"I certainly know very well," replied the baronet, "that I am exceedingly unpopular with the Popish party; but, in my conduct towards them, I only carried out the laws that had been passed against them."
"I know that, Sir Robert, and, as a Catholic, I am sorry that you and others were supported and egged on by such laws. Why, sir, a hangman could—give the same excuse, because if he put a rope about your neck, and tied his cursed knot nately under your left ear, what was he doin' but fulfillin' the law as you did? And now, Sir Robert, who would shake hands with a hangman, unless some unfortunate highway robber or murderer, that gives him his hand because he knows that he will never see his purty face agin. This discourse is all folly, however—you haven't a minute to lose—shall I order your horse?"
"Yes, you had better, Lanigan," replied the other, with a dogged appearance of cowardice and revenge. He could not forgive Lanigan the illustration that involved the comparison of the hangman; still his conscience and his cowardice both whispered to him that the cook was in the right.
This night was an eventful one. The course of our narrative brings us and our readers to the house of Captain Smellpriest, who had for his next-door neighbor the stalwart curate of the parish, the Rev. Samson Strong, to whom some allusion has been I already made in these pages. Now the difference between Smellpriest and Whitecraft was this—Smellpriest was not a magistrate, as Whitecraft was, and in his priest-hunting expeditions only acted upon warrants issued by some bigoted and persecuting magistrate or other who lived in the district. But as his propensity to hunt those unfortunate persons was known, the execution of the warrants was almost in every instance entrusted to his hands. It was not so with Sir Robert, who, being himself a magistrate, might be said to have been in the position at once of judge and executioner. At all events, the race of blood was pretty equal between them, so far as the clergy was concerned; but in general enmity to the Catholic community at large, Whitecraft was far more cruel and comprehensive in his vengeance. It is indeed an observation founded upon truth and experience, that in all creeds, in proportion to his ignorance and bigotry, so is the violence of the persecutor. Whitecraft, the self-constituted champion of Protestantism, had about as much religion as Satan himself—or indeed less, for we are told that he believes and trembles, while Whitecraft, on the contrary, neither believed nor trembled. But if he did not fear God, he certainly feared man, and on the night in question went home with as craven a heart—thanks to Lanigan—as ever beat in a coward's bosom. Smellpriest, however, differed from Whitecraft in many points; he was brave, though cruel, and addicted to deep potations. Whitecraft, it is true, drank more deeply still than he did; but, by some idiosyncrasy of stomach or constitution, it had no more effect upon him than it had upon the cask from which it had been drawn, unless, indeed, to reduce him to greater sobriety and sharpen his prejudices.
Be this as it may, the Rev. Samson Strong made his appearance in Smellpriest's house with a warrant, or something in the shape of one, which he placed in the gallant captain's hands, who was drunk.
"What's this, oh, Samson the Strong? said Smellpriest, laughing and hiccuping both at the same time.
"It's a hunt, my dear friend. One of those priests of Baal has united in unholy bands a Protestant subject with a subject of the harlot of abominations."
"Samson, my buck," said Smellpriest, "I hope this Popish priest of yours will not turn out to be a wild-goose. You know you have sent me upon many a wild-goose chase before; in—in—in fact, you nev—never sent me upon any other. You're a blockhead, oh, divine Samson; and that—that thick head of yours would flatten a cannon-ball. But what is it?—an intermarriage between the two P's—Popish and Protestant?"
"My dear," said his wife, "you must be aware that the Popishers have only got liberty to clatter their beads in public; but not to marry a Popisher to a Protestanter. This is a glorious opportunity for you to come home with a feather in your cap, my dear. Has he far to go, Mr. Strong? because he never goes out after the black game, as you call them, sir, that I don't feel as if I—but I can't express what I feel at his dear absence."
Now we have said that Smellpriest was drunk, which, in point of fact, was true; but not so drunk but that he observed some intelligent glances pass between his wife and the broad-shouldered curate.
"No, madam, only about two miles. Smellpriest, you know Jack Houlaghan's stripe?"
"Yes—I know Jack Houlaghan's stripe, in Kilrudden."
"Well, when you g'et to the centre of the stripe, look a little to your right, and—as the night is light enough—you will see a house—a cottage rather; to this cottage bring your men, and there you will find your game. I would not, captain, under other circumstances, advise you to recruit your spirits with an additional glass or two of liquor; but, as the night is cold, I really do recommend you to fortify yourself with a little refreshment."
He was easily induced to do so, and he accordingly took a couple of glasses of punch, and when about to mount his horse, it was found that he could not do so without the assistance of his men who were on duty, in all about six, every one of whom, as well as the captain himself, was well armed. It is unnecessary to state to the reader that the pursuit was a vain one. They searched the house to no purpose; neither priest or friar was there, and he, consequently, had the satisfaction of performing another wild-goose chase with his usual success, whenever the Rev. Samson Strong sent him in pursuit. In the meantime the moon went down, and the night became exceedingly dark; but the captain's spirits were high and boisterous, so much so that they began to put themselves forth in song, the song in question being the once celebrated satire upon James the Second and Tyrconnell, called "Lillibullero," now "The Protestant Boys." How this song gained so much popularity it is difficult to guess, for we are bound to say that a more pointless and stupid production never came from the brain of man. Be this as it may, we must leave the gallant captain and his gang singing it in full chorus, and request our readers to accompany us to another locality.
The sheriff had now recovered from a dreadful attack of the prevailing epidemic, and was able to resume his duties. In the meantime he had heard of the change which had taken place in the administration of affairs at headquarters—a change at which he felt no regret, but rather a good deal of satisfaction, as it relieved him from the performance of very disagreeable and invidious duties, and the execution of many severe and inhuman laws. He was now looking over and signing some papers, when he rang the bell, and a servant entered. "Tom," said he, "there is an old man, a poor mendicant, to call here, who was once a servant in our family; when he comes show him into the office. I expect some important family information from him respecting the property which we are disputing about in the Court of Chancery."
"Very well, sir," replied the servant, "I shall do so."
This occurred on the day of Whitecraft's visit to Squire Folliard, and it was on the evening of the same that Smellpriest was sent upon the usual chase, on the information of the Rev. Samson Strong; so that the events to which we have alluded occurred, as if by some secret relation to each other, on the same day.
At length our friend Fergus entered the office, in his usual garb of an aged and confirmed mendicant.
"Well, Reilly," said the sheriff, "I am glad you have come. I could have taken up this ruffian, this Red Rapparee, as he is properly called, upon suspicion; but that would have occasioned delay; and it is my object to lodge him in jail this night, so as to give him no chance of escape unless he breaks prison; but in order to prevent that, I shall give strict injunctions, in consequence of the danger to be apprehended from so powerful and desperate a character, that he be kept in strong irons."
"If it be within the strength of man, sir, to break prison, he will; he done it twice before; and he's under the notion that he never was born to be hanged; some of the ould prophecy men, and Mary Mahon, it seems, tould him so."
"In the meantime, Reilly, we shall test the truth of such prophecies. But listen. What is your wish that I should do for you, in addition to what I have already done. You know what I have promised you, and that for some time past, and that I have the Secretary's letter stating that you are free, and have to dread neither arrest nor punishment; but that is upon the condition that you shall give all the evidence against this man that you are possessed of. In that case the Government will also bountifully reward you besides."
"The Government need not think of any such thing, your honor," replied Reilly; "a penny of Government money will never cross my pocket. It isn't for any reward I come against this man, but because he joined the blood-hounds of Sir Robert Whitecraft against his own priests and his own religion; or at last against the religion he professed, for I don't think he ever had any."
"Well, then, I can make you one of my officers."
"Is it to go among the poor and distressed, sir, and help, maybe, to take the bed from undher the sick father or the sick mother, and to leave them without a stick undher the ould roof or naked walls? No, sir; sooner than do that I'd take to the highway once more, and rob like a man in the face of danger. That I may never see to-morrow," he proceeded, with vehemence, "but I'd rather rob ten rich men than harish one poor family. It was that work that druv me to the coorse I left—that an' the persecution that was upon us. Take my word, sir, that in nineteen cases out of twenty it was the laws themselves, and the poverty they brought upon the country, that made the robbers."
"But could you not give evidence against some others of the gang?"
"No, sir; there is not one of them in this part of the kingdom, and I believe the most of them all are out of it altogether. But, even if they were not, I, sir, am not the man to betray them; the Red Rapparee would, if he could get at them; but, thank God, I've put every man of them beyond his reach."
"You did! and pray, now, why, may I ask, did that happen?"
"Bekaise it came to my ears that it was his intention to inform against them, and to surrender them all to the Government."
"Well, Reilly, after all, I believe you to be an honest fellow, even although you were once a robber; but the question now is, what is to be done? Are you sure of his whereabouts?"
"I think so, sir; or, if I am not, I know one that is. But I have an observation to make. You know, sir, I would a' gone abroad, a freeman before this time, only that it's necessary I should still keep on my disguise, in ordher that I may move about as I wish until I secure this Red Rapparee. After that, sir, please God, I'll taste a mouthful of freedom. In the meantime I know one, as I said, that will enable us to make sure of him."
