"No, my dear mother," replied her son, "while I have life I will not separate from' you and these dear girls."
"This is madness," observed Julia; "what can you expect? Have we not witnessed bloodshed enough to-night already?—or are you determined that we shall be compelled to witness your murder before our faces? Oh, dear Alick, be advised by my mother; by secreting yourself, you may escape; but if you are found here, you will be instantly shot."
"Dear Alick," said Mary, "by the love you bear us, and by the blood of those whom these murdering ruffians have sacrificed, we implore and entreat you to conceal yourself; and, if that fails—then, by the love of God, do as we desire!"
She had scarcely uttered the last words, when a single Whiteboy, with blackened face, made his appearance at the end of the kitchen stairs, and approached them, waving his hands with a mingled expression of distraction and entreaty.
"Dear John," he exclaimed, "be patient; and Julia, be calm, and hear me. I am," he added, in a low and guarded whisper, "Frank M'Carthy: as you hope for mercy from God and life from man, listen! The door will be broken in in a few minutes; but if you are guided by me, you may yet be safe. Blacken your face forthwith, Alick; and here is a shirt marked with blood too—a circumstance that will give you more security—which I have brought you."
"Frank M'Carthy," exclaimed Julia, "and a Whiteboy! Oh, yes, be advised by him, Alick; as for me, I care not how soon death comes—I have little to live for now!"
"If there was time, dear Julia, for explanation, I could soon satisfy you; but, alas! I fear to ask for your father and John."
"They are both murdered, sir," she replied; "they have fallen victims to men who are in the habit of wearing white shirts and black faces—with, I fear, blacker hearts."
"Great God!" he exclaimed, "is this so? but time now is life: I must bear your suspicions, Julia, until a fitter occasion. You, Alick, as you will not and wish not to leave your mother and sisters unprotected, follow me—follow me, or, as I hope for God's mercy, you are lost, and your sisters—I dread to think of it."
"It is enough," said Alick, struck now with absolute impatience: "I consent, Frank—what do you wish?"
He brought him at once to the kitchen, where he took soot from the chimney, which he moistened with water, and, in a couple of minutes, blackened his face and put the bloody shirt over his dress. The change was so completely and quickly effected, that the females for a moment took it for granted that they were strangers who had forced an entrance by some other way.
"Now," said M'Carthy, placing a loaded pistol in Alick's hand, "the pass-word for the night is 'the Cannie Soogah'—you won't forget that?—but, above all things, don't think of using your pistol, whatever may happen, until you hear me shout, 'the Cannie Soogah to the rescue!' and even then, wait until you see and speak to him—the brave, the noble, the glorious fellow!"
"Good God! and is he here?" asked Alick.
"He's here—he's everywhere," replied the other: "he's here, at all events, before now, I hope: the manner in which I shall call upon his name is this—first, I shout 'the Cannie Soogah!' the very mention of which will be followed by a general cheer; then, when he appears, I shall call out, 'the Cannie Soogah to the rescue!' After this you must be guided by me, as I must be by the Cannie Soogah and circumstances. Come, now, it is safer to open the door and admit these ruffians."
"And remember," added Alick, turning with a look of agony to the females, "that the men have all been shot, and are lying in the upper room!"
The ruse of M'Carthy succeeded. The Whiteboys, on being admitted, took it for granted that those who opened the door belonged to themselves and had got in by some other entrance. The house was hastily searched; and the fact of the Purcels having been killed in the upper room, was corroborated by the limbs of John and his father being visible among the burning pile. The state of the house now rendered a hasty retreat out of it necessary. A sudden trembling of the walls and upper joists was felt, the crowd rushed out, and the next moment the whole building was one fallen mass of smoking ruins.
The females now found themselves prisoners; but still their brother and M'Carthy kept near them, and seemed to act as a portion of those to whom their guardianship! had been entrusted. Julia found herself committed, as if by general consent, to the care of one individual, who kept her a little in advance of the accompanying crowd—to! whom, from time to time, he waved his hand without looking behind him to intimate that they should not press close upon them, but afford him an opportunity of holding what he wished to be considered some confidential conversation with her.
