IT was the night of the 2nd of July, in the year 1690, that a small remnant of a discomfited army was forming its position, in no very good order, on the slope of a wild hill on the borders of the county of Dublin. In front of a small square tower a sentinel was pacing up and down, darkly brooding over the disastrous fight of the preceding day, and his measured tread was sometimes broken by the fierce stamp of his foot upon the earth, as some bitter thought and muttered curse arose, when the feelings of the man overcame the habit of the soldier. The hum of the arrival of a small squadron of horse came from the vale below, borne up the bill on the faint breeze that sometimes freshens a summer's night, but neither the laugh nor the song, which so often enlivens a military post, mingled with, the sound. The very trumpet seemed to have lost the inspiring tingle of its tone, and its blast sounded heavily on the ear of the sentinel.
"There come more of our retreating comrades," thought he, as he stalked before the low portal it was his duty to guard. "Retreating. Curse the word! Shall we never do anything but fall back and back before this d--d Dutchman and his followers? And yesterday too, with so fine an opportunity of cutting the rascals to pieces, and all thrown away, and so much hard fighting to go for nothing. Oh, if Sarsefield had led us, we'd have another tale to tell!" And here he struck the heavy heel of his war-boot into the ground, and hurried up and down. But he was roused from his angry musing by the sound of a horse's tramp, which indicated a rapid approach to the tower, and he soon perceived through the gloom a horseman approaching at a gallop. The sentinel challenged the cavalier, who returned the countersign, and was then permitted to ride up to the door of the tower. He was mounted on a superb charger, whose silky coat of milk-white was much travel-stained, and the heaviness of whose breathing told of recent hard riding. The horseman alighted; his dress was of a mixed character, implying that war was not his profession, though the troubled nature of the times had engaged him in it. His head had no defensive covering; he wore the slouched hat of a civilian common to the time, but his body was defended by the cuirass of a trooper, and a heavy sword, suspended by a broad cross belt, was at his side--these alone bespoke the soldier, for, the large and massively mounted pistols that protruded from the holsters at his saddle-bow were no more than any gentleman, at the time, might have been provided with.
"Will you hold the rein of my horse," said he to the sentry, "while I remain in the castle?"
"I am a sentinel, sir," answered the soldier, "and cannot."
"I will not remain more than a few minutes."
"I dare not, sir, while I'm on duty--but I suppose you will find some one in the castle who will take charge of your horse."
The stranger now knocked at the door of the tower, and after some questions and answers in token of amity had paased between him and those inside, it was opened.
"Let some one take charge of my horse," said he; "I do not want him to be stabled, as I shall not remain here long, but I have ridden him hard, and he is warm, so let him be walked up and down until I am ready to get into the saddle again" He then entered the tower, and was ushered into a small and rude apartment, where a man of between fifty and sixty years of age, seated on a broken chair, though habited in a rich robe de chambre, was engaged in conversation with a general officer, a man of fewer years, whose finger was indicating certain points upon a map, which, with many other papers, lay on a rude table before them. Extreme dejection was the prevailing expression that overspread the countenance of the elder, while there mingled with the sadness that marked the noble features of the other a tinge of subdued anger, as certain suggestions he offered, when he laid his finger from time to time on the map, were received with coldness, if not with refusal.
"Here at least we can make a bold stand," said the general, and his eye flashed, and his brow knit as he spoke.
"I fear not, Sarsefield," said the king, for it was the unfortunate James the Second who spoke.
Sarsefield withdrew his hand suddenly from the map, and folding his arms, became silent.
"May it please you, my liege," said the horseman, whose entry had not been noticed by either Sarsefield or his sovereign. "I hope I have not intruded on your Majesty."
"Who speaks?"said the king, as he shaded his eyes from the light that burned on the table, and looked into the gloom where the other was standing.
"Your enemies, my liege," said Sarsefield, with some bitterness, "would not be so slow to discover a tried friend of your Majesty--'tis the White Horseman;" and Sarsefield, as he spoke, gave a look full of welcome and joyous recognition towards him.
The horseman felt, with the pride of a gallant spirit, all that the general's look and manner conveyed, and he bowed his head respectfully to the leader, whose boldness and judgment he so often had admired.
"Ha! my faithful White Horseman," said the king.
"Your Majesty's poor and faithful subject, Gerald Pepper," was the answer.
"You have won the name of the White Horseman," said Sarsefield, "and you deserve to wear it."
The horseman bowed.
"The general is right," said the king. "I shall never choose to remember you by any other name. You and your white horse have done good service."
"Would that they could have done more, my liege," was the laconic and modest reply.
"Would that everyone," laying some stress on the word, "had been as true to the cause yesterday!" said Sarsefield.
"And what has brought you here?" said the king, anxious perhaps to escape from the thought which his general's last words had suggested.
"I came, my liege, to ask permission to bid your Majesty farewell, and beg the privilege to kiss your royal hand."
"Farewell?" echoed the king, startled at the word. "Are you, too, going? - everyone deserts me!" There was intense anguish in the tone of his voice, for as he spoke his eye fell upon a ring he wore, which encircled the portrait of his favourite daughter, Anne, and the remembrance that she--his own child, had excited the same remark from the lips of her father--that bitter remembrance came across his soul and smote him to the heart. He was suddenly silent - his brow contracted--he closed his eyes in anguish, and one bitter tear sprang from under either lid at the thought. He passed his hand across his face, and wiped away the womanish evidence of his weakness.
"Do not say I desert you, my liege," said Gerald Pepper. "I leave you, 'tis true, for the present, but I do not leave you until I see no way in which I can be longer useful . While in my own immediate district, there were many ways in which my poor services might be made available; my knowledge of the county, of its people and its resources, its passes and its weak points, were of service. But here, or farther southward, where your Majesty is going, I can no longer do anything which might win the distinction that your Majesty and General Sarsefield are pleased to honour me with."
