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6 But, at all events, in regard for old times, and for the love I bore, and still bear, her beautiful daughter, I will not desert her or leave her to perish, like a wounded hare or partridge, under the dews of the midnight sky.'
“So saying, he lifted her to the river's brink, sprinkled her temples and hands with water, until animation was perfectly re-established, and then, after washing away as much as possible of the clotted blood, he wrapt her shivering body in his warm frieze coat, lifted her on his herculean shoulders, and strode lightly away into the most lonely and deserted district of the neighbourhood.
“ The night was one of those sweet, balmy ones peculiar to Midsummer. The heavens were blue and tranquil; and the light feathery masses of gold and crimson clouds sailed slowly over the sky, as gaily and serenely as if earth was Eden, and no sin or misery in this wicked world. With an agitated mind, the wanderer pursued his dangerous way; and the beauty of the heavens, or the bland tranquillity of the scene through which he moved, brought no relief to his heart. Ruminating bitterly on his lot, he strode on, scarcely knowing, and not much caring, whither his footsteps might stray.
“After a hasty tramp of half an hour, he came to the edge of a little babbling rivulet, which ran, tumbling and leaping, down the slope of an adjacent elevated tract of land. Here he laid down his living load, to draw breath and reconnoitre the scene. The moon had just become shrouded in a thick hazy vapour, and a deep gloom was rapidly sitting down upon the earth. The wanderer looked forward with anxiety. Amid the gathering darkness, he saw arising from an extensive coppice, which stretched forth beyond the brook, a ruddy glare of light, or rather, a perpendicular column of luminous smoke, apparently issuing from some description of human habitation in the centre of the copse. Thither, whether occupied by friend or foe, by loyalist or insurgent, or fay or demon, he determined to go, and seek rest for himself and his feeble charge until the darkness of the next night should permit him to resume his flight. Wearied as he now was, and encumbered with the burthen of the wretched Clara Sinnott, he found himself utterly unable to continue his journey ; besides, the short-lived summer's night was rapidly drawing to a close ; and already, the castern horizon was becoming purple with the hues of approaching day. With this resolution, he again caught up the old woman, whose groans, as her mangled flesh came in contact with the coarse woollen garment which surrounded her, were truly pitiable. Jumping over the stream, he threaded his way, slowly and painfully, through the thorny underwood with which the place was infested. At last, he reached the eagerly-soughtfor spot. It was a kind of cavern or hollow, excavated in the side of a vast old-fashioned mearn or ditch, covered overhead with transverse sticks, on which were heaped faggots of furze and heather, and through the fissures of which penetrated that light which had originally attracted his attention. “ As he
paused, gazing into the narrow entrance of this rude sheeling, the sound of mirth rang on his ears, and it was evident that the thoughts of the inmates, whoever they might be, were far removed from the contemplation of those horrors then enacting through the length and breadth of the county of Wexford.
“ Hillo,' he shouted at the top of his voice, and in a tone which rose high above the tumultuous sounds within the hut.
“• Who the devil's blazes are you?' fiercely asked a gigantic peasant, advancing from the side of the aperture, and levelling his pike at the breast of the intruder.
"Have you no better prayers than these !' asked Wolfe, goodhumouredly.
Aye, twenty,' replied the sentinel. Twenty, if I could recollect them. But what the devil, or who the devil are you, that comes here shouting and hillooing, as if you were about bringing all the spies and red-coats in Wexford about our heels?
“Ask me no further questions,' replied the fugitive. 'I am a friend in distress; I carry here an old female whom I have just rescued from the jaws of death. I fear she will die, if exposed much longer to the night air ; take her in; allow me to remain with her till to-morrow night, and I shall intrude on you no further.'
“Without a word in reply, the rebel put his head in through the rugged doorway. He remained a moment in consultation with those within, and addressing himself again to Wolfe, desired him to 'pass on.'
“With much trouble, he succeeded in carrying the wounded woman through the low, difficult doorway. At length, however, he effected an entry, laid his burthen softly on the ground, removed the handkerchief, which concealed his features, somewhat from his eyes, and stood in silence to scrutinize the wild scene before him.
“ The hut was of much more ample dimensions than would appear to the observer from without; extending beneath a superstratum of limestone rock which lay to the rear of the immense old mearn. In one angle, a huge log fire burned redly, around which squatted a group of the insurgent peasants of the neighbourhood, many of whom were intimately known to
Lanty Wolfe. Others sat around a rude old wooden bench or table in the centre of the floor, on which were placed jars, bottles, jugs, glasses, and all the other requisites appertaining to a vulgar debauch. Stretched around, on piles of heath and fern, lay several grim, brawny figures, some snoring like swine, and others complacently smoking their tobacco-pipes; whilst thickly piled against the upright banks of earth, which constituted the walls of the hut, were the muskets, pikes, pitch-forks, and other weapons of the party. It was, altogether, a wild and wicked scene; and as their pallid faces and glassy eyes met the gaze of the stranger, he felt a thrill of terror and mistrust such as he had never experienced in any of the many sanguinary affrays in which he had been engaged since he became a rebel.
"Who comes here?' asked more than one rough voice, as he stood gazing abstractedly on the strange scene.
“Wolfe again briefly explained the circumstances under which he had sought refuge amongst them, and concluded by expressing a hope that in committing himself to their protection, his confidence would not be misplaced.
“At the head of the table sat a powerful-looking man, about forty years of age, with a very dark complexion, and immensely large black whiskers. He was dressed in a superfine blue cloth frock, and white trowsers; around his waist went a girdle of green worsted, and in the front of his polished leathern cap was a cockade or rosette of green silk ribbon.