"Pray, who is that?"
"Tom Steeple, sir."
"Do you mean the poor fool of that name—or rather, I believe, of that nickname?"
"I do, sir; and in many things he's less of a fool than wiser men. He has been dodg-in' him for the last two or three days; and he's a person that no one would ever suspect, unless, indeed, the cautious and practised Rapparees; but in ordher to meet any such suspicion, I have got upon the right trail myself—we're sure of him now, I think."
"Well, Reilly," proceeded the sheriff, "I leave the management of the capture of this man to yourself. You shall have a strong and determined party to support you. Do you only show them the man, and, take my word for it, they will secure the robber. After this affair is over you must throw off those rags. I will furnish you with decent clothes, and you can go out at large without fear or risk, and that under your own name too. I took your hint, and declined swearing the informations against him before the old squire, as I had intended, from an apprehension that he might possibly blab the fact to Whitecraft, who, if your information be correct, would have given him notice to fly, or otherwise concealed him from justice."
"Well, sir," said Reilly, "it's my opinion that the Rapparee will lodge in Sligo jail before to-morrow mornin'; and it's a thousand pities that Whitecraft shouldn't be sent there to keep him company."
"He certainly is the most unpopular man living. In the exuberance of his loyalty he has contrived to offend almost every liberal Protestant in the county, and that with an unjustifiable degree of wanton, and overbearing insolence, arising from his consciousness of impunity. However, thank God, his day is gone by. But, mark me, Reilly—I had almost forgotten—don't neglect to secure the clothes in which the villain robbed me; they will be important."
"I had no intention of forgetting them, sir; and that scheme for throwing the guilt of his own villany on Mr. Reilly is another reason why I appear against him."
It was not, indeed, very easy for the Rapparee to escape. Whitecraft got home safe, a little before dusk, after putting his unfortunate horse to more than his natural speed. On his arrival he ordered wine to be brought, and sat down to meditate upon the most feasible plan for reinstating himself in the good graces of the new Government. After pondering over many speculations to that effect, it occurred to him that to secure the Rapparee, now that he could, as an agent and a guide, be of no further use to him, was the most likely procedure to effect his purpose. He accordingly rang for his usual attendant, and asked him if he knew where O'Donnel was. The man replied that he waa generally in or about Mary Mahon's.
"Then," proceeded his master, "let him be with me to-morrow morning at eleven o'clock."
"If I see him, sir, I shall tell him."
"And say that I have something to his advantage to mention to him."
"Yes, sir; I shan't forget it."
"Now," said he, after the servant had withdrawn, and taking a bumper of wine, "I know not how it is, but I feel very uncomfortable somehow. I certaintly did not expect a change in the Administration, nor a relaxation in the carrying out of the laws against Papists; and, under this impression, I fear I have gone too far, and that I may be brought over the coals for my conduct. I understand that the old French Abbe is returned, and once more a resident in the family of that cursed marquis. I think, by the way, I should go and apologize to both the marquis and the Abbe, and throw the blame of my own violence upon the conduct and instructions of the last Government; that, and the giving up of this ruffianly Rapparee to the present, may do something for me. This country, however, now that matters have taken such an unexpected turn, shall not long be my place of residence. As for Reilly, my marriage on the day after tomorrow with that stubborn beauty, Helen Folliard, will place an impassable barrier between him and her. I am glad he has escaped, for he will not be in our way, and we shall start for my English estates immediately after the ceremony. To-morrow, however, I shall secure the Rapparee, and hand him over to the authorities. I could have wished to hang Reilly, but now it is impossible; still, we shall start for England immediately after the nuptial knot is tied, for I don't think I could consider myself safe, now that he is at large, and at liberty to appear in his proper name and person especially after all the mischief I have done him, in addition to the fact of my bearing away his Cooleen Bawn, as she is called."
In fact, the man's mind was a turbid chaos of reflections upon the past and the future, in which selfishness, disappointed vengeance, terror, hypocritical policy, and every feeling that could fill the imagination of a man possessed of a vacillating, cowardly, and cruel heart, with the exception only of any thing that could border upon penitence or remorse. That Miss Folliard was not indifferent to him is true; but the feeling which he experienced towards her contained only two elements—sensuality and avarice. Of love, in its purest, highest, and holiest sense, he was utterly incapable; and he was not ignorant himself that, in the foul attachment which he bore her, he was only carrying into effect the principles of his previous life—those of a private debauchee, and a miser. That amiable, but unhappy and distracted, lady spent that whole evening in making preparations for her flight with Reilly. Her manner was wild and excited; indeed, so much so that the presence of mind and cool good sense, for which her maid Connor was remarkable, were scarcely sufficient to guide and direct her in this distressing emergency. She seemed to be absorbed by but one thought, and that was of her father. His affection for her enlarged and expanded itself in her loving heart, with a force and tenderness that nearly drove her into delirium. Connor, in the meantime, got all things ready, she herself having entrusted the management of every thing to her. The unhappy girl paced to and fro her room, sobbing and weeping bitterly, wringing her hands, and exclaiming from time to time:
"Oh, my father! my dear and loving father! is this the return I am making you for your tenderness and affection? what am I about to do? what steps am I going to take? to leave you desolate, with no heart for yours to repose upon! Alas! there was but one heart that you cared for, and in the duty and affection of that all your hopes for my happiness lay; and now, when you awake, you will find that that heart, the very heart on which you rested, has deserted you! When you come down to breakfast in the morning, and find that your own Helen, your only one, has gone oh! who will sustain, or soothe, or calm you in the frenzied grief of your desolation? But alas! what can I do but escape from that cowardly and vindictive villain the very incarnation of oppression and persecution; the hypocrite, the secret debauchee, the mean, the dastardly, whose inhuman ambition was based upon and nurtured by blood? Alas! I have but the one remedy flight with my noble minded lover, whom that dastardly villain would have hunted, even to his murder, or an ignominious death, which would have been worse. This flight is not spontaneously mine; I am forced to it, and of two evils I will choose the least; surely I am not bound to seal my own misery forever."
Connor had by this time attempted, as far as she could, to disguise her in one of her own dresses; but nothing could conceal the elegance and exquisite proportion of her figure, nor the ladylike harmony and grace of her motions. She then went to the oaken cabinet, mentioned by her father in the opening of our narrative, and as she always had the key of that portion of it which contained her own diamonds, and other property, she took a casket of jewels of immense value from it, and returned to her room, where she found Connor before her.
"Mr. Reilly is ready, miss," she said, "and is waiting for you behind the garden; the only one I dread in the house is Andy Cummiskey; he is so much attached to the master that I think if he knew you were about to escape he would tell him."
"Well, Connor, we must only avoid him as well as we can; but where, or how, shall I carry these jewels? in these slight pockets of yours, Connor, they could not be safe."
"Well, then, can't you give them to him to keep, and they'll be safe?"
"True, Connor, so they will; but I give him a heart which he prizes above them all. But, alas! my father! oh! Connor, shall I abandon him?"
"Do not distress yourself, my dear Miss Folliard; your father loves you too much to hold out his anger against you long. Did you not tell me that if Reilly was a Protestant your father said he would rather marry you to him than to Sir Robert, the villain, with all his wealth?"
"I did, Connor, and my father certainly said so; but the serpent, Connor, entwined himself about the poor credulous man, and succeeded in embittering him against Reilly, who would rather go to the scaffold—yes, and—which he would consider a greater sacrifice—rather abandon even me than his religion. And do you think, Connor, that I do not love my noble-minded Reilly the more deeply for this? I tell you, Connor, that if he renounced his religion upon no other principle than his love for me, I should despise him as a dishonorable, man, to whom it would not be safe for me to entrust my happiness."
"Well, well; but now it is time to start, and Reilly, as I said, is waiting for you behind the garden."
"Oh, Connor, and is it come to this? my dear papa! but I cannot go until I see him; no, Connor, I could not; I shall go quietly into his room, and take one look at him; probably it may be the last. Oh, my God! what am I about to do! Connor, keep this casket until I return; I shall not be long."
She then went to his chamber. The blinds and curtains of the windows had not been drawn, and it occurred to her that as her dress was so different from any which her father had ever seen on her, some suspicion might be created should he observe it. She therefore left the candlestick which she had brought with her on the inside sill of a lobby window, having observed at the door that the moonlight streamed in through the windows upon his bed. Judge of her consternation, however, when, on entering the room, her father, turning himself in the bed, asked:
"Is that Helen?"
"It is, papa; I thought you had been asleep, and I came up to steal my good-night kiss without any intention of awakening you."
"I drank too much, Helen, with Whitecraft, whom wine—my Burgundy—instead of warming, seems to turn into an icicle. However, he is a devilish shrewd fellow. Helen, darling, there's a jug of water on the table there; will you hand it to me; I'm all in a flame and a fever."
She did so, and her hand trembled so much that she was near spilling it. He took a long draught, after which he smacked his lips, and seemed to breathe more freely.
"Helen," said he.
"Well, dear papa."
"Helen, I had something to mention to you, but—"
"Don't disturb yourself to-night, papa; you are somewhat feverish," she added, feeling his pulse; if you will excuse me, papa, I think you drank too much; your pulse is very quick; if you could fall into rest again it would be better for you."