"You, have still a stout heart, a clear head, a bold arm, and a noble horse," said Sarsefield.
"I have also a weak woman and helpless children, general," said Gerald Pepper.
The appeal was irresistible - Sarsefield was silent.
"But though I cannot longer aid with my arm, my wishes and my prayers shall follow your Majesty, and whenever I may be thought an agent to be made useful, my king has but to command the willing services of his subject."
"Faithfully promised," said the king.
"The promise shall be faithfully kept," said his follower; "but before I leave, may I beg the favour of a moment's conversation with your Majesty."
"Speak anything you have to communicate before Sarsefield," said the king.
Gerald Pepper hesitated for a moment; he was struggling between his sovereign's command and his own delicacy of feeling; but overcoming the latter, in deference to the former, he said:
"Your Majesty's difficulties with respect to money supplies--"
"I know, I know," said the king somewhat impatiently, "I owe you five hundred pieces."
"Oh, my liege," said the devoted subject, dropping on his knee before him, "deem me not so unworthy as to seek to remind your Majesty of the trifle you did me the honour to allow me to lay at your disposal; I only regret I had not the means of contributing more. It is not that; but I have brought here another hundred pieces, it is all I can raise at present, and if your Majesty will further honour me by the acceptance. of so poor a pittance, when the immediate necessities of your army may render every trifle a matter of importance, I shall leave you with a more contented spirit, conscious that I have done all within my power for my king." And as be spoke, he laid on the table a purse containing the gold.
"I cannot deny that we are sorely straitened," said the king "but I do not like--"
"Pray do not refuse it, my liege," said Gerald, still kneeling--"do not refuse the last poor service your subject may ever have it in his power to do in your cause."
"Well," said the king, "I accept it--but I would not do so if I were not sure of having one day the means of rewarding your loyalty and generosity." And thus allowing himself to be the dupe of his own fallacious hopes, he took from poor Gerald Pepper the last hundred guineas he had in his possession, with that happy facility kings have always exhibited in accepting sacrifices from enthusiastic and self-devoted followers.
"My mission here is ended now," said Gerald. "May I be permitted to kiss my sovereign's hand?"
"Would that all my subjects were as faithful," said James, as he held out his hand to Gerald Pepper, who kissed it respectfully, and then arose.
"What do you propose doing when you leave me?" said the king.
"To return to my home as soon as I may, my liege."
"If it be my fate to be driven from my kingdom by my unnatural son-in-law, I hope he may be merciful to my people, and that none may suffer from their adherence to the cause of their rightful sovereign."
"I wish, my liege," said Gerald, " that he may have half the consideration for his Irish subjects which your Majesty had for your English ones;" and he shook his head doubtfully as he spoke, and his countenance suddenly fell.
A hard-drawn sigh escaped from Sarsefield, and then, biting his lip, and with knitted brow, be exchanged a look of bitter meaning with Gerald Pepper.
"Adieu then," said the king, "since you will go. See our good friend to his saddle, Sarsefield. 'Once more, good-night! King James will not forget the White Horseman." So saying, he waved his band in adieu. Gerald Pepper bowed low to his sovereign, and Sarsefield followed him from the chamber. They were both silent till they arrived at the portal of the tower, and when the door was opened, Sarsefield crossed the threshold with the visitor, and stepped into the fresh air, which be inhaled audibly three or four times, as if it were a relief to him.
"Good-night, General Sarsefield!" said Gerald.
"Good-night, my gallant friend!" said Sarsefield, in a voice that expressed much vexation of spirit.
"Be not so much cast down, general," said Gerald; "better days may come, and fairer fields be fought."
"Never, never!" said Sarsefield. "Never was a fairer field than that of yesterday; never was a surer game if it had been rightly played. But there is a fate, my friend, hangs over our cause, and I fear that destiny throws against us."
"Speak not thus, general--think not thus."
"Would that I could think otherwise--but I fear I speak prophetically."
"Do you then give up the cause?" said Gerald, in surprise.
"No," said Sarsefield firmly, almost fiercely; "never! I may die in the cause, but I will never desert it, as long as I have a troop to follow me--but I must not loiter here. Farewell! Where is your horse?"
"I left him in the care of one of the attendants."
"I hope you are well mounted."
"Yes; here comes my charger."
"What!" said Sarsefield, "the white horse!"
"Yes, surely," said Gerald; "you never saw me back any other."
"But after the tremendous fatigue of yesterday," said Sarsefield, in surprise, "is it possible he is still fresh?"
"Fresh enough to serve my turn for to-night," said Gerald, as be mounted into the saddle. The white horse gave a low neigh of seeming satisfaction as his master resumed his seat.
"Noble brute!" said Sarsefield, as he patted the horse on the neck, which was arched into the proud bend of a bold steed who knows a bold rider is on his back.
"And now farewell, general!" said Gerald, extending his hand.
"Farewell, my friend! Fate is unkind to deny the charm of a victorious cause to so gallant a spirit."
"There is more gallantry in remaining unshaken under defeat; and you, general, are a bright example of the fact."
"Good-night, good-night!" said Sarsefield, anxious to escape from hearing his own praise, and wringing the hand that was presented to him with much warmth; he turned towards the portal of the tower, but before he entered, Gerald again addressed him.
"Pray tell me, general, is your regiment here? Before I go, I would wish to take leave of the officers of that gallant corps, in whose ranks I have had the honour to draw a sword."
"They are not yet arrived. "They are on the road, perhaps, by this time; but I ordered they should be the last to leave Dublin, for as yesterday they suffered the disgrace of being led the first out of the battle, I took care they should have the honour of being the last in the rear to-night, to cover our retreat."
