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you not to venture such a distance with such a slender escort as we are, to-night, on such an absurd, screech-owl visitation, as if a man could not die comfortably without making his friends dull with the exhibition,” said Luttrell, peevishly.
"I do not imagine we run any risk of encountering enemies between here and Quin Abbey ; Captain Mahony is a most vigilant patrol," replied Sarsfield.
“ Provided wine and woman play him no trick, my lord,” said Luttrell.
"You have not many good words to spare for your friends this evening, Colonel ; for I thought Captain Mahony was in particular esteem with you a few weeks ago, when you yourself suggested to me how invaluable his services might prove in the position in which I placed him !” said Sarsfield.
“That was before I found him out to be what he is, a pragmatical, prating fellow, who thinks because he has handled a sword once or twice in the campaigns of Turenne and Catinat, that he is fit to teach us all the art of war," replied Luttrell, with some visible confusio n. “Besides, sir, I have heard reasons of late why he is not to be so much trusted as I thought. He is a mere soldier of fortune, and probably quitted his mercenary service in the French armies for some other worse and likelier cause than a desire to assist in the redemption of his country, as he pretends. His country, forsooth! What country can a man have, who has been abroad fighting for another half the years of his life?"
“Why, Luttrell! were I myself to breathe out my latest sigh years hence in the most distant land of Europe, still should I love and cherish Ireland as I do the memory of the mother that bore me,” returned Sarsfield, vehemently. “But General Saint Ruth has frequently assured me it was pure and warm-hearted zeal for his country's deliverance that induced Mahony to relinquish his excellent prospects in the French service, and join us in his company. He has always given me the impression of an honest, brave, high-hearted gentleman, with a good, ready, Irish wit of his own, and a soldierly handling in his command that I wish I could see more general among us! His troop was the only one ready and willing to make that desperate last charge with me when we carried off poor O'Neil, after the flight of his clan, and his own mad-bull rush into the thickest of the enemy's ranks. And Mahony drew off his men unbroken amidst all the horrors of the pursuit and carnage, and helped me to cover the retreat, like an experienced and courageous officer as he is, when all the rest of you seemed little better than the ringleaders of a flying mob!"
“ It may be so, sir. Still, upon my soul and honour! I do not advise you to place yourself in the hands of Captain Mahony. You know what reports are afloat of a secret correspondence between parties of ours and Ginkell's, as the Dutchman rounded us in. And Mahony has private reasons of disaffection to the cause.”
“Private reasons! And what may those be, Colonel ?”
“Oh, your lordship knows the late Duke's brown-eyed Galway witch, Molly Maguire, had promised herself to the Captain before Tyrconnel spied her out and took a fancy to her. Of course Molly, like any
other witty woman, preferred a Lord Deputy, with forty thousand a-year, sitting in state in Dublin Castle, to a Captain of starved Irish horse, out getting peppered before Londonderry! But the ass took it quite sulkily, as if he had some right to complain. Molly laughs at him, to be sure, in her way, but even she admits she hasn't served him well. And my private opinion is, the jilted lover has never since been much to be depended upon, if he saw a good opportunity to let us know his mind to some purpose.” “I think, Luttrell
, you are talking a little now like the rival pretender to Mistress Maguire's good graces D’Usson told you to your face the other day you were,” said Sarsfield, smiling incredulously. “ Moreover, as the Duke and I have been at loggerheads almost ever since we met, Mahony can owe me no grudge on his account. Had I been his friend and ally, Tyrconnel's death must have disarmed even the indignation of a jilted Captain of dragoons! But I am sure, besides, Mahony is too much a gentleman, both by nature and birth, to suffer private piques to influence his conduct in a public capacity."
Luttrell gave a vicious, contemptuous snarl of dissent. “Your lordship cannot have forgotten what passionate part he took on the side of his General, Saint Řuth, when you were reduced so lately to a mere cipher in the army, and the Frenchman insisted on ruling everything to our destruction !:' he exclaimed.
