"Eh!" he exclaimed, struck almost on the instant into a state of ecstacy; "Is that Miss Julia?"
"Yes, Mogue," she replied, in the same low voice, "I do not wish to run the risk of speaking to you from this; stay there, and I will go to one of the windows of the front parlor."
"Well," thought Mogue, "it is come to this at last? oh, thin, but I was a blackguard haythen an' nothing else ever to think of you, Letty Lenehan, or any low-born miscreant like you. The devil blow her aist, waist, north, and south, the flipen' blazes, and to think o' the freedoms she used to take wid me, as if she was my aquils; but sure, dam her cribs! whatever I intended to do, it wasn't to marry her, an' can I forget, moreover, the day she gave me the bloody nose, when I only went to take a small taste o' liberty wid the thief."
In the course of a minute or two, Julia made her appearance at the window, with, in fact, a blushing face, if it could have only been seen with sufficient light. Now that she stood within a couple of yards of Moylan, she felt all the awkwardness and embarrassment of the task she had undertaken, which was to inquire, without seeming to feel any personal interest, as to the cause of her lover's absence. In addition to the prevailing agitation, and the outrages arising from if, she had heard of so many accidents with sportsmen, so many guns had burst, so many explosions had taken place, and so many lives had been lost, that her warm fancy pictured his death in almost every variety of way in which a gun could occasion it. Owing to all this, she experienced a proportionable share of confusion and diffidence in managing her inquiries with proper address, and without betraying any suspicion of her motives.
"Mogue," said she, "I—hem—hem—I hope you don't feel fatigued after your sport'?"
"Ah, then, there it comes," thought Mogue; "how the crature feels for me! an' even if I did, Miss Julia, sure one kind word when I come home is fit to cure it."
"And you are sure to get that, Mogue," replied Julia, who took it for granted that he referred to Letty Lenehan, "but whisper," she proceeded, still speaking in a low voice, from an apprehension of being heard making the proposed inquiries by any of her family, "are you alone?"
"I am, indeed, Miss Julia," he replied in a tone of such coaxing and significant confidence, as would have been irresistibly laughable had she understood why he used it, "I am alone, Miss Julia, and you needn't be either ashamed or daunted in sayin' whatever you like to me—maybe I could guess what you're goin' to say, but I declare to you, and that my bed may be in heaven, but, say what you will, you'll find me—honor bright—do you understand that, Miss Julia?"
"Well, I think I do, Mogue, and if I didn't think so, I wouldn't have watched your return to-night as I did, or been here to speak to you on the subject you say you—know."
"An' sure, Miss Julia, you might a known, for some time past that I knew it; didn't I look like one that was up to it? An' listen hether, Miss Julia, my family was all honor bright; we wor great people in our day; sure we owned a big sweep of country long ago an' wor great sogers. We fought against the Sassenaghs, the dirty English bodaghs, an' because there was a lot of us ever an' always hanged from time to time, that's the raison why we have sich a hatred to the English law still, one an' all of us. Sure my grandfather, glory be to God, was hanged for killin' a Sassenagh gauger, and my own father, Miss Julia, did his endeavors to be as great as the best of them, knowin' no other way for to vex and revinge himself upon the dirty Sassenaghs of the country; for sure, you know yourself, it's full o' them'—ay, about us in all directions. Be borried a horse in a private way from one o' them, but then he escaped from that; he next had a 'bout at what they call'd perjury, although it was well known to us all that it was only his thumb he kissed, and, any how, the thing was done upon a Protestant Bible; but, at all events, he went an' honest and honorably, as far as gettin' himself transported for parjury. I hope you understhand, Miss Julia, that I'm accountin' for any disparagin' observations you might a' heard against us, an' showin' you why we acted as we did."
"But, Mogue," said she, smiling at this most incomprehensible piece of family history, "I hope you don't intend to imitate the example or to share the fate of so many of your family!"
"You really hope so; now do you really hope so, Miss Julia?"
"Unquestionably; for granting you marry, as, I dare say you intend, would it not be a melancholy prospect for your wife to—"
"Why, then I do intend it; are you not satisfied, Miss Julia? and what is more, although it's my intention to violate the law in a private and confidential way, still I have no intention of bein' either hanged or transported by it; that I may be happy if I have—No, for the sake of that wife, Miss Julia, do you understand, it's my firm intention to die in my bed if I can; I hope you feel that there's comfort in that."
"To whatever woman you make happy Mogue, there will be. Well, but, Mogue, tell me; had you a good day's sport?"
"Sorra worse then; God pardon me for swearin'," he replied. "There riz a mist in the mountains that a man could build a house wid, if there was any implements to be found, hard and sharp enough to cut it. All we got was a brace of grouse and a snipe or two."
"And—hem—well but—hem—why Mogue, you give but a very miserable account of the proceedings of the day. Had you any one with you?—Oh, yes, by the way, did I not see Mr. M'Carthy go out with you this morning?"
"Yes, Miss Julia, you did; he went out wid me, sure enough," replied Mogue, drily, and with rather a dissatisfied tone.
"He is a—hem, does he shoot well?"
"He shoots well enough, Miss Julia—when he pulls the trigger the gun goes off; but as for killin' birds, that my bed may be in heaven but they fly away laughin' at him."
"He came with you as far as O'Driscol's," she said, at once putting a query in the shape of an assertion, "and I suppose sent some apology to my father and brothers, for not having been here to dinner."
"Hem! come as far as Mr. O'Driscol's?" exclaimed Mogue; "troth he's about the poorest piece o' goods ever carried a gun—God help the unhappy woman that'll get him; for sorra thing he is but a mere excuse for a man. I left him lyin' like a half-hung dog, up in the mountains above."
Julia started, and almost screamed with terror at this account of her lover. "Gracious heavens, Moylan, what do you mean?" she exclaimed—"up in the mountains!—where and how in the mountains? Is he ill, or does he want aid or assistance?"
"No, Miss Julia; but the truth is, he's a poor cur of a creature that's not able to undertake a man's task at all; he's lyin' knocked up in Frank Finnerty's; moanin' and groanin' an' yowlin', like a sick hound; I had to carry or drag him over half the mountains; for, from the blessed hour of twelve o'clock this day, he wasn't able to put a foot undher him, an' he did nothing but blasphayme' an' curse every one he knew; your fathers and brothers, your sisther, and mother, and yourself; he cursed and blasphaymed you all, helther skelther; I could bear all, Miss. Julia till he came to run you down, an' 'tis well for him that I hadn't the gun in my hand when he did it, that's all; or, that I may never do an ill turn but I'd a' given him a touch o' the Moylan blood for your sake—an' now, Miss Julia," he proceeded, "I hope we understand one another. As for him he's a pitiful whelp!"
"Are you in jest or earnest?" she inquired, changing her tone.
"That luck may flow on me, but I'm in airnest, Miss Julia—but no matther for that, don't you let you spirits down, think of our great family; and remimber that them that was wanst great may be great agin. Plaise God we'll have back the forwhitled estates, when we get the Millstone broke, an' the Mill that ground us banished from the counthry; however, that will come soon; but in the mane time, Miss Julia, I have a saycret to tell you about him."
"About Mr. M'Carthy?" she asked, sadly puzzled as to the tendency and object of his conversation, but at the same time somewhat awakened to an indistinct interest, respecting this secret concerning her lover.
"Yes, miss; listen hether, Miss Julia; would you believe it that he, Mr. M'Carthy, is sworn, or any way as good as sworn, to take your father's life away?"
"No, Mogue," she replied firmly, but with good humor, "not a syllable."
"Well then," he proceeded, "if he did not swear to do it in plain words, he did as good. You won't braithe a syllable of this, Miss Julia; but listen still—You know the ruction that's through, the counthry aginst tides?"
"I do, I am sorry to say."
"An' that the whole counthry is sworn Whiteboys, and that all the Whiteboys in sworn, of coorse, to put an end to them. That's the oath they take now, miss, by all accounts."
"So they say Mogue."
"Well, miss, would you believe it, that that fellow, the ungrateful hound that he is, that same Francis M'Carthy, is at the head of them, is one of their great leaders, and is often out at night wid the villains, leadin' them on to disturbances, and directin' them how to act; ay, an' he doesn't like a bone in Mr. O'Driscol's body, any more than in your father's."
"Ha!—ha!—ha! very good, Mogue, but make it short—ha!—ha!—ha!—and who's your authority for all this?"
"Himself, miss, for a great part of it; it was this day, he wanted myself to become a White-boy; but I had the grace o' God about me, I hope, an' resisted the temptation. 'Mogue,' says he, 'you are a good Catholic, an' ought to join us; we're sworn to put down the tides altogether, an' to banish Protestantism out o' the counthry.'"
"But is not M'Carthy himself a Protestant?" said Julia.
"Not he, miss, he only turned to get a lob o' money from the Great College in Dublin above; sure they provide for any one that will turn, but he's a true Catholic at heart; air when the time comes he'll show it."
"And you say he joins their meetings at night, Mogue?"
"That I may be blest, but he does, miss; and since you must know the truth, he's at one o' them this very night."
"Then you have told me a falsehood with respect to his fatigue?"
"He put me up to it, miss; and bid me say it; howandever my mind wasn't aisy undher it; and now you know the truth."
"And does he blacken his face as well as the other Whiteboys?"
"That hurt or harm may never come near me but he does that same; I have it from them that seen him and knew him, in spite o' black face an' all."
"Ha! ha! ha!—well good-night, Mogue, and many thanks for your most important and truthful secret."
"Before you go, Miss Julia, one other word; listen, there a man worth a ship load of him, that's in grate consate wid you—remember the ould families, Miss Julia, an' them that suffered for—for—their counthry. Now here' the kind o' man I'd recommend you for a husband; don't let a pair o' red cheeks or black eyes lead you by the nose—an' what signifies a good figure, when neither the handsomest nor the strongest man can keep off a headache or a fit o' the blackguard cholic—bad luck to it—when they come on one. No, Miss Julia, always in the man that's to be your husband, prefer good lastin' color in the complection, an' little matther about the color of the eyes if they always smile upon yourself—then agin, never marry a man that swears, Miss Julia, but a man that's fond of his prayers, and is given to piety—sich men never use any but harmless oaths, sich as may I be blest, salvation to me, and the like—that's the kind o' men to make a husband of, and I have sich a man in my eye for you."