"Then remember me to them," said Gerald.
"They can never forget the White Horseman," said Sarsefield; "and they shall hear you left the kind word of remembrance for them. Once more, good-night!"
"Good-night, general! God's blessing be upon you!"
"Amen!" said Sarsefield; "and with you."
They then wrung each other's hand in silence. Sarsefield re-entered the tower, and Gerald Pepper, giving the rein to his steed, the white horse left the spot as rapidly as he had approached it.
For some days Gerald Pepper remained in Dublin, where he had ridden the night after his interview with the king. The house of a friend afforded him shelter, for he did not deem it prudent to be seen in public, as his person was too well known, and his services to King James too notorious not to render such a course dangerous. He therefore was obliged to submit to being cooped up in an attic in his friend's house while he stayed in the city. His sojourn In Dublin originated in his anxiety to hear what was going forward at headquarters; for there was but too much reason to fear, from all former examples in Ireland, that forfeitures to a great extent would take place, and to ascertain whether his name should be amongst the proscribed was the object that detained him from his home. His patience, however, became exhausted, and one morning when his friend came to speak with him previously to going forth into the city to see and hear what was stirring, Gerald said he could bear the restraint of his situation and the separation from his family no longer.
"My poor Magdalene," said he, "can but ill endure the suspense attendant upon my protracted absence, and I fear her gentle nature will sink under so severe a trial; therefore, my excellent, my kind friend, to-morrow, morning I will leave you."
"Perhaps a day or two more may set your mind at rest--or, at least will end your suspense respecting the course about to be pursued with the adherents of the king."
"I wait no longer than to-day," said Gerald; "I am resolved."
His friend sallied forth, with this parting assurance from his guest, and had not been absent more than an hour or two when he returned. A low tap at the door of Gerald's apartment announced his presence; the bolt was drawn, and he entered.
"Gerald!" said his friend, grasping his hand, and remaining silent.
"I understand," said Gerald; "I am a ruined man."
How deeply expressive of meaning mere voice and action become under the influence of feeling! Here the uttering of a name, and the grasping of a hand, were more potent than language; for words could not so soon have expressed the fatal truth, as the electric sympathy that conveyed to Gerald's mind the meaning of his friend. How mysterious the influence between thought and action! I do not mean the action that is the result of mere habit, but the action which we cannot avoid, being a law of Nature, and which everyone indulges in, under the influence of strong affections of the mind. Grief and joy, hope and despair, fear and courage, have each an action to distinguish them, as strongly marked as the distinctions which separate different species.
His friend made no other answer to Gerald's ejaculation than a suppressed groan, and then another fierce grasp of the band and a melancholy look into each other's eyes passed between them. They then parted palms, and each took a seat, and sat opposite each other for some minutes in perfect silence. In that interval the minds of both were busily engaged. Gerald's thoughts flew back at ones to his home--his dear home he thought of his sweet Magdalene and his darling children. He saw Magdalene deprived of the comforts of life, without a roof to shelter her, and heard his babes cry for food, as they shivered in the cold; the thought overcame him, and he hid his face in his hands. The mind of his friend had been engaged at the moment as to what was the best course Gerald could pursue under existing circumstances, and his case, though hard, seemed not hopeless. Therefore, when be saw Gerald sink as he had done, unconscious of the bitter thought that overcame him, he rose from his seat, and laying his hand kindly on the shoulder of his friend, be said:
"Cheer up; cheer up, man! Matters are not so desperate as to reduce you to despair at once. You are not the man I take you for if such a blow as this, heavy though it be, overcome you."
Gerald looked up; his eye was bright and his countenance serene, as he met the compassionating look that was cast upon him; he had recovered all his self-possession. The voice of his friend had dispelled the terrible vision that fancy had presented him with, and recalled his ideas from home, where his affectionate nature first prompted them to fly.
"I do not despair," he said. "But there was a dreadful thought arose, which quite unmanned me for the moment, but you see I am calm again."
"Yes; you look like yourself now."
"And will not relapse, I promise you. When once I know the worst, I am equal to meet my destiny, whatever it may be: and having said so much, tell me what that fate is. Ruined I know I am; but tell me in what degree. Is my person denounced, as well as my patrimony plundered from me?"
"No. Your life and freedom are not menaced, but your property is forfeited, and in all probability many days will not elapse until you may be dispossessed by some new master."
"Days!" said Gerald, "hours you mean; these gentry make quick work of such matters. I must hasten home directly."
"Will not tomorrow answer?" asked his friend;" to-day may be profitably spent here, in consulting as to your best mode of proceeding regarding the future."
"The lapse of one day might produce a Ioss of some consequence to a man who is robbed of every acre he has in the world."
"How?" asked his friend.
"I would like to be beforehand with the plunderers, that I might secure any small articles of value, such as jewels or plate, from their clutches,"
"Surely these are not included in the forfeiture of a man's lands?"
"The troopers of the Prince of Orange will not be very nice in making such legal distinctions; therefore I will hasten home, and save all I can from the wreck."
"Before you go, one word more," said his friend. "If your property happen to fall to the lot of a trooper, as you say--one of these fellows would rather have a round sum of hard cash than be encumbered with lands--and if you manage matters well, a few hundred pieces may buy off the invader. I have heard of thousands of broad acres being so saved in Cromwell's time."
"That hope of rescue is debarred me," said Gerald; "all the disposable cash l had l gave to the king"
"What! not a rouleau left?"
"The last hundred I could command I gave him."
"That's unfortunate," said his friend; "the more so, as It is beyond my power to supply the want."
