little over a pint of milk, each. They must each have a quarter of a pint, when you bring it in tonight, and the rest had better be curdled. That way it will keep, and they can have a portion each day of curds and whey, and a fourth share of their bread. It is little enough; but I trust that it may keep life in them."
"Well, John, I will do as you say," the tanner said, after a pause. "It goes somewhat against my conscience; but, as you say, it will make but a meagre portion for each of them, and would be nothing were it fairly divided; besides, you have brought it with the risk of your life, and I know not that any save you have a right to a voice in its partition."
Before the gates were closed, John went out, and presently had the satisfaction of hearing a small stone drop from the wall above him, followed presently by the end of a rope. He sent up the kegs, and then lay down among the bushes, and enjoyed the satisfaction of thinking of the joy of the little ones, when the milk and bread were served out to them. As soon as the gates were open in the morning, he went in.
"Thank you, oh, so much, for the milk and bread last night. We heard how you had swum so far, and gone into danger to get it for us, and we're going to have some more for breakfast."
"It was not much, dears," John said.
"Oh, no, it was not much; but it was so nice, and we did all sleep so well last night—even little Lucy didn't waken and cry once—and Ruth Hardy said we ought to call you the Raven; but we don't like that name for you."
"The Raven, Ruth!" John said, mystified. "Why did you want to call me the Raven?"
"I wouldn't do it if you didn't like it, dear John; but you know that chapter that Master Williams read us, the other day, about the ravens that fed somebody in a cave, and we have been wishing the ravens would feed us; and so you see, when you sent us the milk last night, I thought you ought to be called the Raven. I did not mean any harm."
"No, my dear, of course not, and you can all call me the Raven, if you like."
"No, no, John. You are John, and that's much better than the Raven. They brought the man food, but they didn't nurse him and tell him stories, as you do."
"Now, run inside the castle," John said, "and I will go in and get your breakfasts."
John soon returned, with a great bowl of curds and whey, a platter piled up with slices of bread and a score of little mugs, and the feast began. Scarce a word was said while the children were eating. Their hunger was too keen, and their enjoyment too intense, to admit of speech. When each had finished their portion, there was a general exclamation.
"Oh, John, you haven't had any. Why didn't you have some, too?"
"Because there is only enough for you," he said. "If I were to have some, and Cousin Josiah, and all the others, there would be a very little share for you; besides, when I went out the day before yesterday, I had as much as I could eat."
"Oh, dear, that must have been nice," one of the boys said. "Only think, having as much as one can eat. Oh, how much I could eat, if I had it!"
"And yet I daresay, Tom," John said, "that sometimes, before you came here, when you had as much as you could eat, you used to grumble if it wasn't quite what you fancied."
"I shall never grumble again," the boy said positively. "I shall be quite, quite content with potatoes, if I can but get enough of them."
"The good times will come again," John said cheerily. "Now we will have a story. Which shall it be?"
As the children sat round him, John was delighted to see that even the two scanty meals they had had, had done wonders for them. The listless, hopeless look of the last few days had disappeared, and occasionally something like a hearty laugh broke out among them, and an hour later the tanner came to the entrance.
"Come to the walls with me, John."
"What is it? What is the matter?" John said, as he saw the look of anger and indignation on the wasted features of his cousin.
"Come and see for yourself," the latter said.
When they reached the walls, they found them crowded with the inhabitants. Outside were a multitude of women, children, and old men. These General Rosen, with a refinement of cruelty, had swept in from the country round and driven under the walls, where they were left to starve, unless the garrison would take them in, and divide their scanty supply of food with them.
"It is monstrous," John cried, when he understood the meaning of the sight. "What are we to do?"
"We can do nothing," the tanner replied. "The council have met, and have determined to keep the gates closed. We are dying for the cause. They must do so too; and they will not die in vain, for all Europe will cry out when they hear of this dastardly act of cruelty."
The people outside were animated by a spirit as stern as that of the besieged, and the women cried out, to those on the walls, to keep the gates shut and to resist to the last, and not to heed them.
The ministers went out through the gates, and held services among the crowd, and the people on the walls joined in the hymns that were sung below. So, for three days and nights, the people within and without fasted and prayed. On the third day, a messenger arrived from King James at Dublin, ordering General Rosen at once to let the people depart.
The indignation, among the Irish gentlemen in the camp, at Rosen's brutal order had been unbounded, and messenger after messenger had been sent to Dublin, where the news excited a burst of indignation, and James at once countermanded the order of the general. The gates were opened now, and the people flocked out and exchanged greetings with their friends. A few able-bodied men in the crowd entered the town, to share in its defence, while a considerable number of the women and children from within mingled with them, and moved away through the lines of the besiegers.
John had, the day before, gone out when the gates were opened for the preachers, and at night had again safely made the passage to the mouth of the river and back. He found the lantern burning among the bushes, and two kegs placed beside it, with a bountiful meal of bread and meat for himself.
So the days went on, each day lessening the number of the inhabitants of the town. Fever and famine were making terrible ravages, and the survivors moved about the streets like living skeletons, so feeble and weak, now, that they could scarce bear the weight of their arms.
