The Heir of Kilfinnan
by W.H.G. Kingston
The Heir of Kilfinnan, by W.H.G. Kingston.
The book opens with our hero, Dermot O'Neil, out fishing in a small
boat that he usually went with his widowed mother in. The catch being
good he went up to the nearby castle, the abode of the Earl Kilfinnan,
where he easily sells his fish, and is asked to come back with more the
next day. Being a good-looking and well-mannered 12-year-old, he wins
the admiration of the Earl's daughter and her cousin, who offer to
teach him to read. When they go back to London they get the local
Protestant minister to take him on, much to the annoyance of Father
O'Rourke, who does not like his Catholic parishioners to be able to
Eventually the boy goes to sea. At some point in his career he
decides to give up his Irish name, and takes an English one, Denham.
Several incidents in which he distinguishes himself occur, and he is
given the chance of becoming a midshipman, from which rank he duly
rises by examination to Lieutenant. Meanwhile the Earl has obtained a
position in the West Indies of Lieutenant-Governor of one of the
islands, since he had been finding it hard to make ends meet from the
revenues of his estates in Ireland. There are occasions on which Denham
has to call on the Earl and his family, but is not recognised.
Time goes on. The Earl's son and heir dies of an illness and is much
lamented: he had been at sea pretty much as an equal in promotion with
Denham. The Earl's time in the West Indies is up, and he and his family
return to Ireland. Denham's ship visits Kilfinnan Bay, and he walks on
shore, where it is possible he may have been recognised by O'Rourke and
by a demented woman, who is not as mad as she seems.
After several more exciting events, which we will not spoil for you,
the Earl dies, and to everyone's surprise Denham is not only revealed
as our original young acquaintance, Dermot, but the lawyer states that
Dermot's father was in the line of succession to the Earldom. This
makes Dermot the new Earl. Cheers all round, but who wants to be
saddled with a derilict castle and a bankrupt estate?
A beautifully written book, one of Kingston's best. It is very hard
to see why it is so little known.
THE HEIR OF KILFINNAN, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
The following tale contains materials for a full-sized novel, but my
readers probably will not object to have them condensed into a single
The scene of a considerable portion of the story is laid on the
coast of Ireland, where the peasantry mostly speak the native Irish,
and I have therefore translated what my characters say into ordinary
English rather than into the generally received brogue, which would be,
coming from their lips, as inappropriate as Spanish or Dutch.
When English is spoken, it sounds somewhat high-flown, but is
certainly purer than the language of the same class in England. Thus,
my hero talks more like a well-educated young gentleman than a humble
fisher lad. If that is considered a defect, I hope that it may be
redeemed by the stirring incidents with which the tale abounds, and
that old and young may alike find as much amusement as they expect in
The west coast of Ireland presents scenery of the most beautiful and
romantic character. Here grey peaks rise up amidst verdure of emerald
green; trees of varied hue come feathering down close to the water;
yellow sands line the shores of many lonely bays; dark rocks of
fantastic shape extend out into the ocean, while deep blue lochs mirror
on their bosoms the varied forms of the surrounding heights. On the
south-west part of the coast a wide bay is to be found. At the extreme
southern end, up a deep loch, a castle, the seat of an ancient family,
reared its towers high above the waters. The bay came sweeping round at
some places with a hard sandy beach; then, again, the ground rose,
leaving but a narrow ledge between the foot of the cliffs and the
waters. Thus the shore extended on for some distance, forming a lofty
headland, when it again sank to its former level. A reef of rocks ran
out a considerable distance into the ocean, forming a natural
breakwater to the bay. Here and there to the north were several deep
indentations, in which fishing-boats and several coasting craft might
find shelter. In some of these little bays fishermen had formed their
habitations, mostly out of the wrecks of stout ships which had been
cast on their rocky shores. In some of the coves or bays several huts
had been congregated together, but a short distance north of the
promontory which has been spoken of stood a single hut. It was strongly
built of ships' timbers and roofed with stout planks, kept down by
heavy stones, so that, though the furious blasts which swept across the
Atlantic blew against it, it had hitherto withstood the rough shocks to
which it had been exposed.
The day was lovely; not a cloud dimmed the blue heavens, while the
sun setting over the distant ocean shed a glow of light across the
waters, rippled by a gentle westerly breeze. Several boats were
approaching the shore. In one of them sat a lad. No other person was to
be seen on board. The dark nets were piled up in the centre of the
boat, at the bottom of which a number of fish, still giving signs of
life, showed that he had been successful in his calling. Every now and
then he looked up at the tanned sail to see that it drew properly, and
then would cast his eye towards the shore to watch the point to which
he was steering. He could scarcely have numbered twelve summers, though
his figure was tall and slight. His trousers were rolled up above the
knees, showing his well-turned legs and feet. His shirtsleeves were
treated in the same manner, while the collar, thrown back, exhibited
his broad and well-formed chest. His eyes were large and dark, and the
hue of his skin gave indication that Spanish blood was flowing in his
veins; while his dark locks escaping from beneath his fisherman's red
cap, gave a still more southern look to his well-chiselled features.
His practical knowledge and activity seemed to have made up for his
want of strength, for few boys of his age would have ventured forth to
sea in a fishing-boat of that size by themselves. Another and a larger
boat had been for some time steering a course to approach him.
Ah! Dermot, me darlin'; and all alone too? said a man from the
boat which now overtook him.
Yes! my mother was ill and unable to go off, so I went by myself;
an' see, Uncle Shane, I have had a good haul for my pains.
I see, boy, an' sure I'm glad of it, said the first speaker; but
you are scarcely strong enough to go off alone, for should a gale
spring up you would be unable to manage that boat by yourself.
Och! an' haven't I managed her before now in heavy weather?
replied Dermot. But suppose, Uncle Shane, I was lost, would you take
care of my mother? She's not so strong as she used to be; toil has worn
her down, working hard for me when I ought to have been toiling for
I will, answered Shane.
Will you swear it, uncle, by the Holy Virgin and the blessed
I will, Dermot, as I hope for mercy in the day of trouble. But why
do you ask that question?
Because, uncle, as I was pulling up my nets I slipped and almost
fell overboard. I thought that had my feet been entangled, as they
might have been, I should have gone down an' been unable to regain the
boat. We none of us know what may happen: but could I feel that my
mother would be protected from want, it would nerve my arm, and make me
feel more ready for whatever lot may be in store for me.
Boy, observed the elder fisherman, looking at his nephew, you are
thoughtful above your years; but the saints will protect you, and I
will not forget to make an offering to Saint Nicholas, that he may
watch over you.
Thus conversing the old man and the lad steered their boats towards
the shore side by side, the former hauling in his mainsail somewhat to
lessen the speed of his boat. They parted to the northward of the
promontory described, Dermot steering for the little cove in which
stood the solitary hut already spoken of, while his uncle continued
along the shore a little further to the north.
Dermot ran his boat between two rocks, at the end of which was a
small sandy beach, where a capstan being placed he was enabled to haul
her up out of the water. As he approached, a woman was seen descending
from the hut. The same dark eyes and raven hair, though somewhat
streaked with white in her case, which characterised the boy, was
observable in the woman. Her figure was thin and wiry, giving
indication of the severe toil to which she was exposed. She was dressed
in a rough frieze petticoat, with a dark handkerchief drawn across her
bosom, and the usual red cloak and hood worn at that time by most of
the peasantry of the west of Ireland was thrown over her shoulders.
Mother! exclaimed the boy, see, I have done well; I have had a
better haul than we have got for many a day.
And may be, Dermot, we will have a better market too, observed the
woman. It is said the Earl has come to the castle with many fine
people, and they will be wanting fish to a certainty. It would be too
late now to go, they would not see you; but to-morrow morning, as soon
as the sun is up, you shall set forth, and to be sure they'll be glad
to buy fish of my Dermot. The woman drew herself up as she spoke, and
looked towards the boy with a glance of pride, as if she would not
exchange him for any of the highest born in the land.
How are you, mother? asked Dermot; have all those aches of which
you were complaining gone away? Do you feel strong again?
Yes; the saints were merciful; I did not forget to pray to them,
and they have heard me, answered the woman.
With her, as with most of her countrywomen, superstition, if it had
not altogether taken the place of religion, had been strangely mixed up
with it; yet she spoke in a tone of simple and touching faith, at which
no one with any feeling would have ventured to sneer.
Next morning, Dermot, laden with the finest of his fish in a basket
at his back, set off along the shores of the bay towards Kilfinnan
Castle. The approach to it was wild and picturesque. A narrow estuary,
having to be crossed by a bridge, almost isolated the castle from the
mainland, for the ground on which the old fortress stood was merely
joined to it by a rugged and nearly impassable ledge of rocks. The
castle itself was of considerable size and strongly built, so that it
could well withstand the gales which, from time to time, circled round
it. Dermot had but little natural timidity or shyness; yet he felt
somewhat awed when, having missed the back approach used by the
servants of the establishment, he found himself at the entrance-hall,
in which a number of well-dressed persons were assembled on their way
to the breakfast-room. Some passed him carelessly.
Oh, here, papa, is a fisher-boy with such fine fish, said a young
and fair girl as she ran up to a tall and dignified man, who at that
Why, boy, what brought you here? asked the gentleman.
To sell some fish; I caught them myself, was Dermot's answer.
They are fine and fresh. I will not bargain for the price, as I feel
sure you will give me what they are worth.
The gentleman seemed amused at the boy's composure, and stepping
forward looked into the basket which Dermot opened to exhibit his fish.
You are right, boy. Send Anderson here, he said, turning to a
footman. We will purchase your fish, and you may come whenever you can
bring others as fine.
Several ladies of the party seeing the Earl, for the gentleman who
spoke was the owner of the castle, addressing the boy, came forward,
and now, for the first time, remarked his handsome features and
picturesque, though rough, costume.
The little girl begged that the fish might be taken out of the
basket to be shown to her, and seemed delighted with the brightness of
their scales and their elegant forms.
Look after the boy, Anderson, and give him some breakfast, said
the Earl, as the head cook appeared, and Dermot, finding himself more
noticed than he was ever before in his life, was conducted down below
to the servants' quarters. Although they were town servants, and would
certainly have disdained to speak to a mere beggar-boy, or to a young
country clown, there was something in Dermot's unaffected manner and
appearance which won their regard, and they treated him with far more
kindness and attention than would otherwise have been the case.
Highly delighted with this his first visit to the castle, Dermot
returned to his mother's hut to give her an account of what had
occurred. That evening she was sufficiently recovered to accompany him
on their usual fishing expedition. Again they were successful, and the
next morning Dermot once more made his appearance at the castle. He was
received much in the same manner as on the previous occasion. His fish
were exhibited before being taken below, and greatly to his
astonishment a lady of the party begged that he would stand where he
was, with his basket in his hand, while she produced her sketch-book
and made a portrait of him. Dermot scarcely understood the process that
was going forward, and was somewhat relieved when the breakfast bell
sounding, the lady was compelled to abandon her undertaking.
But I must have you notwithstanding, young fisher-boy, said the
lady. You must come back after breakfast and hold one of those fish in
your hand; I have only made the outline, and the drawing will not be
perfect until it is well coloured.
He does not understand the honour that has been done him, observed
an elderly dame to the fair artist; still he looks intelligent, and
perhaps when he sees himself on paper he will be better pleased than he
appears to be at present.
Dermot scarcely understood all that was said, for though he spoke
English very fairly, he could not comprehend the language when spoken
Breakfast being concluded, he was again summoned to the hall, and to
his utter astonishment he was made to stand with the fish in his hand,
while the young lady continued her sketch. As a reward she exhibited it
to him when it was finished. He blushed when he saw himself, for she
was no mean artist, and she had done him ample justice. Indeed he
looked far more like the Earl's son, dressed in a fisher-boy's costume,
than what he really was.
Could my mother see that picture? he asked at length, I am sure
she would like it, she knows more about those things than I do, for I
have never seen anything of that sort before.
What! Have you never seen a picture before? exclaimed the young
lady in surprise, nor a print, nor a painting?
Dermot shook his headNo, nothing of the sort. I did not think
that anything so like life could be put on paper.
Cannot you read? asked the lady.
No, said Dermot, I have no book. The priest can read, but there
are few people else in this part of the country who can do so.
Oh! you must be taught to read, then, exclaimed the young lady.
It is a pity that you should be so ignorant. Would you not like to
Yes! said the boy, looking up, and to draw such figures as that.
I should like to learn to place you on paper. You would make a far more
beautiful picture than that is.
The young lady smiled at the boy's unsophisticated compliment.
Well, if you will come to the castle, I will try to teach you to read
at all events, she answered. I should like such a pupil, for I am
sure you would learn rapidly.
And I must help you, Lady Sophy, said the little girl, who had
been the first to draw attention to Dermot. I am sure I should teach
him to read very quickly, should I not, little fisher-boy? You would
like to learn of me, would you not?
Indeed I would, answered Dermot, looking at her with an expression
of gratitude. You are very gentle and kind, but I would not learn of
those who try to force me.
When will you begin? asked Lady Sophy.
To-morrow. I long to gain the art you speak of, answered the boy
eagerly. The priest tells me many things I have not known. Perhaps I
shall be able to tell him some things he does not know.
So you wish to show this portrait to your mother? observed Lady
Sophy, in a kind tone. I cannot trust you with it, but if you will
tell me her name and where she lives, we will ride over some day and
pay her a visit.
My mother is Ellen O'Neil, the Widow O'Neil, she is generally
called, for my father is dead. She is a kind mother to me, and there
are not many like her, answered the boy with a proud tone, showing how
highly he prized his remaining parent. But our hut is not fit for such
noble ladies as you are to enter, he added, now gazing round the hall
and for the first time comparing it with his own humble abode. It is
but a fisherman's hut, and my mother and I live there alone. You could
scarcely indeed ride down to it without the risk of your horses
falling. If you will let me have the picture I will promise you
faithfully that I will bring it back.
No, no! answered the young lady, laughing; perhaps your mother
might keep it, and I want to have an excuse for paying her a visit. So
we will come, tell her, and we shall not mind how small the hut may
Dermot was at length compelled to explain where his mother's hut was
to be found, though he again warned the ladies that the approach to it
was dangerous, and entreated them to keep well to the right away from
the sea as they crossed the downs.
They promised to follow his injunction, and at length allowed him to
take his departure. This he was anxious to do, as he knew that it was
time to put off, to haul the nets which had been laid down in the
Day after day, while the fine weather lasted and fish were to be
procured, Dermot paid a visit to the castle, and each morning after
breakfast was over, the young ladies insisted on giving him his reading
lesson. He made rapid progress, and after a few days, they gave him a
book that he might take home and study by himself.
Hitherto Lady Sophy and her friends at the castle, had not paid
their promised visit to the fisherman's cottage. At length, however,
one evening just as Dermot and his mother had landed, they heard voices
on the downs above their hut, and looking up Dermot espied the party
from the castle. They were standing irresolute what path to take. He
instantly climbed up the cliff by a pathway which speedily placed him
by their side. He begged them to dismount, and undertook to conduct
Lady Sophy and the little girl, whom he heard addressed as Lady Nora,
down to the hut.
I have brought the drawing as I promised, said Lady Sophy, taking
a portfolio from the groom who held their horses. I will show it to
your mother, and perhaps she will let me take hers also.
There were other ladies and several gentlemen, and they expressed an
intention of coming also down to the hut. Lady Sophy guessed that this
would not be pleasant to the boy's mother, and begged them to continue
their ride along the downs, promising in a short time to rejoin them.
Dermot was greatly relieved, for he knew his mother would be much
annoyed at having so many visitors; at the same time he felt equally
sure she would be pleased at seeing the two young ladies.
Widow O'Neil had just reached her hut with a basket of fish on her
shoulders. As the young ladies entered, conducted by Dermot, she placed
two three-legged stools and begged them to be seated, for there was no
chair in the hut.
You have come to honour an old fishwife with a visit, ladies, she
said; you are welcome. If I lived in a palace you would be more
welcome still. My boy has told me of your kindness to him. A mother's
heart is grateful. I can give nothing in return, but again I say, you
We came to show you a drawing I made of him, said Lady Sophy.
Here, see, do you think it like him?
Oh! like him! exclaimed the widow, lifting up her hands; indeed,
like him, and far more like him who has gonehis fatherwhose grave
lies off there in the cold dark sea. I would that I could possess that
drawing, I should prize it more than pearls!
I will make you a copy, said Lady Sophy, on one condition, that
you allow me to make a drawing of yourself.
Of me! of the old fishwife? exclaimed the astonished widow. There
is little that would repay you for doing that, lady!
The young lady smiled as she gazed at the picturesque costume and
the still handsome features of the woman, although the signs of age had
already come upon them. Her eyes were unusually bright, but her cheek
and mouth had fallen in, and her figure having lost all the roundness
of youth, was thin and wiry.
Oh yes, you would make a beautiful picture, exclaimed the young
lady, looking at her with the enthusiasm of an artist. Do sit still on
that cask for a time with a basket of fish at your feet. You must let
me draw you thus. Remember, if you will not, I cannot promise to make a
copy of your son's likeness for you.
As you will, ladies, answered the fishwife. The bribe you offer
is great. As for me, it matters little what you make of me. You are
likely to give me qualities I do not possess.
Although she used appropriate terms, she spoke the English with some
difficulty. It was unusual for any of the peasantry of that part of the
coast in those days to speak English, and how she had acquired a
knowledge of the language, and had been able to impart it to her son,
it was difficult to say. Perhaps her husband might have spoken it, or
her younger days might have been passed in some distant part of the
country, and yet she had the characteristic features of the people in
the south-west of Ireland, many of whom are descended from Spanish
settlers, who had crossed over in ancient days from the coast of Spain.
Dermot stood by Lady Nora's side, watching with looks of
astonishment the progress made by Lady Sophy's pencil. He hastened to
bring her a cup of water that she asked for, to moisten her colours;
still greater was his surprise when he saw the tints thrown in and
gradually a very perfect portrait produced of his mother.
He clapped his hands with delight. It's her, it's her, he
exclaimed; I wish that thus she could always be. Oh, lady, if you give
my mother a likeness of me, I must ask you to give me a copy of that
portrait. It's beautiful; it's like her in every respect. If I were
away from her, I should think it could speak to me.
Away from her, said the woman, looking up and speaking to herself.
Oh, that so dark a day should ever arrive, and yet am I to keep him
always by me, perhaps to share the fate of his father.
The words scarcely reached the ears of those in the hut.
At length Dermot obtained a promise from Lady Sophy that she would
give him a copy of the portrait she had just taken. He now accompanied
her and her young companion to the spot where they had left the horses.
You must promise to come to-morrow, Dermot, said the Lady Sophy;
we wish to push you on with your lessons, for we shall not be here
much longer, and we probably shall not return until next year.
Dermot promised Lady Sophy to read all the books she had given him.
When they left his mother's hut he begged leave to accompany her and
Lady Nora, in order that he might see them across the downs. He had
discovered during his visits to the castle that the young Lady Nora was
the Earl of Kilfinnan's only daughter. He had a son also; a noble
little boy he had heard. He was away at school in England; his father
being fully conscious that an Irish castle in those days was not a
place favourable to education. The Earl had a great affection for his
boy, the heir to his title and estates. The former, indeed, should the
young Lord Fitz Barry die without male descendants, would pass away,
though the Lady Nora would inherit the chief part of his estate.
Lady Sophy was a relation of his late wife's, for he was a widower,
and she remained with him as a companion to his young daughter, though
considerably older than she was. The rest of the persons seen at the
castle were guests, with the exception of a lady of middle age, a Mrs
Rollings, who acted as governess and chaperone to the young ladies.
Dermot continued his visits to the castle. Sometimes the Earl saw
him, and seemed amused at the interest taken in him by his young niece
and daughter. He observed also, that the boy was somewhat out of the
common way, and he suggested that after they had left the west of
Ireland, he should be sent to obtain instruction from a neighbouring
clergyman, a friend of his, and the only person capable of imparting
At that time schools and missions were not known in the west of
Ireland. The priests, almost as ignorant as their flocks, had unbounded
sway among the population. Often the Protestant clergyman was the only
person for miles round who possessed any education whatever. The
peasantry were consequently ignorant and superstitious, and easily
imposed upon by any one who chose to go among them with that object.
Lady Sophy was delighted with the suggestion made by the Earl, and
insisted on at once carrying out the arrangement.
Yes, indeed it is a pity that so intelligent a boy should be left
in ignorance, remarked the Earl. Here is a five-pound note; do you
take it from me to Mr Jamieson, and beg that he will do his best to
instil some knowledge into the mind of the fisher-boy.
There was a dash of romance, it must be owned, in the Earl's
composition, and he was besides a kind-hearted and liberal man. Dermot
O'Neil might well have considered himself fortunate in having fallen
among such friends.
Lady Sophy and Lady Nora instantly set off to call upon Mr Jamieson,
whose vicarage was about three miles distant from the castle, though
somewhat nearer to Dermot's abode. The clergyman was rather amused at
first with the account given him by the young ladies. He promised,
however, to follow out the Earl's wishes, and begged that Dermot might
come to him directly they left the country; And I shall be ready to
undertake his education at once, Lady Sophy, he said.
No, no! was the answer; we cannot give him up yet; it is quite a
pleasure teaching him. He already reads English with tolerable fluency,
though we have not attempted yet to teach him to write. We must leave
that to you.
Dermot, with a grief he had not expected to feel, saw the party take
their departure from the castle. The young ladies kindly nodded to him
as their carriage rolled past the spot where he stood.
There's a bright light gone from amongst us, he said to himself.
Did I ever before dream that such creatures existed on earth.
He returned to his home in a mood totally strange to him. His
mother, however, had reason to congratulate herself on the Earl's
visit, for it enabled her, from the payment she received for her fish,
to provide in a way she had never before done for the coming winter.
This made her the more willingly consent that Dermot should go over
every day to obtain instruction from Mr Jamieson, the good clergyman,
who was so pleased with the fisher-boy, that he took particular pains
in instructing him, and not only was Dermot in a short time able to
read any book that was put into his hands, but he also learned to write
with considerable ease. His mind naturally expanded with the books
given him to study, and as he obtained information, he became greedy
Although Mr Jamieson had at first only intended teaching him the
simple rudiments of reading and writing, he became so interested in the
progress made by his pupil, that he felt desirous of imparting all the
knowledge Dermot was capable of acquiring.
Thus the winter passed away. Dermot, in spite of wind and rain, or
sleet or cold, persevered in his visits to the vicarage. He gained also
an acquaintance with religious truth, of which before he had been
profoundly ignorant. It was not very perfect, perhaps, but Mr Jamieson
put the Bible into his hands, and he thus obtained a knowledge of its
contents possessed by few of those around. Had the neighbouring parish
priest, Father O'Rourke, discovered whither he was going, and the
change that was constantly taking place in him, he would probably have
endeavoured to interfere, and prevent him from paying his visits to the
Protestant clergyman. Although he might not have hindered Dermot from
doing as he chose, he probably would have alarmed his mother, who,
though tolerably intelligent, was too completely under the influence of
superstition to have understood clearly the cause of the priest's
interference. In a certain sense, to Dermot's mind, the advantage he
possessed was not so great as at first sight might appear. As he
advanced in knowledge he became less and less contented with his lot in
life, or rather the wish increased that he might be able to raise
himself above it. By what means, however, was this to be accomplished?
He had no claim upon the Earl, who, although wishing that he might be
taught reading and writing, had not the slightest intention of raising
him above his present occupation. Mr Jamieson gave him no
encouragement; although perhaps, the idea had occurred to the worthy
minister, that the boy was fitted for something above the mere life of
an ordinary fisherman. Still the matter had not as yet troubled
Dermot's mind. It probably only occasionally passed through his
thoughts, that there was an existence, even in this world, something
above that to which it appeared he was doomed. Mr Jamieson had now
resided for a considerable number of years at the vicarage. He came
there with high anticipations of the amount of good he was likely to
effect in that neighbourhood. By degrees, however, he found that his
efforts to raise the people out of the state of ignorance in which they
had been brought up were likely to prove abortive. The parish priest
did not indeed offer him any open opposition, but he set an under
current to work, which silently, though effectually nullified all the
vicar's efforts. Not one proselyte had he made, and at length he
abandoned his previous intentions in despair of success, and consoled
himself with the thought that at least he would perform thoroughly all
the duties of his station. To such a conclusion many persons in his
position have arrived, whether rightly or wrongly it need not here be
said. Mr Jamieson had an only niece, who had of late years come to
reside with him. She was no longer very young, but was a gentle, quiet
woman, whose great desire was to do any good to her fellow-creatures
which lay in her power.
Miss O'Reilly had been for some time aware that a severe affliction
was about to overtake her. When she first arrived at the vicarage, she
used to go among the neighbouring peasantry, carrying a basket to
relieve the sick or starving, or to administer such comfort as she was
able. She enjoyed the beautiful scenery by which she was surrounded.
Now, however, she found that when she took a book the letters were dim
and indistinct, while all distant scenes were shut out from her view,
as if a thick mist hung over them. Blindness she felt was coming on. A
journey to Dublin was in those days a long and tedious, if not somewhat
dangerous undertaking. Still, at her uncle's desire, accompanied by
him, she performed it. But no hope was given by the oculist whom she
consulted, and she returned home with the knowledge that in a short
time she would require some one to lead her by the hand whenever she
might wish to move from the immediate neighbourhood of the house.
Dermot had made frequent visits to the vicarage before Miss O'Reilly
was aware who he was. One day he met her while she was trying to find
her way a short distance from the house. He had seen her and knew who
she was. Seeing her in doubt as to the path she was to take, he, with
the native gallantry of the Irish, sprang forward and begged that he
might be allowed to lead her.
And who are you, boy? she asked. What brings you to the
Dermot told her his short history.
You are then a pupil of my uncle's?
Yes, his reverence has been teaching me, and I love to learn from
him, answered Dermot.
This led to further conversation, and Dermot told her of his mother,
who lived down in the little cottage in Blackwater cove.
And have you any brothers, sisters, or relations? she asked.
Except Uncle Shane, none that I know of, said Dermot.
Your mother, then, lives all alone.
Yes, since my father's death, twelve years ago, she has lived by
herself, with me alone to take care of, in her little hut.
And you never wish to leave your home, and go and see the great
world? asked Miss O'Reilly. Why she put the question it was difficult
to say. It might not have been a very judicious one, as far as the boy
was concerned, and yet it was but natural to suppose that a boy of
Dermot's character would wish to go forth into the great world, that he
might inspect its wonders.
It may be, lady; I may have wished to go and see the world, though
not to leave my mother; for who would care for her if I was gone? Uncle
Shane would, but he is old and couldn't protect her for long. Besides
you know that not a year passes but that some of the men on our coast
lose their lives.
And does your mother know the truth? Can she read the Bible, boy?
asked Miss O'Reilly.
No, she cannot read the Bible, but the priest takes care that she
should know what he believes to be the truth, I am sure.
Your mother loves you?
Oh! indeed she does, answered Dermot; she would spill her heart's
blood for my sake, though she often sits melancholy and sad when alone,
yet the moment I return, her eye brightens, and she opens her arms to
receive me. Yes, lady, my mother does love me, that I know.
I should like to come and talk to your mother, said the blind
lady. Will you lead me to her some day? I should not be afraid to
descend the cliff with so strong an arm as yours to rest on.
A few days after this, Dermot having finished his lesson with the
vicar, met Miss O'Reilly close to the house, and expressed his
readiness to take her to his mother's cottage, the sea at the time
happening to be far too rough to allow their boat to go forth to fish.
I am ready to go with you, said the blind lady; but remember you
must lead me all the way back, Dermot.
That will just double the honour, lady, was the young Irishman's
reply. Dermot talked much of his mother to the blind lady, as he led
her down to the cottage.
The widow's voice pleased Miss O'Reilly, and all she said increased
the interest she was inclined to take in her. Perhaps more than all,
was that deep love which she felt for her only boy, and which had
become, as it were, part of her being.
Dermot carefully conducted Miss O'Reilly back to the vicarage, and
this was the first of many visits which she afterwards paid to the
Dermot was never idle. He had no associates; indeed from his
earliest days he had kept aloof from boys of his own age. It was not
that he was morose, or proud or ill-tempered, but he appeared to have
no sympathy with them, and thus, though possessed of many qualities
which would have won him friends, he had not a single friend of his own
rank or age in the neighbourhood. Whenever he was not out fishing, he
was engaged with his book, either at the vicarage or at home.
He was thus employed one afternoon in his mother's hut, when Father
O'Rourke, the parish priest, made his appearance at the door.
Come in, your reverence, said the widow, placing a stool for him
near the hearth; it is a long day since your reverence has been seen
down the cove.
May be you haven't seen me often enough, said Father O'Rourke, a
stout broad-faced man, with a countenance of the ordinary low Irish
type. How is it that Dermot there has so many books? Ah! I have heard
about his doings; he often goes up, I am told, to the Protestant
minister's. What good can he get by going there?
Much good, your reverence, observed Dermot; I have been learning
to read and write, and gain other knowledge such as I had no other
means of obtaining.
Such knowledge may be bad for one like you, said Father O'Rourke;
there is no good can come from the place where you go to get it.
Pardon me, Father O'Rourke, said Dermot, with spirit; the
knowledge I get there is good, and the gentleman who gives it is kind
and good too. I will not hear him spoken against.
What, lad! do you dare to speak to me in that way? exclaimed the
priest. You will be going over to the Protestants, and then the curse
of Saint Patrick and all the holy saints will rest upon you,you too,
who are born to be a priest of the holy faith. Look; you were marked
before you came into the world with the emblem of our faith, and if
your mother had followed the wishes of her true friends, you would even
now be training for the priesthood, instead of being a poor fisher-boy,
as you now must be for ever, and nothing more. The priest as he spoke
seized Dermot's hand, and bared his arm to the shoulder. There,
curiously enough, above the elbow, was a red mark which might easily
have been defined as a cross.
The boy drew away his hand indignantly: I tell you, Father
O'Rourke, I am as true a son of the Holy Church as ever I was. Mr
Jamieson is no bigot; he gives me instruction, but does not ask me to
turn to his faith, and yet, Father O'Rourke, I tell you, to my mind it
is a pure and holy faith, whatever you may say to the contrary.
The boy spoke boldly and proudly, as he again drew down the sleeve
of his shirt.
Many years before, when the red mark on Dermot's arm had first been
seen by the neighbours, it was suggested that it was evidently placed
there as a sign from heaven that he should become a priest, and that in
all probability he would rise to be a bishop, if not a cardinal. When,
however, Dermot grew a little older, and the idea was suggested to him,
he indignantly refused to accept the offers made him. In the first
place, nothing would induce him to leave his mother, and in the second,
he had no ambition to become like Father O'Rourke, for whom it must be
confessed, that at a very early age the boy had entertained a
considerable antipathy. Even with the widow, though she was ignorant
and superstitious, Father O'Rourke had never been a favourite; still
when she could get so far as the chapel, she went to hear mass, and
attended confession, as did her neighbours. The feeling which governed
her was fear, rather than love for the parish priest. Father O'Rourke
was excessively indignant at being thus addressed by the young
fisher-boy. He turned from him, however, to his mother, and began to
pour out his abuse on her head. He had not proceeded far, however, when
Dermot again sprang to his feet.
Father O'Rourke! he exclaimed; you may say what you like to me;
you may curse me, and if you like you may threaten me with
excommunication even, but do not lift up your tongue against my poor
old mother. There are things a man can bear and some he ought not to
bear, and I tell you, boy as I am, I will not have her spoken against.
Your words may frighten her, and she may fancy that your curses may
fall upon her head, but I tell you when uttered against a poor helpless
widow, they will fall back on him who dares to speak them. There,
Father O'Rourke, I have had my say, and I defy you.
The priest had never before been spoken to in this manner by one of
his flock, and he found no words to reply. At first he felt inclined to
anathematise both the widow and her son, but doubts as to the effects
it might produce upon Dermot restrained him, or perhaps a better
feeling came into his heart.
Very well, boy, remember I have warned you, he exclaimed, I have
told you that by going to that Protestant minister, you may be led to
turn heretic, and forsake our holy faith, and if you should, do not
forget the heavy curses that will follow you. I do not wish you ill,
nor do I wish your mother ill, but I cannot stand by and see one of my
flock carried the downward way to destruction.
Having thus delivered himself, Father O'Rourke left the hut and took
the path up the steep glen, which led inland from the sea.
Often Dermot's mind reverted to the days when the castle was
inhabited, and he thought of the beautiful and kind ladies he had seen
there, and of the fair little girl who had smiled so sweetly when she
spoke to him. He felt the immeasurable distance between them and him,
and yet he longed for their return, that he might gaze on them at a
distance, and again hear their voices. He was generally too much
occupied to go to the castle to inquire when the Earl was likely to
return, because when not engaged in fishing, he was constantly at the
house of Mr Jamieson. More than once he had ventured to ask him whether
he thought the Earl was likely to come back again, but the minister
replied that he was ignorant of the Earl's movements, and had not heard
that any orders had been received at the castle to make preparations
for the reception of the family. The time was approaching when they had
come on the previous year, and Dermot, though he scarcely acknowledged
his feelings to himself, became more and more anxious for their
arrival. After leaving Mr Jamieson, though the round was a long one,
and he had to prepare his nets for the day's fishing, he could not
resist the temptation of going to the castle before he returned home.
From his frequent visits during the previous summer, he was not a
stranger there, and the housekeeper, pleased with his good looks and
his unaffected manner, was not sorry to see him.
Wait a bit, boy, wait a bit, and I think I can tell you when the
ladies will come back and make another likeness of you, she said,
putting her hand on his head. Ah! they will spoil you if we don't take
care, but do not be led away by them, boy. They look upon you, likely
enough, as they do upon a pet dog, or any other animal, and when they
are away, it is little they trouble their heads about you.
These remarks were made in kindness by good Mrs Rafferty. She had
heard all about the boy, and knew very well that if it became the
custom to have him up at the castle, and to make much of him, as she
thought was likely to be the case, he would inevitably be spoiled.
When you come we will buy your fish, no fear of that, and take my
advice, get a supply of the finest you can by to-morrow or the day
after, and may be when you come there will be mouths enough at the
castle to eat them.
What! are the family coming so soon then? exclaimed Dermot, and a
thrill of pleasure ran through his frame; and the beautiful lady who
draws so well, and all the others! I will go and catch the fish, never
fear, Mrs Rafferty, and it will not be my fault if I don't bring a
basket of as fine as ever were caught up to the castle to-morrow.
I did not say `to-morrow,' boy; I said the day after, and that will
be time enough.
Mrs Rafferty, to prove her kind feelings, took the boy into her own
room, and placed before him several articles of food and delicacies,
such as had never before passed his lips. She watched him while he ate.
It is strange if there's not gentle blood in that boy, she
remarked to herself, I have heard what the young ladies think about
it, and by the way he sits at table and eats, I would never believe
that he is a mere fisher-boy.
Dermot did not hear her remarks. Having finished his repast, he rose
and wishing her good-bye, hastened home with the good news to his
The widow and her son devoted the next day to an active supervision
of their nets. In the evening a gentle westerly breeze, which had
brought in their boat safely to shore, was still blowing, and Dermot
having prepared the fish for the next day's market, ascended to the
downs above the cottage. As he gazed over the ocean, he saw under all
sail, standing in for the shore, a beautiful ship. She had royals set,
and studding-sails below and aloft on either side. It was evident she
wished to come to an anchor before dark, and he concluded from the
course she was steering, that she proposed bringing up in the bay, a
reef extending out, on the north side of it, affording her sufficient
shelter from the wind then blowing. Dermot watched the ship with
intense interest. The masts seemed so tall, the canvas so white, and
the yards extending so far on either side. On she came like a graceful
swan, gliding over the azure bosom of the deep, surrounded as it were
with the golden rays of the setting sun playing over the water in which
she floated. Dermot had not believed that any vessel so beautiful was
to be found on the ocean. She seemed so graceful, so fairy-like. As she
drew nearer her sides appeared highly polished, and all about her wore
an air of perfect order. A distant strain of music reached his ear from
the deck. On a sudden men were seen swarming up her rigging. Every yard
was covered. Now the studding-sails came in as if by magic. The royals
and the topgallant sails were handed, the topsails were furled, the
courses brailed up, and in a few seconds she was under bare poles, when
her anchor was let go with a loud rattling sound in the securest part
of the bay, showing that those on board were well acquainted with the
As he looked down on the gallant frigate, for such she was, Dermot's
admiration increased more and more. He could not help wishing to be on
board so fine a craft, and he determined to take the first opportunity
of visiting her.
On his return to the hut, he told his mother of the arrival of the
She comes as a friend, I hope, remarked the widow; it is not many
years ago that I have seen vessels in this bay, which came with very
No one was seen, however, to land from the strange frigate, but the
widow, on further consideration, resolved to pay a visit on board, in
the hopes of disposing of the fish they had just caught, calculating
that a further supply might be obtained for the castle the following
Dermot was glad of an excuse for going on board: as it was now too
late to visit her, it was arranged that they should go off the first
thing on the following morning. Although he and his mother could manage
the boat by themselves, he did not know how she might be received on
board; he therefore invited his Uncle Shane to accompany them, advising
him to carry a supply of his own fish for sale.
Early the next morning the boat was alongside the frigate. The
vendors of fish are generally welcomed by men-of-war's-men, and they
very quickly disposed of all they possessed; the only complaint of the
sailors being, that they had not brought off enough vegetables and
other fresh productions.
Dermot was invited on board, and as he showed his curiosity in all
he saw, he was allowed to go over the whole of the ship. Great was his
wonder as he examined her polished guns, the decks, white as snow, one
below the other, the ropes on the upper deck so beautifully flemished
down. The men were at breakfast, between decks. The tin mess utensils
were spread out before them. Dermot was shown how the hammocks were
hung up at night, and where they were stowed in the hammock-nettings in
the day time. He gazed aloft at the symmetrical yards and ropes, and
wondered at the perfect order which reigned around; so different to
what he had been accustomed to in the small fishing-vessels and
coasters, the only craft with which he was acquainted.
Would you like to come to sea, lad? said a rough sailor, putting
his hand on Dermot's shoulder; you would make an active young topman
in a few years. There's something in you, I see. What do you say? Will
you ship aboard us? I can answer for it you would get a berth, for our
captain likes such as you.
Dermot was pleased with the compliment paid him, though uttered in a
Ah! if I had my heart's wish, I would do as you say, he answered;
but there's one I cannot leave, and I do not think you would if you
were in my place.
Who's that? asked the sailor.
My mother, I am her only child, answered Dermot.
I ran away from my mother, and yet I was her only son, replied the
sailor, as he dashed a tear from his eye. No, boy, I am not one to
advise you to do as I did. I know not whether she is alive or dead, for
never from that day to this, have I had the chance of returning home.
The widow was highly pleased with the transactions on board, for
whatever spice of romance there was in her, she never forgot the
importance of making a good bargain for her fish. Shane was delighted,
and undertook to return on board the next day.