"Yes, it would; but my mind is uneasy and sorrowful. Helen, I thought you loved me, my darling."
"Oh, could you doubt it, papa? You see I am come as usual—no, not as usual, either—to kiss you; I will place my cheek against yours, as I used to do, dear papa, and you will allow me to weep—to weep—and to say that never father deserved the love of a daughter as you have deserved mine; and never did daughter love an affectionate and indulgent father more tenderly than your Cooleen Bawn does you."
"I know it, Helen, I know it; your whole life has been a proof of it, and will be a proof of it; I know you have no other object in this world than to make papa happy; I know I feel that you are great-minded enough to sacrifice everything to that."
"Well, but, papa," she continued, "for all my former offences against you will you pity and forgive me?"
"I do both, you foolish darling; but what makes you speak so?"
"Because I feel melancholy to-night, papa; and now, papa, if ever I should do any thing wrong, won't you pity and forgive your own Cooleen Bawn?"
"Get along, you gipsy—don't be crying. What could you do that papa wouldn't forgive you, unless to run away with Reilly? Don't you know that you can wind me round your finger?"
"Farewell, papa," she said, weeping all the time, for, in truth, she found it impossible to control herself; "farewell—good night! and remember that you may have a great deal to forgive your own Cooleen Bawn some of these days."
On leaving the bedroom, where she was hurried by her feelings into this indiscreet dialogue, she found herself nearly incapable of walking without support. The contending affections for her father and her lover had nearly overcome her. By the aid of the staircase she got to her own room, where she was met by Connor, into whose arms she fell almost helpless.
"Ah, Connor," she said, alluding to her father, whom she could not trust herself to name, "to-morrow morning what will become of him when he finds that I am gone? But I know his affectionate heart. He will relent—he will relent for the sake of his own Cooleen Bawn. The laws against Catholics are now relaxed, and I am glad of it. But I have one consolation, my dear girl, that I am trusting myself to a man of honor. We will proceed directly to the Continent;—that is, if no calamitous occurrence should take place to prevent us; and there, after our nuptials shall have been duly celebrated, I will live happy with Reilly—that is, Connor, as happy as absence from my dear father will permit me—and Reilly will live happy, and, at least, free from the persecution of bad laws, and such villains as base and vindictive Whitecraft. You, Connor, must accompany me to the back of the garden, and see me off. Take this purse, Connor, as some compensation for your truth and the loss of your situation."
It was now, when the moment of separation approached, that Connor's tears began to flow, far less at the generosity of her mistress than her affection, and that which she looked upon as probably their final separation.
"Dear Connor," said her mistress, "I would expect that support to my breaking heart which I have hitherto experienced from you. Be firm now, for you see I am not firm, and your tears only render me less adequate to encounter the unknown vicissitudes which lie before me."
"Well, then, I will be firm, my dear mistress; and I tell you that if there is a God in heaven that rewards virtue and goodness like yours, you will be happy yet. Come, now, he is waiting for you, and the less time we lose the better. We shall go out by the back way—it is the safest."
They accordingly did so, and had nearly reached the back wall of the garden when they met Malcomson and Cummiskey, on their way into the kitchen, in order to have a mug of strong ale together. The two men, on seeing the females approach, withdrew to the shelter of a clump of trees, but not until they were known by Connor.
"Come, my dear mistress," she whispered, "there is not one second of time to be lost. Cummiskey, who is a Catholic, might overlook our being here at this hour; because, although he is rather in the light of a friend than a servant to your father, still he is a friend to Reilly as well; but as for that ugly Scotchman, that is nothing but bone and skin, I would place no dependence whatever upon him."
We will not describe the meeting between Reilly and the Cooleen Bawn. They had no time to lose in the tender expressions of their feelings. Each shook hands with, and bid farewell to, poor affectionate Connor, who was now drowned in tears; and thus they set off, with a view of leaving the kingdom, and getting themselves legally married in Holland, where they intended to reside.
CHAPTER XX.—The Rapparee Secured
—Reilly and the Cooleen Bawn Escape, and are Captured.
Cummiskey had a private and comfortable room of his own, to which he and the cannie Scotchman proceeded, after having ordered from the butler a tankard of strong ale. There was a cheerful fire in the grate, and when the tankard and glasses were placed upon the table the Scotchman observed:
"De'il be frae my saul, maisther Cummiskey, but ye're vera comfortable here."
"Why, in troth, I can't complain, Mr. Malcomson; here's your health, sir, and after that we must drink another."
"Mony thanks, Andrew."
"Hang it, I'm not Andrew: that sounds like Scotch; I'm Andy, man alive."
"Wfiel mony thanks, Andy; but for the maitter o' that, what the de'il waur wad it be gin it were Scotch?"
"Bekaise I wouldn't like to be considered a Scotchman, somehow."
"Weel, Andrew—Andy—I do just suppose as muckle; gin ye war considered Scotch, muckle more might be expeck' frae you than, being an Irisher as you are, you could be prepared to answer to; whereas—"
"Why, hang it, man alive, we can give three answers for your one."
"Weel, but how is that now, Andy? Here's to ye in the meantime; and 'am no savin' but this yill is just richt gude drink; it warms the pit o' the stamach, man."
"You mane by that the pit o' the stomach, I suppose."
"Ay, just that."
"Troth, Mr. Malcomson, you Scotchers bring everything to the pit o' the stomach—no, begad, I ax your pardon, for although you take care of the pratie bag, you don't forget the pocket."
"And what for no, Andy? why the de'il war pockets made, gin they wanna to be filled? but how hae ye Irishers three answers for our ane?"
"Why, first with our tongue; and even with that we bate ye—flog you hollow. You Scotchmen take so much time in givin' an answer that an Irishman could say his pattherin aves before you spake. You think first and spake aftherwards, and come out in sich a way that one would suppose you say grace for every word you do spake; but it isn't 'for what we are to receive' you ought to say 'may the Lord make us thankful, but for what we are to lose'—that is, your Scotch nonsense; and, in troth, we ought to be thankful for losin' it."
"Weel, man, here's to ye, Andy—ou, man, but this yill is extraordinar' gude."
"Why," replied Andy, who, by the way, seldom went sober to bed, and who was even now nearly three sheets in the wind, "it is. Mr. Malcomson, the right stuff. But, as I was sayin', you Scotchmen think first and spake afther—one of the most unlucky practices that ever anybody had. Now, don't you see the advantage that the Irishman has over you; he spakes first and thinks aftherwards, and then, you know, it gives him plenty of time to think—here's God bless us all, anyhow—but that's the way an Irishman bates a Scotchman in givin' an answer; for if he fails by word o' mouth, why, whatever he's deficient in he makes up by the fist or cudgel; and there's our three Irish answers for one Scotch."
"Weel, man, a' richt—a' richt—we winna quarrel aboot it; but I thocht ye promised to gie us another toast—de'il be frae my; saul, man, but I'll drink as mony as you like wisiccan liquor as this."
"Ay, troth, I did say so, and devil a thing but your Scotch nonsense put it out o' my head. And now, Mr. Malcomson, let me advise you, as a friend, never to attempt to have the whole conversation to yourself; it I isn't daicent.
"Weel, but the toast, man?"
"Oh, ay; troth, your nonsense would put any thing out of a man's head. Well, you see this comfortable room?"
"Ou, ay; an vara comfortable it is; ma faith, I wuss I had ane like it. The auld squire, however, talks o' buildin' a new gertlen-hoose."
"Well, then, fill your bumper. Here's to her that got me this room, and had it furnished as you see, in order that I might be at my aise in it for the remaindher o' my life—I mane the Cooleen Bawn—the Lily of the Plains of Boyle. Come, now, off with it; and if you take it from your lantern jaws! till it's finished, divil a wet lip ever I'll give you."
The Scotchman was not indisposed to honor the toast; first, because the ale was both strong and mellow, and secondly, because the Cooleen Bawn was a great favorite of his, in consequence of the deference she paid to him as a botanist.
"Eh, sirs," he exclaimed, after finishing his bumper, "but she's a bonnie lassie that, and as gude as she's bonnie and de'il a higher compliment she could get, I think. But, Andy, man, don't they talk some clash and havers anent her predilection for that weel-farrant callan, Reilly?"
"All, my poor girl," replied Cummiskey, shaking his head sorrowfully; "I pity her there; but the thing's impossible—they can't be married—the law is against them."
"Weel, Andy, they must e'en thole it; but 'am thinkin' they'll just break bounds at last, an' tak' the law, as you Irish do, into their am hands."
"What do you mane by that?" asked Andy, whose temper began to get warm by the observation.
"Ah, man," replied the Scotchman, "dinna let your birses rise at that gate. Noo, there's the filbert trees, ma friend, of whilk ane is male and the tither female; and the upshot e'en is, Andy, that de'il a pickle o' fruit ever the female produces until there's a braw halesome male tree planted in the same gerden. But, ou, man, Andy, wasna yon she and that bonnie jaud, Connor, that we met the noo? De'il be frae my laul, but I jalouse she's aff wi' him this vara nicht."