“Captain,' said one of the party, addressing him, and immediately glancing again at the stranger. "Captain, what are we to do?
“Fill the largest glass with the best potteen you have,' replied the man addressed as captain ; and, do you, Dowd and Harvey, carry the sick woman to the fire, and if she can eat or drink let her be supplied with the best our circumstances afford.'
“Before he had fully concluded the delivery of his orders, a fierce yell arose from several of the group around the table. In the act of lifting the glass to his mouth, the handkerchief, before alluded to as partially concealing the features of Wolfe, became disarranged, fell off, and there stood before the maddened rebels, the form of the “Sassanagh traitor, Lanty Wolfe.'
Chorp an dhoul,* Wolfe, is that you ?—the treacherous, murdering Lanty Wolfe? And Wolfe, you gallows bird, what brought you here! or, were you tired, as you ought to be, of your accursed life? Where, you traitor, did you leave poor Mosy Devereux ? or, what happened to the wife and daughter of Marcus Sinnott?'
* Chorp-an-dhoul.—Your soul to the devil.
“ Hear me, hear me, boys,' cried poor Wolfe, imploringly.
“But they would not hear him. They could hear nothing but their own frantic cries for revenge on 'the Orange murderer, — the Sassanagh stag.' Twenty pikos were already levelled at his breast, -and twenty muskets were pointed at his head; every man in that infuriated group seemed to thirst for his blood with all the gaping ferocity of the vampire of German mythology.
“ The chief leaped from his seat. He flung himself between the assailed and his assailants. No!' he shouted. "No! the fellow must be heard. Never shall it be said, that Mogue na Scaltough, the croppy captain, who never blenched before the face of red-coat or yeoman, allowed a man to be executed without fair play. Come, Wolfe, what can you say in vindication of yourself
, or why death should not be inflicted on you, for cowardice, treachery, and murder.'
“Who accuses me of these crimes ? boldly asked Wolfe.
“A low, thick-set peasant here confronted him. 'Here I am, Larry Byrne, that accuses you, Lanty Wolfe,' he cried. I traced your footsteps from New Ross, and here I am; and, to your teeth, I charge you with being a deserter, a stag, and a murderer.'
" You are a liar,' stoutly cried Wolfe.
«Come, Lancelot Wolfe,' said Captain Mogue na Scaltough, with assumed gravity, Come, and answer truly before God such questions as I shall ask of you. Are you, or are you not a deserter from the camp at New Ross?
“I am,' answered Wolfe firmly.
“The loudest surging of the wind-swept Slaney would be drowned in the yell for vengeance which arose from the wild host at this open declaration. 'Justice, captain, justice on the traitor, or never again speak of justice or revenge in our presence.
“During this outcry, Wolfe remained unruffled. At all times dogged and unbending, his wonted energy of character now returned, and he stood unmoved, like a lion at bay, amid the threats and clamour and imprecations of his enemies.
“ Lancelot Wolfe,' resumed the chief, by your own confession, you are a runaway and a traitor, and as such we deem you unworthy to live; the sentence, therefore, our rules command me to pass on you is, that you suffer death for your crime within this hour.'
“Audacious rebel, I scorn your vengeance ! cried the unflinching Wolfe.
• Lead him away, boys!' fiercely cried Mogue na Scaltough. “He shall die, but his blood shall not defile even this temporary refuge of patriotic and faithful men. Go, you, Toole, and Hacket, and Corrigan, and Desmond, and convey the traitor down to Poulnashanta. Despatch him there with your pikes ; and you, Doyle, and Murphy, and Quirk, and Redmond, take your spades, and dig a deep, deep grave for his villainous corpse beside the little pool.'
«• Yes, captain, a hagur, shouted the men joyfully. "Your orders shall be obeyed; and so perish every traitor to his country; and God prosper our cause, old Ireland, and Captain Mogue na Scaltough.'
“A black cotton handkerchief was now tied on the face of the condemned man; his hands were pinioned to his back; the grave-diggers and executioners stood prepared to lead away their victim, and the captain proceeded to put his grey frieze trusty in order, to accompany them on their horrid mission. A thrill of terror,-aye, even a suppressed murmur of compassion, ran for a moment through several of the iron-visaged men ; and a huge mastiff, which lay basking by the blazing wood-fire, jumped up, pricked his ears, and howled in a melancholy and almost preternatural tone. The keening of the dog aroused old Clara Sinnott, who, up to this time, slept soundly in the glow of the fire. Her gaze fell on the victim, and the state of the case flashed instantaneously on her mind.
“Oh, boys, aroon, she cried imploringly, what are yez about, or are yez going to kill poor Lanty. Wolfe, who loved my darling colleen,—my own sweet Mary Sinnott. Going, is it yez are, to quench the light of his fine black eyes down down in the darkness of the cold grave, and sending his soul unrepented before Him that made it! Oh, no, avourneen-ma-chree, as you hope for mercy yourselves, have pity on the poor Angasheore. * Think how it would tear the heart of his poor old mother, to hear tell of the fate of her bouchal; think of those things, and for the love of God and the Virgin, let him live, and go about his business.'
"As the kind-hearted woman concluded her eloquent appeal, a feeble old man, grey-haired, and dressed in a decent suit of black clothes, accompanied by a young female, tall and arrayed in a scarlet mantle, and black Spanish hat, entered the sheeling. It was Father Esmonde, and his companion was Mary Sinnott.
“Cead-millo-failtha,t Father Esmonde,' shouted several of the insurgents: You're welcome, suppose it was for nothing
Angasheore.—A term applied to persons for whom the speaker entertains feelings of pity, mingled, perhaps, with slight contempt. † Cead mille failtha. --A hundred thousand welcomes. VOL. IV.