"Thank you, Mogue," said Julia, who was too quick-witted to misunderstand him any longer. "Many thanks for your good advice—and whisper, Mogue—who knows but I may follow it? Good-night!"
"Good-night, darlin'," he whispered in a kind of low triumphant cackle, that caused her to shake her very sides with laughter, after she had closed the window.
Julia Purcel, who could attribute Moylan's extraordinary conversation to nothing but a more than usual indulgence in liquor, did not for a single moment suffer herself to become influenced by the unaccountable information which she had heard respecting M'Carthy. But even if it had been true, she was so peculiarly circumstanced, that without disclosing the private conversation she had had with Moylan, she could not without pain communicate it to her family. As it was, however, she placed no confidence whatever in any portion of it, and on further reflection, she felt all her apprehensions concerning M'Carthy revived. If she experienced anything in the shape of satisfaction from the dialogue, it arose from the fact that if M'Carthy had suffered injury, Mogue would not have been so much at ease on his return. When his return was made known, however, to the family at large, Mogue repeated his first version, and assured them that he, M'Carthy had laid down in Finnerty's for an hour or so to recruit his strength. He supposed he would soon be home, he said—or for that matter, maybe as he found himself comfortable, he would stop there for the night. Mogue himself had come home to make their minds easy, and to let them know where he was, and what had kept him away. To a certain extent the family were satisfied, but as M'Carthy had communicated to the male portion of them the friendly warning he had got from the Whiteboy, they said, that although he might have been, safe enough when Mogue left him in the mountains, yet considering the state of the country, and that he unquestionably had enemies, he might not be free from danger on his way home. There was scarcely a night in the week that the country was not traversed by multitudes of those excited and unscrupulous mobs, that struck terror to the hearts of the peaceful, or such as were obnoxious to them. Accordingly, after waiting a couple of hours, Alick Purcel got a double case of pistols, and proposed to go as far as O'Driscol's, where they took it for granted, as he had not been able to come to dinner, they would find him should he have returned.
"Alick," said the father, "after all the notices we have got, and considering the feeling that is against us, it is ridiculous to be fool-hardy—don't go by the road but cross the fields."
"Such is my intention, sir," replied Alick; "for although no coward, still I am but flesh and blood, and it is death you know, for mere flesh and blood to stop a bullet. Give me my enemy face to face and I don't fear him, but when he takes me at night from behind a hedge, courage is of little use, and won't save my life."
On arriving at O'Driscol's, he found that M'Carthy had not come, and after waiting till one o'clock, he prepared to take his departure. At this moment, a female servant tapped at the drawing-room door, and after having been desired to come in, she communicated the following startling particulars:—She had forgotten her washing, she said, and gone out a little time before to bring it in, and in doing so, she spied several men with black faces and white shirts skulking about the house. She was not sure, she said, on having the question put to her, whether she had been seen by them or not.
This communication, which was given with every mark of alarm and terror, completely altered the posture of affairs at the magistrate's. Katherine O'Driscol's face became deadly pale as she turned a glance upon young Purcel, which he well understood. "Alick," said she, "under these circumstances, it would, be absolute madness to attempt going home to-night. It is very likely they have discovered that you are here, and are watching for you."
"But if I do not return home," he replied, "it is equally probable that John and my father, wondering at my delay, may come to look for me, and in that case they might meet these ruffians—or rather might be waylaid by them."
"Purcel, my dear fellow!" said the magistrate, who was now pretty deep in his cups, and consequently somewhat pot-valiant—or at least disposed to show them a touch of his valor—"Alick, my dear fellow, you are courageous enough, I admit, but at the same time, you must put yourself under the guidance of a brave and loyal old magistrate, who is not to be cowed and intimidated by a crew of midnight cut-throats. You'll gee now, Alick, my boy, what a touch of loyal courage can do. Upon my honor, and conscience, I will myself escort you home."
"By no means, sir," replied Purcel, "I could not think of putting you to such a risk, and inconvenience at this late hour."
"But I say by all manes, Alick—and as for inconvanience, it is none at all."
"But Mr. Purcel will expose neither himself nor you, my dear father," said Katherine; "he will be guided by good sense, and remain here to-night."
"Tut! you foolish cowardly girl, go to bed—you play loo very well, and have won seven-and-sixpence from me to-night. That's your province. No, upon my sowl and honor, I'll see him home. What! is it for the intelligent and determined O'Driscol, as your brother John said—and who is well known to be a very divil incarnate when danger's before him—is it for such a man—the terror of evil-doers—to funk from a crew of White-boys! What would my friend the Castle say if it knew it?—divil resave the line ever it would correspond with me again. Get me my pistols, I say—a case for each pocket, and the blunderbush under my arm—then come on, M'Donough, as the play says, and blazes to him who runs last." Here he gave a lurch a little to the one side, after which he placed himself in something intended for a military attitude, and drawing his hand down his whiskers, he inflated himself as if about to give the word of command, "Soldiers, steady,"—here he gave another lurch—"recover omes (arms)—charge bayonets—present—halt—to the right about—double quick—:bravo—you see what I could do, if placed in a military position."
"We do, sir," said Fergus, laughing; "not a doubt of it." The latter then whispered something to Purcel, who smiled, and immediately turning to the doughty magistrate, said:—
"Well, sir, since you insist upon protecting me home—"
"Good—that's the word, Alick—steady boys—shoulder omes."
"I will feel very happy, sir, in your escort."
"Yes, Alick—yes—exactly so—but then we are time enough, man—the night's but young yet—we must have another tumbler before we go—if it is only to put terror into these villains."
"I am exceedingly sorry that it is out of my power to wait, sir. My father and John may possibly come over here, and if they do it is difficult to say what these blood-thirsty villains, who care so little about human life—especially, sir, when that life belongs to either a tithe-proctor or a magistrate, may do. You will oblige me very much, sir, by coming with me now. I wish to heavens I had your courage, Mr. O'Driscol, and that I-was such a wicked and desperate dare-devil as you are."
"Good, Alick, upon my honor and conscience, you've hit me off there—hallo—what is this?—put these pistols and that blunder-bush aside, and be d—d to you, we don't want them yet awhile;" this was addressed to the servant who had brought them at Fergus's suggestion. "I am a hospitable man, Alick—a convivial man—and I tell you that I don't wish a guest to leave my house with dry lips—and what is more, I won't allow it—sit down then, and take your punch, or if you're afraid of these fellows why didn't you say so?"
"I am then, sir," replied Alick, who thought that by admitting the fact, he might the sooner bring matters between himself and the magistrate to a crisis.
"What!" exclaimed the latter, "you admit your cowardice, do you?—Well, upon my honor and reputaytion, Alick, I'm extremely surprised at you—a young fellow like you—and a coward! Now I'll tell you what, Alick, I hate a coward—I despise a coward, and d—n me if any man who is mane enough to acknowledge himself to be one, shall have the benefit of my escort this night. Then stay where you are, sir, and take your punch—but you are not entitled to any protection; no, confound me if you are! A nice office for a man of my mettle to escort a coward!—no, no—take your punch, I say—you are safe under this roof, but as touching my protection, no fellow of your kidney shall resave it from me, unless in honest open daylight with a body of police or military at my elbow; and, besides, you have declined my hospitality, Mr. Purcel, and with the man—but man you are not—who declines my hospitality, I will keep no terms. Here's the 'Castle!' long life to it, and may it never have occasion to read me a lecture for protecting a coward! Steady, men—shoulder oines!—ah, I'm a pearl before swine here:—upon my honor and conscience, I'm nothing else—hurra!"
Whilst this manifestation of courage and loyalty was proceeding, his daughter had sent a little girl by a lonely and circuitous way across the fields to Longshot Lodge, with a message to the effect that they had prevailed upon Alick to stop for the night, and that he would also breakfast there the next morning. The little girl's absence was very brief, and on her return, Alick had no hesitation in remaining. The heroic magistrate, having taken another tumbler, began to get drowsy, and with some assistance, was prevailed on to go to bed, where he almost immediately fell asleep. The two young men then got together all the arms and ammunition in the house, which, having made ready for an attack, they went also to bed, taking only their coats off, where for the present we leave them—but not asleep—and return to M'Carthy, for whose absence, no doubt, the reader is anxious that we should account.
CHAPTER XII.—Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire.
M'Carthy on that night had not gone far, after having separated from the friendly Whiteboy, when he was met by a powerfully-formed man, who, he thought, bore a considerable resemblance in shape and size to the fellow who had been invested with authority not long before in Finnerty's. On seeing that it was M'Carthy, the stranger, whose face was blackened, and who also wore the white shirt outside, approached him coolly but determinedly, and laying his hand upon his shoulder, said—: "Your name is Francis M'Carthy'?" and as he spoke, M'Carthy could perceive the ends of a case of pistols projecting from his breast within the shirt, which was open at the neck.
"As I have never knowingly done anything that should occasion me to deny my name, I acknowledge it—you know me, of course."
"I know you well. I meek it a point to know everyone who is worth knowing. In the meantime, M'Carthy, you'll come along with me, if you pleese."
"It is not at all clear that I will," replied M'Carthy; "you are a perfect stranger to me—at least your disguise makes you so. You are out on illegal business, as is evident from that disguise, and you are armed with a case of pistols. Now, under these circumstances, happen what may, until I know more about you, and who you are, I will not walk one inch in your society, except as a free agent."
"Hear me," replied the other; "you were singled out for murdher this night, and you only escaped by a miracle—by the assistance of a man who is a warm friend to you, and who got information of the danger you wor in from another friend who suspected that you were in that danger. Two pistols wor loaded to settle you, as they say. Well, the person that saved your life damped the powder in these pistols—both wor snapped at you, and they didn't go off—am I right?"
"You are right for so far, certainly."
"Well, then, the other two who followed you—one of them with a long, sharp dagger—were shot down—d—n your friend that didn't send the bullets through their brains instead of their hams and limbs; however, they fell and you escaped—am I right?"
"Perfectly correct," replied M'Carthy; "and you must have had your information only from the person who befriended me."
"Well, then, have you-any objection to come with me now?"
"Every objection; I wish to go either to Mr. O'Driscol's or Mr. Purcel's."