"That I may be blest, Miss Julia, but you're a lucky girl this night—an' I think I may say that I'm a lucky boy myself. I'm to take care of you, and to bring you to a safe place; which I'll do, never fear. You know what I told you afore about my family—how we wor ever an' always doin' our best against the Sassanach Laws—an ould family it is—an' sure ould blood is betther than riches any day—an' it isn't complexion aither, Miss Julia, that a—this way, darlin'—this way—an' how long now is it since you fell in consate with me? Well, darlin' that I may die a happy death in a good ould age, if I can blame you for not spakin'—especially afther havin' lost your father and two brothers this night. Howandiver, we can have a lob of their wealth, anyhow, yourself and myself—this way, darlin', there's a party of friends waitin' for us—wisha' thin, but I'm lookin' forrid to a happy life wid you—but sure you might say a single word to me, darlin'—jist to let me know you hear me."
Whether Julia heard this one-sided dialogue or not, it is difficult to say. She seemed passive and inattentive, and walked on with an abstracted and mechanical motion. Her brother and lover could only get near her occasionally, having found it necessary to watch her mother and sister also. They could perceive, however, not only that the crowd which followed Mogue appeared to be a good deal in his confidence, and under his sway, but that it increased so rapidly as he went along, that they became alarmed, especially as the Cannie Soogah had not yet made his appearance.
At this moment they were met by a body of men, who on looking at Mogue and Julia, exclaimed, "You are bringing her the wrong way—you are breakin' your ordhers—you know that our captain laid it out, that you should bring her in the other direction, and to where the guard is waitin' for her."
"Ay," replied Mogue, "but you know our captain had been shot, and is lyin' stiff inside the gate there behind us."
"But livin' or dead," they replied, "do you observe your duty—it's a bad an' dangerous example you're settin'."
"But sure if the captain was alive," said Mogue, "it 'ud be a different thing—that I may be happy, but I'm bringin' her the right way, and to the right place, too—amn't I, boys?" he exclaimed, turning to his followers.
"All's right!" they replied; "to be sure you are—go on, and more powers!"
About a minute or two before this, a mounted Whitefoot had rode up, and having heard the words, he replied to Mogue, in a loud voice, "No, sir! our captain is not shot, but is safe and sound." And scarcely had the words proceeded from his lips when the very individual, as it seemed, who had led them during the night, galloped up to the place of altercation.
"Who says I am dead," said he; "I don't look like a dead man, I think. Meek way there till I speak to this man," pointing to Mogue. "Why, sir, did you dare to disobey ordhers by taking this lady to the wrong place? Answer me that?"
Mogue, seeing that his support was now powerful, looked at them, and asked aloud—"Am I bringin' the lady the wrong way, boys?"
"No," they replied; "Go on, and more power!"
At this moment M'Carthy shouted out in loud and powerful tones—"The Cannie Soogah!" and the words were no sooner uttered than Mogue started, a rapid stir and murmur pervaded, the multitude, and almost instantly a most hearty and vociferous cheer awakened the echoes that slept among the neighboring hills. The moment this had subsided, the same voice repeated the name with an addition—"The Cannie Soogah to the rescue—here he is!"
Our facetious friend, for it was he, threw up his hand in a peculiar manner, that made the act understood by all present, with the exception of M'Carthy and Alick Purcel.
"Yes, boys," he exclaimed, "I am here; and I thank you for your kindness. You have had a full revenge to-night on Purcel and his family; but, as I have been a long time in search of a good wife, I suppose you have no objection that I should take charge of the ladies."
These words were followed by another astounding cheer, and the Cannie, riding over to the spot where Mrs. Purcel and her daughter stood—for she and Mary had now joined Julia—was about to speak to them, when the report of a pistol was heard, and at the same moment a bullet whizzed past his ear.
