My lords of strogue, vol.., p.1
My Lords of Strogue, Vol. 3 (of 3),
Part #3 of My Lords of Strogue series by Lewis Wingfield
Produced by Charles Bowen, from page scans provided by Google Books
1. Page scan source: https://books.google.com/books?id=qecBAAAAQAAJ
2. The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].
MY LORDS OF STROGUE.
MY LORDS OF STROGUE.
_A CHRONICLE OF IRELAND, FROM THE CONVENTION TO THE UNION_.
HON. LEWIS WINGFIELD,
AUTHOR OF 'LADY GRIZEL,' ETC.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON,
Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen.
[_All Rights Reserved_.]
'God of Vengeance! smite us With Thy shaft sublime, If one bond unite us Forged in fraud or crime. But if humbly kneeling We implore Thine ear, For our rights appealing-- God of Nations! Hear!'
CONTENTS OF VOL. III.
I. SAWDUST IN THE CHANCELLOR'S DOLL.
II. MR. CASSIDY IS IN DOUBT.
III. SHANE'S LITTLE PARTY.
IV. THE SHAMBLES.
V. THE ALTAR OF MOLOCH.
VI. APRES LA MORT, LE MEDECIN.
IX. PREPARATIONS FOR THE SACRIFICE.
X. CONSIGNED TO MOILEY.
XII. MOILEY'S LAST MEAL.
TO THE READER.
LIST OF WORKS CONSULTED.
MY LORDS OF STROGUE.
SAWDUST IN THE CHANCELLOR'S DOLL.
If the cits of Dublin during this time were in the throes ofapprehension and suspense, the Lords and Commons were enduring theagonies of evil conscience. They regretted that parliament had notbeen prorogued in order that they might have pretended ignorance as towhat was passing; for they felt that the world was pointing the fingerof derision at them. Not that the English world--the _beau monde_ thatis--cared one way or the other. In London it was always difficult toarouse interest in the affairs of a remote colony, whose ways werelike those of Madagascar. The Viceroy's bleatings appeared weekly inthe _Gentlemen's Magazine_, and coffee-house critics barely glanced atthem, for they were always the same. His excellency was alwayslamenting the misbehaviour of the populace; was always delighted toreport that four or five hundred rebels had on such a day been sent toanother sphere. The scraps of poetry that stood cheek by jowl besidethis gabble were infinitely more amusing to the critics. Rhapsodies onChloe's shoe-string--a ravishing account of the last balloon ascent.But these delectable topics failed to amuse young Robert Emmett, whoseheart, during weary weeks, was feeding on itself in the Englishmetropolis. On his arrival there, he had been kindly taken by the handby my Lord Moira, who had held a seat in the Houses of both countries,and who, shocked at what he heard, rose up in his place and protestedthat it was time for the British public to interfere. A membersuggested lightly that there was an Irish parliament whose province itwas to look after such matters. Lord Moira hung his head. He knew toowell how low that parliament had fallen--how mean-spirited were thosewho were haggling over the price of their birthright.
The sneers of the Londoners were hard to bear. The dangers whichseemed to menace the Irish senators terrified their timid souls.From the 24th to the 31st of May no mail-coach had arrived in Dublin.There was no news save what the Viceroy chose to dribble out; bonfireswere seen upon the Wicklow hills. Awful reports were circulatinghourly--reports that warrior priests were in possession of Arklow; hadarrived at Bray; were at their very gates. If such should prove to bethe case, then was the career ended of the faithful Lords and Commons.The sulky scowls of the Liberty-boys boded no good. There would be amassacre of the Innocents. What could Heaven be about to allow itschosen and elect to suffer such gnawing torments? The scum had beenevilly ill-treated; but not enough, it seemed, to make them meek andmild. If they were beaten now, they should receive an extra trouncingfor presuming in this egregious manner to alarm their betters. ThenGeneral Lake started with his army; all the regulars went with him.The capital was handed over to the custody of four thousand yeomen,who--drunken, dissolute, uncurbed--proceeded to make hay while theblood-red sun was shining. Major Sirr and his Staghouse bloodhoundswere a power in the state. From being town-major, a title scarcelylegible in the list of public encumbrances, Sirr became invested,through the usefulness of his bully band, with all the real powers ofthe most absolute authority. He was growing rich, for among othertrades he was a licensed victualler, owned Nelly's Coffee-house, andobtained the lucrative monopoly of supplying wines to prisoners. Hewas also a virtuoso; remitted triangle-torture, and sold tickets tohis victims for extra light and air, in exchange for orders uponhapless wives for pictures, bric-a-brac, and household stuff. How,when so many came to a violent end, did such a monster escapeassassination? Because one of his first rules of conduct was to pushforward somebody else to perform a dangerous job. When his hounds hadpulled down the quarry, then would he come