|CHAPTER 12 -------- CHAPTER 19
THE DRUMAWHEY INFORMER
`The noble Warwick was betrayed
JAMES DILLON bequeathed to his descendants - if such there be - the
heritage of infamy. Nearly a century has passed since
Dillon kept a common public house in the townland of Drumawhey, near Newtownards. He also kept a school there. From what has already been said of him in a previous chapter, the reader will have seen that he was far from being a favourite with the people of his district, and that at least one man suspected him of being an informer. Mat McClenaghan suspected him and subsequent events proved that Mat was correct in his suspicions.
At the date of my story there resided in Drumawhey a Mrs. Warwick - a widow who held a farm of land, working it as best she could. She was a woman universally respected, and the horse and plough of many a well-to-do farmer in the countryside was at her service whenever required. Mrs. Warwick had an only son - William - and he was the pride of her heart, the hope of her declining years. From an early age the lad had displayed abilities of a high order. He was of a religious turn of mind, and his father destined him for the pulpit - a choice of profession which in every way pleased young William.
At the time of the occurrences which have just been related, William Warwick had finished, and that, too, with high reputation, his collegiate course. He was connected with the Belfast Presbytery and as a probationer awaited an appointment to a pastoral charge. He was a young man of much promise, learning and eloquence. polished in his manners, imposing in his appearance, with the carriage of the soldier and the ardour of the patriot, he was the welcome visitor of everyone in the neighbourhood. This very popularity of the handsome young probationer, and his scholarly ability, seemed to cast Dillon, the country schoolmaster, completely in the shade. Dillon secretly swore that he would be revenged, and he kept his word!
One cold, dark night, not long after the swearing in of Willie Boal as a United Irishman, a number of farmers were seated round a fire in a little room in Dillon's public house. They had been drinking freely, and, feeling no suspicion of danger, were discussing openly the probability of an early rising.
"A hae a bit o' writin' in my pokit," said one of them - Sam Donaldson by name - "that wud mebbe gie ye a bit o' infurmaishin if ye only seen it."
"Shew it tae us, Sam," cried the others eagerly.
But Sam laughed, and buttoning up his coat, tapped the breast of it. Then, with a knowing wink, he said -
"A micht be an adjutant-general sum day, boys; a'm in trainin' fur it onywae, an' a wud be gie an' saft if a wud skew ye the furst dispatch that wuz gien me tae carry!"
"Right, Sam! Right my boy!" was the cry of several, but a few there were who wanted to see the document, the very mention of which had aroused so much interest.
"Damn the paper he haes, nae mauir nor a hae!" growled a burly, big-headed fellow, and as he made the assertion he brought down his ponderous fist upon the table with a thump that upset half-a-dozen tumblers.
This put Sam upon his mettle, and doubtless it was so intended. He jumped to his feet, unbuttoned his coat, and drawing out a document, unfolded it and held it up.
"Haud the cannel here, yin o' ye!" he shouted.
There was a scramble for who should do so, and the big-headed fellow was the first to get a look at the paper.
"Noo, dinnae read it!" shouted Sam; "jist luk wha's name's at it." The man did so, and sat down.
"A beg yer pardin Sam," he said. "A'm shair it's a' richt by the name a see at the fut o' it._"
"So ye may," retorted Sam, "an' mair betoken it's a' in the handwritin' o' his reverince, Mister Warwick!"
"Weel, weel," said the big fellow, "a'll order drinks fur a' roon on the heid o't".
So saying he rose from the table to repair to the bar. As he did so a woman darted away from the outer side of the door, and she stole noiselessly into another room.
It was Dillon's wife! She had stood with her eye at the keyhole, and seen and heard all!
The liquor was served, and Dillon, as he returned to the bar, was accosted by his wife, in a whisper, from the apartment to which she had retreated.
"Jamey! Come here."
He was at her side in a moment. She told him what she had heard; what she had seen.
When Dillon returned to the bar his face bore a look of unmistakeable satisfaction. With both hands plunged deep in his trousers' pockets, he paced up and down the damp earthen floor, buried in thought. His mind seemed busily engaged in the solution of a problem, and at length he appeared to have arrived at that solution.
His customers had grown noisy. One of the party was singing a song, and the others joined in the chorus. It was a ditty of the day. At its conclusion, they rose to depart. As they passed through the bar, some of them stopped to light their pipes. Sam Donaldson was one of these, and as he buttoned up his coat, and said good-night, Dillon with a wink and an inclination of his head, signified that he wished him to remain after the others had left. Sam understood the hint, and acted upon it. Turning to his companions, he said:
"Boys, a'm no gaun hame yit awhile. A hae sum bizziness tae dae wi' Mister Dillon."
'A' richt, Sam; guid night, guid night," chorused the others, and off they went, leaving Sam and the landlord together.
"Come and have a quiet glass of punch," said Dillon; "I want to speak to you."
"A wull dae that," replied Sam, readily. He had already overstepped the boundary line of moderation, and another glass, in his opinion, would do him no harm.
Dillon brewed two tumblers of punch. He used no measure on this occasion, and he helped Sam with an unsparing hand. Whiskey was cheap in those days, but the landlord expected a good turn for his hospitality.
"Now, Sam, try that," he said, drawing a small table to the fire and placing the steaming liquor close to his guest's elbow. Then he at down beside him.
'Yer helth an' lang life tae ye!" said Sam, and he took a deep draught of the potent spirit.
"Yours!" said Dillon, sipping the punch slowly, and watching his companion closely to note how far he was from the borders of intoxication. He was not far!
"Tell me, Sam," said Dillon, "haven't you a fancy for that farm of Gunion's that marshes your land?"
"Man, a hae that," cried Sam, brightening up. "There's a chance of your getting it," said Dillon.
It was then that men were made to hanker after their neighbour's farm; bidding high for it at a sale, getting it by means often foul. And so landlords profited by the cupidity of tenants, pocketed the big rents, and laughed. The tenants were often to blame.
