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(Continued from page 455 of the preceding volume.)
There are few things more strange, or, perhaps, more inexplicable, than the extreme fondness of most people for all that savours of the melancholy, the marvellous, the terrible, and the tragic. It was Fontenelle, I believe, who ascribed this curious disposition to some radical defect, or latent love of falsehood in the mind of man. However, let us hope that we are ruled by some more amiable influence, and that according to the opinion of more charitable philosophers, “It is because the heart loves excitement, that a fellow-feeling for the sufferings of our kind is almost universal, and our propensity to indulge in that feeling so strong, that we often sympathize with human suffering even before we have ascertained the source from whence it springs, or whether the object of our sympathy be, strictly judging, entitled to our commiseration or not. Whether this generous opinion will be borne out by general corroboration, I do not know, but I am certain that whoever is at all acquainted with the human heart, its operations, motives, and springs of action, will not for a moment hesitate in admitting, that there is something exquisitely soothing in the exercise of the social affections, and that, hence, we feel a lingering interest, and enjoy a species of dark melancholy pleasure in sympathizing with the unfortunate and the wretched,-aye, and often, even with the guilty and the depraved. VOL. IV.
Our illustrious countryman, Sterne,* who knew intimately, and painted with a master-hand, every feeling of the heart, says " that he was never so conscious of a soul within him, as when engaged in some melancholy adventure." It is so with thousands of every caste and clime, but to none will the remark come home more closely than to the Irishman. Full of the deepest feeling, fanciful and excitable, he is ever open to the influences of the strange and the mournful. A sufferer in the land of his forefathers, familiar with persecution in its most atrocious phases, the slave of the vicious task-master, meeting injustice and oppression on every hand, and drinking of misery's cup until he is literally drunk with its dregs, he has learned to compassionate the sorrows of mankind ; his ear is ever open to the appeal of the unfortunate; and, although he seldom can do more, he never denies the balm of his sympathy to suffering humanity,--no matter of what clime, or creed, or sect, may be the injured party.
Recollecting these facts, it will excite little surprise that myself and my companions felt the deepest interest in the tale of Oliver Wolfe, and awaited with straining eyes and thirsty ears, the continuation of his strange and thrilling narrative.
THE ORANGEMAN'S TALE.
(Continued.) “At a small distance from the once comfortable dwelling of the Sinnotts, stood one of those remnants of remote antiquity called raths, still so numerous in most districts of Ireland. In bold solitude, it overlooked the river; and at the time of which I speak, was overgrown with a dense mass of thorn, furze, and brushwood. To this retreat poor Wolfe now bent his steps, and on arriving at its verge, he halted to take breath. He gazed backwards at the smoking, ruins; the neighing of horses, and the clatter of military equipments gave evidence that the spot was again beleaguered with the cut-throat yeomanry, and he determined to remain beneath the cover of the raheen,* to watch their proceedings, and try, if possible, for some clue which might inform him of the destiny of poor Mary Sinnott.
“He crept beneath the brushwood, until he attained the very crest of the little eminence, and stretched himself at full length on the earth. He did not remain many minutes, however, when the tramping of horses, and the curses, laughter, and boisterous ribaldry of the troopers gave notice that they were approaching his retreat. The spot being so entangled, and impervious even to the glare of the moon beams, he was unable to mark the forms of the foe, but their rough voices were painfully articulate, and in a moment after, the monotonous but melancholy wail of a female in distress came sadly mingled with the savage mirth of the rampant soldiers. Another pause, and they were up on the spot.
* Sterne's sentiment, it is well known, was all on paper. His inkbottle was his only heart. He could sympathise much more with an imprisoned bird than with an afflicted friend; with a dead ass, than with a dying Christian. Ed. D. M,
† Raheen.— The diminutive of “rath”--the little rath.
“Halt,' cried the commanding officer, in a hoarse and ab. rupt tone; and the order was accompanied by directions to some of the party to surround the little thicket, watch it narrowly, and let no rebelly dog escape from his kennel.'