forward and strike anattitude upon the body of the hunted beast. It is in the hot-bed ofpublic calamity that such fungi grow quick to ripeness. So soon as thecounties rose to arms and caused a panic, the life and liberty ofevery man was at his disposal. If one offended him, he charged himwith high treason and swept him off to prison, and a court-martial.Just now, to be accused was much the same as to be convicted. One day,a professor of language was seized and carted to the Riding-school toreceive five hundred lashes because a letter was found in his pocketwritten in the French tongue. Another day (all this before the monthof May was out), a gentleman was pistolled in the street by anintoxicated yeoman because his hair was cut short. Of course he was a'Croppy'! It transpired afterwards that he was an invalid recoveringfrom fever. Another time, a party broke into a baker's shop at dawn,demanding bread. The oven had not long been lighted--the baking wasnot complete. No matter; his Majesty's servants would eat the doughhalf-baked--aye, and wash it down as it stuck in the throat with ajorum of raw whisky. Strange to relate, the whole party was taken ill.Of course the villanous Croppies had poisoned the servants of hisMajesty. An example should be made of the malignants! (How fond werethese pioneers of a new era of making examples!) The baker and hiswife and his two sons were dragged into the street and shot down,without time for shriving, in front of their own door.
Lieutenant Hepenstall, as a type of his class, rose to unenviablecelebrity. He stood six feet two, was strong and broad--could lift aton. The expression of his face was mild as milk--the blackness of hisheart was dark as hell. Full of zeal for his Majesty's service, hetook to hanging on his own brawny back those persons whosephysiognomies he judged to be characteristic of rebellion. First, heknocked down his man to quiet him. His garters did duty as handcuffs.His cravat was a convenient rope. With a powerful chuck he drew hisvictim's head as high as his own and trotted about with his burden,considerately advising him to pray for King George, since prayerswould be wasted on his own damned Popish soul, till the gulpingwretch's neck was broken. Is it any marvel that the bullet, the sabre,the lash, the halter, should have been met by the pike
Major Sirr became all-powerful, and shortly after Terence's mishap hadwords with Cassidy. He came to look on his old ally with a feelingakin to contempt, for he considered a man mean-spirited who had notthe courage of his own iniquity. The time was over now when masks werecomfortable wearing. He, Major Sirr, had never stooped to wear one; ifCassidy intended to feather his nest, now was the time, or never. Heroundly told him so when the giant called in at the major's lodgingsto claim his portion of the L1,000 reward. The latter's brow-tuftscame down over his nose; he laughed a sardonic laugh and shook hispear-shaped head. He was specially spiteful over this reward, byreason of the slashes he had received from Phil. True, they were mereflesh-wounds; but he resented having his legs carved about in thisreckless way by an amateur surgeon.
'If ye'd have your part of the money,' he said, with incisive scorn,'come and claim it in the public street. Don't come to me in the deado' night as though the bumbailiffs were creeping at your heels.'
He held by his decision, and the two cronies quarrelled. Indeed theywere very near a duel; but Cassidy, with commendable prudence,observed, 'There is enough discord already among the patriots, sodon't let us fall into a similar mistake.' They snarled and showedtheir teeth, like dogs; then made it up, as wisdom dictated.
Cassidy could not well explain the reasons for his secrecy. Hecould not say that if he were known to have accepted her cousin'sblood-money there would be an impassable gulf 'twixt him and Doreenfor ever. Sirr would have only gibed in that a man who was such arascal should be sighing after an honest wench; so he gave up theblood-money. Cassidy was very undecided at this moment. Prudencewhispered that the major's counsel was good. He knew, too, that asthings were going, he could not wear his mask much longer. What was heto do? Unless he were careful he would fall between two stools. Doreenhad never given her clumsy admirer any encouragement; would probablyrefuse him even though he hoarded mines of gold. Was she not richherself? If he could not have Doreen, it would be quite as well tohave money; and he could not earn his proper wage without openlyjoining the Battalion of Testimony. It was a very delicate question.Would it not be best to sound Miss Wolfe once more? Maidens are coy.Some who are prepared to take us if we persevere, require much wooing.Maybe the fair Doreen was one of these. On second thoughts he did notquite think she was, with her calm bearing and solemn eyes; but at allevents it was worth the trial. No harm could come of that.