Sam considered for a few moments, then, looking up, said mysteriously - "Is it at the deveesion o' the land a'll get it?" Dillon laughed.
"No, Sam; there won't be any division such as you dream of, my boy."
'A'm no sae shair o' that!" said Sam; "they'll be drawin' cuts fur it afore lang, and fur ocht ye ken Mountstewart or Rosemount micht be cut up."
Unobserved, Dillon replenished Sam's glass, and that worthy drained it.
"I meant to tell you," went on Dillon, "that Gunion is so far in arrears with his rent that he must give up. If you like I'll mention your name to the landlord as his successor."
Sam was drunk. He glared at Dillon stupidly, and then he spread his arms upon the table, laid his head upon them, and the next minute was sound asleep.
Dillon waited, watching Sam as a cat would a mouse. "Mary!" he whispered.
Mary was his wife, and she had been hovering near. In an instant she was at his side.
"Stand between us and the window," whispered Dillon.
Dillon caught Sam by the collar and shook him. As he did so he jerked out the buttons of the man's coat.
"Wake up, Sam!" he said.
But the fellow was oblivious to everything. "Which pocket?" whispered Dillon.
The woman pointed to it with her finger.
In another moment a folded sheet of paper, foolscap size, had passed from Sam's pocket to that of Dillon.
The cowardly theft had not been committed a moment too soon. The door opened and one of Sam's former companions entered. "Is Sam awe?" he asked.
"No," said Dillon, rising, "here he is, snoring like a hog".
The man stepped up to the fire and attempted to rouse the sleeper, but in vain.
"I wish you would take him away," said Dillon; "I want to close up."
The man went to the door and whistled. He was soon joined by a neighbour, and the two undertook to have Sam 'left safely home. "Take a drink of something before you go," said Dillon.
It was seldom he stood a drink, and the men were not in the humour to decline his hospitality. His hand was not so steady as usual in filling the glasses, but his wife alone noted that fact.
The men drank their liquor, and then left, half dragging, half carrying their inebriated companion.
Dillon followed them to the door, looking round to see if all was clear, closed the swing shutter, went inside again and barred the door.
Advancing hurriedly to the light, he drew out the document and glanced carefully over its contents. As he did so, a grim smile overspread his features. Folding it up again he placed it in his pocket.
His wife, peering into his face, enquired - "Weel?"
"It's worth five hundred pounds if it's worth a penny!" said Dillon excitedly. "To-morrow morning I'll start for Newton and place this before the authorities. Before twenty-four hours we'll have lively scenes in Drumawhey."
And there are creatures, in the form of men,
IT WAS LATE that night before Dillon went to bed. It was later still before he slept. Again and again did he peruse the paper writing which had come into his hands, and, as he did so, he gloated savagely over the fate which he knew would now to a certainty overtake Warwick. The document was partly in cipher and partly in ordinary writing. It was an outline of preparation to be made in view of a call to arms, and the name attached to it was that of one of the leading members of the United Irishmen Organisation. Warwick was not responsible for the framing of this document. He had merely, by request, made a copy of it for Colonel Bryson. This was the only political offence ever laid to Warwick's charge, yet it was one which in those days was quite sufficient to bring a man before a military court-martial, and from thence to the gallows. Yet was he, in reality, as innocent of political crime as the child unborn.
Dillon spent a restless night. The hope of gain, the fear of detection as an informer, filled his mind alternately, and drove sleep from his eyes. Towards the morning he dropped into a fitful slumber, which gradually deepened into a heavy sleep and when at last he awoke with a sudden start, it was to hear the wheezy old eight-day clock which stood in the bedroom striking the hour of nine.
He sprang out of bed with an oath upon his lips. Nine o'clock! Why, he meant to have been at Newton and back before that hour. In a mood the reverse of pleasant he put on his clothes. After all, what did it matter? He could go after school hours and when darkness had set in. And so he set himself to the monotonous routine of his daily calling.
And what of his intended victim, Warwick? The unsuspecting youth rose with a clear brain and a light heart, little dreaming of the cloud which was gathering over his head. On entering the little room which had been set apart as his study, he found as usual, a cheery turf fire burning brightly in the old-fashioned grate, and breakfast laid upon a little round table covered with a snow-white cloth.
Mother and son breakfasted together, as the meal proceeded, Warwick told his mother of his intended movements for the day. He had numerous letters to write, sundry calls to make in the neighbourhood, and in the evening he was to attend a select party to be given by Betsy Gray - the annual celebration of her mother's marriage day.
"Then you'll be late, William," said Mrs. Warwick, as she helped on her son's overcoat.
"Yes, mother; but don't be uneasy, and don't be sitting up for me, mind that."
The widowed mother smiled sadly.
"I'm always uneasy when you are out late," she said; "these are such troublesome times."
"Nonsense, mother," laughed Warwick, as he kissed her pale cheek, "what harm can befall me?"
"God keep you under the shelter of His wings, William," was the fervent response.
"And He will do so," said Warwick earnestly. "They who put their trust in Him shall not be disappointed."
The next moment he was gone.
His mother had followed him to the door, and she stood there, looking after him with eyes dimmed by tears until he was out of sight. Then she closed the door, and, with a heavy sigh, set about her household duties.
Had the mother's heart a foreboding of what was to happen to her darling boy?
How cheery did Betsy Gray's parlour look that evening at five o'clock. The curtains were drawn, the fire bright, the brass kettle singing merrily upon the hob. The candles were lit, the table laid, and Betsy herself, decked out in a charming costume, flitted about, light as a fairy, imparting to the general arrangements a finishing touch. "What keeps Mary, I wonder," she murmured, half aloud, "she promised to be here soon after dinner."
The very next moment the room door opened, there was a ripple of laughter, a rustling of silk, and she of whom Betsy had been speaking caught her in her arms and kissed her.