"Listen. I say if you attempt this night to go to either one house or the other, you will never carry your life to them. If I was your enemy, and wished to put a bullet into you, what is there to prevent me now, I ask you?"
"All, my good friend," replied M'Carthy, "that argument won't pass with me. Many. a man there is—and I dare say you know it well—who feels a strong scruple against committing murder with his own hands, who, notwithstanding, will not scruple to employ others to commit it for him."
"Do you refuse to come with me, then? because if you do to-morrow mornin' will rise upon your corpse. Even I couldn't save you if you were known. There's a desperate and a dreadful game goin' to be played soon, and as you stand in the way of a man that possesses great power, and has a perticular end in view—the consequence is that you are doomed. Even if you do come with me, I must blacken your face, in ordher to prevint you from being known."
"Will you answer me one question candidly," said M'Carthy—"if it's a fair one? Did I see you to-night before?"
"Ask me no question," replied the man; "for I won't answer any I don't like, and that happens to be one o' them. Whether you saw me this night before, or whether you didn't, there is no occasion for me to say so, and I won't say it."
"I think I know him now," said M'Carthy; "and if I judge correctly, he is anything but a safe guide."
"Come," said the huge Whiteboy, "make up your mind; I won't weet another minute."
M'Carthy paused and deliberately reconsidered as coolly as possible all the circumstances of the night. It was obvious that this man must have had his information with respect to the recent events from his friendly preserver—a man who would not be likely to betray him into danger after having actually saved his life, by running the risk of committing two murders. On the other band it was almost clear, from the manner in which the person before him pronounced certain words, as well as from his figure, that he was the celebrated and mysterious Buck English of whose means of living every one was ignorant, and who, as he himself had heard, expressed a strong dislike to him.
"Before I make up my mind," said M'Carthy, "may I ask another question?"
"Fifty if you like, but I won't promise to answer any one o' them."
"Was I brought to Finnerty's house with an evil purpose?"
"No: the poor, pious fool that brought you—there—but I'm wrong in sayin' so—for it was the mist that done it. No, the poor fool that came there with you is a crature that nobody would trust. He thinks you're lyin' sound asleep in Finnerty's this minute. He's fit for nothing but prayin' and thinking the girls in love with him."
"Well," replied M'Carthy, "at all events you are a brother Irishman, and I will put confidence in you; come, I am ready to accompany you."
"In that case, then, you must suffer me to blacken your face, and for fear your shoot-in' jacket might betray you, I'll put this shirt over it."
He then pulled out an old piece of crumpled paper that contained a mixture of lampblack and grease, with which he besmeared his whole face, from his neck to the roots of his hair, after which he stripped the shirt he wore outside his clothes, and in about two or three minutes completely metamorphosed our friend M'Carthy into a thorough-looking Whiteboy.
"Come along now," said he, "and folly me; but even as it is, and in spite of your disguise, we must take the lonesomest way to the only place I think you'll be safe in."
"I am altogether in your hands," replied M'Carthy, "and shall act as you wish."
They then proceeded across the country for about two miles, keeping up towards the mountainous district, after which they made a turn and entered a deep valley, in whose lowest extremity stood a long, low house.
"Now," said the stranger, "before we go in here, remember what I'm goin' to say to' you. If any one—I mean a Whiteboy,"—here M'Carthy started, struck by the peculiarity of the pronunciation—a circumstance which by no means strengthened his sense, of security—"if any of them should come across you and ask you for the pass, here it is. What's the hour? Answer—Very near the right one. Isn't it come yet? Answer—The hour is come, but not the man. When will he come? Answer—He is within sight." He repeated these words three or four times, after which he and M'Carthy entered the house.
"God save all here!" said the guide.
"God save you kindly, boys."
"Mrs. Cassidy," he continued, "here's poor fellow on his keepin' for tithe business and although you don't know me, I know you well enough to be sartin that you'll give this daicent boy a toss in a bed till daybreak—an' a mouthful to ate if he should want it."
"Troth an' I will, sir; isn't one o' my poor boys in Lisnagola goal for the same tithes—bad luck to them—that is for batin' one of the vagabonds that came to collect them. Troth he'll have the best bed in my house."
"And listen, Mrs. Cassidy; if any of us should happen to come here to-night—although I don't think it's likely they will, still it's hard to say, for the country's alive with with them—if any of them should come here, don't let them know that this poor boy is in the house—do you mind?"
"Ah, then, it would be a bad day or night either I wouldn't."
"Will you have anything to ate or dhrink," asked the guide of M'Carthy..
"Nothing," replied the other; "I only wish to get to bed."
"Come, then," said the colossal Whiteboy, "I'll show you where you're to lie."
They accordingly left the kitchen, passed through a tolerably large room, with two or three tables and several chairs in it, and entered another, which was also of a good size. Here there was a bed, and in this M'Carthy was to rest—if rest he could under a series of circumstances so extraordinary and exciting.
"Now," said his guide, for such we must call him—"observe this," and he brought him to a low window which opened at the back of the house, "press that spot where you see the frame is sunk a little—you can feel it, too, aisily enough in the dark—very well, press that with your thumb and the windy will open by being pushed outwards. If you feel or find that there's any danger you can slip out of it; however, don't be alarmed bekase you may hear voices. There's only one set that you may be afraid of—they're on the look-out for yourself—but I don't think it's likely they'll come here. If they do, however, and that you hear them talkin' about you, there's your way to get off. Come, now, I must try you again before I go. What's the hour?"
"Very near the right one."
"Isn't it come yet?"
"The hour is come but not the man."
"When will he come?"
"He is within sight."
"Now, good-bye, you may take a good sleep but don't strip; lie just as you are—that's twiste your life has been saved this night. In the mane time, you must give me back that overall shirt—your danger I hope is past, but I may want it to-night yet; and stay, I was near spoilin' all—I forgot to give you the right grip—here it is—if any of them shakes hands wid you, mark this—he presses the point of his thumb on the first joint of your fore-finger, and you press yours upon the middle joint of his little finger, this way—you won't forget that now?"
"Certainly not," replied M'Carthy, "I will remember it accurately."
"Very well," he proceeded, "take my advice, get to Dublin without delay—if you remain here you're a dead man; you may never see me again, so God bless you." and with these words he left him.
It is difficult to describe M'Carthy's state of mind on finding himself alone. The events of the night, fearful as they were, joined to his singular and to him unaccountable escape—his present state of uncertainty and the contingent danger that awaited him—the fact that parties were in search of him for the purpose of taking away his life, whilst he himself remained utterly unconscious of the cause which occasioned such, a bitter and unrelenting enmity against him—all these reflections, coming together upon a mind already distracted and stupefied by want of rest, and excessive weariness—succeeded in inducing first a wild sense of confusion—then forgetfulness of his position, and ultimately sound and dreamless sleep. How long that sleep had continued he could not even guess, but be that as it may, on awaking, he heard, medley of several voices in the next room, all engaged in an earnest conversation, as was evident, not merely from the disjointed manner of their pronunciation but a strong smell of liquor which assailed his nose. His first impulse was to arise and escape by the window, but on reflection, as he saw by the light of their candle that the door between the two apartments was open, he deemed it safer to keep quiet for a little, with a hope that they might soon take their departure. He felt anxious, besides, to ascertain whether the party in question consisted of those whom the strange guide had mentioned as being his enemies. In the meantime, the following agreeable dialogue greeted his ears and banished for the moment every other thought and consideration.
"It was altogether a bad business this night. He was as well set as man could be, but hell pursue the pistols, they both missed fire; and thim that did go off hit the wrong men. The same two—we can't names boys, won't be the betther of it for some time. We met them, you see, in the mountains, where we wor goin' on a little business. Here's that we may never ait worse mait than mutton!"
"More power, Dick—Dick, (hiccup) you're a trojan, an' so was your father and mother afore you; here's your to—toast, Dick, that we may ever an' always ait no worse mait than—praties an' point, hurra!—that's the chat, ha!—ha!—ha!—ah, begad it's we that's the well-fed boys—ay, but sure our friends the poor parsons has been always starvin' in the counthry."
"Always starvin' the counthry!" exclaimed another, playing upon the word, "be my sowl you're right there, Ned. Well sure they're gettin' a touch of it now themselves; by japers, some o' them knows what it is to have the back and belly brought together, or to go hungry to bed, as the sayin' is; but go on, Dick, an' tell us how it was."
"Why, you see, we went back when we heard that the house was to be attacked, and only he escaped the way he did, it wouldn't be attacked; howaniver, you know it's wid O'Driscol—a short cooser to him, too, and he'll get it—it's wid O'Driscol he stops. So off we went, and waited in Barney Broghan's still-house, where we had a trifle to dhrink."
"Divil resave the bet—bettherer spirits ever came from—a still—il eye, nor dar-lent Bar—ar—ney Brogh—aghan makes—whisht!—more power!—won't the counthry soon—be our—our—own—whips!"
"Ned, hould your tongue, an' let him go 'an; well, Dick."
"Afther waitin' in the still-house till what we thought was the proper time, we went to O'Driscol's, and first struv to get in quietly, but you see we had no friends in the camp, for the men-servants all sleep in the outhouses, barrin' the butler; an' he's not the thing for Ireland. Well and good, although among ourselves, it was anything but well and good this night; however, we demanded admittance, an' jist as if they had been on the watch for us—a windy was raised, and a voice called out to us to know what we wanted.
"'Neither to hurt or harm any one in the house,' we said, 'or belongin' to it; but there is a stranger in it that we must have out.'
"'Ay,' said another voice, that several of us knew to be Mr. Alick Purcel's; 'here I am—you scoundrels, but that's your share of me. If you don't begone instantly,' says he, swearin' an oath, 'we'll shoot you like dogs where you stand.'
"'We know you, Mr. Purcel,' says we, 'but it isn't you we want to-night—your turn's to come yet; time about is fair play. It's M'Carthy we want.'
"'You must want him, then,' says young O'Driscol, 'for he's not here; and even if he was, you should fight for him before you'd get him—but what might your business be wid him?' he asked. 'Why,' says we, 'there's a man among us that has an account to settle wid him.'