He determined, therefore, to make a journey to Glas-aitch-e, and trimhis sails according to the wind that blew there. Meanwhile it was adirty trick that his old ally had played him. Yet, after all, itmattered little. The sweetness of revenge is better than guineas. Hislong-concealed loathing for his unconscious rival had found vent atlast, and he felt the better for it, independent of any considerationsof pelf. The odious, good-tempered, bright-visaged, careless youngcouncillor! He dared to aspire to Doreen, did he? The same words asthe giant had muttered as he stood before the sleeper, he spoke againthrough his grinding teeth. If he could not have the maid himself, thecouncillor should not have her. That unlucky person was sick untodeath in duress, with the gallows looming close at hand. There wascomfort--great comfort in that. The thousand pounds might go to thedevil--or to Major Sirr. Decidedly it would be well to make a tripnorthward, for though he played his game cunningly and let out uselessCastle secrets with much vapouring, yet were the chiefs of the popularparty beginning to suspect him. Even unsuspicious Tom Emmett, whom hehad been to see in Kilmainham gaol a few days back, twitted him withhis liberty. The double game was no longer possible. He would have tomake up his mind presently either to assume the palm of martyrdom forDoreen's sake, with a pardon in his portfolio for past delinquencies,or, flinging off boldly all disguise, to pocket the guineas and theobloquy which were the portion of the Staghouse crew.
The sufferings of the Lords and Commons were endured also in fullmeasure by the Privy Council, who found themselves in a quandary. LordMoira's little agitation in London was not without its effect,although folks did sneer at the wild Irish. On leaving St. Stephen's,the head of opposition linked his arm in my Lord Moira's, and beggedto inquire whether he had not been drawing on his imagination.
'Your countrymen are so dreadfully imaginative, you know!' he saidplaintively. 'I never forget the story of "potatoes and point" thatsomebody told me. So Irish! What is it? Oh! some notion of a Hibernianfeast on a frugal scale in the far west, where the guests sat in acircle, each with his potato, which was dipped from time to time togive it flavour into a pot of salt in the middle. When the salt beganto fail, each potato was _pointed_ at the relish instead of beingdipped in it, which many declared to be an economical improvement, forimagination did the rest! The Irish, you know, pull the long-bowterribly, and disconcert you by themselves believing their own lies.'
Being at last persuaded that Lord Moira's details were facts which hadtaken place lately, and would take place each day for months, unlesssummarily stopped, Mr. Pitt's rival expressed much delight. This was ahole in the harness of Mr. Pitt, of which he would proceed straightwayto make the most brilliant use. But Mr. Pitt saw the pair walkingtogether, and, divining at once the subject of their discourse,resolved to forestall any rude suggestions which might be made. Hewrote accordingly to Lord Clare, expressing surprise at the reports,bidding him act with discretion--tempering a just firmness withlenity; deploring and disapproving a waste of life; suggesting fewerexecutions and more close imprisonment. The chancellor was annoyed atbeing thus interfered with. He was doing his work steadily and well.It was all very fine for an English minister to prate in platitudes,at a distance, about firmness and lenity. He would reap the fullbenefit of the transaction when it was completed, whilst his tools inIreland were laying in a harvest of opprobrium. Then, as his mindworked, the look of anxiety cleared from Lord Clare's face. Whathappened to the rest of the Privy Council mattered little to him. _He_was the guiding pilot. To _him_ must come honours, an English peerage,a seat at St. Stephen's. There might he give a loose rein to hisambition. This letter, though, might prove useful in the matter ofTerence Crosbie. The Viceroy's prerogative of mercy should beexercised first of all in the case of the misguided youth, son of theold friend who persisted in remaining so singularly cold as to hisfate. Why were my lady's letters so cold? he wondered. Never mind. Herson should be saved, if possible, without more parley.