For certain obvious reasons the real names of several personages who figure prominently in this story are not given. No apology is needed for this, and the reader's own good taste and judgment will approve of the writer's desire not to draw aside too far the veil which has fallen upon incidents connected with the history of many who still reside in districts where these pages are certain to be read.
Mary Stewart (so she shall be called) was one of Betsy Gray's most intimate acquaintances. She was young, well educated, warm-hearted, affectionate, and of prepossessing appearance. She was the affianced of William Warwick, whom she first met under Betsy's roof, and many a pleasant evening had they spent there.
"Mary, darling, what kept you?" cried Betsy, as she caught the pretty face between her hands and looked into the laughing pair of eyes before whose glances Warwick had surrendered.
"I could not come sooner, indeed, dear," replied Mary. "After all, I am first upon the scene. Who will be here Betsy?"
She laid aside her bonnet and shawl as she spoke and took the armchair which Betsy had placed for her.
"Who will be here, Mary?" said Betsy, as she sat down beside her companion on a low footstool. "Only a few, my dear. Colonel Bryson and Eliza, my father and George, and-----
"And " said Mary, laughing and patting Betsy's rosy cheek, "I think I can guess-Willie Boal, isn't it?"
"Well, yes; and another Willie, too," said Betsy. "Ah there he is; I hear his voice," and she started up to meet the newcomer in the kitchen.
Mary had heard the voice also; the rich musical tones of her lover, and a tell-tale blush suffused her lovely cheeks.
There was a cordial handshaking, and then Betsy, with true womanly feeling, left the lovers by themselves as long as it was possible for her to do under the circumstances. Warwick had much to tell Mary. He had heard from his Presbytery, or from the Clerk of it, of an expected call from a flourishing congregation.
"If I succeed, Mary," he murmured, "I shall then be in a position to claim the fulfilment of your promise, and then "
"I shall be ready," she whispered.
"My darling," said Warwick, "my own darling! Life shall be too short to tell you how much I love you!"
Half an hour later a pleasant party surrounded Betsy's table. It was thus that for years she had celebrated the anniversary of her mother's marriage. There was nothing that was melancholy about these celebrations. Mrs. Gray, the wife and mother, was spoken of as an absent friend; as a loved one at a distance, whose companionship would some day be restored to them.
The meal had been over some time; the occupants of the parlour were seated around the fire discussing various topics when a tap was heard at the room door.
It was the servant girl who announced that Sam Donaldson wished to speak to Mr. Bryson.
"Shew him in." said George Gray.
The man entered and looked around him in a half dazed manner, as though blinded by the light.
"Sit down, Sam," said George, rising and offering a chair.
"Na, thank ye, Mester George, a'll no be sittin'," said Sam casting down his eyes, and twirling his hat between his hands. "Do you want to speak to me, Sam?" asked Colonel Bryson. "Yis, sir, if ye pleese; mebbe ye wud be sae kin' as tae step ootside fur a minit."
"Certainly," replied the colonel, rising and following Sam who led the way through the kitchen and out into the open air.
For fully ten minutes the two men were earnestly engaged in conversation. At the end of that time they returned to the parlour. The look of alarm which was on the colonel's face had the effect of bringing George Gray and his father to their feet instantly.
"What is the matter?" asked George hurriedly.
"Something has occurred which may prove to be a very serious misfortune to one or more of us," replied the colonel, in a voice rendered tremulous by excitement. "Let us hear it," cried several.
"Better not to alarm the ladies; it might be well that they should retire," suggested Warwick.
"Oh, no, papa; that would only make us worse; do let us hear it," pleaded Eliza Bryson.
"Yes. do," urged Betsy, while Mary, now pale as death clung tremblingly to Warwick's arm.
"Be it so," said the colonel. Then, looking at Warwick, he continued
"Sam has lost that document with which you entrusted him yesterday."
"Lost it!" gasped Warwick.
The men exchanged glances; they knew in a moment what the announcement meant, but they could not suppose what dreadful consequences might ensue.
"Where di1d you lose it, Sam?" asked George Gray sharply. "A dinnae ken, indeed, sur," said Sam, who was dreadfully cut up.
"He was drunk while it was in his possession," said the colonel. "Where?" asked Warwick.
"In Dillon's public house."
Here Sam was appealed to by George Gray.
"Come Sam," he said, "pull yourself together like a man. Clear your head and think. This may be a bad affair for all of us. When had you this document - when did you last see it?"
"A had it in Dillon's; a'm shair o' that, fur a min' showin' it tae sum o' the boys. Whun we wur gaun awa, Dillon signed at me fur tae wait ahint the rest. A did that, and he gien me a wheen o' drinks. A min' naethin mair till a waukened up this mornin', an' whun a lukit my pokit the paper wuz awa."
"Dillon stole it, by God!" cried the colonel.
"How could he know of its existence?" asked George.
"It may have fallen from Sam's pocket. Sam, Sam, this is a bad business," said Betsy.
Sam was wringing his hands in agony.
"Did you make a search for it?" asked Warwick.
"A did, sur; a lukit iverywhaur, an' as suin as it wuz daylicht a walkit ower as far as Dillon's thinking' a micht hae drappit it on the road. But there wus nae sign o' it."
"What's to be done?" asked the colonel.
There was silence for a minute, and then Warwick spoke. "Let us look at the matter in its worst possible light," he said. "I am the only one present who can be affected by the document, and then only in the event of my handwriting being recognised. Let us suppose the document to have fallen into the hands of Dillon, accidentally or otherwise. He is familiar with my handwriting. I am told he is my enemy. Why he should be so I cannot tell. He may be able to get a price from Government for that paper, and I may be arrested. That, however, would be all. I could not be punished for so trifling a matter."
He spoke boldly, clearly, even gaily, for he felt the trembling form of Mary by his side, and with a smile he whispered to her to fear nothing.
"Mr. Warwick," said Colonel Bryson, "my advice to you is to leave the country at once. You can easily make some pretext, and when you are wanted we'll send for you."