Another successful expedition enabled Dermot to carry a supply of
fish to Mrs Rafferty at the castle. His modesty induced him to enter by
the back way, and on asking for her, after waiting some time, he was
told he might go and see her in her room. The good lady told him that
she expected the family every instant, and would take all the fish he
had brought. Dermot hurried away, fearful that they might arrive while
he was in the castle, and that he might lose the opportunity of seeing
them. He sat himself down by the side of the road which the carriages
must pass, in the hopes of gaining a glimpse of the lady who had taken
his portrait, as well as of the fair little girl her companion. He
thought very little of the rest of the party. At length, after waiting
some time, his patience was rewarded by seeing the carriages approach.
Not only were the ladies there, but they both saw him, and Lady Nora
gave a half-nod of recognition, and then turned to her companion, as if
to speak about him. Dermot would gladly have found any excuse for
returning to the castle, but as this was impossible, he hurried home,
hoping to be able to visit it the next day with a further supply of
fish. On his way he saw a boat pulling rapidly from the frigate towards
the landing-place under the castle walls. In her stern-sheets sat an
officer, who by the gold epaulets on his shoulders and his cocked hat,
he naturally concluded was the captain. Poor Dermot had very little
chance after this of attracting the attention of Lady Sophy. The boat
reached the shore, when the captain sprang out, and hurried up to the
castle. He was received with great courtesy and respect by the Earl and
You are indeed welcome, Falkner! exclaimed the Earl, cordially
shaking him by the hand, we little expected having the pleasure of
seeing you. What fortunate chance brings you into our bay?
We received information that there was some idea of a rising in
this part of the country, and I was ordered to cruise off the coast,
answered the captain of the frigate. Hearing also that you were about
to return to Kilfinnan Castle, as it was in the way of duty, I took the
opportunity of coming into the bay to visit you, and at the same time
to make inquiries as to the truth of the report.
You are very welcome, Captain Falkner, and we are very happy to see
you, said the Earl, casting a significant glance towards Lady Sophy;
as to the rising, I rather think the Government has been misled;
however, it is as well to be prepared, and the appearance of the
frigate on the coast may prevent the people from committing any act of
I hope so, indeed, said Captain Falkner; for the blood of too
many of the misguided people has been shed already. They may bring much
misery and suffering on themselves, and they may do a great deal of
mischief in the country, but while England's fleet and England's army
remain faithful, their wild schemes have not the remotest prospect of
No, indeed! answered the Earl, in a somewhat scornful tone,
unless men of character and true bravery were to lead them, they will
always be defeated as they have hitherto been. For my own part I have
not the slightest fear on the subject. However, I repeat that I am not
sorry that any excuse should have brought you into our bay.
Captain Falkner after this received the welcome of the rest of the
guests, with most of whom he was acquainted.
Lady Sophy blushed as she held out her hand, and the gallant captain
took it with a look which showed there was a perfect understanding
between them. He had already obtained a name which gave him rank among
the bravest of England's naval heroes. They before long found an excuse
for walking out together on a beautiful terrace, which extended under
the cliffs, beyond the castle to the south. The conversation need not
be repeated, it was very evident, however, that Captain Falkner was an
accepted suitor of Lady Sophy's, although there were some impediments
to their immediate union.
He told her that he expected to be on the coast for some time, for
he still believed, in spite of the Earl's assertions, that there was a
considerable number of persons disaffected in that part of the country,
who would be induced to rise, should a leader make his appearance among
Although I may sail away for a few days at a time, I shall
constantly be on the watch, and the thought that you may be placed in
danger, will certainly not make me the less vigilant, he observed,
pressing Lady Sophy's hand.
But suppose you were to hear there would be a rising in this place,
and another at some distance, to which would you then go? asked Lady
Sophy. Would it not place you in a difficulty?
I tell you frankly, I would endeavour to forget in which place you
were, and should steer for the one in which I believed my services were
most imperatively demanded.
Yes, I am sure you would act thus, she answered, casting on him a
look of admiration and affection. I do not value your love the less on
that account, believe me.
Captain Falkner had to return on board in the evening, but promised
to visit the castle next day.
He arrived just as Dermot made his appearance with a basket of fish.
Oh! that is the boy whose portrait you were admiring so much,
Captain Falkner, said Lady Sophy, pointing to Dermot as he was passing
Come in, boy, said another lady; we wish to see if your portrait
has done you justice.
Dermot entered in his usual fearless manner, carrying his basket of
fish. The portrait was produced, and another lady insisted that he
should remain until she had taken a sketch of him for herself.
By-the-bye, said the Earl, have you got any good by going to the
Yes, indeed I have, sir, said Dermot warmly, there is many a book
I have learned to read, and though I found writing more hard, I am able
to copy whatever Mr Jamieson gives me, and while he reads I can write
after him. And there is history and geography and many more things he
has taught me.
Ah, I must go over and thank him, said the Earl. And do you wish,
boy, to continue under his instruction?
Indeed I do, sir, answered Dermot.
Oh, but we were teaching you, exclaimed Lady Nora, who had just
then come into the hall. You must come and let Lady Sophy and me give
you lessons as we did before.
Indeed I am honoured, ladies, answered Dermot, with an air which
none but an Irish boy, even of much higher rank, could have assumed.
Although I am grateful to the minister for all he has taught me, I
should be thankful to receive further lessons from you.
The Earl was somewhat amused at the thoughts of his little daughter
giving instruction to the young fisher-boy. At the same time,
good-natured and thoughtless, he made not the slightest objection.
Indeed he never thwarted Nora in anything she had taken it into her
head to wish for, and certainly he was not likely to do so in a matter
so trifling as this.
Dermot appeared, as he had been invited, to receive his lessons, but
was somewhat surprised to find that Lady Nora was scarcely as advanced
in some branches of knowledge as himself.
Indeed you have made great progress, said Lady Sophy, who had
undertaken to be the chief instructress. If you persevere you will
soon become as well educated as most young gentlemen of the day. I am
acquainted with several, indeed, who don't know as much as you do.
These remarks encouraged Dermot to persevere, even with more
determination than before. Every moment he could spare from his duties,
he was now engaged in reading.
His poor mother looked on with astonishment that her boy should thus
become so learned, and more than once it entered into her mind that it
was a pity she had not allowed him to follow Father O'Rourke's
suggestion, and become a priest. He would have been a bishop to a
certainty, she exclaimed to herselfand only think to be a holy
bishop, certain of heaven. What a great man he would have been made, a
cardinal, and that he would have been, if His Holiness the Pope had
ever become acquainted with him. I wonder now if it's too late, but I'm
afraid after what he said to Father O'Rourke that his Reverence will
never give him a helping hand.
Such and similar thoughts frequently passed through the mind of the
poor widow. More than once she ventured to broach the subject to her
son, but he shook his head with a look of disgust.
If I am ever to be otherwise than what I am, I hope never to become
like Father O'Rourke. No, no, mother I have other thoughts, and do not,
I pray you, ever ask me again to become a priest.
The next visit Dermot paid to the castle, he was detained longer
than usual by another lady insisting on taking his portrait. His
feelings rather rebelled against this. He had been flattered when Lady
Sophy had first taken it, but he did not much like the idea of being
made a figure for the exercise of other fair artists' pencils, still
his natural feelings of politeness prevented him from showing the
annoyance he felt.
While the lady was proceeding with her work, he gathered from the
conversation around him that some one of importance was expected at the
castle, and he at length made out that the young heirLord Fitz
Barry was looked for during the afternoon.
Dermot had never seen him, for during the previous summer, he had
not returned home, having remained with his tutor in England. He found
that the carriage had been sent for the young Lord to the neighbouring
As soon as the ladies dismissed him, Dermot took his way along the
road by which he would reach the castle.
He had not long to wait before he saw an open carriage with the Earl
in it, and by his side a young boy bearing a strong resemblance to Lady
There were the same blue eyes and the fair complexion and rich
auburn air possessed by his sister, at the same time there was a manly
look and expression in his countenanceboy as he waswhich at once
won Dermot's respect.
Ah, he has the old blood of his family in his veins, thought
Dermot, and when he comes to man's estate, he'll prove, I hope, the
same kind-hearted, honest man that his father is.
Well pleased with his morning visit to the castle, Dermot returned
to his humble cottage. Did he ever draw a contrast between the two
abodes? Yes, but he was not discontented with his lot. He loved his
mother, and he knew that his mother loved him above all earthly things,
and that she would not exchange him, even to dwell in that lordly
castle. Still, as Dermot advanced in knowledge and in age, he could not
help discovering that his mother was ignorant and prone to
superstition. Indeed with pain he sometimes suspected that her mind was
not altogether perfectly right. She would sit occasionally talking to
herself, and now and then speak of strange events which had passed in
her youth, of which she would give no explanation. He, however, quickly
banished this latter idea, as too painful to be entertained. She loved
him, what more could he desire? When he was anxious about her, he
reflected that she had secured more than one friend in the
neighbourhood. That his uncle Shane was devoted to her, and that the
kind Miss O'Reilly had promised always to watch over her.
Many wild thoughts and schemes passed frequently through Dermot's
mind. He dared not at first give utterance to them, not even to
himself, and he would have found it impossible to mention them to any
Mr Jamieson, more than once, had spoken to him of the future, and
hinted that if the way was open to him, he would scarcely fail, with
the talents and application he possessed, of rising in life. It was
very natural in Mr Jamieson to think this, for he knew that a
fisher-boy's existence on the west coast of Ireland was one of
ill-requited toil, and of great danger. Holding this opinion, he felt
that the boy would not change for the worse, and would certainly
improve his position in whatever calling he might engage.
One afternoon, when it was blowing too hard to allow Dermot to put
to sea in his boat, he had gone to the vicarage to obtain his usual
instruction, carrying with him some fish he had caught, as a present to
the vicar's niece. After he had received his instruction and was about
to take his departure, Miss O'Reilly called him back to thank him for
the fish which he had brought her.
By-the-bye! observed Mr Jamieson, Dermot can take the pony which
I wish to send for young Lord Fitz Barry, and the cloak which he left
here the other day.
Dermot had not often ridden; but where is the Irish boy who would
not undertake to mount the most fiery steed, if he was asked to do so?
He gladly promised to take the pony and cloak to the castle. It was
already late in the day, but he observed that that did not matter, as
it must be a dark night in which he could not find his way home. The
pony was, however, in the field, and some more time elapsed before he
was caught. Miss O'Reilly then bethought her, that Dermot had been a
long time without food, and insisted on his taking some before he set
off in that blustering evening. It was thus almost dark before he left
the vicarage for the castle. He looked down on the bay: the frigate
still lay at anchor there, the wind being still from the north.
If the wind shifts a little more to the west, she will have to put
to sea, thought Dermot. It will not do for her to remain in the bay
with the wind blowing in from the west, and with such often rolls in
here, enough to cast the stoutest ship high upon the beach, or to dash
her to fragments should she touch the rocks.
Dermot rode on, not, however, very fast, as the little animal was
unwilling to leave his own home, not guessing the comfortable quarters
to which he was bound. The wind brought up a heavy shower of rain and
hail; Dermot was doubtful whether he ought to shelter himself under the
young lord's cloak. Still, he thought, it will not be the worse for
being on my shoulders, and I shall be wet through and well-nigh frozen
before I reach the castle, if I am to sit on this animal's back exposed
to the storm.
He wisely therefore, having overcome his scruples, put on the cloak,
and continued his course as fast as the pony would condescend to go
towards the castle.
Just as the frigate was hid from his view by some intervening downs,
he thought he saw the men going aloft to loose the topsails, an
indication of the ship being about to get under weigh.
It is the wisest thing that can be done, he thought to himself.
She can easily stand off until the summer gale is over, and run no
risk of being driven on shore.
He was already at no great distance from the castle, when suddenly
from behind some rocks and bushes which lay near the road, a number of
men sprang up and seized the bridle of his pony. He was too much
astonished to cry out, or to ask what was their purpose in thus
By the expressions that they uttered, however, he soon discovered
that they were under the impression that they had got possession of the
Now, he thought to himself, with admirable presence of mind, the
best thing I can do is to hold my tongue, and just see what they
intended to do with him. I would a great deal rather that they caught
hold of me, to whom it matters not what harm they do, than the young
lord. I would willingly save him for his sweet sister's sake, and for
his too, for he is a kind boy, with a gentle heart. I am sure of that.
There is no pride or haughtiness about him. If there were, I should not
feel disposed to serve him. No, I could not do that. Well, I will see
what these men want to do with him. They will be rather surprised and
enraged may be when they find whom they have got, instead of the young
These thoughts passed rapidly through Dermot's mind, as he saw that
he was surrounded by an armed band of men. They did not attempt to pull
him from his pony, but turning round the animal's head, they led him
across the country inland at a rapid rate, a man holding the rein on
either side with a firm grasp, to prevent the little animal from
falling over the rough ground they were traversing.
Dermot firmly kept to his resolution of saying nothing. The night
was so dark, that had it not been for his knowledge of the direction
from which the wind blew, he would have been unable to guess where he
was going. In a short time, however, he found the wind blew directly in
his teeth. He knew that they must be travelling north, and also, from
the character of the ground, that they had already passed beyond the
vicarage, and that they could be at no great distance from his own
home. Now they turned once more to the west, and he felt sure they were
approaching the sea. The ground became more and more wild and rugged,
and he guessed by feeling that they continued to ascend for some
distance, that they had reached a range of wild hills which lay in that
All this time he had kept his senses wide awake, nor did he allow
himself to feel the slightest fear of what was likely to happen.
No great harm can come to me, at length he thought to himself;
and if it does, what matters it? There are those who will look after
my mother, and I shall have saved the young lord from some plot which
these ruffians have formed against him.
All this time the people round him were speaking the native Irish,
little supposing that their prisoner understood every word they said.
He was at length able to gather from their conversation that they
intended to hold the young lord as a hostage, threatening, if the
demands they proposed making were not granted, that they would kill him
At length, he was ordered to dismount, and he found himself led
forward through a narrow passage, with rocks on either side, which
conducted them into the interior of a cave. It was of considerable
size, the roof and sides covered apparently with smoke, probably the
result of the illicit distillery which existed, or had existed there.
It was dimly lighted by a lamp fixed on a projecting point of the rock.
This enabled Dermot to see that a number of arms were piled up along
one side, muskets, pikes, and swords. There were two small
field-pieces, and what he supposed to be cases of ammunition. Had the
light been greater he would probably have been at once discovered. As
it was, however, he was led forthwith to the farther part of the cave,
where he was told to take his seat on a rough bed-place.
We'll be after bringing your food directly, said a man, the first
person who had spoken to him since his capture. You will be quiet now,
and not attempt to run away; for we should shoot you if you did without
the slightest ceremony. You understand that? Or stay, if we were to
bind one of your feet to the leg of this bunk, we should have you more
secure, I'm thinking.
Dermot, adhering to his resolution, said nothing in return, but
allowed himself to be secured as the man proposed. He laughed, however,
to himself at the thought of the ease with which he could immediately
liberate himself should he wish to do so, and wrapping himself closely
in the cloak, the better to conceal his figure and dress, should by
chance a gleam of light fall upon him, he lay down on the bunk.
Other persons now continued to arrive, until the cave was full of
men, the greater part of whom were peasants or small farmers; at least
their comrades treated them with but little ceremony.
As Dermot, however, was watching what took place, he heard the men
whispering to each other, It's him! It's him; he's come to lead us, no
Just then a man appeared at the entrance of the cave. As he advanced
with a confident, indeed somewhat swaggering step, towards the table in
the centre, all the men rose from their seats and greeted him in
various tones of welcome.
He told them that he had been narrowly watched, that he had had no
little difficulty in escaping his enemies and their enemies, that he
was thankful to find himself among them, and prepared to undertake any
enterprise, however hazardous, which might tend to forward their great
and glorious causethe overthrow of their Saxon tyrants and the
establishment of the Irish race as the lords and rulers of their
He said a great deal more to the same effect, which was eagerly
listened to by the assembled rebels.
Long life to the O'Higgins, he's the boy for us, resounded through
the cavern, or at least words to that effect in the native Irish, the
only language spoken by those present.
The O'Higgins spoke it, but Dermot remarked that he did so with some
The conspirators seemed highly delighted at having made so valuable
a prize, and began, in no subdued voices, to discuss their future plans
Dermot listened eagerly, anxious to catch every word that was
uttered. He found that they were a band of United Irishmen, as the
rebels were generally called at that time, and that in spite of the
ill-success of their undertaking in the north, they proposed carrying
out a rising in that part of the country. Their first object was to
attack the Castle of Kilfinnan, where they hoped to find a supply of
arms and a large amount of booty. They expected also to extract a
considerable sum for the ransom of the prisoners they might capture in
the castle, and, if not, they proposed putting them all to death, in
revenge for the execution of their fellow-rebels, which had taken place
in other parts of the country.
The chief impediment to their plan was the continuance of the
frigate on the coast. They were anxious to devise some plan by which
she might be drawn off to another part of Ireland, or induced, at all
events, to put to sea. Some of the boldest of the party proposed
collecting a flotilla of boats, and taking possession of her, in the
belief that they could land her guns and other arms, and thus obtain
the means of better competing with the royal troops.
These and many other schemes were freely discussed by the rebels.
After some time another person entered the cavern. Dermot looked up and
saw by the light of the lamp, which fell on his countenance, that the
new comer was no other than Father O'Rourke. He and the O'Higgins
greeted each other warmly. It was evident that they were looked upon as
the leaders of the undertaking. The one active in a spiritual capacity,
urging on the infatuated men the justice of their cause and promising
them his own prayers and the protection of heaven, and telling them to
go on and conquer; the other inviting them to follow him, and promising
them the victory. Father O'Rourke particularly advocated the most
energetic measures. He even advised that they should at once march
towards the castle, and, exposing the young lord to view, threaten to
hang him if the gates were not opened to admit them.
This plan was, however, overruled by others, who declared that the
frigate still lay in the bay, and that whatever the Earl might do,
their appearance on the shore would certainly bring the shot of her
guns about their ears.
And what are you afraid of, comrades? exclaimed Father O'Rourke.
If they do, cannot I give each of you the blessed picture of Saint
Patrick, and won't that, worn about your neck, guard you from the shot
of the enemy? Ah, if you knew the value of those blessed amulets, you
would all of you be anxious to purchase them. No soldier should ever
think of going into battle without such a safeguard. Have I not been
offering up prayers day and night for the last month for your success,
and are you such heretics as to believe that they have all been uttered
in vain? No, trust me, let us go and attack the castle this night or
to-morrow at farthest, and depend upon it, we shall gain such a victory
as will make all the people in the country around rise up and join us.
They only want to see a little success, and Ireland shall have her own
again. What, boys! are we to be kept down by the red-coats, and the
vile heretics who call George the Third king? No, I say again. Ireland
for the Irish. May Saint Patrick and all the blessed Saints fight for
us, and we will have true liberty once more in the green Isle of old
While listening to the address of the priest, very similar to many
others uttered then, and even at the present day, by the so-called
pastors of the Romish Church in Ireland, Dermot was thinking over what
he should attempt to do. He knew perfectly well from the way his feet
had been tied to the bed, that he could liberate himself immediately;
but how to steal out of the cavern without being observed was the
difficulty; even should the chief body of the rebels go to sleep, it
was not likely that they would leave the cavern without a guard. If he
could escape, however, he thought his best plan would be to hasten off
to the castle, to which he felt sure he could find his way, and give
notice of the plans of the conspirators.
The Earl probably does not dream of an attack being made on his
residence, and will not certainly be prepared, thought Dermot to
himself. Perhaps the rebels will steal towards the chief door and
break it open before any one within can stop them. The frigate, too, if
she has not sailed already, will very likely go away, or be misled by
the treacherous information those people will send on board. Now, if I
could steal away without their finding out who I am, they will not
suspect that their plans are discovered as they know that the young
lord would not understand what had been said. Dermot's great desire
therefore was to escape from the cavern. He found that not only was it
expected that the country around would rise and attack all the
Protestant dwelling-houses in the neighbourhood, but that a French
squadron with troops would come off the coast and support their cause.
This, altogether, was terrible news, and Dermot felt that it was
most important it should be conveyed without delay to Kilfinnan Castle,
the principal seat in that neighbourhood.
Dermot had never liked Father O'Rourke, and he had now still less
cause to admire him. He guessed, too, from the character of the man,
that although he would encourage the people round to rebel, he was not
likely to run himself into danger. He was not surprised, therefore,
after hearing him inflame the passions and ardour of his misguided
countrymen, to see him quietly take his departure after uttering his
blessing and promising them success if they would follow his
We must now return to the vicarage. Scarcely had Dermot left the
house on the pony, than Miss O'Reilly began to regret that she had
allowed him to go. She went to the door and felt the blast blowing
keenly from the north, and knowing the lateness of the hour, she feared
that he would be benighted long before he could reach the castle. She
would willingly have despatched some one to him, but she had no person
While standing at the door, she heard a voice, singing one of the
wild and plaintive airs of the country, down in the valley beneath the
vicarage. She knew by the sounds that the singer was drawing nearer and
nearer the house.
It is poor mad Kathleen, she said to herself, though she has but
a small amount of brains, yet she is fleet of foot, and would soon
overtake the lad, and bring him back to the house. It would be better
to do that, than let him go on with the pony he ill knows how to
The song continued, and in a short time the singer stood in front of
Well, Kathleen, what brings you here? asked Miss O'Reilly,
addressing her in a kind tone.
What brings me here takes me wherever I list to go, my own free
will, answered the mad girl, who was still young, and possessed of an
amount of beauty which made those who saw her feel even more sympathy
and compassion than they might have done, had her appearance been less
You are good and kind, Kathleen, said Miss O'Reilly; you would do
me a kindness, I know, if I were to ask you.
That I would, lady! answered the girl, in the broken Saxon which
was spoken by not many of the peasantry in that part of Ireland; I
would do anything to serve you, just say what it is.
Miss O'Reilly, in a few words, explained to Kathleen what she wished
to have done.
You know him, you know young Dermot O'Neil?
Oh yes, I know him well; he is a gentle lad and a good one, and I
would gladly serve him, as I would you, lady.
Miss O'Reilly again endeavoured to impress upon the wandering mind
of the poor girl what she was to do, and then begged her to hasten off
to overtake Dermot. However, neither she nor Miss O'Reilly were aware
of the distance Dermot would have got before Kathleen could overtake
The mad girl went singing on as was her wont for some time, till
suddenly she became unusually silent. She had not gone far when she
heard the loud talking of a body of men approaching her.
Those voices at this time of the evening bode no good, she said to
herself. They are some of the rebels who they say are about the
country. I never loved such. I will hide and watch to see what they are
She accordingly concealed herself among the rocks and uneven ground
with which the road was bounded. The tramp of feet approached, coming
from the direction of the castle, and she saw some men leading a pony
on which a lad was mounted, hurriedly proceeding towards the north.
From what she had heard from Miss O'Reilly, she at once concluded
that the person she had seen in the hands of the insurgents must be
Now the next thing I have to do, she thought, is to follow and
try to find out where they are taking him to. Surely they will not do
him an injury, but still they have no right to carry him off; of that I
Gathering her cloak around her, she quickly followed the footsteps
of the party she had seen pass. She had to keep at a cautious distance,
lest in crossing any open space, she might have been discovered, but
where a person in their right mind might have hesitated, she went on
fearlessly. The road was rough and up and down hill, but she continued
her pursuit till the party suddenly came to a halt.
Oh! she said to herself; I know the spot where they have gone to;
shall I go on, or shall I go back to Miss O'Reilly and tell her how I
have been defeated in fulfilling her directions?
In spite of the distance she determined to follow the latter course.
The astonishment of Miss O'Reilly was very great when, at a late
hour in the evening, Kathleen appeared and told her what had befallen
Miss O'Reilly instantly consulted her uncle, who fortunately was at
There is something wrong going forward, at all events, he
observed. But why the rebels should have made Dermot prisoner is more
than I can say. However, perhaps you can persuade Kathleen to go back
to the cave and endeavour to release him. I don't know what else we can
do. In the morning I will ride over to the castle and consult with the
Earl. He should be informed that a rising of some sort is on foot
through the country, though I do not suppose it is of much
Kathleen was perfectly ready to undertake the release of Dermot if
she could accomplish it, and she promised at all events to enter the
cavern and to communicate with him.
He is a wise lad, and it will be a wise thing to do as he bids me,
But you must be weary, Kathleen, said Miss O'Reilly; you will
want some refreshment before you set out again to-night.
No, no, when the mind's at work the body requires no food, said
the mad girl, and she burst forth in a wild song which showed the
excitement under which she was labouring.
Without waiting for further directions, away went the mad girl over
moorland and glen at a speed which, considering the darkness, scarcely
a wild deer could have rivalled, and before long she stood at the
entrance of the cavern. She waited for some time, in the hopes that the
inmates would go to sleep, and that she could more easily find an
entrance. Listening, she heard voices within, and that of Father
O'Rourke above all the rest.
Where the priest is, there there's mischief, she said to herself.
If he's going to stay there's little I shall be able to do.
She had not waited long, however, concealed behind a rock, when she
saw Father O'Rourke issue forth and take his way down the hill. She
waited some time longer, then quietly entered the cavern, gliding past
the table and up to its further end. The men, who were still awake,
gazed at her with astonishment, wondering what had brought her there,
but none ventured to speak to her. She was held in a sort of
superstitious reverence by the ignorant peasantry; and seeing her
fearlessly enter, they fancied that she had authority for coming among
them. No one suspected, indeed, that she would not prove faithful to
their cause, had she discovered their intention. Silently she passed up
the cavern and sat herself down on a chest at the further end, where,
concealed by the darkness, she yet could look forth on the objects
lighted by the lamp, and make her observations.
She had not been there long before she discovered Dermot resting on
his elbow on the bunk where he had been placed. She watched till those
around her appeared to be asleep, and she then noiselessly glided up to
where he lay.
I have come to look for you, Dermot, she whispered. Have you any
message to send to friends, or would you have me set you free? The
message I might take, but if I were to try and set you free, I might be
made prisoner myself.
I will send a message; that will be the safest plan, said Dermot.
But how did you find me out?
She told him briefly.
Stay, I can take a leaf from one of my books, he observed. I will
write it, it will be safer, and you will remember to deliver it,
Kathleen, if you wish to do me and others real service.
Oh yes, Dermot, write, you may trust me; it is better than putting
it into my poor mind, though I can remember if it is not overcharged,
she answered with a sigh. But be quick, or some of these people will
be suspecting us.
Dermot sat up. He had fortunately a pencil in his pocket, and taking
a leaf from one of his books, he wrote a few lines, addressed to the
Earl, telling him of the intention of the rebels to attack his castle,
and also of their purpose of getting the frigate out of the way.
The note may not have been well written or very well expressed, but
it was clear and to the purpose. After signing his name he added, Oh,
trust me, my lord, I would come myself but I am a prisoner, and I pray
heaven that this may reach you in time to be of service.
Kathleen placed the note in her bosom, hoping that she had not been
Now hasten away, Kathleen, whispered Dermot. You can do as much
good as I could have done had I been free, and providing those in the
castle are preserved I care not what happens.
Kathleen returned to her former seat and began chanting one of the
airs she was generally heard singing, and then, once more gliding down
the centre of the cave, she took her departure unquestioned by any of
the rebels. Again in the open air she quickly descended the mountain,
dark as it was, and in spite of the roughness of the way, she hastened
forward at a rapid speed towards Kilfinnan Castle. All was silent as
she approached the gates. In vain she walked round and round, she could
find no means of making herself heard. The inmates, unsuspicious of
danger, were all at rest. She looked down into the bay. The frigate was
not there. All my labours will be of no avail, she thought to
herself, if I cannot let the good lord know what is threatened.
She had walked some way under the castle walls, when, looking up,
she saw a light in a window. Instantly she gave forth one of her wild
songs. Some of those within who had heard of the famed Banshee were
fully persuaded that it was a phantom visitor singing outside the
gates, indicative of the speedy death of some one of consequence
within. At length the window opened.
Who's there? asked a feminine voice. Surely it is some mortal,
and not a spirit from another world.
I'm sure it is, said another voice.
It's the poor girl Miss O'Reilly was telling us about. What is it
you want, Kathleen? asked the speaker in a tender tone.
Is it you who calls me, my lady? answered Kathleen from below.
Yes, it is I; what brings you here at this hour of the night?
A messagea paper for the Earl, my lady, said the mad girl. It
is from one who would serve him, and it is of great importance he told
me. I cannot say more now; but if you will let me into the castle I
will place it in your hands, and tell you all I know.
Come round to the front door, said a voice, which was that of Lady
Sophy. We will come down with a light, and admit you.
Some time was occupied by the young ladies in putting on their
dresses, and then arousing the Earl with the information that a message
of importance was brought for him, they hastened down stairs.
At first, from the incoherent way in which poor Kathleen spoke, Lady
Sophy and Nora could not understand what had occurred. At length the
truth dawned upon them, and by the time the Earl appeared, they were
able to explain to him what they had learned.
He at once clearly understood that Dermot had been seized by those
who intended to carry off his own son, and he felt not a little
grateful to the young fisher-boy for the way he had behaved in the
matter. He saw likewise that no time was to be lost, and that it would
be necessary both to send off messengers to procure troops from the
nearest place where they were quartered, and also immediately to put
the castle into a state of defence. He regretted the absence of the
frigate, and could only hope that she might return sooner than it had
been Captain Falkner's intention of doing.
In vain Lady Sophy pressed poor Kathleen, after her exertions, to
remain and rest at the castle.
No, no, she answered; I will be back again at my home. If I am
absent, they will suspect that I have taken a part in this matter; and
though they can do me no harm, they may injure those I love.
The poor girl could scarcely be persuaded to take any refreshment;
and at length, having eaten a little which Lady Nora brought her, she
hastened away towards the vicarage, singing in her usual strain as she
The Earl quickly aroused the inmates of the castle. Messengers were
sent off as he proposed, and all the people in the neighbourhood who
could be trusted were summoned to come within the walls to aid in its
defence. There were a few guns planted on the battlements, but they
were more for show than use, that part of the country having hitherto
been tranquil, and no idea being entertained that they would be
required. There were, however, muskets and pistols in the armoury, and
pikes, and numerous old weapons of warfare which were stored there,
more as an exhibition on account of their antiquity than for use.
Still, the gates were strong, and it would require no small amount of
force to break them open.
The preparations for the defence occupied a considerable time; the
lower windows had to be barricaded, and the doors strengthened by stout
bars. A few holes were left for musketry in different parts, and a
supply of large stones was brought up from the beach below to serve as
missiles, should the rebels approach near enough to make them useful.
The first streaks of daylight were appearing in the sky before all
these preparations were made. Soon after, while the little garrison
were resting from the toil they had undergone, the tramp of feet was
heard approaching the castle.
Towards morning Dermot was roused from the bunk on which he had been
placed by the man who had before spoken, and an intimation given him
that he must rise and prepare to move.
He again saw the person who had been called O'Higgins marshalling
the rebels, giving various directions, and finally putting himself at
their head, as in regular order they marched away from the cavern.
On being led out of the cave Dermot was placed on the pony and led
between two men, and was conducted at a rapid pace towards the south.
He knew this by finding the wind still in his back, and catching a
glimpse through the gloom of the distant sea.
They must be going back to the castle, he thought, and are about
to make the attack they have been threatening. I hope Kathleen arrived
in time; if not, those beautiful young ladies and the kind Earl will
fall into their hands. Oh, that I could have got away and made sure of
giving them warning in time; and yet I do not think the people in the
cave slept through the night, and I should have been found out to a
certainty. Even now, I don't think they know who I am, and they still
believe they have got the young lord. Well, they may hang me in their
rage when they find out who I am, and it cannot be helped. Kathleen
will scarcely have failed in giving the notice I sent. But then, if
they kill me, oh, what grief for my poor mother. That is the bitterest
thing in the matter: for her sake, if I thought there was a chance of
escaping I would make the attempt; but if God thinks right to call me
out of the world, He knows what is best. Still something may occur by
which I may hope to escape, though I know these men about me are ready
for any bloody work. What fearful oaths I heard them swear, and we know
too well what dreadful things have been done in other parts of the
country. The young and the fair, and the old and the helpless, have
been murdered by their cruel hands. A fearful thing is this civil war.
I used not to think much of it once, but I do now. And oh, that sweet
young Lady Nora and her cousin, to think of the horrors to which they
may be exposed.
Such were the thoughts which passed rapidly through Dermot's brain
in spite of the danger to which he himself was exposed. He heard the
people as before speaking round him in the native Irish, but he took
good care to make no remarks; indeed, he felt sure that should he
speak, his voice alone might betray him. Had they indeed seen him in
daylight they might have suspected, in spite of the cloak which covered
him, that he was not the young lord. At length he knew by the
appearance of the country, and the expressions he heard uttered round
him, that they were drawing close to the castle, though they had
arrived by a more inland route than that which he usually took. He
judged that some hundreds of people comprised the force of rebels. They
were armed in a variety of ways, but a considerable number had muskets
and pistols. He discovered also that the two small field-pieces which
he had seen in the cavern had been brought with them. Not knowing the
moderate powers of such pieces of ordnance, he was afraid that the
insurgents with them would batter down the walls. This made him feel
more alarmed than ever for the safety of his friends.
The rebel force now drew up close round the castle, and a
consultation was held among the chiefs as to how the attack should be
Dermot was led up on his pony close to where the leaders were
assembled holding their consultation of war. One of them, with more
sagacity than the rest, suggested that before they began the attack
they should demand the surrender of the fortress, threatening that if
this was not agreed to, they would immediately put to death the young
lord whom they had in their power.
One of their number was accordingly selected to act as herald, and
directed to proceed to the front gate, and to demand a parley. The man
thus honoured was a broad shouldered Celt, evidently more accustomed to
dig than to perform the part for which he had been appointed. He was
furnished, however, with a stick and white handkerchief fastened to it,
to act as a flag of truce, and urged to proceed at once on his mission.
He evidently did not like the task imposed on him, for Dermot heard
him explain that he was doubtful whether he could muster a sufficient
amount of Saxon to speak to the garrison.
Never fear that, was the answer; there are many who know Celtic
inside, and they'll not fail to understand you.
While these arrangements were being made the dawn broke. The herald
appeared before the gate, and was considerably astonished when told, in
reply to his demand, that the Earl declined holding any communication
with men in arms against their sovereign. But if we hang the Earl's
son if they don't let us in, what will he say to that? asked the
You will commit any outrage at your own peril, was the answer.
The Earl knows that you would not dare to hang his son, even if you
had him in your power. Do you expect to escape the vengeance of the
whole nation should you venture to commit any such atrocity. Go back
from whence you came; the Earl and all within this castle set you at
The herald, unwilling to go back to his companions with such an
answer, again asked if such was their ultimate resolution.
Yes. You will only bring destruction on your own head if you remain
where you are; and we again tell you, we defy you, answered the person
At last the herald returned to the council of war, which was still
sitting. The two guns were now brought forward and placed on an
elevated situation, for it had not occurred to their possessors that
the only service they could render would be to batter in the gates of
the castle. The men who had muskets made their appearance in the front
rank, thus to produce a more imposing effect. While these arrangements
were being made some of the men had been cutting down young trees in a
plantation close by. These they now fixed in a mound near the spot
where the guns were posted, and to their tops they secured a cross
beam. A rope was then produced.
We shall have to hang the boy if the Earl does not give in, Dermot
heard some of the people round about him observe.
I would gladly have escaped the work, remarked another. Yet if it
must be done, it must be.
Dermot watched these proceedings, and it would have been unnatural
if he had not felt a sensation of horror creeping over him. Should he
endeavour to save his life by declaring that he was not the Earl's son.
It naturally occurred to him to do this, and yet it would probably no
longer avail him. He nerved himself for the fate which seemed
inevitable. The preparations had been seen from the castle.
If you commit murder, shouted a voice from one of the turrets,
you will bring down the vengeance of heaven and of your country on
The chiefs continued their consultation. The discussion appeared to
be a warm one. Some of them got up and walked about, shaking their
fists at the castle.
It must be done! he heard several exclaim; it will strike terror
into the hearts of our Saxon persecutors. The boy must die. If we let
him escape they would declare that we were afraid, and that would make
them tyrannise more than ever over us. Several men now came to Dermot
and led him towards the gallows which he had seen erected. At the same
time an attempt was made to fire the guns placed on the height, but
neither of them went off.
The powder is bad, Dermot thought to himself; will it all be like
It was a curious thought at such a moment. He had nerved his heart
for the worst.
Again we ask, will you yield the castle? exclaimed several voices
from the height.
No, but if you injure that boy, vengeance will overtake you, was
The men uttered a hoarse laugh with some fearful oaths.
We shall soon see that. Bring him forward. Now, boy, are you
prepared for heaven? You will be there in a few minutes. But who are
you? exclaimed several voices.
Before Dermot could reply, the cloak he had hitherto worn fell from
his shoulders, and his dress and appearance showed that he was a very
different person to the young lord, whom they fancied they had
None of those present, however, seemed to know him. If he belongs
to these parts he must understand what we have said, exclaimed
O'Higgins, and if so, he may have gained more of our secrets than he
should know, a sufficient reason, if there were no other, to hang him.
Who are you? again asked O'Higgins; say, boy.
I am the son of Widow O'Neill, he answered, without trepidation,
in the native Irish in which he was addressed, and I am her mainstay
and support. If you hang me you will bring the malediction of Heaven,
and the widow's curse will rest upon you. If I know your secrets, I am
not about to divulge them; I am too much of an Irishman to do that, if
I give you my promise that I will not.
This answer seemed to have gained the good opinion of some of the
bystanders, but suddenly a man who recognised Dermot sprang up from
He has become a young heretic; he goes to the house of the
Protestant minister, you can never trust him after that, he exclaimed.
He knows our secrets, and it is dangerous that he should possess
them, observed two or three of the leaders, and it is evidently
necessary to put him out of the way.
Again there was a warm discussion among them, and the remarks of
most of the speakers were evidently averse to him.
He must diehe must die! exclaimed several voices, and Dermot
found himself once more hurried close up to the gallows.
The brutal fellow who had been selected to act as herald, provoked
by the reception he had met with, undertook to act as executioner.
Dermot's arms were bound tightly behind him, and he was again placed on
the pony from which he had dismounted. The rope was secured to the
beam, and the savage remorselessly prepared to adjust it round his
In another minute the young boy would have been put out of the world
by his savage countrymen, when a loud cry was heard, and a woman was
seen rushing towards the spot. A red cloak was over her shoulders; her
long dark hair streamed in the wind.
Who is it you are going to kill? Hold, hold, you savages! she
exclaimed in native Irish. Why, that is my own boy, the son of my
bosom. What harm could one so young and innocent as he is have done to
you? Which of you will dare to take the widow's only child from her?