On the 30th of July, three ships were seen approaching the mouth of the river. They were part of Kirk's squadron, which had all this time been lying idle, almost within sight of the town. The news of his conduct had excited such anger and indignation in England that, at last, in obedience to peremptory orders from London, he prepared to make the attempt; although, by sending only two store ships and one frigate, it would almost seem as if he had determined that it should be a failure.
The besiegers as well as the besieged saw the three ships advancing, and the former moved down to the shore, to repel the attempt. The batteries on either side of the boom were manned, and from them, and from the infantry gathered on the banks, a heavy fire was opened as the ships approached.
So innocuous was the fire of the artillery, that it has been supposed that Kirk had previously bribed the officers commanding the forts. At any rate, the ships suffered no material damage, and, returning the fire, advanced against the boom. The leading store ship dashed against it and broke it, but the ship swerved from her course with the shock, and struck the ground. A shout of dismay burst from those on the walls, and one of exultation from the besiegers, who rushed down to board the vessel.
Her captain, however, pointed all his guns forward, and discharged them all at the same moment, and the recoil shook the vessel from her hold on the ground, and she floated off, and pursued her way up the river, followed by her consorts.
The delay of Kirk had cost the defenders of Londonderry more than half their number. The fighting men had, either by disease, famine, or in the field, lost some five thousand, while of the non-combatants seven thousand had died. The joy and exultation in the city, as the two store ships ranged up under its walls, were unbounded. Provisions were speedily conveyed on shore, and abundance took the place of famine.
Five days later, General Rosen raised the siege and marched away with his army, which had, in the various operations of the siege, and from the effect of disease, lost upwards of three thousand men.
"This has been a bad beginning, Walter," Captain Davenant said, as they rode away from the grounds on which they had been so long encamped. "If the whole force of Ireland does not suffice to take a single town, the prospect of our waging war successfully against England is not hopeful."
"It seems to me that it would have been much better to have left Derry alone, father," Walter said.
"It would have been better, as it has turned out, Walter; but had the king taken the place, as he expected, without difficulty, he would have crossed with a portion of the army to Scotland, where a considerable part of the population would at once have joined him. The defence of Derry has entirely thwarted that plan, and I fear now that it will never be carried out.
"However, it has had the advantage of making soldiers out of an army of peasants. When we came here, officers and men were alike ignorant of everything relating to war. Now we have, at any rate, learned a certain amount of drill and discipline, and I think we shall give a much better account of ourselves, in the open field, than we have done in front of a strong town which we had no means whatever of storming. Still, it has been a frightful waste of life on both sides, and with no result, beyond horribly embittering the feeling of hatred, which unfortunately prevailed before, between the Catholic and Protestant populations."
The mortification and disgust, caused by the failure of Londonderry, was increased by a severe defeat of a force under General Justin McCarthy, Lord Mountcashel, at Newtown Butler, on the very day that Derry was relieved. General McCarthy had been detached, with a corps of six thousand men, against the Enniskilleners. He came up with them near Newtown Butler. Although but two thousand strong, the Enniskilleners, who were commanded by Colonel Wolseley, an English officer, at once attacked the Irish, only a portion of whom had come upon the ground.
McCarthy, who was a brave and experienced officer, sent orders to the cavalry to face to the right, and march to the support of the wing that was attacked. The officer gave the order "right—about face," and the cavalry turned and trotted towards the rear. The infantry, believing that they were deserted by the horse, at once lost heart and fell into confusion.
McCarthy, while endeavouring to remedy the disorder, was wounded and taken prisoner, and the flight became general. The Enniskilleners pursued with savage fury, and during the evening, the whole of the night, and the greater part of the next day, hunted the fugitives down in the bogs and woods, and slew them in cold blood. Five hundred of the Irish threw themselves into Lough Erne, rather than face death at the hands of their savage enemies, and only one of the number saved himself by swimming.
After leaving Derry, the army returned to Dublin, where the parliament which James had summoned was then sitting. Most of the soldiers were quartered on the citizens; but, as the pressure was very great, Captain Davenant easily obtained leave for his troop to go out to Bray, where they were within a very short distance of his own house.
The day after his return home, Walter went over to give Jabez Whitefoot and his wife news of John, from whom they had heard nothing, since a fortnight before the siege had begun.
"Your son is alive and well," were his first words. "He has been all through the siege of Derry, and has behaved like a hero."
"The Lord be praised!" Jabez said, while his wife burst into tears of relief, for she had gone through terrible anxiety during the long weeks that Derry had been suffering from starvation.
"But how do you know, Master Walter?" Jabez asked. "Seeing that you were on the side of the besiegers, how could you tell what was passing on the inside of the walls? How do you know John is alive?"
"Because I saw him first, a month before the end of the siege, and because he came regularly afterwards, to fetch away some provisions which I had placed for him."
And Walter then gave a full account of John's visit to the camp, in search of food for the children who were sheltered in the tanner's house.
"That is just like John," his mother said. "He was ever thoughtful for others. I am more pleased, a hundred times, that he should have so risked his life to obtain food for the little ones, than if he had taken part in the fighting and proved himself a very champion of Derry."