"I cannot blame Mahony for taking part with a commander whom he looked upon as his own patron and friend, under whose banner he had served so long and creditably,” said Sarsfield. “ Neither can I wonder that a man of spirit and warm feeling should resent the treatment he received from that old reprobate, and the worthless woman who preferred the rotten gilding of Tyrconnel's state to the love of so brave and honest a heart ! But to show you what full trust I place in this brave officer, Colonel,” he continued, irritated into a more emphatic affirmation of his own opinion by Luttrell's sneer, "I will visit him in his quarters to-night without any escort at all! Kilrush shall turn back with the men at once! And it will answer another good purpose--I shall come upon our parties without such a clatter as will put the negligent and slothful on their guard to deceive me. And we shall be able to push on the faster the fewer of these poor, broken-winded creatures we have with us to goad on.”
The General spoke in too decisive and determined a manner to admit of any further remonstrance on the part of Luttrell. He then desired one of his retinue to dismount and lend a horse to the Rapparee, in order that he might officiate as guide to Mahony's outpost, whence he came. But Fhad Redmond expressed such emphatic horror at the proposal, and declared so vehemently that he could run on his own bony shanks as fast as any "fowr-legged beast” could carry him, that Sarsfield laughed and desired him to take his own way, satisfied from what he had previously known of the habits of these predatory warriors, he would be very likely to make good his vaunt.
SARSFIELD was not mistaken. The Rapparee dropped respectfully into the rear of the party, but his long strides kept fully pace with those of the horses ; and even when the latter broke into a smart trot, he seemed to have no difficulty in increasing his own speed, so as to preserve the relative distance unbroken. He proved useful in other capacities than that of guide, in which, nevertheless, he officiated with an intelligence and discretion which entitled him to Sarsfield's commendations, and the promise of a suitable reward. In crossing a great tract of boggy land at the foot of the hills, the General's horse accidentally slipped into one of the deep peat-pools cut in the morass, and was in sonie danger of sinking in a slough whence it could not easily have been extricated. The big-boned Rapparee threw his arms round its neck, and in a manner lifted both horse and rider by sheer force, from the danger, on terra firma. After this exploit, Sarsfield's steed, with a true instinct, industriously trod in the very footsteps of Fhad of the Cows, until the whole party arrived on solid ground, in the midst of the pleasant country round the village of Quin, in the County of Clare.
Here stood, and still stand, the remains of a monastic building, once very great extent, and preserving in its scattered ruins, and towering central pile, evidences of its former magnificence.
It appeared from Redmond's account (Luttrell affected to be entirely ignorant on the subject) that Captain Mahony had taken up his quarters with his troopers in portions of this ancient building which still afforded cover. Sarsfield and his companion gathered that there was some species of contagious pestilence rife in the village of low black mud cabins they passed through, and which seemed to have grown round the ruins like a fungus on a decayed oak. A number of disarmed and panic-stricken fugitives from the field of Aughrim had taken shelter there. And for these reasons it seemed the commander had determined to isolate his force in the Abbey. This was evidenced by the fact, that the moment they reached the banks of a little stream flowing under a wall, which once enclosed the precincts, a hoarse voice called to them to halt, and a dismounted dragoon, with carbine levelled, loomed gigantically into sight in the now deep darkness, over a slip in the masonry where he was stationed on guard. In the first place the sentry caught sight only of the Rapparee.
“Arrab, now, you rascally spalpeen, you !" he shouted, “don't you know the Captain's orders, and is it after breaking them you'll be in the face of Thady Macgillicuddy's musketoon ?"
Sarsfield answered by commanding immediate admission for himself and his companions, and the soldier, recognising his voice, and apparently cowed, lowered his weapon, and humbly requested their honours to take "the crossing” a little lower down, where he could open them a way "asy into the Abbey churchyard." Accordingly they found him busy heaving away some trunks of pines placed across a gap in the
wall as a barrier a short distance down the water. It was “asy” to enter the Abbey' precincts from this point, and Lord Lucan with both his accompaniers arrived at their destination without further delay.
Redmond, cowering so as to avoid the observation of the sentinel, almost instantly disappeared, while Luttrell, who had been immersed in saturnine thoughtfulness for some minutes, now looked up from his meditations and proposed that they should leave their horses here in charge of the dragoon.
“ It is very uneven ground up to the Abbey," he observed, “and we shall be safer on our legs than on these tired beasts. Besides," he added, with a malignant smile, "we shall have a chance of coming upon Mahony when he don't expect us, and catching him, perhaps, at some of his cantrips. What should you say, General, if we found him in close conference with some fine young gentleman in scarlet and lace from Ginkell's head-quarters ?"
