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When my father rushed up stairs, the struggle in front was over. Dead and dying men were extended before the door--and in the clear moonlight those who escaped the fire from the house, were seen flying in wild disorder. As in lawless efforts generally, numbers had only produced embarrassment, and rendered failure more fatal.
One glance satisfied my father that the attempt had been fearfully repulsed ; and he hastened to the sad but safe asylum, where those most dear to him had been placed for their security. My mother and the children had been already removed by the priest and servants to their respective chambers and Colonel O'Halloran, with a dead and living woman, was left in possession of the melancholy apartment.
Mary Halligan was seated as when my father had quitted the room ; her eyes were fixed upon the wood-fire-a minute passed—and not a word was uttered. My father laid his hand upon her shoulder, “Mary!” said he, “ treachery! and from you!”
“ And wherefore not?” exclaimed the peasant girl, as she sprang upon her feet, and boldly returned his glance. “Why should not the deceived in turn become deceivers ?”
“ Wretched woman! even had I wronged you, would you wreak vengeance on those who never wished
evil ?” The girl sighed heavily.
“ There was a time, Mary, when you would not have betrayed the doomed one to the destroyer, and that victim-me.”
Mary Halligan was deeply affected; she sobbed, and tears, like raindrops, fell fast upon the floor.
6 And could a few brief years change that once gentle nature, and so fearfully? Would nothing satisfy revenge, but death for meinsult for
wife ?" “ Death-insult !” she repeated. “ Neither was intended." “Read—tis the paper you gave me by mistake.”
Mary Halligan cast her eyes upon the scroll; her lips and cheeks grew pale ; her hand shook violently; the paper dropped upon the floor; and turning her eyes upwards, she exclaimed, “As I was unconscious that such villany was designed, so may Heaven grant me pardon !”
“ What brought you here, then ?”.
“ To save my uncle from the gallows. They told me that witnesses who must convict him and others were sheltered in this house; and that could they but be carried off and concealed until after the assizes, then the prisoners' lives were safe. They stated that they only wanted the arms deposited in Knockloftie ;—that they would swear you to quit the country—and thus intimidate those who had followed your example and ventured to remain. Before I consented to carry the letter which my brother wished to have conveyed to Hackett, he swore upon the chapel-altar where the party had collected, that not one hair of your head should suffer injury. May God forgive him !”
“ To that prayer, Mary, I add a sincere amen! He is gone to his account-a perjurer !”
“ Gone to his account !” exclaimed the girl. • Is he dead? Who killed him ?”
“ He fell by the hand of one whom he would have more than murdered!”
“ Then am I now indeed alone upon the world !” A long and harrowing silence followed. “Denis,” she said, “I dare not curse, and cannot bless you. Four short years have passed. How bitterly have all things changed?"
“Stop, Mary! From my soul, I pity and believe you. You tell me that you did not know the purport of this night attack !”
“ God knows, I did not. You wrecked my happiness; but still I would not-could not subdue feelings now best forgotten. Forgotten, said I?-never !”.
Mary Halligan had spoken to my father in her native tongue; and those who are intimate with that portion of the kingdom where the Celtic language is still retained, will remember with what po
tic imagery, the Irish peasantry at times detail their mingled story of grief and joy, wrong and suffering.
Mary was one of those on whom nature stamps the grace which art idly or imperfectly can simulate. Her voice had all
“ The sweetness of the mountain-tongue;" and more affecting still, all that it uttered seemed to come directly from the heart.
“I loved you, Denis—ay, loved in all the madness with which woman loves. The peasant girl never dreamed that birth and rank had divided us immeasurably. She never thought that she should be wooed and won, and cast aside for others. She knew nothing of the world. Those, for whom Heaven had designed her, sought her, and sued, and were rejected. You came. Six years had changed usthe child had become a girl—the boy had become a man.