“ Here was it, say you, old lass?' cried the officer apparently addressing the wailing woman.
" Vo! Vo! but I dunna,' answered a voice, which, amid its tones of affliction, the fugitive immediately recognized as that of old Clara Sinnott.
“No trifling, old collough,' peevishly retorted the officer. We do not come to bandy words with such as you. Say, is this the spot, or not,—and say it quickly?' “. Musha, bud your honour—'
Musha, the devil's father!' roared the officer, in a frenzy, 'must we stand here all night, listening to your infernal slang? speak at once, or, by the L-d, I will make you.'
“« 'Twas not kind for me or mine to have the false drop in us,' sobbed the wretched old woman; "and only for his own treachery, I would as soon have my heart tore out of my body, and roasted in yonder burning embers, as injure a hair on the head of the same Lanty Wolfe, Orangeman and Sassanagh though he be."
“* We do not enquire into your motives,' resumed the officer ; all we want to ascertain from you is, was it here you saw him conceal himself?'
“Blessed queen of heaven, look on me this night !' implored the old woman agonizedly.
“ Another chorus of heartless mirth escaped the profane lips of the troopers, whilst the officer again loudly spoke.
“. In one minute, my good woman, answer my question, or mark the consequences of your hesitation.'
"Sin ro sintagh agus threnagh, sin own thougha,'* answered the woman, in her provincial Gaelic. “ The officer lost all patience.
Here, Dundas,' he vociferated, addressing one of the troop
* Anglice.—“Everything where it ought to be, and the corn.creek in the grass." The reader will be aware that " corn-creek” is the rustic name for the land-rail; and no person reared in the country, but must be familiar, and always delighted, with the curious cry of this singular and well-known bird.
ers : Here, Dundas, come and try can you make this old vixen open her mouth.'
Yes,' cried the ruffian, spurring his charger from the ranks : ‘I will try my skill. Perhaps, after all, I could work miracles more speedily than the Blessed Virgin ;' and, in a moment, the whiz of the heavy cat-o'-nine-tails was heard, as it fell on the naked shoulders of the wretched old woman.
“ Follow your blow, Dundas,' cried another monster. 'A dozen or two such as them would make a dummy open his clob:' and again and again the terrific knout was administered by the brawny ruffian, whilst the frantic yells of the poor victim became more and more faint, until at length she sank exhausted on the earth.
Having, so far, glutted their appetite for Papish blood, the demons rode off without any futher effort to discover the retreat of the runaway rebel. Yet he, poor wretch, almost regretted the chance which still permitted him to roam at liberty. He was weary of life, but still that unconquerable dread of death so strongly implanted in almost every human heart, restrained him from rushing forward on the swords of the troopers, or submitting himself to a death equally certain, and more revolting, by the hands of the common hangman, whose office in those horrible days was indeed no sinecure. He had scarcely come to a final decision on this head, ere the yeomanry were out of hearing; for they rode quickly on their mission of bloodshed.
A faint moan of agony from the lips of the ill-treated Clara Sinnott
evidence that life was not extinct. The outlaw crept forth from his retreat, and raised her quivering form from the ground. She was in that state in which she had, a while ago, appeared at the conflagration ; but the linen which then partially protected her person, was now torn into shreds; her flesh was mangled by the scourge, and an incrustation of halfcoagulated gore covered her lacerated body from top to toe.
"Poor Wolfe's heart swelled at the shocking spectacle. He paused.
«. What on earth will I do with her! he exclaimed mentally. " 'tis plain as the moon on yonder crimson sky that she led the soldiers to my retreat. She imagines that I played foul at New Ross,--that I stagged and betrayed as well as deserted, and hence her desire of revenge on my luckless head. But there is a God above, and he knows my innocence. I am no traitor! I had no participation in the ruin which this night saw effected on the Sinnotts. But how did she know of my being concealed in the raheen? Of course she must have dogged my footsteps, and saw me take refuge beneath the brambles.'—He guessed aright.