"Oh, dear, no!" replied Cummiskey, starting; "that would kill her father; and yet there must be something in it, or what would bring them there at such an hour? He and she may love one another as much as they like, but I must think of my mas-ther."
"In that case, then, our best plan is to gie the alarm."
"Hould," replied Andy; "let us be cautious. They wouldn't go on foot, I think; and before we rise a ruction in the house, let us find out whether she has made off or not. Sit you here, and I'll try to see Connor, her maid."
"Ah, but, Andy, man, it's no just that pleasant to sit hei-e dry-lipped; the tankard's, oot, ye ken."
"Divil tankard the Scotch sowl o'you—who do you suppose could think of a tankard, or any thing else, if what we suspect has happened? It will kill him."
He then proceeded to look for Connor, whom he met in tears, which she was utterly unable to conceal.
"Well, Miss Connor," he asked, "what's the matther? You're cryin', I persave."
"All, Cummiskey, my mistress is unwell."
"Unwell! why she wasn't unwell a while ago, when the gardener and I met her and you on your way to the back o' the garden."
"Oh, yes," replied Connor; "I forced her to come out, to try what a little cool air-might do for her."
"Ay, but, Connor, did you force her to come in again?"
"Force! there was no force necessary, Cummiskey. She's now in her own room, quite ill."
"Oh, then, if she's quite ill, it's right that her father should know it, in ordher that a docther may be sent for."
"Ah, but she's now asleep, Cummiskey—that sleep may set her to rights; she may waken quite recovered; but you know it might be dangerous to disturb her."
"Ah, I believe you," he replied, dissembling; for he saw at once, by Connor's agitated manner, that every word she uttered was a lie; "the sleep will be good for her, the darlin'; but take care of her, Connor, for the masther's sake; for what would become of him if any thing happened her? You know that if she died he wouldn't live a week."
"That's true, indeed," she replied; "and if she get's worse, Cummiskey, I'll let the master know."
"That's a good girl; ma gragal that you! war—good-by, acushla," and he immediately! returned to his own room, after having observed that Connor went down to the kitchen.
"Now, Mr. Malcomson," said he, "there is a good fire before you. I ax your pardon—just sit in the light of it for a minute or so; I want this candle."
"'Am sayin', Andy, gin ye haud awa to the kitchen, it wadna be a crime to send up anither tankard o' that yill."
To this the other made no reply, but walked out of the room, and very deliberately proceeded to that of Helen. The door was open, the bed unslept upon, the window-curtains undrawn; in fact, the room was tenantless, Connor a liar and an accomplice, and the suspicions of himself and Malcomson well founded. He then followed Connor to the kitchen; but she too had disappeared, or at least hid herself from him. He then desired the other female servants to ascertain whether Miss Folliard was within or not, giving it as his opinion that she had eloped with Willy Reilly. The uproar then commenced, the house was searched, but no Cooleen Bawn was found. Cummiskey himself remained comparatively tranquil, but his tranquillity was neither more nor less than an inexpressible sorrow for what he knew the affectionate old man must suffer for the idol of his heart, upon whom he doted with such unexampled tenderness and affection. On ascertaining that she was not in the house, he went upstairs to his master's bedroom, having the candlestick in his hand, and tapped at the door. There was no reply from within, and on his entering he found the old man asleep. The case, however, was one that admitted of no delay; but he felt that to communicate the melancholy tidings was a fearful task, and he scarcely knew in what words to shape the event which had occurred. At length he stirred him gently, and the old man, half asleep, exclaimed:
"Good-night, Helen—good-night, darling! I am not well; I had something to tell you about the discovery of—but I will let you know it to-morrow at breakfast. For your sake I shall let him escape: there now, go to bed, my love."
"Sir," said Cummiskey, "I hope you'll excuse me for disturbing you."
"What? who? who's there? I thought it was my daughter."
"No, sir, I wish it was; I'm come to tell you that Miss Folliard can't be found: we have searched every nook and corner of the house to no purpose: wherever she is, she's not undher this roof. I came to tell you, and to bid you get up, that we may see what's to be done."
"What," he exclaimed, starting up, "my child!—my child—my child gone! God of heaven! God of heaven, support me!—my darling! my treasure! my delight!—Oh, Cummiskey!—but it can't be—to desert me!—to leave me in misery and sorrow, brokenhearted, distracted!—she that was the prop of my age, that loved me as never child loved a, father! Begone, Cummiskey, it is not so, it can't be, I say: search again; she is somewhere in the house; you don't know, sirra, how she loved me: why, it was only this night that, on taking her good-night kiss, she—ha—what? what?—she wept, she wept bitterly, and bade me farewell! and said—Here, Cummiskey, assist me to dress. Oh, I see it, Cummiskey, I see it! she is gone! she is gone! yes, she bade me farewell; but I was unsteady and unsettled after too much drink, and did not comprehend her meaning."
It is impossible to describe the almost frantic distraction of that loving father, who, as he said, had no prop to lean upon but his Cooleen Bawn, for he himself often loved to call her by that appellation.
"Cummiskey," he proceeded, "we will pursue them—we must have my darling back: yes, and I will forgive her, for what is she but a child, Cummiskey, not yet twenty. But in the meantime I will shoot him dead—dead—dead—if he had a thousand lives; and from this night out I shall pursue Popery, in all its shapes and disguises; I will imprison it, transport it, hang it—hang it, Cummiskey, as round as a hoop. Ring the bell, and let Lanigan unload, and then reload my pistols; he always does it; his father was my grandfather's gamekeeper, and he understands fire-arms. Here, though, help me on with my boots first, and then I will be dressed immediately. After giving the pistols to Lanigan, desire the grooms and hostlers to saddle all the horses in the stables. We must set out and pursue them. It is possible we may overtake them yet. I will not level a pistol against my child; but, by the great Boyne! if we meet them, come up with them, overtake them, his guilty spirit will stand before the throne of judgment this night. Go now, give the pistols to Lanigan, and tell him to reload them steadily."
We leave them now, in order that we may follow the sheriff and his party, who went to secure the body of the Red Rapparee. This worthy person, not at all aware of the friendly office which his patron, Sir Robert, intended to discharge towards him, felt himself quite safe, and consequently took very little pains to secure his concealment. Indeed, it could hardly be expected that he should, inasmuch as Whitecraft had led him to understand, as we have said, that Government had pardoned him his social trangressions, as a per contra for those political ones which they still expected from him. Such was his own view of the case, although he was not altogether free from misgiving, and a certain vague apprehension. Be this as it may, he had yet to learn a lesson which his employer was not disposed to teach him by any other means than handing him over to the authorities on the following day. How matters might have terminated between him and the baronet it is out of our power to detail. The man was at all times desperate and dreadful, where either revenge or anger was excited, especially as he labored under the superstitious impression that he was never to be hanged or perish by a violent death, a sentiment then by no means uncommon among persons of his outrageous and desperate life. It has been observed, and with truth, that the Irish Rapparees seldom indulged in the habit of intoxication or intemperance, and this is not at all to be wondered at. The meshes of authority were always spread for them, and the very consciousness of this fact sharpened their wits, and kept them perpetually on their guard against the possibility of arrest. Nor was this all. The very nature of the lawless and outrageous life they led, and their frequent exposure to danger, rendered habits of caution necessary—and those were altogether incompatible with habits of intemperance. Self-preservation rendered this policy necessary, and we believe there are but few instances on record of a Rapparee having been arrested in a state of intoxication. Their laws, in fact, however barbarous they were in other matters, rendered three cases of drunkenness a cause of expulsion from the gang. O'Donnel, however, had now relaxed from the rigid observation of his own rules, principally for the reasons we have already stated—by which we mean, a conviction of his own impunity, as falsely communicated to him by Sir Robert Whitecraft. The sheriff had not at first intended to be personally present at his capture; but upon second consideration he came to the determination of heading the party who were authorized to secure him. This resolution of Oxley's had, as will presently be seen, a serious effect upon the fate and fortunes of the Cooleen Bawn and her lover. The party, who were guided by Tom Steeple, did not go to Mary Mahon's, but to a neighboring cottage, which was inhabited by a distant relative of O'Donnel. A quarrel had taken place between the fortune-teller and him, arising from his jealousy of Sir Robert, which caused such an estrangement as prevented him for some time from visiting her house. Tom Steeple, however, had haunted him as his shadow, without ever coming in contact with him personally, and on this night he had him set as a soho man has a hare in her form. Guided, therefore, by the intelligent idiot and Fergus, the party readied the cottage in which the Rapparee resided. The house was instantly surrounded and the door knocked at, for the party knew that the man was inside.
"Who is there?" asked the old woman who kept the cottage.
"Open the door instantly," said the sheriff, "or we shall smash it in."
"No, I won't," she replied; "no, I won't, you bosthoon, whoever you are. I never did nothin' agin the laws, bad luck to them, and I won't open my door to any strolling vagabone like you."
"Produce the man we want," said the sheriff, "or we shall arrest you for harboring an outlaw and a murderer. Your house is now surrounded by military, acting under the king's orders."