"I know it--I know it," said Gerald impatiently; "don't name it. If Heaven be pleased to spare me life and health, I shall be able to weather the storm. I have as much plate and, other valuables as, when converted into cash, will enable me to carry my family to France, and still leave something in my purse. At the French Court, I hope I can reckon on a good reception, and I have my sword to offer to the service of the French king, and I doubt not, from the interest I think I can command, that I should find employment in the ranks of gallant Louis."
"You have decided soon on your course of proceeding, Gerald," said his friend, somewhat surprised at the coolness and consideration he exhibited.
"Yes; and you wonder at it," said Gerald, "because you saw me cast down for a moment; but the bitter thought that overcame me is past. I see distinctly the path before me which will save my wife and children from want, and that once secured, I repine not, nor shall cast one regret after the property I have lost in so noble a cause. Farewell, my friend! Thanks and blessings be yours, from me and mine, for all your care for me. Before I leave Ireland you shall see me again, but for the present, farewell!"
In ten minutes more Gerald Pepper was in his saddle, and his trusty steed was bearing him to the home which cost him so much anxiety.
As be pushed his way, rapidly along the road, his thoughts were so wholly engrossed by his present calamitous circumstances, that he heeded no outward object, nor even uttered one cheering word, or sound of encouragement, to his favourite horse; and it was not until the noble round tower of Swords rose upon his view that be became conscious of how far he had progressed homewards, and of the speed with which be had been going. He drew the bridle when he had arrived at the summit of the hill that commands the extensive plain which lies at the foot of the mountain range that skirts the counties of Dublin and Kildare, and stretches onward into Meath and Lowth, and the more northern counties. The mountains of Carlingford end Mourne spired upwards In their beautiful forms, where the extreme distance melted into blue base, and the sea could scarcely be distinguished from the horizon; but nearer, on his right, its level line of blue was distinctly defined, as glimpses of it appeared over the woods of Feltrum and Malahide, occasionally broken by the promontory of Howth, the grotesque pinnacles of Ireland's Eye, and the bold Island of Lambay.
As he was leisurely descending the hill into the village beneath him, a figure suddenly appeared on a bank that overhung the road, and leaped into the highway; he ran over towards Gerald, and clasping his knee with both hand., said, with fervour:
"God save you, Masther Gerald dear! Oh, thin, is that yourself safe and sound agin?"
"What!" said Gerald in surprise. "Rory Oge! by what chance are you here?"
"You may say chance, sure enough. Wait a minit, and I'll tell you, for it's out o' breath I am with the race I made across the field, without, when I seen you powdherin' down the road at the rate of a hunt, and afeard I was you would be gone past and out o' call before I could get to the ditch."
"ls my family well," said Gerald, "can you tell me?"
"They're all hearty."
"Thanks be to God! " said Gerald devoutly.
"Amen!" responded Rory.
"My poor wife, I suppose, has been fretting?"
"Throth, to be sure, an' no wondher; the poor misthress; but she keeps up wondherful, and I was goin' to Dublin myself to look for you."
"Yis, me; and why not? and very nigh missin' you I was, and would, only for Tareaway here," putting his hand on the neck of the horse; "for you wor so far off when I first got a sight o' you, that l think l wouldn't have minded you, but l knew the proud toss of Tareaway's head, more betoken the white coat of him makes him so noticeable."
"But who sent you to Dublin to look for me?"
"Myself and nobody else--it was my own notion; for I seen the misthriss was onaisy, and I had a misgivin' somehow that I'd come upon you, and sure enough, I did, for here you are."
"But not in Dublin, Rory," said Gerald, who could not forbear a smile even in his sadness.
"Well, it's all one, sure," said Rory, "for here you are, and I found you, as I said before; and now, Masther Gerald dear, that I see you're safe yourself will you tell me how matthers goes on wid the king and his cause?"
"Badly enough, I fear, Rory, and worse with his friends," said Gerald, with a heavy sigh.
Rory caught at his meaning with native intelligence, and looking up into his face with the most touching expression of affection and anxiety, said: "God keep us from harm, Masther Gerald dear, and sure, it's not yourself that is come to throuble, I hope."
"Yes, Rory," said Gerald; "l am a ruined man."
"Oh, Masther Gerald dear, don't say that," said Rory, with much emotion. "Who dar' ruinate you?" said he indignantly; and then, his voice dropping into a tone of tenderness, he added:
"Who'd have the heart to ruinate you?"
"Those who have nothing to fear nor love me for, Rory" answered Gerald.
"Is it thim vagabone Williamites--thim thraitors to their king and their God and their country--thim outlandish villians! The Peppers o' Ballygarth ruinated! Oh, what will the counthry come to at all, at all! But how is it they can ruinate you, Masther Gerald?"
"By leaving me without house or land."
"You don't want to make me b'live they'll dhrive you out o' Ballygarth?"
"Ballygarth is no longer mine, Rory. I shall not have an acre left me."
"Why, who dar for to take it from you?"
"Those who have the power to do so now, Rory; the conquerors at the Boyne"
"Why, bad cees to them. Sure, they won the day there, and more's the pity," said Rory, "and what do they want more? Sure, whin they won the day, that's enough--we don't deny it; and sorry I am to say that same; but sure, that should contint any raisonable faction, without robbin' the people afther. Why, suppose a chap was impident to me, and that I gev him a wallopin' for it, sure, that 'ud be no raison why I should take the clothes aff his back, or rob him iv any thrifle he might have about him; and isn't it all one? Sure, instid of havin'a crow over him for bein' the best man, I'd only be a common robber, knockin' a man down for what I could get. And what differ is there betune the cases?"
"That you are only an humble man, Rory, and that the other person is a king."
"Well, and sure if he is a king, shouldn't be behave' as sitch, and give a good example, instead of doin' a dirty turn like that? Why should a king do what a poor man like me would be ashamed of?"