Which of you will dare to commit a crime at which the most cruel of
savages would hesitate? Dark curses will rest upon your bodies here,
and on your souls for ever, if you dare to do so foul a deed. Would any
of you wish to bring down the bereaved widow's maledictions on your
heads? Let the boy go; he would never wish to harm one of you; a
true-hearted Irish lad. She rushed forward, no one venturing to stop
her. Like a tigress she flew at the man who held the rope in his hand,
and cast it off the neck of her son. Now let him go, she exclaimed,
throwing out her arm; I defy you all. Would any one dare to touch
him? With frantic gesture she released his arms which had been bound
behind him. Now let the minister's pony return to its home; he is far
too good a beast to serve any one of you. Come with me, Dermot, she
exclaimed, as the boy threw himself from the animal and stood by her
side. Shielding her son with her cloak, she led him forward, stretching
out her arm as if to drive back any who might venture to stop them, and
unmolested they took their way towards their home.
The same men who appeared thus abashed and confounded in the
presence of a weak woman, now, at the order of O'Higgins, began with
all the ferocity of wild beasts, to assault the castle. Again and again
they fired their field-pieces with no apparent effect. The men with
muskets, however, kept up a hot fire against every part of the building
where they thought a bullet might enter. The besieged, however, did not
reply to their fire. Not a single person in the castle was to be seen;
all apertures were closed, and the shot fell harmlessly against the
This determined silence somewhat disconcerted the rebels, who had
expected resistance, and hoped to find some point which they might more
easily assail. At length one of their leaders, with more military
genius than the rest, proposed bringing the guns down to the front
gate. In vain, however, the shots were fired against it; the gates were
of iron backed by wood, and the shots made no impression on them. It
was then determined to assault the castle by attempting to scale the
walls, and the men eagerly set to work to form ladders out of the
neighbouring woods. This, however, occupied some time, for although
there were plenty of workmen, they had few tools or nails, and after
two hours' labour, scarcely two dozen ill-constructed ladders had been
formed. With these, however, a band of daring men might possibly gain
The object of the assailants was suspected by those within; they
prepared accordingly to repel the attack whenever it might be made.
It appeared to the leader of the rebels that by assaulting the south
side of the castle they were most likely to prove successful. Thither
accordingly he led the main body of his men, while another party
continued to assail the front gate, and the remainder, concealed among
the walls and rough ground outside the castle, kept up a hot fire on
the battlements. At length the assailants, jumping down into the ditch,
placed their ladders against the walls. Up they began to climb with
loud shouts and imprecations on the heads of its defenders.
Unless this last attack should be met by a very determined
resistance, there appeared every probability of their succeeding, for
could they once gain a lodgment on the walls, they might easily drive
the small number of opponents who were likely to be within before them.
A determined band at last led the way, and reached the summit of the
walls. They were there met, however, by a party of the defenders of the
castle, led by the Earl himself. Unaccustomed to the use of swords, the
assailants were ill-able to defend themselves, as they attempted to
step upon the parapet, while the fire which their friends kept up from
the opposite side of the bank, killed several of them, though the
bullets failed to strike the defenders; they were therefore quickly
hurled down again, and the leading men, falling, struck the others who
were attempting to ascend, when all were precipitated into the ditch
together, the ladders being dislodged, and thrown down upon the wounded
and struggling mass. They had, however, too nearly succeeded to abandon
their project. They retreated with their ladders, which were soon
repaired, when with others in the meantime constructed, a still larger
force attempted to scale the walls.
Had we followed the widow and her son, Dermot would have been heard
expressing his satisfaction at seeing the white sails of the frigate,
which had so lately quitted the harbour, once more approaching the
shore, aided by a strong breeze from the north, which still continued
to blow. The insurgents were fortunately too much occupied in their
attack on the castle to notice her; she was, however, seen by its
defenders, and this greatly encouraged them in their resistance. Again
the rebels began to climb up their ladders,this time fully believing
they were sure of success. Already a large number were near the summit
threatening vengeance on the heads of all who opposed them, when there
suddenly arose a cry in their rear, of the red-coats! the red-coats.
Ay, and the blue-jackets too! shouted out a loud voice.
On lads, and drive the rascals into the sea. At this moment a
strong party of blue-jackets, headed by Captain Falkner, was seen
darting forward, while a body of marines followed with fixed bayonets
ready to charge. The rebels did not stop to encounter them. Those who
were on the ladders leaped hastily down, crushing many below them, and
then attempted to seek safety in flight. The marines and blue-jackets
advanced in double quick-time, clearing all before them. Very few of
the rebels offered resistance, and those who did were immediately cut
down. Many were taken prisoners, O'Higgins among them, and the rest
throwing down their arms, headed by the rest of their chiefs, fled as
fast as their legs could carry them into the country. They were pursued
for some distance, when, unwilling to destroy more of the misguided
men, Captain Falkner ordered the pursuit to cease, and returned with
his followers to the castle. He was received with warm thanks by the
Earl. It was extraordinary that not a single person had been hurt
within the walls of the castle, though the Earl acknowledged had the
rebels once succeeded in gaining the battlements, he could scarcely,
with his small garrison, have hoped to defend it against the numbers
which would have assailed them. Captain Falkner told him that after he
had left the bay, a fishing-boat came alongside with only one man in
her, who gave him the information of the proposed rising. Although he
did not believe that the castle would be attacked, he had in
consequence been induced to return as quickly as possible to an
anchorage in the bay, and he was thankful that he had not come back too
late. Part of the marines remained on shore to strengthen the garrison
of the castle, and strong parties were sent out in all directions, to
ascertain what had become of the rest of the rebels. A considerable
number of the misguided men were captured, but most of their leaders,
as is often the case under similar circumstances, managed to effect
their escape. The state of the country made it dangerous to send the
prisoners overland to Cork, they were, therefore, placed on board the
Cynthia, to be conveyed there by sea. O'Higgins had contrived to
divest himself of part of his dress before he was captured, and, owing
to this circumstance, he escaped being recognised as one of the leaders
of the rebels. Had Dermot been called upon to do so, he would, of
course, have been able to identify him; but, fortunately for him, no
one thought of summoning the fishwife's young son to give evidence, and
he was, therefore, allowed to remain quietly at home.
O'Higgins took the name of Higson, and asserted that he was a pedlar
travelling through the country, producing a licence in confirmation of
his statement, but had been compelled by the rebels to join them.
Several of the other prisoners were found ready to swear to the truth
of this statement. He, however, was found guilty; but instead of being
condemned to transportation to Botany Bay, was allowed the privilege of
entering as a seaman on board a man-of-war. He accepted the
alternative, hoping before long to make his escape. He, however, was
too narrowly watched to succeed in his object; and after being sent on
board a receiving ship, was, curiously enough, transferred to the
Cynthia, on board which frigate we shall soon again hear of him.
From the information Captain Falkner received he had reason to
believe that this first attempt of the insurgents having so completely
failed, and so many having been made prisoners, or killed, a further
rising in that part of the country would not be attempted. Still the
disturbed state of the district prevented the ladies from riding about
the country as had been their custom, and the Earl would not allow his
young son to go to any distance from the walls, nor even a short way
without a strong escort.
Young Fitz Barry consoled himself, therefore, by frequent visits on
board the frigate, where he soon became a great favourite with the
officers. Ah! he exclaimed, I wish my father would let me become a
midshipman. I would rather go to sea, than follow any other profession
in the world. Those were, perhaps, the most palmy days of England's
navy. It was the time when her greatest heroes were flourishing, and
the profession was looked upon as among the noblest a youth could
follow. The oftener Fitz Barry visited the frigate, the more anxious he
became to belong to her. The midshipmen, at first, encouraged him
rather as a joke than in earnest; but as they loved the profession
themselves, they were somewhat flattered by finding that the Earl's son
wished to join it also. On going on shore one day, he told his father
that he had made up his mind to become a sailor. The Earl at first
laughed at him, but he had never been in the habit of thwarting his
son, and when Fitz Barry assured him that he should pine and perhaps
die, unless he was allowed to have his will, the Earl declared that he
was a very obstinate boy, but would not throw any objection in his way.
Still, as he was not certain that his father was in earnest, he went to
Nora and Sophy, to get them to assist in pleading his cause. Lady Sophy
having herself made up her mind to marry a sailor, thought that there
was not a finer profession to be followed, and Nora, who loved Fitz
Barry with all her heart, could not think of doing otherwise than as he
wished. Besides, she confessed that a ship was a very beautiful thing,
and that she thought her dear brother must be happy on board, for
little did the young ladies know of the toils and dangers, the
hardships and the sufferings to which sailors are exposed, whatever
their rank. They had read to be sure of wrecks, of noble ships sinking
or being burned, of men being castaway on desert islands, with little
or no food on which to subsist, of boats long floating on the ocean,
till one by one those on board had died of starvation or thirst, or
from the exposure they were doomed to endure. To them all was bright
and attractive, and Fitz Barry, therefore, by dint of importunity, at
length prevailed upon his easy-going father, to allow him to join
Captain Falkner's beautiful frigate, the Cynthia, provided that
officer would take him. That matter he had left in the hands of his
cousin, Sophy, and he had no doubt that she would induce the captain to
receive him on board. He was perfectly right in his conjectures, for
the captain, as many other captains would have been, was very ready to
receive an Earl's son among his midshipmen. It was necessary for the
frigate to remain for some weeks after the late rising, to ascertain
that all was quiet before she could venture to quit the bay.
There was time, therefore, for Barry to be fitted out for sea, and
at length, just before the frigate sailed, he was received on board and
rated as a midshipman. He was good-natured and unaffected, was
intelligent and zealous in his new profession, had, moreover, plenty of
money, and these qualities soon made him a favourite with most of the
officers on board.
Captain Falkner having landed his prisoners at Cork, and remained
there till their trial was concluded, proceeded on to Plymouth, where
the young midshipman was to be provided with the remainder of his
outfit. The Cynthia was employed for some months as one of the
Channel fleet, and during that time had to pay several visits to the
coast of Ireland. Captain Falkner did not fail to look into Kilfinnan
Bay, and accompanied by Fitz Barry, to pay a visit to the castle. Great
was his satisfaction at finding that the family were still there, as he
had thus the opportunity of enjoying the society of Lady Sophy. Alas,
they little thought how long would be the separation they must after
this endure. Barry happened to inquire of his sister what had become of
the young fisher-boy who was so nearly hung instead of himself, and he
was told that he had disappeared from the place, and that no one knew
what had become of him. Such indeed was the case. Not long after the
attack of the rebels on the castle, one evening when the widow expected
Dermot to return, he did not make his appearance. In vain she waited
the livelong night; no Dermot came back to her. She watched and
watched, now she went to the cottage door and stopped to listen; now
she hastened down to the boat, that, however, was still moored in its
accustomed place. She took her way up to the downs. In vain she called
on Dermot; no answer came to her calls. She returned home to mourn and
to wonder what had become of her boy. He would not have left his mother
without telling her. He loved her too well, she was sure of that, and
yet who could have carried him away? Had the rebels done so? That
seemed but too likely, for they were too often wont to wreak their
vengeance on the heads even of those who could do them no further harm.
The morning came and found her still sitting at the open door, waiting
for the return of her boy. The sun rose over the rugged hills and shed
his rays down into the glen, tinging the points of the rocks on either
side, and casting a bright glow over the ocean; still Dermot did not
appear. She determined to go forth and search for him, but whither
should she go? He might have gone to the castle, but they surely would
not have detained him beyond the night, and he must soon then come
back. She waited all day, but when the night came on he had not
appeared. Weary and sad she sat down on the bench by the fireside, and
there at length fell asleep. She awoke by being conscious that some one
was present, and looking up saw by the light of the log which still
blazed on the hearth, the figure of poor mad Kathleen sitting before
You are sad, widowyou are sad, exclaimed the mad girl; it is
waiting for your son you are; and do you think that he will ever
return? It may be he will, but you will have many weary years to wait
What do you know of my boy? exclaimed the widow. Tell me,
Kathleen, tell me, girl, has any harm happened to him?
No; the harm is that he was weary of home, and has gone far away,
so I understand, if my poor brain has not misled me. Here, see, he gave
me this, and told me to bring it to you. It will tell you far more than
I can; it speaks words, though I cannot understand them.
No more can I, cried the widow in a tone of grief. Oh, that he
should have gone away and left his poor mother; but maybe in these
lines he will have told me why he has gone and when he will come back.
Still I do not know that I could have borne the parting from him even
had he gone with my consent. But those lines, girl, let me have them;
there are others can read them though I cannot. I wish it were the day,
that I might go forth and find some one to help me.
The widow took the paper which the mad girl gave her; it was a
letter of considerable length. As Dermot knew that his mother could not
have read it herself, he must have trusted to her finding some person
to perform that office for her.
The widow begged Kathleen to rest in her hut that night, hoping that
she might, during the time, gather some more information from her about
her son. All she could learn, however, was, that she had met Dermot on
the way to the south, some distance beyond the castle, and that he had
given her that letter, which he intended otherwise to have sent by the
post. Poor Kathleen then launched out in his praises, and declared that
she had never seen a lord his equal in these parts. The widow's first
impulse was to go and seek for Father O'Rourke, the person to whom the
peasantry, whenever they had any document to be read, generally
resorted. She remembered, however, his dislike to Dermot and the words
of anger with which they had parted from each other, and she therefore
felt a repugnance to let him see what her Dermot might have said to
her. Then there is the blind lady, she thought to herself; she
cannot see to read, however. Then there is the sweet young lady who
came here from the castle one day, and the little girl, the Earl's
daughter, but they are too grand to care for what a poor boy like
Dermot has to say. I will go, therefore, to Mr Jamieson, and get him to
read the letter. He is kind and gentle too, and may be he will give me
a word of comfort about my boy. Still I cannot understand why Dermot
should have gone away without saying a word of farewell to his poor old
Kathleen, for a wonder, gladly consented to rest at the widow's
cottage till the next morning. They then together took their way to the
vicarage. The widow found Mr Jamieson about to leave the house, yet he
kindly stopped to hear what she had to say to him. She presented the
letter, and telling him that she had only received it on the previous
evening, begged him to read it to her. He at once recognised the
handwriting of his pupil.
Ah, Widow O'Neill, he exclaimed, I find by this that your son is
away, and you must be prepared not to see him for some time. I scarcely
like to say that the lad has acted wrongly in what he has done. He
tells you, Mrs O'Neill, how he loves you, that he would die for you,
and that his great object is to go into the world, and to make a
fortune, and come home and support you. He says that he could not bring
himself to go through the pain of wishing you farewell. He would rather
go away without saying a word about it, or letting you know what were
his intentions, for he is sure you would not have prevented him, and he
would do anything to save you and himself from the agony of the parting
moment. I believe him, widow. I am sure that he has a gentle and a
loving heart, and that he speaks the truth when he gives that as his
reason for going away without seeing you. Yet it was to save you,
rather than himself, for he must have known when he left his home, that
he was gazing his last at you for many a day. Of one thing I am
certain, that his heart will not change, his love will not alter, and
that wherever he goes, you will be the chief person he will always
think of, and that he will look forward to seeing you again, as the
greatest joy which can be allowed him on earth.
The good minister believed that he spoke the truth, when he thus
attempted to comfort the bereaved mother. The widow returned home
feeling more consoled than could have been expected, for the loss of
Dermot. Kind Miss O'Reilly continued to pay her frequent visits, and
while the young ladies remained at the castle, they rode over under an
escort several times to see her. They heard with surprise of Dermot's
departure, and at first were inclined to think him hard-hearted and
ungrateful, but so ably did the widow defend her son, that they soon
agreed with her it was but natural a boy like Dermot should seek to see
more of the world than he could in that remote part of Ireland.
The Cynthia had been stationed for some months on the Irish
coast, when she stood for the last time into the bay, before taking her
As Captain Falkner had had an opportunity of letting the Earl know
his purpose, a large party were collected at the castle, to bid him and
the young hero farewell. Those were the days of profuse Irish
hospitality; the gentlemen with their wives and families for many miles
around had assembled.
The morning was spent in all sorts of sports, and the evening in
conviviality. Frequently a stag was turned out from a neighbouring
thicket, when a long run, sometimes across rivers, up and down hills,
by the borders of lakes, and over the roughest imaginable ground, took
place. Many falls were the consequence, in spite of the sturdy
character of the horses, and the admirable riding of the men, but few
were present who had not seen a companion dislocate his shoulder, and
not unfrequently terminate his career with a broken neck. It was not
unusual to see a hundred horses stabled in the castle at a time, some
of them belonging to the Earl, but a considerable number to his guests,
and the profuse hospitality of those days demanded that all the
attendants should be well cared for within the walls of the castle. The
dinner hour was somewhat early, that a longer period might be devoted
to the after carousal. The cellars usually contained numerous hogsheads
of claret, whilst stronger wines and whisky were on hand for those of
less refined tastes. But the Irish gentleman rather prided himself on
the quantity of claret he could imbibe, and yet be able to retire with
steady steps to bed, or if necessary to mount his horse and return home
by cross roads without breaking his neck, or finding himself at sunrise
just waking out of sleep in a dry ditch.
Although the Earl himself did not over indulge in the pleasures of
the table, he had been too long habituated to the custom to discourage
it in others, and thus his legitimate income was inadequate to supply
the expenses of the profuse hospitality he kept up.
The ladies retired early from the table, when the slight restraint
their presence imposed being removed, the bottle began to circulate
even more freely than before. Songs were sung, toasts were given, and
the health of the young heir of Kilfinnan was drunk with uproarious
cheers. May he be as fine a man as his father, and an honour to the
noble profession he has chosen, though faith! I'd rather he followed it
than I myself, exclaimed a red-nosed squire from the lower end of the
table, May he live to see his grandchildren around him, and may the
old castle stand as long as the round world endures.
Sure a finer young sailor never placed foot on the deck of a
man-of-war, echoed another landowner of the same stamp. May he come
back a captain at the least, and take the lead in the field in many a
hard day's run. Similar compliments were uttered in succession for
some time. Fitz Barry took them very quietly, indeed he at length
became utterly weary of the proceedings. In truth also, the thoughts of
leaving home and his sweet young sister and his cousin Sophy, whom he
loved like one, made him somewhat sad, and little able to enter into
the conversation going forward. He did not, however, allow either Sophy
or Nora to discover how much he felt.
The next morning, farewells over, he went on board the frigate,
without much prospect of returning home for three years or more. As she
under all sail stood out of the bay, he cast many a lingering glance at
the old castle, and the well-known bold outlines of the shore. At
Plymouth, to which port the frigate had been ordered to proceed,
several fresh hands were entered to make up the complement of her
proper crew. They were of all descriptions, but Captain Falkner soon
discovered that there was scarcely a seaman among them. Officers in
those days, when men were scarce, had to form their crews out of the
most heterogeneous materials. He was receiving a report of them from
his first lieutenant. Here is a fellow, sir. He has been sent to us
from the tender, and has entered under the name Higson, and says he is
an Englishman, though he is evidently Irish by his tongue, and the cut
of his features and general appearance from head to foot. He knows
little enough of a seaman's duties, but is a stout, strong fellow, and
we may in time lick him into shape. I am advised to keep an eye on him
while we remain in harbour, lest he should take French leave, and
forget to return on board.
We must keep him, answered the captain; we are bound for the West
Indies, you know, and shall require every man we can lay hold of.
This settled the pointO'Higgins the rebel leader, or rather
Higson, as he called himself, was regularly entered on the books of the
Cynthia. He, in vain, made several efforts to escape; once he
narrowly escaped, being shot in the attempt. He had jumped into a boat
at night, and was pulling away from the ship when he was overtaken, and
being brought back was put into irons till the frigate sailed. Had he
been in Cork harbour, he would have had little difficulty in effecting
his purpose. Hearing, however, that a son of the Earl of Kilfinnan was
on board, he consoled, himself with the reflection that he should have
an opportunity of wreaking his vengeance on the head of the midshipman.
How the lad had in any way given him cause of offence, none but a
distorted imagination could have supposed. He had certainly attempted
for a very indefinite object of his own to burn down the Earl's
residence and to murder the inhabitants, and because he had been foiled
in the attempt, captured and punished, he persuaded himself that he was
fully justified in desiring to kill or injure the Earl's unoffending
son. Such, however, was the style of reasoning in which so-called Irish
patriots of those days, and, perhaps, in later times, were apt to
At length, powder and stores having been received on board, and two
or three gun-room officers and several passed midshipmen having joined,
the Cynthia made sail, and standing out of the harbour, a course
was shaped for the West Indies, her destined station.
The frigate had been for some time at sea, and during a light wind
she fell in with a homeward bound merchantman. These were the days of
the press-gang, and under such circumstances every merchantman was
visited, that the seamen on board who had not a protection might be
carried off to serve in the Royal Navy. This was a cruel regulation,
but, at the same time, it seemed the only feasible one to our
forefathers for manning the king's ships. Often good men were thus
picked up, but more frequently bad and discontented ones. The merchant
ship was ordered to heave to, and the second lieutenant, with a boat's
crew armed to the teeth, went on board. The whole of the crew were
directed to come upon deck. Their names were called over, and three
able seamen were found who did not possess a protection. They were
immediately ordered to go over the side into the boat.
Are there any others who wish to volunteer on board? asked the
lieutenant. There was some hesitation among them, when two youngsters
stepped forward in front of the rest. The master endeavoured to prevent
them from speaking; but the lieutenant telling them to say what they
wished, they at once begged that they might be allowed to join the
frigate. They were both fine active-looking lads, and seemed cut out to
make first-rate seamen. The lieutenant eyed them with approbation.
You will do, my lads, he observed. In a couple of years or less,
you will make active top-men.
The master was very indignant at being thus deprived of part of his
crew; but he had no remedy, and was obliged to submit.
A pleasant voyage to you, Captain Dobson, said the lieutenant.
You will manage to find your way up Channel without these few men I
have taken from you, and depend upon it they will be better off than
they would have been spending their time at Wapping until all their
money was gone; a truth which even the master could not deny.
The merchantman sailed on her way, and the boat having returned on
board the frigate, was hoisted up again, when her sails being trimmed,
the Cynthia once more stood on her course. The new-comers soon
made themselves at home with the crew. Those who watched the lads might
have seen an expression of astonishment pass over the countenance of
one of them when he found himself on board the Cynthia. Soon
after this they were brought up before the first lieutenant, to undergo
the usual examination. He soon finished with the men, who had the
ordinary account to give of themselves. One of the young lads said he
belonged to Dartmouth in England, and that having run away from home he
had joined the merchantman, from which he had volunteered, and he was
entered by the name of Ned Davis.
And what is your name, my lad? he asked, turning to the youngest
of the two.
Charles Denham, sir, he answered.
That is an English name, and you speak with an Irish accent.
My mother was an Irish woman, answered the lad, with a blush on
And who was your father, then? asked the lieutenant.
Sir, I came on board to serve his Majesty, and I hope to do so
faithfully, replied the lad, as if he had not heard the question put
There is some of the true metal in that boy, observed the first
lieutenant, turning to an officer near him. I must keep an eye upon
him. He will make a smart seaman in a short time. He is just one after
the captain's own heart.
The young volunteer did not hear these observations, or they would
have given him the encouragement of which, he somewhat felt the want.
The lads were told their numbers and the mess to which they would
belong. Ned Davis and Charles Denham returned together to the lower
deck. They found, after they had been some time below, that the crew
were far from satisfied with their officers. They discovered that the
ringleader was a certain John Higson, who was ready to find fault with
everything that took place. He was what is generally called at sea, a
king's hard bargain, or in other words, not worth his salt. He was one
of those men who do a great deal of mischief on board a ship, and are
generally known by the name of a sea lawyer. The two lads, however,
seemed resolved to do their duty in spite of anything that might occur.
They had before, it appeared, heard Captain Falkner spoken of, and knew
he had the character of being a just officer, though somewhat strict.
It soon appeared, indeed, that he had a very unruly ship's company to
deal with, and one that required a good deal of management to bring
into order. Had it not been for Higson, and other men like him, this
might easily have been accomplished; but whatever was done Higson was
sure to put a wrong interpretation upon it. Still, the best men found
themselves well treated, and spoken kindly to by their officers. By
degrees flogging decreased, though occasionally some were brought up to
suffer that punishment. In those days an officer might order it to be
inflicted on any one of the crew, and sometimes this was done for
slight offences. Captain Falkner, however, reserved it for those who
seemed determined to neglect their duty, or to get drunk, or act
disrespectfully to their officers. Higson was himself too clever ever
to get punished, though more than once he was the cause of others
becoming sufferers. At length the West Indies were reached, and the
frigate brought up in Kingston Harbour, Jamaica.
Unfortunately, Captain Falkner was taken ill, and it became
necessary for him to go and reside on shore. The first lieutenant,
though a kind officer, had not the talent of his superior, and thus the
ship once more fell into the condition in which it had previously been.
It being found that Captain Falkner did not recover, the admiral of the
station ordered the Cynthia to put to sea under the command of
the first lieutenant. She cruised for some time in search of an enemy,
but none was to be found, and sickness breaking out on board, a good
many of the men were laid up in their hammocks. Meantime, young Lord
Fitz Barry had become a great favourite with his brother officers on
board. Indeed, from his youth he was somewhat of a pet among them. He
was not a little made of by the first lieutenant and the other
officers, not so much because he was a lord, but because he was a
kind-hearted, generous little fellow. He had, however, been imbued by
his captain with very strict notions of duty, and, young as he was,
when sent away with a boat's crew he kept them in as strict order as
any of the older midshipmen could have done. On one occasion when sent
on shore to bring off wood and water from an uninhabited part of the
southern shore of Saint Domingo, some of his boat's crew insisted on
going up into the interior. His orders had been not to allow them to go
out of sight of the boat, and should any person appear from the shore,
immediately to shove off and return to the ship. When, however, they
were told by Fitz Barry to remain where they were, they laughed at him,
and began to move off into the country. He instantly drew a pistol from
his belt, and hastened after them, threatening to shoot the nearest man
if they did not instantly return. Still they persevered, and according
to his threat, the young lord fired his pistol, and hit one of the
mutineers in the arm, and immediately drawing a second pistol, he
threatened to treat another in the same way. This brought the mutineers
to reason, and turning round they sulkily followed him towards the
boat. Here the wounded man insisted on having his revenge, and tried to
persuade the rest of the boat's crew to throw the young lord overboard.
The two lads who had come on board from the merchantman had been
appointed to the boat, both of them by this time being strong enough to
pull an oar. They, however, instead of siding with the rest of the
crew, had remained in the boat, and declared that if a hand was laid
upon Lord Fitz Barry, they would denounce the rest to their commander.
And we will heave you youngsters overboard with him, exclaimed the
men, enraged at being thus opposed.
At your peril, answered Charles Denham; I am not one to be cowed
by your threats. The man who was shot only got his deserts, and it will
serve you all right if Lord Fitz Barry reports you when he gets on
This plain speaking still further enraged the rest of the boat's
crew. At the same time, unless they had been prepared to kill their
young officer and the two lads, they had no resource but to submit.
They had pulled off some little distance from the shore when they again
threatened to throw all three overboard, unless they would promise not
to report them. This Lord Fitz Barry refused to do.
No, he said, keeping the other pistol in his hand. It is for me
to command you. You disobeyed orders and now must take the
He reflected that if he returned and let their conduct go
unpunished, it might lead to still more serious disobedience. He,
therefore, as soon as he got on board, reported the whole affair to the
commanding officer, at the same time taking care to praise the two lads
who had so bravely stood by him. The consequence was, that the whole of
the boat's crew were brought to the gangway and severely flogged.
The effect of the severe, though just, punishment inflicted on the
boat's crew who had misbehaved themselves under the command of Lord
Fitz Barry was to produce much ill-will among a considerable number of
the crew, increased, as before, by Higson's instigations. The officers
were not aware, however, of what was taking place. The men, although
sometimes exhibiting sulky looks when ordered about their duty,
continued to perform it as usual. The two young volunteers, it
appeared, had been better brought up than the generality of seamen.
Both, from their earliest days, had been accustomed to offer up a
prayer before turning in at night. This practice on board a man-of-war
it was very difficult, if not almost impossible, to keep up. They
agreed, however, that they would steal down when they could to the
fore-part of the orlop deck, and there, in a quiet corner near the
boatswain's store-room, they might have the opportunity of kneeling
down together, and offering up their prayers in silence. This practice
they had continued unsuspected for some time. In those days such a
thing was almost unheard of on board a man-of-war. At the present time,
however, there are not only many praying seamen on board ship, but
prayer meetings are often held, and a very considerable number of some
ships' crews are now able to join them. On one occasion, after it had
been blowing hard, and the lads had been aloft for a considerable time,
they were both very weary, and after kneeling down and offering up
their prayers as usual, they leaned back, sitting on the coils of a
cable, with the intention of talking together. In a short time,
however, both fell asleep. How long they slept they did not know, but
they were awoke by hearing voices near them. Without difficulty they
recognised the speakers. Higson was among the principal of them. They
listened attentively. Had they been discovered, they felt sure, from
what they heard, that their lives would have paid the forfeit. It was
proposed to seize the ship and put the officers on shore, or should
they offer any resistance to kill them, as had in another instance been
done, and then after going on a buccaneering cruise, to carry the ship
into an American port and sell her, the men hoping to get on shore to
enjoy their ill-gotten booty.
A few years before this a large portion of the English fleet had
mutinied, but they had had many causes of complaint; still their crime
was inexcusable. Most of the ringleaders suffered punishment, and the
crews were pardoned. This lesson seemed to be lost, however, upon
Higson and his associates. They had inflamed each other's minds with
descriptions of the pleasures they would enjoy on shore, and of the
hardships they had at present to undergo. The young lads dared not
move. Every moment they expected to be discovered. Some of the
mutineers, more sanguine than the rest, expressed their determination
to wreak their vengeance upon those who had chiefly offended them, and
young Lord Fitz Barry, with several others, were singled out to undergo
the punishment of death. The first lieutenant also was to be among
their victims. The lads could not tell what hour it was, nor how long
they would have to remain in their present position. They dreaded that
the mutineers would instantly go on deck and carry out their nefarious
plans. Young Denham's chief wish was to hurry off and warn those who
had been chiefly threatened. If the officers have time to show a bold
front, the men will not dare to act against them, he thought; but if
they are taken by surprise, the mutineers will treat them as wild
beasts treat the animals which they have caught in their clutches, and
will be sure to tear them in pieces. If they once get the upper hand,
they will kill them all, just as they did in the ship I have heard of,
when scarcely one officer was allowed to escape. At length they heard
the morning watch called, and not till then did the mutineers leave the
place. The lads waited till they believed that everybody was on deck,
and then cautiously climbing up the ladder, stole away to their own
hammocks. As the middle watch was only then turning in, they were not
observed, and they lay there till they concluded that all those
surrounding them had gone to sleep. Denham then proposed going and
warning the officers. Ned Davis begged that he himself might go.
No, said Denham, I will go alone and tell the commander what I
Denham had scarcely got as far as the door of the captain's cabin,
now occupied by the first lieutenant, when the sentry stopped him.
You cannot pass here, he said, putting him back as he, in his
eagerness, pressed on.
But I tell you I have a matter of importance to speak to the
commander about, said Denham boldly. It will be at your own risk if
you stop me.
You can tell one of the other officers in the gun-room, said the
No; it is for the commanding officer alone, responded Denham. I
will speak to him only.
Just then the first lieutenant himself appeared at the door.
I want to speak to you, sir, said Denham eagerly.
Come in. What is it about? inquired the first lieutenant.
If you will go where no one else will hear me, I will tell you,
The lieutenant retired into the inner cabin.
Now, what is it, my lad? he asked.
Denham then told him of the plot to which he had become privy, for
taking the ship from the officers. In later days such information would
have been laughed at, but unhappily in those days such occurrences had
become too frequent to allow the commanding officer to disbelieve his
Stay here, my lad, said the first lieutenant, if you go forward
again, and the men suspect you of having informed against them, you
will be among the first victims.
Arming himself with a brace of pistols, and taking his sword in his
hand, he went into the gun-room. He here aroused the officers, and
telling them what he had heard, ordered them immediately to repair on
deck, sending some of them to call up the midshipmen and the warrant
officers. The marines were then ordered to muster on deck under arms,
while several of the petty officers whom it was known could be trusted
were also called aft; a guard was then placed over the magazine, and
the two after guns were hauled in and trained forward. These
preparations were made so suddenly and so quietly that even the watch
on deck were scarcely aware of what was going forward. There was no
time to lose, for while those preparations were going on, Ned Davis,
who had been on the watch, made his way aft with the information that a
number of the men were collecting together forward, armed with all the
weapons they could lay hold of, and that from the threats they were
uttering they evidently intended to make a sudden dash aft, in the
expectation of surprising the officers before they had left their
berths. It was very evident that they would have done so had it not
been for the warning conveyed by Denham.
When the sun, as it does in those latitudes, suddenly burst above
the waters, and darkness rapidly gave place to daylight, the officers
and the marines were found drawn up on the quarter-deck, and the
mutineers who, at that moment, made a sudden rush aft along the main
deck, found themselves confronted by a body of marines, who issued from
the gun-room; others who came along the upper deck also saw that their
plot was discovered, and that they had not a hope of success. The drum
then beat to quarters, and all hands were summoned on deck. The first
lieutenant now stepping forward, exclaimed, What is it you want, my
lads? if you are treated with injustice, say so. If you have anything
else to complain of, let me know, but, as you see, your mutinous
intentions are discovered, and let me tell you that those who are
guilty will receive the punishment which they merit. Not a man spoke
in return for some time. At length several coming aft, declared they
knew nothing about the intentions of the rest, when it was found that
the mutineers consisted chiefly of the Irish rebels who had been put on
board at Cork, and of a few smugglers and gaol-birds who had been won
over by Higson.
Some of you will grace the yard-arm before long, observed the
first lieutenant, but I intend to give you another trial. I have no
wish that any man should die for this day's work, however richly some
of you may deserve it. Those who prove faithful to their duty will find
that they are rewarded, and those who act as traitors to their king and
country will discover, too late, that they will not go unpunished. Now
The mutiny which at first threatened such serious consequences, by
the determination of the first lieutenant was then happily quelled, and
the ship soon after returned to Port Royal. Here Captain Falkner was
found sufficiently recovered to resume his command. The men soon
discovered that he had been informed of the mutiny. He told the men so
in very explicit terms. Adding
You have brought disgrace on yourselves, men, and on the ship, in a
way which makes me ashamed of you, but I hope before long, that we
shall fall in with an enemy, and that then I shall find you wipe it
out, by the gallantry of your conduct. The men on hearing these words,
cheered their captain, and from that day forth he had no cause to
complain of the general conduct of the ship's company. They were
continually on the look-out for an enemy's cruiser. Several merchant
vessels were taken and sent into port, and a small brig-of-war was
captured, without having fired a shot in her own defence. The
midshipmen were always encouraged by their captain to exercise
themselves by running aloft over the masthead, and sliding down by the
different ropes which led on deck. Sometimes the game of follow my
leader was played; the most active lad leading the way. Now to the
mizen-mast-head, next to the main-topgallant-mast-head, and so on to
the foremast, and finally, perhaps down to the bowsprit end. Now like
monkeys, they were seen to run out on the yard-arms, and it seemed
wonderful that they could, at the rate they went, escape falling. On
one occasion, during a game, both the midshipmen and the ship's boys
were thus amusing themselves. Several of the top-men were on the
main-top-mast yard. A sudden splash was heard. A man overboard! was
the cry. Quick as lightning a ship's boy was seen gliding down a
backstay. As he touched the hammock-nettings, instead of jumping down
on deck, he plunged overboard.
A shark! a shark! was heard, uttered in tones of horror by several
voices on deck. The order was given to lower a boat. Gratings and oars
and spars were hove overboard. A short way from the ship, a young fair
face was seen floating upwards, while Charles Denham, who it appeared
had sprung overboard, was striking out rapidly towards him. The
attention of all on board was directed to the spot. Had it not been for
fear of the voracious monster of the deep, many might have jumped
overboard to assist, still they shouted and kept throwing in things, to
distract, if possible, the attention of the shark, from the lad in the
water. Denham knowing well the enemy he had to contend with, continued
striking the water with all his might with his feet, as he swam
forward, shouting at the same time. But young Lord Fitz Barry, for it
was he who had tumbled overboard, lay perfectly unconscious, and it
seemed too probable would become a prey to the monster. Already its
dark fin was seen not far off, but the boat had now touched the water,
and an eager crew was pulling towards the lads. Denham's hand was
already under the head of the young lord, whom he supported, while he
struck out with his feet and other hand. A shark, however ferocious,
will seldom attack a person who is in constant movement, and by his
shouts and splashing, Denham thus contrived to keep the monster at a
distance. The boat approached. Those in the bows leant over to drag in
the young lord.
Never mind me, exclaimed Denham, as he helped to lift him into the
But we must mind you, answered a man, or that brute will have you
Denham's hands were on the gunnel of the boat, when the black fin,
at a short distance off, disappeared under the water. A strong, tall
topman was standing in the boat. He leaned over, and seizing Denham in
his arms lifted him up; but scarcely had his feet got above the
surface, when the monster's enormous pair of jaws were seen to rise
close to it. Young Denham was saved, but few have run a greater risk of
losing their lives. In the meantime the young lord lay unconscious in
the bow of the boat.
We must get him on board at once, exclaimed the officer who had
come in her. He is alive though, and must be put under the doctor's
The boat immediately returned on board.
It was found that Lord Fitz Barry had fallen upon his side when
dropping into the water, and that the whole of that part of his body
was for the time paralysed. Still, in a short time he returned to
consciousness, but some time elapsed before he had recovered. His chief
anxiety seemed to be to express his gratitude to the lad who had saved
him. Denham modestly replied that he had only done his duty, though he
was not insensible of the young lord's kind feelings.
When Lord Fitz Barry was sufficiently recovered the captain invited
him, as was the custom, to dine at his table, and the subject of his
fall was alluded to.
If you can do me a favour, sir, he observed, and in any way
reward the boy who saved my life, I should indeed be grateful. There is
something in him which prevents me from venturing to offer him money. I
am sure he would prize promotion of some sort more than anything else.
He seems to me as he walks the deck to be superior to all the other
lads, and to be more like a gentleman than any of them.
We will keep an eye on him, Fitz Barry, answered the captain, with
a smile. I have watched him on many occasions; and if I understand
rightly, this is not the first time he has rendered you a service. What
do you say? Shall we place him on the quarter-deck? What would your
messmates say to that?
There is not one of them who would not be pleased, sir, answered
the young lord. They all think well of him; and since that boat
affair, when, I believe, if it had not have been for him, those
villains would have hurled me overboard, they have all wished that he
would get some reward.
He was the lad, sir, who gave me the information of the intended
mutiny, so that really, I believe, he was the means of preserving all
our lives, and preventing fearful disgrace being brought upon the
service, observed the first lieutenant.
Well, I do not like to make such promotions in a hurry, answered
the captain; but from what I have heard of the lad, if he is found to
possess a fair amount of education, I shall be very glad to offer him
the opportunity of being placed on the quarter-deck.