His plan, however, met with unexpected resistance from Lord Camden,who was usually so ductile. To his amazement that effete persondeclined altogether to interfere. Vainly the chancellor browbeat him,employing those artifices of language and manner which were wont tomake him quiver. The more he argued the more the Viceroy mumbled. Likeall weak natures, he could be wofully obstinate at times in the wrongplace. He had worked himself up to consider the unhappy Terence as hisown private victim, because, in his case, he had acted on his ownauthority for once, and had even been visited with the sublimeinspiration of the reward. He clung to his victim with the tenacity ofa bulldog; nothing should wrest from his lips the savoury morsel. Forhis part, he declared, he thought Mr. Pitt barely civil. He desiredthese hopeless Irish people to be well kept under, and yet he gavevent to windy phrases which his coadjutors in Dublin could notpossibly act upon, without changing their course and becominglaughing-stocks. He, for one, declined to stultify himself. As forthis sprig of nobility who had disgraced the ermine and dirtied hisnest, it was essential above all things to make an example of him,lest any other misguided youth of the same rank should be deludedenough to follow his pernicious lead.
Lord Clare, like a good diplomat, dropped the subject for that time,and went on to speak of the other imprisoned leaders. What was to bedone with them? Could they be executed? No! It would be impolitic tomartyrise them too openly, for they were well known in Dublin aspatriotic and single-minded young men who led blameless lives.Moreover it was evident from this epistolary hint that Mr. Pitt wouldobject to such a proceeding.
'I'd try 'em by court-martial!' mumbled t
'State prisoners!' retorted Arthur Wolfe with unusual warmth, from thebottom. 'Better not go through the farce of trial at all.'
The Viceroy glared, and the chancellor bit his lip. Why could notArthur Wolfe hold his stupid tongue? Lord Clare felt more than everthat this weak-minded friend must be got out of the way somehow. Onhim, as attorney-general, would of course fall the duties of crownprosecutor. Dear, dear! people seemed to throw obstacles in his way onpurpose, as though his task were not entangled enough already! Allthis considered, these members of the Directory, over whose capturethere had been such crowing, seemed disposed to revenge themselves bybecoming white elephants. They could not be hanged _en masse_ withoutcreating scandal; it was not even certain that they would be convictedif brought to trial, for against several of their number very littletangible evidence could be brought. Their names on a list--theirpresence at a meeting. This was not enough. Of course the Battalioncould be brought forward with fictitious evidence--but Lord Clareshrank from this, except as a last resource. Besides, they were not tobe hanged--that was settled. What then could be done with them? Alight punishment, as for a misdemeanour, would drive the Orangemen tomadness, who were shouting for blood, after the manner of religiousbigots. Petty larceny and high treason could not be placed on the samelevel. Could not somebody suggest something?
'I have an idea,' mild Arthur Wolfe murmured, as he nervously gnawed apen. 'Banishment might be proposed to them, on conditions which mightbe made to look like mutual accommodation. For instance, make themconfess their offences and explain the ins and outs of their scheme,in order that it may be guarded against in future. By confession theywould show the world that we've not been tilting against windmills.Surely the establishment of the traitorous conspiracy by the testimonyof the principal actors in it might be fairly taken as an equivalentfor the lives of a few men, without loss of dignity on our part?'
The chancellor mused. The notion was ingenious. The Viceroy drew apicture of a gallows on his paper, and gabbled of court-martials in aninjured tone.
'Very pretty, but they would not consent,' affirmed Lord Clare, atlast.
'I think they would,' returned the attorney-general, blushing. 'Infact, the idea is not mine. Tom Emmett suggested it to me.'
'You've been to see them?'
'Yes. I've been to Kilmainham and to Newgate. It's a shocking sight,'answered Arthur Wolfe, kindling, 'to see decent men loaded with irons,mixed up with thieves, insulted hourly by the low janissaries of MajorSirr! The poor fellows are so shocked at the accounts which reachthem, and see so plainly the futility of struggling now, that theywould do anything, I think, to stop the effusion of blood.'
'If they would consent to banishment for life, and let us into thesecrets of the society, we should be well out of the job,' thechancellor decided. 'Curran shall be sent to put it to the rascals.The blackguard has influence with them. Meanwhile we will turn on thescrew by bringing the worst to trial. Sure Mr. Pitt must not mind justa few being strung up.'
So it was provisionally arranged; but the affair did not run onwheels. The patriots were captious, held out for special terms,dictated alterations in the proposed agreement, behaved in a flippantmanner--not meekly and decorously as people should who feel the hempabout their necks.