Here Rory broke out into a mingled strain of indignation against the oppressor and lament for the oppressed, and wound up by this very argumentative and convincing peroration:
"And so that furrin moroder, they call a king, is goin' to rob and plundher and murdher you intirely--and for what, I'd like to know? Is it bekase you stud up for the rale king, your own king, and your counthry, it is? Bad fortune to him, sure, if he had any honour at all, he'd only like you the betther iv it; and instead of pursuin' you with his blackguard four-futted laws, it's plazed he ought to be that you didn't come acrass him yourself when your swoord was in your hand, and the white horse undher you. Oh, the yellow-faced thief! he has no gratitude!"
A good deal more of equally good reasoning and abuse was indulged in by Rory, as he walked beside the white horse and his rider. Gerald remained silent until they arrived at the foot of the hill, and were about to enter the village, when be asked his companion what he intended doing, now he had found the object of his search.
"Why, I'll go back, to be sure," said Rory, "and be of any use I can to you; but you had betther make no delay in life, Masther Gerald, but make off to the misthress as fast as you can, for it's the heart of her will leap for joy when she claps her two good-looking eyes on you."
"I intend doing so, Rory; and I will expect to see you tomorrow."
"It may be a thrifle later nor that, Masther Gerald, for I intind stoppin' in Swoord's to-night; but you'll see me afore long, anyhow."
"Then, good-bye, Rory, for the present," said Gerald, as he puts spurs to his horse, and sweeping at a rapid pace round one of the angles of the picturesque castle that formerly commanded the entrance to the village, he was soon lost to the sight of Rory Oge, who sent many an affectionate look and blessing after him.
The appearance of Rory Oge was too sudden to permit any explanation to be given to the reader of who be was, when first introduced into the story; but now that the horseman's absence gives a little breathing time, a word or two on the subject may not be inapposite.
Rory Oge was foster-brother to Gerald Pepper, and hence the affection and familiarity of address which existed and was permitted between them. In Ireland, as in Scotland, the ties thus originating between two persons who have been nurtured at the same breast are held very dear, and were even more so formerly than now. Rory Oge might thus, as foster-brother to Gerald, have had many advantages in the way of worldly comfort which he not only did not seek for, but had even shunned, Making use of such advantages must have involved, at the same time, a certain degree of dependence, and this the tone of his character would have rendered unpleasing to him. There was a restlessness in his nature with which a monotonous state of being would have been imcompatible; an independence of mind also and a touch of romance which prompted him to be a free agent. To all these influences was added a passionate love of music; and it will not, therefore, be wondered at that Rory Oge had determined on becoming an erratic musician. The harp and the bagpipes he had contrived, even in his boyhood, to become tolerably familiar with; and when he had taken up the resolution of becoming a professed musician, his proficiency upon both instruments increased rapidly, until at length be arrived at a degree of excellence as a performer seldom exceeded. Ultimately, however, the pipe was the instrument he principally practised upon: his intuitive love of sweet sounds would have prompted him to the use of the harp, but the wandering life be led rendered the former Instrument so much more convenient, from its portability, that it became his favourite from fitness rather than choice.
In the cool of the evening, Rory Oge was seated at the back of a cottage on the outskirts of a village, and a group of young people of both sexes were dancing on the green sod in the rear of it, to the inspiring music of his pipes. More than an hour had been thus employed, and the twilight was advancing, when a fresh couple stood up to dance, and Rory, after inflating his bag and giving forth the deep hum of his drone, let forth his chanter into one of his best jigs, and was lilting away in his merriest style; but the couple, instead of commencing the dance, joined a group of the bystanders, who seemed to have got their head. together upon some subject of importance, and listened to the conversation, instead of making good use of their own time, the day's declining light, and Rory's incomparable music.
At length they turned from the knot of talkers, and were going to dance, when the girl told her partner she would rather have another jig than the one Rory was playing. The youth begged of Rory to stop.
"For what?" said Rory.
"Aggy would rather have another jig," said her beau, "for she doesn't like the one you're playin'."
"Throth, it's time for her to think iv it," said Rory, "and I playin' away here all this time for nothin', and obleeged now to put back the tune. Bad cees to me, but it's too provokin' so it is. And why couldn't you tell me so at wanst?"
"Now, don't be angry, Rory," said Aggy, coming forward herself to appease his anger. "I ax your pardon, but I was just listenin' to the news that they wor tellin'."
"What news?" said the piper. "I suppose they haven't fought another battle?"
"No; but one would think you wor a witch, Rory; for if it's not a battle, there's a sojer in it."
"What sojer?" said Rory, with earnestness.
"Why, a sojer a' horseback rode into the town awhile agon, jist come down from Dublin, and is stoppin' down below at the Public."
A thought at once flashed across Rory's mind that the visit of a soldier at such a time might have some connection with the events he had become acquainted with in the morning, and suddenly rising from his seat, he said: "Faiz, and I don't see why I shouldn't see the sojer as well as everybody else, and so I'll go down to the Public myself."
"Sure, you won't go, Rory, until you give us the tune, and we finish our dance?"
"Finish, indeed," said Rory; "why, you didn't begin it yet."
"No; but we will, Rory."
"By my sowl, you won't," said Rory, very sturdily, unyoking his pipes at the same time.
"Oh, Rory," said Aggy, in great dismay--"Rory, if you plaze."
Well, I don't plaze, and there's an end iv it. I was bellowsing away there for betther nor ten minutes, and the divil a toe you'd dance, but talkin' all the time, and thin you come and want me to put back the tune. Now, the next time you won't let good music be wasted; throth, it's not so plenty."
"Not such as yours, in throth, Rory," said Aggy, in her own little coaxing way. "Ah, now, Rory!"