"'Ah, you cowardly scoundrels,' says he, 'that's a disgrace to the counthry, and to the very name of Irishman; it's no wondher for strangers to talk of you as they do—no wondher for your friends to have a shamed face for your disgraceful crimes. You would now take an inoffensive gintleman—one that never harmed a man of you, nor any one else—you'd take him out, bekaise some blackhearted cowardly villain among you has a pick (pique) against him, and some of you for half-a-crown or a bellyful of whisky would murdher him in could blood. Begone, or by the livin' Farmer, I'll scatter the contents of this blunderbush among you.' He that wishes to have M'Carthy done for was wid us himself, and tould us in Irish to fire at the windy, which we did, and on the instant slop came a shower of bullets among us. A boy from the Esker got one of them through the brain, and fell stone dead; two others—we can't mention names—was wounded, and it was well we got them off safe. So there's our night's work for us. Howaniver, the day's comin' when we'll pay them for all."
"I think, boys," said a person, whose voice was evidently that of a man advanced in years, "I think you ought to give this procthor Purcel a cardin'. He lifts the tithes of four parishes, and so far he's a scourge over four parishes; himself and his blasted citations to the bishop's court and his blasted decrees—hell purshue him, as it will. Ah, the Carders wor fine fellows, so were the Sextons."
"Bravo, Billy Bradly, conshumin' to me but I'm—I'm main proud, and that we met you com—omin' from the wake to-night; I am, upon my sow—owl."
"I believe, Billy," said another voice, "you had your own fun wid procthors in your day."
"Before the union—hell bellows it for a union—-but it has been a black sight to the counthry! Amin this night—before the union, it's we that did handle the procthors in style; it isn't a cowardly threatenin' notice we'd send them, and end there. No—but I'll tell you what we done one night, in them days. There was a man, a procthor, an' he was a Catholic too, for I needn't tell you, boys, that there never was a Protestant procthor half as hard and cruel as one of our own ralligion, an' thas well known. Well, there was this procthor I'm tellin' of, his name was Callaghan; he was a dark-haired I'll-lookin' fellow, with a squint and a stutther; but for all that, he had a daicent, quiet, well-behaved family that offended nobody—not like our proud horsewhippin' neighbors; an', indeed, his daughters did not mount their side-saddles like some of the same neighbors, but sure we all know the ould proverb, set a beggar on horseback, and we needn't tell you where he'll ride to. Well, I'm forgettin' my story in the mane time. At that time, a party of about sixty of us made up our minds to pay Callaghan a nightly visit. The man, you see, made no distinction betune the rich and poor, or rather he made every distinction, for he was all bows and scrapes to the rich, and all whip and fagot to the poor. Ah, he was a sore blisther to that part of the counthry he lived in, and many a widow's an' orphan's curse he had. At any rate, to make a long story short, we went a set of us, a few nights afore we called upon him—that is, in a friendly way, for we had no intention of takin' his life, but merely to tickle him into good humor a bit, and to make him have a little feelin' for the poor, that he many a time tickled an' got tickled by the sogar's bagnet to some purpose; we went, I say, to a lonely place, and we dug sich a grave as we thought might fit him, and havin' buttoned and lined it well with thorns, we then left it covered over with scraws for fraid anybody might find it out. So far so good. At last the appointed night came, and we called upon him.
"'Is Mr. Callaghan in?' said one of us, knockin' at the door.
"'What's your business wid him?' said a servant girl, as she opened the door.
"'Tis to pay some tithe I want,' says the man; and no sooner was the word out of his mouth than in we boulted betther than a score of us; for the rest all stayed about the place to act accordin' to circumstances.
"'How do you do, Misther Callaghan?' says our captain, 'I hope you're well, sir,' says he, 'and in good health.'"
"'I can't say I am, sir," said Callaghan, 'I haven't been to say at all well for the last few days, wid a pain down my back.'
"'Ah, indeed no wondher, Mr. Callaghan,' says the other; 'that's the curse of the widows and orphans, and the poor in general, that you have oppressed in ordher to keep up a fat an' greedy establishment,' says he, 'but in the mane time, keep a good heart—we're friends of yours, and wishes you well; and if the curses have come down hot and heavy on your back, we'll take them off it,' says he, 'so aisily and purtily, that if you'll only shut your eyes, you'll think yourself in another world—I mane of coorse the world you'll go to,' says he;—'we have got a few nice and aisy machines here, for ticklin' sich procthors, in ordher to laugh them into health again, and we'll now set you to rights' at wanst. Comes, boys,' says he, turnin' to us, 'tie every sowl in the house, barrin' the poor sick procthor that we all feel for, bekaise you see, Misther Callaghan, in ordher to do the thing complate, we intind to have your own family spectawthers of the cure.'
"'No,' said one of them, a determined man he was, 'that wasn't in our agreement, nor it isn't in our hearts, to trate the innocent like the guilty.'"
"'It must be done,' said the captain.
"'No,' said the other back to him, 'the first man that mislists a hair of one of his family's heads, I'll put the contents of this through him—if this onmanly act had been mentioned before, you'd a' had few here tonight along wid you.'
"Well, sure enough, the most of us was wid the last speaker, so, instead of cardin' the sick procthor before his own family, we tied and gagged him so as that he neither spoke nor budged, and afther clappin' a guard upon the family for an hour or two, we put him on horseback and brought him up to where the grave was made. We then stripped him, and layin' him across a ditch, we got the implements, of the feadhers as we call them, to tickle him. Well, now, could you guess, boys, what these feadhers was? I'll go bail you couldn't, so I may as well tell you at wanst; divil resave the thing else, but half-a-dozen of the biggest tom-cats we could get, and this is the way we used them. Two or three of us pitched our hands well and the tails of the cats into the bargain, we then, as I said, laid the naked procthor across a ditch, and began to draw the tom-cats down the flesh of his back. God! how the unfortunate divil quivered and writhed and turned—until the poor wake crature, that at first had hardly the strength of a child, got, by the torture he suffered, the strength of three men; for indeed, afther he broke the cords that tied him, three, nor three more the back o' that, wasn't sufficient to hould him. He got the gag out of his mouth, too, and then, I declare to my Saviour his scrames was so awful that we got frightened, for we couldn't but think that the voice was unnatural, an sich as no man ever heard. We set to, however, and gagged and tied him agin, and then we carded him—first down, then up, then across by one side, and after that across by the other. * Well, when this was done, we tuk him as aisily an' as purtily as we could.
"D—n your soul, you ould ras—rascal," said the person they called Ned, "you wor—wor 'all a parcel o' bloody, d—n, hell—fi—fire cowardly villains, to—to—thrat—ate any fellow crature—crature in sich a way. Why didn't you shoo—shoo—oot him at wanst, an' not put—ut him through hell's tor—tortures like that, you bloody-minded ould dog!"
To tell the truth, many of them were shocked at the old carder's narrative, but he only, grinned at them, and replied—
"Ay, shoot—you may talk about shootin,' Ned, avick, but for all that life's sweet."
"Get on—out, you ould sinner o' perdition—to blazes wid you; life's sweet you ould 'shandina—what a purty—urty way you tuk of sweetenin' it for him. I tell—ell you, Bil—lilly Bradly, that you'll never die on your bed for that night's wo—ork."
"And even if I don't, Ned, you won't have my account to answer for."
"An' mighty glad I am of it: my own—own's bad enough, God knows, an' for the mat—matther o' that—here's God pardon us all, barrin' that ould cardin' sinner—amin, acheerna villish, this night! Boys, I'll sing-yes a song."
"Aisy, Ned," said one or two of them, "bad as it was, let us hear Billy Bradly's story out."
"Well," proceeded Billy, "when the ticklin' was over, we took the scraws off of the grave, lined wid thorns as it was, and laid the procthor, naked and bleedin'—scarified into gris-kins—"
"Let me at—at him, the ould cardin' mur—urdherer; plain murdher's daicency compared to that. Don't hould me, Dick; if I was sworn ten times over, I'll bate the divil's taptoo on his ould carkage."
"Be aisy, Ned—be aisy now, don't disturb the company—sure you wouldn't rise your hand to an ould man like Billy Bradly. Be quiet."
—"Scarified into griskins as he was," proceeded Bradly looking at Ned with a grin of contempt—"ay, indeed, snug and cosily we laid him in his bed of feadhers, and covered him wid thin scraws for fear he'd catch could—he! he! he! That's the way we treated the procthors in our day. I think I desarve a drink now!"
Drinking was now resumed with more vigor, and the proceedings of the night were once more discussed.
"It was a badly-managed business every way," said one of them, "especially to let M'Carthy escape; however, we'll see him 'igain, and if we can jist lay our eyes upon him in some quiet place, it'll be enough;—what's to be done wid this body till mornin.' It can't be lyin' upon the chairs here all might."
M'Carthy, we need scarcely assure our readers, did not suffer all this time to pass without making an effort to escape. This, however, was a matter of dreadful danger, as the circumstances of the case stood. In the first place, as we have already said, the door between the room in which he lay and that in which the Whiteboys sat, was open, and the light of the candles shone so strongly into it, that it was next to an impossibility for him to cross over to the window without being seen; in the second place, the joints of the beds were so loose and rickety that, on the slightest motion of its Occupant, it creaked and shrieked so loud, that any attempt to rise off it must necessarily have discovered him.
"We must do something with the body of this unlucky boy," continued the speaker; "divil resave you, M'Carthy, it was on your account he came to this fate; blessed man, if we could only catch him!"
"Here, Dick, you and Jemmy there, and Art, come and let us bring him into the bed' in the next room—it's a fitter and more properer place for him than lyin' upon chairs here. God be merciful to you, poor Lanty, it's little you expected this when you came out to-night! Take up the candles two more of you, and go before us: here—steady now; mother of heaven, how stiff and heavy he has got in so short a time—and his family! what will they say? Hell resave you, M'Carthy, I say agin! I'm but a poor man, and I wouldn't begrudge a five-pound note to get widin shot of you, wherever you are."