'It must be understood,' they declared, 'that they were to mention nonames, criminate no person; that after an examination before thesecret committee of Lords, upon the intentions and aims of the UnitedIrish Society, they were to be sent to America, as Tone had beenbefore them.' Here was insolence! This in order, of course, that theymight join Tone in France, and stir up the French again. Contumacioustraitors!
The chancellor became exceeding wroth. The screw must be twisted witha vengeance, he said. 'What a pity that they could not be hanged _enmasse!_ One or two at any rate must suffer--just to teach the othersto behave themselves.' Lord Camden suggested Terence, the malignantaristocrat, as a good victim; but the chancellor fenced the matteroff, and overruled his excellency. Arthur Wolfe implored andbegged--vowed that the words would choke his utterance as he made hisopening speech--swore that he could not, would not, come forward toprosecute--even so far forgot himself as to fling the pens and paperabout, and beard the Privy Council with upbraiding words. Then my LordCamden absolutely cackled. Mr. Speaker and Mr. Prime Sergeant laidtheir hands upon their swords. How indecent! Luckily they sat withclosed doors. Here was a split in the cabinet when unity was soessential. Lord Clare's harsh voice rose above the hubbub. He coercedthem all to order with verbal whips, like the keeper of somemenagerie. The animals, cowed, lay down and growled. The peace waskept for this once, but the astute chancellor perceived that somethingmust be done with promptitude, or the whole of his beautiful fabric,which only needed a roof now to finish it, would come tumbling abouthis ears. Truly he deserved well of his master, for he laboured hard.He discovered that the excellent, the humane, Arthur Wolfe was toogood and clever for his position--almost too good for this world; andso he was graciously put on the shelf--I mean the Bench--and raised tothe peerage of Kilwarden, _en attendant_ a front seat in heaven. As myLord Kilwarden we shall know him for the future--the same weakwell-meaning man as ever--compelled to listen to false witness fromhis high chair, but unable to interfere because his mouth was stoppedby the fur which trimmed his coronet. The solicitor-general, Toler,was promoted to the vacant place, and proved to be a prosecutor 'ofthe right sort,' a fitting _pendant_ to the jury, in the state-trialswhich commenced immediately in the sessions-house in Green Street,hard by Newgate prison.
These proceedings followed each other with the celerity which markedthe chief events of '98. The rebels had thrown down their gauntlet onthe 23rd of May. By the 1st of June, Kildare was quieted. It was onthe 11th of June that the court was first opened for the trial of thepatriots, whose chief advocate was Curran; whilst horrible reportswere arriving hourly from Wexford, which were made the most of, tokeep the jury up to the mark. The moment which the little lawyer hadprophetically seen was come, when he of the silver tongue was to standforth and boldly wrestle for noble human life with the demons ofTreachery and Malice. The brave little man shrank not from the task,fraught as it was with personal danger to himself. He bore a charmedlife. The prisoners in their beds at Newgate could hear his earnesttones in the hot night through opened windows, haranguing the jurytill daylight; could detect the trotting of his pony as he returned inthe morning to the Priory--no longer hospitably open as of yore, butbolted and barred, with shutters closed and loopholed, in a besiegedcondition, for timid Sara's sake. That which occupied thesessions-house in Green Street was the only civil tribunal whichexisted during this troublous time. Except in the instances of the sixstate-trials, there was no law in town or country but martial law,which is terrible enough even when fairly administered; how much moreawful then when conducted, as it was, by excited Irishmen--rabid withreligious fury, heated by rancour and revenge.
Events had marched quickly. The chancellor had nothing to complain of,for, with a few trifling checks, everything went well enough. Thepeople had been maddened into committing themselves. All classes wereat sixes and sevens. The menagerie was in a chaotic condition. Thewolf snarled at the hyena, the bear showed his tusks at the tiger-cat.The senate was as degraded as its bitterest foe could desire. But whatan exasperating world it is! How true the trite old maxim about theslip 'twixt cup and lip! Lord Clare saw (not far off, neither) theabolition of the Irish parliament. He heard his own voice ringingalong the rafters of the English House of Lords. He pictured himselfhigh in office--why not premier some day? But all of a sudden an eventoccurred which had never entered into his calculations--a rap came onhis knuckles, swift and agonising, which woke him from his vision tosee that it was air.