Parliament had met on the 7th of May. The session had been opened by a speech from the throne, in which the king commended the loyalty of his Irish subjects, declared his intention to make no difference between Catholics and Protestants, and that loyalty and good conduct should be the only passport to his favour. He stated his earnest wish that good and wholesome laws should be enacted, for the encouragement of trade and of the manufactures of the country, and for the relief of such as had suffered injustice by the Act of Settlement; that is, the act by which the lands of the Catholics had been handed over, wholesale, to Cromwell's soldiers and other Protestants.
Bills were speedily passed, abolishing the jurisdiction of English courts of law and of the English parliament in Ireland, and other bills were passed for the regulation of commerce and the promotion of shipbuilding. The bill for the repeal of the Act of Settlement was brought up on the 22d of May. It was opposed only by the Protestant bishops and peers, and became law on the 11th of June. Acts of attainder were speedily passed against some two thousand Protestant landed proprietors, all of whom had obtained their lands by the settlement of Cromwell.
A land tax was voted to the king, of twenty thousand pounds a month, and he proceeded to raise other levies by his private authority. The result was that the resources of Ireland were speedily exhausted, money almost disappeared, and James, being at his wits' end for funds, issued copper money stamped with the value of gold and silver; and a law was passed making this base money legal tender, promising that, at the end of the war, it should be exchanged for sterling money.
This was a measure which inflicted enormous loss and damage. At first, the people raised the prices of goods in proportion to the decrease in the value of the money, but James stopped this, by issuing a proclamation fixing the prices at which all articles were to be sold; and having done this, proceeded to buy up great quantities of hides, butter, corn, wood, and other goods, paying for them all with a few pounds of copper and tin, and then shipping them to France, where they were sold on his own account. It need hardly be said that conduct of this kind speedily excited great dissatisfaction, even among those who were most loyal in his cause.
Captain Davenant was shocked at the state of things he found prevailing in Dublin.
"I regret bitterly," he said, when alone with his wife and mother, "that I have taken up the sword. Success appears to me to be hopeless. The folly of the Stuarts is incredible. They would ruin the best cause in the world. With a spark of wisdom and firmness, James might have united all Ireland in his cause, instead of which he has absolutely forced the Protestants into hostility. His folly is only equalled by his rapacity, and both are stupendous."
This was said, one evening, when he had just returned from a visit to Dublin, depressed and disheartened by all he heard there.
"I am astonished, Fergus," his mother said sharply, "to hear you speak in that way. Who would have thought that it was a Davenant who was speaking! Doubtless there have been mistakes, as was only natural, but everything will come right, in time. I have been longing for you to come home, looking forward with such joy to welcome you as the possessor of the broad lands of the Davenants. Thank God I have lived to see the restoration of my dear husband's lands, and the discomfiture of those Cromwellian knaves, who have so long possessed them. It was a grand day when the act was passed, repealing all Cromwell's grants handing over the best part of Ireland to his soldiers; and I saw in the Gazette, among the two thousand grants specially mentioned as cancelled, was that of the Davenant estate to Zephaniah Whitefoot. I am told that the old man and his son have taken no notice of the act, but go about their work as if they were still the owners of the land; but of course, now that you are back, there will soon be an end of this."
Captain Davenant was silent.
"I shall be in no hurry, mother," he said, after a pause. "It is true that an act of the Irish parliament has cancelled the iniquitous work of Cromwell, and restored the land to its rightful possessors. I do not say that this is not just, but I am quite sure that it is not politic. These men have been planted on the soil for two generations. They have built houses and tilled the fields, and made homes for themselves. It was essentially a case for arrangement, and not for setting right the first act of confiscation by another as sweeping. It has rendered the Protestants desperate. It has enlisted the sympathy of the Protestants of England in their behalf, and has done much to popularize the war there. It would have been vastly wiser, had a commission been ordered to examine into the circumstances of each case.
"In the great proportion of cases, the estates which the Cromwellites took possession of were vastly larger than they were able to till themselves; and, as in the case of Zephaniah Whitefoot, they let out the greater portion to tenants. All these lands I would have restored to their former owners, leaving to the Cromwellites the land they till themselves, and the houses they have built upon it.
"As to turning the Whitefoots out, I shall certainly take no step that way, at present. It will be time enough to do so, when King James is firmly established on the throne. As things go at present, I have but very faint hopes that will ever be. He has utterly failed to conquer the Protestants of the north of Ireland, and we have all the strength of England to cope with, yet. It will be well, mother, if, at the end of this strife, we can keep Davenant Castle over our heads, with the few acres that still remain to us."
Two days afterwards, Captain Davenant mounted his horse and rode over to the Whitefoots. Zephaniah and Jabez came to the door.
"I suppose you have come over to turn us out, Fergus Davenant," the old man said; "but I warn you, that it will not be for long. The triumph of the ungodly is short, and the Lord will care for his own people."
"You are mistaken," Captain Davenant said quietly. "I have come over for no such purpose. I am, of course, aware that parliament has passed a law, reinstating me in my father's lands; but I came over to tell you that, at present, I do not propose to take advantage of that law. I shall do nothing, until this war is at an end. If King William's cause triumphs, the act will remain a dead letter. If King James's wins, and the act is upheld, I wish to tell you that I shall never disturb you in the land which you, yourselves, occupy. Your tenants, on the other hand, will be my tenants; but in the house which you have built, and in the fields which you have tilled, you will remain masters.