It would be idle to attempt anything like a description of M'Carthy's feelings, upon such an occasion as this. It is sufficient to say, that he almost gave himself up for lost, and began to believe, for the first time in his life, that there is such a thing as fate. Here had his life been already saved once to-night, but scarcely had he escaped when he is met by a person evidently disguised, but by whose language he is all but made certain that he is a man full of mystery, and who besides has expressed strong enmity against him. This person, with a case of pistols in his breast, compels him, as it were, to put himself under his protection; and he conducts him into a remote isolated shebeen-house, where, no doubt, there is a meeting of Whiteboys every night in the week. The M'Carthy spirit is, proverbially, brave and intrepid, but we are bound to say, that notwithstanding its hereditary intrepidity, our young friend would have given the wealth of Europe to have found himself at that moment one single mile away from the bed on which he lay. His best policy was now to affect sleep, and he did so with an apparent reality borrowed from desperation.
"Hallo!" exclaimed those who bore the candle, on looking at the bed, "who the devil and Jack Robinson have we got here? Aisy, boys—here's some blessed clip or other fast asleep: lay down poor Lanty on the ground till we see who this. Call Molly Cassidy; here, Molly, who the dickens is this chap asleep?"
Molly immediately made her appearance.
"Troth I dunna who he is," she replied; "he's some poor boy on his keepin', about tithes, tha' He brought here to-night."
"That's a cursed lie, Molly; wid' many respects to you, He couldn't a' been here to-night."
"Thank you, sir, whoever you are; but I tell you it's no lie; and he was here, and left that boy wid me, desirin' me to let him come to no injury, for that—" and this was an addition of her own, "there was hundreds offered for the takin' of him."
"Why, what did he do, did you hear?"
"He whispered to me," she replied, in a low voice, but loud enough for M'Carthy to hear, "that he shot a tithe-proctor."
"We'll see what he's made of, though," said one of them; "and, at all events, we'd act very shabbily if we didn't give him a share af what's goin'; but aisy, boys," he added, "take care—ay! aisy, I say, safe's the word; who knows but he's a spy in disguise, and, in that case, we'll have a different card to play. Hallo! neighbor," he exclaimed, giving M'Carthy a shove, who started up and looked about him with admirable tact.
"What—what—eh—what's this? who are you all? what are you about?" he asked, and as he spoke, he sprung to his feet. "What's this?" he exclaimed again. "Sweet Jasus! is this Fagan the tithe-proctor that I shot? eh—or are you—stay—no—ah, no—not the polis. Oh, Lord, but I'm relieved; I thought you were polis, but I see by your faces that I'm safe, at last—I hope so."
"Ay, to be sure, you're safe—safe—as—as the bank (hiccup). You're a gintlemen, si—r you're a Con Roe—the ace o' hearts you are. Ay, you shot—like a ma—an, and didn't card—ard him wid tomcats, and then put the poo—oo—oor (hiccup) devil into a grave lined wid thorns; ah, you cowardly ould villain! the devil, in the shape of a to—to—tom-cat will card you in hell yet; an' moreover, you'll ne—never—ever die in your bed, you hard-hearted ould scut o' blazes; an' that you may not, I pray Ja—sa—sus this night—an' God forgive us all—amin, acheema!"
"Hould your drunken tongue, Ned," said he who seemed to assume authority over them; "we want to put this poor boy, who died of liquor to-night, into the bed, and I suppose you'll have no objection."
"None at all at all," replied M'Carthy, assuming the brogue, at which, fortunately for himself, he was an adept; "it's a good man's case, boys; blood an' turf, give him a warm birth of it—he'll find it snug and comfortable."
They then placed the corpse on the bed but changing their mind, they raised him for a moment, putting him under the bedclothes, pinned a stocking, about his head to give him a domestic look; after which they returned to the tap-room of the shebeen-house, for such in fact it was. The latter change in the position of the corpse was made from an apprehension lest the police might come in search of the body, and with the hope that he might pass for a person asleep.
"You'll drink something wid us," said the principal among them; "but, before you do, I suppose you are as you ought to be."
M'Carthy, who really was in a frightful state of thirst, determined at once to put on the reckless manner of a wild and impetuous Irishman, who set all law and established institutions at defiance.
"You suppose I am as I ought to be," he exclaimed, with a look of contempt; "why, thin, I suppose so too: in the mane time, an' before you bother me wid more gosther, I'd thank you to give me a drink o' whisky and wather—for, to tell you the truth, blast me but I think there's a confligration on a small scale goin' an inwardly; hurry, boys, or I'll split. Ah, boys, if you but knew what I wint through the last three days an' three nights."
"And what did you go through it all for?" asked the principal of them, with something of distrust in his manner.
"What did I go through it fwhor? fwhy, thin, fwhor the sake o' the trewth—I'm a Gaaulway man, boys, and it isn't in Can-naught you'll fwhind the man that's afeard to do fwhat's right: here's aaul your healths, and that everything may soon be as it ought to be."
"Well," said the other, "you are a Can-naught man sartainly, that's clear from your tongue; but I want to axe you a question.'
"Fwhy nat? it's but fair,—it's but fair, I say,—take that wit j'ou, an' I'm the boy that will answer it, if I can, bekaise you know, or maybe you don't—but it's a proverb we have in Cannaught wit us—that a fool may ax a question that a wise man couldn't answer: well, what is it?"
"Who brought you here to-night?"
"Who brought me here to-night? fwhy, thin, I'll tell you as much of it as I like—He did."
"Be japers it's a lie, beggin' your pardon, my worthy Cannaught man. He couldn't be here to-night. I know where he was the greater part of the night, and the thing's impossible. I don't know you, but we must know you—ay, and we will know you."
"Trath an' I must know you, thin, and that very soon," replied M'Carthy.
"Come into the next room, then," said the other.
"Anywhere you like," he replied, "I'm wit you; but I'm not the boy to be humbugged, or to bear your thricks upon thravellers."
"Now," said the other, when they had got into the room where the corpse lay, "shake hands."
They accordingly shook hands, and M'Carthy gave him the genuine grip, as he had been taught it by the Whiteboy.
"Right," said the man, "for so far; now, what's the hour?"
"Very near the right one."
"Isn't it come yet?"
"The hour is come, but not the man."
"When will he come?"
"He is within sight."
"It's all right; come in and take another dhrink," said the man; "but still, who brought you here? for I know He couldn't."
M'Carthy replied, winking towards the kitchen, "Troth she'll tell you that story; give me another drink o' fwhiskey and water. Oh, I'm hardly able to sit up, I'm getthi' so drowsy. A wink o' sleep, I may say, didn't crass my eye these three nights; an' I'd wish to stretch myself beside the poor boy widin. I'm an my keepin', boys, and fwhin you know that the law was at my heels fwhor the last foive weeks, you'll allow I want rest: throth I must throw myself somewhere."
"Go in, then, poor fellow, and lie down," said the same individual, who acted as spokesman; "we know how you must feel, wid the hell-hounds of the law affcher you: here, Jack, hould the candle for him, and help him to move over poor Lanty to make room for him; and Mrs. Cassidy," he called m a louder voice, "bring us another bottle."
"Faith, to tell you the truth," replied Jack, "I'd rather not; I don't like to go near a dead body."
"Here," said the person called Dick, "give me the candle: poor fellow! it is rest you want, and God forbid we wouldn't do everything in our power for you."
They then entered the apartment, and M'Carthy was about to lay himself beside the corpse, when his companion tapped him significantly on the shoulder, and, his finger on his lips pointed to the window and immediately whispered in his ear: "I will leave the windy so that it will open at wanst: three of us knows you, Mr. M'Carthy I will sing a song when I go in again, which they will chorus; fly then, for it's hard to say what might happen: the day is now breakin' and you might be known—in that case I needn't tell you what your fate would be."
He then returned to his companion having carefully closed the door after him so as to prevent, as much as possible the motions of M'Carthy from being seen or heard. On rejoining them he observed "well, if ever a poor boy was fairly broken down, and he is—throth he was no sooner, on the bed than he was off; an' among ourselves, the sleep must be heavy on him when he could close his eyes an' a dead man in the bed wid him."
CHAPTER XIII.—Strange Faces—Dare-Devil O'Driscol Aroused
We have already stated that the proctors daughters had relieved their mother from the duty which, that kind-hearted woman had been in the habit of imposing on herself we mean that of attending and relieving the sick and indigent in her immediate neighborhood. On the morning in question Juli Purcel, who, together with her sister, for some time past been attending the bed of an interesting young female, to one of her father's workmen, had got up at an early hour to visit her—scarcely with a hope, it is true, that she would find the poor invalid alive. Much to her satisfaction, however, she found her better, and with some dawning prospects of ultimate recovery. She left with her mother the means of procuring such comforts as she considered might be suitable to her in the alternative of her convalescence, and had got more than home when she felt startled for a by the appearance of a person who seemed to have been engaged in some of these nightly outrages that were then so numerous in the country. The person in question had just leaped from an open breach in the hedge which bounded the right-hand side of the road exactly opposite where she was passing. The stranger's appearance was certainly calculated to excite terror, especially in a female; for although he did not wear the shirt over his clothes, his face was so deeply blackened that a single shade of his complexion could not be recognized. We need not again assure our readers that Julia Purcel possessed the characteristic firmness and courage of her family, but notwithstanding this she felt somewhat alarmed at the appearance of a lawless Whiteboy, who was at that moment most probably on his return from the perpetration of some midnight atrocity. This alarm was increased on seeing that the person in question approached her, as if with some deliberate intent.
"Stand back, sir," she exclaimed. "What can you mean by approaching me? Keep your distance."
"Why, good God! my dear Julia, what means this? Do you not know me?"
"Know you! No, sir," she replied, "how could I know such a person?"
She had unconsciously paused a moment when the Whiteboy, as she believed him to be, first made his appearance, but now she pursued her way home, the latter, however, accompanying her.
"Why, my dear Julia, I am thunderstruck! What can I have done thus to incur your displeasure?"
"You are rude and impertinent, sir, to address me with such unjustifiable familiarity. It is evident you know me, but I am yet to learn how I could have formed an acquaintance with a person whose blackened face indicates the nature of his last night's occupation."
The person she addressed suddenly put up his hand, and then looking at his fingers, immediately disclosed a set of exceedingly white and well-formed teeth, which disclosure was made by a grin that almost immediately quavered off into a loud and hearty laugh.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, on recovering his gravity, "it is no wonder, my dear Julia, that you should not know me. Since I went out to shoot with Mogue Moylan, yesterday morning, I have gone through many strange adventures."
