網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版
[ocr errors]

galloped off directly towards his stable. I sprang into the next field, and lay down under cover of the hedge, to consider what was the best direction that I should take to escape the blood-hounds, who doubtlessly would be soon upon my trail.

“I had not been above a minute in concealment when footsteps were heard approaching rapidly from the bridge. Two men came on at speed, and one had outstripped the other. 'Stop ! cried the hindmost, what a devil of a hurry you are in ! I can't keep up with you.

“I want to be in at the death,' returned the well-known voice of my villain servant ; ‘I would not miss it for a ten-pound note. He thought to give me the slip-put me on a wrong scent, and sent me with a letter. He asked me a question about bridling a horse, and that betrayed his secret. I knew there was something in the winddoubled back upon the house after he thought me clear away-saw him go off through the back lane in a canter, and—' Two shots were heard in quick succession. · He's down, by M'he exclaimed, with savage exultation. “Run Murtaugh! they'll be into the house in no time. I know where the money is. Run—the devil's luck to you ! and off both ruffians started.

“ The rest you know. Speedily a glare of red light was seen, and a burning house-my own-guided my flight, for I took the opposite direction. I know not whether I was pursued – but, if I was the villains were unsuccessful. At midnight I reached this place of refuge, and here, for a time at least, I am safe.”

“What boundless treachery !” exclaimed my father, as the parson ended the narrative of his escape. “ We may set an open enemy at defiance, but who can guard against secret villany ? By Heaven ! a dark suspicion at this moment flashes across my mind. Have you noticed the servant who waits at table ?”

“I have—and as a disciple of Lavater I denounce him ; he never looks you fairly in the face.”

“ And yet the only vulnerable point in the garrison is at that fellow's mercy. When I closed up every aperture besides, Hackett remonstrated so strongly, and pleaded the inconvenience it would cause should I build up the window of his pantry, that I consented to leave it open, merely adding a second shutter for security. It is but small -a man however could creep through it—but to-morrow the mason shall brick it up."

It
may be fancy,” said my mother,

66 but Hackett's manner appears lately to have undergone a change. There is at times a freedom in his language that borders upon insolence ; but hush! here comes the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

>> nurse.

The door opened as she spoke, and I was added to the company. My mother placed me on her knee,—the parson proposed my health, Father Dominic added a supplication, that “God would make me a better man than my father, and, above all things, keep me out of convents,”—and the latter responded an amen. Every glass was emptied to the bottom—the host rang for more wine and the priest replenished his tumbler. It was a moment of hilarity, joyous and brief. Suddenly

[ocr errors]

Cæsar gave the alarm—not as before, in under growls, but in the “full-mouthed diapason ” of a bark audible a mile off. The greyhound and the terrier sprang up and answered,—I cried, frightened by the “ loud alarum,”—the nursemaid caught me from my mother, and hurried from the room,—while my father, exclaiming a true challenge, by Heaven !” leaped from his chair, and placed himself before the wicket that looked

upon

the lawn. A minute-an anxious minute, elapsed.

“I hear,” said the Doctor,“ the footsteps of a mob, as they tread upon

the frozen gravel.” “ Hush !" replied my father, as he turned his ear attentively in the direction whence the noise proceeded; “ that is not the movement of a mob—they step too well together. Soldiers on march, for a hundred !"

At the Colonel's observation, my mother, who had nearly fainted, gradually recovered courage, and left the apartment for the nursery to re-establish mine,-my father remained at his post, to ascertain what the party were, who at this late hour approached his fortilage, while Father Dominic ejaculating a pious “ Heaven stand between us · and evil!” turned down his tumbler to the bottom. Well, it was only his third one, after all.

CHAPTER II.

THE PLOT THICKENS.

Now Christie's Will peep'd from the tower,
And out at the shot-hole keeked he,-
And, “Ever unlucky," quo' he, “is the hour,
When a woman comes to speer for me.'

Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.

m

In a short time “the heavy tread of marching men” ceased, as a party of ten or twelve soldiers halted immediately in front of my father's barricade.

“ Stand! who goes there ?" was demanded from the loop-hole.