"I have thought the matter over, and this appears to me to be a just settlement, and one which I give you my word that I will hold to, should King James triumph in the end. I think that the law turning out the Protestant settlers, from the land which they have held for forty years, is well nigh as unjust as that which gave it to them."
"I will take no gifts at the hands of the wicked," Zephaniah began, but Jabez interrupted him.
"Hush, father!" he said. "It is not thus that kindness should be met."
Then he stepped forward, leaving his father too surprised, at this sudden assumption of command on the part of his son, to interrupt him.
"Captain Davenant," he said, "I thank you most sincerely, on the part of myself, my wife and son, and, I may say, of my father, too, although at present he may not realize the kindness of your offer. I do not think it likely that, if James Stuart prevails, and Ireland is rent from England, we shall avail ourselves of your offer, for we have more than sufficient of this world's goods to remove to England, and there settle ourselves and our son, for assuredly Ireland would be no place where a Protestant could dwell in peace and quietness. Nevertheless, I thank you heartily, and shall ever gratefully bear in mind the promise you have made, and the fact that, although you have the power to turn us from our home, you have stayed from doing so. There has been much wrong done on both sides; and, from a boy, when I have seen you ride into or from your home, I have felt that I and mine wronged you, by being the possessors of your father's lands."
"They were the spoil of battle," Zephaniah broke in fiercely.
"Yes, they were the spoil of battle," his son repeated; "but there are limits, even to the rights of conquerors. I have read history, and I know that nowhere but in Ireland did conquerors ever dispossess whole peoples, and take possession of their lands."
"The Israelites took the land of Canaan," Zephaniah interrupted.
"I am speaking of modern wars, father. For centuries, no such act of wholesale spoliation was ever perpetrated; and considering, as I do, that the act was an iniquitous one, although we have benefited by it, I consider the offer which Captain Davenant has made to us to be a noble one.
"I have to thank you, sir, also, for your kindness to my son—a kindness which doubtless saved his life, as well as that of many others in Londonderry; and believe me that, whatever comes of this horrible war, I and mine will never forget the kindnesses we have received at your hands."
"The affair was my son's, rather than mine," Captain Davenant said; "but I was glad to be able to assist him in aiding your brave boy. He is a noble fellow, and you have every reason to be proud of him."
"I must add my thanks to those of my husband," Hannah said, coming out from the house, having listened to the conversation through an open window. "We had suffered so, until your son brought us news of John, two days since. It is strange, indeed, that your son should have been the means of saving one of a household whom he cannot but have learnt to regard as the usurpers of his father's rights. It was but last night I was reading of Jonathan and David, and it seemed to me that, assuredly, the same spirit that they felt for each other was in our sons."
"The boys are very fond of each other, Mrs. Whitefoot, and I am glad of it. They are both manly fellows, and there is no reason why the feuds of the fathers should descend to the children."
With a cordial goodbye, Captain Davenant rode off.
"Jabez," Zephaniah said, as they turned into the house, "I had not thought to hear a son of mine rise in rebellion against his father."
"Father," Jabez said, "for forty-five years I have been a good son to you; but it is time that I took my stand. It seems to me that the principles upon which the soldiers of Cromwell fought, were the principles which animated the Israelites of old. Exodus, Judges, and Kings were the groundwork of their religion, not the Gospels. It has gradually been borne upon me that such is not the religion of the New Testament, and, while I seek in no way to dispute your right to think as you choose, I say the time has come when I and my wife will act upon our principles."
"It is written, Honour thy father and thy mother," Zephaniah said sternly.
"Ay, father, I have honoured you, and I shall honour you to the end; but a man has no right to give up his conscience to his father; for it is written, also, that a man shall leave father and mother, and wife and home to follow the Lord. I have heard you, father, and the elders of our church, quote abundant texts from Scripture, but never one, that I can recall, from the New Testament. Hitherto, I have been as an Israelite of Joshua's time. Henceforward, I hope to be a Christian. I grieve to anger you, father, and for years I have held my peace rather than do so; but the time has come when the spirit within me will no longer permit me to hold my peace. In all worldly matters, I am still your obedient son, ready to labour to my utmost to gather up wealth which I do not enjoy, to live a life as hard as that of the poorest tenant on our lands; but, as touching higher matters, I and my wife go our own way."
Without a word, Zephaniah took his hat and strode away from the house, and, after much angry communing with himself, went to the minister and deacons of his chapel, and laid the facts of the rebellion before them, and asked their advice.
They were in favour of peace, for two of them were his tenants, and they knew that the time could not be very far off when Jabez would take the old man's place, and it would be a serious matter, indeed, to the chapel, were he to be driven from its fold.
"We cannot expect that all shall see with our eyes, Zephaniah," the minister said, "and, indeed, the offer, which thou sayest the man Davenant made, was a generous one. It would be well, indeed, for our brethren throughout Ireland, did all the original owners of their lands so treat them. Thousands who, but a few months since, were prosperous men, are now without a shelter wherein to lay their heads. The storm is sweeping over us, the elect are everywhere smitten, and, should James Stuart conquer, not a Protestant in Ireland but must leave its shores. Therefore, although I would counsel no giving up of principle, no abandonment of faith, yet I would say that this is no time for the enforcement of our views upon weak vessels. I mourn that your son should, for the time, have fallen away from your high standard, but I say it were best to be patient with him."