That agitation of Lord Moira's went farther in its effect than itsauthor dreamed. Mr. Pitt perceived at once that it must cause him tochange his tactics, and with presence of mind he resolved to do soinstantly. 'How lucky,' he
So it came about that the English premier disarmed the opposition byrecalling at a few hours' notice the then Viceroy, Lord Camden, anddespatching to Ireland at once--with an energy that did him credit--anew one, who was instructed to carry on the work on a new principle.Lord Clare was thunderstruck. When the news came, his face lengthenedby an ell. He thought not of broken puppets, which, having servedtheir purpose, are tossed upon the dust-heap. A new Viceroy! Just atthis crisis, too, when more than ever unity was strength. What if thenew Viceroy should have a will of his own to clash with the lordchancellor's? That was unlikely, for Lord Clare was essentially aleader of men. He had coerced many viceroys, and thoroughly understoodthe business. There was no reason for supposing that this one would bemore stubborn than the others. But he would of necessity come raw tohis work, would have to be taught, which would create delay. It wasvery provoking. Yet, after all, there was a good side even to thisdilemma. Strong-willed or not, he would have to leave things aloneduring his pupilage. For the present he could not interfere much. Yet,turn the situation over as he would, my Lord Clare could not but seethat Mr. Pitt had made a fool of him; and it was with some misgivingthat the chancellor went down in state to Kingstown to make his bow tohis new master.
Mr. Pitt's choice was a most judicious one. He had to look for a manwho was brave and honest, high-spirited, clear-headed--the antithesisto Camden. Some one who knew something of affairs, who was asoldier--in order that at this difficult juncture the reins ofgovernment and the command of the forces should be in one firm grasp.Some one who was experienced in the world's ways, who would be toowise to run a-muck or do anything Quixotic. Who would pull thingsstraight gradually and with circumspection, so as not to stop the ballbefore it reached its goal, and yet who was too conspicuous for virtuefor the opposition to jut forth the tongue at him. Just such a man wasthe Marquis Cornwallis, who had recently earned glorious laurels inIndia; whom all the world respected because he was upright as well asworldly-wise.
The preparations of the new Viceroy had been made in secret.Therefore, the word of command being given, he started off, like thegood soldier that he was, at a moment's notice, and arrived atKingstown towards the end of June. As a salve to his predecessor'sfeelings, a nephew of Lord Camden's was attached as chiefsecretary--the young Viscount Castlereagh, who, report said, waspromising. Lord Clare met the party with a toothsome smile, in all thebravery of tightly-fitting silk upon his dapper limbs, his rustlingrobes stiffened with gold lace, his lappeted wig powdered withperfumed flour. The viceregal state-coach was not in waiting, heregretted to say. The rapidity of his excellency's coming wasextraordinary! My Lord Camden, who was living within a cordon ofguards away in the Ph[oe]nix Park, had not yet resigned it. But hisown poor coach was there (the one which cost four thousand guineas);if his excellency would so far honour him as to take a seat in it, itwould be the proudest moment in the life of his humble servant.
Lord Cornwallis, thinking it a good opportunity of studying thenotorious chancellor, accepted graciously; and the two joggedtogether along the high-road to Dublin, preceded by a body of theLiberty-rangers, who appeared to the military optic a sad set ofclodpoles. Lord Clare descanted on the beauty of the scenery, theloveliness of Dublin Bay, the delights of summer weather. Sure, hisexcellency must have had a splendid passage. Was he never sick? Luckyman! Never, never? This good beginning was a fine omen for the future.Might his career in Ireland win his Majesty's approval! and so on, andso forth. Vapid compliments! Lord Clare made himself as pleasant as hepossibly could, and congratulated himself rather on his success. It isa fortunate circumstance that we do not abide in the Palace of Truth.The first impression which the coercer of viceroys left upon the mindof Lord Cornwallis, was one of a cruel eye, painfully glitteringteeth, a smile to be distrusted, a voice which went through him like aknife.
'What of the people?' he asked somewhat abruptly; for he knew morethan he liked about Lake's plans, and feared lest the obloquy whichmust attend them should be pinned to the new _regime_.
'The people!' echoed his companion, in a tone which spokevolumes--'the people! Ah, well! They've offended the King, and arehaving a hard time of it. To-morrow they will have a very hard timeindeed, but no worse than they deserve; for by nightfall, if all goeswell--why should it go ill?--a few hours hence, Wexford andEnniscorthy will be taken, the camp at Vinegar Hill will be aGolgotha--this deplorable folly will be at an end.'