“ A friend,” replied a voice, redolent of the richness of the Shannon.

* Advance, friend, and give the countersign,” returned my father, whose phraseology, from military habitude, still retained the parlance

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

of the camp.

“Countersign !" responded the leader of the belated wayfarers ; “ devil a countersign have I but one. If my

ould Colonel's above the sod, he's spakin to me now fair and asy from the windy." “Who are you?" demanded my

father. “Oh! by Jakers, you'll hardly mind me, Colonel;—Private Phil Brady of number eight' when you had the regiment; but now, glory be to God and good conduct, lance-sergeant in number five."

“What is your party, Brady ?"

[ocr errors]

66

“ Upon my conscience, Colonel, a quare one, enough; tin invalids, a dyin woman, and a fine man-child.”

“ Unclose the door, Father Dominic !"

The priest lifted a heavy key from the side-board, and proceeded to give admission to the travellers, when Hackett, who had been hitherto an anxious listener, ventured a remonstrance. · Why not,” said he, “give them meat and whisky before the door ? Every room was already crowded with idle people, whom nobody would have harmed, had they remained where they ought,-at home. If the house was to be turned into an hospital for sick trampers and their trulls, why every servant would quit a place liker a jail than a gentleman's.”

Colonel O'Halloran preserved an ominous tranquillity; and Hackett, mistaking the cause, became more insolent as his speech proceeded without interruption. But the storm burst at last.

“ Villain !” said my father in a voice which induced the chief butler to recede some paces backwards,“ dare you, a menial, prescribe to me, your master, who shall be received and who rejected ? Tell me that a comrade shall be turned from my door, and · recommend that the weary soldier be ejected from the house of him under whom he has fought and bled! Off—we part to-morrow. The roof of Knockloftie shall never cover for a second night a sneaking scoundrel who has neither welcome for a brave man nor pity for a helpless woman ;-show in the sergeant !"

Without venturing to reply, Hackett shrank from the presence of his angry master ; and in another minute sergeant Philip Brady made his military salaam, and, with a capacious bundle in his arms, stood full front before his former commander.

“ Phil!” said the Colonel, as he examined the soldier's outer man, “ if I judge rightly, thou like myself art but lightly indebted to the Low Countries ;” and my father held up an empty sleeve.

“ Feaks! and ye may say that, Colonel,” replied the sergeant. “ All that I have gained in Holland-- barrin the stripes— is a slashed cheek, a threadbare jacket, and a fine child."

“ Your kit, however, seems extensive, Phil ; that which you carry looks to be a well-filled bundle."

“It's only the child, your honor; the night was cold, the mother wake, so I wrapped the baby in this ould coat, and for its father's sake kept it, the cratur, as snug as could be.”

“ It's not your own, then ?"

“ Divil a wife or child has Philip Brady," returned the honest sergeant. “Ye may remember corporal O'Toole, -- he was one of the finest men in the grenadiers, when your honor had the company."

“ Perfectly ; a better or braver soldier was not in the regiment. What became of him?"

“He died at sea, God rest his sowl! on the second day after we left Ostend. He was badly wounded when put on board, poor fellow ! and we were all, men and women, bundled into the transport like so many hounds, short of water and provisions, and in the hurry they forgot the surgeon too. Well, his wound mortified : I'm off, Phil; says he ; 'you'll not forget the poor wife, for my sake, and may God

[ocr errors]

а

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

look down upon the orphan! Give me your hand upon it, Phil,' says he, and he squeezed mine with all his feeble strength. When I came down again, his wife was hanging over the dead body. They coaxed her away to see the child, and when she returned to have some comfort in crying over the corpse, it was already overboard with two others, who had dropped off the hooks that evening. From that hour Toole's wife (we called him Toole for shortness) has pined away, and the life was barely in her when your honor, may God reward ye ! let us in.”

Why were you so late upon the road ?” inquired the Colonel ; “ in the present state of things soldiers are no favourites, and the chances are considerable, had you proceeded farther, that you would have been waylaid and abused.”