At home, there were few words spoken after Zephaniah had gone out. Hannah had thrown her arms round her husband's neck, and had said:
"I thank God for your words, Jabez. Now I am proud of you, as I have never been proud before, that you have boldly spoken out for liberty of conscience. I feel like one who has for many years been a slave, but who is, at last, free."
Jabez kissed her, but was silent. To him, it had been a great trial to rebel. He knew that he was right, and would have done it again, if necessary; but it was a terrible thing to him to have openly withstood the father to whom he had, from childhood, rendered almost implicit obedience.
On his return, Zephaniah did not renew the subject; but from that time, there was a great change in the moral atmosphere of the house. Zephaniah was still master in all matters of daily work; but in other respects, Jabez had completely emancipated himself.
Chapter 6: Dundalk.
After the failure before Derry, the utmost confusion prevailed in the military councils, arising chiefly from the jealousies and conflicting authorities of the French and Irish commanders. James was entirely under the control of the French ambassador, who, together with all his countrymen in Ireland, affected to despise the Irish as a rude and uncivilized people; while the Irish, in turn, hated the French for their arrogance and insolence. Many of the Irish gentlemen, who had raised regiments at their private expense, were superseded to make room for Frenchmen, appointed by the influence of the French ambassador. These gentlemen returned home in disgust, and were soon followed by their men, who were equally discontented at being handed over to the command of foreigners, instead of their native leaders.
Every day, the breach widened between the French and Irish, and the discontent caused by the king's exactions was wide and general; and if William, at this time, had offered favourable terms to the Catholics, it is probable that an arrangement could have been arrived at.
But William was busily at work, preparing an army for the conquest of the country. Had Ireland stood alone, it is probable that England would, at any rate for a time, have suffered it to go its own way; but its close alliance with France, and the fact that French influence was all powerful with James, rendered it impossible for England to submit to the establishment of what would be a foreign and hostile power, so close to her shores. Besides, if Ireland remained under the dominion of James, the power of William on the throne of England could never have been consolidated.
Although he had met with no resistance on his assumption of the throne, he had the hearty support of but a mere fraction of the English people, and his accession was the work of a few great Whig families, only. His rule was by no means popular, and his Dutch favourites were as much disliked, in England, as were James' French adherents in Ireland.
In Scotland, the Jacobite party were numerous and powerful, and were in open rebellion to his authority. Thus, then, if William's position on the throne of England was to be consolidated, it was necessary that a blow should be struck in Ireland.
Torn by dissension, without plan or leading, the Irish army remained, for months, inactive; most of the regiments having, after the northern campaign, returned to the districts in which they were raised; and thus, no preparation was made to meet the army which was preparing to invade the country.
This, ten thousand strong, under the command of General Schomberg, who, although eighty years of age, was still an able, active, and spirited commander, embarked on the 8th of August at Chester, and on the 13th landed near Bangor, in Carrickfergus Bay. There was no force there of sufficient strength to oppose him.
Schomberg found Antrim and Belfast deserted; but the garrison at Carrickfergus, consisting of two regiments, prepared vigorously for a siege. Schomberg at once prepared to invest it, and in a short time attacked it by land and sea. The siege was pressed with vigour, but the garrison, under M'Carty Moore, defended themselves with the greatest skill and bravery. As fast as breaches were battered in their walls, they repaired them, and repulsed every attempt of the besiegers to gain a footing in the town. The garrison were badly supplied with ammunition, but they stripped the lead from the roofs of the castle and church to make bullets.
But all this time, no attempt whatever was made to relieve them. The French and Irish generals were disputing as to what was the best plan of campaign. The king was busy making money with his trade with France; and, after holding out until they had burned their last grain of powder, the gallant garrison were forced to capitulate. Schomberg was too glad to get the place to insist on hard terms, and the garrison marched out with all the honours of war—drums beating, and matches alight—and were conveyed, with all their stores, arms, and public and private property, to the nearest Irish post.
The effect of this determined resistance, on the part of the little garrison at Carrickfergus, was to impress Schomberg with the fact that the difficulty of the task he had undertaken was vastly greater than he had supposed. The success with which Londonderry had defended itself against the Irish army had impressed him with the idea that the levies of King James were simply contemptible; but the fighting qualities of the garrison of Carrickfergus had shown him that they were a foe by no means to be despised, and convinced him that the force at his command was altogether inadequate to his necessities.
He therefore moved south with extreme caution. He found the country altogether wasted and deserted. The Protestants had long since fled, and were gathered round Derry and Enniskillen. The Catholics had now deserted their homes, at his approach; and the troops, in their retreat, had burned and wasted everything, so that he had no means of subsistence for his army, and was obliged to rely upon the fleet, which he ordered to follow him down the coast.
Schomberg was soon joined by three regiments of Enniskillen horse. The appearance of these troops astonished the English. They resembled rather a horde of Italian banditti than a body of European cavalry. They observed little order in their military movements, and no uniformity of dress or accoutrement. Each man was armed and clad according to his own fancy, and accompanied by a mounted servant, carrying his baggage. But, like the Cossacks, whom they closely resembled, they were distinguished by an extreme rapidity of movement, and a fierceness and contempt of all difficulty and danger. They calculated neither chances nor numbers, but rushed to the attack of any foe with a ferocity and fanaticism which almost ensured success, and they regarded the slaughter of a Papist as an acceptable service to the Lord. They plundered wherever they went, and were a scourge to the Irish Protestants as well as Catholics.
The troops furnished by Derry were similar in character to those from Enniskillen. They could not endure the restraints of discipline, and were little use in acting with the regular army, and, like the Cossacks, were formidable only when acting by themselves. Schomberg and his successor, and, indeed, the whole of the English officers, soon came to abhor these savage and undisciplined allies.
Still, the Irish army made no move. Report had magnified Schomberg's strength to more than twice its real numbers, and the military leaders could not believe that, after so many months of preparation, William had despatched so small an army for the conquest of Ireland.
Confusion and dismay reigned in Dublin. The French Marshal, De Rosen, advised that Dublin and Drogheda should be abandoned, and that the Irish army should be concentrated at Athlone and Limerick; but Tyrconnell went to Drogheda, where the council of war was sitting, and strenuously opposed this, promising that by the next night twenty thousand men should be assembled there. Expresses were sent out in all directions; and by forced marches, the Irish troops stationed in Munster directed their course to Drogheda, in high spirits and anxious to meet the enemy.
Schomberg, although he had been reinforced by six thousand men from England, fell back at the news of the gathering, and formed an intrenched camp in a strong position between Dundalk and the sea. His approaches were covered by mountains, rivers, and morasses; his communication was open to the sea, and here he resolved to wait for reinforcements.
Captain Davenant became more and more despondent as to the cause in which he had embarked.
"Without the king, and without his French allies," he said bitterly to his wife, "we might hope for success; but these are enough to ruin any cause. Were the king's object to excite discontent and disgust among his subjects, he could not act otherwise than he is now doing. His whole thoughts are devoted to wringing money out of the people, and any time he has to spare is spent upon superintending the building of the nunneries, in which he is so interested. As to the French, they paralyse all military operations. They regard us as an inferior race, and act as if, with their own five or six thousand troops, they could defeat all the power of England. It is heartbreaking seeing our chances so wasted.
"Had advantage been taken of the enthusiasm excited when King James landed; had he himself been wise and prudent, disinterested for himself, and desirous of obtaining the affections of all classes; and had he brought with him none of these French adventurers, he would, long ere this, have been undisputed King of Ireland from end to end, and we should have stood as one people in arms, ready to oppose ourselves to any force that England could send against us. Never were chances so frittered away, never such a succession of blunders and folly. It is enough to break one's heart."
"I do hope, father, that when the troop marches again you will take me as cornet. I am six months older than I was, and have learned a lot in the last campaign. You have not filled up the place of Cornet O'Driscoll. I did think, when he was killed in that last fight you had before Derry, you would have appointed me."
"In some respects I am less inclined than ever, Walter," Captain Davenant said; "for I begin to regard success as hopeless."
"It will make no difference, father, in that way, for if we are beaten they are sure to hand all our land over to the Protestants. Besides, things may turn out better than you think; and whether or no, I should certainly like to do my best for Ireland."
"Well, we will think about it," Captain Davenant said; and Walter was satisfied, for he felt sure that his father would finally accede to his wishes.
It was late at night, when the mounted messenger dashed up to the door of the castle and handed in an order. Captain Davenant opened it.
"We are to march, in half an hour's time, to Drogheda. The whole army is to assemble there."
"Hurray!" Walter shouted. "Something is going to be done, at last."
A man was sent down to the village at once, to order the twenty men quartered there to saddle and mount instantly, and ride up to the castle; while another, on horseback, started for Bray to get the main body under arms. Mrs. Davenant busied herself in packing the wallets of her husband and son. She was very pale, but she said little.
"God bless you both," she said, when all was finished, "and bring you back again safely. I won't ask you to take care of yourselves, because, of course, you must do your duty, and with all my love I should not wish you to draw back from that. When home and religion and country are at stake, even we women could not wish to keep those we love beside us."
There was a last embrace, and then Captain Davenant and his son sprang on their horses, which were waiting at the door, took their place at the head of the party which had come up from the village, and rode away into the darkness, while the two Mrs. Davenants gave free vent to the tears which they had hitherto so bravely restrained.
At Bray, Captain Davenant found the rest of his troop drawn up in readiness, and after a brief inspection, to see that all were present with their proper arms and accoutrements, he started with them for Dublin, and after a few hours' rest there continued his way towards Drogheda.
The army then proceeded north to Dundalk, and bitter was the disappointment of the troops when, on arriving there, they found that Schomberg, instead of advancing to give battle, had shut himself up in the intrenchments he had formed, and could not be induced to sally out.
In vain King James, who accompanied his army, formed it up in order of battle within sight of the invaders' lines. Schomberg was not to be tempted out, and, as the position appeared to be too strong to be attacked, the Irish were forced to endeavour to reduce it by the slow process of starvation. The English army was soon reduced to pitiable straits—not from hunger, for they were able to obtain food from the ships, but from disease. The situation of the camp was low and unhealthy. Fever broke out, and swept away vast numbers of the men.
The Dutch and Enniskilleners suffered comparatively little—both were accustomed to a damp climate. But of the English troops, nearly eight thousand died in the two months that the blockade lasted. Had James maintained his position, the whole of the army of Schomberg must have perished; but, most unfortunately for his cause, he insisted on personally conducting operations, and when complete success was in his grasp he marched his army away, in the middle of November, to winter quarters; thereby allowing Schomberg to move, with the eight thousand men who remained to him, from the pest-stricken camp to healthier quarters.
The disgust, of those of James's officers who understood anything of war, at this termination of the campaign was extreme. The men, indeed, were eager to return to their homes, but would gladly have attempted an assault on the English camp before doing so; and, as the defenders were reduced to half their original strength, while most of the survivors were weakened by disease, the attack would probably have been successful. James himself was several times on the point of ordering an attack, but his own vacillation of character was heightened by the conflicting counsels of his generals, who seemed more bent on thwarting each other than on gaining the cause for which they fought.
The cavalry were not idle, while the blockade of Schomberg's camp continued, frequently making excursions over the country to bring in cattle for the army; for the villagers had, for the most part, deserted their homes, and herds of cattle were grazing without masters. One day, Captain Davenant's troop had ridden some thirty miles out of camp, and had halted for the night in a village. In the morning, they broke up into small parties and scattered round the country. Walter, with fifteen of the troopers, had collected some cattle and stopped for an hour, to feed and rest the horses, in a deserted village. He took the precaution to place two or three men on sentry round it.
The men were sitting on the doorsteps, eating the food they had brought with them, when one of the outposts dashed in at full gallop, shouting that the enemy were upon them; but his warning came too late, for, close behind him, came a body of wild-looking horsemen, shouting and yelling. There was a cry of "The Enniskilleners!" and the men ran to their horses.
They had scarcely time to throw themselves in the saddle, when the Enniskilleners charged down. For a minute or two there was a confused medley, and then three or four of the troopers rode off at full speed, hotly pursued by the Enniskilleners.
Walter had discharged his pistols and drawn his sword, but before he had time to strike a blow, his horse was rolled over by the rush of the enemy, and, as he was falling, he received a blow on the head from a sabre which stretched him insensible on the ground. He was roused by two men turning him over and searching his pockets. A slight groan burst from his lips.
"The fellow is not dead," one of the men said.
"We will soon settle that," the other replied.
"Don't kill him," the first speaker said. "Wait till the captain has spoken to him. We may be able to get some information from him. We can finish him afterwards."
Walter lay with his eyes closed. He well knew that the Enniskilleners took no prisoners, but killed all who fell into their hands, and he determined to show no signs of returning consciousness. Presently, he heard the sound of a party of horsemen returning, and by the exclamations of disappointment which greeted the news they gave, he learned that some, at least, of his men had made their escape.
Some time later, several men came up to him. One leaned over him, and put his hand to his heart.
"He is alive."
"Very well," another voice said. "Then we will take him with us. He is an officer, and will be able to tell us all about their strength.
"Watkins, you have a strong beast, and do not weigh much. Do you mount, and then we will tie him to your back."
A minute later Walter was lifted up, and felt that he was placed on a horse with his back to that of the rider. A rope was wound several times round his body. He remained perfectly passive, with his head hanging down on his breast. Then a word of command was given, and the troop set off.
For a time, there was no need for him to pretend insensibility, for the pain of his wound and the loss of blood overpowered him, and for some time he was unconscious. After two hours' riding, the troop was halted. Walter felt the rope taken off him. Then he was lifted down, dragged a short distance, and thrown down on some straw. Then a door shut, and he heard a key turned. He felt sure that he was alone, but for some time lay perfectly quiet, as it was possible that one of the men might have remained to watch him.
After a quarter of an hour, hearing not the slightest sound, he opened his eyes and looked round. He was, as he supposed, alone. The place in which he was lying was a stable, lighted only by a small opening high up in the wall. Certain, therefore, that he was not overlooked, he made an effort to rise to his feet, but he was so weak and giddy that he was obliged, for some time, to remain leaning against the wall. Seeing a bucket in one corner, he made to it, and found, to his delight, that it was half full of water, for he was parched with a devouring thirst.
After taking a deep draught he felt greatly revived, and then made a thorough survey of his prison. It evidently formed part of the house of a well-to-do man, for it was solidly built of stone, and the door was strong and well fitted.
The opening in the wall was out of his reach. He could, at ordinary times, by standing on the upturned bucket, have reached it with a spring, and pulled himself up to it, but at present he was wholly incapable of such exertion. He thought, however, that after a night's rest he would be able to do it.
The door was so strong that he had no hope of escape in that direction. As he might at any moment be disturbed, he returned to the straw on which he had at first been thrown, laid himself down, and in a very short time dropped off to sleep.
It was dark, before he was awoke by the turning of the key in the lock, and two men entered, one of them bearing a horn lantern.
"Where am I?" Walter asked, in a feeble tone, as they approached him.
"Never mind where you are," one said roughly. "Get up."
Walter seemed to make an effort, and then fell back with a groan.
