Page images
PDF
EPUB

tering bulwarks, and the broad lake expanded, or the narrow streamlet rippled on, diversifying, by its liquid splendor, the ever-changeful prospect. Home itself, that centre of all attractions to young Bryan's affectionate heart, could not by its proximity win him to quicken his pace. He suffered the rein to hang loosely on his horse's neck, and gazed around him with the sad forebodings of one who anticipates a long farewell to a spot endeared by every tender recollection of infancy and youth.

The abode towards which he was so leisurely advancing, lay buried in deep seclusion, considerably removed from the highway. The approach formed a perfect labyrinth, scarcely deserving the name of a road, or even of a path; but Bryan's steed required no guidance to the well-known spot. Emerging from the covert under which an ascent, and then a descent had been pursued, he now came full in view of the simple but substantial cottage that sheltered all his earthly treasures; and his near approach was presently discovered by its delighted inmates. A sturdy house-dog was the first to greet him, with the warning bark of defiance, instantaneously changed into the yelpings of joy, as he bounded forward to spring against the saddle. Two blooming girls next rushed from the door; and after them hastened a white-haired retainer of the noble, but no longer affluent house, whose fallen fortunes it was his pride to follow. A bare-headed gossoom seized the bridle with one hand, while the other plucked at his matted locks by way of obeisance ; old Shane laid hold on the stirup; and the impatient sisters seemed disposed to drag their prize from his seat, before he could well dismount. Bryan had a kiss, and a smile, and a tear too, for each, with

many a kind word to old Shane, as he hobbled after the youthful trio, to the presence of two more expectants; a weeping mother, and a grandame, whose feelings were too deep to find such vent, as she embraced and blessed the sole representative of her slaughtered line.

But why attempt to describe the most indescribable of all things-an Irish welcome, bestowed on one, around whom a cluster of Irish hearts entwined their fondest affections ?

Amid the interesting groupe now assembled, a stranger's eye would involuntarily have rested on the form and features of the venerable parent. Both were strikingly noble, nor had the pressure of near threescore years and ten diminished the sparkling intelligence of the face, or bowed perceptibly the stately figure of the old lady. Highly intellectual, and marked with decision of character, her countenance yet bespoke a meek benevolence which endeared what had otherwise been too commanding to inspire affection : and there were traits of long and patient endurance, sufficient to show that a cross had indeed been borne by her whose whole deportment told a tale of pious resignation.

She was a daughter of the princely race of O'Neill, brought, by a chain of providential circumstances, even in childhood, under the influence of truly Christian advisers. Thus her mind became early and deeply imbued with doubts and apprehensions as to the soundness of her hereditary religion. Pursuing in secret the enquiry, she had made a tacit renunciation of its errors; convinced by the mere force of reason, and such arguments as came withiu her reach. At an early age she had become attached to Colonel M‘Alister, a Protestant of rank and influence, whom she married, much to the chagrin of her own bigoted kindred, and resided with his family, until the dreadful massacre of 1641 cut off the greater number, and sent the survivors brokenhearted to an untimely grave.

Through many heavy calamities, and bitter reverses of fortune, she had been brought to such a thorough self-acquaintance, as laid her low at the foot of the Redeemer's cross; and rendered her a meet guide for the children of her only son; who, with their widowed mother dwelt in this secluded nook of their native Donegal, subsisting on the wreck of a fortune once most abundant. Letitia and Ellen, the latter of whom was scarcely past the age of childhood, furnished sufficient employment for those whom they fondly designated their two mothers; bat Shane distinguished the younger widow as “the mistress, and the elder as “the Lady of M'Alister," by which title she was generally known and spoken of, throughout the narrow circle of their rustic acquaintance.

Shane O'Connogher was a genuine Irishman from the western Province, bred to arms from his infancy, and most devotedly attached to the master, whose steps he had faithfully followed. The same partial affection that led him, as a young lad, to separate from the Romish communion, and to embrace nominally the faith of his benefactor, inspired him with unspeakable horror and detestation of all belonging to that party by whom the cruel murder was perpetrated. Shane was, in truth, a devotee to his political creed; and in universal, indiscriminate hatred of all who differed from him, he could not be outdone by any partizan of any cause what

His ardent fidelity was so appreciated by all the wrecks of M‘Alister's house, that it secured to him immunities and privileges, approaching rather to the station of a friend than that of a domestic.

soever.

Shane had never relinquished the use of his vernacular tongue; loquacious at most times, his eloquence never flowed so freely or so rapidly, as when his thoughts found vert in native Irish; and his frequent soliloquies in that language, proved a source of so much vexation to the children, by exciting their curiosity, that they gladly became his pupils, and acquired some little knowledge of a tongue, too generally as much despised among the higher classes, as it is beloved and cherished by their more humble compatriots.

Of all created beings, the Lady of M'Alister possessed the largest portion of Shane’s reverential regard : but he failed not to protest against her views and proceedings on some occasions; particularly in what related to her son and grandson, neither of whom she would allow to follow the profession of her husband. The former had suffered so much from the perils and privations to which his helpless infancy was exposed, that he never acquired strength of constitution ; he had lived in retirement, and died of lingering decline soon after the birth of Ellen. Shane admitted that he was not formed for military life ; but could by no means pardon the wrong

done to the Protestant cause, by restraining Bryan from following what was certainly the early bent of his inclinations, for Bryan was truly Irish, after Shane's own fancy: manly in person, robust in constitution, warm in his affections, and buoyant in spirits as the bubble that danced upon the water. His laughing eye was sunshine to the old man's heart; and Shane had observation sufficient to discern the deep, firm energy of character which had as yet been but partially called forth: a steadiness of purpose and unflinching resolution, joined to great personal courage. The sweetness of a placid temper, rendered yet more even by the subduing influences of divine grace, restrained the exhibition of these more vigorous traits ; but Shane delighted to trace them, and loudly bewailed the successful appeals which had won on the youth's affectionate heart to concur in the wishes of his “ two mothers," and to become the apprenticed assistant of a respectable merchant in Derry.

« PreviousContinue »