"What!" she exclaimed, with evident symptoms of alarm and vexation, "Frank M'Carthy!" and, as she spoke, the remarkable conversation which she had had with Mogue Moylan, and the information he had given her with respect to M'Carthy's connection with the Whiteboys, instantly flashed upon her, accompanied now by a strong conviction of its truth.
"Explain yourself, Mr. M'Carthy," she exclaimed, in a tone of voice which indicated anything but satisfaction. "How am I to account for this unbecoming disguise, so much at variance with your habits of life and education?—perhaps I should not say your habits of life—but certainly with your education. Have you, too, been tempted to join this ferocious conspiracy which is even now convulsing the country?"
"No wonder you should ask, my dear Julia," he replied; "but really the incidents, which have caused me to appear as you see me, are so strange, and yet so much in keeping with the spirit of the times, that I must defer, until a more convenient opportunity a full account of them."
"Do so, sir," she replied quickly; "allow yourself full time to give the best possible explanation of your conduct. I probably have put the question too abruptly; but, in the meantime, you will have the goodness, either to go on before me, or to fall back, as I presume, you will grant that it is neither delicate nor becoming for me, who wear no disguise and am known, to be seen at such an hour holding conversation with a Whiteboy."
The impropriety of the thing struck him at once, and he replied, "You are right, Julia; but I perceive that something has given you offence; if it be my appearance, I tell you that I can afford you a satisfactory explanation. Proceed now—I shall remain here for a time;—whether with black face or white, I should not wish it to be supposed that we held a clandestine meeting at this hour."
She then bowed to him with more formality than she had probably ever used, and proceeded home at a quicker pace.
She had just turned an angle of the road, and got consequently out of sight, when he heard a strong, but sweet and mellow voice singing the fine old Irish song of the Cannie Soogah, or Jolly Pedlar; and, on looking behind him, he perceived that worthy person approaching him at a tolerably rapid pace. The pedlar had no sooner glanced at M'Carthy than he grasped his tremendous cudgel with greater firmness, and putting his hand into his breast, he pulled out a pistol, and with these preparations approached our friend, still continuing his song, with the same careless glee, and an utter absence of all fear.
"'I' m the rantin' cannie soogah'—
"God save you, neighbor! you forgot to wash your face this mornin'."
"That's its natural color," replied M'Carthy, willing, now that he was out of all danger, to have a banter with his well-known friend the pedlar.
"If you take my advice then," said the pedlar, "you'll paint it white—it's a safer color in daylight at any rate. I'm thinkin' now, that if you met a party of peelers on pathrole, they might give you a resate for turnin' the same color red and white; however, glunthoma, (* Hear me) if you have any design upon the Cannie Soogah, I can only tell you that I never carry money about me, and even if I did, I have a couple o' friends here that 'ud standby me; ay, in throth, three o' them, for I have brother to this fellow (showing the pistol) asleep in my breast here, and he doesn't like to be wakened, you persave; so whoever you are, jog on and wash your face, as I said, and that's a friend's advice' to you."
"Why, Cannie Soogah, is it possible you don't know me?"
"Throth I've been just thinkin' that I heard the voice before, but when or where is more than I can tell."
"Not know your friend Francis M'Carthy?"
"Eh, Mr. Francis M'Carthy! and, Lord o' life, Mr. M'Carthy, how do you come to have a black face? Surely you wouldn't belong to this business—black business I may call it—that's goin'?"
"Well, I should hope not, Cannie; but, for all that, you see me with a black face—ha!—ha!—ha!"
"I do indeed, Mr. Frank, and, between you and me, I'm sorry to see it."
"You will not be sorry to hear, however, that my black face saved my life last night."
"Arra thin, how was that, sir, if it's a fair question?"
M'Carthy then gave him a brief, and by no means a detailed account of the danger he had passed.
"Well," said the other, "everything's clear enough when it's known; but, as it's clear that you have enemies in the neighborhood, I think the wisest thing you could do would be to lave it at wanst."
"Such, in fact, is my determination," replied M'Carthy; "no man, I believe, who is marked ought to remain in the country; that is, when he has no local duties that demand his presence in it, as I have not."
"You are right, sir; start this very day if you're wise, and don't give your enemies—since it appears that you have enemies—an opportunity of doin' you an injury; if they missed you twice, it's not likely they will a third time; but tell me, Mr. M'Carthy—hem—have you no suspicion as to who they are?"
"Not exactly; indeed I cannot say I have; the whole matter is shrouded in the deepest mystery. I am not conscious of having offended or injured any one, nor can I guess why my life should be sought after; but sought after unquestionably it is, and that with an implacable resentment that is utterly unaccountable."
"Well, then, Mr. Frank, listen:—I met about a dozen men—strangers they wor to me, although their faces weren't blackened—not more than twenty minutes ago; and one, o' them said to me, 'Cannie, every one knows' you, and you know every one—do you know me?'"
"'No,' says I; 'you have the advantage of me.'
"'Do you know any one here?' says he again.
"'Well, I can't say I do,' says I; 'you don't belong to this part of the country.'
"'If we did, Cannie,' said the spokesman, 'it isn't face to face, in the open day, we'd spake to you.'
"'An' what is it you have to say to me?' I axed; for, to tell you the truth, I was beginnin' to get unaisy someway.
"'Nothing to you; but we've been tould that you're well acquainted wid Procthor Purcel, and that you know a young man, by name M'Carthy, that stops for the present wid Mr. Magistrate O'Driscol.'
"'I do,' says myself; 'I'll not deny but I know them all well—I mane in the way o' business—for I call there often to sell my goods.'
"'Well,' said the spokesman, 'will you give that letther,' handin' me this, 'to Mr. M'Carthy?'" and as the pedlar spoke he placed the note in M'Carthy's hands. "'Do so,' says the fellow, 'as soon as you can—if possible, widout an hour's delay. It consarns himself and it consarns me—can I depend on you to do this?' I said I would: and now there's the letther—-my message is delivered."
M'Carthy read as follows:—"Francis M'Carthy, as you regard the life of the man that saved yours last night, you won't breathe a syllable about seein' a young man's corpse last night in the shebeen-house, nor about anything that happened to you in it, till you hear further from me. If you're grateful, and a gintleman, you won't; but if you're a traitor, you will. Your friend, as you act in this."
"Now, Mr. Frank," said the, pedlar, "as you know the danger that's about you, I say that unless you get out o' the counthry at wanst, you'll only have a hand in your own death if anything happens. You're, goin' now, I suppose, to Mr. Purcel's; if you are—if it wouldn't be troublesome—jist say that the Cannie Soogah will call there in the coorse o' the mornin' for breakfast."
He then turned off by a different road; and M'Carthy proceeded at, a very slow pace towards the proctor's, which lay in a right line between the house to which the White-boy had brought him and O'Driscol's. As he reached the back yard, by which he intended to enter, anxious to get himself washed before any of them should see him—he was met by Mogue, who after a glance or two recognized him at once by his shooting-dress.
"Why thin, good fortune to me, Misther Frank, is this you?"
"It is, Mogue; but I have no time to speak to you now. Only get me soap and a towel till I wash my face at the pump here. These are strange times, Mogue, and that was a very suspicious place of refuge to which you brought me; however, it will go hard or we shall make Mr. Frank Finnerty speak out, and to some purpose too. Get me soap and towel quick—-I do not wish to be seen with this diabolical-looking face upon me."
"That I may be blest, sir, but the same face surprises me. Wisha, then, Mr. Frank, might one ax—"
"No," replied M'Carthy, "do as I have desired you—some other time you may hear it, but not now."
At this moment, Mogue, who was very circumspect in all his looks as well as in all his motions, saw by a side glance that Julia, on coming down the stairs, saw M'Carthy—a circumstance which delighted his very heart, inasmuch as he resolved to so manage it, that it might be made to confirm the hint he had already thrown out against M'Carthy—if that could be called a hint which was a broad and undisguised assertion. He accordingly watched until an opportunity presented itself of addressing her apart from listeners; and in the course of the morning, as she went to look after some favorite flowers in the garden, he met her at the gate.
"Miss Julia," said he, "I wish to spake one word to you, i' you plaise, miss."
"Well, Mogue, what is it?"
"You know what I tould you about poor Misther Frank last night; and what I want to say, miss, is, that you aren't to put any trust in it; truth, I believe I had a sup in—don't be guided by it—it was only jokin' about him I was—that I may never do an ill turn but it was—now."
"You need make no apology about it, Mogue," she replied; "I am not at all interested in the matter; but I now know that you told me truth; and as a friend and well-wisher of Mr. M'Carthy's, in common with all my family, I am sorry to find it so."
"Oh, well now, miss, what will I do at all? wisha, but that's the way wid me ever and always; when the little sup is in—and indeed it wasn't much I tuck—the truth always come out—if it was the killin' of a man, my heart always gets the betther of ma then."
"I saw him, Mogue, with his face blackened."
"Wisha, wisha, but I was a haythen to mention it at all. The truth is, I like Mr. Frank—but then again, I don't like anything like desate, or that carries two faces—only as you did see him, Miss Julia, if you're loyal to me and won't turn traitor on me—you've but to wait for a little, I'll be able to tell you more about the same foolish—I'd rather say foolish for the sake of settin' a Christian pat-thern, than wicked or traicherous—och, ay—for sure we all have our failins—howandiver as I was sayin', I'll soon be able, I think, to tell you more about him—things that will surprise you, miss, ay, and make the blood in your veins run cowld. Only I say, if you wish to hear this, and to have it as clearly proved to you as what I tould you last night, you musn't betray me."
This was spoken in such an earnest, and at the same time in so simple and candid a manner, that it was actually impossible to suspect for a moment that there was falsehood or treachery intended. Nay,—his pretended effort to undeceive her as to M'Carthy's connection with the Whiteboys, was such a natural step after the drink which she supposed he had taken on the preceding night, and when cool reflection had returned to him, that she felt an indescribable curiosity—one attended with pain and terror—to hear the full extent of her lover's perfidy. Beyond all doubt, Moylan's treacherous adroitness, and the simplicity and piety under which he contrived to veil his treachery and revenge, were perfect in their way. As it was, he succeeded in banishing peace, and trust, and cheerfulness, from the heart of generous and affectionate Julia Purcel.