As he spoke, hurried footsteps dashed up the close. A hand was laid upon the latch, the door was flung open, and a man entered, breathless and covered with perspiration from violent exercise. Ile made straight for the parlour, and, pointing to William Warwick exclaimed -
"Rin an' hide yerself, stir, the sodgers ir lukin fur ye an' they'll be here in five minutes."
THE YORK FENCIBLES
"Stealthily they march along,
CONCEALED from observation by the darkness of the wintry evening, Dillon strode with rapid steps along the road leading to Newtownards.
His hairy cap was drawn down over his ears; the collar of his huge overcoat was turned up; thus his features were completely hidden, and, as he pressed forward, cudgel in hand, he would have escaped recognition even had the evening been a clearer one.
An English regiment - the York Fencibles - commanded by Colonel Stapleton, was stationed at Newtownards. The Colonel had his quarters in Conway Square and thither did Dillon turn his steps.
He speedily gained admittance and learned that the Colonel was "at home".
"Give him that letter," said Dillon, "and say that the writer of it wishes to see him."
He had not long to wait. The colonel having glanced over the letter directed Dillon to be shown up, and the next moment they were face to face.
The colonel eyed him keenly.
"Have you got this document with you?" he asked. "I have," said Dillon.
"Let me see it," said the colonel sharply, extending his hand. Dillon hesitated.
"I want to see it," said Stapleton.
"But - the - reward -" stammered Dillon.
Dillon drew the document from his pocket and handed it to the colonel, who sat down and perused it attentively.
Then he took up a pen and sheet of paper.
"Your name°" he asked, without looking at his visitor. "James Dillon," replied that worthy.
"Your place of abode, and business?" Dillon replied to this and other questions.
The colonel wrote down his answers and pinned the sheet of paper
containing them to the document stolen from Sam Donaldson. These he locked
in a small writing case, and then rising to his feet, said -
"I do," replied Dillon.
"In half an hour a party of my men will start for his house. You must conduct them thither."
Dillon started. "Don't ask me to do that!" he said. "Why not?" asked the colonel.
"My name must not appear in the matter, good or bad," said Dillon. "If it does I may leave the country at once."
"Humph!" muttered the colonel, "you informers are all the same; damned cowards, every one of you!"
He stood for a minute or two biting his moustache and buried in thought. Then he asked -
"And how can my men find the place?" '
"I'll show it to them," said Dillon; "I'll wait for them on the road and point it out."
"Very good; be off with you!"
But Dillon stood still. He did not quite like the colonel's manner and fully expected to have his pockets filled with gold. The colonel divined his thoughts.
"You may go," he said; "when the case has been disposed of the Government will decide whether you are to be rewarded or not." Dillon felt disappointed, but there was no help for it, so he turned and left, feeling anything but comfortable.
Twenty minutes later, half a dozen of the York Fencibles, wrapped in their great coats, and armed with muskets and bayonets, were tramping along the road leading to Drumawhey. The night was bitterly cold, and the sergeant in charge of the men growled fiercely against the ill-luck which had turned him out of his warm quarters.
Suddenly a man emerged from the hedge, and, facing the soldiers, held up his hand.
"Halt!" cried the sergeant. "Who goes there?" "A friend," was the reply.
It was Dillon.
He whispered certain instructions to the sergeant, and then stole forward in advance of the party, creeping like a shadow along the hedgerow.
But another chapter is required to relate the doings of that night - a
night ever to be remembered in Drumawhey.
ON THE TRACK
"What strange foreboding fIlls the mother's breast?
WIDOW WARWICK sat in her old arm-chair by the turf fire, reading. The door was barred and the blinds down. A wiry-looking terrier was stretched at full length upon the hearth, enjoying to the full, the grateful warmth of the blazing turf. The only sound within the cottage was the monotonous ticking of the old clock which hung upon the wall the only sound without the moaning of the wintry wind.
Ever and anon did the widow's eyes turn towards the dial of that old clock, and then, with a sigh, she would resume her reading. But the book, whatever it was, failed to interest her; by-and-by she closed it, and, leaning forward upon the little table planed near to her, she drooped asleep.
Hers was a rude awakening.
There was a quick, sharp snarl from the dog, as he sprang up and bounded
towards the door; a heavy tramp of feet without; the crash of a musket butt
upon the frail bar, and a shout of -
Scarcely knowing what to think with beating heart and shaking limbs, Mrs. Warwick staggered forward, withdrew the bar, raised the latch, and flung open the door.
The sergeant and his men stepped in with quick military precision.
"Your name, my good woman?" demanded the sergeant, as he faced the widow.
"Warwick, sir; Mrs. Warwick, sir," stammered the terrified woman.
"How many people are in this house?" asked the soldier.
"I am alone, sir; indeed, indeed I am," was the answer.
"Where is your son?"
"He left here this morning, and has not since returned." "Do you expect him soon?"
"I do not, sir; he said that he would be out late, and that I need not sit up for him."
The sergeant was not a bad fellow. Beneath a rugged exterior he had a kindly heart, and he was touched by the widow's pale face and appealing looks.
"What do you want my boy for?" she sobbed.
"Treason, I dare say; but my orders are to take him prisoner."
"Oh, soldier dear," cried Mrs. Warwick, dropping before him upon her knees, "there must be some mistake; my son guilty of treason. It cannot be!"
"Here is my warrant, madam," said the sergeant, drawing a paper from his breast, "and the name is William Warwick - William Warwick of Drumawhey. Sorry to appear rude, but must obey orders."
Then, turning to his men, he said -
The sergeant had no heart for his work; his men had. They demanded candles, and, having procured these, the search commenced.
Every apartment in the house, every bed, wardrobe, or other article of furniture likely to afford a hiding-place, was examined. The man was not there.