"Give me time," said the crone; "I was at my prayers when you came to disturb me, and I'll finish them before I open the door, if you were to burn the house over my head, and myself in it. Up," said she to the Rapparee, "through the roof—get that ould table undher your feet—the thatch is thin—slip out and lie on the roof till they go, and then let them whistle jigs to the larks if they like."
The habits of escape peculiar to the Rapparees were well known to Fergus, who cautioned those who surrounded the house to watch the roof. It was well they did so, for in less-time than we have taken to describe it the body of the Rapparee was seen projecting itself upwards through the thin thatch, and in an instant several muskets were levelled at him, accompanied by instant orders to surrender on pain of being shot. Under such circumstances there was no alternative, and in a few minutes he was handcuffed and a prisoner. The party then proceeded along the road on which some of the adventures already recorded in this narrative had taken place, when they were met, at a sharp angle of it, by Reilly and his Cooleen Bawn, both of whom were almost instantly recognized by the sheriff and his party. Their arrest was immediate.
"Mr. Reilly," said the sheriff, "I am sorry for this. You must feel aware that I neither am or ever was disposed to be your enemy; but I now find you carrying away a Protestant heiress, the daughter of my friend, contrary to the laws of the land, a fact which in itself gives me the power and authority to take you into custody, which I accordingly do in his Majesty's name. I owe you no ill will, but in the meantime you must return with me to Squire Folliard's house. Miss Folliard, you must, as you know me to be your father's friend, consider that I feel it my duty to restore you to him."
"I am not without means of defence," replied Reilly, "but the exercise of such means would be useless. Two of your lives I might take; but yours, Mr. Sheriff, could not be one of them, and that you must feel."
"I feel, Mr. Reilly, that you are a man of honor; and, in point of fact, there is ample apology for your conduct in the exquisite beauty of the young lady who accompanies you; but I must also feel for her father, whose bereavement, occasioned by her loss, would most assuredly break his heart."
Here a deep panting of the bosom, accompanied by violent sobs, was heard by the party, and Cooleen Bawn whispered to Reilly, in a voice nearly stifled by grief and excitement:
"Dear Reilly, I love you; but it was madness in us to take this step; let me return to my father—only let me see him safe?"
"Death sooner. Reilly, I am ill, I am ill; this struggle is too much for me. What shall I do? My head is swimming."
She had scarcely uttered these words when her father, accompanied by his servants, dashed rapidly up, and Cummiskey, the old huntsman, instantly seized Reilly, exclaiming, "Mr. Reilly, we have you now;" and whilst he spoke, his impetuous old master dashed his horse to one side, and discharged a pistol at our hero, and this failing, he discharged another. Thanks to Lanigan, however, they were both harmless, that worthy man having forgotten to put in bullets, or even as much powder as would singe an ordinary whisker.
"Forbear, sir," exclaimed the sheriff, addressing Cummiskey; "unhand Mr. Reilly. He is already in custody, and you, Mr. Folliard, may thank God that you are not a murderer this night. As a father, I grant that an apology may be made for your resentment, but not to the shedding of blood."
"Lanigan! villain! treacherous and deceitful villain!" shouted the squire, "it was your perfidy that deprived me of my revenge. Begone, you sneaking old profligate, and never let me see your face again. You did not load my pistols as you ought."
"No, sir," replied Lanigan, "and I thank God that I did not. It wasn't my intention to see your honor hanged for murder."
"Mr. Folliard," observed the sheriff, you ought to bless God that gave you a prudent servant, who had too much conscience to become the instrument of your vengeance. Restrain your resentment for the present, and leave Mr. Reilly to the laws of his country. We shall now proceed to your house, where, as a magistrate, you can commit him to prison, and I will see the warrant executed this night. We have also another prisoner of some celebrity, the Red Rapparee."
"By sun and moon, I'll go bail for him," replied the infuriated squire. "I like that fellow because Reilly does not. Sir Robert spoke to me in his favor. Yes, I shall go bail for him, to any amount."
"His offence is not a bailable one," said the cool sheriff; "nor, if the thing were possible, would it be creditable in you, as a magistrate, to offer yourself as bail for a common robber, one of the most notorious highwaymen of the day."
"Well, but come along," replied the squire; "I have changed my mind; we shall hang them both; Sir Robert will assist and support me. I could overlook the offence of a man who only took my purse; yes, I could overlook that, but the man who would rob me of my child—of the solace and prop of my heart and life—of—of—of—"
Here the tears came down his cheeks so copiously that his sobs prevented him from proceeding. He recovered himself, however, for indeed he was yet scarcely sober after the evening's indulgence, and the two parties returned to his house, where, after having two or three glasses of Burgundy to make his hand steady, he prepared himself to take the sheriff's informations and sign unfortunate Reilly's committal to Sligo jail. The vindictive tenacity of resentment by which the heart of the ruffian Rapparee was animated against that young man was evinced, on this occasion, by a satanic ingenuity of malice that was completely in keeping with the ruffian's character. It was quite clear, from the circumstances we are about to relate, that the red miscreant had intended to rob Folliard's house on the night of his attack upon it, in addition to the violent abduction of his daughter. We must premise here that Reilly and the Rapparee were each strongly guarded in different rooms, and the first thing the latter did was to get some one to inform Mr. Folliard that he had a matter of importance concerning Reilly to mention to him. This was immediately on their return, and before the informations against Reilly were drawn up. Folliard, who knew not what to think, paused for some time, and at! last, taking the sheriff along with him, went! to hear what O'Donnel had to say.
"Is that ruffian safe?" he asked, before entering the room; "have you so secured him that he can't be mischievous?"
"Quite safe, your honor, and as harmless as a lamb."
He and the sheriff then entered, and found the huge savage champing his teeth and churning with his jaws, until a line of white froth encircled his mouth, rendering him a hideous and fearful object to look at.
"What is this you want with me, you misbegotten villain," said the squire. "Stand between the ruffian and me, fellows, in the meantime—what is it, sirra?"
"Who's the robber now, Mr. Folliard?" he asked, with something, however, of a doubtful triumph in his red glaring eye. "Your daughter had jewels in a black cabinet, and I'd have secured the same jewels and your daughter along with them, on a certain night, only for Reilly; and it was very natural he should out-general me, which he did; but it was only to get both for himself. Let him be searched at wanst, and, although I don't say he has them, yet I'd give a hundred to one he has; she would never carry them while he was with her."
The old squire, who would now, with peculiar pleasure, have acted in the capacity of hangman in Reilly's case, had that unfortunate young man been doomed to undergo the penalty of the law, and that no person in the shape of Jack Ketch was forthcoming—he, we say—the squire—started at once to the room where Reilly was secured, accompanied also by the sheriff, and, after rushing in with a countenance inflamed by passion, shouted out:
"Seize and examine that villain; he has robbed me—examine him instantly: he has stolen the family jewels."
Reilly's countenance fell, for he knew his Fearful position; but that which weighed heaviest upon his heart was a consciousness of the misinterpretations which the world might put upon the motives of his conduct in this elopement, imputing it to selfishness and a mercenary spirit. When about to be searched, he said:
"You need not; I will not submit to the indignity of such an examination. I have and hold the jewels for Miss Folliard, whose individual property I believe they are; nay, I am certain of it, because she told me so, and requested me to keep them For her. Let her be sent for, and I shall hand them back to her at once, but to no other person without violence."
"But she is not in a condition to receive them," replied the sheriff (which was a fact); "I pledge my honor she, is not."
"Well, then, Mr. Sheriff, I place them in your hands; you can do with them as you wish—that is, either return them to Miss Folliard, the legal owner of them, or to her father."
The sheriff received the caske't which contained them, and immediately handed it to Mr. Folliard, who put it in his pocket, exclaiming:
"Now, Reilly, if we can hang you for nothing else, we can hang you for this; and we will, sir."
"You, sir," said Reilly, with melancholy indignation, "are privileged to insult me; so, alas! is every man now; but I can retire into the integrity of my own heart and find a consolation there of which you cannot deprive me. My life is now a consideration of no importance to myself since I shall die with the consciousness that your daughter loved me. You do not hear this for the first time, for that daughter avowed it to yourself! and if I had been mean and unprincipled enough to have abandoned my religion, and that of my persecuted forefathers, I might ere this have been her husband."
"Come," said Folliard, who was not prepared with an answer to this, "come," said he, addressing the sheriff, "come, till we make out his mittimus, and give him the first shove to the gallows." They then left him.
CHAPTER XXI.—Sir Robert Accepts of an Invitation.
The next morning rumor had, as they say, her hands and tongues very full of business. Reilly and the Red Rapparee were lodged in Sligo jail that night, and the next morning the fact was carried by the aforesaid rumor far and wide over the whole country. One of the first whose ears it reached was the gallant and virtuous Sir Robert Whitecraft, who no sooner heard it than he ordered his horse and rode at a rapid rate to see Mr. Folliard, in order, now that Reilly was out of the way, to propose an instant marriage with the Cooleen Bawn. He found the old man in a state very difficult to be described, for he had only just returned to the drawing-room from the strongly sentinelled chamber of his daughter. Indignation against Reilly seemed now nearly lost in the melancholy situation of the wretched Cooleen Bawn. He had just seen her, but, somehow, the interview had saddened and depressed his heart. Her position and the state of her feelings would have been pitiable, even to the eye of a stranger; what, then, must they not have been to a father who loved her as he did? "Helen," said he, as he took a chair in her room, after her guards had been desired to withdraw for a time, "Helen, are you aware that you have eternally disgraced your own name, and that of your father and your family?"