There was joy and merriment at Knockloftie—I was your chosen partner in the dance-and you would leave your dogs upon the moor, to steal to the bouillee, and sit for hours beside me. Is it to be wondered at that I loved with the ardour of a first passion—and the undoubting confidence of woman? While no sound was heard above the rushing waterfall, you plucked heath and wild flowers from the bank, placed them in my hair, and swore you would be constant. Fool that I was ! I believed you,—hid them in my bosom,and before they faded, I found myself deserted and betrayed.” She paused, --her agitation was fearful; but
, a flood of tears relieved it, and she thus continued :-“ You went to another land,—the sea rolled between us,—and were you forgotten? Oh, no! In fancy, I saw you still upon the moor—in sleep, I sate beside you on the heather—your name was mingled in my prayersand when one was offered for my own sins, three were poured warm from the heart, to implore a blessing on the absent one. Well, well; the dream is over,—the spell is broken,—and in this world you and I shall never meet again. Farewell, Colonel. There were two beings between whom this heart once was shared. I look my last upon the living one-and, too soon, I shall have looked my last upon the dead. I dare not press that hand-there's blood upon it; and-oh, God! that blood-a brother's !”
The priest, who had witnessed the termination of this painful interview, led Mary Halligan from the room. Her brother's body, with those of the other lawless men who had fallen or been wounded in the night affray, were already by my father's orders removed to an adjacent village. Presently, the sky was overcast, the moon withdrew her light, and a heavy snow shower fell for miles around, covering the surface of the ground ; and when morning dawned no traces of a recent affray were seen, and not a blood-stain was visible.
One melancholy memorial of foul treachery alone remained :-hidden by a sward of snow, poor Cæsar lay before his empty kennel ; and, true to the last, even in the agonies of death he had howled a bold defiance at his enemies.
“ Emily,” said my father, when breakfast was removed, “I need not tell you that a soldier's wife must always hold herself in readiness to move. Until better times arrive, you and the boy must leave this unquiet mansion. Nay, start not, love! I shall be your companion. That fading cheek and heavy eye bear silent evidence that cannot be mistaken. There is not in this old tower a single stone that I do not regard with veneration ; but were this gloomy pile a palace, and you unhappy, it should be abandoned. I have already sent a requisition for an escort, and do you get all you wish to be removed in marching order. To society,—to myself, -I owed a duty; that duty is discharged. A tenderer claim remains. Can I forget, dear Emily, that for me you gave up the convent's quiet ?—that for me title and wealth were thrown away ?—that for me even the stronger ties of kindred were dissolved? Can I forget that though a gentle spirit like yours trembles at a life of danger, and recoils from scenes of bloodshed, still not a murmur passed your lips ?—not a remonstrance urged upon me your apprehensions ? Enough ;--a soldier's pride would prompt me to remain where we are,—while a husband's affections demand that my wife and child should be placed in full security. The struggle is ended, and pride must yield to love."
Before the last word was spoken, a happy wife was shedding tears of joy upon her husband's bosom. Instant preparations were made; such valuables as were portable were packed up; Knockloftie for a time formally abandoned ; and ere another week elapsed, my mother, my foster-brother and myself found ourselves in perfect safety—and for some months succeeding became residents of the metropolis.
My first anniversary formed a remarkable epoch in the story of our house; and as many subsequent adventures in my humble history were referable to that event, I shall briefly narrate the more immediate consequences that resulted. Mary Halligan quitted the country, as it was believed, to reside with some relatives in the west. Hackett received sentence of death, but the extreme penalty of the law was commuted into transportation. Sergeant Brady retired on a pension, and became henchman to my father. Mr. Hamilton, after Knockloftie was deserted, with a fatal imprudence still continued in the neighbourhood. A few weeks afterwards, the house where he resided was forced by a nụmerous banditti, the unfortunate clergyman dragged from his
concealment, carried to the door, and slaughtered under circumstances of fearful barbarity.*
Time passed, ---months slipped away,—and my mother's birth-day returned. That morning, a letter containing a bank-note for five hundred pounds was received. It was addressed to the lady-with a brief intimation in an unknown hand, that a similar gift should be annually presented. Another brief period passed, and another letter
It brought but sorry news. Knockloftie was burned to the ground ;—not a fragment that was combustible remained ;--and what
a merrie hall” now frowned upon the ocean in black and ruined loneliness. As my
father read the letter, a change came over his face, and revealed to the inquiring eyes then bent upon it, that evil tidings had arrived.
Denis,” said my mother, “what is wrong ?” “ Nothing, love, but that Knockloftie" " What of it? Go on. “Is, with all that it contained, a heap of ashes !”
“Good Heaven!”—and my mother crossed herself,—"are we not ruined, Denis ?”
No, no, love; not exactly ruined. I had the vanity to call my abiding place 'a castle.' Well, we must change the name; and surely cottage' will sound as sweetly." “ Pshaw !” said the lady, “is that all ?”
“Why-I can spare a horse or two,-part with a dozen dogs,—and then, my love, we will require the fewer servants.”
“ And the carriage,—what need of it?” exclaimed the lady.
“ Well, well; possibly if things come to the worst, it too might be dispensed with."
56 And then my jewels, Denis !”—and my mother's eyes brightened with delight—"ay, those useless baubles. I have heard that they are precious! They shall be sold, and—”
“Never-by Heaven !” exclaimed my father, as he spurned the chair over the carpet, and strode across the room. In another minute his calmness had returned, and my mother was sitting on his knee, smiling away with woman's tact every recollection of annoyance;
and propounding with the sweetest philosophy upon earth, visionary plans for future happiness.
Again the postman's knock was heard, and another letter was presented. My father flung it unopened on the table.
66 Curse the particulars !” he exclaimed, “what matters it whether the old roof-tree fell by carelessness or villany ?"
My mother impressed a consolatory kiss upon her husband's cheek. “ Read it, love," said he. “ You and I have no secrets, Emily.” The lady broke the seal, and looked at the signature. “ Who is Constantine Mac Donough ?” she inquired.
"A very singular old man; a distant relation of my mother. Many years ago, my father and he quarrelled at an election. They fought in half an hour, left the ground after three shots had been dis
* Historically true.
charged,--and both refused a reconciliation. What was the cause of quarrel, I never could discover from my father; indeed, I question whether the worthy man himself even knew what it was distinctly; and with Mr. Mac Donough, of course, I never had even any acquaintance. He lives a bachelor, and report states, that he is very wealthy and very eccentric.”
"Lived ! my love; the old man's dead.”
The Colonel sprang from his chair-his solitary arm encircled my mother's waist, as he pressed her passionately to his heart.
“ Emily,” said he, “when the sad tidings arrived this morning that we were houseless, I felt only for the boy and thee. Well, before the same sun went down, dove-like you came, the harbinger of happiness. The 'barren heritage' I quitted with regret, will be amply replaced by the rich lands of Killucan ; and, once more, a peaceful home-such as we had in England, love—is ours. Never despond, Emily—and even in his darkest hour let an Irishman trust to the lady of the wheelfor I verily believe, if there be a spot on earth for which the blind baggage has a particular fancy, blessed Saint Patrick ! that island is your own.”
MY ENTRÉE ON THE WORLD.
My father bless'd me fervently,
Yet did not much complain ;
Till I come back again."-CHILDE HAROLD. The residence and domain so opportunely bequeathed to Colonel O'Halloran, formed a striking contrast to his ancient home. Like the domicile of Justice Shallow, every thing about Knockloftie might have been described as « barren all,” with the qualification of “marry, good air,” while Killucan was situated in an inland county remarkable for its fertility. The house was a large and commodious building, almost concealed by trees, the growth of at least a century; the parks were rich and well laid down; comfort was within the dwelling,— plenty without it; and as they say in Connaught, no man came into a snugger sitting down” than my worthy father.
Here ten years of boyhood passed away; and here at the feet of that gifted Gamaliel, father Dominic, my foster-brother and myself were indoctrinated. The priest had borne the departure of my parents with all the resignation a Christian man could muster; but as he declared afterwards, the destruction of Knockloftie fairly broke his heart. When his patron unexpectedly succeeded to a goodly inheritance, it