"'Twon't do, Aggy. You think to come over me now with the blarney, but you're late, says Boyce," and so saying, off be trudged, leaving the dancers in dudgeon.
He went directly to the Public, where he found an English officer of King William's cavalry had not only arrived, but intended remaining, and to that end was superintending the grooming of his horse, before he was put up for the night in a shabby little shed, which the landlady of the Public chose to call stable. Here Rory Oge proceeded, and entered into conversation with the hostler, as a preliminary to doing the same with the soldier. This he contrived with the address so peculiar to his country and his class, and finding that the stranger intended going northward in the morning, the suspicion which had induced him to leave the dance and visit the Public ripened Into uneasiness as to the object of the stranger; and desirous to arrive closer to the truth, he thought he might test the intentions of the trooper in a way which would not betray his own anxiety on the subject, at the same time that it would sufficiently satisfy him as to the other's proceedings. To this end, in the course of the desultory conversation which may be supposed to take place between three such persons as I have named, Rory ingeniously contrived to introduce 'the name of "Ballygarth," watching the Englishman closely at the moment, whose attention became at once awakened at the name, and turning quickly to Rory, he said:
"Ballygarth, did you say?"
"Yis, your honour," said Rory, with the moat perfect composure and seeming indifference, though, at the same time, the success of his experiment convinced him that the man who stood before him was he who was selected to expel his beloved foster-brother from his home.
"How far is the place you name from this village?" asked the soldier.
"Indeed, it's not to say very convaynient," answered Rory.
"How many miles do you reckon it?"
"Indeed, an' that same would be hard to say."
"I think," said the hostler, "it would be about--"
"Twenty-four or twenty-five," interrupted Rory, giving the hostler a telegraphic kick on the shin at the same tme, by way of a hint not to contradict him.
"Aye, something thereaway," said the other, assenting, and rubbing the intelligent spot.
"'Why, Drokhe-da is not more than that from Dublin," said the trooper, in some surprise.
"It's Drogheda you mane, I suppose, sir? " said Rory, noticing the Englishman's false pronunciation, rather than his remark of the intentional mistake as to the distance named.
"Aye, Droketty, or whatever you call it."
"Oh, that's no rule in life, your honour; for Ballygarth, you see, does not lie convaynient, and you have to go by so many cruked roads and little boreens to come at it that it is farther off when you get there than a body would think. Faix, I know I wish I was at the ind o' my journey there to-morrow, for it's a long step to go."
"Are you going there to-morrow?" said the trooper.
"Nigh hand it, sir," said Rory, with great composure; and turning to the hostler he said: "That's a fine baste you're clainin', Pether."
"My reason for asking," said the soldier, "is, that I am going in the same direction myself, and as you say the road is intricate, perhaps you will show me the way."
"To be sure I will, your honour," said Rory, endoavouring to conceal his delight at the stranger's falling into his designs so readily. "At all events, as far as I go your road you're heartily welkim to any service I can do your honour, only I'm afeard I'll delay you an your journey, for indeed the baste I have is not the fastest."
"Shank's mare, I suppose," said Peter, with a wink.
"No; Teddy Ryan's horse," said Rory. "An' I suppose your honour will be for startin' in the mornin'?"
"Yes," said the soldier, and he thereupon arranged with his intended guide as to the hour of their commencing their journey on the morrow; after which, the piper wished him, good-night and retired.
The conjecture of Rory Oge was right as to the identity of the English soldier. He was one of those English adherents of King William, for whose gratification and emolument an immediate commission had been issued for the enriching a greedy army, inflamed as well by religious animosity as cupidity, at the expense of the community at large. So indecent was the haste displayed to secure this almost indiscriminate plunder, that "no courts of judicature were opened for proceeding regularly and legally." But a commission was issued, under which extensive forfeitures were made, and there was no delay in making what seizures they could; but this rapacious spirit defeated its own ends in some instances, for the unsettled state of the country rendered it difficult, if not impossible, to secure the ill-gotten good, from the headlong haste it was neccesary to proceed with.
It was in the grey of the succeeding morning that Rory Oge stole softly from the back-door of the house of entertainment where he, as well as the English soldier, slept, and proceeded cautiously across the enclosure, in the rear of the house, to the shed where the horse of the stranger was stabled. Noiselessly he unhasped the door of rough boards, that swung on one leather hinge, and entering the shed, he shook from his hat some corn into the beast's manger; and while the animal was engaged in despatching his breakfast, Rory lifted his forefoot in a very workmanlike manner into his lap, and commenced, with a rasp, which he had finessed from a smith's forge the evening before for the purpose, to loosen the nails of the shoe. As soon as he had accomplished this to his satisfaction, he retired to his sleeping place, and remained there until summoned to arise when the soldier was ready to take the road.
At the skirts of the village some delay occurred while Rory stopped at the house of one of his friends, who bad promised him the loan of a horse for his journey, which arrangement he had contrived to make overnight. It was not long, however, before Rory appeared, leading from behind the low hut of the peasant, by whom he was followed, a very sorry piece of horseflesh. After mounting, he held out his hand, first having passed it across his month, and uttered a sharp sound, something resembling "thp." The offered palm was met by that of his friend, after a similar observance on his part, and they shook hands heartily, while exchanging some words in their native tongue. Rory then signified to the Englishman that he was ready to conduct him.
The soldier cast a very discontented eye at the animal on which his guide was mounted, and Rory interpreted the look at once:
"Oh, indeed, he's not the best, sure enough. I tould your honour, last night, I was afeard I might delay you a little for that same; but don't be onaisy, he's like a singed cat, betther nor he looks, and if we can't go in a hand gallop, sure, there's the ould sayin' to comfort us, that 'fair and aisy goes far in a day."