Lord Cornwallis gave a sigh of relief. He had come expecting to seeunpleasant sights, to be for the nonce a bandager instead of a carverof wounds. If the chancellor spoke truly, then was he indeed in luck,for the horrors attending this 'Golgotha,' as his companionpicturesquely put it, would naturally be considered to belong to LordCamden's vice-royalty, not his.
The cavalcade which had been rattling along came to a standstill. TheLiberty-rangers, with oaths and curses, were striving to force apassage through a kneeling crowd which occupied the way; but thepeasants who formed the crowd seemed to have no feeling as they kneltthere in the middle of the road, with hats off and heads bowed down.
Vainly were the horses urged, vainly did the postilions, with artfulflips of their long knotted lashes, strive to tickle intosensitiveness the soft bare arms of girls--their white necks, fromwhich the hair was braided. They knelt there and moved not.
Lord Cornwallis looked out at the spectacle in surprise, and loweredthe window-glass with a bang to bid the postilions respect the sex, interms of indignant remonstrance. What singular people! So silent; theymight be stone. His ear caught a distant wailing, very faint--a longway off--and a peculiar sound which recalled long-forgotten memoriesof youth. The falling of a flail--yes, that was it. A lightning-flash,of the past revealed to his mind's eye a warm-coloured, familiarthreshing-floor, in which he used to play ere he grew hardened bywar's vicissitudes. He remembered, as though it were yesterday, thechequered sunlight on the grain, the merry hum of life, the stalwartfellows raising their brawny arms in clock-like rhythm. He heard againthe buzz of insects, the booming of gauze-winged beetles along thehedgerows; the exhilarating murmur which sings of teeming nature--ofglorious summer. Why were these peasants turned to stone?
Lord Clare, forgetting himself, craned out of his window, and presumedat the very start to counter-order his chief's commands.
'Go on!' he screamed. 'Get through this riff-raff!'
Lord Cornwallis roughly bade him hold his peace.
'It's only a flogging,' the chancellor apologised.
'And this is the silent protest of the people! Have they sunk tothis?' cried the Viceroy hoarsely, pulling at his cravat to ease thelump that was in his throat. 'Poor creatures! Ground down so low thatthey can protest only by their silence--a reverent silence, like thatof onlookers at a martyrdom! Who is acting here? Call him forward.'
Presently an aide-de-camp returned through an archway with thesheriff. The aide's eyes were full of tears. He was a youth new toIreland. This pathetic method of protesting was strangely, weirdlytragic! He had noted how, as the far-off moaning continued, and thethuds poured down in an unrelenting shower, these fair young necks hadwinced in concert, though no murmur passed their lips. Yet when thepostilions flicked them, calling up red marks upon the skin, they madeno movement, nor uttered cry. All their feeling was for the sufferingvictim on the triangle, in the barrack-yard yonder, whose life the catwas slowly beating out of him. None was left for a paltry personalsmart, which lasts a second and is gone.
''Deed it's a Croppy being flogged till he tells the truth, as is therule,' returned the sheriff confidentially, with grins. He knew notthe bluff speaker, but respected the golden coach.
'Learn then, in time, lest your own bones suffer for it,' retortedLord Cornwallis, 'that I am his Majesty's new representative. That myfirst order on arriving in your capital shall be to put down corporalpunishment in any form whatever, unless sanctioned and signed for byme.'
The sheriff knew not what to make of it. This the new Viceroy, andthese his orders? He merely bowed and smirked, taking his cue from myLord Clare.
A very old man in a long frieze coat, seeming to read some sort ofunusual sympathy in the flushed weather-beaten face of the lastspeaker, advanced to the carriage-window with a grotesque salute.
'What can we do for you, my man?' quoth the bluff soldier, in the hopeof some answering quip which should warm away the chill which restedon his heart.
'Plaze, yer honour!' quavered the aged man, with a vacant smile ofsenility, 'sure I'd loike, if it moight be, for my two lads foreninstthe barriks there, as are sufferin', to be hanged at onst! And, av yeplaze, might I go up too? Wid the blessing of God, I'd loike to shakea fut wid my boys!'
Lord Cornwallis pulled up the window with a jerk; and Lord Clarethought the omen not quite so good which marked the arrival of the newViceroy.
My Lords of Strogue, Vol. 3 (of 3) by Lewis Wingfield / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on16 votes