Meantime Mrs. Warwick had somewhat recovered her composure. The thought had occurred to her of sending a messenger to Betsy Gray's house to warn William of his danger. But how could this be done? She resolved to hazard the detention of the soldiers in order to gain time. She guessed they had someone as a spy who would guide them to where her son was.
"You see I told the truth," she said to the sergeant in a reproachful tone, when the search was over.
"I did not doubt your word," he replied, "but a soldier must perform his duty, however unpleasant.
"And very unpleasant you must find such work to be,'' said the widow, "that is if you are a man of feeling. The night is cold, allow me to offer you and your men some refreshment."
"No, thanks," said the sergeant. But as he looked at his men he saw the disappointment caused by his answer. In his absence they would have helped themselves.
"Well," he said, "I see my men are cold; a glass of punch will do them no harm."
"I cannot offer them whiskey," said Mrs. Warwick, "but if some hot milk with buttered oatcake and cheese would be acceptable-" "The very thing!" chorused the men, piling their arms in a corner and gathering round the fire.
Mrs. Warwick, with perfect self-possession, laid her table, which was soon surrounded by the men, who, judging by their appetites, must have been half-famished.
"My supply of milk has run short," apologised the hostess, "but I have a good neighbour who will lend me a couple of quarts till tomorrow."
"Your health, madam!" cried the sergeant, cheerily, lifting his noggin of hot milk to his lips.
"Thank you," responded the widow, as she flung a shawl over her head and shoulders, and took up a milk pail from beneath the dresser.
The opportunity she sought had come! The soldiers suspected nothing.
The distance to her nearest neighbour's was scarcely a hundred yards, but Mrs. Warwick thought it more than double that as she ran towards it at full speed. She lifted the latch and entered. There were but two inmates, John Simpson and his wife. Both had started to their feet, alarmed by the woman's sudden entrance, and as the shawl fell from her white terror-stricken face they exclaimed "What's wrang, Mrs. Warwick?"
"Oh dear," cried the widow, "the soldiers are looking for my son to arrest him. He is at Betsy Gray's party. John, run like lightning, take the short cut across the fields, and warm him to some hiding-place. For God's sake, hurry!"
The man needed no urging. He seized his hat and stick and was off in a twinkling.
Then Mrs. Warwick, in quick, disjointed sentences, told her neighbour how matters stood. Mrs. Simpson supplied her pail, and the widow returned to her house to find her unwelcome guests enjoying themselves heartily.
Ten minutes later they had gone. She listened to the tramp of their feet till the sound died away in the distance. Then her fortitude deserted her.
She burst into tears, and, falling upon her knees, pleaded in prayer for the life of her darling son.
The house of Dillon, the spy and informer, was not far from that of Mrs. Warwick.
He conducted the soldiers almost to the very door, and arranged with the sergeant that when he had made the arrest he should call with him (Dillon) and have a drink.
It was to Dillon's house, accordingly, that the soldiers went. They found the bar empty, as far as customers were concerned, a circumstance that was quite a relief to Dillon. That worthy showed the soldiers into the room reserved for visitors, and then he and the sergeant had a confidential chat. He told the sergeant what he had learned from his wife, namely, that William Warwick was spending the evening at Betsy Gray's, and he proposed that the sergeant with his men, should proceed thither, where the arrest would be certain.
The sergeant demurred. The night was cold and the distance considerable.
"I prefer to wait here," he said, "for a few hours, until he returns home. Then we can capture our bird quietly."
This did not suit Dillon's views. He fancied he could see the little party broken up, and wished in his heart that he could be there as an onlooker.
"Look here, sergeant," he said, "this house of Gray's is a regular hot-bed of treason and conspiracy. If you make a raid upon it you may catch more birds than one; in fact, this night's work, if properly done, should secure your immediate promotion. Have a drink and think the matter over."
Whiskey, and plenty of it, was supplied to all hands. The men were nothing loathe to drink it, and while they are so employed let us see how it fares with Warwick, who, as my readers have already learned, received timely warning from his neighbour, John Simpson.
In those days the utmost terror prevailed. Outrages were hourly expected. Nearly every house had provided some sort of hiding-place. There was a peculiar one at Betsy Gray's. A large turf stack was so constructed that, by withdrawing a few of the turf at a particular spot, entrance was gained to a hollow space capable of accommodating three or four persons. It was well lined with straw, and the ventilation was tolerably good. The place could not be regarded as very comfortable. but it was looked upon as safe.
"Come with me, Mr. Warwick," said George Gray, "and I'll see you to safe quarters."
With the utmost coolness George assisted Warwick to put on his top coat, then there was a hurried "good-night", and the two left the room.
Emerging from the kitchen by a back door, George led Warwick to the place
of hiding, the nature of which had previously been. known to him.
"God bless you!" said Warwick, as he pressed his companion's hand.
In less time than is required to tell it, Warwick was coiled up in his strange retreat, and George had rejoined his friends in the parlour.
It was a considerable time before the soldiers arrived, and the period was one of trying anxiety to the little party, and to the women in particular. Mary Stewart was in a state bordering upon despair.
When the soldiers arrived, she fainted in Betsy's arms. Hans Grey held parley with the sergeant in the kitchen. The man was less civil now than before. He was maddened by Dillon's bad whiskey and indignant that he had arrived too late, after a cold and dirty march.
"Search the place!" he said, as he turned to his men and struck the floor with the butt of his musket. "The damned rebel must be found!"
The men went to work with a will. Tables were overturned; beds and bed-clothes tossed upon the floor; chests and presses burst open, amid a perfect babel of shouts and oaths.
The search was vain.
"Out with you!" shouted the leader; "search the outhouses, he may be hiding there!"
His order was obeyed instantly.
Seizing huge pieces of burning bogwood, which served as torches, the soldiers explored stable, barn, byre and piggery. As they ran round the turf-stack, which stood at the rere of the house, and in which the man they sought was concealed, one of the soldiers was seized with a fiendish idea.
"I say, boys" he said, "what a jolly bonfire this turf-stack would make. I vote we burn it!"
"Good, Ned," said another, "apply a light." No sooner said than done.
Several of the flaming torches were at once applied.
The turf was dry, being well sheltered, and caught fire instantly. A wild cheer burst from the soldiers at the prospect of a magnificent conflagration.
OFF THE TRACK
"Come weal, come woe, while this right hand
THE SHOUT OF THE half-drunken soldiers brought their sergeant to the place where they were congregated. He was followed by the male inmates of the house, who feared that Warwick had been discovered. It is needless to say that the utmost alarm filled the hearts of Warwick's friends when they saw the position of affairs. The turf-stack had been lighted at the end farthest from the hiding place. This was in favour of the fugitive; still, if the fire were allowed to proceed, his fate was certain. Either he would be roasted alive, or rushing forth from his hiding place he would fall into the hands of his pursuers.
It was a critical moment.
With his usual impetuosity, George Gray rushed forward, while the others looked on horror-stricken.
Seizing the sergeant by the arm, he demanded -
"What means this outrage? We have thrown no obstacle in the way of your search, and will you permit your men to burn our property?"
"Certainly not!" returned the sergeant, somewhat alarmed by rashness of his men. "Who did this?" he shouted.
No one replied.
George Gray hastened to assure Warwick of his present safety, and cautioned him to lie perfectly still until he should return to him.
A consultation was then held by Warwick's friends, but they were divided in their opinions. Colonel Bryson suggested that he should sail from Donaghadee to Scotland, and remain there until sent for. George Gray was in favour of keeping him under cover in Granshaw, having trusty men to keep watch by day and night to give warning at the approach of danger.
What do you say, Willie?" asked Mr. Gray, turning to Boal, who had not yet spoken.
"Bring in Mr. Warwick and let him speak for himself," said Boal.
Right!" said George.
"But the soldiers may return," said Mary Stewart, who, pale and trembling, was listening to all that passed.
"Never fear!" said George, "I'll see to that."
And so he did. A couple of trusty farm servants were so stationed that no one could approach the house unseen, and they perfectly understood their duty.
Warwick was then brought from his hiding place to take part in the consultation. He listened attentively to all the suggestions his friends had to offer before he spoke a word touching himself.
Well, Mr. Warwick, what is your own opinion?" asked Bryson.
"I shall not leave the country," replied Warwick. "It would break my mother's heart to leave her. Besides, the offence which I have committed, if offence it be, is so very trifling that the punishment could not be great." '
"I am not so sure of that," said Bryson. "A very slight offence just now is liable to be heavily punished, and I begin to think that none of us are safe. Would to God that the time for action had come, for then would there be an end of all this suspense, anxiety and uncertainty!"
"The soldiers may return at any moment," whispered Mary Stewart.
"No Mary," said Warwick, "there is no danger of that; after the thorough search which I am told they have made, they are not at all likely to return. And, indeed, I believe that, for a time, I would be perfectly safe either here or at my mother's house, provided I kept under cover."
"Then, what is your decision?" asked George Gray.
"I remain here or go home," replied Warwick.
"Then here you shall remain," said George, "for you will be safer here than at home. It can easily be arranged to have timely notice given of the approach of strangers, and then we have your snug hiding place."
Warwick was correct in the opinion which he had formed. No further search was made for him, and the rumour was industriously circulated that he had left the country. His mother, the Grays, and a few trusty friends, alone knew of his whereabouts, and it is needless to say that they kept their secret well.
Several months elapsed without anything worthy of note having occurred to the personages who have, for so far, figured in this story. Secret meetings were held as usual, arms and ammunition were purchased and hidden away to be produced when wanted, and everything seemed to be in readiness for a general rising. In every district "warners" were appointed. It was the duty of these men to convey, from house to house, the "call of arms" when the order to that effect should be issued. Many people left the country. Others who remained lived in terror of their lives. Rumours of the most awful natures were afloat. Not a few looked with disfavour upon the state of affairs, and had no desire to take up arms. It was openly stated that such persons would, when the rising took place, be regarded as enemies and treated as such.
Our Granshaw friends felt no fear. They never for a moment doubted that success would attend the United Irishmen, and they waited impatiently for the summons to the field.
The month of April had come, and Warwick was still in concealment. He had begun to regard himself as perfectly safe, and was tempted to lay aside his habits of caution. Under cover of night he frequently visited his mother.
On the occasion of one of these visits, while in his mother's house, there came on a violent storm of wind and rain. Mrs. Warwick begged of her son not to expose himself to the fury of the elements, and so the two sat hour after hour talking of their plans and prospects. At length it was decided that he should remain all night and next day, returning to Granshaw on the following night.
Warwick went to his little bedroom and slept soundly. His mother had led him to believe that she also would retire to bed. She did not do so.
Like the devoted mother that she was she sat up all through the long night, keeping watch over her only son.
The visit proved to be an unfortunate one!
THE WIDOW'S CURSE
"A wicked deed, in truth a wicked deed,
DILLON'S connection with the pursuit of Warwick was known only to himself, his wife, and the military authorities. There were many persons who did not hesitate to hint as the suspicions which were entertained, but nothing had as yet transpired to confirm those suspicions.
Mrs. Warwick supplied several of her neighbours with milk and butter. Dillon's wife was one of her customers, and on the morning which succeeded the night dealt with in the preceding chapter, Mrs. Dillon, who was a coarse-minded, uneducated woman, went to Mrs. Warwick's house for some buttermilk. Her visit was a fatal one to Warwick. He was up, had breakfasted, and had written a note which he meant to send over to Betsy Gray.
A door opened from Mrs. Warwick's kitchen into a hall, or passage, which led to the other apartments. The upper portion of the door was glass. Warwick had just reached this door with the object of speaking to his mother in the kitchen at the very moment of Mrs. Dillon's entrance. He retreated instantly, but the quick eye of Dillon's wife caught a glimpse of the retreating figure. She noted too, the nervousness displayed by Mrs. Warwick, who, poor soul, could scarcely measure out the milk.
Mrs. Dillon returned home in great glee.
"A hae news fur ye this mornin', Jamey!" she exclaimed, as she entered the house and put down her can of milk.
"What is it?" queried Dillon.
"A think there's a rat in the trap!" said the woman speaking slowly and significantly.
"A what?" cried Dillon, now thoroughly aroused.
His wife related what had transpired, and concluded her story by repeating the words - "A think there's a rat in the trap!" "There must be no thinking about it," said Dillon; "you must make sure of it. Go back and discover what you can."
"What excuse can a mak'?" asked the woman.
"Any excuse you like," said Dillon becoming quite excited, "here, empty your can and go back for more milk."
As he spoke he lifted the can, emptied the contents into a crock, handed her the empty vessel, and in his eagerness pushed her out by the shoulders.
Mrs Warwick seemed slightly surprised at the sudden return of her customer, but she had not suspicion of the nature of her errand.
"Can ye spare me twa quarts mair buttermilk"' asked Mrs. Dillon.
"Certainly", replied Mrs. Warwick, stepping towards the churn. But her customer's next remark rooted her to the floor - "Whun did Mester William cum hame?"
The widow was speechless for several moments, then she faltered
"Do you mean my son?"
"Ay," said Mrs. Dillon; "didn't a see him through the glass daur the last time a cummed in?"
The widow made no reply. Lifting a piece of butter weighing several pounds, she placed it in the bottom of the can, poured the buttermilk over it, and handing the vessel with its contents to Mrs. Dillon, said significantly
"There's a small present for you."
Poor Mrs. Warwck! She thought her simple bribe would secure the silence of her customer.
Mrs. Dillon, with a dry "Thank ye," took her butter and milk and departed. Then the widow slipped the bar in the door, and rushing down to her son's bedroom, exclaimed
"William, dear you have been seen!"
"By whom?" he asked, starting.
"The worst may be expected then," said Warwick. "Mother, dear," he continued, rising and taking his mother's hand, "I believe Dillon to be a spy and an informer. We must get some place of hiding in readiness."
The mother's grief was pitiable to behold. Her son comforted her as best he could, and, to please him, she affected a composure she was far from feeling.
Meantime, Dillon had learned from his wife all that had passed between her and Mrs. Warwick. He gave instructions to have the house watched, and instantly started off for Newtownards, where he acquainted the military authorities of Warwick's whereabouts, and, returning home, awaited the result.
It so happened that the same sergeant who had been sent to arrest Warwick on a previous occasion was again entrusted with the commission.
He took with him a number of men, and, in the course of an hour from the time of receiving orders, was at the house.
The search was rapid, but thorough, and was carried out without any unnecessary violence.
Warwick was not discovered.
The sergeant marched his men straight to Dillon's public house, where they filed in.
"Have you been there?" asked Dillon.
"Yes, I have," replied the sergeant "and another wild goose chase it's been. '
"I'll sware he's there!" shouted Dillon, bringing down his fist with a heavy thud upon the counter
"Then you'll find him for us!" said the sergeant.
"What do you mean?" asked Dillon.
"Just this," said the sergeant, "You say the man's there. I say we searched for and failed to find him; now, you come along with us and pick him up."
Dillon turned pale. "Indeed I won't!" he said.
"By G-d you shall!" exclaimed the sergeant. "Do you think I have got to run over this damned place to amuse you? Turn out now, or I'll blow your cowardly brains out!"
As he spoke he drew a pistol and placed the muzzle against the informer's head. Dillon looked straight into the sergeant's eyes. There was no doubt that the man was in earnest.
"Put down your weapon; I'll go," said Dillon.
"I should think you will!" said the sergeant, as he replaced his pistol. Come along instantly."
There was no help for it, and the next minute the soldiers, accompanied by Dillon, were retracing their steps towards Warwick's house.
The news had gone abroad, and a small crowd had collected. When the people saw Dillon in company with the military they at first supposed he had been placed under arrest, and they expressed considerable surprise. Following at a respectable distance, they learned the true state of affairs.
The house was soon reached, and Dillon, seeing that there was no help for it, took the lead. He led the soldiers straight to Warwick's bedroom.
As he entered he noticed, or fancied that he noticed, a slight flutter of the curtain which hung between the bed and the wall.
It was not a fancy!
"Did you look here?" asked Dillon, stepping forward and drawing aside the curtain.
Warwick stood revealed!
A hideous grin overspread the face of the informer as he turned to the sergeant and said
"I have found the blackbird!"
Warwick stepped from his hiding place, pale but undaunted. "Are you William Warwick?" asked the sergeant.
"I am!" he replied.
At this moment Warwick's mother flung herself into her son's arms and burst into a fit of weeping.
Warwick's lips quivered.
"Don't cry, mother," he said, as he gently stroked her grey hair. "Bear up, good mother, there shall no harm befall me."
Then his eye fell upon Dillon, and, drawing himself up to his full height, he said "And this is your work, Dillon!"
The fellow made no answer, but slunk back, as though ashamed of the position he occupied.
Warwick looked at him steadily for a moment; then, pointing his finger upward, said solemnly -
"There will be a day of reckoning, Dillon; when that day comes may God forgive you as I do!"
The words aroused his mother. Unwinding her arms from her son's neck, she turned upon Dillon with fierce, glaring eyes.
"Forgive him!" she cried. "Never! God will never forgive such a wretch! May you never know peace! May the hand of an avenging God fall upon you! May the curse of a widowed mother follow you to your dying day!"
Her outstretched arms fell by her side; a shiver passed through her frame and she sank back fainting in the arms of her son.
SENTENCE OF DEATH
'`The dreadful fierceness of thy wrath quite over me doth go;
WARWICK was dragged away from his unconscious mother and conducted, a prisoner, to Newtownards. A court-martial was held in the market-house there, with Lord Londonderry as President, and before this court the unhappy Warwick was brought.