"We have a long ride before us, though," said the soldier, "and your horse, I'm afraid, will founder before he goes halfway."
"Oh, don't be afeard av him in the laste," said Rory. "He's ould, to be sure, but an ould friend is preferrable to a new inimy."
Thus, every objection on the part of the Englishman was met by Rory with some old saying, or piece of ingenuity of his own, in answer; and after some few minutes of conversation, they dropped into silence, and jogged along.
In some time, the notice of the stranger was attracted by the singular and picturesque tower of Lusk that arose on their sight, and he questioned Rory as to its history and use.
"It's a church, it is," said his guide.
"It looks more like a place of defence," said the soldier. "it is a square tower with circular flankers."
"To be sure, it is a place of difince," said Rory. "Isn't it a place of difince agin the divil (God bless us!) and all his works; and mighty great people is proud to be berrid in it for that same. There is the Barnewells (the lords of Kingsland, I mane), and they are berrid in it time beyant tellin', and has an iligant monument in it, the lord himself and his lady beside him, an the broad o' their backs, lyin' dead, done to the life."
There was scarcely any tower or house which came within view of the road they pursued that did not present Rory with an occasion for giving some account of it, or recounting some tale connected with it, and thus many a mile was passed over. It must be confessed, to be sure, that Rory had most of the conversation to himself, as the soldier helped him very little; but as Rory's object was to keep his attention engaged, and while away the time, and delay him on the road as long as he could, he did not relax in his efforts to entertain, however little, reciprocity there was on that score between him and his companion.
At last be led him from the high road into every small by-way that could facilitate his purpose of delaying, as well as of tiring she trooper; and his horse too, to say nothing of his plan of having a shoe lost by the charger in a remote spot. Many a wistful glance was thrown on the fore-shoe, and at last he had the pleasure to see it cast, unnoticed by the rider. This Rory said nothing about, until they had advanced a mile or two, and then, looking down for some time as if in anxious observation, he exclaimed: "By dad, I'm afeard your horse's fore-shoe is gone."
The dragoon pulled up immediately and looked down. "I believe it is the off-foot," said he.
"It's the off-shoe, anyhow," said Rory, "and that's worse."
The dragoon alighted, and examined the foot thus deprived of its defence, and exhibited a good deal of silent vexation. "it is but a few days since I had him shod," said he.
"Throth, thin, it was a shame for whoever done it not to make a betther job iv it," said Rory.
The Englishman then inspected the remaining shoes of his horse, and finding them fast, he noticed the singularity of the loss of one shoe under such circumstances.
"Oh, that's no rule in life," said Rory, "for you may remark that a horse never throws two shoes at a time, but only one, by way of a warnin', as a body may say, to jog your memory that he wants a new set; and indeed, that same is very cute of a dumb baste, and I could tell your honour a mighty quare story of a horse I knew wanst, and as reg'lar as the day o' the month kem round--"
"I don't want to hear any of your stories," said the Englishman, rather sullenly; "but can you tell me how I may have this loss speedily repaired?"
"Faix, an' I could tell your honour two stories easier nor that, for not a forge I know nigher hand to this than one that is in Duleek."
"And how far is Duleek?"
"Deed, an' it's a good step."
"What do you call a good step?"
"Why, it 'ill take a piece of a day to go there."
"Curse you!" said the dragoon, at last provoked beyond his constitutional phlegm at such evasive replies. "Can't you say how many miles?"
"I ax your honour's pardon," replied his guide, who now saw that trifling would not answer. "To the best o' my knowledge, we are aff o' Duleek about five miles, or thereaway."
"Confound it!" said the soldier. "Five miles, and this barbarous road, and your long miles into the bargain."
"Sure, I don't deny the road is not the best," said Rory; "but if it's not good, sure, we give you good measure, at all events."
It was in vain that the Englishman grumbled. Rory had so ready and so queer an answer to every objection raised by the soldier, that at last he remounted, and was fain to content himself with proceeding at a very slow pace along the vile by-road they travelled, lest he might injure the hoof of his charger.
And now Rory, having effected the first part of his object, set all his wits to work how he could make the rest of the road as little tiresome as possible to the stranger; and he not only succeeded in effecting this, but he managed, in the course of the day, to possess himself of the soldier's secret touching the object of his present journey.
In the doing this, the scene would have been an amusing one to a third person: it was an encounter between phlegm and wit--a trial between English reserve and Irish ingenuity.
By the way, it is not unworthy of observation that a common spring of action influences the higher and the lower animal; under the circumstances of oppression and pursuit. The oppressed and the pursued have only stratagem to encounter force or escape destruction. The fox and other animals of the chase are proverbial for their cunning, and every conquered people have been reduced to the expedient of finesse as their last resource.
The slave-driver tells you that every negro is a liar. It is the violation of charity on the one hand that induces the violation of truth on the other; and weakness, in all cases, is thus driven to deceit, as its last defence against power.
The soldier, in the course of his conversation with his guide, thought himself very knowing when he said, in a careless way, that be believed there was someone of the name of Pepper lived at Ballygarth.
"Someone, is it?" said Bory, looking astonished. "Oh! is that all you know about it? Someone, indeed! By my conscience an' it's plenty of them there is. The counthry is overrun with them."
"But I speak of Pepper of Ballygarth," said the other.
"The Peppers o' Ballygart, you mane; for they are livin' all over it as thick as rabbits in the back of an ould ditch."
"I mean he who is called Gerald Pepper?"