The man repeated his order, emphasizing it with a kick. Walter again made an effort, and, as before, sank back.
"Here, catch hold of him," the man said, impatiently, "it's no use fooling here with him."
The men took Walter under the arms and lifted him up, and half dragged, half carried him out of the stable and into the house adjoining. He was taken into a room where four or five men were sitting.
"Now, young fellow," one said sharply, "tell us what corps you belong to."
Walter looked stupidly at his questioner, but made no answer.
"Answer my question," the man said, levelling a pistol at him, "or I will blow out your brains at once."
Still Walter stared at him stupidly, and made no reply, except to mutter, "Water."
"It's no use," one of the other men said. "He hasn't got his right senses yet. It's no use shooting him now, after we have had the trouble of bringing him here. In the morning, he will be able to answer you."
"He had better," the other said savagely, "or we will light a fire and roast him over it. There, take him back to the stable, and give him a drink of water. I don't want him to slip through our fingers, after the trouble we have had with him."
Walter was taken back, as before, to the stable, and one of the men brought him a mug of water, and held it to his lips. He drank eagerly, and then the man placed the mug down beside him, the door was again closed and locked, and Walter was alone. He rose at once to his feet, and felt that his sleep had greatly refreshed and strengthened him.
"I will have another sleep, before I try," he said to himself. "It will not be light till six, and it must be eight or nine o'clock now. I must make up my mind, before I doze off, to wake in about three or four hours; but first, I must see what I can find, here."
He felt round the walls, but failed to find anything like a rope.
"I must trust to luck," he said; "I don't suppose they will post many sentries. These fellows are not real soldiers, and no doubt they will all be sound asleep in a couple of hours."
So saying, he again lay down, and was speedily asleep. When he woke, he felt sure that he had not exceeded the time he had given himself. He listened intently. He could hear a low, confused sound, which he knew was made by horses feeding, but he could hear no human voices. He drank the rest of the water in the mug, then he turned up the bucket, placed it under the opening, and mounted on it.
His first spring failed to reach the sill, and he stood for a few minutes, before making another attempt. He knew that it was a matter of life or death, for he had no doubt whatever that, even if he gave the required information, which he was determined not to do, however much he might suffer, he would be shot afterwards. He braced himself to the utmost, took a long breath, and then sprang. His fingers caught on the ledge of stonework, and, with a desperate effort, he drew himself up, aided by his feet. He had, before making the attempt, removed his boots, partly to avoid the scraping noise which these would make, partly to enable him the better to avail himself of the inequalities in the stonework.
It was a desperate struggle; and when he got his shoulders in the opening, which was just wide enough to admit them, he lay for three or four minutes, panting heavily, with the perspiration streaming down his face. The aperture was too small to admit of his turning in any way, and there was nothing for it, as he knew, but to drop head foremost.
Gradually, he drew himself through the opening, lowering himself as much as he could by holding on to the upper edge by his feet. Then, stretching out his arms to save himself, he let go. Fortunately, the ground was soft, for a garden adjoined the stable; but the shock was a heavy one, and he lay for a minute or two without moving, having some doubt whether he had not broken his neck. Then he got up, and listened.
Everything was still and quiet, and, indeed, his fall had been almost noiseless. He rose to his feet, felt along the wall until he encountered a low paling, climbed over it, and was in the road.
He had, when he jumped for the window, tied his boots to his back, and now carried them in his hand. The night was very dark; but his eyes, accustomed to the greater darkness of the stable, had no difficulty in following the road. He walked slowly, for the exertion he had undergone and the shock of the fall had drawn greatly from his small stock of strength.
After going a quarter of a mile, he put on his boots, and, climbing a wall of sods which bordered the road, struck across country. There were no stars to guide him, and a slight mist had begun to fall. There was but little wind, but this was sufficient to give a direction to the rain. Walter noticed this, and at once struck out in a direction which kept the rain falling upon the right side of his face; and he knew that, by so continuing, he was going in a tolerably straight line. As near as he could tell he walked for two hours, and then, utterly exhausted, lay down on the lee side of a turf wall.
There was, as yet, no gleam of light in the sky, and in a very few minutes he was again sound asleep. He woke up with a feeling of bitter cold, and, on rising, found that his limbs were completely stiffened by the wet. It was morning now, the wind had got up, and a driving rain shut out the view on all sides. Walter stamped his feet and swung his arms for some time to restore the circulation.
He had no idea in which direction he had been travelling, for he did not know whether the road from which he had started ran north, south, east, or west. He noticed that the wind had changed; for, whereas he had lain down under the lee of the wall, it was now the weather side. He walked in the same direction as before for two hours, and could then go no farther. He had seen no signs of human habitation, and had not crossed a road or even a footpath. Since starting in the morning he had passed no more walls or fences, and, as far as his eye could reach through the driving rain, nothing was to be seen save a desolate expanse of moor and bog. He was, at any rate, free from pursuit for the time, and he thought more of obtaining food and shelter than of the Enniskilleners.
It was useless pushing further on, even had he been able to do so, while the rain lasted; for he might have passed within a quarter of a mile of a habitation without seeing it. He accordingly threw himself down beside some low bushes, which afforded him some slight protection from the rain.