M'Carthy found the young men up, and after simply stating that the previous night was one of danger and adventure, he said that he wished to go to bed for a while, and that he would describe these adventures at more length after he had refreshed himself by some sleep. This, indeed, they perceived to be absolutely necessary, from his exhausted and pallid look. He accordingly went to rest—and, sooth to say, the sense of security, joined to his complete exhaustion, and the comforts of a warm good bed, gave him such a perception of luxury as he had never conceived before. In a few minutes he fell into a dreamless and unbroken trance.
Breakfast was postponed an hour on his account; for as he had extorted a promise from John Purcel, that he should either call him or have him called when the time for that meal arrived, they did not wish to disturb him so soon. In the meantime, there was many a conjecture as to the cause of his absence, and as the fact of his black face could not be concealed, there was consequently many an opinion given as to the circumstances which occasioned that unexpected phenomenon. Julia did not at all appear, but pleaded indisposition, and Alick had not yet returned-from O'Driscol's, so there was only the proctor, his son John, his wife, and Mary, to discuss the matter. At length, about half-past ten M'Carthy made his appearance, and after the usual civilities of the morning, he gave them a pretty clear, but not a very detailed account of the dangers he had undergone. After a good deal of consideration, he resolved, in accordance with the wish of his unknown friend, to suppress all mention of the attack upon O'Driscol's house, and of the young man who had been shot whilst it was going on.
Breakfast had not been concluded, when the Cannie Soogah, who had already got his hansel, as he called his breakfast, in the kitchen, made his appearance at the parlor window, which was immediately thrown up.
"God save all here," he exclaimed, "long life and good health to every one of you! Here I am, the rantin' Cannie Soogah, as large as life; and upon my profits maybe a little larger if the truth was known."
"Cannie," said the proctor, "dix me, but I'm glad to see you—and how are you, man?—and do you carry your bones safe—or your head upon your shoulders at all, durin' these wild times?"
"Troth, and you may well say they're wild times, Mr. Purcel, and it'll be wisdom in every one to keep themselves as safe as possible till they mend. Is it thruth, sir, that you're makin' preparations to collect your tides wid the help o' the sogers and polis?"
"Perfectly thrue, Cannie; we'll let the rascals that are misleading the people, as well as the people themselves, know whether they or the law are the strongest. They cannot blame us for the consequence, for we're forced to it."
"There will be bad work, thin, I'm afeard, sir; and bloody work, I dread."
"That's not our fault, Cannie, but the fault of those who will wilfully violate the law. However, let that pass, what's the news in the world?"
"I suppose you hard, sir, that the house of your friend and neighbor, that man that hears nothin'—" here there was the slightest perceptible grin upon the pedlar's face—"was attacked last night?"
"You don't mean O'Driscol's?"
"Upon my profits, I do—an' nobody else's.
"Hillo! do you hear this, girls? O'Driscol's house was attacked last night!"
"Heavenly father! I hope Alick is safe," exclaimed Mrs. Purcel, getting pale.
"Well, Cannie," inquired the proctor, quite coolly, and as if it was a matter of mere business, "what was the consequence? I hope nobody was hurt?"
"Why, that his son Fergus, sir—that fine young man that everybody was fond of—"
"Good God!" exclaimed the proctor, now really shocked at what he supposed the pedlar was about to say; "what is it you are goin' to tell us? I hope in God—"
"What is this!" exclaimed John; "heavens, Mary, you have spilled all the tea!"
"Mary, my child," exclaimed the mother, running to her; "what ails you?—in God's name, what is the matter?"
"A sudden faintness," replied the girl, recovering herself as if by an effort; "but it is over, and I—I am better."
"His son Fergus, sir—I hope Miss Mary is betther, sir—that his son Fergus and his father, by all accounts, gave them a warmer reception than they expected."
"But was none of O'Driscol's family hurt nor anybody else?" asked Purcel.
"No, sir, it seems not—and indeed I'm main glad of it."
"D—n you, Cannie," exclaimed the other, between jest and earnest, "why did you give me such a start? You told the affair as if Fergus had been shot—however, I'm glad that all's safe in O'Driscol's;—but about the night-boys? Were there any lives lost among them?"
"It's thought not, sir," replied the pedlar. "They left the marks o' blood behind them, but the general opinion is, that there was no life lost; I hope there wasn't—for, indeed, I have such a hatred against the shed-din' of blood, that I don't wish even to hear of it."
"What was their object, have you learned, in attacking O'Driscol's place?"
"Well, then, I didn't hear; but anyhow, they say that a new workin' boy of O'Driscol's, that dogged them up beyant Darby Hourigan's, was wounded by them, along with Darby himself, in regard, of his having joined the young fellow in dodgin' afther them."
"Are they seriously hurt?" asked John.
"Throth that's more than I can say, but I hope they're not, poor fellows; at any rate, I'm sure Mr. O'Driscol will have them well taken care of till they're recovered."
"Certainly," observed the proctor, "if he thinks it his duty he will: my friend O'Driscol will do what he conceives to be right."
The pedlar nodded significantly, and honored the observation with, a broad grin. "Well, sir," said he, changing the conversation, "he may do for that as he likes, but I must look to number one. Come, ladies—and, by the way, where's my favorite, Miss Julia—from you?"
"She's not quite well this morning, Cannie," said her mother; "she has a slight headache, I believe."
"Well, Miss Mary, then? Any purchases to-day, Miss Mary?"
"Not to-day, Cannie—the next time, perhaps."
"Cannie," said Purcel, "you praised your razors very highly at your last visit;—have you a good case this morning?"
"Haven't I, sir? Wait till you see them."
He then produced a case, which the proctor purchased, and thus closed his sales for that day.
The pedlar, however, notwithstanding that his commercial transactions had been concluded, seemed somehow in no hurry. On the contrary, he took up his pack and exclaimed, "I must go back to the kitchen, till I see what can be done there in the way of business; hearin' that you were finishin' breakfast, I hurried up here to sell my goods and have my chat."
"Very well, Cannie," said the proctor, "try the folks below, and success to you!"
The pedlar once more sought the kitchen, where he lingered in fact more like a man who seemed fatigued than otherwise, inasmuch as his eyes occasionally closed, and his head nodded, in spite of him. He kept, however, constantly watching and peeping into the yard and lawn from time to time, as if he expected to see somebody. At length he got tip and was about to go, when he said to Letty Lenehan:—"Ah, thin, Letty, afore I go I'd give a trifle that Miss Julia 'ud see a bracelet I got since I was here last; divil sich a beauty ever was seen."
"Very well, Cannie, I'll tell her if you wish."
"Then, Letty, may it rain honeycombs an you, an' do. I'll go round to the hall-door, 'say, and she can look at them there; an' see, Letty, say the sorra foot I'll go from the place till she sees it: that it'll be worth her while; and that if she knew how I got it, she'd fly—if she had wings—to get a glimpse of it."
He had not been more than a minute or two at the hall-door when Julia, struck by the earnestness of the man's language, which lost nothing in the transmission, made her appearance.
"Well now, Cannie," said she, "what wonderful matter is this you have got to show me?"
"Here it is, Miss Julia," said he, in his usual jocular and somewhat loud voice, "here it is, I'll have it in a minute—listed, Miss Julia," he added, in a solemn and impressive undertone: "what I'm goin' to say is more to you than aither life or death. Don't go out by yourself—don't go at all out early in the morning or late in the evenin'."
"Why so, Cannie?" she asked.
"Why, miss, it came to me by accident only; but the truth is there's a plot laid, it seems, to carry you off to the mountains."
"By whom, Cannie?"
"That's the very thing, miss, that I don't know; but a strange man met me on my way here this mornin' and tould me that he was a friend to your father—who was wanst a friend to him—and that, if I'd see you, to put you on your guard against goin' either to the poor or sick at the hours I spoke of; and he bid me say, too, that there's bad work and thraichery about you—and by no manner o' means to go any distance from your father's house—ay, thraichery, an from them you'd never think o' suspectin' for it. Now, miss, keep this counsel to yourself, and don't say it was I that tould you, but as you love a fair name and an unblemished character, act upon it. Dang me," he added, "but I had like to forget—if any message—I was bid to tell you—should come from Widow Lynch's, sayin' that her daughter's dyin' and wishes to see you, and that it's afther dusk it'll come—if it does come—well, if any sich message is sent to you, don't go—nor don't go for any message, no matther what it is—hem—ahem—oh! here I have it at last miss," he exclaimed in his natural voice, "isn't that a beauty?"
Julia got as pale as death for a moment, and then her brow became crimson with indignation. In fact, she saw not his bracelet—nor heard what he said in praise of it; but after a little time she said, "Thank you, Cannie, most seriously do I thank you—and you may rest assured I shall faithfully follow your advice."
"Do so, miss," he replied, "so God bless you and take care of you! and that's the worst the rantin Cannie Soogah wishes you."
Alick Purcel almost immediately joined the family in the parlor, to whom he related a full and somewhat ludicrous account of the seige of O'Driscol Castle, as he called it—or Nassau Lodge. As our readers, however, are already aware of the principal particulars of that attack, we shall only briefly recapitulate what they already know, and confine ourselves to merely one portion of it, in which portion our doughty and heroic friend, the magistrate, was most peculiarly concerned.
"Having tested the martial magistrate's courage," he proceeded, "by a hint from Fergus, who was as much amused by it as I was, and finding that it was of the oozing or Bob Acres quality, we resolved, on hearing that the house was surrounded, to examine, and prime and load all the fire-arms in the house, as the case demanded. Some had been already loaded, but at all events we looked to them, and such as were uncharged we loaded on the spot, and then threw ourselves on the bed without undressing, in order that we might be ready for a surprise. Fergus and I, after having lain awake for a considerable time, taking it for granted that they had given up all intention of attacking the house, at length fell into a kind of wakeful doze from which we were at once aroused by a loud knocking at the hall-door. We quietly opened the drawing-room windows, and in a firm tone demanded what they wanted, and the answer was, that a friend of M'Carthy's wished very much to settle an account with him. We replied he was not in the house, and that even if he were, they should fight for him before they got him. We also told them our opinion of their conduct, and said, that if they did not leave the place, we would scatter the contents of a blunderbuss among them. I should state that they knew my voice, and said that they didn't want me then, but that my turn would come soon. When we had done speaking, a strong mellow voice, which I'll swear was not strange to me, said something to them in Irish, and the next moment the windows were shivered with bullets. Fortunately, we kept ourselves out of their range; but at all events, we had light enough to see them put their fire-arms to their shoulders, and time enough to stand aside. We returned the fire instantly, but whether with any fatal effect or not we could not say. When the smoke cleared away they had disappeared, but early this morning traces of blood were found on the spot. A servant of O'Driscol's, named Phil Hart, says they received no injury, for that he followed them at a distance up as far as Darby Hourigan's, near whose door they fired a couple of shots. Darby, it appears, joined Hart, having been aroused by the report of fire-arms; and both, on being discovered on their track, were fired at and wounded. Hart says it is his blood that is on the lawn, and perhaps it may be so, but I rather think the fellows did not escape scot-free at any rate."