Helen, who was as pale as death, looked at him with vacant and unrecognizing eyes, but made no reply, for it was evident that she either had not heard, or did not understand, a word he said.
"Helen," said he, "did you hear me?"
She looked upon him with a long look of distress and misery, but there was the vacancy still, and no recognition.
This, I suppose, thought the father, is just the case with every love-sick girl in her condition, who will not be allowed to have her own way; but of what use is a father unless he puts all this nonsense down, and substitutes his own judgment for that of a silly girl. I will say something now that will startle her, and I will say nothing but what I will bring about.
"Helen, my darling," he said, "are you both deaf and blind, that you can neither see nor hear your father, and to-morrow your wedding-day? Sir Robert Whitecraft will be here early; the special license is procured, and after marriage you and he start for his English estates to spend the honeymoon there, after which you both must return and live with me, for I need scarcely say, Helen, that I could not live without you. Now I think you ought to be a happy girl to get a husband possessed of such immense property."
She started and looked at him with something like returning consciousness. "But where is Willy Reilly?" she asked.
"The villain that would have robbed me of my property and my daughter is now safe in Sligo jail."
A flash of something like joy—at least the father took it as such—sparkled in a strange kind of triumph from her eyes.
"Ha," said she, "is that villain safe at last? Dear papa, I am tired of all this—this—yes, I am tired of it, and it is time I should; but you talked about something else, did you not? Something about Sir Robert Whitecraft and a marriage. And what is my reply to that? why, it is this, papa: I have but one life, sir. Now begone, and leave me, or, upon my honor, I will push you out of the room. Have I not consented to all your terms. Let Sir Robert come tomorrow and he shall call me his wife before the sun reaches his meridian. Now, leave me; leave me, I say."
In this uncertain state her father found himself compelled to retire to the drawing-room, where Sir Robert and he met.
"Mr. Folliard," said the baronet, "is this true?"
"Is what true, Sir Robert?" said he sharply.
"Why, that Reilly and the Red Rapparee are both in Sligo jail?"
"It is true, Sir Robert; and it must be a cursed thing to be in jail for a capital crime."
"Are you becoming penitent," asked the other, "for bringing the laws of the land to bear upon the villain that would have disgraced, and might have ruined, your only daughter?"
The father's heart was stung by the diabolical pungency of this question.
"Sir Robert," said he, "we will hang him if it was only to get the villain out of the way; and if you will be here to-morrow at ten o'clock, the marriage must take place. I'll suffer no further nonsense about it; but, mark me, after the honeymoon shall have passed, you and she must come and reside here; to think that I could live without her is impossible. Be here, then, at ten o'clock; the special license is ready, and I have asked the Rev. Samson Strong to perform the ceremony. A couple of my neighbor Ashford's daughters will act as bridesmaids, and I myself will give her away: the marriage articles are drawn up, as you know, and there will be little time lost in signing them; and yet, it's a pity to—but no matter—be here at ten."
Whitecraft took his leave in high spirits. The arrest and imprisonment of Reilly had removed the great impediment that had hitherto lain in the way of his marriage; but not so the imprisonment of the Red Rapparee. The baronet regretted that that public and notorious malefactor had been taken out of his own hands, because he wished, as the reader knows, to make the delivering of him up to the Government one of the elements of his reconciliation to it. Still, as matters stood, he felt on the whole gratified at what had happened.
Folliard, after the baronet had gone, knew not exactly how to dispose of himself. The truth is, the man's heart was an anomaly—a series of contradictions, in which one feeling opposed another for a brief space, and then was obliged to make way for a new prejudice equally transitory and evanescent. Whitecraft he never heartily liked; for though the man was blunt, he could look through a knave, and appreciate a man of honor, with a great deal of shrewd accuracy. To be sure, Whitecraft was enormously rich, but then he was penurious and inhospitable, two vices strongly and decidedly opposed to the national feeling.
"Curse the long-legged scoundrel," he exclaimed; "if he should beget me a young breed of Whitecrafts like himself I would rather my daughter were dead than marry him. Then, on the other hand, Reilly; hang the fellow, had he only recanted his nonsensical creed, I could—but then, again, he might, after marriage, bring her over to the Papists, and then, by the Boyne, all my immense property would become Roman Catholic. By Strongbow, he'd teach the very rivers that run through it to sing Popish psalms in Latin: he would. However, the best way is to hang him out of the way, and when Jack Ketch has done with him, so has Helen. Curse Whitecraft, at all events!"
We may as well hint here that he had touched the Burgundy to some purpose; he was now in that state of mental imbecility where reason, baffled and prostrated by severe mental suffering and agitation, was incapable of sustaining him without having recourse to the bottle. In the due progress of the night he was helped to bed, and had scarcely been placed and covered up there when he fell fast asleep.
Whitecraft, in the meantime, suspected, of course, or rather he was perfectly aware of the fact, that unless by some ingenious manoeuvre, of which he could form no conception, a marriage with the Cooleen Bawn would be a matter of surpassing difficulty; but he cared not, provided it could be effected by any means, whether foul or fair. The attachment of this scoundrel to the fair and beautiful Cooleen Bawn was composed of two of the worst principles of the heart—sensuality and avarice; but, in this instance, avarice came in to support sensuality. What the licentious passions of the debauchee might have failed to tempt him to, the consideration of her large fortune accomplished. And such was the sordid and abominable union of the motives which spurred him on to the marriage.
The next morning, being that which was fixed for his wedding-day, he was roused at an early hour by a loud rapping at his hall-door. He started on his elbow in the bed, and ringing the bell for his valet, asked, when that gentleman entered his apartment half dressed, "What was the matter? what cursed knocking was that? Don't they know I can hunt neither priest nor Papist now, since this polite viceroy came here."
"I don't know what the matter is, Sir Robert; they are at it again; shall I open the door, sir?"
"Certainly; open the door immediately."
"I think you had better dress, Sir Robert, and see what they want."
The baronet threw his long fleshless shanks out of the bed, and began to get on his clothes as fast as he could.
"Ha!" said he, when he was nearly dressed, "what if this should be a Government prosecution for what I have undertaken to do on my own responsibility during the last Administration? But no, surely it cannot be; they would have given me some intimation of their proceedings. This was due to my rank and station in the country, and to my exertions, a zealous Protestant, to sustain the existence of Church and State. Curse Church and State if it be! I have got myself, perhaps, into a pretty mess by them."
He had scarcely uttered the last words when Mr. Hastings, accompanied by two or three officers of justice, entered his bedroom.
"Ah, Hastings, my dear friend, what is the matter? Is there any thing wrong, or can I be of any assistance to you? if so, command me. But we are out of power now, you know. Still, show me how I can assist you. How do you do?" and as he spoke he put his hand out to shake hands with. Mr. Hastings.
"No, Sir Robert, I cannot take your hand, nor the hand of any man that is red with the blood of murder. This," said he, turning to the officers, "is Sir Robert Whitecraft; arrest him for murder and arson."
"Why, bless me, Mr. Hastings, are you mad? Surely, I did nothing, unless under the sanction and by the instructions of the last Government?"
"That remains to be seen, Sir Robert; but, at all events, I cannot enter into any discussion with you at present. I am here as a magistrate. Informations have been sworn against you by several parties, and you must now consider yourself our prisoner and come along with us. There is a party of cavalry below to escort you to Sligo jail."
"But how am I to be conveyed there? I hope I will be allowed my own carriage?"
"Unquestionably," replied Mr. Hastings; "I was about to have proposed it myself. You shall be treated with every respect, six."
"May I not breakfast before I go?"
"Certainly, sir; we wish to discharge our duty in the mildest possible manner."
"Thank you, Hastings, thank you; you were always a good-hearted, gentlemanly fellow. You will, of course, breakfast with me; and these men must be attended to."
And he rang the bell.
"I have already breakfasted, Sir Robert; but even if I had not, it would not become me, as your prosecutor, to do so; but perhaps the men—"
"What," exclaimed the baronet, interrupting him, you my prosecutor! For what, pray?"
"That will come in time," replied the other; "and you may rest assured that I would not be here now were I not made aware that you were about to be married to that sweet girl whom you have persecuted with such a mean and unmanly spirit, and designed to start with her for England this day."
Whitecraft, now that he felt the dreadful consequences of the awful position in which he was placed, became the very picture of despair and pusillanimity; his complexion turned haggard, his eyes wild, and his hands trembled so much that he was not able to bring the tea or bread and butter to his lips; in fact, such an impersonation of rank and I unmanly cowardice could not be witnessed. He rose up, exclaiming, in a faint and hollow voice, that echoed no other sensation than that of horror:
"I cannot breakfast; I can eat nothing. What a fate is this! on the very day, too, which I thought would have consummated my happiness! Oh, it is dreadful!"