"Why, thin, indeed, I never heard him called that-a-way before, and I dunna which o' them at all you mane; for you see, there is so many o' them, as I said before, that we are obleeged to make a differ between them by invintin' names for them; and so we call a smooth-skinned chap that is among them White Pepper, and a dark fellow (another o' the family) Black Pepper; and there's a great long sthreel that is christened Long Pepper; and there is another o' them that is tindher an one of his feet, and we call him Pepper-corn; and there is a fine, dashin, well-grown blade, the full of a door he is, long life to him! and he is known by the name of Whole Pepper; and it's quare enough, that he is married to a poor little starved hound of a wife, that has the bittherest tongue ever was in a woman's head, and so they called her Ginger; and I think that is a highly saisoned family for you. Now, which o' them is it you mane? Is it White Pepper, or Black Pepper, or Long Pepper, or Whole Pepper, or Pepper-corn?"
"I don't know any of them," said the soldier. "Gerald Pepper is the man I want."
"Oh, you do want him, thin," said Rory, with a very peculiar intonation of voice. "Well, av course, if you want him, you'll find him; but look forenint you there; there you may see the ould abbey of Duleek"--and he pointed to the object as he spoke.
This was yet a mile or so distant, and the day was pretty well advanced by the time the travellers' entered the village. Rory asked the soldier where it was his honour's pleasure to stop while he got his hone shod, and recommended him to go to the abbey, where, of course, the monks would be proud to give "any accommodation in life" to a gentleman like him. But this proposal the soldier did not much relish; for though stout of heart, as most of his countrymen, he was loath to be tempted into any situation where he would have considered himself, to a certain degree, at the mercy of a parcel of Popish monks; and poisoned viands and drugged wine were amongst some of the objections which his Protestant imagination started at the proposal. He Inquired if there was not any Public in the village, and being answered in the affirmative, his resolution was taken at once of sheltering and getting some refreshment there while his horse should be under the hands of the blacksmith.
Here again Rory's roguery came into practice; the blacksmith of the village was his relative, and after depositing the fatigued and annoyed soldier at the little auberge, Rory went for the avowed purpose of getting the smith to "do the job," but in reality, to send him out of the way; and this was easily done, when the motive for doing so was communicated. On his return to the Public, there was a great deal of well-affected disappointment on Rory's part at the absence of his near relation, the smith, as he told the betrayed trooper how "provoking it was that he wasn't in the forge at that present, but was expected at every hand's turn, and that the very first instant minute be kem home, Ally (that was his wife) would run up and tell his honour, and the horse should be shod in no time."
"In no time?" said the soldier, with a disappointed look.
"You know I want to have him shod in time."
"Well, sure, that's what I mane," said Rory; "that is, it will be jist no time at all antil he is shod."
"Indeed, an' you may believe him, your honour," said mine host of the Public, coming to the rescue, "for there's no one he would do a sthroke of work sooner for than Rory Oge here, seein' that be is of his own flesh and blood, his own cousin wance removed."
"Faith, he is farther removed than that," replied Rory, unable to contain a joke. "He is a more distant relation than you think; but he'll do the work, with a heart and a half, for all that, as soon as he comes back; and indeed, I think your honour might as well make yourself comfortable here antil that same time, and the sorra betther enthertainmint you'll meet betune this and the world's end than the same man will give you--Lanty Lalor I mane, and there be is stan'in' forninst you--and its not to his face I'd say it, but behind his back too, and often did, and will agin, I hope."
"Thank you kindly, Rory," said Lanty, with a bow and scrape.
Some refreshment was accordingly prepared for the soldier, who, after his fatigue, was nothing loath to comfort the inward man; the more particularly as it was not merely the best, but the only thing he could do under existing circumstances; and after gorging profusely on the solids, the fluids were next put under contribution, and acting on the adage that "good eating requires good drinking," he entered into the feeling of the axiom with an earnestness that Sancho Pauza himself could not have outdone, either in the spirit or the letter.
Rory was in attendance all the time, and still played his game of engaging the stranger's attention as much as possible, with a view to divert him from his prime object, and make him forget the delays which were accumulated upon him. It was in this spirit that he asked him if he ever "heard tell of the remarkable place that Duleek was."
"We made the place remarkable enough the other day," said the soldier, with the insolence which the habit of domination produces in little minds, "when we drove your flying troops through the pass of Duleek, and your runaway king at the head of them. I was one of the fifty who did it."
Rory, influenced by the dear object he had in view, smothered the indignation he felt rising in his throat; and as he might not exhibit anger, he had recourse to sarcasm, and said:
"In throth, your honour, I don't wondher at, all at the brave things you done, in the regard that it was at Duleek; and sure, Duleek was always remarkable for havin' the bowldest things done there and about, ever since the days of the 'Little Waiver.'"
"What little weaver?" said the soldier.
"Why, thin, an' did you never hear of the little waiver of Duleek Gate?"
"Well, that's wondherful!" said Rory.
"I don't see how it's wondherful," said the trooper; "for how could I hear of the wearer of Duleek when I have been living in England all my life?"
"Oh, murther!" said Rory, in seeming amazement, "an' don't they know about the little waiver o' Duleek Gate in England?"
"No," said the trooper; "how should they?"
"Oh, thin, what a terrible ignorant place England must be, not for to know about that!!!"
"Is it so very wonderful, then?" asked the man whose country was thus aspersed.
"Wondberful!" said Rory. "By my soul, it is that that is wondherful."
"Well, tell it to me, then," said the soldier.
"Now, suppose I was for to tell you, you see, the divil a one taste you'd b'live a word iv it; and it's callin' me a fool you'd be; and you'd be tired into the bargain before I was half done, for it's a long story, and if you stopped me I'd be lost."
"I won't stop you."
"But you won't b'live it; and that's worse."
"Perhaps I may," said the other, whose curiosity began to waken.
"Well, that same is a promise, anyhow, and so here goes!" and Rory then related, with appropriate voice and gesture, the following legend.