“ Feaks! and I believe your honor. We were delayed partly by accident, and partly through design. Our car broke down, the horse lost a shoe, and the rest of the party pushed forward, laving us at a forge to get the cart mended, and the baste shod. The smith—divil's luck to him, the ruffin!— kept us three hours, I think on purpose, and then they directed us astray. So when I found the night falling, and the poor woman all but dead, as I heard there was a gentleman's not far off, I heads the party here on chance, little dreaming, the Lord knows, that I had the luck of thousands and was coming to my ould Colonel's, and no other."

My father was a man of prompt action and few words. The bell was rung, the soldiers sent to the kitchen to refresh themselves, the child committed to the care of a female domestic, and carried to the apartment whither its dying mother had been previously removed. There, my mother and the woman-kind of the establishment used every means which simple skill suggested ; but already the decree had gone forth, and within an hour after the arrival of the party the crisis came, the widow of the dead soldier was at rest, and her babe an orphan.

“ The struggle was brief,” said the priest, as he re-entered the room, from which he had been so hastily summoned

• By a dying woman to pray.' May God receive her in mercy! She went off so gently, that though we were all about the bed, no one could tell the moment when she departed. My lady is crying over her as if she were a sister, and the baby sleeping soundly in Sibby Connor's arms, as if it were still resting on that bosom which had been designed by God to be its pillow and support.”

My father, as was his wont when any thing particularly excited him, sprang from his chair, and strode thrice across the chamber. “ Tell me not,” he exclaimed, “ that there is not an especial providence over every thing--ay, from the sparrow to the soldier's child. That orphan has been sent to me,-mine it is,-mine it shall be. Pass the wine, Doctor. Here comes madame.

My mother timidly approached the side of her husband's chair, and laid her hand upon his shoulder.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“Denis,” she said, “will you be very angry with me ?" “ Angry, love !" replied my father, reproachfully.

“You never were angry with me yet. But-but--I have done something, upon which I should have previously obtained your sanction, love."

“What was it, Emily ?"

“I promised,” said my mother," the dying woman, that her helpless child should find in you and me protectors. Hector's nurse has taken the orphan,--and shall he not be our own boy's foster-brother ?”

“ You did, my dear, precisely what I had determined to have done myself.”

“ Before the sufferer's voice failed totally,” continued the lady," she said that the child was still unchristened, and prayed that rite might be performed when convenient.”

“ There will be no difficulty in complying with her request,” replied my father ; “there are now two learned Thebans in Knockloftie. To which of the professors does the poor baby belong ?”

“His parents were Roman Catholics,” said my mother.

“ Then, Father Dominic, a cast of your office will be necessary. Ring for Sergeant Brady—and then parade the child.”

In a few moments the non-commissioned officer and the soldier's orphan were introduced.

“What name shall I give him ?” said the priest.
“ His father's,” rejoined the Colonel.
“ That was Marc,” observed the sergeant.
“ What's in a name ?” said Dr. Hamilton.

More than one would suppose, Doctor,” replied my father. red-headed adjutant married a Bath heiress almost at sight, for after but a two hours' siege she surrendered at discretion, declaring that it was utterly impossible to hold out against a lover whose appellatives were Julius Cæsar.”

“ Then add Antony to his patronymic, and your protégé will prove irresistible.”

“ Marc Antony be it then,” replied the priest ; and in five minutes the ceremony was complete. The sergeant retired to finish his supper below stairs, and the orphan was returned to the nursery, named after that amorous Roman, who “for a queen of fifty” gave up a world.

The clock struck eleven.—My mother retired for the night, and the priest had been called out to prescribe for a sick soldier,—for his reverence united leechcraft to divinity, and thus was doubly useful. My father and Dr. Hamilton were consequently left alone, and both for some minutes had been communing with their own thoughtsmy father broke the silence.

“I know not wherefore,” said he, “but something whispers me that this night is fated to be an important one in the history of the old house. I'm not inclined for sleep, and I feel a sort of restlessness, as if the day's events had not yet closed.”

“ It is the mental reaction which follows some unusual excitement, replied the divine.

6 Our

[ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »