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dangerous enemy they had to dread. In a moment, former kindness and consequent popularity vanished like a dream, the delenda est of Knockloftie was pronounced, and in the black list to guide the future murderer my father's name stood first.
Such was the state of the times, and such the local condition of the country in which the opening scene of this true history is laid. My first anniversary had come round ; and although the hospitable relations which had formerly existed among the gentry had been interrupted, still
, on this occasion, there was a semblance of rejoicing in my father's house, though, sooth to say, it was after all a sickly effort at festivity.
In the great chamber of Knockloftie the lord of the mansion, with his lady and two guests, were seated. The apartment was a large, square, and ill-lit room, occupying the lower portion of the tower. Both floor and ceiling were framed of native oak, which time had nearly blackened, and the walls were half-concealed by portraits rudely executed. Many indications of the danger of the times were apparent in this ancient chamber. The windows were jealously secured, and everywhere
weapons of all descriptions were seen. Two arm-racks, holding a dozen muskets each, were placed in either corner, while some silver sconces dependent from the cornice shed on the polished arms a flickering light. But the chamber was better illuminated ; for the huge hearth was heaped with bog-wood, and the ruddy flare this cheerful fire emitted reached the remotest extremity of the apartment, and halfdispelled its gloom.
As Scott would say, “ the tables were drawn," and dinner had disappeared. My mother sat in an antique high-backed chair, busily employed in knitting shooting-stockings for her husband; my father had extracted another cork ; the parson pronounced the wine unexceptionable ; and the priest, “good easy man,” was stirring an obdurate piece of sugar, deposited in the bottom of his second tumbler. The clock
the mantelpiece struck seven, and the butler, after replenishing a bentbasket with firewood, quitted the presence and closed the door. All these events had passed, and it is high time that the gentle reader should be formally introduced to the company:
The history of my parents must be intermixed. Lieutenant-Colonel Denis O'Halloran was now some thirty-one, but he looked older by a dozen
years. He was a tall, athletic man, well formed and well set-up, with an air and bearing which did not require the attestation of an empty sleeve, to prove him “ no carpet knight” and stamp him soldier. He entered the service a boy of sixteen-and at six-and-twenty, the women said he was the handsomest fellow in garrison. At twenty-seven, the old major having signified his intention to retire, my grandsire, more Hibernico, secured his son's promotion by parting with another townland. At twenty-eight, Major O'Halloran further promoted himself, for he carried off the pretty brunette who was now demurely knitting stockings in the corner. Heaven forgive him !--my mother was boarder in a convent—and one blessed moonlight morning, when the nuns were dreaming of heaven, and the superior sleeping
« fast as a watchman," with the assistance of a ladder and three grenadiers, Miss Emily Clifford was liberated from holy pupilage, and at Gretna Green she
became Mrs. O'Halloran, and that too, without taking the opinion of the parish as to whether there was just cause or impediment against the same.
My mother was the only daughter of a Catholic gentleman of large estate. He had however a son by a former marriage, fifteen years older. The boy grew up wild and extravagant-and at twenty-one had dissipated a handsome fortune. At last his angry parent totally discarded him, and to support his endless debaucheries, the unhappy youth resorted to discreditable means for obtaining the money he required. With some profligate companions he became involved in a transaction which rendered them obnoxious to the law, and in consequence, Edward Clifford left England secretly. Eighteen years had elapsed -none could say whether he was dead or living—but the general belief was, that he filled an early and dishonoured grave.
Mr. Clifford was a bigot in religion. All his hopes had long since centered in his daughter; and the great object of his life was to marry her to a person of his own persuasion, and a union was negotiated, and nearly concluded, between Emily and the son of a Catholic peer. In the meantime, her education had been entrusted to the sisterhood of a convent, alike celebrated for sanctity and strictness, where, as Mr. Clifford believed, his daughter would be equally secure against attempts upon her faith or her affections. What must have been his rage and astonishment when the news of her elopement was communicated ! She who had been designed to wed a peer-whose loved society he had relinquished, that her religious opinions might be confirmed by spiritual instruction—she was lost to him for ever; united by an indissoluble tie to the son of a distressed gentleman—and worse still, to the professor of a creed from which Mr. Clifford fearfully recoiled, as a system founded in heresy and error.
After a sufficient time had been allowed to permit the first burst of parental displeasure to exhaust itself, letters were written to Mr. Clifford by the offenders, to deprecate his anger and solicit pardon and forgiveness ; but they came back with unbroken seals, while other circumstances concurred to convince my parent that, for a time at least, the old gentleman's anger was implacable. Rich in mutual regard, they sought and found consolation in reciprocated affections—and soon after there was promise of another tie, that should bind their hearts together even more closely than before.
Short was the season when their course of love ran smooth. An order of readiness arrived unexpectedly from the war office—the destination of the regiment was France and in another week a rout was received for Deal.
A separation was now inevitable—and when my mother most required a husband's gentle attentions, the order to divide them had arrived. But the rector of her father's parish had heard of the intended embarkation, and hastened to offer the home my mother needed. Thus, cheered by “the good man's counsels," and nursed tenderly by his excellent wife, my mother gave birth, in four months afterwards to a son-I made an entrée on the world, and commenced, as the reader may probably admit hereafter, an adventurous career.
The young soldier's history in the meantime, is shortly told. Lord Moira, despairing of effecting any good by the intended descent on Brittany, changed the direction of his force, landed at Ostend, and finally joined the Duke of York at Mechlin. In my father's regiment the lieut.-colonel had become sick, and the senior major retiredconsequently the command had devolved upon himself--and could any thing have reconciled the severance of young love, it would have been the early prospect of military distinction.
Major O'Halloran proved that fortune had not vainly offered him her favours. His regiment was brigaded with the rear-guard, and on every occasion the battalion was admirably commanded. The service of retiring constantly in front of a victorious army is most discouraging, but still that disheartening duty was performed with a spirit deserving better fortune. At last the Duke of York was recalled, and for a time his successor, Count Walmoden, assumed the offensive. An attack on the Republicans at Tuyl had partial success, and my father heading the grenadier company, carried the town by assault. With that exploit his military career was prematurely closed—his left arm was fractured by a grape shot, amputated afterwards, and he returned to England invalided.
The rest is briefly told. He found himself a father, and his own sire had paid the debt of nature. His health was shaken by fatigue, his wound healed slowly, and after some consideration, he retired from the army upon
half pay, obtaining a colonel's rank and pension, and fixed his residence in his native country, taking possession of an ancient house, and what proved afterwards an unquiet home.
The guests who on the anniversary of my birth had honoured Knockloftie with their presence, were different both in character and appearance. The priest was a strong-built, good-humoured, under-sized man, of jovial habits and easy disposition, careless how matters went, and consequently, ill-adapted to repress the turbulence of a disobedient flock, who would have required the religious coercion of a sterner monitor. As confessor to the establishment, Father Dominic Kelly made Knockloftie his abiding place. He was of gentle blood himself, and preferred being domiciled in the house of a gentleman, to a wandering life among the rude dwellings of a lawless community. Hence Father Dominic was by no means popular--and his influence over a wild and rebellious people was far less extensive than that which is generally possessed by the Irish priesthood.
The other churchman formed a singular contrast to the burly priest. He was a small, attenuated, intelligent-looking personage, possessing natural courage and a restless and irascible disposition. A fellow of the university, he had retired upon a college living—and having obtained, unhappily for himself, a commission of the peace, he exercised his powers with greater zeal than discretion ; in short, he had made himself so obnoxious to the peasantry that his life was not worth a pin's fee. Like Colonel O'Halloran, he too was doomed to death, and in the black list his name was second to that of my father. A few nights before, his glebe-house had been burnt to the ground ; and, having escaped assassination by a miracle, he found that protection at
Knockloftie, which, from a more timid proprietor, might have been sought and asked in vain.
But there were others besides Doctor Hamilton, who during this reign of terror had been obliged to abandon their own homes, and elsewhere seek a shelter. Several of the poorer farmers had given testimony in recent prosecutions which led to the conviction of an assassin, on whom the extreme penalty of the law had been justly executed. This in the eyes of his guilty companions was a crime beyond the pale of mercy, and the unfortunate men were accordingly denounced. They fled for protection to Knockloftie-there, they were now residing—and, as if the measure of my father's offendings was not already full, the daring act of interposing between a lawless confederacy and its victims had heaped it even to an overflow. No wonder therefore, that the full fury of rebel vengeance was to be turned against himself and all whom his roof-tree covered.
“Well, William,” said my mother, as she renewed a conversation which had been accidentally interrupted, “ when you were struck down—"
“My foster brother sprang from the ranks, threw away his musket, lifted me lightly as even with this lone arm I would lift you, and carried me“In safety from the danger ?"
No, no, love-we had to pass through a cross fire of musketry—a ball struck him, and when he fell dead-I was in his arms.”
“ Would,” said my mother with a sigh, 6 that our Hector had a foster brother !”
“Would that he had ! and one so faithful and devoted !"--my father drew his hand across his eyes — “this is too womanly, but—"
As he was speaking, the mastiff chained in a kennel beside the hall door began to growl, and the priest rose and peeped cautiously through a shot-hole in the shutters, to ascertain what might have disturbed the dog. Nothing to cause alarm was visible--and the churchman returned to the table, observing, that the night froze keenly.
My mother had dropped her knitting on the carpet.—“What a horrid state of things,” observed the lady, as she picked the worsted from the floor, “ that a growl from Cæsar sets my heart beating for an hour, and a knock after dark terrifies me almost to death !”.
“ Thou a soldier's wife, and play the coward !” exclaimed my father. “Fear nothing, Emily; the old tower from roof to basement is securedthere is not a cranny that would admit the cat that I have not under a flanking fire-the lower windows save one are built up—I have retrenched the hall with a barricade, nailed up the back door, and the frontone is enfiladed by that embrasure,”—and he pointed to a window in an angle of the room, at either side of which a blunderbuss was standing ready for instant use." “Would that for one night thou and the baby were safe within the convent walls ! then let the scoundrels come! By Heaven ! next morning there should be more shirts* than were ever spread upon the bleaching ground, and the coroner should have occupation, not by single files, but by the cart-load.”
* The Defenders wore shirts over their clothes at night, and hence were also called White-boys.
upon the lawn
my father spoke, the whole scene was passing in his “mind's eye,” and Defenders were dropping by the dozen. His face lighted
. up, and springing from the chair he waved his solitary arm, strode across the chamber, and looked with conscious pride at all his military preparations. My mother grew pale as death, and turning her eyes up she fervently ejaculated, “God forbid !" and crossed herself devoutly. The priest performed a similar ceremony, and uttered a sin
" Amen !” “Pshaw !” said my father, as he passed his arm round my mother's waist and kissed her tenderly ; “ do not alarm yourself. This house is strong ; nothing but treachery could force it.”
“ Beware of that,” said the parson ; “ for that I feared and proved. I was betrayed by the villain who ate my bread, and saved providentially by the babbling folly of an idiot.”
“ Indeed !” said my mother, with an inquiring glance, as she laid her knitting down.
“ The tale is briefly told,” said Doctor Hamilton. “ For some time past I suspected that my servants were disaffected. I watched them closely, and circumstances convinced me that my fears were true. I had business in the next town ; my tithe agent dared not venture out of doors, and it was imperatively necessary that I should see him. By a lane, the distance between the glebe-house and the village was only four miles—all I wanted done would occupy but a few minutes—and I took, as I supposed, effectual means to enable me to accomplish the object I had in view, and return home even before my absence was known in my treacherous household. At dusk I despatched my servant with a letter to the curate, and when he was out of sight I saddled a fast horse, quitted the stable by a back door, and rode off at speed for the village. I was unexpectedly delayed - but as a precaution against danger, returned by another and longer road.
Night had set in ; I passed through the last hamlet at a sharp trot, and, but a mile from home, pulled up at a steep hill that leads directly to the bridge. A lad who was running in an opposite direction stopped when he observed me coming, and I recognised him at once to be an idiot boy who occasionally visited the glebe-house, where he always received meat or money by my orders. As I came closer he began dancing and gabbling in a sing-song tune, “ Ha, ha ! Hamilton, ha, ha ! somebody will get his fairin. There's Dick Brady and the smith behind the hedge, and Jack Coyne, and Patsy Gallagher, and twenty more besides, only I don't know them with their white shirts and black faces. Ha, ha ! ha, ha! somebody to-night will get his fairin !" He repeated this rhyme, and kept dancing for a few moments with idiot glee, and then, under a sudden impulse, ran off towards the hamlet which I had but just passed through.
Again an angry growling was heard from the mastiff's kennel, and the priest looked a second time through the shot-hole. The night was clear and star-lit, but nothing was visible from the window.
Father Dominic resumed his seat, and Doctor Hamilton thus continued :
My danger was imminent, and my resolution must be prompt. I dismounted, turned my horse loose, and as I had expected, he