"But where," asked John, "was the magistrate all this time?"
"That's precisely what I am coming to," replied Alick; "the fact was that the martial magistrate, who, I believe in my soul, lay shivering with terror on his bed the whole previous part of the night, on hearing our dialogue with the Whiteboys, and the report of the fire-arms, altogether disappeared, and it was not until two or three searches had been made for him, that he was discovered squatted three double in the coalhole. On hearing and recognizing our voices, he started up, and commenced searching round him in the aforesaid coal-hole. 'Come, sir!' he exclaimed, in a voice of most ludicrous swagger, 'come, you scoundrel! I'll unkennel you—whoever may be afraid of you, I'm not—my name's O'Driscol, sirra—Fitzgerald O'Driscol, commonly called for brevity's sake, Fitzy O'Driscol—a name, sir, that ought to strike terror into you—and if it didn't, it isn't here I'd be hunting you—out with you now—surrendher, I say, or if you don't upon my honor and conscience you're a dead man.' 'What's the matter, sir?' I asked—'in Heaven's name, who have you there?' 'Who is in the coalhole, father?' asked Fergus, with a face whose gravity showed wonderful strength of muscle. 'Yes, gentlemen,' replied the magistrate 'heroes that you are—riflemen from a window—upon my honor and conscience, I think courage is like the philosopher's stone—here have I, while you were popping like schoolboys out of the window, pursued their leader single-handed into the coal-hole, for I'm sure he's in it, or if not, he must have escaped some other way—d—n the villain, I hope he hasn't escaped, at all events—here, lights, I say, and guard all the passes—d—n it, let us do our business with proper discipline and skill—fall back, Fergus—and you, John, advance—steady now—charge the coal-hole, boys, and I'll lead you on to the danger.' Of course he was half drunk, but at the same time he managed to conceal his cowardice with considerable adroitness. I need not say that upon examining the coal-hole, and every other possible place of concealment there was no desperate leader found, nor any proof obtained that an entrance had been effected at all. 'Well, come,' exclaimed O'Driscol, 'although the villain has escaped, we managed the thing well—all of us—he must have given me the slip from the kitchen and leaped out of a window. You acted well, boys; and as I like true courage and resolution—ay, an' if you like, downright desperation—being a bit of a dare-devil myself—I say I will give you a glass of brandy-and-water each, and the intrepid old veteran will take one himself. Ah! wait till my friend the Castle hears of this exploit—upon my sowl and honor, it will be a feather in my cap.' Fergus whispered to me, 'It ought to be a white one, then.' We accordingly adjourned in the dining-room, where after having finished a tumbler of brandy-and-water each, we at length went to bed, and thus closed the seige of O'Driscol Castle."
Julia on hearing of this attack and its object, felt her mind involved in doubt and embarrassment. She could not reconcile the desire of the Whiteboys to injure M'Carthy, with the fact of his having, by his own admission, spent the night among them. Or what if the attack was a mere excuse to prevent any suspicion of his connection with them at all? She knew not, and until she had arrived at some definite view of the matter, she resolved to keep as much aloof from M'Carthy as she could possiby do without exciting observation. In the course of the morning, however, they met accidentally, and the short dialogue which took place between her and him did not at all help to allay the suspicions with which her mind was burdened and oppressed.
"My dear Julia," said he, "I see that you are offended with me, but indeed you need not; I can give you a full and satisfactory explanation of my black face, if that be the cause of offence."
"Some other time, Mr. M'Carthy, I may hear your explanation; but not just now."
"I cannot bear your displeasure," he added; "and you know it."
"I wish you had felt as anxious not to deserve it."
"I am unconscious of having deserved it—but hear me, dearest Julia———"
"Well, sir, I do."
"Do you not go to see Widow Lynch's poor sick daughter this evening?"
"No, sir, and well, sir—good heavens! what means this all?—I am anxious, I say, to give you a full explanation, and if you would only pay a visit this evening to the widow's, I could meet you and explain everything."
The Cannie Soogah's warning here pressed upon her mind with peculiar force.
"But," she replied, "I shall not go this evening."
"Well, will you say what evening you intend to go?"
"No, sir," she replied; "I don't intend to go in future, either morning or evening. Good-bye, Mr. M'Carthy, some time must elapse before I can listen to your explanation."
"Is this generous, Julia?"
"I believe it is just, Frank. Ask your own conscience, whether you are entitled to any confidence from me—good-bye."
And with these words, she tripped up to the drawing-room, where she joined her mother and sister.
M'Carthy, after having settled down from the tumult occasioned by these cowardly and murderous attempts upon his life, could not help indulging in the deepest indignation against the vile and unmanly systems of secret confederation in crime, by which the country was infested and disgraced; its industry marred, its morality debauched, and its love of truth changed into the practice of dissimulation, falsehood, and treachery. He accordingly determined, as far as in him lay, to penetrate the mystery, and ascertain the danger by which he was surrounded, and if possible, to punish his unmanly and ferocious enemies. He consequently lodged informations against Frank Finnerty, for whose apprehension a warrant was issued; but thanks to the kind services of his friend Mogue Moylan, Finnerty was duly forewarned, and when our friend, the heroic O'Driscol, armed to the teeth, and accompanied by as many police as would have captured a whole village, arrived at and surrounded his house, he found that the bird had flown, and left nothing but empty walls behind him.
CHAPTER XIV.—State of the Country
—O'Driscol rivals Falstaff—Who Buck English was supposed to be.
M'Carthy, on finding that he had failed, in consequence of the disappearance of Finnerty, in developing the system which nurtured such cowardly and inhuman principles, now found it necessary, independent of all threats uttered against him, to return to college in order to prosecute his studies, and maintain the high position which he had there obtained by honors already won, and the general brilliancy of his answering. A kind of love-quarrel had taken place between himself and Julia Purcel, which, as is frequently the case, prevented him on the one side from giving, and her on the other, from receiving an explanation. The consequence was that they separated, each laboring under that yearning of the heart towards the other, which combines the most delicious sensations connected with the passion—tenderness disguised under an impression of offence, hope, uncertainty, and that awful anger that is never to forgive or change, but which, in the meantime, is furtively seeking for an opportunity to be reconciled, and vent its rage in kisses and in tears.
In the meantime, the state of the country was fast becoming such as had seldom, or perhaps never been recollected by living man. The confederation, conspiracy, opposition, rebellion, or what you will, had risen to a gigantic height. In point of fact, it ought rather to have been termed an unarmed insurrection. Passive resistance was the order and the practice of the day. The people were instructed by the agitators, or rather by the great agitator himself, to oppose the laws without violating them; a piece of advice which involved an impossibility in the first place, but which was as false in itself, as replete with dishonesty and imposture, as it was deceitful and treacherous to the poor people who were foolish and credulous enough to be influenced by it. We are not now assailing the Whigs for the reforms which they effected in the Irish establishment, because we most cordially approve of them. Nay, more, we are unquestionably of opinion that that reform was not only the boldest, the most brilliant, but the most just and necessary act of policy, which they ever offered as a boon to this country. But what we do blame them for is, that they should have suffered themselves to be kept in such gross ignorance of the state of the Irish church, as to allow its shocking and monstrous corruptions to remain uncorrected so long; that they should have allowed themselves to be baffled and imposed upon, and misled by the hypocritical howlings and fictitious alarms of the old Tory party, who, whenever they felt the slightest dread that the Irish Establishment would slip through their fingers, filled heaven and earth with prophetic denunciations against England, not forbearing to threaten the very throne itself with a general alienation of Protestant attachment and allegiance, if any of its worst and rottenest corruptions should be touched. No; the Whigs should have known the state and condition of the Irish church from clear and correct sources, and not have subjected the country to the pernicious and degrading consequences of a turbulent agitation. What is just in itself ought to be conceded to reason and utility, and not withheld until violence and outrage seem to extort it; for this only holds out a bounty to future agitation. Be this as it may, the whole country, at the period of which we write, was in a state of general commotion and tumult altogether unparalleled. Law was completely paralyzed, set at defiance, and laughed at. Large bodies, consisting of many thousands, traversed different parts of the country in open day, swearing every one they met to resist the payment of tithes in every way and in every sense. Many gentlemen, who had either paid it or been suspected to do so, or who had been otherwise obnoxious as landlords, or for strong party feeling, were visited by these licentious multitudes with an intention of being put to death, whilst the houses of several wealthy farmers, who had unfortunately paid the hated impost, were wrecked in the face of day. Nor was this all: men were openly and publicly marked for destruction, and negotiations for their murder entered into in fairs, and markets, and houses of entertainment, without either fear or disguise. In such a state of things, it is unnecessary to say that many lives were taken, and that great outrages were from time to time committed. Two or three clergymen were murdered, several tithe-proctors or collectors of tithe were beaten nearly to death; and to such a pitch did the opposition rise, that at length it became impossible to find any one hardy and intrepid, or, in other words, mad enough, to collect tithe, unless under the protection either of the military or police. Our friends, Proctor Purcel and his sons, were now obliged, not merely to travel armed, but frequently under the escort of police. Their principal dread, however, was from an attack upon their premises at night; and, as fearful threats were held out that such an attack would be made, Purcel, who, as the reader knows, was a man of great wealth, engaged men to build a strong and high wall about his house and out-offices, which could now be got at only through a gate of immense strength, covered with thick sheet-iron, and bound together by bars of the same metal, in such a way that even the influence of fire could not destroy it, or enable an enemy to enter.