But he looks to me such a clever fellow, said Lord Fitz Barry,
that I am sure he would soon learn to read and write, if he cannot
The captain talked the matter over for some time with the first
lieutenant, and it was arranged that the young volunteer should
forthwith be placed in the midshipman's berth. To Fitz Barry's infinite
satisfaction, next morning, after divisions, while all the officers
were assembled on the quarter-deck, Charles Denham was summoned aft.
Charles Denham is, I believe, your name, said the captain. You
have on more than one occasion done good service since you joined this
ship, besides which, your general conduct is unexceptionable. The other
day, at the risk of your own life, you saved that of young Lord Fitz
Barry. Now, I believe, had it been the youngest boy in the ship, you
would have done the same; but Lord Fitz Barry is very anxious, as I am,
that you should receive some mark to show you that your conduct is
appreciated. He is not able to reward you himself, I therefore ask you
whether for the future you would like to walk the quarter-deck as an
officer. Through his Majesty's bounty you will have the means of doing
so, and I shall have myself the satisfaction of aiding you to support
your new rank. To no one else need you be indebted, and I hope in a
short time that you will, by obtaining promotion, be independent of any
aid beyond what you yourself can obtain.
Then turning to the midshipmen, he asked them whether they would be
glad to receive the young sailor among them as a messmate. Three cheers
was the answer given by the warm-hearted lads.
We are very sure that he will not only do us credit, but gain
honour for our berth, exclaimed several of them; and again they
cheered their new messmate warmly.
It would be impossible to describe Denham's feelings, and perhaps
few among them knew how anxious he had been to obtain the rank which
was now bestowed upon him. But few days had passed since Denham had put
on a uniform, and walked the quarter-deck as a midshipman, and yet in
manner and appearance he was fully equal to any of his messmates. He
carried on all his duties with the air of a young officer, and
evidently understood them thoroughly. By his manners and conduct on all
occasions, he quickly won his way in the esteem of his messmates, while
his rise did not excite the envy of those below him. Ned Davis did not
appear to wish to leave the position he himself occupied. Indeed, he
seemed rather anxious to be an humble follower of the young midshipman
than to be raised to an equality with him.
Some months had passed away, and several very gallant actions had
been performed by the officers and crew of the Cynthia, mostly
in cutting-out expeditions, when Denham behaved with great gallantry.
As he was much stronger, and more active than Fitz Barry, he always
constituted himself the protector of the young lord whenever it was his
duty to take a part in any of these expeditions.
On one occasion the frigate was off one of the French islands, and
in a harbour protected by a fort on either side, several privateers and
other armed vessels were discovered at anchor. As they were craft
likely to do much damage to English merchant shipping, Captain Falkner
resolved, though it was an undertaking of considerable risk, to cut
them out. He stood off from the land towards evening, so as to give the
Frenchmen the idea that he had gone away altogether. As evening
approached, however, he once more stood back for the harbour. They
hoped to avoid the observations of the sentries in the forts. Full
directions were given to officers in charge of each boat. The larger
vessels were to be assailed first, and two boats were to board one
vessel on either quarter at the same moment. Mr Evans had directed
Denham to attack the same vessel that he proposed boarding. There were
six boats, so that three privateers would be attacked simultaneously.
Mr Evans judged, by this means, that the enemy's attention being
distracted, they would be prevented from coming to each other's
assistance. A light breeze blew out of the harbour, which would enable
them, as soon as the cables were cut, to carry the vessels off without
difficulty. Not a word was spoken. The muffled oars sent forth no sound
till the boats pulled up before the forts. Denham's heart beat high. He
knew that he should now have an opportunity of distinguishing himself,
especially under the eye of the first lieutenant, who had hitherto
always proved his friend. Gradually, through the gloom of night, the
masts and spars of the vessels to be attacked rose up before them.
Leaving the line, he followed the boat of the first lieutenant towards
a large brig which lay moored furthest out in the harbour. They were on
the point of hooking on when shouts arose from her deck. They found
that they were discovered; but this did not hinder them from an attempt
to board. Before the Frenchmen could tell which part of the vessel they
were about to attack, they sprang up the sides of the brig, and threw
themselves on board. Part of the French crew having had no time to arm
themselves, fled before them to the fore-part of the vessel, where,
however, having rallied, they again rushed aft, and a furious
hand-to-hand encounter took place. Fitz Barry had followed Denham on
board, and the young lord, pistol in hand, was advancing by the side of
his messmate. Led by Mr Evans, the English crew dashed forward till
they reached the forecastle, where the French, apparently determined to
resist to the last, fought bravely. Once more they pushed the English
hard. Pistol-shots were rapidly exchanged, and the clash of cutlasses
was heard, echoed from the decks of the other vessels, which were now
also fiercely attacked. Some of the French crew who had gone down below
now appeared on deck fully armed, and it appeared very doubtful whether
even English courage, and English determination, would succeed in
overcoming the enemy. The struggle continued. Again the enemy, led by a
huge Frenchman, who appeared to be one of their officers, drove back
the English some feet along the deck. He had singled out Mr Evans, the
first lieutenant, apparently with the intention of cutting him down,
being evidently himself a first-rate swordsman. Already the English
lieutenant's guard was thrown down, and the Frenchman had lifted his
cutlass and was about to bring it down on his head, when Denham sprang
forward and discharged his pistol at the Frenchman. The bullet struck
him on the right arm and the weapon fell to the deck. Mr Evans,
recovering his sword, gave him a thrust, which sent him backwards among
his men. The fall of their leader discouraged the French, who giving
way, the English found themselves in possession of the brig. The cable,
as had been agreed upon, was immediately cut. Hands were sent aloft to
loose the fore-topsail, and the head of the prize coming round, she was
steered out towards the mouth of the harbour. Denham now had time to
look around and ascertain what had become of Lord Fitz Barry, who was
nowhere to be seen. He made inquiries of the men to learn when they had
last seen him. No one knew. They had observed him on deck standing
close to his brother midshipman, but after that, no one could give an
account of him. Denham began to be greatly alarmed, fearing that the
young lord had been thrown overboard, or that he might in the melee
have fallen down below; but at that moment he was unable to make any
further inquiries; for, as the mouth of the harbour was approached, the
forts on either side opened their fire on the prize. Although the brig
offered a better mark than the boats would have done, still, as the
night continued very dark, and no noise was made on board, the gunners
in the forts could not ascertain in which direction to fire. The French
prisoners were as eager as the English to keep quiet, because the shots
which fell on board were as likely to injure them as to hurt their
captors. The same reason perhaps prevented them from attempting to
regain the vessel while the English were engaged in steering her out of
the harbour. At length she was got clear and stood for the frigate,
which now showed a bright light for her guidance; the firing having
given her notice that the exploit had been attempted, although Captain
Falkner, at that time, could not have told whether it had been
successful or not. Mr Evans now directed that the lantern should be
lighted, in order that the French prisoners might be secured, and that
it might be seen what damage had been done to the vessel. While going
round the decks with a lantern, Denham discovered between the guns the
form of his young messmate. A feeling of dread came over his heart.
Could he have been killed and fallen down there? He lifted him up, and
anxiously examined his countenance.
Speak, speak. Fitz Barry, he exclaimed eagerly. Do tell me if you
are hurt, or where you have been wounded.
Yes, I am hurt, somewhat badly I am afraid, answered Fitz Barry,
at length, in a faint voice. I was thrown down there by the Frenchmen
we were fighting with, and I was unable after that to move. I did not
like to cry out, remembering that we were passing the fort; and soon
after that, I suppose, I fainted.
I thank heaven that you are able to speak thus, said Denham, and
we shall soon be on board the frigate, and the doctor will look to your
Mr Evans had the satisfaction of observing two other vessels
following him out of the harbour, while a bright light which burst
forth some way up it showed that the other boats had had time to set
some merchantmen on fire. War is a fearful thing at all times, but more
sad even is it when it compels the destruction of private property.
No one, however, would have objected to the destruction of
privateers. It is pretty well agreed they partake more of the character
of pirates than honourable combatants; their only object is to rob the
merchantmen of the enemy, so as to become themselves the possessors of
their rich freight. They do not fight for honour or glory, and they
care as little for the good of their country. It is true, however, that
the privateers, by injuring the commerce of the enemy, frequently make
that enemy more anxious to come to terms, but in most cases both
parties are engaged in the same infamous system; both equally suffer,
and both increase the horrors and sufferings of warfare.
When morning dawned, the prizes were found collected round the
frigate. Denham's first care was to get the wounded young midshipman
conveyed on board, that the doctor might immediately look at his hurts.
He did not attempt to conceal his sorrow and anxiety. He seemed to feel
that it was from his carelessness by some means or other the poor lad
had been injured. Mr Evans had a very different account to give of him,
however, and at once generously informed Captain Falkner that it was to
his nerve and courage that he himself owed his life.
The Frenchmen were removed on board the frigate, and an English
prize crew being placed on board each of the prizes, they and their
captor steered a course for Jamaica. Captain Falkner offered to place
Denham in command of one of the prizes, but his anxiety for young Lord
Fitz Barry made him beg that he might be allowed to remain on board the
A considerable time had passed since the arrival of the Cynthia
on the station. A season dreaded by all navigators of those seas was
now approachingthe hurricane season. Fearful is the devastation often
produced on shore and on the ocean at that period. Not many years
before several line of battle ships and other vessels had either
foundered with their crews, or had been driven on shore, where the
larger number of the men belonging to them had perished. Captain
Falkner was anxious, therefore, to get back without delay to Port Royal
harbour. They were, however, within a couple of days' sail of Jamaica
when the frigate was becalmed; during the middle of the day, although a
thick mist overspread the sky and hid the rays of the sun, the heat was
excessive. Below the ship was like an oven, on deck not a breath of air
was to be obtained. The men, in their white shirts and trousers, moved
languidly about, literally gasping for breath. The sails hung uselessly
down against the masts, and the frigate's head went slowly round and
round, now pointing in one direction and now in another, though it was
difficult to say by what power she was moved.
The heat affected young Barry greatly. Denham sat by his side
whenever he could leave his duty on deck, anxiously watching his
friend. Ned Davis also came where the wounded midshipman lay, and
begged that he might be allowed to take Denham's place by his side. It
was curious to observe how Denham had won the lad's affection and
admiration. There seemed to have been no previous tie between them;
they had met, it was understood, for the first time as shipmates on
board the merchantman from which they had volunteered, and it was
possible neither of them knew much about each other's previous history.
No nurse could have administered the medicine prescribed by the doctor
with more care and regularity than did Denham and his volunteer
I hope I shall not die, said Fitz Barry, taking his hand, I want
very much again to see my kind father, and my dear little sister Nora,
whom I have told you about, and my cousin Sophy; and do you know, I
think I shall see them before long. The last letter I got from home, my
father told me that he expected to obtain an appointment as governor of
one of the West India islands. It is not a thing he would have accepted
under ordinary circumstances, but the truth is, I suspect, that it has
been very expensive living in Ireland for the last few years, and he
thinks it will be wise to economise a little. I do not know much about
these things; he has supplied me liberally with money, and that is all
I have to think about. I believe Captain Falkner expects to see him out
here, for he spoke of him the other day, and you know, I do not mind
telling you, that I believe our skipper is going to marry Sophy one of
these days. I am sure you would like her and my sister if you ever were
to see them. I do not know which you would like best. Nora is a very
sweet little girl, or at least, by the bye, she must have grown since I
left home a good deal. She is older than I am rather, and so fair and
gentle, but she has not the spirit of Sophy, or her cleverness; Sophy
is a wonderfully clever girl, she draws so well. She used to make such
beautiful portraits of people. However, I must not praise her too much,
or you may possibly be disappointed.
Denham told Fitz Barry that he should very much like to be
introduced to his relations; but you know, he observed, I am afraid
they will think very little of me when they hear that I was a boy
before the mast. I tell you, Barry, we are messmates, and therefore it
is right that we should be equal; but from what I have learned, that
will not do on shore; people think there a good deal about the
difference of rank, and if I was to make my appearance among some of
those great people, they might treat me in a way that I should not at
all like. I have become very proud, I am afraid, since I have been
placed on the quarter-deck, not for myself, perhaps, so much, but for
the honour of the rank I bear, for the cloth, even though I am as yet
but a midshipman.
Fitz Barry smiled faintly, and answered languidly, O, no fear of
that; I am sure my father and Sophy are not a bit proud; and as to
Nora, I don't think she has a particle of that sort of thing in her; so
when they come, you must promise to let me make you known to them.
Denham did not wish to appear to refuse his friend, at the same time
he resolved not in any way to push himself forward. The conversation
appeared to be doing Fitz Barry good. Though severely injured by the
thrust of a pike in his side, and a blow on his head, which had knocked
him down, the doctor assured Captain Falkner that he did not consider
the boy's life in any peril.
Captain Falkner and Mr Evans were holding a consultation on the
deck. Directly afterwards the latter shouted, All hands on deck, and
The men came rapidly tumbling up from below, some looking round
astonished at hearing the order, seeing that the dog-vane was still
hanging up and down the rigging. They sprang immediately aloft and the
sails were rapidly furled.
Starboard the helm, shouted the lieutenant, gazing round the
horizon as he did so. Closely reef the fore-topsail, he added; man
the fore-topsail braces.
The fore-topsail was the only sail now set. At that instant a dark
line was seen sweeping rapidly over the water. As it approached it
seemed to rise as it were above the surface and break into
feathery-topped seas. On it came. A fierce blast struck the ship on the
starboard side, and she heeled over till the guns on the other side
dipped in the water. Quickly recovering herself, however, the
fore-topsail being braced sharp up, her head paid off before the
wind. Once more the topsail was squared, and away she flew before the
wind. Wonderful was the change. A few minutes before the sea appeared
as smooth as polished glass; now it was one mass of broken waves,
leaping and dancing madly around. On flew the frigate. The captain and
master went below to examine the chart, and to see the direction in
which she was driving. It might have availed them little, however, for
it seemed impossible to steer her during the fierce gale which blew in
any other direction than directly before it. On she went, the wind
rapidly increasing; the seas rose higher and higher, and in a short
time a fierce hurricane was raging. The stern-ports were secured, the
hatches were battened down, and every preparation made to prepare her
for the worst. Probably in a short time she would not be able to run
before the gale.
We have a clear sea before us, observed the captain to the master,
as they leaned over the chart to which the former pointed; that,
unless the wind shifts, gives us a better hope of escaping. The ship,
too, considering the number of years she has been at sea, is in a good
state, and I do not think we need fear her springing a leak.
The master seemed to agree with Captain Falkner, and once more they
together returned on deck.
Denham, all the time he had been in the West Indies, had never
encountered such a hurricane. He gazed with admiration, allied with
awe, on the vast seas which now rose up on every side around them. The
stout frigate was tossed about as if she had been a cockle-shell, yet
on she flew unharmed, now sinking into the deep trough of the sea, now
rising to the summit of a mountainous billow.
I wish Fitz Barry had been able to come on deck; he was saying the
other day how he should like to witness a real hurricane, he observed
to one of his messmates.
Oh, Fitz Barry fancies a great many things; but I wonder whether he
would like the reality of this, was the answer.
He has as brave and true a heart as ever lived, answered Denham
warmly. Depend upon it, there is more in him than some of you
Considering that he is a lord he is all very well, answered
Denham's messmate. In my opinion he has been over-petted and spoiled.
The frigate flew onward on her course. Provided none of her rigging
gave way, and no leak was sprung, it seemed probable she would escape
without any misfortune. But everything at the present moment appeared
to depend upon the rigging and the seaworthiness of her hull. Still the
captain and his officers often looked anxiously around. The fury of the
hurricane was evidently increasing; it had not yet got to its height.
The fore-topsail had hitherto stood, but as it tugged and tugged away
it seemed as if it would fly from the bolt-ropes. The first lieutenant
anxiously watched it. Should it be carried away it was scarcely
possible that another could be set, and though the ship might still
scud under bare poles, there was a great risk of her broaching to, and
if so, the seas breaking over her sides might disable her completely.
Suddenly there was a loud clap like that of thunder, and what looked
for the moment like a white cloud was seen carried away before the
blast. It was the fore-topsail which had been blown from the
bolt-ropes. The few shreds that remained were quickly wrapped round and
round the yard, whence it would be no easy matter to cut them. Still
the ship went on under bare poles. At length night approached, and as
darkness came on the danger was greatly increased. Even flying as she
was before the wind those on board could scarcely keep their feet, and
more than one remarked, What must it be for poor people on shore? Why,
half the plantations in Jamaica will be carried away.
Worse still for those at sea who are on a lee shore, observed Mr
Evans. Let us pray that we may not find ourselves in that position.
The men generally behaved very well during the awful scene, but
there were some skulkers who went below to hide themselves away. Among
them was John Higson. He had been bold and boasting in fine weather,
but he now showed himself to be the coward he really was. The second
lieutenant, going his rounds on the lower deck, found him stowed away,
hoping to be out of sight, with two or three others of the same
character. He instantly ordered them up on deck to do their duty,
though they very unwillingly obeyed.
Do you think that the hurricane will soon be over, master? asked
Not for some hours, I fear, answered the master. I have known
such a one as this last twenty-four hours at least, and wonderful was
the mischief it did in that time. However, as long as we can keep her
from broaching to, we shall do well enough.
While he was speaking there was a fearful crash. Loud shrieks were
heard. The main-yard had been carried from the slings, as it fell
crushing several persons who stood below it.
Several of their messmates rushed to the spot to aid them. Four or
five were killed, and others were sadly mangled. Still the frigate
A sail ahead, shouted the look-out.
Glasses were turned in that direction, and a large ship was seen now
sinking in the trough of the sea, now rising to the summit of the
She is a line-of-battle ship, I think, said Mr Evans to Captain
Falkner, and from the way she is rolling I fear she is in a bad
The blast which had carried away the frigate's main-yard appeared to
be the last effort of the hurricane. The wind began to subside almost
as rapidly as it commenced. In a short time, although the sea continued
raging fiercely, the wind had dropped to a moderate gale. The wreck of
the yard having been cleared away, sail was once more made on the
frigate, and she steered towards the line-of-battle ship. As she
approached every indication was observed that she had suffered
fearfully in the hurricane. Her ensign was hoisted reversed. The
bowsprit and fore-topmast were gone, as was the mizen topmast, while it
seemed as if in an instant the main-topmast would follow the other
masts. All the quarter boats seemed to have been carried away, and as
the frigate drew nearer a signal was hoisted, which, on being
Come as close as you can; we have passengers on board, and are
expecting every instant to go down.
The roughness of the sea rendered the passage of boats between the
two ships very dangerous. Still Captain Falkner determined to risk them
with the ordinary boats' crews; though, in such cases, volunteers are
often called for. He immediately answered the signal
We will send boats; be prepared to lower your passengers into
The first and second lieutenants went each to take command of a
boat, and Denham was directed to take charge of one in the place of one
of the other officers who was ill. While the boats were passing between
the two ships, two men were employed in each to bale out the water
which broke into them.
We must now take a glance at the events which had occurred on the
shores of Kilfinnan Bay since young Dermot O'Neil left his mother's
The Earl had continued his course of hospitality, or extravagance,
as it should more correctly have been denominated, such as was too much
the custom among most Irish gentlemen of those days, declaring that
although his affairs at that time were in a rather embarrassed
condition, he could not afford to commence a system of economy. His
table, as usual, was amply spread, and the members of the neighbouring
hunt pretty frequently in the season collected at the castle, which
during the summer months was seldom otherwise than full of guests. Lady
Nora, who was now growing into a beautiful young woman, saw with regret
the lavish expenditure in which her father indulged, knowing very well
from what she had heard, that it was more than his income could afford;
still he always contrived to supply Barry amply with money, and Nora
was allowed every luxury she could wish for. Her tastes, however, were
very simple, though in her visits with her father to the gay Irish
capital, she was compelled, much against her will, to mix in its
frivolous society, when at the castle she was content to take her usual
rides about the country, often with no other attendant than a young lad
on a rough pony to hold her horse, should she wish to alight.
Lady Sophy still continued to be for the greater part of the year
her constant companion. Occasionally, they looked in upon Mr Jamieson,
the minister, and his blind niece, Miss O'Reilly. They did not forget
either the old fishwife, the Widow O'Neil. Whenever they saw her, they
did not fail to inquire about her son; but she shook her head, with a
He will come back some day, I know he will. He promised me he
would; but he does not write to mehe sends me no messages. Perhaps,
as he knows I cannot read, he thinks it will be no use writing; but,
oh, he loves me dearly; and it is for no want of love he does not
write. He will come back to me, dear young ladies, some day; and, oh,
with what pride I shall have to bring him to you. He will be a fine,
strong lad by that time. Maybe you would not know him. He must be
altered greatly since the day you took his picture, when he was a young
Mr Jamieson, however, was more surprised than any one else at not
hearing from Dermot. He had been fully prepared for Dermot's going
away, but he did not for one moment suppose, from what he knew of the
lad, that he would not have kept up a correspondence with his friends
at home. Still, he had received no letter, and had seen none from him
to any one else, since the epistle brought by mad Kathleen a few days
after his departure. Had it not been for this, he would have supposed
he had met with some foul treatment from the rebels, or that some
fearful accident had befallen him. Still, whenever Miss O'Reilly spoke
to the widow, the old woman expressed her firm belief that Dermot was
living, and would most assuredly come back to her. That thought seemed
to keep her alive, and to give her strength of mind and body to go
through her accustomed duties. Sometimes, however, it appeared to the
blind lady, when she listened to the old woman, that her mind was not
altogether right, for she spoke of strange things she had seen and done
in her youth, the meaning of which Miss O'Reilly could not comprehend.
She could not, however, listen to her speaking of Dermot without
feeling touched by the deep love which formed, as it were, a part of
her being, for her young son. There was one person, however, who could
have given more information about the matter than anybody else, if he
had chosen that was Father O'Rourke. For purposes best known to
himself, he had gained an undue influence over the authorities at the
post-office, and thus he had the means of examining any letters which
he thought it worth his while to look into. Though such a thing might
be impossible at the present day, at that time it was easy of
On one occasion when he was glancing over the letters, he found one,
the superscription of which he examined carefully. Taking it aside, he
broke it open.
O, and so you recommend your mother to go and listen to the
counsels of the heretic minister. Is that your idea, Master Dermot? he
exclaimed to himself. We shall see how that is carried out. And you
declare your love to her; and you vow that, Heaven protecting you, you
will return, you trust, with wealth in your pockets, and that you will
place her above want; and you hope that she has accepted the faith
which you yourself now profess.
The priest literally ground his teeth with anger. You warn her to
beware of one, your right and lawful spiritual adviser, do you? She
shall, at all events, remain faithful to the true Church. I will take
care she does not set eyes upon that heretic, Mr Jamieson. Well! well!
you think yourself clever at forming a plot; but I will soon show you
that I can counteract it. You tell her that you will write to Mr
Jamieson, do you? I will take care he does not get a letter either. Is
my authority thus to be set at defiance by awell, no matter what you
are. I know more of your affairs than you do, or than your poor,
ignorant, half-witted mother does herself; though she is cunning enough
to hide away those documents which would, could I find them, place you
and her, and some other persons, too, entirely in my power. I'll find
them still, however, some day; but that English minister, by teaching
you to read, has made the management of the business far more difficult
than it would have been. However, I'll not be baulked. We see what
folly it is to let any but the priests and the wealthy classes to be
taught to read. They would be managed ten times more easily than they
will be in a short time, if this sort of thing goes on. Ah! I was
thinking of that, lad. You may be clever, Master Dermot, but I will
prove to you that there is one here cleverer than yourself. Did I know
where to write you, I would soon prove that; but, ere long, I doubt not
that another of your letters will come under my inspection, and then I
will quickly settle the matter.
Such were the thoughtsfor they were not wordswhich passed
through the mind of the Romish priest. Poor Dermot! little did he think
what was to be the fate of the loving letter he had written to his
mother, the first he had had the opportunity of inditing after he had
left the shores of England.
Days, and weeks, and months passed on and the widow had heard
nothing of her son. The priest, however, after watching month after
month, at length found a letter, which seemed to give him infinite
satisfaction. Its contents need not be revealed; but Father O'Rourke
had at length found the means, so it appeared from his ejaculations, by
which he could communicate with Dermot.
The day arrived when the Earl and his family were to quit Kilfinnan
Castle. Their neighbours and friends, and the surrounding peasantry,
turned out to bid them farewell.
Numberless were the expressions of affection and regard given
utterance to, as persons of all ranks came forward to pay their adieux
to the Earl, but more especially to Lady Nora, and her cousin, Lady
Sophy. Lady Nora shed many tears. She was bidding farewell to the spot
she loved, where the gentle mother whom she could just recollect had
breathed her last, and round which were centred all the pleasant
recollections of her youth. She was going to a strange land, to a
country where she had heard of pestilence stalking forth in the
noonday, and her heart sank within her, to think of the dangers to
which her father might be exposed. Yet one thing consoled hershe
hoped there to meet her brother, who was still, she knew, on the
station, though a report had come that the ship was about to leave it.
Among the guests were Mr Jamieson and his blind niece. The Earl
shook them warmly by the hand. If anything happens to me, Jamieson,
remember I charge you to look after my young boy. He is a good and a
brave youth, but he requires a friend; and Nora, Miss O'Reilly, I would
rather you had charge of her than anybody on earth, and yet I am afraid
she is growing too old to be under the guidance of any one; I suspect,
too, she could only be led by the hand of love. She is a dear, sweet
girl, and I often think if I am taken away, what is to become of her in
this cruel world. Jamieson, I need not conceal from you that I believe
my affairs are cruelly disarranged. It is hard work, you know, to get
in the rents, and of late years, my steward has told me, and I believe
him, that it has been harder than ever. I do not like to press the
tenants; I never yet had a distress executed, but without it I am
afraid there are some of them who will never be ready to pay.
Trust to our merciful Father, my dear lord, answered Mr Jamieson.
Do your duty and try to serve Him. There is no use denying it, you are
not free from blame for this state of things, and I am very certain,
that may be said of the greater number of landlords of this country, so
the only advice I can give is to retrench for the future, and when you
come back, to set manfully to work to get your affairs in order.
Thank you, Jamieson, I think your advice is excellent, said the
good-natured Earl; farewell, I will try and follow it out.
Numbers of gentlemen, and farmers, and peasantry, accompanied the
carriages of the Earl and his party on horseback, as they took their
way towards Cork, whence the line-of-battle ship which was to take them
on board was to sail.
We must now return to the West Indies. At length the frigate's boat
reached the line-of-battle ship. Numbers of persons were looking
through the ports. Denham's boat was one of the first on the starboard
We must lower the ladies first, said a voice from the entrance
port. Stand ready to receive them, there is no time to be lost.
All right, answered Denham, looking up.
At the same moment a chair was lowered from the entrance port. In an
instant, the occupant, a young lady, was released and placed in the
boat. Again the chair ascended, and another was lowered in the same
way. Denham, giving one glance at her countenance, saw that she was
fair and young, and having placed her in security, he had to attend to
those who followed. Three others were immediately lowered together.
Now, my lord, said the voice of an officer, you must go into the
No, no, not till all the females are out of the ship, was the
They are being placed in the other boats; there is no time to be
lost; let me entreat you to descend, said the officer.
Well, if I must go, I will obey you, answered the nobleman who had
been addressed, but I trust all on board here will escape. As he
spoke he was lowered down into the boat.
Come, some of you youngsters, follow him, said a voice; there
will be but little time for the boats to make many trips between the
ships; come, I say, obey orders.
At that moment five or six young midshipmen came tumbling into the
boat, which now being more than sufficiently laden, pulled back to the
I am very glad you are here, Lord Kilfinnan, said one of them,
and I hope Lady Nora has not been very much frightened. It has been
terrible work though, and I am afraid the old bark will not swim much
Give way, my lads, give way, shouted Denham to his crew; we must
be back before the ship sinks, or I am afraid many a fine fellow will
lose his life.
The men rowed as hard as they could, and in a short time they again
reached the frigate. No time was lost in handing up those on board.
Whom have we here? asked Captain Falkner.
Lord Kilfinnan, and his daughter, and niece, answered Denham, and
several other ladies and midshipmen. But we must be back to the ship,
for they expect every moment that she will go down.
Mr Evans, said Captain Falkner, we must get out the launch and
pinnace; the sea is calm enough now to allow us to do so.
While the rest of the boats already in the water, having put those
they carried on board the frigate, pulled back to the line-of-battle
ship, the larger boats were cleared and hoisted out, though not without
the risk of being stove alongside. The smaller boats had already made a
couple of trips before they were ready to shove off for the ship. At
length away they pulled, but as they reached the side of the ship the
cry arose, She is sinkingshe is sinking. Numbers of the brave
fellows who had hitherto preserved their discipline now threw
themselves headlong into the boats. The marines still remained drawn up
on deck, where they had been posted to preserve order. Already all the
boats were full almost to sinking, and with their living freight they
proceeded slowly back to the frigate; she, meantime, had been drawing
nearer and nearer the ship. Still the vast fabric floated above the
waves; many yet remained on board. The gallant marines stood as if on
parade; the officers who had refused to quit the ship clustered on the
quarter-deck. Who could have believed that all knew that in not many
moments the planks on which they stood would be engulfed by the waves,
yet so it was; British discipline triumphed above the fear of death.
With frantic haste the men in the boats sprang up the side of the
frigate, in order that they might speedily return to the ship. Already
they were half way between the two vessels when the line-of-battle ship
lifted high her bows above the water, then down she plunged, still with
many human beings standing on her decks, numbers, alas! sinking never
to rise again. The boats dashed forward into the midst of the vortex
caused by her sudden descent. It seemed for a moment that they also
would be drawn down by it. On every side were human beings, some
already dead it seemed, others crying out for assistance, while some,
refusing to express their fears, were striking out boldly for life
towards the boats. There were but few, alas! of the brave marines; it
seemed as if they must have grasped their muskets to the last, and gone
down with those heavy weights in their hands. Eagerly the boats pulled
backwards and forwards among their fellow-creatures still floating in
the water; as rapidly as they could they pulled them on board, till at
length all who appeared alive were rescued. But it was too certain that
a very large number both of officers and crew had gone down in the
Such has been the fate of many a gallant crew in every part of the
world. The survivors were carried on board the frigate, and treated
with every kindness which the officers and crew were able to bestow.
The gallant captain of the line-of-battle ship, two of his lieutenants,
and several inferior officers, with nearly half of the marines, were
lost. The frigate having once more hoisted her boats on board, made
sail for Port Royal.
The Earl of Kilfinnan, on discovering the name of the frigate by
which he had been rescued, inquired at once for his son. His cheek
turned pale when he did not see him with the midshipmen of the ship.
The truth was told him that he had been wounded.
But he is doing well, my lord, said the surgeon to whom he was
speaking; before long I hope he will be able to return to his duty.
Lady Sophy could with difficulty conceal her feelings when she heard
that Captain Falkner commanded the ship to which she had been conveyed,
while it would be impossible to describe the satisfaction which she
experienced. Nora insisted at once on going down and seeing poor Barry,
who was still unable to leave his cot. At first he would scarcely
believe who it was who stood before him, and for some time he fancied
himself in a dream, and asked whether he had not got an increase of
O no, dear Barry, answered Nora, in a short time you will be
well, and it will be a good excuse for you to come and live on shore
with us. I hear the place we are going to is very beautiful, high up on
the side of a mountain, far above all the mists and vapours which bring
the yellow fever into this part of the world. And papa, you know, is to
be the governor, so that he will not feel the change from Kilfinnan
Castle so great as he might have done, for, of course, the people will
treat him with great respect, and that you know he likes, although he
does not talk about it; and we shall have horses to ride about the
country, and plenty of people to attend upon us, and there are a number
of curious fruits and animals, and creatures of all sorts which we
shall have to see. Now I fully expect to be very interested, and so
must you be, Barry, and I daresay Captain Falkner will occasionally
come and see dear Sophy, and that will make her very happy.
Thus Nora ran on in her light-hearted way, anxious to raise her
brother's spirits. She felt somewhat sad, however, when she looked at
him, for the bright glow in his cheeks was gone, and he looked pale and
thin, that she began to fear he might be worse than the doctor said he
was. After the hurricane the frigate had a fine passage to Port Royal.
There, having landed all her supernumeraries by the orders of the
admiral, she once more sailed to carry the Earl to his destination. He
was received with the usual honours of a Lieutenant-Governor, and
carriages were in waiting to convey him to his country seat, on the
side of the mountain which had been described by Nora. It was a lovely
spot, with streams gushing down from the side of the steep heights
above the house, while the wide terrace in front afforded ample room
Far below the white buildings of the chief town was to be seen the
intermediate country, covered with the richest tropical vegetation,
while in the distance was the deep blue sea, dotted here and there with
the white sails of vessels of various sizes. Barry of course had leave
to accompany his father on shore, and he begged that his friend Denham
should be allowed to pay them a visit.
He has been watching over me so carefully while I was sick on
board, that it would seem ungrateful in me if I did not ask him to come
with us. Besides, he is so excellent a fellowso brave, and daring,
and generous. I do not mean to say in the matter of money, because he
has none of that, for he was only a few years ago placed on the
quarter-deck, but I mean in his behaviour. He never takes offence, and
never thinks ill of anybody, and he will never allow any of the younger
fellows to be bullied by the elder, whom he is strong enough to keep in
order, and there are not many who can beat him in any way.
The next day, accordingly, the Earl wrote a note to Captain Falkner,
requesting that Mr Denham might be allowed to pay him a visit. Captain
Falkner, who had been much pleased with the conduct of the young
midshipman, was glad to accede to the Earl's request, and told Denham
to prepare for a visit on shore. Denham made some excuse with regard to
Oh, I will settle all that, answered the captain kindly, I must
be your banker, remember, and just go on shore at once, and we will get
Mr Truefit to rig you out in the course of a few hours. They do not
take long to do that sort of thing out here.
Thus all difficulties were overcome, and the following day Denham
found himself on his way to the new Governor's house.
As soon as Denham approached the Government house, Barry, who had
seen him from the window, hastened forward to meet him, and after the
first greetings, said that he must introduce him at once to the Earl,
and his sister, and cousin.
You will like the girls, he whispered to Denham, you must be
entirely at your ease with them, remember, they are not fine, they have
no nonsense about them, just as girls should be; if they were
otherwise, I, for one, would not own them. I have no idea of girls
giving themselves airs.
Saying this, Barry led Denham into the drawing-room. The young
midshipman seemed to have the habit of blushing, for in spite of all he
could do, the colour mounted to his cheeks when he made his bow, a very
graceful one, by-the-bye, to the two young ladies. He conversed with
ease, but the subjects of his conversation, as far as he selected them,
were entirely confined to the scenes he had witnessed in the West
Indies, or to a few books which he had the opportunity of reading since
he had been on board the frigate. As to England, or any other part of
the world, he seemed to know nothing whatever, as far at least as his
own experience went. He did not speak either of his family or of any
friend he possessed, and they soon came to the conclusion that he was
either a foundling or an orphan, without any relation whom he wished to
own. Still they were very much pleased with his general conversation.
Captain Falkner, in the evening, came up to the Government house,
and he then said that the Admiral had directed him to take a cruise for
a few weeks, and that, at the end of the time, he would come back for
his midshipmen. He was able, however, to remain at anchor two or three
days, and, as will be supposed, he spent most of his time on shore in
Lady Sophy's company. No one could watch the two without agreeing that
they were admirably matched. She, gentle and intelligent, and
affectionate; he, frank and brave, and open-hearted in his manner and
bearing. He was known, too, as a just, brave, high-spirited officer,
and a very first-rate seaman, and more than that, to be a
God-fearing and religious man.
The two midshipmen, it should have been remarked, when last at
Jamaica, had passed their examination, which gave them the rank of
masters' mates, as they were called in those days. They had been for
some time on shore when, a mail arriving, the Earl presented Denham
with a long official-looking letter. Denham eagerly opened it. His
heart beat quicker than usual; the colour rose to his cheeks, and his
eyes beamed with pleasure, for he found that the document announced his
being raised to the rank of lieutenant. The Earl seemed to be aware of
the fact, and soon after addressed him as Lieutenant Denham.
But has not Barry also got his promotion? asked Denham, looking at
Yes, answered Barry, I am a lieutenant too, but I do not feel as
you do, because I am sure I have not deserved it. You have done all
sorts of gallant things, and I have done nothing.
The Earl laughed.
Well, he said, provided those who deserve promotion obtain it,
the Admiralty do not object to raise a few who have less to boast of.
But I am sure you would have done all sorts of gallant things if
you had had the opportunity, said Lady Nora, turning to her brother
with a smile.
I hope this will not remove me from the Cynthia, said
Denham; I should indeed be sorry to quit Captain Falkner and my old
I think not, answered the Earl. From what I hear from the Admiral
who writes to me on the subject, the first lieutenant of the Cynthia
has been promoted, and another officer has left the ship, so that you
two will get the vacancies. I hope in the course of another month or so
she will return from Jamaica, and that Barry will rejoin her with
The father's hope buoyed him up, while Denham could not help
acknowledging that he saw his friend every day growing weaker and
weaker. It was evident that the injuries he had received in the
cutting-out expedition had been more severe than had been supposed, and
that his system had received a shock from which it had never recovered.
Nora, too, was scarcely aware of the danger of her brother. Lady Sophy,
perhaps, had suspected it, but could not bring herself to speak of it
to her cousin. Barry himself declared that he felt better every day,
though he showed, by his disinclination to take exercise, that he was
much weaker than he was ready to acknowledge.
At length the frigate came back, and the two young lieutenants
rejoined her. When, however, Lord Barry came on board, the surgeon
kindly told him that he thought he would be better off by remaining on
shore a little longer with his father. The surgeon saw that a great
change had taken place in him.
Barry declared he was fully capable of doing his duty, but the
surgeon persisted in advising him to return home.
I am sure a little more rest will do you good, said Captain
Falkner, looking at him compassionately; we will manage to have your
duty done on board, and we must hope that in a short time you will be
sufficiently recovered to resume it yourself.
The Earl was somewhat surprised at seeing Barry return, but Captain
Falkner, who accompanied him, endeavoured to tranquillise his mind; and
though he could not honestly say his son would recover, he remarked
that youth and a good constitution often enable persons to gain
strength when otherwise it might be hopeless.
The Cynthia was ordered to cruise about the Windward islands;
a dangerous locality, but where she would have many places to visit.
Captain Falkner observed that he should frequently have to call off the
island, and that he hoped to see the Earl and his family whenever he
It would be difficult to describe the beautiful scenery of the
island now placed under the government of the Earl. The ground is
broken into hills and valleys, and here and there lofty mountains rise,
towering high up into the blue sky. Good roads, however, are cut across
the island in every direction, and thus not only were the young ladies
able to drive about, but they also had the pleasure of taking long
rides to many scenes of beauty, accompanied by Barry, who, though he
did not appear to recover his strength, was still able to sit on
horseback. A number of planters were settled about the island, many of
whom were men of education, and all were glad to offer hospitality to
the Earl and his sick son. The Earl hoped by travelling about, and by
amusing Barry's mind, to assist in the restoration of his health. They
had on one occasion gone to a planter's house at the back of the
island, a day's journey from the Earl's country residence, and situated
near the sea.
The spot was a very beautiful one. In the background rose ranges of
mountains, feathered to their very summits with green foliage. On one
side of the grounds were plantations of coffee and sugar. The sandy
beach stretched like a line of silver along the edge of the blue water,
fringing the cane-fields, which formed a broad expanse of vivid green
behind them. Along the coast were lovely little coves and bays,
enlivened by neatly laid out mansions of the planters, while numerous
fishing and passage-boats, with their raking masts and latteen sails,
added life and animation to the scene. A bright and sparkling stream,
which found its way down from the mountains above, passed through the
plantation, and added much to the refreshing coolness of the scene in
that warm climate. A broad verandah ran round the house, on one side of
which or the other shade could be obtained at all times of the day. A
couple of days had been spent very pleasantly at this abode, when one
evening, just as the sun was about to sink through a rain cloud into
the distant horizon, an old whiteheaded slave came hurriedly into the
presence of his master.
What is the matter, Caesar, asked Mr Jefferson, the planter. The
old man shook his head.
Very bad, very bad.
Speak, boy; have you lost your wits? exclaimed the planter
No, massa; but me hear there come one hundred Caribs and many white
men, and a whole lot of negroes, to burn the house this night and the
plantations; and they swear that they will kill all the people.
At first the planter was inclined to laugh at this information, so
indeed was the Earl; but, on a further examination, the statements of
the negro were so clearand he was so well able to explain how he
obtained his knowledgethat they began to think more seriously.
It is too late now, observed the planter, for your lordship to
attempt to return to the town; indeed, you would be very likely to fall
in with these rebels; but I have several trusty slaves on the estate
who I am sure would be ready to lay down their lives for my sake. I
will send Caesar to summon them into the house, and as I know that we
can make a better stand here than at the residences of any of the other
planters, I shall be able to persuade several of them to come here with
their families, and assist in the defence of the place.
In the mean time we must send off for assistance, observed the
Earl; I am perfectly ready to agree to your proposition; indeed, I
should be very unwilling to attempt to travel with my two young ladies
and son at this hour; besides which we should probably be watched, and
if we were so, we should eventually be captured by these people. But
what could have caused them to think of rebelling?
Probably, my lord, emissaries from France have landed on the
island, and also there are several discontented settlers of other
nations, besides Caribs and blacks, who are always ready for a
disturbance, in the hopes of gaining something during it.
However, observed the Earl, who in his youth had been a soldier,
we must make preparations for defending the place; I have had a little
experience of that sort of thing in Ireland, and I suspect there is not
much difference between the characters we shall have to deal with and
those I have been accustomed to in my native country.
Mr Jefferson, as he had proposed, immediately sent out three of his
most trusty household servants, with notes to the neighbouring
planters, inviting them to take refuge in his house, while the other
servants of the establishment were at once ordered to come in. A number
of trees from the neighbouring woods were forthwith cut down and
brought into the house, to assist in barricading the windows and doors.
Every available board, tops of tables and chests were broken up to
close all the entrances, loop-holes being cut in them through which
muskets could be fired at the advancing foe. Neither Lady Sophy nor
Lady Nora seemed much alarmed at seeing the preparations.
It reminds me very much of our younger days, observed Lady Sophy
to her cousin. You remember what work there was in defending the old
castle, though that appeared to us to be a far better place to defend
than this is. Still as our friends do not appear to be alarmed I do not
see why we should be. Lord Barry seemed aroused by the exertions he
was called on to make, and set to work with zeal in assisting in
fortifying the house; all languor had disappeared, and he was now full
of animation. In a short time the gentlemen who had been summoned
arrived at the house. Most of them came attended by servants well
armed, and several who had families brought them also, not forgetting
to bring, at the same time, a supply of provisions. They all knew that
some time might elapse before they could get assistance. Indeed, if, as
was not improbable, there was a general rising of the Caribs and blacks
on the island, the small number of troops stationed in the garrison
would be fully occupied in attempting to put them down, and perhaps
none could be spared to come to their relief. None of the party,
however, appeared alarmed. They held the people it was expected would
attack them in too much contempt not to feel perfectly secure with the
preparations they had had time to make. The Earl's chief annoyance
arose in not having himself received information of the intended
rising, as, of course, he felt himself responsible for the well-being
of the country. He, however, took care to exhibit no doubt or
hesitation, and did his utmost to keep up the resolution of those
collected about him. It should have been said, that the day after the
Cynthia left the harbour, a boat with several men had contrived to
escape from the side of the ship.
It happened in the following manner. During the latter part of the
middle watch, while the night was excessively dark, there was a shout
of a man overboard. The wind was light. A boat was ordered to be
lowered, and to pull in the direction in which the man was supposed to
have floated. There was no cry, however, though a splash was heard, and
fears were therefore entertained that he had sunk, or had become the
prey of a shark. There was far more confusion than usual on board at
the time, and several voices were heard exclaiming, that he was crying
out, and that the sound came from a different direction to that in
which the first boat had gone. Without waiting for orders, another boat
was immediately lowered. It was known that several men had jumped into
her, and shoved off without an officer. When it was, as on the present
occasion, a matter of life and death, this was not of much consequence.
Away the boat pulled from the ship, and no officer took upon himself to
call her back. At length, however, it appearing certain that the man
must have sunk, or, what was too likely, been carried off by a shark,
the boats were recalled on board. One only returned. In vain the other
was summoned. No answer was made to the repeated calls of the
boatswain. A gun was fired; still, after waiting a certain time, the
boat did not return. It was strange that no one could tell in which
direction she had gone. It was scarcely possible that any accident
could have happened to her; for, even if she had filled with water, the
men in her would certainly have cried out. The ship at the time was
supposed to be about five or six leagues from the land, which had been
seen at sundown over the weather quarter. Since then the wind had been
very light, and the ship had made but little way. The natural
conclusion to which Captain Falkner came was, the boat must have pulled
on shore, and made several tacks in that direction. A strong gale,
however, coming on in a short time, he was unable to beat up to the
island; and after making an attempt for some hours in vain, having
despatches on board, he was obliged to bear up for his destination. He
intended, however, on his return to make inquiries for the boat, in
case she should have reached the shore. Now, it happened that the
mutineer, Higson, had managed to win over six of the men to assist him
in escaping from the ship. At his suggestion a log had been thrown into
the water, and the cry was raised that a man was overboard. This done,
he had no great difficulty in leaving the ship. While in harbour he had
had frequent communications with various persons disaffected to the
Government. He had by chance fallen in with one of them when he was on
shore, and this led to his communication with others. Believing that
the larger portion of the population would join in a rebellion, he
entertained the idea of making himself of some importance in the
country, fully believing that assistance would be gained from the
French or Dutch, and that the people might make themselves independent
of England. With this object in view, he determined to leave the ship.
His success was complete, and he managed before dawn to land safely on
the island. Here the boat was broken up, and a cave by the shore being
found, the fragments were piled up in it and completely consumed; thus
he hoped all trace of his landing was lost. He had some difficulty in
finding the people with whom he had before communicated, but at length
they met, and he at once entered seriously into the plans which had
been proposed for overpowering the British troops, and taking
possession of the country. He knew where the Earl was living, and
entertaining a personal grudge against him for the part he had played
in sending him on board a man-of-war, he resolved on wreaking his
vengeance in the first place on his head. On visiting the governor's
country-house he discovered that the Earl had gone to the plantation of
Mr Jefferson, and he immediately determined, with such aid as he could
collect, to attack it, in the hopes of at once either capturing the
Earl or destroying him and his family. Happily, having to deal with
people with whom he was little acquainted, his plans were not kept so
secret as they might otherwise have been, and the faithful old Caesar
thus got information respecting them.
Some hours passed quietly away at Mr Jefferson's country-house after
all the preparations had been made for the reception of their expected
assailants, and yet no enemy appeared.
Higson and the other leaders had some difficulty in bringing up
their forces to the attack. They had discovered that the house had been
fortified, and they were well aware that a victory could not be
obtained without a considerable loss to themselves. Higson had been on
shore for some weeks before these preparations were made. Sometimes his
mind misgave him, especially when he saw that the British troops in the
garrison were thoroughly disciplined, and always on the alert, and that
even a regiment of black troops, whom it was hoped might be gained
over, refused to desert their colours. The conspirators had then, not
without considerable risk, to send to the French and other enemies of
England to obtain their assistance. This was readily enough promised,
but they were told that they must themselves commence the rebellion,
and that then ample assistance would be forthcoming. At length Higson
and his associates gained courage, and they hoped by an attack on Mr
Jefferson's house, and by the capture of so many persons of
consequence, to obtain an influence over the rest of the people of the
island, which would at once give them the upper hand.
Several hours of the night had passed away; Lady Sophy and Lady
Nora, with the rest of the ladies, were advised to lie down, it being
hoped, that perhaps after all, an attack might not be made. Scouts
were, however, sent out to watch for the approaching enemy. At length
two of them came hurrying back, announcing that they heard the approach
of feet up from the sea. This was the most assailable side of the
house. The stream, which has been spoken of with its precipitous banks,
circled round two sides, while a high cliff, the summit of which was
inaccessible, formed another side of the grounds. In front also, the
ground sloped rapidly down, so that unless by steps, which had been
strongly barricaded, no one could approach up from the sea, even on
that side, without considerable difficulty. The Earl and his friends at
length observed through certain look-out places, which had been formed
on the roof of the upper story, that a large body of men were scaling
the hill in a somewhat irregular manner. At first they came on in
silence, but on a warm fire being opened upon them, they gave vent to
loud shouts and shrieks, and rushed as rapidly up the hill as the
nature of the ground would allow them. At the same time a number of
persons in the rear lighted torches, which they bore in their hands,
and shook them wildly about, as if to terrify those they came to
attack. Perhaps also, they believed that by this means they would
distract the attention of the besieged, and prevent them taking a
steady aim at those in the front. The sight of the torches raised in Mr
Jefferson's mind an apprehension which he had not before entertained.
He knew too well the combustible nature of his dwelling, and that if it
entered the minds of the rebels, they might without difficulty set the
house on fire.
If they do, he thought, we must retreat by the back of the house
and defend ourselves under the cliffs. We may still perhaps be able to
hold our own against these fellows until assistance comes, but the poor
ladies, I tremble for them.
He did not, however, express these apprehensions to the Earl, but,
like a brave man, did his best to encourage those around him. As the
enemy approached, they opened a fire at the doors and windows of the
house, but as these had been well barricaded, the bullets fell
harmlessly against them. A considerable number of the rebels were soon
struck down, either killed or wounded. Those in the house did not fire
until the enemy approached near. The greater number of them were good
marksmen. All knew, likewise, that they fought for their lives, and for
the lives of those most dear to them. At length Barry proposed sallying
out and endeavouring to put the enemy to flight.
The time may come for that by and by, said Mr Jefferson. In the
meantime let us be content to hold our own till assistance can arrive
from the town, or till the rebels have discovered that they are
incapable of overcoming us.
The men who were waving the torches had hitherto not ventured near
the house, but had contented themselves with springing here and there
and attempting to dazzle the eyes of the besieged party. Higson, who
had himself hitherto kept under shelter, now began to fear that his
allies would give way, and the attack would altogether fail. He knew
the nature of buildings in the West Indies; and finding that the little
garrison were not likely to be overcome by the present mode of attack,
he determined to set fire to the house, and then to seize those who
were likely to prove most valuable to him, as they were escaping from
the burning building. He immediately issued an order to the men with
torches to rush forward, at the same time directing others to collect
all the dry brushwood they could find, and to pile it up in the
verandah. Those, however, who first advanced were received with so hot
a fire that several were killed or wounded, and the rest sought safety
in flight. Again and again Higson urged them to renew the attempt, and
finding this did not avail, he ordered the main body to retreat,
greatly to the relief of the garrison. The whole body of their enemies
were seen descending the hill, and they began to congratulate
themselves that they had gained an easy victory. No one had been killed
within the house, although several had been struck by bullets which had
found their way through the loop-holes or the too thinly planked
The Earl and his friends were not left long in doubt about the
intentions of the rebels. In a short time they were seen rushing up the
hill again, numbers bearing bundles of reeds and other combustible
substances, and others flaming torches in their hands. In spite of the
hot fire with which they were received, they dashed forward and threw
the bundles into the verandah. Several fell in the attempt, but the
great mass persevered, and the men with the torches now advancing, cast
them amidst the heaps of brushwood. In a few seconds the whole was in a
blaze. The woodwork of the building soon caught fire, and it became
evident to the besieged that the house would not long be tenable.
Still, as long as any could remain on the front side, they continued to
fire at the rebels.
Mr Jefferson now called a Council of War, and explained to his
friends the plan he proposed for effecting their escape. The Earl
agreed that the undertaking was feasible, though they might be exposed
to far greater peril than they had hitherto been; still it was the only
one, since the house could no longer be held, for when once the flames
had gained entire possession of it, the negroes and Caribs would
probably make a dash forward through the fire and put all they could
meet with to death. Hitherto none of the rebels had ventured to go
round to the rear of the house. Indeed, when any had tried to pass by
either of the sides, they had met with so warm a fire that even the
boldest had not dared to proceed, while many had been struck down in
We must place the ladies in our centre and retreat to the cliff,
said Mr Jefferson.
Lord Fitz Barry and three or four of the men agreed suddenly to
burst open the door, and then lead the way in the direction Mr
Jefferson had indicated. The plan was adopted, while some of the men
continued to fire down upon their assailants.
The ladies were carried safely out, surrounded by an armed party, to
the rear of the house. Not until they had been placed in comparative
safety did the rest of the men withdraw from their now almost untenable
position. At length the whole front of the house was in flames. The
fire soon caught the rest of the building, and scarcely had the last
defender left it, than the combustible roof fell in with a loud crash.
The negroes shouted and shrieked with glee when they saw this, and
rushed forward, as had been anticipated, in the hopes of gaining an
easy victory over their now defenceless opponents.
Many of them were severely burnt, as they dashed forward into the
building, and were glad again quickly to retreat. Not till the whole
edifice was one blazing heap, did they discover that the inmates had
escaped them. By the light of the flames which continued burning
brightly, the negroes perceived the Lieutenant Governor and the
planters with their families posted at the side of the cliff.
For some time, warned by the treatment they had received, they
hesitated to advance, but at length Higson, animated by the success
which had already attended his efforts, rushed forward, calling to his
men to follow him, and made a dash towards the Earl. He thought that if
he could once get him into his power, the victory would be gained. The
negroes were perfectly ready to follow when others led, and thus a band
of shouting, shrieking wretches, advanced close to where the European
party had taken shelter. Already many had begun to climb the heights,
and a stout, black ruffian had actually got so close, that he was able
to lay his hand upon the Earl's shoulder. Higson shouted to the man to
drag forward the Governor, in order to make him prisoner. At that
moment Fitz Barry, seeing the danger that his father was in, sprang
forward to his rescue, and with a blow of his cutlass, compelled the
man to let go his hold. In the meantime, however, Higson, with the
runaway seamen, whom he had persuaded to follow him, made a dash at
that part of the terrace where the ladies were collected. The dawn had
now broken, so that they were soon found without the light from the
burning house. Lady Nora, seeing the approach of the ruffians, cried to
her brother for help. He, however, found himself surrounded by a number
of blacks, who pressed him so hard that he was unable to reach her. In
the meantime the planters continued to fire down upon their assailants,
the great body of whom were kept at bay. Higson at length turned, and
ordered more of his followers to come to his assistance. He had already
seized Lady Nora, well satisfied that should he fail to capture the
Earl, she, at all events, would prove a valuable prize. Two other
ladies were also carried off, and in vain did their defenders attempt
by a bold dash to rescue them. Higson, elated at his success, and at
the same time fearful lest the bullets which were flying about might
strike any of his captives, and probably glad himself to avoid them,
made a wide circuit to gain the sea-shore.
He was already separated from the main body of the insurgents, when
suddenly he was startled with a loud shout close to him, and before he
could turn round to defend himself, he was attacked by a body of
seamen, led on by a lieutenant. The increasing light revealed to him
several of his late shipmates, and the new lieutenant, Mr Denham.
Surprised by the attack, for the boat's crew had sprung upon them from
behind a thicket, Higson and his companions at once let go their
captives. A blow from the cutlass of one of the men brought him to the
ground, while the rest of his partymore than one half were either
killed or woundedsought safety in flight. They were not far from the
sea-shore. You must allow me, Lady Nora, to place you with the other
ladies on board the boat, said Denham. You will there be in safety,
and the crew will row off to a short distance, while I, with the rest
of my men, go to the rescue of your father, and the remainder of the
party. To these plans Lady Nora willingly agreed, and in a few minutes
she found herself with her friends on board a man-of-war's boat, which,
with four men, pulled off out of gun-shot from the shore. Anxiously she
watched what was taking place, as far as she could see. Still the
firing continued, and Lieutenant Denham and his party hurrying again up
the hill, she soon lost sight of them amongst the woods. Deep was her
anxiety for her father and brother, and Lady Sophy, who remained with
the planters and their friends, while she could not help feeling
anxious for the risk to which the young lieutenant and his small party
of men were exposed, in the presence of so large a body of rebels.
The outhouses and other buildings on the estate had now caught fire,
and their flames showed the insurgents still clustering round the side
of the hill, though the continued discharge of musketry in the far
distance, made her hope that the Earl and his party were still
defending themselves. Now the fire of the English party seemed to
slacken; now more dark forms were seen climbing up the hill. Then
again, the defenders of the height increased their fire, and even at
that distance she fancied she could hear the shouts of the combatants.
At length her attention was drawn off the scene, by hearing one of the
crew exclaim, Here comes the frigate, and she saw rising above a
woody point on one side of the bay, the snow white sails of the
Cynthia, as close-hauled she stood along the land. The sound of the
firing must have reached her. She immediately hauled into the bay. The
anchor was dropped, the sails furled, and several boats were seen to
come off from her side. In a short time the boats approached, and the
men informed the officers in them of the orders they had received from
Lieutenant Denham, adding that they had three ladies in their boat.
Take the ladies to the frigate, answered one of the officers; give
way, my lads, there is no time to be lost. The boats dashed on. Nora
thanked Heaven for their arrival, hoping by this means those she dearly
loved might be saved, as well as those friends, whose hospitality they
had been enjoying. The boats quickly reached the beach, and the men,
all well armed, dashed forward up the hill, led by their officers.
Attacking the enemy fiercely in the flank, the latter, who had
apparently not seen their approach, were taken by surprise. Those who
resisted were cut down, the rest taking to flight along the shore. No
one stopped to look behind him or see what had become of his neighbour.
The seamen quickly scaled the heights, and reached the spot where the
Earl and his party still held their position. Unhappily several had
been badly wounded, among whom were two of the ladies, and three or
four planters, while others had been killed. Of the insurgents, a very
considerable number had been struck down. The wounded now began to
utter loud shrieks and groans, to excite the commiseration of their
conquerors. At present, however, little could be done for them. Those
of the English who had been wounded were at once conveyed on board the
frigate, where they could receive medical treatment. Indeed so alarmed
had the planters become, that they requested that they and their
families might be taken on board with the Earl. The frigate lay at
anchor in the bay. As soon as those who had been wounded on the side of
the planters had been cared for, the assistant-surgeon with a boat's
crew was humanely sent on shore, to attend to the unhappy blacks and
Caribs who had been hurt. A few had in the meantime crawled off. Others
had died, but still a considerable number remained and required
attention. Among the dead was found the unhappy Higson. No one knew
what could have induced him to join in so mad a scheme, but those who
had watched his conduct on board were not surprised at his behaviour.
On the return of the frigate to the chief town, it was found that
the garrison had been warned in time. A considerable number of troops
had marched unmolested through the country, visiting the places which
were said to be most disaffected, and in a few days the rebel forces
had completely melted away. A few men who were caught and accused of
leading the rebellion suffered the penalty of death, others had managed
to make their escape from the island. It was found, however, that they
had been instigated to the rebellion by foreign emissaries, and even
the captive rebels themselves acknowledged they had few causes of
complaint against the English government.
The outbreak being thus speedily quelled, the Earl was enabled very
soon to return in safety to his country residence. He had there a
severe affliction awaiting him. Owing either to the over-exertions made
by Lord Fitz Barry on the night of the attack at the planter's house,
or from some other cause, his disease from that time gained rapid
ground. His friend Denham now felt greatly alarmed at the change which
he remarked in him, and saw too clearly that he was destined to remain
but a short time longer on earth. The surgeon also, who had known him
some years, was of the same opinion. Captain Falkner felt, though most
reluctantly, that it was his duty to convey the sad information to his
father and sister. The Earl refused to believe it, but Nora saw, with
grief, the sad change which even a few days had made in her beloved
brother. He could now only sit up for a short time in an armchair.
In consequence of the rebellion the Cynthia had to remain for
some time in the harbour, and accordingly Denham was able to obtain
leave to remain with his friend. He and Nora, therefore, were
constantly by the side of the dying youth. Barry would not for some
time believe that his own end was approaching. Often, with tears in her
eyes, Nora spoke to him of that happy land to which all those who trust
in the Rock of Ages are certainly bound.
There will be no more sorrow, no more suffering, no more fighting,
no more wounds in that land, dear Barry, she said, taking his hand.
Still, life is sweet. I wish you could have remained with us; but we
must bow to God's will. They say you have not many more days to remain
on earth, Barry; but surely we must feel the parting more severelywe
who have to remain in this world exposed to so many dangers, than you
should, who have to go to that land of joy and rest.
The young lieutenant shook his head.
It is hard for me to acknowledge that, dear Nora, he answered. I
care not for the dangers; and there are so many things to enjoy in this
life, that I had hoped to remain in it to a good old age. I have
everything to make life pleasant, and can you be surprised, then, that
I should be unwilling to quit it without a sigh?
O! no, no, she answered. I know that; but still, remember, it is
but to enter into a life of eternal joy that you leave this world of
trials. Because, let us deceive ourselves as we may, there are many
causes which must bring us sorrow and pain. You remember how we grieved
when our dear mother was taken from us, and then it was very sad to
leave the old castle, and then, too, we have sorrowed on account of our
father, that his property has suffered so much; and though we have been
very lovingly dealt with by God, yet He has not allowed life to be so
delightful to us that we should be willing to remain here for ever.
Denham spoke to his friend in the same strain. Often did his heart
swell within him as he had to address the dying youth, and many a time
he dashed away from his eyes the fast-falling tears as he thought that
in a few days they must part, never again to meet in this world. He had
seen several of his shipmates cut down by the sword of the enemy. Young
as he was, death was no stranger to him. The saddest loss he had ever
yet experienced was that of his brave and gentle friend, with his youth
and rank and many noble qualities. Even to the end, which came at last,
the Earl could not believe that his son was dying.
It was daytime. The soft breeze came in through the open window. He
sat, as usual, in his chair, with his sweet sister on one side and his
friend Denham on the other. His hands were placed in theirs. He felt
that he was about to take his departure.
Kiss me, Nora, he said.
Denham felt him press his hand for an instant; then the fingers
relaxed, and he sank back, and they both saw that his spirit had fled.
Nora did not give way to tears; her grief was too deep for that.
Denham felt that he could not venture to comfort her; he dared not even
trust his voice in words. Happily, Sophy came in, and the attendants
were summoned, and Nora was led away to her chamber.
Denham's leave had just then expired. He went to pay his farewell
respects to the Earl; but Lord Kilfinnan entreated him to remain.
I will write to Captain Falkner, he said. He will not insist upon
your returning on board just now. I must have you with me. You are my
son's dearest friend. I know that from the way he spoke of you. I
cannot let you go. You must stop and comfort a broken-hearted old man.
And poor Nora, she will feel his death dreadfully. Well, `God's will be
done;' perhaps, after all, the poor lad would have found that he had
but a scant inheritance to support his title.
Denham remained in the house as desired, having obtained leave from
Captain Falkner to do so. He occasionally saw Lady Nora, who spoke to
him kindly and gently, as she naturally would do to her late brother's
friend. Lady Sophy was far more cordial in her manner. He, however,
conversed but little with the Earl. Indeed, it was very evident that
Lord Kilfinnan could not trust his voice to speak about his son. After
the funeral Denham once more returned on board.
Again the Cynthia sailed on a cruise. She had to visit
various parts of the West Indies; sometimes cruising off the Leeward,
and sometimes off the Windward Islands. Now to convoy a fleet of
merchant vessels from one port to another, and occasionally to
accompany them part of the way across the Atlantic, till they were
clear of the region infested by the enemy's smaller privateers.
Several months were thus occupied in a somewhat tedious manner.
Small prizes had been taken; but these did not satisfy the ardent mind
of the gallant captain, who appeared to be longing to meet an enemy the
size of his own frigate, a more worthy competitor than any of the
vessels he had hitherto encountered. At length, Captain Falkner and his
young lieutenant were enabled once more to pay a visit to the Earl and
his family. Denham was received as kindly as before; and it was very
evident the affection existing between Lady Sophy and Captain Falkner
had in no way decreased. During the last day of his stay on shore,
however, a degree of melancholy seemed to weigh down his captain at
times. Occasionally he talked in his usual lively and animated manner,
and spoke hopefully of the future, when, the war being ended, he might
with honour sheath his sword and take up his abode on shore.
At present, however, he remarked, while my country demands my
services I am bound to remain afloat.
The frigate, however, was again ordered to sea, and the lovers
parted, hoping ere long to meet again. Captain Falkner was unusually
silent during his drive to the port, and when he arrived on board he
retired to his cabin, and it was not until the moment the ship had to
get under weigh he appeared on deck. He was then as full of life and
activity as usual, and issued his orders in that clear ringing voice by
which he was so well-known. As the frigate under all sail stood out to
sea, Denham more than once observed his captain turning his glass
towards the governor's house high up on the mountain side. In his
mind's eye he probably saw her who had so deservedly won his brave
heart, though the distance was in reality too great to have discovered
any human being. Denham felt very much inclined to imitate his
commander's example; but though he lifted his telescope, he quickly
lowered it again.
No, no; what folly in me to indulge in so idle a dream, he said to
himself, turning away. I was received as Barry's friend, and treated
with kindness accordingly; but I should only deservedly bring down
scorn and ridicule on myself if I were ever to aspire to a greater
intimacy than that which has hitherto been allowed me.
Well, Denham, we must not return without an enemy's frigate in
tow, observed Captain Falkner, as he was one day walking the deck with
his young lieutenant. The Frenchmen have several fine vessels out in
these seas at present, and we must try and diminish their numbers. Let
us but catch sight of one of them, and, unless she has a very fast pair
of heels, she shall be our prize before many hours are over.
No doubt of that, sir, answered Denham, laughing. We have now as
fine a ship's company as were ever collected together, having cleared
out the black sheep who were among them, and they are in as good temper
as men need be.
A sail on the lee-bow, shouted the look-out from aloft.
What is she like? asked the captain.
A full-rigged ship, sir, was the answer.
There was a fresh northerly breeze at the time, and the frigate was
under easy sail.
Turn the hands up, Mr Hansom, observed the captain to the first
lieutenant. Make all sail.
All hands on deck, shouted the boatswain, piping his whistle at
the same time.
The crew speedily made their appearance, and in a few seconds were
seen clustering on the yards aloft. The ship was kept away,
studding-sails and royals were set; and the frigate, gliding rapidly
over the water, stood towards the stranger. The latter, though she must
have seen her coming, showed no inclination to avoid her; but, on the
contrary, hauled her wind, that they might the sooner meet. Every
spy-glass was in requisition on board the Cynthia, and most of
the officers went aloft, that they might take a better view of the
stranger. In a short time she was pronounced to be a frigate of equal
size to their own. Some, however, thought her larger. That she might be
so, and under an enemy's flag, was the wish of all. It is strange how
eager men are to encounter those they consider it lawful to engage with
in fight, to wound and slay each other. They think not of the pain and
suffering they may inflict, or may themselves have to undergo. They
eagerly seek for the excitement of the strife, the triumph of victory.
They seem to forget entirely what far greater triumphs await those who
labour on in civil life to advance the interests of humanity, to win
the desert from barrenness, to make it smile as a fruitful garden, and
the glorious triumph which is reserved for those who struggle on
bravely in the service of their Heavenly Lord and Master. Still, we are
describing men as they are, not as they should be; and probably on
board that frigate there was not a single man who had the slightest
doubt that the sentiments which animated his bosom were otherwise than
right and noble, and superior to all others.
A shout burst from the mouths of the crew of the Cynthia when
the French flag was seen to be run up to the peak of the stranger. She
was standing on with all plain sail set, and was manoeuvring in order
to gain the weather-gauge. The Cynthia's studding-sails and more
lofty canvas having been taken in, she also tacked in order not to let
her antagonist gain this advantage. At length they approached
sufficiently near each other to allow the bow guns of the Cynthia
to take effect.
Mr Hansom, let us see if we cannot knock away some of her spars,
observed the captain.
Ay, ay, sir, answered Mr Hansom, going forward and taking the
match in his hands.
There was a good deal of sea running at the time, so that the aim,
even of the best marksman, was likely to prove uncertain. He waited his
opportunity however. As the bows of the frigate rose he applied the
match, and some white splinters were seen to fly from the enemy's
topmast. A cheer burst from the throats of the crew who saw the success
of the experiment. It was looked upon as a good omen for the future.
The cheer, however, was repressed by the officers. The men stood at
their quarters. The captains of guns, with their matches in their
hands, most of them stripped to the waist, to allow them the better to
work the tackles, and also, should they be wounded, to escape the
injury which any piece of clothing was sure to cause, should it be
carried into their bodies by the shot. It was a scene which a painter
might have delighted to copy, exhibiting the sturdy forms of the
seamen, their countenances determined and bold, and utterly devoid of
any appearance of fear. Many, indeed, were passing rough and coarse
jokes one from the other, and the slightest excuse gave cause to a
hearty laugh. It would have been difficult for a stranger to believe,
that the men who were before him were entering into a struggle for life
and death, or that the combat between the two beautiful frigates now
sailing in sight of each other, would probably end in the destruction
of one of them. Each sail was well set, every yard perfectly braced,
and all the ropes taut and uninjured. Thus they stood on, slowly
nearing each other, till at length the Frenchman attempted to haul
across the Cynthia's bows, for the purpose of delivering a
raking fire. This the latter avoided by hauling up.
Fire, cried the captain, as the broadside of the frigate bore upon
that of the enemy. A loud roar of artillery was the response. Several
shots seemed to take effect, some in the hull, others in the rigging.
The Cynthia herself did not escape injury, and two of her crew
were seen struggling in their death agonies on the deck. The two
frigates now ran on side by side, firing their guns as rapidly as they
could be loaded. Again a shout burst from the throats of the English
crew, as the Frenchman's fore-topmast was seen to go over the side. It
was evident, too, that their shots were taking effect upon the
Frenchman's hull, for several were seen to strike him between wind and
water, which with the sea then running was very likely in a short time
to reduce him into a sinking state. Still the latter worked his guns
with as much determination as at first, aided by musketry whenever the
ships approached near enough for the bullets to take effect. By this
means a considerable number of the crew of the English frigate were
struck down, many of whom were killed, while others were carried
The superior strength and activity of the English seamen soon told
against that of the enemy, for while the latter was delivering two
broadsides the English managed to fire three, their shot, too, being
better directed. Still the French ensign flew out at the enemy's peak,
and there appeared to be no intention on his part of lowering it. The
contest was evidently to be a severe and protracted one. The Cynthia
had already lost nearly thirty of her crew, and in all probability the
Frenchman must have suffered in a far greater degree. At length they
drew so close that the muzzles of their guns almost touched, when the
enemy, putting down his helm, ran his bows into those of the British
ship, the bowsprit coming directly across the foremast. Captain
Falkner, calling to Denham and those who were near him at the time,
sprang forward and attempted to lash the bowsprit to the mast of his
own ship. Denham saw his faithful follower, Ned Davis, by his side.
While the captain was in the act of passing a rope round the mast, a
bullet, from the musket of a marine stationed in the Frenchman's top,
struck him on the breast. He fell back, and Denham had just time to
catch him in his arms to save him from falling heavily upon deck. Davis
had at that moment seized the rope which the captain had let go.
Secure the bowsprit, cried the captain; do not let the enemy
sheer off. Now place me on the deck; I fear that I am mortally wounded,
but do not let the people know it. In a few minutes the Frenchman's
frigate will be ours. See, they are attempting to board, but drive them
back and they will not long keep their flag flying. On! on! do not heed
Denham, calling to some of the crew, ordered them to take the
captain below, while he flew to obey his dying orders.
Boarders, repel boarders, he shouted, drawing his own sword, and
springing towards the point where the Frenchmen were seen clustering in
their rigging about to spring on the deck of the Cynthia. The
latter, already disheartened by the loss of so many of their shipmates,
were quickly driven back, while the Cynthia's guns continued
pouring broadside after broadside into the hull of their ship.
See, see, down goes the French flag, cried the English crew, and
little knowing the loss they had sustained, they once more gave forth
that hearty British cheer which has so often sounded in the moment of
victory. The dying captain heard it as Denham reached his side.
Tell her my last thoughts were about her, he murmured as the
lieutenant took his hand, and sinking back, his eyes were in another
moment closed by the hand of death.
The two ships had parted in consequence of the heavy sea which had
now got up. For the same reason the task of transferring the crew of
the prize to the victor was one of considerable difficulty. The first
lieutenant, now in command of the Cynthia, hailed the enemy to
send a boat on board; but his reply was that he had none which would
swim, all having been injured in the engagement. Fortunately most of
the Cynthia's boats were in a better condition, and Denham,
taking the command, at once proceeded on board the prize. He found,
though the frigate was French, that a Dutch officer commanded her, who
seemed much down-hearted at the loss of his ship.
The young lieutenant had already been in several engagements, but
never had he seen a deck present a more sad spectacle than that of the
Frenchman. In all directions lay the bodies of the slain, and several
wounded men who had not yet been conveyed below. They were all of them
too much injured to be removed to the Cynthia, and they were
therefore carried below. The prisoners were at once ordered to get up
their bags, and to enter the boats, which immediately conveyed them on
board their captor.
Some time was occupied, however, in this work, as the heavy sea
which now ran prevented them from making a rapid passage. The Dutch
officer commanding the ship, had given up his sword to Lieutenant
Denham, who remained on board, ready to take charge of the prize. He
himself had not had time to go below, to observe the damages that the
prize had sustained, but from the report made to him by the late
commander, he was under the apprehension that they were very severe.
Indeed, from the peculiar way the ship rolled, he dreaded that she had
taken in a large amount of water. He accordingly requested the
Dutchman, who spoke English very well, to send his carpenter below, to
make a report of her condition. The man in a short time returned on
deck with a pale face, declaring he did not believe she would float for
many hours longer. By this time the wind had increased so much, and so
heavy a sea was running, that it was a matter of danger to pass between
the two ships, which were at some distance from each other. The boats,
with the last cargo of the prisoners, had left her, and were close
alongside of the Cynthia. Denham therefore ordered his own crew
to make every effort to stop the leaks, but they soon found, from the
amount of water which was pouring in, that this would be difficult, if
Well, he remarked to the Dutchman, after every effort had been
made to put a stop to the entrance of the water, as soon as the boats
return, we must, I fear, abandon the ship. You have defended her nobly,
and perhaps have less cause to regret this occurrence than we have, who
hoped to carry her into port in triumph.
You of course will return to your own ship as you please, answered
the Dutch officer; but for my part I cannot desert my poor wounded
fellows below, and unless there is time to remove them, should the ship
sink beneath my feet, I must go down with her.
In vain Denham urged the brave Dutchman to save his own life, and
promised to use his best exertions in removing those who were least
hurt among the wounded men. He was looking anxiously for the return of
the boats. One, however, only was seen to put off from the side of the
frigate with the remainder of the prize crew, Mr Hansom deeming it
imprudent to allow more than necessary to make the passage. It was not
without considerable difficulty that this boat reached the side of the
prize. Again Denham urged the captain to quit her, but he refused on
the same plea as before. Indeed, it was very evident the boat herself
would only carry in one trip the prize crew. Denham had ordered all the
men to go into the boat, and at length finding that the Dutchman
persisted in remaining on board, he could not bring himself to desert
the brave fellow.
Well, he said, I will remain too, and assist the men on board to
keep the ship afloat, for I feel I have no business to detain my own
people with so great a risk.
If you remain, Mr Denham, so will I, exclaimed Ned Davis, who had
followed his friend. It may be, if we keep the pumps going, that the
ship will float until there is time to get more boats alongside.
Before he allowed the boat to shove off Denham wrote a short note to
Mr Hansom, begging him, unless the sea continued to increase, to send
boats to carry off the wounded people; but, he concluded his note,
should it do so, run no risk of losing any livesleave us to the care
The boat shoved off, and the sinking frigate was left to struggle
alone amidst the fast-rising sea.
The French crew, encouraged by the example of their gallant captain,
exerted themselves to the utmost to stop the leak, while those not thus
occupied stood manfully at the pumps. By this means the sorely battered
frigate continued to keep afloat, but each time the well was sounded it
was found that the water had gained somewhat upon her, in spite of all
the efforts made to free her of water.
Ned Davis was a host in himself, flying here and there, aiding in
stopping shot-holes, and then returning to take his spell at the pumps.
The young lieutenant anxiously looked out for any signs of change in
the weather, but that continued as bad as ever, till it became too
evident that the frigate could not much longer be made to swim.
Denham thought of suggesting that the wounded men should be brought
on deck, to give them a better chance of escaping; but the doctor said
they would thus to a certainty perish, and that if the ship went down
it would be more merciful to them not to allow them to see the approach
of their certain destruction.
The ensign was hoisted upside down, as a sign chat the ship was in
great distress, and guns were fired to draw the attention of the
Cynthia to her. Denham anxiously watched the progress of his
frigate, feeling sure that from the mode in which the prize laboured in
the sea she was not likely to float much longer. In a short time the
Cynthia bore down upon her, but already the sea ran so high that it
was evidently a risk to send a boat; and it would have been almost
impossible to lower wounded people into her. Again Denham urged the
brave Dutchman, should a boat be sent, to accompany him on board the
No, he answered; I have made up my mind to remain by these
people, and nothing shall induce me to desert them.
After some time a boat was seen approaching from the Cynthia.
Denham now feeling it was his duty to save his own life as well as that
of his people, ordered them to take the opportunity as she drew near of
leaping into her. A few of the French crew, who were not wounded,
followed their example. While Denham remained Davis refused to go into
the boat. At length it was evident that at any moment the prize might
Now, he exclaimed to Davis, leap into her, and I will follow. He
shook the Dutchman warmly by the hand. You are a brave man, my
friend, he said; and though I would stay by you if I could assist in
saving your life, my duty to my men and to myself compels me to leave
Farewell, answered the Dutchman, seemingly unmoved.
No time to lose, sir, shouted Davis from the boat.
Denham sprang from the side of the vessel; and scarcely had he
reached the boat, and taken his seat in the stern-sheets, when the bow
of the prize lifted high up above the sea, and then down she sank,
lower and lower, till the water washed over her deck, and finally
closed again above her masthead.
The frigate's boat had barely time to pull away clear of the vortex.
Several people were seen struggling in the waves; among them Denham
observed the brave captain, and, though not without great risk, he
ordered the boat to pull back, to endeavour to get him on board. Once,
as they neared the spot, he disappeared, and Denham feared he was lost
for ever. He again, however, rose, when Ned Davis, leaning over the
bows, caught hold of his jacket and succeeded in hauling him on board.
He was the only person among the prisoners who was saved, for before
the boat could reach the others, all disappeared beneath the waves.
Happily the boat had no great distance to go, for it was only by great
exertions and careful management that she was kept afloat. The whole of
the wounded and many others of the French crew perished.
The loss of their prize was a great disappointment to the officers
and ship's company of the Cynthia, as they had only the bare
victory to boast of, without being able to show the prize when they
returned into port; but far more did they mourn the death of their
brave captain. No one felt it more than Denham. To him he had been a
warm and sincere friend, besides which he knew the agony and grief it
would cause to one who was expecting his return. He dreaded having
personally to communicate what had occurred, and he was greatly
relieved by finding that the frigate was to put into Port Royal,
Jamaica, to refit after the action.
Mr Hansom did not forget to mention him in his despatches, as having
greatly contributed to gain the victory, by his courage in assisting to
lash the enemy's bowsprit to the Cynthia's foremast.
Depend upon it, Denham, observed Mr Hansom, this will be marked
in your favour at the Admiralty; and when you have served your time as
lieutenant, you will obtain commander's rank. I wouldn't say this to
others,but I have a notion that you have a friend at court, and a
word from the Earl, with so good an excuse, will be sure to gain
whatever he asks for you.
On reaching Port Royal Denham felt it was his duty to write to the
Earl, giving an account of the events that had occurred; but he did not
allude even to anything he himself had done, nor did he ask for the
Earl's interest for himself at the Admiralty.
Some few months after this Lord Kilfinnan gave up his appointment,
and returned with his family to his native land.
In a turret chamber in Kilfinnan Castle sat two young ladies. It was
apparently their private boudoir. It had been elegantly furnished, but
the drapery had somewhat faded, and the air of freshness it had once
possessed had long since departed. The window out of which the ladies
were gazing looked forth over the wide Atlantic, and the eldest was
dressed in deep mourning, apparently her usual costume, while the air
of sadness in her countenance seemed to be habitual. The younger one
was full of life and animation, though occasionally, as she looked up
at her friend, she, too, became sad.
That is a strange story, Sophy, you were reading just now from the
newspaper, said the youngest,I mean about Lord Eden; I cannot
understand how a man of his rank and position should condescend to
marry a girl of low degree, however virtuous or excellent she might be.
These mesalliances can never answer. Too soon the one of more
refined habits and ideas discovers a degree of coarseness and vulgarity
in the other, which must ultimately cause separation. No; my only
notion of a happy union is, that where people are of the same rank and
education, and all their sympathies are in unison
You know so little of life, dear Nora, that I do not think you are
capable of judging, answered her cousin Sophy. I do not say, however,
that in the main you are not right, but there may be exceptions, in
which true happiness may be found. I do not say Lord Eden is right in
marrying this girl. At the same time, she may have more natural
refinement than could be expected. I have heard of such instances.
I, on the contrary, Sophy, remember hearing my father speak of a
very different case, in which a country girl was taken out of her
sphere, and educated, and, I think, became the wife of one of our
ministers. As long as she was at rest, she appeared very elegant, but
if she got at all excited, or, as was sometimes the case, lost her
temper, she then exhibited her real condition; and if, as I consider,
it is very bad for a man to marry a person of inferior rank, surely it
is much worse for a lady to marry one who is her inferior.
Sophy smiled sadly.
No; I shall hold to my own opinion, said Nora, and I do not think
that anybody would induce me to marry a person, however elegant and
refined he might appear, unless I knew he was of gentle blood.
The conversation of the young ladies was interrupted by Sophy
Bring the glass, Nora; I see a vessel standing in for the bay. Her
canvas looks very white and shining. I believe she is a man-of-war.
The telescope, which stood on a stand, had been, for some purpose,
removed from the window, and it was now brought to its usual place by
Nora. They both looked through it, one after the other.
Yes, there can be no doubt of the matter, said Nora; her square
yards, her tall masts and white canvas show at once what she is. She
does not appear to me to be a frigate. I think she is a smaller
vessela corvette,and very beautiful vessels they are.
While this conversation was going forward, the ship rapidly
approached the shore, under a wide spread of canvas. They had soon an
opportunity of ascertaining her character. At length she stood into the
bay, and, furling her sails, came to an anchor. The wind was at that
time sufficiently from the north to enable her to obtain perfect
shelter, and she floated calmly on the smooth waters. It was still
early in the day. They watched for a short time, but no boat could put
off to approach the Castle, though they fancied they saw one standing
in for another part of the bay.
At that time Ireland was suffering, as she had long been, from her
usual chronic disorderdiscontent. Disturbances had occurred here and
there in the west and south among the Riband Men, or White Boys, or
United Irishmen, by which names the rebels were at different times and
places known. The Government, therefore, had considered it necessary to
send vessels of war to cruise up and down the coast, that their
blue-jackets and marines might render such assistance as might be
required. This was so generally the case at present, that the arrival
of the corvette did not cause any unusual sensation among the
inhabitants of the coast who lived near enough to the sea to observe
her. Several men-of-war had in the same way entered the bay of late,
and, after remaining a few days, had taken their departure. The young
ladies had arranged that, later in the day, they would take a ride over
the downs, and, after calling on Miss O'Reilly, at the Vicarage, look
in upon some of the poor people whom they were in the habit of
Meantime, we must go to the other end of the bay, where an old man
might be seen descending the narrow gorge which led down to the small
cove where the Widow O'Neil resided. It was Father O'Rourke. He
proceeded on in a somewhat meditative mood, until he reached the
cottage. He opened the door, and found the widow sitting on the usual
stool, employed in mending her nets.
And what brings you here, Father O'Rourke? she said, looking up at
him with a glance which showed that he was not a favourite of hers.
Widow, I have come to speak about a matter of importance, he
answered. I hear, in spite of all my warnings, and all the instruction
I have given you, by which you would be sure to find your way to
heaven, that you still go to that heretic minister, Mr Jamieson, as you
used to do when I before warned you. Now, I tell you, widow, if you
love your soul, you must go there no more. I am not going to be warning
you for ever. Do you hear my words? Do you intend to obey them?
Father O'Rourke, said the widow, looking calmly at him, I have a
great respect for your office, and for the holy religion of which you
are a priest; there is nothing I have ever said against that. I am a
good Catholic, as I have always been, and you shall not be the person
to throw a stone at me; but if I go to the Vicarage, I go to hear the
gentle words of that poor blind lady, and the minister never speaks
anything to me but what is faithful and true. He is a good man, Father
O'Rourke, and I wish I was as sure of going to heaven as he is: that is
what I have got to tell you.
Oh, Widow O'Neil, those are evil words you are speaking! exclaimed
the priest; you are just disobeying the holy mother Church; you are
just doing what will bring you down the road to destruction, and I tell
you, I believe it was your obstinacy, and your love for those heretics,
that was the cause of the loss of your son. He is gone, and I hope he
is gone to glory, for it is not for the want of me saying masses for
his soul, if he has not; for sure I am, that, if he had remained here,
and listened longer to the instruction of that false heretic, he would
have gone the way you are so anxious to go, Widow O'Neil.
The widow now stood up, throwing from her the nets, which had
hitherto been on her knees. She stepped back a pace or two, and
stretched out her hands.
Father O'Rourke, she exclaimed, it is not the truth you are
speaking to me! My boy never learned anything but what was good when he
went to the Vicarage: and more than that, though you say he has gone
from this world, there is something deep down in my heart which tells
me he is still alive. If he were dead, my heart would feel very
different to what it does now. I tell you, Father O'Rourke, I believe
my son is alive, and will come back some day to see me. I know he will.
Do you think I doubt his love? Do I doubt my love for him? No. Father
O'Rourke, you are a childless man yourself, and you do not know what
the love of a mother is for her child, and I do not think you know what
the love of a child is for its mothera fond, loving mother, as I have
been,not such a child as mine. The day will come when Dermot will
stand here, as you are standing here; but he will not be blaming his
old mother as you are blaming her. He will come to speak words of
comfort and consolation into my ear. Instead of that, Father O'Rourke,
you have brought nothing but cursing. You tell me I am in the downward
road to destruction. Is that the way you should speak to a lone widow,
because she loves her son, and likes those to speak who knew him, and
who would talk about him to her and praise him, and who tell her what a
noble, clever youth he was?
Widow O'Neil! exclaimed Father O'Rourke, an angry frown gathering
on his brow, year after year I have spoken to you as I am now
speaking. I have warned you before, I have warned your boy Dermot. I
tell you, he would not take the warning, and he would have suffered the
consequences of his disobedience, but I do care for your soul, and it
is on account of that soul that I want you to put faith in the holy
mother Church. If you do, all will be right, but if you go and listen
to the words of that Protestant minister, all will be wrong, and you,
Widow O'Neil, will have to go and live for ever with the accursed; ay,
for ever and ever in fire and torment. With such force and energy did
the priest speak, and so fierce did he look, that for the moment he
made the poor old woman tremble and turn pale with fear. She quickly,
however, recovered herself.
You may go, Father O'Rourke, she exclaimed. Once I was your
slave, but I am your slave no longer. I am a poor ignorant woman, but I
have had the truth told me, and that truth has made me free of you; say
what you will, I do not fear you.
The priest on hearing these words positively stamped on the ground,
and gnashed his teeth with anger. He was not one of the polished
fathers of the Church, who have been taught from their youth to conceal
their feelings. He was certainly not a trained disciple of Ignatius
Loyola. Again and again he stamped, and then uttering a fearful
anathema on the occupant of the hut, he turned round, and slamming the
door, left her as he had often before done, and hastened upwards
towards the cliffs.
While this scene was enacting below, a young naval officer, who had
landed from a boat which had come from the corvette, lately brought up
in the bay, had climbed to the summit of the downs, and was taking his
way across them towards the gorge, up which the priest was hastening.
He had, however, not got very far, when he heard a voice singing a wild
and plaintive Irish air. He stopped to listen, and as he did so, a
figure, dressed in fantastic fashion, appeared from behind some broken
ground in the neighbourhood of the downs. She advanced towards him, and
then suddenly stopped, looking eagerly in his face.
Who are you, strangerwho are you who come to these shores? It is
not good for you to be alone here; if you come, come with armed men,
with muskets on their shoulders and swords by their sides, for that
slight weapon that you carry would avail you nothing against the
enemies you are likely to meet here. Go back, I tell you, the way you
came. I may seem silly and mad, and mad and silly I am, but I can sing;
few can sing like me. Now listen stranger, listen to my song. She
burst forth again in the same wild strains which at first attracted the
young officer's attention.
But what reason could you give me why I should follow your advice?
I like your song, however; can you not sing me another?
Yes, she answered, mad Kathleen has many a song in her head, but
it does not always come when called for, it is only as the fit seizes
her that she can bring it forth. Never mind listening to my song,
however, but follow my advice. There is your boat even now out in the
bay; go, make a signal to it to come back to you, or evil will befall
I can scarcely suppose that, provided I do not leave the shore,
answered the officer. I thank you, however, for your advice, but I do
not purpose wandering far from where I now am.
Even here where you stand you are not safe; but I have warned you
once, and I cannot warn you more, exclaimed the mad woman, as with
wild gestures she retreated back to the spot from which she appeared to
have come. The young officer watched her till she disappeared. A shade
of melancholy came over his countenance.
I might have asked her about some of the people hereabouts, he
said to himself. Her warning perhaps is not to be despised; I will sit
down here, and wait till the boat returns.
The officer was approaching the edge of the cliff when Father
O'Rourke reached the downs; seeing the stranger, he advanced towards
him. The temper of the priest had not calmed down, so it seemed, since
his encounter with the poor widow. As he approached the young officer,
he looked at him earnestly.
What brings you here? he exclaimed. What business have armed men
to come upon our coasts, let me ask you?
Really, sir, said the officer, drawing himself up, I bear his
Majesty's commission as commander of yonder sloop of war, and in the
performance of my duty, I have landed on the shores of this bay; but I
do not understand why I should be thus roughly spoken to by one
especially, who, judging from his appearance, is a catholic priest.
You judge rightly, young man, answered Father O'Rourke, but I am
not to be deceived by appearances, and though you may call yourself
what you will, I suspect you to be either the commander of a privateer,
if not rather of a vile buccaneer. We have had visits before now from
such gentry, and I should advise you to leave our shores without
I cannot understand your meaning, exclaimed the officer; I
repeat, I came here in the performance of my duty, and I little
expected to be treated thus by the first stranger I might meet.
The priest seemed to think that he had proceeded too far; whatever
might have been his motive in thus insulting one whom he must have
known was a naval officer, or for some reason, he thought fit suddenly
to change his tactics.
Pardon me, sir, he said in a soothing voice, which he well knew
how to assume, I see that I was mistaken in my first supposition, and
to prove my sincerity, I shall be happy if I can render to you any
service in my power.
I willingly accept your apologies, answered the officer, regarding
the priest intently, as if to ascertain whether he was to be trusted.
On my way along the shore, I intend visiting some of the little coves
I see to the northward of these downs, and now, sir, perhaps you can
inform me whether I am likely to find any people residing among them?
But few, if any, answered the priest, they are nearly all dead or
gone away who once lived there; the curse of your country has been upon
them. The aged and the young, the married and the single, the widow and
her children, have all been swept away.
Yes, I have heard that great changes have taken place in this
neighbourhood of late years, answered the young officer, a shade of
melancholy crossing his countenance. And now, sir, in spite of the
somewhat rough way in which you first addressed me, I wish you good
morning, and thank you for your information.
Father O'Rourke had, all the time he was speaking, been examining
the countenance of the young officer.
Ah, to be sure, I was somewhat irritated by a trifle just before I
met you, but your politeness has conquered me, he answered blandly,
and I beg you, should you come near my humble abode, to believe that I
shall be happy to receive you. We poor, oppressed Catholics have little
to offer our guests, but to such as I possess you will be welcome. Our
business is to look after the souls of our parishioners. If we can but
show them the right way to heaven we should be content.
The young officer seemed somewhat inclined to smile at these remarks
of the priest.
I will not fail to avail myself of your invitation, he answered,
but at present I do not intend to extend my walk along the sea-shore.
Well then, sir, as you have wished me good morning, I must wish you
the same, and a pleasant walk to you, only let me advise you to be
cautious where you go; it isn't just the safest part of the country for
a king's officer to be found wandering in by himself. However, sir, I
have given you a friendly warning, and now again farewell. The priest,
somewhat to the surprise of the officer, considering the father's
previous greeting, put out his hand, which he was too courteous not to
take, then quickly turning round, Father O'Rourke proceeded up the
gorge into the country.
Father O'Rourke was not accustomed to explain to others the object
of his proceedings. He had good reasons in his own estimation for
everything that he did. They were possibly conscientious; but then his
conscience might have been a very erring guide, and led him far wrong,
as is the case with many other people in the world.
It cannot be helped, said the priest to himself, alluding to
something which was passing in his own mind, but no harm may come of
it to me after all. The boys were to meet at O'Keef's last night, and
there will be plenty of them still about there; they will be glad
enough of the chance of getting hold of a king's officer, and if he
shows fight and some one gives him a knock on the head, or sends a
pistol-bullet through him, it will settle the business. He is certain
to be down in the cove, and if the boys are quick they will catch him
there. I am pretty sure that I am not mistaken, but at all events he
will be a valuable prize if he can be got hold of any way.
Such thoughts occupied the mind of the priest as turning off from
the beaten path he took his way across a mountainous region which still
remained in all its primitive wildness. After proceeding for some
distance at a speed which was surprising considering his age, he
reached some rude turf-covered huts, scarcely discernible from the
rocks and grass amid which they stood. The priest gave a peculiar call,
which soon brought out a number of shaggy-looking heads and eager faces
with grey frieze-coats beneath them. Father O'Rourke did not take long
to explain the object of his visit, which was quickly comprehended, nor
did he wrongly estimate the inclinations of his hearers, who gleefully
undertook to carry out the plan he proposed to them. All things being
arranged to his satisfaction, he returned to his own abode, saying to
himself, I warned him of danger, so that if he is attacked and
escapes, he cannot accuse me of having had anything to do in the
The officer was about to prosecute his intention of descending into
the cove, when he heard merry voices near him. The speakers seemed to
be climbing up the cliffs, and they soon made their appearance on its
summit. Touching their caps as they neared the officer
The boat has come for you, sir, said one of them.
Very well, was the answer. Go down and amuse yourselves on the
beach for a short time and I will join you. I am not ready to go off
The young midshipmen receiving these orders managed to get down the
cliffs in a way few but midshipmen could have done without breaking
I wonder what our captain's about, said one of them. I should
have thought that he would have gone to the Castle. Lord Kilfinnan
lives there, you know; and I remember hearing how constantly he used to
be at his house out in the West Indies. Did you ever see Lady Nora?
No, answered the other; I do not remember having heard her spoken
Oh, she is the Earl's daughter, and a very beautiful girl she is,
too, observed the first speaker. There is Lady Sophy Danvers, her
cousin, too, who lives with her. She was engaged for a long time to
that Captain Falkner, you know, who commanded the Cynthia; but,
I suppose her relations did not like her to marry him because he wasn't
a lord, and intended her for a duke or a marquis perhaps.
I do not see why they should have done that, answered the other
midshipman. In my opinion, a naval officer is equal to any lord in the
land; at all events, a post-captain is. If I were a post-captain, I
know, I should not hesitate to pay my respects to any earl's daughter.
Why, just think, to have a fine frigate and three or four hundred men
under one's orders, and, by-and-by, a line-of-battle ship, and then a
post-captain becomes an admiral, remember; and many admirals have been
made lords themselves. Why, there is Lord Nelson; he was only a
midshipman to begin with; and Lord Collingwood, and Lord Saint Vincent,
and Lord Howe, and many others; they were all midshipmen, just as you
and I are. Now, just look at our captain for instance; if any one
deserves to be made a lord he does. What a gallant fellow he is. Why,
if it had not been for him, they say, the Cynthia would have
been taken. It was he assisted in lashing the enemy's bowsprit to the
frigate's foremast, and then repelling the boarders who were swarming
on board; and then, there are no end of things he did in the West
Indies, and in other parts of the world. He has been in half-a-dozen
cutting-out expeditions, and, since he has been a commander, has taken
several prizes. Did you ever hear how, when the French frigate was
sinking, he refused to leave her, and stayed on board to assist the
captain in keeping her afloat at the risk of his own life. Now, that is
the sort of thing to be proud of. I often think more of a man who has
done those generous actions than one who has gained a hard-fought
battle. However, what do you say to having a race along the sands?
Here, we will get most of the fellows on shore, and I am ready to give
a prize to the best runner.
I will give my pocket-knife, said the midshipman; that will be an
encouragement to the men. They are good sort of fellows, and I like to
afford them amusement. It is little we or they get these days, kept at
sea month after month.
As it may be supposed, the young midshipmen were great favourites on
board the corvette, and for some time they kept their crew amused as
they had proposed. At length they began to wonder that the captain did
not appear, and they began to fear that some accident had befallen him.
At last they proposed climbing up the cliff again to look for him. They
reached the top at last, and looked round the downs on every side; no
one was to be seen. Then curiosity led them a short distance inland.
Suddenly, a figure which made them start rose up before them.
Who are you looking for, young sirs? exclaimed mad Kathleen. I
know without your telling me. He is gonegone away, and you must
follow to find him; but listen, boys, I have a message for him. Now,
don't you fail to give it. Tell him there are enemies watching for him,
and that if ever he comes on shore by himself he will be sure to be set
upon, and all his strength and courage will avail him nothing. He is a
brave man, your captain, and I wish him well.
Why, how do you know anything about him? asked one of the
midshipmen. I did not know he had ever been here before.
Mad Kathleen knows more things than you wot of, answered the mad
woman, with a loud laugh, whirling her hands as she spoke. Now, go to
the Castle as I bid you, and give him my message. He would run more
risk by neglecting my warning than if he were to fight a dozen battles
for his king and country.
Though the midshipmen were little inclined to put much belief in the
message of the mad creature, they promised to deliver it as soon as
they met their captain. After consulting together, they agreed that
their proper course was to row along the bay towards the Castle, in the
hopes that he might have gone there.
As the commander of the corvette was about to descend the glen, his
attention was arrested by the faint tramp of horses' hoofs passing
rapidly over the downs. He turned his head and at that instant saw a
young lady on horseback, not far from him, cantering gaily along, while
at a short distance behind her was another lady, followed by a groom.
At that moment the figure of the mad woman, which had a short time
before appeared to him, rose suddenly from behind the ground where he
had last seen her. She uttered a wild shriek; the effect was to make
the leading horse start and rear violently. The animal, apparently, was
not well broken in. Again and again it reared, backing down towards the
edge of the cliff. The young officer saw the lady's danger, and in an
instant sprang towards her. She uttered a shriek as she discovered how
fearfully near the edge of the cliff her horse had carried her. The
officer grasped her bridle, but in vain tried to draw back the
frightened animal. It seemed resolved to throw itself over the
precipice. In another moment the lady and her steed would have been
carried to destruction.
Throw yourself from your saddle, and trust to me, exclaimed the
young officer imploringly.
She cast herself forward and fell into his arms. Alas! her habit
caught in the stirrup. Again the horse reared.
I will perish with her, exclaimed the young man mentally. Happily,
the skirt tore, and in another moment was disengaged; while the
frightened animal, with one bound, leaped over the cliff. So extreme
was the danger to which the young lady had been exposed, that scarcely
knowing she had escaped it, she fainted. The young officer, with his
precious burden, hurried up the downs, when her companion, jumping from
her horse, came to his assistance.
O Nora, Nora, she exclaimed, do tell me that you are alive! O
that we had some water to give her, such a faint as this is dangerous.
What can be done?
The groom, observing that there was a stream a few hundred yards on,
dashed forward on his horse, and quickly returned with his hat full.
Lady Sophy, loosening Nora's dress round her neck, and holding her
head on her knee, sprinkled the water over her face, which was turned
in the direction of the wind. By this means she quickly returned to
consciousness, and, opening her eyes, they fell on the countenance of
the young officer.
Oh, Captain Denham, she exclaimed, I owe my life to you. In
another moment I should have been dashed to pieces. I thought that I
had gone over the precipice. How grateful my dear father will be to
Then that must be your ship, said Lady Sophy, pointing to the
corvette. You must come with us at once to the Castle.
Captain Denham, of course, could only express his very great
satisfaction at having been the means of preserving the life of Lady
Nora, though he could claim no credit for having done so. Whatever had
been his previous intentions, he could do nothing else than accompany
the ladies till he had seen them safe at the Castle. He made anxious
inquiries after the Earl, and found, from the account they gave him,
that he was greatly broken in health, not having recovered from the
effects of the West Indian climate, or the loss of his son. In many
respects the meeting could not fail to be a sad one. The sight of
Captain Denham recalled painfully to Lady Sophy the death of her
intended husband, while Lady Nora, naturally, could not help thinking
of her young brother, who had been Captain Denham's friend.
The distance to the Castle was considerable, but Lady Nora declared
her inability to mount a horse, even if one had been sent for; nor
would she consent to take that of Lady Sophy. Supported, however, by
the arm of the captain, she proceeded towards home. They had many
things to talk about. Captain Denham had to describe how he had been
sent to the coast of Ireland to render assistance to any of the loyal
subjects of the king who might require it, whilst the ladies described
their passage home, and the feelings with which they had returned once
more to the old Castle.
Things are greatly changed, observed Lady Nora, we have none of
the gay society we used to have here; my father also is too much out of
spirits to see company. Occasionally a few neighbours look in upon us;
or when any ship comes into the bay we see some of the officers, and Mr
Jamieson and dear Miss O'Reilly come over to pay us a visit; but you,
Captain Denham, will always be welcome.
Captain Denham and his fair companions had arrived at the Castle
some time before the midshipmen with the boat appeared, having been
joined in the meantime by the second lieutenant.
The Earl welcomed him warmly, and begged him to take up his
residence at the Castle; but this invitation he was compelled to
decline, as he made it a point of duty never to sleep away from the
ship at night.
Lady Nora had sufficiently recovered to appear at dinner, to which
Denham's officers, who had come on shore, were also invited. Just
before dinner Mr Jamieson and his blind niece arrived. Lady Nora was
delighted to see them, and introduced Captain Denham to them both. The
blind lady seemed to take especial interest in him. She plied him with
questions, asking him what part of the world he had visited, in what
ship he had served, and in what actions he had been engaged.
The Earl had broken through the usual custom of sitting late at
dinner; indeed the gentlemen present seemed in no way disposed to
follow it. Soon after the ladies had retired, Mr Jamieson and Captain
Denham led the way to the drawing-room. Captain Denham approached Lady
Nora and inquired anxiously if she felt perfectly recovered from the
effects of her alarming accident. Oh, yes; indeed I am, she answered,
glancing up at him with a look which might have made many men vain. I
dare not trust myself to thank you as I ought, or to speak about it. I
cannot help thinking of what would have been my fate had you not been
there to save me. How often have I crossed those downs without dreaming
of danger; and indeed it was very curious how that poor mad woman
should have startled my horse. I have met her often before, and she has
done much the same sort of thing; but the poor animal was young, and
had not been ridden for some days. Sophy and I were on our way to visit
some of the poor people we are accustomed to call upon, and I was
anxious to see an old widow who lives in a little cove under where you
saw me; but that can be a matter of no interest to you.
As she spoke she again gazed up in his face. Something strange
seemed to flash across her mind. She cast another earnest, inquiring
look at him. The colour mounted to his cheek. His eyes fell, then again
he looked earnestly at her. Nora's breath came and went rapidly; her
What is the matter with Nora? exclaimed Lady Sophy, springing
forward, she is fainting. Help! help!
In an instant Lady Sophy was by Nora's side, and just in time to
receive her as she fell fainting into her arms. Captain Denham stood
for an instant so overwhelmed with some deep emotion, as scarcely to
comprehend what had occurred.
The bell was rung, and several attendants rushed in, and Nora was
borne fainting from the room.
It was still daylight, but just at this moment dark clouds began to
collect in the sky, casting a gloom over the landscape. The lieutenant
of the corvette had gone to the window looking out over the ocean. He
hurriedly came back, and while his commander was standing still
bewildered it seemed by what had occurred, he came up to him, and
Sir, there is a change in the weather. The wind has increased
considerably, and the bay in a short time will be no place for us.
This address aroused Captain Denham.
You are right, Matson, he answered, looking out at the window for
an instant, I will go on board immediately. We must bid farewell to
the Earl and be off. There is not a moment to lose, and I hope Evans
will get the ship under weigh without waiting for me.
Just as he was quitting the room Lady Sophy re-entered it, and
assured him that Lady Nora had quickly recovered, though still unnerved
by the danger she had gone through. I trust that she will have
perfectly recovered by to-morrow, she added. And, believe me, Captain
Denham, you will always be a welcome guest at the Castle.
She spoke earnestly, her looks giving expression to her words.
She is a dear, high-minded girl, and, believe me, I prize her, and
will watch over her as a sister, or I should say rather, as a
Thank you, thank you, answered the young captain, pressing Lady
Sophy's hand; you know my feelings for your cousin, but to no one else
would I venture to acknowledge them. To her I feel that I have no right
to speak of them. I leave myself, therefore, in your hands.
I trust to be so guided as to act for the best for you both, said
Lady Sophy, but I must not longer detain you. I hope that we may see
you here again before many days have passed.
Well satisfied, as he had reason to be, with what Lady Sophy had
said, Captain Denham followed his officers, who had already preceded
him to the boats. He stepped in, and the order was given to shove off.
The boats made the best of their way towards the corvette. The wind was
already blowing strongly, and a heavy sea rolled into the bay.
It is as much as we shall do, if we manage to beat out of the bay
this evening, observed the lieutenant to the midshipman in his boat,
I ought to have kept my eyes more about me, though it is natural
enough the captain's should have been preoccupied.
Yes, sir, indeed that is a lovely girl, Lady Nora; he will be a
happy man who wins her.
That is a matter, Mr Merton, too delicate for me to pronounce on,
answered the lieutenant; but I was speaking of the difficulty of
beating out of the bay.
Oh yes, sir, I beg your pardon, said the midshipman; still I
believe we shall be able to carry all sail, and if so, the Ariadne
will soon find her way out of this difficulty.
That is an ugly reef to the north, observed the lieutenant; I
would rather it were fifty miles away than where it is.
Yet it affords us good shelter when the wind is as it was this
So it does, answered the lieutenant, but it is directly in our
way when we have to beat out when the wind is in the west.
The captain made no remark to the midshipman in his boat; he was too
completely absorbed in his own thoughts, though he occasionally urged
his crew to greater exertion by the usual exclamation of Give way,
lads, give way.
The boats were soon alongside. Directly they were seen coming, the
officer in command had begun to get the corvette under weigh, and when
the captain stepped on board the anchor was hove up to the bows.
The corvette, under topsails and top-gallant-sails, was now hauled
close to the wind. She cast to the north, and stood directly towards
the reef of rocks which appeared ahead. The captain took his place in
the weather rigging, to con her, while scarcely had sail been made on
the ship before the increase of wind made it doubtful whether she would
carry what was already set. The dark clouds came rolling up in thick
masses from the west overhead, while heavy seas, topped with foaming
crests, rolled in from the same direction. The corvette heeled over
until her lee ports were in the water, still it was not a moment for
shortening sail. Now the young commander gazed at the shore under his
lee, now to the dark rocks ahead, and now at his masts and spars. No
higher, he had more than once to cry out, as the men at the helm,
anxious to gain every advantage, kept her too close to the wind. We
cannot hope to weather the reef on this tack, he observed to the
lieutenant, who was near him.
The crew were all at their stations, attentive to obey the least
sign from their commander. Now a fiercer gust than ordinary made the
ship heel lower in the water. Now she rose again. It was a critical
moment as she rushed forward with headlong speed towards the
threatening reef, over which the sea was already furiously beating.
Still the young commander stood calm and collected. Now his hand was
raised, and as he glanced towards the helmsman, now he looked once more
to the sails aloft. Hands about ship, he shouted in a clear, ringing
voice, which every man heard fore and aft. Helm's-alee! Tacks and
sheets! Main sail haul! It seemed as if in another moment the
beautiful vessel would spring forward upon the threatening rocks. She
was in stays, but the slightest shift of wind to the south would have
driven her to destruction. Anxiously the commander looked at the
fore-topsail still aback. For an instant the ship's head appeared not
to be moving. Then gradually the wind forced her round. Of all haul!
he shouted in a cheerful voice, as she sprang forward towards the
opposite side of the bay. Still she was not free. The headway she made
was counteracted by the heavy seas which now rolled in upon the land,
and forced her towards it. Now she was standing towards Kilfinnan
Castle. The commander turning, looked at the reef they had left; then
once more casting his gaze ahead,We shall scarcely weather it the
next tack, he said to himself. If the wind holds as it does now,
however, and if it does not increase much, the tight little ship will
still work her way through it.
Anxiously those in the Castle watched the progress of the corvette.
They well knew the danger to which she was exposed, for although many a
year had passed since any large ship had been cast away in their bay,
yet there were traditions of men-of-war being driven on the coast, and
the whole of their gallant crews perishing. Numerous merchant vessels
and smaller craft had also from time to time been dashed to pieces on
the rocks, and many sad tales there were of lives being lost, when the
persons on board the vessels appeared within but a short distance of
Nora had sufficiently recovered to go to the window and gaze forth
upon the vessel.
O, what a beautiful fabric she is, she exclaimed; how rapidly she
draws near! With the glass she could almost see those on board. But
will she, do you think, escape that reef to the north, when she once
Oh, yes, I trust so, answered Lady Sophy, he who commands on
board is an experienced seaman, you know, and if any human being could
carry the ship out of the bay, he will do so.
Besides the young ladies, several other persons on shore were
watching the progress of the corvette, as she endeavoured to beat out
of the bay. Far down below, in the sheltered cove, in front of her
cottage, stood Widow O'Neil. Her white locks, escaping from the band
which generally bound them, streamed in the wind. The hood of her red
cloak was thrown back, and while with one hand she steadied herself by
one of the supports of the deep eaves of the cottage, she stretched
forth the other towards the ocean, as if she would direct the course of
the bark which struggled through the foaming waves.
They are brave men on board that craft, she exclaimed to herself,
but oh, it is hard work they will have, to get clear of the bay. Proud
and trim as that beautiful ship looked this morning, who can say but
what before another sun rises, she will be a shattered wreck upon
yonder cruel rocks. Such a sight I have seen night after night as I lay
on my couch, I know not whether asleep or awake; but, oh, may Heaven
protect those on board from such a fate, if their vessel, stout as she
may be, is thrown upon yonder reef.
My boy, my boy! Even now he may be on the stormy ocean, threatened
with shipwreck, as are those in yonder beautiful vessel. May Heaven
protect him and them!
As she spoke, the fishwife stretched forth her neck more eagerly
over the ocean, and again and again she offered up a prayer for the
safety of those on board the ship which struggled below her. High up
the glen, in a sheltered place, yet still commanding a view of the bay,
sat another person. It was Father O'Rourke. He, too, was watching the
ship, with a very different feeling animating his heart, to that which
worked in the bosom of the widow. No prayer for the safety of those on
board escaped his lips. He seemed to gaze with satisfaction on the
fearful danger to which she was exposed. He more than once exclaimed to
himself, She cannot escape yonder rocks, and then that pert and daring
youth who set me at defiance, with all his companions, will meet the
fate which they and their Saxon countrymen so well merit. Curses on the
heads of those who execute the behests of King George and his
ministers. While we have red-coats and blue-jackets arrayed against us,
what hope is there of liberty for old Ireland? I hate them all. From
the king on his throne to the meanest soldier who trails a pike in his
At a short distance on a high and projecting part of the cliff,
stood a wild and fantastic figure. It was that of mad Kathleen. She
waved her arms round and round. Now she shouted, as if she would warn
those on board the ship of the danger they were approaching. Again and
again she cried out, as if encouraging them to perseverance in their
bold attempt at beating out of the bay. Sometimes she uttered blessings
on their heads, especially that of their young commander.
A brave youth, a noble youth he is, she exclaimed; even when I
set eyes on him this morning I felt my heart drawn towards him.
Grievous would it be for him to lose that fine ship, his first command,
and still more grievous were his life to be taken by the angry waves!
Thus she continued for some time, until she was interrupted by a
hand being placed on her shoulder. She turned round and saw Miss
O'Reilly standing near her.
What, Kathleen, are you trying to show yonder ship the way to beat
out of our bay? asked Mr Jamieson, in his usual kind voice.
I would I were on board, minister, that I might help to guide
them, she answered, with a laugh. There are many worse pilots than I
am, and often in girlhood's days have I sailed with my father on yonder
sea, sometimes, as now, tossed with waves, at other times calm and
blue, like a young maiden's eye, void of guile and treachery.
But, tell me, Kathleen, do you think the ship will manage to escape
from the dangers by which she is surrounded? asked Miss O'Reilly, in a
somewhat agitated voice. They say her captain is a brave and gallant
officer, and it would be grievous if he were to lose that beautiful
vessel, for so I am told she is.
God who guides the winds and gives them power alone knows whether
yonder ship will gain the open sea in safety, answered Kathleen; but
I will tell you, dear lady, if you stay by me, what progress she makes.
If the prayer of a poor mad creature can save her, she is safe enough,
and the wind will hold as it does now, sufficiently to the south to
enable her to clear the reef. Oh, Miss O'Reilly, even now she seems
rushing forward to destruction.
Whereabouts is she? asked Miss O'Reilly eagerly.
Not two hundred fathoms, it seems at this moment, from the reef,
answered Kathleen. If she can come about without difficulty, she will
escape, but if not, in a few minutes she will be cast on the rocks, and
then you know too well what will happen.
Tell me, good Kathleen, tell me, said the blind lady, after a
short silence; has she gone about? is there once more a prospect of
Again she is in stays! exclaimed Kathleen. See, see! the wind
seems to have caught her. Oh, may merciful Providence watch over her!
It seems to me that her head is once more turning towards the dreadful
rocks. Alas, alas! no power can save her.
Oh, may Heaven protect them! exclaimed the blind lady, turning her
sightless eyes in the direction of the ship. Oh, may those brave men
on board escape the fearful danger in which they are placed!
Your prayers are heard, lady! your prayers are heard! shouted
Kathleen; the wind has taken her head-sails, and once more she is on
the starboard tack, standing away from that fearful reef.
Mr Jamieson and his niece stood for some time watching the progress
of the corvette, till the shades of evening, increased by the thick
clouds which obscured the sky, hid her from their sight; but they could
not persuade Kathleen to leave the spot, for she declared that she
could still see the ship through the mist. At length, the minister and
his niece returned to their home, leaving poor Kathleen still wildly
waving her arms and shouting, until her voice was hoarse, as if she
would address those on board the vessel.
See, see! she is once more about! Surely her bowsprit is pointing
more seaward than it was before, and if the wind was to shift a little
more to the south, she would soon be clear of yonder fearful reef.
The corvette once more going about, stood to the north. Although the
wind might have drawn a little more to the south, yet this advantage
was counteracted by the fierceness with which it blew. The masts, with
more sail on them than it would have, under other circumstances, been
deemed prudent to set, bent with the unusual pressure. Sometimes,
indeed, as Captain Denham gazed up at them, they seemed like
fishing-rods, so fearfully did they bend before the breeze. The first
lieutenant and master were also looking up at them with not less
anxiety than did the captain. They will scarcely stand this pressure,
observed the former; what say you, master?
We must keep the canvas set, at all events, and trust to
Providence, answered the master. This is no moment for taking in a
reef. If they go and the ship refuses to stay, we must bring up, though
I fear the little vessel will scarcely hold her own against the heavy
seas which come rolling into this bay; and, to my idea, both she, and
some of us on board, will leave our bones to rot on the strand under
our lee, if it comes to that.
Let's hope for the best, master, answered the first lieutenant.
See how calm our captain looks. You would never suppose that he is
aware of the danger in which we are placed.
He knows it pretty clearly, though, observed the master. Hold on,
good sticks, hold on, he exclaimed, looking up at the masts. They are
tough spars, I know, and they are now giving good proof of their
Sometimes, from the direction of the vessel's head, it appeared
possible that she might weather the reef towards which she was
approaching. Then, again, she fell off, and it was evident that she
must make another tack before there was a chance of her doing so. The
commander seemed of this opinion, and was clearly unwilling to approach
again as near as before to the reef. Again he shouted, Hands about
ship! As before, the helm was put down, the tacks and sheets were
raised, the men hauled with a will at the braces, and the ship's head,
coming up to the wind, continued for some moments pointing west, to the
open part of the bay. Anxiously the commander watched her movements. At
one time it seemed as if she had got stern way, and he opened his mouth
about to give the order to let go the anchor and to shorten sail. Those
on board knew the order would have been followed by another, dreaded by
all seamento cut away the masts, the only mode of proceeding to
enable the corvette to ride out the gale. Again and again the captain
looked up at the head-sails. She is paying off! he exclaimed. A
shout, though immediately suppressed, burst from the throats of the
crew. For the moment they were safe from the threatened danger. Again
the corvette stood across the bay. The topmasts, as before, bent to the
We shall easily clear that reef, observed the master. Well, it is
a pleasure to see a man con a ship as our fine young skipper does.
These are moments to try a man's mettle, and he has shown that he is of
the true sort.
The corvette flew across the bay, almost, it seemed, with lightning
speed, so soon was she again on the opposite side. Another critical
moment had arrived, and it was only to be hoped that the gale would not
come down with greater force than before while she was in stays, or
very likely at that moment her topmasts would be carried away. Again
about she came; this time without difficulty, and now her head pointing
seaward, she stood out from the bay, still as those on shore watched
her through the fast gathering gloom of evening, she seemed to be
drawing nearer and nearer to the reef. Now once more she looked up to
the west, then again to the north; still the masts and spars stood.
Yet, after all, she was nearer the reef than under such circumstances a
seaman would wish to find his ship.
Mr Matson, said the commander, looking down at his first
lieutenant, we must at once take two reefs in the topsails; but it is
a risk for the hands aloft, a fearful risk indeed, he added.
I am ready to lead the way, sir, exclaimed a young seaman, who was
no other than Ned Davis, the commander's old companion.
Give the orders then, Matson, said the captain.
Aloft, there, shouted the first lieutenant. Scarcely, however, had
the men sprang into the rigging, when there was a loud crash. The
main-topmast had gone close to the cap. The straggling sail and wreck
of the spars hanging over the side.
Clear away the wreck, cried the captain. Not a moment to be lost.
We must save the other masts.
The men flew aloft, Ned Davis being among the first drawing out
their knives from their pockets as they did so. In a few seconds the
ropes were severed, and the mast and spar fell overboard, with the
still loudly flapping sail. At the same moment the crew throwing
themselves out on the fore-topsail yard, that sail was quickly reefed.
You must take another reef in it, Mr Matson, said the commander,
closely reef it, or that mast will go also. The mizen-topsail with
greater ease was closely reefed. In consequence of the ship having been
deprived even for that short time of the power which urged her through
the seas, she had drifted down, it seemed, close upon the reef. Once
more the captain looked anxiously to leeward.
We shall still weather the reef, he exclaimed to the first
lieutenant, who, after gazing at it, looked in his face as if to ask a
question, Unless, the commander added, the wind draws more out of
Heeling over, however, less than she had before done to the blast,
her head pointed seaward, clear of the reef, still, should she be
making much leeway, it would be doubtful whether, after all, she would
clear it. To tack close to it, crippled as she was, would be dangerous
in the extreme. The commander stood, as before, at his post.
She will do it, Matson, he said, speaking to his first lieutenant.
God grant she may, answered the officer.
On she flew. The sea dashed in masses of foam high above the dark
rocks which formed the extremity of the reef. On, on, she stood. A few
seconds almost would decide her fate. Many an eye glanced over the
lee-bulwarks. The water washed up through the scuppers, and rose high
on deck. The crew sheltered themselves as best they could under the
weather-bulwarks, for the seas were breaking in masses of foam over the
weather-bows, deluging the decks fore and aft. The commander gazed also
anxiously at the reef. The corvette darted on. Already the foam which
flew over her seemed to unite with that which broke above the rocks.
Still, he did not turn pale, nor did his eye quiver. In another instant
she would be hurled to destruction or be free. The crew watched the
threatening reef, and many an old seaman felt that he had never been in
Ned Davis, when he came down from aloft, had taken his post again
near his beloved commander. I am a good swimmer, he said to himself,
and I will do my best to save the captain. If I fail I will perish
with him. Such were the thoughts which passed through his mind, as the
most critical moment of all had arrived. Nearer and nearer the corvette
drew towards the rocks. Now they appeared broad on the lee-bownow
they were right abeamand at length many a bold seaman drew his breath
more freely as they were seen over the quarter. The danger was passed.
The beautiful little ship flew on, breasting bravely the foaming
billows. At length she had clear room once more to make a tack. She
came about before it might have been expected, crippled as she was, and
now with her courses hauled up she stood out to sea.
Pipe below, cried the captain, leaving the weather side of the
poop, where he had stood since the ship had first got under weigh.
Keep her south-west, Mr Matson, he observed, as he retired to his
cabin; and call me on deck should any change take place in the
It would be difficult to describe the feelings of those on shore who
had watched for so long the manoeuvres of the corvette as she worked
her way out of the bay. Often Lady Nora lifted up her hands as if
praying to Heaven for the safety of those on board. Each time, too the
ship approached the dangerous reef, with the character of which she was
so well acquainted, her cheek turned paler than usual, and her bated
breath showed the agitation of her feelings.
Yet, did she love the young commander of the corvette? She would
scarcely have acknowledged thus much to herself. He had not declared
his affection, and yet she felt almost sure that he was truly attached
I must remember that he was poor Barry's friend, she said to
herself; yet Barry did not pretend to know to what family he belonged;
indeed, he would never tell us how he first became acquainted with him.
That was very strange, for as often as I put the question he evaded it,
and replied, `I value him for himself, for the noble qualities he
possesses, and not for what he may possibly have been.' On board ship
we think only of our rank in the service, and what sort of fellow a man
shows himself to be by his conduct. So Nora do not say anything more
about the matter.
At length, when the corvette, as far as she was able to judge in the
thick gathering gloom of night, seemed to be clear of the land, Nora
could not refrain from giving vent to her pent-up feelings in tears,
while a prayer of thankfulness went up from her heart to Heaven.
Some time passed before she entirely recovered from the effects of
the fearful danger in which she had been placed. She looked forward,
day after day, for the return of the corvette, but in vain. She eagerly
examined the newspapers, but none of them mentioned the Ariadne.
She might still be on the coast of Ireland, or have been ordered
elsewhere. From what Captain Denham had said before he took his
departure, she was fully persuaded he would soon return; and it must be
confessed, she longed to ask him many questions. There were various
doubts passing through her mind which she was anxious to have solved.
She scarcely, however, would trust herself to speak of them even to
Sophy. She was soon to have her mind occupied with other cares.
Her father, who had never recovered the loss of his son, or his
visit to the West Indies, was now very evidently declining in health.
He could no longer follow the hounds, or ride out as before. He took
little or no interest in public affairs. Even his neighbours he
declined seeing when they called, though he seemed always glad to have
a visit from Mr Jamieson or his blind niece. He held frequent
conversations with the steward about his affairs, which seemed greatly
to trouble him. At length it was determined to send to Dublin to
request the presence of his family lawyer, Mr Finlayson, who, though
now an old man, was sufficiently hale to undertake the journey. He had,
it appeared, as had his father before him, managed for many years the
Nora willingly agreed to write to request his attendance, for she
felt, that as he was a faithful friend of her father's, he would
certainly be a comfort to him, and might also be able to suggest a
means of placing the property in a more satisfactory state than it was
in at present. She thought nothing of herself; it scarcely occurred to
her that she was to become the heiress of it all. She knew that the
title would become extinct at her father's death, but that caused her
no regret. She supposed that her income would enable her and her cousin
Sophy to live as they had been accustomed. More she did not require.
Within a week Mr Patrick Finlayson arrived in a chaise from Dublin.
In those days the journey was not performed as rapidly as at present,
and the dangers to be encountered were not a few. He was a small,
neatly made, active little man, with a clear complexion, which even his
advanced age had scarcely succeeded in depriving of the hue of youth,
though his hair was white as snow. His eyes were bright and
intelligent, and his whole manner and appearance showed that he was
still capable of a considerable amount of active exertion. His brown
suit, knee breeches, and silk stockings, were set off by brightly
polished steel buttons and diamond buckles. Having paid his respects to
the ladies of the family, and addressed Lady Nora in his usual easy,
familiar style, which showed that he had from her earliest youth,
claimed the honour of being one of her admirers and friends, he made
more especial inquiries about the Earl.
You will see a great change in my father, said Nora, but your
coming will, I feel sure, do him good. You know more about our affairs
than we do. I only hope things are not worse than he supposes, and if
they are, I must ask you to conceal the truth from him; I am afraid it
would do him no good to make him aware of it, and would only deeply
grieve him. I care not so much if I only am the sufferer.
You need not be alarmed, my dear Lady Nora, answered the old man,
taking her hand. Things are not worse than the Earl supposes; on the
contrary, I have of late seen the importance of not allowing him to
believe that they were improving as much as they have been. You know,
probably, your good father's disposition, and are aware, that had he
discovered this, he would very quickly have launched out again into his
old habits of extravagance, which, however, from the sad account you
give of him, he is not now likely to do, and therefore I am prepared to
tell him the whole truth. Your affairs, Lady Nora, require nursing, I
will confess to that, and careful management, but a few years of
economy will, I hope, place them on a satisfactory footing.
This is indeed pleasant news you bring us, Mr Finlayson, I own when
I heard that you had consented to come, that I feared things were
rather worse than better, but I am indeed very grateful to you for
coming; you have always been one of our truest friends, and I am sure
at the present moment you will be a great comfort to my poor father. I
will let the Earl know of your arrival, and I am sure he will be glad
to see you at once. During the last few days he has grown very much
weaker, and his medical attendant will not tell me what he thinks of
his case. He himself speaks very willingly to our friend and neighbour,
Mr Jamieson, who, when I ask him what he thinks, always looks very
grave, and replies, `that the lives of all of us are in God's hands,
and that we should be prepared to lose those we love at any moment.'
This makes me, as you may suppose, extremely anxious.
While Lady Nora was speaking the old gentleman became very serious.
I should like to see the Earl as soon as possible, he observed; I
have several matters of importance to consult him about, which I should
not like to put off until he becomes still weaker than you tell me he
is at present. You will excuse me, Lady Nora, when I say I should like
to be alone with him for some time.
O yes, sir, said Lady Nora; I know that whatever you have to say
to my father you have the right to say to him; and I feel such perfect
confidence in you that I have no desire to pry into any secrets you may
have with him.
Nora having left the lawyer, soon returned with the information,
that the Earl was ready to receive him.
Mr Finlayson found the Earl sitting in an armchair, propped up with
pillows, gazing out on the ocean, on whose blue and slightly ruffled
waves the sunbeams were playing brilliantly. The Earl smiled as his old
friend entered, and held out his hand warmly to him.
Sit down, Finlayson; you have come at a sad moment. I feel a
strange weakness creeping over me, and I am glad that you have not
longer put off your visit. Yes, I believe the moment is approaching for
which we all should be prepared, when I must leave this world. I wish I
could look back to all I have done during my life with satisfaction;
but I cannot say that I can do that. I have been hospitable and
generous, I own, according to the notion of people; but alas!
Finlayson, for the peasantry under my charge, for the multitudes of my
poorer neighbours, how little have I done? I might have set them a
better example; I might have obtained some education for them; and,
perhaps, by going among them, restrained them from committing the
excesses into which, from time to time, they have plunged.
Very true, answered the lawyer; I believe there are very few
people who have not to say something like that, when they are about to
leave the world; but we must not think of what we have done or left
undone ourselves. You believe in the simple Gospel; I am sure you do,
or you would have listened to Mr Jamieson's preaching, as I have often
seen you doingin vain. We will speak of that by-and-by. I rather hope
that you think worse of your case than you should do. I do not hear
that the doctor is of the same opinion as you are, and so, my dear
lord, there are certain points with regard to your property which I, as
your legal adviser, would wish, in the first place, to discuss.
Mr Finlayson then entered into particulars, which it is not here
necessary to introduce.
The Earl seemed much relieved on hearing that his property was less
encumbered than he had supposed.
But there is another point, my lord, on which I shall wish
particularly to consult you.
Well, the sooner we speak on anything of importance the better,
Finlayson. We know not what another day may bring forth, observed the
He already spoke with some difficulty.
Well, my lord, at all events I should like to know your wishes on
the subject, said the lawyer. Your lordship knows that your father
had an elder brother.
Yes, said the Earl, in a somewhat surprised tone.
He was considerably older than your father, continued the lawyer.
He was a somewhat wild and extravagant man. Your lordship may possibly
remember that he engaged in one of the unhappy outbreaks of those
Yes, yes, said the Earl hastily. I heard that he became a rebel
against his king and country.
Well, my lord, you know many honourable men joined with him on that
I fancy that he was found guilty of high-treason, was he not? said
Yes, answered the lawyer. An act of attainder was passed against
him, by which he lost both title and property. Had it not been for the
interest of your father, it would have been lost to the family
altogether; but, as he had always proved loyal, he was allowed to
inherit the property in the place of his brother, for your grandfather,
if you remember, was alive at the time.
Yes; but of what consequence is that at the present day? asked the
I am coming to that, my lord, said Mr Finlayson. Your uncle, it
appeared, married and had a son and your father, who really loved his
brother, being at that time a bachelor, petitioned the Government, that
in case of his death without an heir, his elder brother's guiltless
child might succeed to the property, and regain the title of which his
father had been deprived.
Ah! said the Earl, I was not aware of that; but had this relative
of mine (this cousin I suppose I should call him) a son?
That for a long time was a matter of doubt, said the lawyer. It
appeared, however, that he, when a young man, inherited many of his
father's qualities, and was in all respects fully as wild and
unmanageable as he had been, and he very soon, in consequence, brought
himself within power of the law.
I hope he never committed any act unworthy of a gentleman or of his
name and family, said the Earl, with more animation than he had
hitherto shown. At least I trust one of the last scions of our race
brought no disgrace on it.
No, my lord, said the lawyer, smiling; he was only guilty of that
gentlemanly act,treason, having united himself with some of those
unhappy people, who hoped to overthrow the authority of the Government.
He became a United Irishman, and took part in the rebellion of that
time. He was at length committed to prison, and to my great dismay I
found that he had been condemned to death.
Did he retain his own name, or had he assumed another? asked the
He had some time before dropped his family name, and wisely too,
considering the position in which he was placed, answered the lawyer.
He had contrived, however, to make friends both within and outside the
walls of the prison, and by their means he managed to escape. A price
was of course set upon his head, and it was generally supposed that he
had left the country. I thought so likewise for some time; but his
father, who was then alive, had placed some sums of money in my hands,
and empowered me to devote them to his assistance. I suppose he
discovered this, for after a short time I received a letter from him,
by which he led me to understand that he was still in the country, but
in a position where it was not at all likely he would be discovered. He
told me, moreover, that he had no intention of leaving Ireland; that he
had lately married a young country girl, and was very happy in his
present position. He praised his wife as a most beautiful creature, and
said that in her society he hoped in future to remain quiet, and
refrain from any of the acts which had hitherto brought him into
trouble. He had taken so many precautions that, notwithstanding all my
exertions, I could not find out where he was. Still he enabled me to
remit the money he required. I should have told you that when your
father had made the arrangement which I have been describing, he bound
over his nephew and his son not to make any claim to the title, as long
as an heir of his own line existed. But should he have no male heir,
then the eldest of his descendants was allowed to put in a claim for
the title. This document, and other legal proofs of his identity, your
cousin had obtained possession of. He told me, I remember, in his
letter, that he considered himself strictly bound to adhere to the
agreement, and that as for himself, he had no wish ever to claim the
title which had belonged to his ancestors; that he had sufficient to
satisfy his wants; that he was tired of ambition; and that he was
perfectly content to let his country go on in its present condition,
without interfering in politics. I replied that his resolution was a
wise one, and undertook whenever he desired to have the money forwarded
to him, to send it immediately. I of course did my best to try and
discover where he was and whom he had married. Once or twice I was very
near succeeding. I traced him to two or three places, but at length I
entirely lost all clue to him. I suspect he was aware I was
endeavouring to discover him, and thus, as he had already had much
practice in playing the game of hide-and-seek, he was able completely
to evade me.
That is a strange story you have told me, said the Earl; I had
forgotten many of the circumstances to which you allude. Alas! as long
as my own boy lived it was a matter of no consequence. I felt very sure
that my own patent was secure, and that he would inherit my title and
estates; but now it seems that through this curious arrangement of my
father, matters have altered; but surely should an heir appear, he
could not deprive my daughter of Kilfinnan Castle, and the estates
which belong to it.
In the unlikely event of a claimant establishing his right to the
earldom, he would also inherit the Kilfinnan estates, answered the
lawyer; but you will remember there are the estates in Derry, which
were formerly separated from the Kilfinnan property, and according to
the arrangements made by the late Earl, they become the heritage of the
females should there be no son to succeed. Thus Lady Nora will at all
events retain the Derry estates, even though it may turn out that your
long-missing cousin has left a son to inherit the title and Kilfinnan
The Earl sighed deeply.
It matters very little to myself. My dear Nora has no ambition, and
as her tastes are simple, she will be perfectly content with the Derry
estates, where she will, I feel sure, devote herself to the care of the
surrounding peasantry, and will avoid those extravagances which would
injure her property, as alas! I have done.
The lawyer sat for some time longer with his friend, but the Earl at
length, observing that he felt very faint, desired that his doctor, who
was in the house, might be sent for. The man of medicine soon appeared,
and feeling the Earl's pulse instantly administered restoratives. In a
short time the Earl rallied, and desired that Lady Nora and his niece
might be sent for. They came and sat with him for nearly an hour, when
he begged that they would retire to their rooms, assuring them that he
felt much better, and that he hoped the following day he should have
more conversation with Mr Finlayson on the matters of business which he
wished to discuss with him.
Evening approached, and Nora and her cousin sat in the tower chamber
overlooking the ocean. They neither of them felt disposed to go to
sleep. The night was calm and lovely, the atmosphere unclouded. The
stars shone forth brightly, and the light crescent moon was reflected
in the waters below. The reef of rocks on the other side of the bay
could be distinguished, and the lofty headlands beyond it stood out in
bold relief against the sky, while to their extreme right they could
see the whole sweep of the bay and the lofty downs above it. It is not
surprising that they should have been unwilling to tear themselves away
from such a scene. It calmed their agitated feelings, for Nora could
not conceal from herself that one of the kindest of fathers was about
to be taken from her, while Lady Sophy, almost friendless as she was,
felt that she was about to lose her best protector. She could, it was
true, live on with her cousin Nora, and watch over her, as she had ever
done, like an elder sister over one far younger than herself. Already,
Lady Sophy's early beauty had completely departed. There was the same
outline of feature, and the same elegant figure, but her countenance
wore that sad expression (too often to be seen marking the features of
the once young and lovely) of disappointed affection, of blighted
hopes. Thus they sat on, hour after hour. A dark shadow passed across
the moon, and threw a gloom over the hitherto bright landscape.
Suddenly they were startled by a loud, wild shriek. It seemed to come
from far away across the ocean. Now it swelled into a high note of
wailing; now it sank into a mournful tone of grief. Again and again
that strange sound struck their ears.
The banshee! exclaimed Nora, placing her hand on Sophy's shoulder
with alarm. Surely I have always believed that it was a mere
superstition of the ignorant peasantrya phantom of the imagination;
but here is a dreadful reality. Yes, it surely must be the banshee, and
what does it forebode? Sophy, you know too well, and so do I. Perhaps
it is sent in mercy, to warn and prepare us for that dreadful event.
But ought we not to have been prepared already? The last words my dear
father spoke to me were sufficient to make me feel he was aware of the
great change about to take place. Let us hasten to him. Perhaps even
now his spirit is departing, and I would be at his side at that awful
Stay, Nora, said Sophy; I do not believe in the banshee, or any
other being of the sort. I see no figure, and even did I, I should not
be convinced that it was a being of another world. I know that many
believe such things exist. Some think they are sent in kindness;
others, that they are rather evil spirits permitted to disturb the
parting hours of the dying; but that, at all events, I am sure is not
the case. Let us watch a short time longer. Depend upon it, we are
deceived in some way.
Oh, no, no! exclaimed Nora, pointing towards the nearest part of
the beach which was visible. See that phantom figure moving across the
sands! Surely that must be the banshee! What else?
No, dear Nora, calm yourself, answered Sophy. Do not you
recognise the figure of poor mad Kathleen? She must have uttered those
cries as she passed under the castle walls. She must have come to ask
after the Earl, and, as bad news flies fast, she has probably been told
he is sinking rapidly. So, as she has received many a kindness from the
family, she is giving vent to her grief in those wild, unearthly
screams and cries.
You are right, Sophy, answered Nora, but, for the moment, I could
not help believing in the existence of the wild phantom we have read of
and heard so often about in our younger days from the surrounding
cottagers. Yes, I see it is poor Kathleen. I trust my poor father has
not heard it, for, in his weak state, it might have a bad effect upon
his nerves. Yet he certainly does not believe in the existence of the
The poor girls had not long to watch before they were again
summoned, and this time it was to stand by the dying bed of the Earl.
Holding the hand of his daughter, which he gently pressed, he breathed
his last, with scarcely a sigh, and evidently without any pain or
suffering. Mr Jamieson, who had been summoned, stood by him. He rests
in peace, he said; he trusted in One all-powerful to save, though he
made but little profession of his faith.
Poor Nora was led from the death-bed of her father to her own room,
but it was long before she could find vent for her grief in tears. Her
cousin Sophy had long ceased to weep. Those who have suffered great
unhappiness, whose fondest affections have been blighted, as hers had
been, often find it impossible again to gain relief by weeping. Such
was her case. She mourned the loss of the Earl, as much as did her
cousin, but it was in a different way. Not a tear dropped from her eye.
She found no vent for all she felt. Nora, on the contrary, exhibited
her grief far more violently, and thus, perhaps, the sooner regained
Mr Finlayson, as he had promised the Earl, acted the part of a kind
father to her. He treated her as a petted child, spoke words of comfort
to her on all occasions, and tried by every means to raise her spirits.
Often he succeeded in doing so, and she could not help expressing a
wish that he could remain at the castle, instead of returning to
Well, well, he answered, I will do my best to please you, my dear
young lady. I have a son and grandson well able to attend to my
business, and as long as I am not required at home, you shall have the
benefit of my company.
In those days the burial of even a peasant was attended with much
parade, and any family would have been thought mean unless the body of
their deceased relative was properly waked. Although the corpse of a
Protestant Earl had not to go through this ceremony, yet it would have
been looked upon as a great disgrace to the family had not all the
neighbours been invited from far and near to attend the funeral, and be
sumptuously feasted. Had Nora been consulted she would gladly have
avoided anything of the sort. Mr Finlayson declared, however, that it
was not the day to break through their old customs, and, for the credit
of the family, they must issue the usual invitations. Nora and Sophy,
however, begged that they might be allowed to keep their rooms,
although Nora had been anxious to attend her father to the grave. This
it was arranged she should do in a private carriage. When the day
arrived, however, from far and near came squires and squireens, and
farmers and peasants, in all sorts of conveyances, the larger number
being on horseback, while several friends of the deceased nobleman
arrived from a distance to pay their last respects to his remains.
It was a sad sight, even to Nora; but she resolved to go through
with what she thought was required of her, and then she hoped to be
allowed to remain at rest for many a long day. The parish church, in
which the tomb of the family was situated, was about three miles off;
and after the guests had been regaled at breakfast with wines of all
sorts for the upper classes, and whisky, which flowed in profusion, for
the lower, they mounted their horses, and entered their conveyances, to
follow the hearse decorated with the usual trappings of mourning.
Behind the hearse, in a mourning carriage, sat Nora and her cousin,
closely veiled. Poor girls, how differently they felt to the mixed
multitude who followed them. Their guests gave way to their usual habit
of talking and laughing as they rode along. The events of the day were
discussed. The good qualities of the late Earl; the prospects of his
obtaining a son-in-law who might take his place and do the honours of
the castle; the beauty of his fair daughter; and especially, the state
of his finances. Few would have supposed that the lively and animated
collection of men, who rode along in every variety of costume, were
assembled there to pay the last honours to a deceased noble. They were
silent, however, as they assembled round the grave. Some perhaps for
the first time had then heard the burial service of the Protestant
Church, as a large proportion of the guests were themselves Romanists;
some perhaps were struck with what they heard; others probably attended
to little that was said. Nora and her cousin stood close to the grave,
closely veiled as before; and as Nora gazed for the last time upon the
coffin of her beloved father, her heart sank within her, and she felt a
longing to follow him to his quiet resting-place.
Again they made for the castle, and all restraint now being removed,
laughing and joking was the order of the day. Some even, as the wine
flowed faster, gave way to snatches of songs, while the last meets were
fully discussed, and the prospects of the next year's harvest. It is
scarcely necessary to describe the events which took place at the
castle. A considerable number of the guests had no little difficulty in
mounting their horses on their return home, from the generous liquor
which they had imbibed out of the late Earl's cellars. Their great
grief seemed to be, that there was no heir to succeed him, and to
assist in keeping up the neighbouring hunt. At length the castle was
once more at rest.
Mr Finlayson set earnestly to work to arrange the affairs of the
young heiress. The steward, and those who were employed by him, had
generally acted honestly; but as he made inquiries about the tenants,
many were in arrear with rent, and he saw that some effort must be made
to compel them to pay. He called the steward in for a consultation.
You give very good advice, Mr Finlayson; but I will just ask you,
as a Scotchman said, `Who is to bell the cat?' You know, surely, that
to attempt to distrain for rent on some of these gentlemen would
assuredly bring a bullet through your brain or mine. It is not an easy
matter to get money out of an Irishman when he is determined not to
pay, and it is not for you or me, if we are wise men, to push the
matter too hard. I will do my best and go among them, and put it to
them, whether they would like to deprive the young heiress of her
property. Perhaps, though they will not yield to force, they may to
persuasion, and I am thankful to say, we still retain in old Ireland,
the gift of blarney. You see, sir, we shall get much more out of them
in that way. I will just ask them if they would like to attack a young
lady and rifle her pockets. Put it thus to them, and show them that if
they keep back the money they are doing the same thing. Now, we shall
see, if I go on this plan, whether those who can pay will pay, while
those who cannot pay, it is very evident, will not do so; but to my
mind, there is no use turning a man adrift in the world if you can help
it. A better day may come, and then he may prove a good tenant. If you
turn him out of one property he will just build a hut in another corner
of the land, and you will have him there starving before your eyes, and
you will not be the better for the move.
Well, well, O'Connor, you are a wise man, I see. I will let you
have your way in that respect. We will do nothing to create an
ill-feeling against the dear young mistress, and it is for you and I
who are engaged to serve her to look after her interests. I wish she
had a good husband to help her; but it is my belief, from what I see
here, that there is not a young man in the country at all fit for her.
She is a good, gentle creature, and were she to wed one of the
rollicking, harum-scarum young fellows who are her equals, he would
break her heart; and staying at home as she does, she is not likely to
meet any others, while even abroad she saw no one to care for, or, at
least, no one appeared, so perhaps she will continue to live a maiden
life, and if so, she will require your assistance and mine as long as I
remain in the world.
Nora and Sophy were relieved from much anxiety by the continued
residence of the kind Mr Finlayson at the castle. He was so lively, so
full of conversation and anecdotes, so kind and judicious at the same
time. He raised their spirits more than any one else could have done. A
young man would have been out of place. Even kind, gentle Miss
O'Reilly, when she came over, though she talked very pleasantly, could
do little to animate them. Mr Jamieson performed his part as well as he
could, but he was not very animated; he was more inclined to speak in a
serious than lively strain.
Happily human beings are so constituted, that grief with few,
especially with the young, lasts long. After a time, Lady Nora and her
cousin recovered their usual spirits, and began to ride about the
country as before. Their chief pleasure was to visit those they had
long known, and to extend their search of others who might require
relief. The surest means for those who are themselves in distress of
obtaining comfort is to do good to their fellow-creatures. Several
times they paid a visit to the old fishwife, Widow O'Neil. She seemed
to have grown more hardy and wiry than ever. It was wonderful what
exertions she could go through. She often had the assistance of her
brother Shane, who was, however, advancing in life, and not so active
as before, while she appeared to have retained all her strength and
activity. They remarked, whenever they paid her a visit, the delight
she took in speaking of her long-lost son. She never failed to tell
them that she had seen him in her dreams. She knew, she declared, that
he was thinking of her, and though she could not say why he was
detained, he was, she felt certain, endeavouring to come back to her.
Sometimes she thought he was a slave in some foreign land; sometimes
that he had been cast away on some desert island, and had to live
there, unable to make his escape, and sometimes that he was in prison.
She said she knew he was in far distant lands, as that alone would have
kept him from her. They could not help being struck by the deep, the
intense love and confidence in him which the old woman always expressed
for her son, though they naturally had considerable doubts whether, if
he really was alive, he could feel the same for her.
He was a handsome youth, observed Lady Sophy to her cousin, but
there was a wild, daring look in his eye, and he was a lad who, when
once away, and having obtained a better position in life than that
which he enjoyed in his early days, would very likely cast off all
thoughts of his poor mother, and would have no wish to return to her
Oh, no, no, said Lady Nora, I could not think that of him; of
course I do not recollect him clearly, except from the sketch you made
of him, but yet I am sure from the expression of his countenance that
he must have been as true and honest as he was handsome. No, I would
rather suppose that he has long since been killed. Just consider how
many thousands of seamen have lost their lives within the last few
years in the numberless battles in which our country has been engaged,
and how likely it is that he was among them, and that is why no one has
received any tidings of him.
Such was the conversation which took place as they climbed up the
hill to return to their horses. They had promised Widow O'Neil to visit
her again in a day or two. She had undertaken to supply them with
shells which her brother Shane had collected, and which they wished to
send to a friend at a distance. When, however, the day arrived on which
they were to pay their visit, the morning broke with a storm of rain
and wind. The dark clouds chased each other over the sky, and the wind
whistled round the towers of the castle.
It will be impossible for us to ride to Widow O'Neil's to-day,
observed Sophy when they met at breakfast. I do not think Mr Finlayson
will promise to accompany us; he would not like to face the bad
Perhaps the rain will clear off, and then he will not mind the wind
any more than we shall, observed Sophy.
Mr Finlayson, who then entered the room, declared that should the
weather clear, he was ready to mount the little cob which had been
appropriated for his use, which was so steady, that occasionally the
Earl had gone out shooting on its back, and so sure-footed, it had
never been known to stumble.
But, my dear Lady Nora, you must be more careful than you were once
on a time, on a skittish young horse which nearly proved your death,
observed the old lawyer. A day like this tries an animal; and unless
your steed is as steady as a rock I cannot sanction your going out.
Oh, I will take care to ride one of the best behaved of our stud,
answered Nora, and Sophy shall have the next, as she is somewhat the
better horsewoman. I am anxious to send off those beautiful shells to
Miss Fitz-Patrick, as she particularly begged to have them, and we may
not have another opportunity of doing so for some time.
It was thus arranged that the horses should be ordered in the
forenoon, should the weather clear sufficiently, and that they would
pay their visit to Widow O'Neil. In a short time the rain ceased
falling, although the wind continued blowing as hard as ever; indeed,
it was a complete summer gale. The clouds rushed rapidly along the sky,
and the seas rolled in with all their force from across the wide
Atlantic. It wanted an hour or more to the time they had agreed to set
out, and the two ladies retired to their turret boudoir. Scarcely had
they entered the room, when Lady Nora exclaimed that she saw a vessel
in the north-west, at no great distance from the land. The glass was
turned in the direction towards which she pointed.
She is a large ship, she observed, but she seems to me to have
lost most of her masts, there is but one standing; yes, I am sure of
that, all the the rest are gone. With this fierce gale blowing on the
shore, what a dangerous position she is in! I cannot make out what ship
she is. Do you look, Sophy; what do you say to it?
Sophy looked through the glass.
I cannot make out to a certainty, but from her appearance, I should
judge her to be a man-of-war. Yes, I am nearly sure of it; I should say
that she is a frigate, for when I keep the telescope steady, I can
almost count her ports.
Nora looked through the glass.
Yes, you are right, she said; she seems to be standing to the
south, but she is evidently drifting fast towards the land. I see,
though, she has got some after-sail set on the stump of the mizenmast,
and I think I understand it; she wishes to weather the reef, and of
course after that take shelter in the bay. Yes, yes, that is clearly
her object; she is struggling bravely with the seas, but oh, in what
fearful peril she is placed.
The ladies immediately ordered their horses round, proposing to
watch the progress of the ship from the cliffs.
I daresay that Mr Finlayson will not object to come with us at
once, said Lady Sophy, and she left the room in search of him.
Willingly, my dear young lady, he answered; you will find that I
am no despicable cavalier when once I am in the saddle.
The party were soon mounted and cantering across the downs in the
direction of the struggling ship. Mr Finlayson was much less acquainted
with nautical affairs than were his fair companions, still he knew
enough to be aware that the ship was in great danger. The wind
prevented them from making rapid progress along the downs, although
they urged on their steeds as fast as they could go, anxious to meet
some one who could give them further information about the ship. They
determined to go on till they reached the widow's hut, as they knew
that, should her brother be there, as he had promised to be, they would
learn more from him than from anybody else as to the probability of the
ship escaping destruction on the dangerous reef towards which she
appeared to be drawing. Still they hoped against hope, that she might
struggle on and escape.
As they approached the end of the cliff above Widow O'Neil's
cottage, they recognised her standing on a high projecting point of
land, gazing towards the ship. Her actions gave them the idea that she,
like poor Kathleen, had lost her senses. Wildly she waved her arm,
sometimes clasping her hands, raising them towards heaven; then, again,
she stretched them over the ocean. As the ladies and Mr Finlayson rode
up to her, words of prayer were escaping from her lips.
What is the matter, Mistress O'Neil? asked Sophy, riding up to
her. Why are you thus agitated this morning?
It is on account of a dream I had last night, she answered. That
is no wonder, though, for every night as I lie on my bed I dream that
my boy is coming back to me, though when I am about to clasp him to my
heart he escapes away again; but last night I dreamed that he really
had come back, and there he was lying in my arms, just as he was when
an infant and smiling in my face. He must come back soon, too, for I am
getting old, very old, and oh, he will scarcely know me now! There is
not much time to lose; but he will come; yes, my lady, I know that he
will come. He will not be as young, and beautiful, and strong, and
happy as he was when he went away, so many, many years ago,I know not
how many; I have lost all count of them. Oh, they have been years of
grief and mourning to mesad, sad years; but such have been the years
of my life since one I loved was taken from me. Ah, if you had known
him, ladies, you would have said I had reason to love him: and now, my
boy, my only boy, to have been thus long kept from me! But he is coming
back, ladies. I tell you, I dreamed last night that he was coming back;
and suppose he was to be on board yonder ship! Ah, but I feel sure that
he cannot be, for she will strike on yonder dark reef, and soon be a
shattered wreck, to which no human being could cling and live. See how
fiercely the seas roll in, and dash furiously over it! See, see how the
brave frigate is drifting faster and faster towards the land! When I
first saw her this morning she was a good two leagues away, and now
there is not a quarter of a league between her and that rocky point. If
once she strikes upon it, few of her sturdy crew will ever come ashore
alive. Few, do I say? none, none can live amid those breakers. Oh,
Heaven protect them!
In spite of the strong gale which blew round them, neither the
ladies nor Mr Finlayson could tear themselves from the spot where they
stood, it being the best situation they could reach for watching the
progress of the labouring frigate.
CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.
We must for a time follow the fortunes of Charles Denham. Those were
days of rapid promotion, when an officer's name stood well at the
Admiralty. The young commander had not long served his time on board
the corvette before he received his post rank. Scarcely twelve years
had passed since he first stepped on board a man-of-war as a young
seaman before the mast, when he found himself in command of a fine
frigate of thirty-six gunsthe Isabel. Ned Davis, who had
followed him into every ship in which he served, now, by his advice,
having applied for a warrant, was appointed boatswain to the Isabel. Although Denham had attained what might be considered the height of
his ambition, he hoped, while in command of the frigate, to make a
still higher name for himself. Opportunities of doing so were not
likely to be wanting. England had enemies in all directions, and there
was every probability that a fine dashing frigate like the Isabel
would soon meet with a foe well worthy of her. She was, however, much
to the disappointment of her commander and crew, sent to the
Mediterranean, which, by that time, had been pretty well cleared of all
England's enemies. There was work, however, to be done, and whatever
Denham was ordered to do he performed it well. Having, at length, come
home with despatches, he was sent to the West Indies, where he had
already seen a good deal of service.
During this time he had few opportunities of hearing from the Earl
of Kilfinnan, to whom, however, he occasionally wrote, and got a kind
answer in return. Again, after nearly four years' service, he was on
his way home. When about three parts across the Atlantic, the weather
for some time before having been very bad, a ship was reported right
ahead. As the frigate approached her, she was seen to have her ensign
downwards, as a signal of distress. She appeared to be a large
merchantman. Her topmasts were gone, and she had, in other ways,
evidently suffered from the heavy weather. As soon as the frigate drew
near enough, she was hove to, and a boat being lowered, she was sent on
board the stranger. As the officer in command of the boat stepped on
board the ship, he was struck by the fearful appearance it presented. A
few of the crew, pale and emaciated, were dragging themselves about the
deck, scarcely able to stand upright, while on mattresses placed close
to the bulwarks were numerous human beings, some apparently dead,
others dying, moaning fearfully and in plaintive voices, petitioning
It was a long time before the lieutenant could get any one to
explain what had happened. The captain, it appeared, had died, and so
had most of the officers and the passengers. Their bodies had been
thrown overboard. Great was his horror when he at length ascertained
that they were suffering from the yellow fever. The weather was very
hot, and it was but too likely even that this short visit to the
pest-infested ship might cause him to convey it to the crew of the
frigate. What, however, was to be done? He could not leave the
unfortunate people on board the merchantman to perish by themselves,
without help; while, should he remain, he and those with him might
catch the same complaint. He found on inquiry that several persons were
down below who had hitherto escaped the pestilence. At length,
uncertain how to act, he returned on board the Isabel, to
receive instructions from his captain. The surgeon of the frigate was
of opinion that the only safe plan was thoroughly to fumigate the
vessel, and put a prize crew on board, to navigate her to an English
port, as it would be unsafe to take any of the people out of her. This
plan was followed, and an officer with twelve men went on board to
carry the ship to Bristol.
It was hoped that from the short time the lieutenant and his men
were on board no infection could have been conveyed from her to the
frigate. Before two days, however, had passed these hopes were found to
be fallacious. Two of the men who had been on board the merchantman
were seized with the fearful complaint, and the following day were
corpses. Several others in the course of a few hours were seized in the
same manner. Their illnesses in each case terminated fatally. As is
often the case, a panic seized the whole crew, and men who would have
faced an enemy boldly, trembled at the thoughts of the attacks of this
unseen foe. The captain and officers had tried to encourage them and
revive their spirits; but all seemed in vain. Not a day passed without
several of the men being committed to the deep, and no one knew who
would be the next victim. The surgeon declared his belief that the
seeds of the disease must have been contracted in the West Indies, as
it was impossible it could have been communicated by the people of the
Let the cause be what it may, the best hope we have of getting free
of the fever is to meet an enemy of equal size to ourselves; and, then,
while we are fighting him, I have no doubt that `Yellow Jack' will take
to flight, observed the captain.
At length a breeze sprang up, and although the disease had not
altogether ceased, it had considerably decreased. A sharp look-out was
kept at all hours for any sail which might appear on the horizon. At
length one was observed in the south-west, and all sail was made in
chase. For some time probably the Isabel was not seen by the
vessel she was chasing. The latter, however, was at length seen to make
sail, and to stand away to the west. The Isabel was a fast
vessel, and every effort was now made to increase her speed. The sails
were wetted, every stitch of canvas she could carry was set, and every
other device adopted to urge her through the water.
In those days the engagements which had taken place between English
and French ships had terminated in most instances so disastrously to
the latter, that Napoleon, it was said, had ordered all his cruisers to
avoid fighting if they possibly could. This might have accounted for
the flight of the stranger; for as the Isabel drew nearer, she
was discovered to be either a heavy frigate or a line-of-battle ship.
On a still nearer approach the French ensign flew out from her peak,
and it was ascertained, without doubt, that she was a large frigate, a
worthy antagonist for the Isabel. Superior as the enemy might be
in guns and in number of men, Captain Denham resolved to attack her.
The engagement he knew would be a severe one; but he trusted for
victory to the tried gallantry of his officers and crew, and the
resolution with which they would work the guns. He had the
weather-gauge, and he hoped by skilful manoeuvring to retain it. The
enemy finding she could not escape, now hauled up her courses, and made
every preparation for battle. The Isabel, when she drew near
enough, at once opened fire to cripple her antagonist, and to retain
the position she now enjoyed. This first broadside considerably cut up
the Frenchman's rigging; but the fire the Isabel received in
return did her still greater damage, badly wounding the fore-topmast.
Davis went aloft to examine it, and reported on his return that he
feared it would not stand much longer. Both the frigates now standing
on a wind, continued to exchange broadsides; the English firing at the
hull of their antagonist, while the Frenchman seemed to aim more
particularly at cutting up the masts and rigging of the English ship.
She seems to be full of men, and I suspect her object is to get
alongside, and to take us by boarding, observed the captain to his
We will show them what British steel can do if they make the
attempt, sir, was the answer.
The Frenchman attempted to luff across the English ship's bow, in
the hopes of raking her, but Denham was too much on the watch to allow
her to execute this manoeuvre successfully. A considerable number of
the Isabel's men had been killed. Still, her crew fought on with
undaunted courage. At length, her fore-topmast, which had before been
severely injured by a chain shot, came down with a crash upon the deck.
The Frenchmen shouted when they saw this, and another shout escaped
them when they saw the main-topmast follow the fate of the other mast.
If they attempt to run us on board we will try to secure them, as
we did in the Cynthia, observed the captain. If we let a few
of the Frenchmen come on board, we can quickly dispose of them, and
then return the compliment.
Ay, ay, sir, answered the lieutenant; I will give the order to
the men to prepare for boarding. They are ready enough for it.
Scarcely had he spoken, when the French frigate, luffing up, ran her
bows against the quarter of the Isabel. She was immediately
secured there by Davis and others; and now the Frenchmen came rushing
over the bows, expecting to make her an easy prize.
Boarders, repel boarders, shouted the first lieutenant.
I will lead you, my men, cried the captain, springing to the side.
A few Frenchmen who had gained the deck of the Isabel were
immediately cut down; and now the English in turn swarmed over the
enemy's bows. In spite of all opposition, they worked their way aft. No
power seemed capable of resisting them. Although the Frenchmen for some
time stood their ground, they were driven back. Step by step the
British blue-jackets fought their way, and numbers sank before the
sturdy blows of their cutlasses. Many of the Frenchmen were armed with
pistols, by which several of the English were wounded. During this time
Davis had ever kept close by the side of his commander. Captain Denham
was leading on his men, when suddenly his cutlass dropped from his
hand, and he would have fallen had not Davis supported him. At the same
moment, a tall Frenchman, with uplifted cutlass, was in the act of
bringing it down upon his head, when Davis, bringing his own weapon to
the guard, saved his captain, and with a return cut sent the Frenchman
On, my lads, on, shouted the captain, again rising to his feet.
Though I cannot use my sword, you can keep yours going instead.
The energy with which he spoke was infused into his followers, and
pushing onward they drove the Frenchmen before them. The Frenchmen,
encouraged by their officers, attempted to rally; but no sooner had
they done so, than, led by their gallant captain, the English made
another dash forward, and again drove them back. Meantime, the weather
had been changing, and the moderate breeze which had hitherto been
blowing, was followed by a heavy gale. Although the Isabel was
well-nigh dismantled, she was still more than a match for her opponent.
In a short time, numbers of the Frenchmen having fallen, an officer was
seen to run aft and haul down the French flag. The prize was won. She
mounted four more guns than did the Isabel, with a far more
numerous crew. The prospect of bad weather made it necessary at once to
send a prize crew on board the captured frigate, and to remove the
greater part of her own people, so that a few Frenchmen only were left
on board. Great was the delight of the crew at finding, from the report
of the surgeon, that their captain's wound was not likely to prove
serious, though his arm might be disabled for some time.
The second lieutenant was ordered on board to carry the prize into
Plymouth, she having suffered but little damage in her rigging, while
her captor was in a far worse condition. Some time was occupied in
clearing away the wreck of the topmasts, and once more getting the ship
into order. The gale, however, fearfully increased, and the frigate in
an almost helpless condition, having lost sight of her prize, was
driven towards the coast of Ireland. Happily, the yellow fever had
completely disappeared; but Captain Denham had another cause of
anxiety, lest his ship might be driven on that rocky shore on which so
many a fine vessel has been lost. He anxiously looked out, therefore,
for signs of the gale breaking, and that he might be able once more to
make sail and beat off shore. His hopes, however, seemed likely to
prove vain. The morning dawned, and far away to the east as the eye
could stretch, appeared the high land of the Irish coast. He had hoped
to have hauled up sufficiently to have weathered Cape Clear. The gale
continued till the frigate was close in with the coast. Shipwreck now
seemed inevitable, for no other sail could be set to enable her to beat
off shore. There was a bay to the south, but that would now afford no
shelter, and no other harbour was open to her. It seemed impossible
that she could be saved. One only resource remained, to anchor and cut
away the masts. Orders were, therefore, given to prepare for this last
alternative. The cables were ranged along the deck, and spare anchors
got up from below. The dark seas came rolling in with unabated force
from the west, while they broke with terrific force on the rocky shore
under her lee. The spray dashed over her bows, flying fore and aft as
she forced her way gallantly through the seas. The gale still continued
with unabated force. Masses of clouds came rushing by overhead, rapidly
succeeding each other, while under her lee-bow appeared a long reef of
rocks, the dangers of which were well-known to many on board. Still,
hopes were entertained that she might be able to weather it. The eyes
of the master and other officers, indeed of most on board, were turned
now seaward, now to the rocky shore, and now to the reef on the lee
beam. There seemed to all but little prospect, unless by a sudden
change of wind, of being able to weather the latter.
She would not stay if we were to attempt to go about, observed the
first lieutenant, and there is no room to wear, or it might be better
if we were upon the other tack, so as to escape yonder threatening
We may possibly weather the reef, observed the master; but if we
were to attempt either to stay or to wear, we should inevitably be
driven upon the rocks.
Several of the best hands were at the helm, watching for the
directions of the master. Sometimes, after a slight shift in the wind,
hopes were entertained that the reef might be escaped; but then, again,
it was found she was making so much leeway that even this slight hope
was abandoned. Onward she rushed to her inevitable destruction, it
seemed. Meantime, the wounded commander had been lying in his cot.
Several times he had desired to be carried on deck, but the surgeon,
who sat by his side, entreated him to stop where he was, fearing the
excitement would be too great, and that his wounds, which had hitherto
been going on favourably, might take a turn for the worse.
Then send the master to me, he said, that I may learn the exact
position of the ship.
The master made his appearance.
I wish she was in a better position than she is, sir, he observed;
but we are doing all that men can do to claw off shore, and if we had
had our topmasts, there would have been no difficulty about the matter.
She makes fearful leeway, and there is an ugly reef ahead, which I do
not altogether like; but I have been in as bad a case before and
escaped, and I pray Heaven we may get clear this time.
Doctor, you must let me go on deck, that I may see the worst. It is
torture to lie here below, exclaimed the wounded captain.
But the master says, sir, that we have a prospect of hauling off
shore, and I again repeat that you would only incur great danger by
exposing yourself to the cold wind and spray that you would have to
encounter. No, no, sir; stay where you are, and let us hope for the
Many more anxious minutes passed. The master returned to his duty on
deck, and the captain, having full confidence in his judgment, would
not again send for him.
Come, doctor, there are many poor fellows want your aid besides me;
go and look after them, I entreat you, he said at length. They will
give me notice in time enough when all hope is gone, or, I trust, I may
soon hear that the ship has weathered the reef, and has brought up in
Scarcely had he spoken when a loud roar of breakers reached even to
where he lay. A cry arose on deck, and the next instant there came a
fearful crash. The frigate had struck on the reef. The captain was
endeavouring to rise from his cot, when Davis rushed into the cabin.
It is a bad case, captain! he exclaimed; but while I have life,
you know I will stay by you. We are not far from the shore, and maybe,
if the ship goes to pieces, some plank or timber may carry us there in
Denham allowed himself to be carried on deck, where Davis secured
him to the only portion of the wreck over which the sea did not break.
The captain gazed around. The ship had struck upon the much-dreaded
reef. Huge seas came rolling in, and, dashing against her with terrific
force, had already begun to tear away her upper works, and it was
evident she could not long remain in that position without going
speedily to pieces. Many of the crew had already been washed away;
others were clinging to different parts of the wreck. Some, including
the officers, were endeavouring, not far from the captain, to form a
raft, on which they hoped to reach the shore. It appeared, however,
very doubtful whether they would succeed.
Let us chance it, sir, said Davis; I will haul a grating here,
and put you on it. Maybe, we shall be safely washed on shore.
No, no, Davis, answered the captain faintly; you remember how the
brave Dutchman behaved when his ship was sinking. As long as two planks
hold together I will stay by the frigate, or till every one has left
her. You go, my friend; you are strong and unhurt, and, God protecting
you, you may still save your own life.
What? leave you, sir? leave you, Captain Denham? exclaimed Davis.
I have not sailed with you for so many years to act thus at last. We
swim or sink together. I have never feared death, and he is not now
going to make me do a cowardly act.
Well, well, Davis, I fear there is no use urging you. Perhaps, too,
we run as little risk here as we should struggling in those boiling
seas, said the captain.
Right, sir; the frigate is new and strong, and maybe, she will hold
together until the gale somewhat abates, answered the boatswain. I
wish those poor fellows would stay on board with us; it might be the
better for them.
I would not order them to stay, Davis, answered the captain.
These seas, if they continue long, must break up the stoutest ship,
and it is a fearful thing to have to struggle among floating timbers,
washed about round such rocks as these.
While they were speaking, many of the crew, clinging to spars and
planks, were seen drifting towards the shore. Few, however, appeared to
reach it. Some, exhausted by their exertions, let go their hold and
sank. Others were cast upon the reef, mangled fearfully by the timbers
which were thrown upon them. The rest, meantime, continued to work at
the raft. The surviving officers then came to the captain, and urged
him to allow them to place him upon it, but he remained firm to his
No, no, he answered; do you leave the ship as you think best; but
she was placed under my command, and nothing shall induce me to desert
her as long as she holds together.
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.
Mr Finlayson and the two young ladies stood watching the progress of
the labouring frigate.
Heaven have mercy on them, exclaimed the Widow O'Neil, extending
her clasped hands towards the ship. See, see, she draws towards the
reef! No hope! no hope! She has struck! she has struck!
The fishwife spoke but too truly. Fearful seas came rolling in, and,
meeting with an opposition not hitherto encountered, dashed in huge
masses directly over her. In another instant, the foremast, hitherto
standing, tottered and fell. Stout as were her timbers, unable to
resist such fierce assaults, they were in a brief space burst asunder,
and scattered around in the troubled sea. A cry of horror escaped the
young ladies as they witnessed the fearful catastrophe.
Oh, how many brave men are at this moment carried into a watery
grave! exclaimed Lady Sophy.
Nora was silent. A fearful apprehension seized her.
The last time we heard from Captain Denham, he told us that he was
appointed to a frigate! she exclaimed suddenly. Oh, suppose that is
the ship he commands?
Can no one go to the help of those poor men? asked Mr Finlayson.
Surely there are boats on the coast which might go off to them!
The fishwife turned as he spoke.
There are boats, sir, but it would be hard to find the men who
would venture off in such a sea as that; but if, as I believe, the wind
is falling, there is yet some hope; if it goes down as rapidly as it
sometimes does in summer, frail as are our boats, we may be able to
reach the frigate.
The ship was too far off for those on shore to witness the dying
struggles of those who were washed into the sea, but yet they could not
tear themselves from the spot. Gradually the gale abated, seemingly
contented with the mischief it had caused. Still, however, the seas
rolled in with fearful force. Suddenly, a thought seemed to seize Widow
I must go, I must go! she exclaimed. If no men are to be found,
I, at least, will go off!
Why, you would not venture out in such a sea as that? cried Mr
Finlayson, calling after her as she began to descend the cliffs.
That I will, sir, and go alone if no men will accompany me.
From the position of the coast in which the cottage was situated, it
was easy to launch a boat, although the sea was agitated outside. On
reaching her hut, the widow found her brother Shane standing outside
Shane, she exclaimed, you promised to stand by me on all
occasions, now prove your words. I am resolved to go out to yonder
vessel; there may be some alive on board. My heart tells me there are,
and we must save them. O stir up some of the other men, and bid them
follow us, if they are worthy of the name of men.
I would go with you, sister, answered Shane, if I could get
others to go, but they will not raise a finger to save any on board a
But sure, they are our fellow-creatures, brother Shane, exclaimed
the fishwife. Shame on the cowards if they dare not come, and shame on
you, brother, if you will not help me. Listen now; I dreamed last night
that he who has been so long away is coming back. It is not the first
time I have dreamed it either, and you may say if you will, that this
is only another fancy, but my days are numbered, and I know that before
I die he will come back; he promised, and Dermot was not the boy to
break his word. Come, Shane, come. Look, the sea has gone down, and you
and I with your boy Patrick, though he may have less sense than other
lads, will go off to the ship.
The widow's exhortations made Shane promise to accompany her. Her
boat was ill-fitted for the task, yet for some distance they could pull
out under shelter of a point which projected north of the cove. As the
wind had hauled round somewhat more to the north also, it might be
possible to set a sail, and with less difficulty reach the frigate.
Patrick was summoned, and with his father and the fishwife, the boat
was launched. She was cleared of all superfluous lumber, while Shane
lashed under her thwarts several empty casks, which would assist in
giving her buoyancy. It was a simple attempt at a life-boat, yet with
all these precautions, the old fishing craft was but ill-fitted for the
undertaking. The fishwife again and again urged her brother to hasten
his work, so eager was she to reach the wreck. At length the boat was
ready. The boy was placed at the helm, and the fishwife and her brother
took the oars. They pulled boldly out of the cove, and then along the
shore for some distance, where the water was rather smoother than
further out. Even there, however, the exertion was considerable, and
those who looked on from above dreaded every moment to see the frail
skiff overturned by the rough seas. Now, however, the head of the boat
was turned seaward. Shane and his sister increased their exertions.
Often the waters broke on board, when Patrick, steering with one hand,
bailed it out with the other; still they continued their course. At
length they succeeded in gaining a considerable distance from the
shore, when the seas, as is sometimes the case, came with less force,
and gradually sank in height. There was only one point where they could
approach the wreck. Just within sight was a small bay, or opening in
the reef; the seas on every other side were dashing over the frigate,
and would have immediately overwhelmed the frail boat. Bravely they
rowed on, and they might have put to shame many of the sturdy men who
had collected on the shore. Several times those who watched the
progress of the boat from the cliff fancied she was overwhelmed. Now
she sank into the trough of the sea, and the huge wave seemed about to
dash over her. Again rising to the summit of a foam-crested wave, she
was tossed for a few seconds ere she plunged into the watery vale
below. More than once Shane proposed setting a sail, but the widow
declared that her arms were still strong enough to pull the boat, and
that it would considerably prolong the time before they could reach the
wreck, as it would thus be impossible to make a straight course. She
seemed, indeed, endued with super-human strength, for even her
brother's arms began to fail him. Again and again she urged him to
renewed exertions, with a voice tremulous with eagerness.
We shall reach the ship before longwe shall reach the ship, she
kept exclaiming; row, Shane, row. Oh, brother, if you have ever loved
me, do not fail me now.
Thus they continued rowing on. Not an hour before it would have been
impossible for the boat to have made any progress; now, however, by the
subsidence of the gale, the undertaking, though difficult and
dangerous, was possible. As they drew near, even now several struggling
forms were seen in the foaming waters, but ere they could reach them,
one after another sank beneath the waves. A few, however were clinging
to planks and spars, but the widow refused to go near them; it might
have proved the destruction of the boat, had the attempt been made.
They are floating, and will in time reach the shore, she said to
Shane, or if the sea goes down still more, we may return to pick them
up. There are still some alive on board the ship; even just now, I saw
an arm waving. Row on, row on, we may yet be in timewe may yet be in
The larger portion of the wreck had before this, however, been
broken up, but the after-part and the starboard side of the
quarter-deck remained entire. As the boat approached the wreck, broken
planks and timbers continued to be washed away, till but a small
portion appeared to remain.
By persevering efforts, the boat, however, drew nearer and nearer,
avoiding, though not without difficulty, the masses of wreck which
floated by. As the fishwife and her brother looked up, they saw two
human beings still clinging to the remaining fragments of the ship; one
was waving his hand as if to urge them to greater speed. No other human
beings were to be seen on board. A few had just before apparently
committed themselves to a raft, and with this support were now
approaching the shore. They had, however, passed at some little
distance from the boat. Sea after sea rolling in dashed against the
wreck, sometimes the spray almost hiding those on board from view.
Larger and larger portions continued to give way; every sea which
rolled in carried off the timbers or more planks from the sides. The
boat was within fifty fathoms or so of the rocks, Shane looking out
anxiously for any part of the wreck by which it might be approached
with least danger. It seemed scarcely possible for them to get near
enough to aid those on board.
I fear, sister, we shall be too late, exclaimed Shane; even now
yonder sea which comes in looks as if it were about to tear the
remainder of the wreck to fragments.
With a thundering sound the sea he pointed at broke against the
wreck. In an instant the remaining masses of timber gave way, and were
dashed forward into the boiling sea.
Pull on, Shane, pull on, cried the widow. I see two men still
struggling in the waves; one is supporting the other, and guarding him
from the timbers which float around.
Which timbers may stave in the boat, and drown us all, observed
No matter, Shane, pull onpull on; let us not set our lives
against those of the brave men who are floating yonder. What matters it
after all if we are lost? Death can come but once to any of us. It is
impossible to give the force of those words, uttered, as they were, in
the native tongue of the Irish, which she spoke. Pull on, Shane, pull
on, again she cried. Boy, steer for those men; see, they are still
floating above the waves.
In spite of the masses of timber, which appeared to be thrown
providentially on either side, the boat approached the two men, who
still floated above the water.
Save him, friends; never mind me, said a voice as they lifted the
person he supported, and who, by his uniform appeared to be an officer,
into the arms of Shane, he himself holding on to the gunnel of the
boat. The officer was quickly placed in the stern-sheets, when Shane
helped his companion on board, and then again grasping his oar, pulled
the boat safely round before the sea had time to catch her on the beam
and overturn her.
The seaman hauled out of the water, the stimulus to exertion having
ceased, sank down fainting by the side of his officer. The danger of
returning was as great as that which they experienced in approaching
the wreck. The spray flew over them, and it seemed that every billowy
wave would overwhelm the frail bark. All this time they were watched
eagerly by the young ladies and their old friend from the cliff above.
On the boat came; now a vast sea threatened her with instant
destruction, but the fishwife and her brother, rowing till the stout
oars bent with their exertions, urged on their boat and escaped the
danger. Nearer and nearer she approached the shore; now a huge roller
came thundering up close to her stern, and seemed about to turn her
over and over, but it broke just before it reached her, and by vigorous
strokes, forced ahead, she escaped its power. In another instant lifted
on a foaming sea, she glided forward, arriving high up on the sandy
beach of the little cove.
There are two people in her, exclaimed Nora, who had been eagerly
watching them. We will go down and help them, for they evidently
Those two poor fellows must be nearly drowned, observed Mr
Finlayson, as he accompanied the ladies to the hut. I wish we had a
medical man here, but for the want of one, I must take his place and
prescribe for them. These fishermen are more likely to kill than to
revive them by their rough treatment. Come, I will push ahead and try
to save the men before they press the breath out of their bodies.
In spite, however, of the active movements of the lawyer, the young
ladies kept up with him, and they arrived in front of the cottage just
as Shane and his son, aided by the widow, were lifting one of the men
they had saved out of the boat. She insisted on taking the seaman
first, and not till she had carried him up and placed him on her own
bed would she help to carry the other. The lawyer, however, arrived in
time to aid Shane in carrying up the young officer, for such he
appeared to be. As soon as they arrived at the hut, the apparently
drowned man was placed by Mr Jamieson's orders in front of the fire,
then, having taken off his coat, he knelt down and gently rubbed his
chest. On the arrival of the young ladies, such blankets and clothes as
the widow possessed were, by the lawyer's directions, placed to warm
before the fire, that the half-drowned men might be wrapped in them. No
sooner, however, did Lady Nora's eyes fall on the officer's
countenance, than she uttered an agonised cry, and threw herself by his
Oh, it is Captain Denhamit is Captain Denham! she exclaimed,
and he is deadhe is dead. Pale and trembling she hung over him.
No, my dear young lady, observed the lawyer, he is still
breathing, and I trust that he will soon recover,I already indeed see
signs of returning consciousness.
While Nora, regardless of all conventionalities, was assisting the
lawyer and her cousin in rubbing the captain's hands and feet, the
widow was bending over the inanimate form of the seaman.
Shane, she exclaimed, I told you my boy would come back, and here
he is; I feel it, I know it. Oh, Dermot, Dermot, speak to me, she
exclaimed. Do not die now that you have come as you promised. Surely
it is not to break your old mother's heart that you have just returned
to die in her arms?
Hearing these exclamations, the old lawyer turned round, and went to
the side of the widow.
You will be wiser, my good woman, if you were to place some hot
clothes upon his chest, and chafe his hands and feet, instead of
calling out in that way. There is no fear about him; he has
over-exerted himself, and his immersion in salt water has for the time
deprived him of his senses; but stay, I see you have a kettle boiling
on the hearth. It is time now to pour some hot whisky and water down
his throat. As I left the castle, I took the precaution of putting a
flask into my pocket. Saying this, the kind old man mixed a mug of
spirits and water, which he at once applied to the sailor's lips. It
slipped without difficulty down his throat. The effect was almost
instantaneous; he opened his eyes and looked around with astonishment.
Dermot, speak to me, my boy, my own boy, exclaimed the widow in
Irish, as she threw her arms around his neck.
What does she say? he asked, in a faint voice.
Dermot, Dermot, speak to me, she again exclaimed, but this time
she spoke in English.
That is not my name, good mother, answered the seaman; you must
be mistaken; I am not your son. I never was in these parts before
except once, when I came with my captain, though I have often enough
been off the coast with him and others.
Not my sonnot my son, ejaculated the widow, gazing at him, and
putting back his hair, and again looking at his countenance. Oh, how
have I been deceived, and do you again say that your name is not Dermot
O'Neil? exclaimed the widow, wringing her hands, and I thought I had
brought my boy safe on shore, and that he was to be folded once more in
his mother's arms. Oh, Dermot O'NeilDermot O'Neil, why are you thus
keeping so long, long away from the mother who loves you more than her
The young officer, who by this time had been revived by the
application of the good lawyer's remedies, now wildly gazed around him.
That voice, he exclaimed, as if to himself; I believed that she
was long ago numbered with the dead, and yet it must be. Oh! mother,
mother, I am Dermot O'Neil, he cried out to her, your long absent
The widow rushed across the room, and patting aside those who
kneeled around him, she threw herself by his side.
You Dermot, you my son Dermot? she exclaimed, looking at him. Oh,
how could I for a moment have been deceived? She bent over him, and
pressed many a kiss upon his brow. Yes, those eyes, I know them now,
and those features, too; I cannot again be deceived. No, no, see here
is the sign by which I should have known him, even though he had been
given back to me as I dreaded, a lifeless corpse. But my Dermot is
alive, my Dermot has come back to me. As she spoke she drew back the
sleeve of his shirt, and there upon his arm she exhibited the blood-red
cross with which her son had been born.
During this scene, the countenance of Lady Nora exhibited many
changes; now a deadly pallor overspread her face, then again the rich
blood rushed back from her heart. Still she kneeled by Captain Denham's
side. His strength gradually returned, and supported in the arms of the
old fishwife, he sat up. His face was turned away from Nora, and his
eyes rested on the features of the former. He took her hand between
Mother, he whispered, I have been cruelly deceived. The only
letter I received from my native land told me that you were dead, and
from henceforth I felt the tie which had bound me to it was severed.
Once I returned to it, and my fondest wish was to visit again the
cottage where I was born, made sacred to me because it had been your
dwelling. I was prevented from carrying out my intention, and from that
day to this I have never had the opportunity of returning, but the life
you have saved shall be henceforth devoted to watching over you, I have
gained fame in my profession, and I prize it, but it is nothing
compared to the joy of being restored to you. Oh, mother, I have loved
you as a son should his parent who has loved him as you have done me.
Dermot, my boy, dear Dermot, I never doubted your love. I have
always said that you were true and faithful, and now you have proved
it; but, my son, I shall not long require your care. My days are
numbered; but I knew that you would come back, and I was not deceived.
My prayers were heard in spite of all the threats and curses of Father
O'Rourke. Now I have pressed you to my heart once more, and when I have
seen you strong and hearty, I shall be content to place my head under
the green turf and sleep in peace.
During this scene Lady Sophy and the lawyer had retired to the
further end of the hut. Mr Finlayson had, in the meantime, suggested to
Shane, that he might assist the seaman, who was earnestly inquiring for
It is all right, he exclaimed, when told that Captain Denham was
doing well. Heaven be praised that he is saved, when so many fine
fellows have lost their lives. We were sadly short-handed on board the
frigate, or I do not believe this would have happened; but the gale was
cruelly against us. Are we the only ones who have escaped from the
I hope not, answered Shane. I saw a raft drifting towards the bay
with several people on her, and many more may have been washed on shore
on planks and spars.
Then we should be up, and go and help them, exclaimed Ned Davis,
endeavouring to haul on his wet jacket. Are we to let our shipmates
perish and lie here idle? It is not what the captain would have thought
of; and if he had not been wounded he would have been up now, and
looking out to help them.
This was the first intimation Mr Finlayson had that Captain Denham
Why, that must be looked to, he observed. Really, I do not think
he can be attended to properly in this hut. We must manage to get a
litter of some sort to carry him to the castle.
This remark was made to Lady Sophy. She appeared to hesitate.
What will Nora say? she observed.
Say! my dear lady! What possible difficulty can there be about the
matter, exclaimed the lawyer.
He might not have interpreted aright the agitation exhibited by Lady
Nora on discovering the parentage of the rescued officer.
CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.
When, however, Mr Finlayson's proposition was made to the fishwife,
she at first refused to agree to it, declaring that her son would
recover as rapidly in the hut as he could in the castle; but on the
lawyer's assuring her that she was mistaken, she consented to let him
be removed if he wished it.
Let me ask him then, said Mr Finlayson.
For after Ned Davis had vacated the widow's bed, Captain Denham (for
so he must still be called) had been placed on it. In the meantime,
knowing that the fresh air would benefit Lady Nora, her cousin had led
her to the front of the hut, and made her rest on a bench which was
fixed there. Sitting down by her side, she took her hand.
Nora, she said, this is a strange tale we have heard. I can
scarcely believe it. What do you think?
I know not, answered Nora faintly. But can it be possible that he
(Captain Denham I mean) whom we have known so long, who is so refined,
so high-born in appearance and manners, can be the son of this
wild-looking and ignorant fishwife? and yet, Sophy, she claims him as
her son, and he does not deny it; and you observed that mark upon his
arm; when she saw it, all doubt vanished. Oh, Sophy, help me, guide me,
advise me. What can I do? I did not know till now, when I thought him
lost and then had him thus suddenly restored to life, how deeply I
loved him. I tell you this, dear cousin, but I would not utter it to
any other human being; but what can he be to me for the future? My
heart, I feel, will break, Sophy.
Trials are sent us for our good, Nora, said her cousin. Once I
might have thought as you do, that unless his birth was high and noble,
equal to your own, no man was worthy to become your husband; but,
Nora, and Lady Sophy heaved a deep sigh, I have learned to prize a
true and noble heart; and if such is his, I cannot tell you that I
believe you would be right in discarding him on account of his birth.
This is not worldly advice; but I again repeat that I believe, if he is
what we have all hitherto supposed him, there is not sufficient cause
to refuse him as your husband.
Nora threw herself into her cousin's arms.
Oh, thank you, thank you, dear Sophy, she exclaimed. You are
right. It was a fearful struggle; but I should have died had I been
compelled to give him up. I feel how cruel, how wrong I should have
been. I know he loves me, and what a bitter feeling it would have
caused his noble heart.
Then, Nora, let me go in and tell him that we beg he will come to
the castle. I am sure, that without your invitation he would not
consent to be removed there.
Oh, yes, do, do, exclaimed Lady Nora. It will be dreadful for him
to have to remain here; for his poor mother would certainly not know
how to take proper care of him.
While this conversation was going on, Mr Finlayson had despatched
Shane and Ned Davis, who insisted he was now strong enough for
anything, followed by Patrick, with all the ropes and spars they could
collect, to go along the beach and assist in the rescue of any of the
seamen who might still have escaped drowning, and be even now reaching
the shore. He himself, meantime, undertook to ascend the cliff, and
send the groom back for a litter on which to carry Captain Denham to
the castle. At first, when the proposal was made, he declined leaving
his mother's hut, and it was not till her entreaties had been joined to
those of Lady Sophy he consented to place himself in their hands.
You would greatly disappoint my cousin Nora if you refuse to comply
with her request, whispered Lady Sophy.
It is possible that this remark might have settled the question.
But does she know who I am? he asked in a low trembling voice.
Yes, yes, answered Sophy. Do you suppose that to a true-hearted
girl as she is that would make any real difference? Oh, Captain Denham,
ask your own heart. Would you thus be ready to sacrifice any one you
May Heaven reward her, he murmured.
His feelings seemingly overcame him, for he could say no more.
A considerable time elapsed before the arrival of the litter.
Meantime Shane and Davis, with their young companion, hastened along
the shore. Several other persons having seen the wreck had now
collected on the beach. A few, fastening ropes round their waists,
bravely rushed into the surf to assist in dragging the floating men on
shore. Some, however, it was very clear, were more eager to obtain any
articles of value that might be washed up than to save human life. Many
were thus employed when Shane and Davis appeared. Several persons were
seen clinging to the masses of wreck, which, after having been tossed
about for a considerable time in the bay, were now being washed ashore.
The glitter upon the jackets of two of them showed that they were
officers, and several persons, as they drifted near, rushed into the
water to assist them, so it seemed. They brought them safely up the
beach, but no sooner were they there, than, instead of rendering them
further assistance, they began to rifle their pockets, and to take
their watches and the rings from their fingers. Davis caught sight of
them as they were thus so eagerly employed, as not to observe his
approach. He dashed forward, and with a blow of a broken spar which he
had seized, he knocked aside two of the wreckers, and so ably did he
wield it, that he put the rest to flight before they could secure their
booty. The rescued officers were two midshipmen of the ship, and their
first inquiry was for their commander.
He is all safe, sirs, exclaimed Davis. Heaven be praised for it,
but he was very nearly gone; however, it will not be long, I hope,
before he is well again. It has been sad work; not a third, I fear, of
our poor fellows have come on shore.
Not so many, I am afraid, observed one of the midshipmen;
however, now we are safe ourselves, let us try to help others.
Several of the better disposed of the people now joined themselves
to Shane, and prevented the wreckers from continuing their barbarous
proceedings. A raft approached near the beach, and though perhaps none
on it would have been saved, had they not had assistance, by the aid of
the strong body of men who rushed into the water, all were safely
landed before it had the opportunity of turning over upon them. Many
dead bodies were cast ashore, and they were gradually collected and
placed side by side. There were officers and men, and several poor
boys, and a few of the marines. The survivors were undecided what to do
when Mr Jamieson, who, hearing of the wreck, had come down to the
beach, invited them to the vicarage, and the bodies of the drowned were
conveyed by his direction to the church. Before the shipwrecked men had
proceeded far towards the vicarage, a messenger overtook them, from Mr
Finlayson, with a request that they would all come to the castle, to
which their captain was now on his way. Every preparation was made for
their reception. The medical man of the neighbourhood was also sent
for, that he might attend to the captain and others who might have been
injured. Fortunately, the surgeon of the frigate had also escaped, and
he was at once able to look to the captain's wound. Lady Nora felt a
strange satisfaction at having all those belonging to the frigate thus
collected beneath her roof. She had a trial to undergo; it was when at
length the Widow O'Neil desired to speak to her.
Oh, Lady Nora, exclaimed the old woman, I have discovered what I
little thought of. My bonnie son loves you, lady. It may be presumption
on his part, and it makes me feel more and more that I am not worthy to
be his mother, but I am, believe me, his true mother. It seems strange
that the son of one like me should thus have gained such a name as he
has, but there is one thing I would tell you, lady, I know my days are
numbered. You will not have the old fishwife as your mother; if I
thought so, I would gladly take myself away where you would never see
or hear of me more. I would not stand between you and my son for all
the world can give. You will not send him from you, lady?
Oh, do not speak thus, Mistress O'Neil, exclaimed Nora, rising
from her seat and taking the widow's hands in hers. I do not deny that
I love your son, for long I have done so, though only this day have I
discovered how deeply I loved him. My delight and satisfaction will be
to save you from any further toil and trouble. You have ever proved a
loving mother to him, and it shall be our united happiness to care for
you, and to shield you from all the troubles and hardships to which you
have been so long exposed. We will have a suitable house prepared for
you and your brave brother Shane and his son, where you may live in
comfort without toiling any more on the treacherous ocean.
You speak like a true and noble girl, exclaimed the widow, and
now there is a secret I have got to tell you. If my son had not been
restored to me, it should never have passed my lips, but I have long
had in my keeping some papers, preserved in an iron case. It has been
hidden under the floor of my hut, for I believe there are those who
would deprive me of them if they knew where they are. Alas, I could not
read them myself, but he who has gone, the father of my boy, bade me
carefully keep them. To-morrow, lady, if that good gentleman who is
with you, will come with the steward to assist him, I will place the
case in his hands. If you had not confessed to me what you have now
done, that my son is dear to you, I believe the contents of that box
would have caused you much annoyance and pain, but now I feel it will
only make you glad.
Lady Nora would thankfully have obtained more information from
Mistress O'Neil, but she either would not or could not give it.
In a few days I trust, in God's mercy, my son will have recovered,
and then it may be time enough for you to examine the papers in the
case, she answered. It was with difficulty that the old woman could be
persuaded to occupy a room in the castle. She consented, however, to do
so, when Shane promised to return to the hut and take charge of it till
the next day.
The following morning Mr Finlayson set forth accompanied by Mrs
O'Neil, for her cottage. Shane was watching for them. The widow sent
him for a spade, and some minutes were employed in digging, before the
promised box was discovered, so deeply down in the earth had she hid
Ah, she observed, as her brother was working, it was Father
O'Rourke who had an idea of this case, and I could not tell what use he
might make of it, if he ever got hold of it, and he who has gone
charged me never to let it pass out of my hands.
At length an iron case was brought to light, which Mr Finlayson
attempted eagerly to open.
I have never seen the inside of it, observed the widow, and I do
not know either how to get at it; but don't look at it here, Mr
Finlayson, carry it to the castle, where you may look into it at your
Mistress O'Neil having a few arrangements to make before leaving her
hut, promised to follow Mr Finlayson to the castle. The lawyer, on his
arrival, after examining the case for some time, not unaccustomed to
the various devices employed for such purposes, discovered the spring
by which it was opened. The whole evening was employed by him in
looking over the documents with which it was filled, but he declined
for the present to explain their contents to Lady Nora, assuring her
that they were somewhat complicated, and that unless he had examined
them thoroughly, he might mislead those whom they chiefly concerned. To
no one else, indeed, did he divulge their contents for several days; by
that time Captain Denham was once more able to appear in public.
Several guests had been invited to the castle, Mr Jamieson and his
niece being among them. They were all assembled in the drawing-room,
when the lawyer, as the captain entered the apartment, went up to him,
and in a significant manner, took him by the hand.
I have to congratulate you, my dear lord, on obtaining a rank of
which you are
Do you address me? exclaimed Captain Denham with surprise. What,
my dear sir, do you mean? You do not intend to mock me!
I mean that you are the lawful Earl of Kilfinnan, answered the
lawyer in a positive tone, as if his word had been called in question.
Although the elder members of your family were deprived of the right
to assume the title, as long as another branch existed, I have
sufficient evidence to prove that in your generation the attainder has
been removed. Your father, the husband of the devoted woman whom you
have always known as your motheras she truly iswas, while living in
the character of a fisherman, drowned off this coast. He was the
grandson of the former Earl.
Captain Denham, or rather the new Earl of Kilfinnan, cast a glance,
beaming with happiness and satisfaction, towards Lady Nora.
Yes, indeed our kind friend, Mr Finlayson, is not mistaken, she
said, taking his hand, and though you know full well, my dear lord,
that had it been otherwise, I had promised to become your wife, yet I
rejoice to know that you can feel yourself with regard to rank in every
respect my equal.
It is not necessary to describe the happy marriage which afterwards
took place. The Widow O'Neil enjoyed the comfort and luxuries which had
been prepared for her by her affectionate children but for a few
months. Her nervous system had received a shock it never recovered, in
the exertions she made in rescuing her son, but she had the
satisfaction of knowing that she had saved his life, and that he was
restored to the position his ancestors had enjoyed. He did not neglect
his noble friend, Ned Davis, who continued, as before, his constant
attendant, and ultimately, when he gave up the sea and came to live on
shore, rose to the rank of his head bailiff. Mr Jamieson and the
kind-hearted lawyer both lived to an old age, and soon after her uncle
was removed from her, his blind niece was laid to rest in the
churchyard by his side.
Father O'Rourke went plotting and scheming on to the end of his
days, and if he did not die in the odour of sanctity, having partaken
of all the rites of his Church, no qualms of conscience that he had not
exactly fulfilled the duties of a missionary of the gospel, seem to
have disturbed his last hours.