His servant then, by Mr. Hastings' orders, packed up changes of linen and apparel in his trunk, for he saw that he himself had not the presence of mind to pay attention to any thing. In the course of a few minutes the carriage was ready, and with tottering steps he went down the stairs, and was obliged to be assisted into it by two constables, who took their places beside, him. Mr. Hastings bowed to him coldly, but said nothing; the coachman smacked his whip, and was about to start, when he turned round and said:
"Where am I to drive, Sir Robert?"
"To Sligo jail," replied one of the constables, "as quick as you can too."
The horses got a lash or two, and bounded on, whilst an escort of cavalry, with swords drawn, attended the coach until it reached its gloomy destination, where we will leave it for the present.
The next morning, as matters approached to a crisis, the unsteady old squire began to feel less comfortable in his mind than he could have expected. To say truth, he had often felt it rather an unnatural process to marry so lovely a girl to "such an ugly stork of a man as Whitecraft was, and a knave to boot. I cannot forget how he took me in by the 'Hop-and-go-constant' affair. But then he's a good Protestant—not that I mean he has a single spark of religion in his nondescript carcass; but in those times it's not canting and psalm-singing we want, but good political Protestantism, that will enable us to maintain our ascendancy by other means than praying. Curse the hound that keeps him? Is this a day for him to be late on? and it now half past ten o'clock; however, he must come soon; but, upon my honor, I dread what will happen when he does. A scene there will be no doubt of it; however, we must only struggle through it as well as we can. I'll go and see Helen, and try to reconcile her to this chap, or, at all events, to let her know at once that, be the consequences what they may, she must marry him, if I were myself to hold her at the altar."
When he had concluded this soliloquy, Ellen Connor, without whose society Helen could now scarcely live, and who, on this account, had not been discharged after her elopement, she, we say, entered the room, her eye resolute with determination, and sparkling with a feeling which evinced an indignant sense of his cruelty in enforcing this odious match. The old man looked at her with surprise, for, it was the first time she had ever ventured to obtrude her conversation upon him,or to speak, unless when spoken to.
"Well, madam," said he, "what do you want? Have you any message from your mistress? if not, what brings you here?"
"I have no message from my mistress," she replied in a loud, if not in a vehement, voice; "I don't think my mistress is capable of sending a message; but I came to tell you that the God of heaven will soon send you a message, and a black one too, if you allow this cursed marriage to go on."
"Get out, you jade—leave the room; how is it your affair?"
"Because I have what you want—a heart of pity and affection in my breast. Do you want to drive your daughter mad, or to take her life?"
"Begone, you impudent hussy; why do you dare to come here on such an occasion, only to annoy me?"
"I will not begone," she replied, with a glowing cheek, "unless I am put out by force—until I point out the consequences of your selfish tyranny and weakness. I don't come to annoy you, but I come to warn you, and to tell you, that I know your daughter better than you do yourself. This marriage must not go on; or, if it does, send without delay to a lunatic asylum for a keeper for that only daughter. I know her well, and I tell you that that's what it'll come to."
The squire had never been in the habit of being thus addressed by any of his servants; and the consequence was that the thing was new to him; so much so that he felt not only annoyed, but so much astounded, that he absolutely lost, for a brief period, the use of his speech. He looked at her with astonishment—then about the room—then up at the ceiling, and at length spoke:
"What the deuce does all this mean? What are you driving at? Prevent the marriage, you say?"
"If the man," proceeded Connor, not even waiting to give him an answer—"if the man—had but one good point—one good quality—one virtue in his whole composition to redeem him from contempt and hatred—if he had but one feature in his face only as handsome as the worst you could find in the devil's—yes, if he had but one good thought, or one good feature in either his soul or body, why—vile as it would be—and barbarous as it would be—and shameful and cruel as it would be—still, it would have the one good thought, and the one good feature to justify it. But here, in this deep and wretched villain, there is nothing but one mass of vice and crime and deformity; all that the eye can ses, or the heart discover, in his soul or body, is as black, odious, and repulsive as could be conceived of the worst imp of perdition. And this is the man—the persecutor—the miser—the debauchee—the hypocrite—the murderer, and the coward, that you are going to join your good—virtuous—spotless—and beautiful daughter to! Oh, shame upon you, you heartless old man; don't dare to say, or pretend, that you love her as a father ought, when you would sacrifice her to so base and damnable a villain as that. And again, and what is more, I tell you not to prosecute Reilly; for, as sure as the Lord above is in heaven, your daughter is lost, and you'll not only curse Whitecraft, but the day and hour in which you were born—black and hopeless will be your doom if you do. And now, sir, I have done; I felt it to be my duty to tell you this, and to warn you against what I know will happen unless you go back upon the steps you have taken."
She then courtesied to him respectfully, and left the room in a burst of grief which seized her when she had concluded.
Ellen Connor was a girl by no means deficient in education—thanks to the care and kindness of the Cooleen Bawn, who had herself instructed her. 'Tis true, she had in ordinary and familiar conversation a touch of the brogue; but, when excited, or holding converse with respectable persons, her language was such as would have done no discredit to many persons in a much higher rank of life.
After she had left the room, Folliard looked towards the door by which she had taken her exit, as if he had her still in his vision. He paused—he meditated—he walked about, and seemed taken thoroughly aback.
"By earth and sky," he exclaimed, "but that's the most comical affair I have seen yet. Comical! no, not a touch of comicality in it. Zounds, is it possible that the, jade has coerced and beaten me?—dared to beard the lion in his own den—to strip him, as it were, of his claws, and to pull the very fangs out of his jaws, and, after all, to walk away in triumph? Hang me, but I must have a strong touch of the coward in me or I would not have knuckled as I did to the jade. Yet, hold—can I, or ought I to be angry with her, when I know that this hellish racket all proceeded from her love to Helen. Hang me, but she's a precious bit of goods, and I'll contrive to make her a present, somehow, for her courage. Beat me! by sun and sky she did."
He then proceeded to Helen's chamber, and ordered her attendants out of the room; but, on looking at her, he felt surprised to perceive that her complexion, instead of being pale, was quite flushed, and her eyes flashing with a strange wild light that he had never seen in them before.
"Helen," said he, "what's the matter, love? are you unwell?"
She placed her two snowy hands on her temples, and pressed them tightly, as if striving to compress her brain and bring it within the influence of reason.
"I fear you are unwell, darling," he continued; "you look flushed and feverish. Don't, however, be alarmed; if you're not well, I'd see that knave of a fellow hanged before I'd marry you to him, and you in that state. The thing's out of the question, my darling Helen, and must not be done. No: God forbid that I should be the means of murdering my own child."
So much, we may fairly presume, proceeded from the pithy lecture of Ellen Connor; but the truth was, that the undefinable old squire was the greatest parental coward in the world. In the absence of his daughter he would rant and swear and vapor, strike the ground with his staff, and give other indications of the most extraordinary resolution, combined with fiery passion, that seemed alarming. No sooner, however, did he go into her presence, and contemplate not only her wonderful beauty, but her goodness, her tenderness and affection for himself, than the bluster departed from him, his resolution fell, his courage oozed away, and he felt that he was fairly subdued, under which circumstances he generally entered into a new treaty of friendship and affection with the enemy.
Helen's head was aching dreadfully, and she felt feverish and distracted. Her father's words, however, and the affection which they expressed, went to her heart; she threw her arms about him, kissed him, and was relieved by a copious flood of tears.
"Papa," she said, "you are both kind and good; surely you wouldn't kill your poor Helen?"
"Me kill you, Helen!—oh, no, faith. If Whitecraft were hanged to-morrow it wouldn't give me half so much pain as if your little finger ached."
Just at this progress of the dialogue a smart and impatient knock came to the door.
"Who is that?" said the squire; "come in—or, stay till I see who you are." He than opened the door and exclaimed, "What! Lanigan!—why, you infernal old scoundrel! how dare you have the assurance to look me in the face, or to come under my roof at all, after what I said to you about the pistols?"
"Ay, but you don't know the good news I have for you and Miss Helen."
"Oh, Lanigan, is Reilly safe?—is he set at large? Oh, I am sure he must be. Never was so noble, so pure, and so innocent a heart."
"Curse him, look at the eye of him," said her father, pointing his cane at Lanigan; "it's like the eye of a sharp-shooter. What are you grinning at; you old scoundrel?"
"Didn't you expect Sir Robert Whitecraft here to-day to marry Miss Folliard, sir?"
"I did, sirra, and I do; he'll be here immediately."
"Devil a foot he'll come to-day, I can tell you; and that's the way he treats your daughter!"
"What does this old idiot mean, Helen? Have you been drinking, sirra?"
"Not yet, sir, but plaise the Lord I'll soon be at it."
"Lanigan," said Helen, "will you state at once what you have to say?"
"I will, miss; but first and foremost, I must show you how to dance the 'Little House under the Hill,'" and as he spoke he commenced whistling that celebrated air and dancing to it with considerable alacrity and vigor, making allowances for his age.
The father and daughter looked at each other, and Helen, notwithstanding her broken spirits, could not avoid smiling. Lanigan continued the dance, kept wheeling about to all parts of the room, like an old madcap, cutting, capering, and knocking up his heels against his ham, with a vivacity that was a perfect mystery to his two spectators, as was his whole conduct.
"Now, you drunken old scoundrel," said his master, catching him by the collar and flourishing the cane over his head, "if you don't give a direct answer I will cane you within an inch of your life. What do you mean when you say that Sir Robert Whitecraft won't come here to-day?"
"Becaise, sir, it isn't convanient to him."
"Why isn't it convenient, you scoundrel?"
"Bekaise, sir, he took it into his head to try a change of air for the benefit of his health before he starts upon his journey; and as he got a very friendly invitation to spend some time in Sligo jail he accepted it, and if you go there you will find him before you. It seems he started this morning in great state, with two nice men belonging to the law in the carriage with him, to see that he should want for nothing, and a party of cavalry surroundin' his honor's coach, as if he was one of the judges, or the Lord Lieutenant."
The figurative style of his narrative would unquestionably have caused him to catch the weight of the cane aforesaid had not Helen interfered and saved him for the nonce.
"Let me at him, Helen, let me at him—the drunken old rip; why does he dare to humbug us in this manner?"
"Well, then, sir, if you wish to hear the good news, and especially you, Miss Folliard, it will probably relieve your heart when I tell you that Sir Robert Whitecraft is, before this time, in the jail of Sligo, for a charge of murdher, and for burnin' Mr. Reilly's house and premises, which it now seems aren't Mr. Reilly's at all—nor ever were—but belong to Mr. Hastings."
"Good heavens!" exclaimed the squire, "this is dreadful: but is it true, sirra?"
"Why, sir, if you go to his house you'll find it so."
"Oh, papa," said Helen, "surely they wouldn't hang him?"
"Hang him, Helen; why, Helen, the tide's turned; they want to make him an example for the outrages that he and others have committed against the unfortunate Papists. Hang him!—as I live, he and the Red Rapparee will both swing from the same gallows; but there is one thing I say—if he hangs I shall take care that that obstinate scoundrel, Reilly, shall also swing along with him."
Helen became as pale as ashes, the flush had disappeared from her countenance, and she burst again into tears.
"Oh, papa," she exclaimed, "spare Reilly: he is innocent."
"I'll hang him," he replied, "if it should cost me ten thousand pounds. Go you, sirra, and desire one of the grooms to saddle me Black Tom; he is the fastest horse in my stables; I cannot rest till I ascertain the truth of this."
On passing the drawing-room he looked in, and found Mr. Strong and the two Misses Ashford waiting, the one to perform, and the others to attend, at the ceremony.
"Sir. Strong and ladies," said he, with looks of great distraction, "I fear there will be no marriage here to-day. An accident, I believe, has happened to Sir Robert Whitecraft that will prevent his being a party in the ceremony, for this day at least."
"An accident!" exclaimed the ladies and the clergyman. "Pray, Mr. Folliard, what is it? how did it happen?"
"I am just going to ride over to Sir Robert's to learn everything about it," he replied; "I will be but a short time absent. But now!" he added, "here's his butler, and I will get everything from him. Oh, Thomas, is this you? follow me to my study, Thomas."
As the reader already knows all that Thomas could tell him, it is only necessary to say that he returned to the drawing-room with a sad and melancholy aspect.
"There is no use," said he, addressing them, "in concealing what will soon be known to the world. Sir Robert Whitecraft has been arrested on a charge of murder and arson, and is now a prisoner in the county jail."
This was startling intelligence to them all, especially to the parson, who found that the hangman was likely to cut him out of his fees. The ladies screamed, and said, "it was a shocking thing to have that delightful man hanged;" and then asked if the bride-elect had heard it.
"She has heard it," replied her father, "and I have just left her in tears; but upon my soul, I don't think there is one of them shed for him. Well, Mr. Strong, I believe, after all, there is likely to be no marriage, but that is not your fault; you came here to do your duty, and I think it only just—a word with you in the next apartment," he added, and then led the way to the dining-room. "I was about to say, Mr. Strong, that it would be neither just nor reasonable to deprive you of your fees; here is a ten-pound note, and it would have been twenty had the marriage taken place. I must go to Sligo to see the unfortunate baronet, and say what can be done for him—that is, if anything can, which I greatly doubt."
The parson protested, against the receipt of the ten-pound note very much in the style of a bashful schoolboy, who pretends to refuse an apple from a strange relation when he comes to pay a visit, whilst, at the same time, the young monkey's chops are watering for it. With some faint show of reluctance he at length received it, and need we say that it soon disappeared in one of his sanctified pockets.
"Strong, my dear fellow," proceeded the squire, "you will take a seat with these ladies in their carriage and see them home."
"I would, with pleasure, my dear friend, but that I am called upon to console poor Mrs. Smellpriest for the loss of the captain."
"The captain! why, what has happened him?"
"Alas! sir, an unexpected and unhappy fate. He went out last night a priest-hunting, like a godly sportsman of the Church, as he was, and on his return from an unsuccessful chase fell off his horse while in the act of singing that far-famed melody called 'Lillibullero,' and sustained such severe injuries that he died on that very night, expressing a very ungodly penitence for his loyalty in persecuting so many treasonable Popish priests."
The squire seemed amazed, and, after a pause, said:
"He repented, you say; upon my soul, then, I am glad to hear it, for it is more than I expected from him, and, between you and me, Strong, I fear it must have taken a devilish large extent of repentance to clear him from the crimes he committed against both priests and Popery."
"Ah," replied Strong, with a groan of deep despondency, "but, unfortunately, my dear sir, he did not repent of his sins—that is the worst of it—Satan must have tempted him to transfer his repentance to those very acts of his life upon which, as Christian champion, he should have depended for justification above—I mean, devoting his great energies so zealously to the extermination of idolatry and error. What was it but repenting for his chief virtues, instead of relying, like a brave and dauntless soldier of our Establishment, upon his praiseworthy exertions to rid it of its insidious and relentless enemies?"
The squire looked at him.
"I'll tell you what, Strong—-by the great Boyne, I'd give a trifle to, see you get a smart touch of persecution in your own person; it might teach you a little more charity towards those who differ with you; but, upon my honor, if any change in our national parties should soon take place, and that the Papists should get the upper hand, I tell you to your teeth that if ever your fat libs should be tickled by the whip of persecution, they would render you great injustice who should do it for the sake of religion—a commodity with which I see, from the spirit of your present sentiments, you are not over-burdened. However, in the meantime, I daresay that whatever portion you possess of it, you will charitably expend in consoling his widow, as you say. Good-morning!"
We must return, however, to the close of Smellpriest's very sudden and premature departure from the scene of his cruel and merciless labors. Having reached the strip already described to him by Mr. Strong, and to which he was guided by his men, he himself having been too far advanced in liquor to make out his way with any kind of certainty, he proceeded, still under their direction, to the cottage adjoining, which was immediately surrounded by the troopers. After knocking at the door with violence, and demanding instant admittance, under the threat of smashing it in, and burning the house as a harbor for rebellious priests, the door was immediately opened by a gray-headed old man, feeble and decrepit in appearance, but yet without any manifestation of terror either in his voice or features. He held a candle in his hand, and asked them, in a calm, composed voice, what it was they wanted, and why they thus came to disturb him and his family at such an unseasonable hour.
"Why, you treasonable old scoundrel," shouted Smellpriest, "haven't you got a rebel and recusant Popish priest in the house? I say, you gray-headed old villain, turn him out on the instant, or, if you hesitate but half a minute, well make a bonfire of you, him, the house, and all that's in it. Zounds, I don't see why I shouldn't burn a house as well as Whitecraft. That cursed baronet is getting ahead of me, but I think I am entitled to a bonfire as well as he is. Shall we burn the house?" he added, addressing his men.
"I think you had better not, captain," replied the principal of them; "recollect there are new regulations now. It wouldn't be safe, and might only end in hanging every man of us—yourself among the rest."
"But why doesn't the old rebel produce the priest?" asked their leader. "Come here, sirra—hear me—produce that lurking priest immediately."
"I don't exactly understand you, captain," replied the old man, who appeared to know Smellpriest right well. "I don't think it's to my house you should come to look for a priest."
"Why not, you villain? I have been directed here, and told that I would find my game under your roof."
"In the first place," replied the old man, with a firm and intrepid voice, "I am no villain; and in the next, I say, that if any man directed you to this house in quest of a priest, he must have purposely sent you upon a fool's errand. I am a Protestant, Captain Smellpriest; but, Protestant as I am, I tell you to your face that if I could give shelter to a poor persecuted priest, and save him from the clutches of such men as you and Sir Robert Whitecraft, I would do it. In the meantime, there is neither priest nor friar under this roof; you can come in and search in the house, if you wish."
"Why, gog's 'ouns, father," exclaimed one of the men, "how does it come that we find you here?"
"Very simply, John," replied his father—for such he was—"I took this cottage, and the bit of land that goes with it, from honest Andy Morrow, and we are not many hours in it. The house was empty for the last six months, so that I say again, whoever sent Captain Smellpriest here sent him upon a fool's errand—upon a wild-goose chase."