"Treachery!" he shouted, "treachery against your commander! Seize upon that person, in the name of Captain Right."
His words came late; another report followed the first, with an interval of less than a quarter of a minute between them, and instantly our pious friend, who had flattered himself with the prospect of a long and happy life in the possession of Julia Purcel, fell stone-dead to the earth.
"What!" shouted the Cannie, "is this more treachery? But wait, I'll soon cure this."
He put a horn to his lips as he spoke, and having given it a sharp, quick, and hasty blast, he nodded his head, as much as to say, "Wait a moment."
"The last shot wasn't threachery anyhow," exclaimed Jerry Joyce, whose voice Alick immediately recognized; "somebody," he added, with a significant look, "has ped honest Mogue for his."
"Is he dead?" asked the Cannie.
"He is dead, captain," replied several, "and so may every one die that's a traitor to the Cannie Soogah—our bold Captain Right.'"
A body of about a thousand men now made their appearance, every one of them personally devoted to the Cannie Soogah; and brought there for the humane purpose, if possible, of saving Purcel and his sons that night.
"It was a false alarm, my friends," said he, as they came up; "there was only one traitor among them, and he has been brought to his account. I didn't wish for his death, and he might have got some other punishment, but it can't be helped now; I'm only sorry for the false-hearted vagabond because he wasn't fit to die."
He then, after a few words of advice, dismissed them to their respective homes, with the exception of a certain number of faithful followers, whom he retained for the purpose of assisting him to escort Mrs. Purcel and her daughters to the house of our worthy magistrate. Another body he also appointed to the task of carrying the dead and wounded away to some remote place, where they could be interred, or so concealed that their indentification might not involve their surviving relatives.
Our narrative, we may say, is closed. The Cannie now having placed Mrs. Purcel and her daughters on horseback, directed his friends to proceed to the residence of the redoubtable Fitzy O'Driscol, who was by no means prepared for seeing such a number of Whiteboys about his house. Alick Purcel and M'Carthy also got horses, and as they went along, M'Carthy received from him a solution to the mysterious occurrences in which he had been involved.
"Mr. Purcel's family," said he, but not in hearing of the females, "is the last family that I ought to protect this night. They have shot my twin brother, the man that went by the name of Buck English. He is now gone to his reckonin' and may God forgive him! He was tried and found guilty of murdher in the county of Cork, and the worst of it was that it was in the act of robbin' a gentleman's house that the murdher was committed. While he was in gaol I contrived to get into him, and we managed so well that he escaped, and I was kept in his place. The next day I tould them the truth, and he was taken again; but it seems that the gintleman that prosecuted, on hearin' that there was another person so like him, felt unaisy in his mind and got him off for the murdher, in dread he might have sworn against the wrong man. He couldn't keep himself quiet though, for, on the very day before his pardon came, he was caught, along wid some others, in the act of breakin' out of the gaol, and for that he got a severe wound and seven years' transportation. All our lives, I and my other brother—"
"Why, have you another brother, Cannie?" asked M'Carthy.
"Troth, and I have; and you may thank God that I have, or it isn't here but in heaven, I hope, you'd be this night. Well, as I was sayin', I an' my other brother spent our whole life in tryin' to defate him in his plans and skames—may God forgive him! We often did, but not always; for sometimes he was too many for both of us."
"But, Cannie, about the night I was in Frank Finnerty's, who was it that saved my life twice?"
"One of them—he that wounded the fellows—I don't wish to name—but, indeed I'm crippled here, bekaise you know, gintlemen, that there are laws in the land. A friend to your family met Mogue Moylan, and, suspectin' what was in the wind, sent that friend to assist you, and it was by volunteerin' to take your life that he was able to save you. My brother, afther meetin' him, and hearin' from him what happened was the man that met you aftherwards, that gave you the passwords, and showed you how to open the windey. There were others there that knew you, for I hope you don't think that every man goin' out at night wid a white shirt and a black face on him is a murdherer."