“Say! I should express myself as much to the purpose as possible in the form of a gibbet, balanced as carefully as might be between them.”
“That's easier said than done, General. I am pretty certain Mahony's men would take part with him against even yourself in person ; for you know Galmoy's Horse were always set against you in favour of that domineering French fellow, who lost his head so nattily at Aughrim, it was a real pleasure to see it bowling off.”
“Let me see the man, or the men, that dares disobey any command of mine !” said Sarsfield, much-as his wily companion purposedirritated at the idea.
“Well, come on, sir ; I think I can indulge you in the wish speedily enough," was the reply. And Luttrell, taking upon him to guide, proceeded with apparent caution towards a black, ivy-crowned mass of building whose opaque darkness cast it strongly into relief even against the moonless sky of the night.
They had proceeded, stumbling among the old gravestones and clumps of fallen masonry, until they were pretty close on a wall pierced with shattered arches that gave a view into the midst of an enclosed space, almost choked with piles of green, weedy rubbish, when a voice was audible from the interior of this part of the ruins, humming a lively, ranting sort of tune, which has since become familiar to all the world by the style and title of “Nora Creina.” But the words were French, and as far as the hearers could cateh their drift, were very far indeed from being of so gallant and sprightly a contexture as those flung so airily on the melody, like the sparkling foam on the crest of dancing waves, by Moore. A verse might possibly have been Anglicised thus into a doggrel of a similar quality to that in which the Irish military poet essayed to vent his woes, in what he probably considered a more civilized and likely-to-reach-posterity form than his own language supplied :
Oh, St. Patrick! when you were
From Ireland snake and serpent chasing,
To tangle us in her false embracing ?
Smiling sweet, with humid lips,
As bright as light on dabbled roses,
The feast a poisoned draught supposes ?
Truth may dwell
In the deepest well
“'Tis Mahony!" whispered Luttrell; he has the voice of a Balruddery tomcat, in addition to his other perfections, and he likes all the world to know it. Do you hear how he harps on that string about woman's falsehood, when he might just as well blame April for being showery. He owes us all a rare spite, you may depend upon it, General, and myself in particular, if he has heard of D'Usson's absurd pratings. Would it not be better for us to retire, without giving him the opportunity of showing off some insolence ?"
“Certainly not, until I have dispatched my business here," replied Sarsfield, indifferently; though in any nature less chivalrously loyal itself, Luttrell's continued reluctance to encounter Mahony might well have awakened some suspicion of the cause. He then called the Captain's name in a loud voice, and brought that officer instantaneously to a dead halt in his march and his melody within the ruined cloister. Almost the next moment, and a weighty but agile figure cleared the deep-set arches of the cloister at a vault, and alighted before the visitors with rather surprising promptitude.
“ Halte là !- Diable! who goes there ?" said the voice of the interrupted singer, and the click-click of pistols cocking in either hand was audible.
Sarsfield briefly and haughtily answered the challenge by stating who he was, and his object in visiting Captain Mahony's quarters.
“Major-General Sars-field !” repeated the captain, in evident astonishment, and not in the most respectful tone possible. nom! and how how have you got past the sentinel without his giving the alarm ?”
"The alarm, Captain Mahony !-an alarm at the presence of the General-in-Chief at an outpost!”
“I ordered my sentinel to admit no one living-corbleu ! or dead without permission from myself, General, and the password, which you could not know, as I only knew it myself an hour ago! And do you mean to say that you have been permitted to make your ways in without the least obstruction in life ? "
“We told him who we were, Captain Mahony, my dear, and that of course satisfied the good fellow," said Luttreli, in his softest, most cajoling tones.
“But, ventre-gris! it don't satisfy me at all, at all, Colonel Luttrell, if you'll take my word for it!” returned the other, evidently not at all appeased. “But, by the Holy Cross ! I'll teach Master Thady Macgillicuddy his duty before I have done with him. Hola, there, John O’Regan turn me out a serjeant's party, and go and put Macgillicuddy in irons, in the black-hole down in the vaults among the old fathers and