"God forbid!" said M'Carthy, "I've been disguised by both myself, as it happens. It is difficult, however, for any country to be happy, or any people either industrious or moral, when such secret confederacies are made the standard of both law and morality."
"That's thruth, Mr. M'Carthy, and no man knows it betther than I do; I and my brother—not him that's gone to his account to night, but the other—were forced to join them for our own safety, but, as long as we wor of them, we endeavored to do as much good—that is, to prevent as much evil—as we could. It was I that sent you, Mr. M'Carthy, the letter to Dublin, and it was I that sent the messenger for you this evenin'; I took it for granted that if you had remained in Mr. Purcel's you'd been shot, and, besides, I wanted you to watch Mogue Moylan, for I had raison to know that he intended to play a trick on me to night in regard to Miss Julia. I had my doubts all along whether I could come in time to save the whole family and defate my brother, and I could not, for I had an immense number of my own men to get together; however, God's will be done; I did all that lay in my power."
On reaching Nassau Lodge, the party anticipated some danger from Fergus O'Driscol's fire-arms. Alick, however, knocked, and on hearing the window open, exclaimed:—
"Don't be alarmed, Fergus, we are friends. My mother and sisters are here, and wish to get in. This has been a dreadful night!—a night of bloodshed and murder!"
"My God!" exclaimed Fergus, "what is this you tell me? But why, Alick, are you surrounded by such a number of Whiteboys. I can see distinctly that they are such by the light of the moon."
"Boys," said the Cannie Soogah, "disperse now—and thank you; I feel your kindness, and I won't forget it—you see the people of the house are alarmed—but that's not the worst of it—what," he added, with a peculiar smile, "if you bring that terrible dare-divil, O'Driscol, upon you!"
The crowd immediately dispersed, and in a few minutes the melancholy group were admitted to the welcome shelter of the magistrate's hospitable roof; for such, in fact, it was.
We do not intend to dwell upon this melancholy meeting of the neighboring families, nor upon the heart-rending details which were given of the dreadful circumstances that made that night so hideous. All the O'Driscols were present, and deeply participated in the affliction of the late proctor's family with the exception of the magistrate himself, who, much to their astonishment, was not forthcoming. Every successive moment, however, he was looked for; but as he did not, after an unusual period of expectation, make his appearance, some alarm began to be felt, which gradually increased, especially on the part of his daughter, until she proposed that a search should be made for him. This was accordingly done, when—but let it not reach the ears of his friend the Castle, he was discovered somewhat in the position of Philosopher Square, behind Molly Seagrim's curtain, squatted upon his hunkers, as they say, in the furthest and darkest corner of the coal hole.
In about half an hour after this discovery, a knock came to the door, and it was intimated to Alick Purcel and M'Carthy, that the Cannie Soogah wished to see them for a minute or two,—but that he declined coming in.
"Gentlemen," said he, when they came to the hall-door, "I have made up my mind since I left you awhile ago, and I'm come to bid you both farewell. This at present is not a paceful country to live in, and I'm tired of the work that's goin' on in it. I'm now come to bid you both farewell, and my brother is goin' along wid me. The other will be laid in his grave this night. I wish, Mr. Purcel, I could a' done more for your family; but what's done can't be undone. Farewell, then," said he, and, as he spoke, his voice was filled with deep but manly emotion—"Farewell to you both! When you think of me, let it be kindly, for from this night out you will never see the Cannie Soogah more."
He put his two hands upon his face, gave a sob or two, and immediately departed at a rapid pace, and never was seen in the country afterwards.
It is necessary to say now that Alick Purcel and his beloved Miss O'Driscol were united;—that M'Carthy, in due time, after having been called to the bar, was made happy in the possession of Julia Purcel; and that Jerry Joyce, in imitation of his betters, was blessed by the hand and honest heart of Letty Lenehan.