He was formally charged with having issued a treasonable document. Witnesses there were none. Dillon could not be induced either by threats or promises, to appear, and he alone was responsible for the arrest.
The deliberation was brief. In reply to the President, Warwick acknowledged that the paper was in his handwriting.
The verdict was speedily found. It was a verdict of GUILTY.
Lord Castlereagh asked the prisoner if he had anything to say in his defence.
"Yes, my lord and gentlemen, I have," said Warwick, drawing up his fine figure to its full height. "I have to ask, nay, to demand, that my accusers all be brought before me. Is this the boasted justice of our country? Are we to be at the mercy of any unprincipled and mercenary scoundrel who choses to traffic in human blood? Where is Dillon? Produce him! Let him say what evidence is against me, I have admitted that that document is in my handwriting, but I am not responsible for the framing of it. I did not dream that in making a copy from the original I was placing my life in peril, or erring in my loyalty to the King. I have no more to say!"
"Who asked you to make a copy of the document?" asked Castlereagh.
The prisoner did not reply.
"Is it, then, a matter of life or death? Be it so, my lord; I am prepared to die, young as I am and with all the world before me, but I am not prepared to imperil the life or liberty of any other human being!"
Sentence of death was immediately passed, and Warwick was led away by the military to a place of confinement. There he was left alone.
What tongue could tell the agony endured by the unfortunate prisoner during the weary hours of that day? Every footstep that sounded upon his ear he fancied might be the summons to the gallows, for in those days execution followed swiftly upon the sentence. His mother! What of her? His bethrothed - his darling Mary - what of her? He thought not of himself; of the shameful death he was to die - every thought was of his mother, his sweetheart, and his friends.
"Oh, God!" he exclaimed, dropping upon his knees, and wringing his hands in agony, "if it be Thy will, let my life be spared, if only for a little. Let not mine enemies cut me off thus suddenly. Pity the widow, and spare her only son!"
Then he sat down on the comfortless bed which his cell contained and drawing from his pocket a Bible, he opened it, as though to seek comfort from its pages. His eye fell upon the 88th Psalm, and, as he read it, every line seemed to have been penned for his special case.
Food and water were brought to him, but he could not partake of them. Night came, but he could not sleep, and the dawn found him tossing upon his sleepless pillow.
A key turned in the lock; there was a sound of footsteps, and the sergeant who had arrested him stood by his side.
Warwick started up.
"Is it time?" he exclaimed. "For what?" asked the sergeant. "For my execution!" said Warwick.
"No, Mr. Warwick," said the sergeant in a kindly voice. "I have come to tell you that your life may be spared."
The prisoner sprang to his feet and caught the sergeant's hands in his own.
"Let me not raise false hopes," the sergeant continued, "but I must tell you what I know. Mr. Warwick, I pity your mother, and I cannot help feeling admiration for yourself. Several members of the court-martial were in favour of an acquittal, and a statement of your case has been forwarded to the Lord Lieutenant, who may consider it with favour. Now, bear up; take your breakfast when it is brought and after that, if I can have any message conveyed to your friends, I shall do so."
"May heaven bless you!" said Warwick fervently,
"I must go," said the sergeant, as he turned abruptly and left. He was not a bad fellow.
His eye was moist as he traversed the passage leading from the prisoner's cell.
It was at this moment that the thirteenth verse of the 88th Psalm rose
before Warwick's mental vision -
A sudden calm pervaded his bosom; he stretched himself upon his prison bed, and in a few minutes was fast asleep.
THE SAINTFIELD INFORMER
IN A WRETCHED dwelling, in a lonely locality, not far from Saintfield, dwelt Nick Maginn. He was miserably poor, and of miserly habits. Partly from curiosity, partly from fear, and partly from hope of gain, he had joined the United Irishmen. He possessed a remarkable memory in certain respects. Words and figures repeated to him he could remember with singular accuracy. His talent in this respect he turned to advantage.
Maginn soon made the discovery that the informers would be the best-paid people amongst the rebels, and no sooner had he made the discovery than he decided upon being an informer. Chance threw him in the way of a reverend person named James Cleland, and the two were well met. If history speaks truly, Cleland was as little caring for the means he used to obtain information as Maginn was.
At this period the popularity of the Rev. William Steele Dickson was unbounded. His fiery eloquence, his manly bearing, his fearless nature; and the power which he wielded, unconsciously, over the people, pointed him out as one suitable to lead them in the coming struggle.
One night, just about the time of Warwick's arrest, Maginn was sitting by his miserable hearth, cowering over the faint heat emitted by a few dried twigs gathered from the neighbouring hedges. His skinny hands were extended over the smouldering fire, and as he now and then rubbed them slowly together, he chuckled inwardly, as though brooding over some subject which afforded him gratification.
Frequently, very frequently, his eye turned to the aged and dirt-begrimed clock that hung upon the wall, as though he waited for the hands to indicate a certain hour.
And so he did.
The hour at length arrived, and Maginn rose from the fire, buttoned his
threadbare coat, took up a stout blackthorn cudgel, and left the house,
fastening the door behind him.
Cleland was the established clergyman in Newtownards and a magistrate, as well as being an agent of Lord Londonderry.
Our Saintfield hero was true to his appointment, and was announced at the very minute that Cleland had remarked to his friend - "He should be here now.''
Maginn was shown into an apartment, where he was speedily joined by his clerical acquaintance. He pulled his forelock as the clergyman entered.
"Well, Maginn," said his reverence, "any news to-night?" "Oh, ay; there's a bit sough gaun here as usual."
"But anything definite?"
"Anythin' what?" asked Maginn, stupidly. The word "definite" was beyond his comprehension.
"Have you heard any date named for a rising?" asked Cleland. "Na, a hae not; but it might be ony minit."
"Is that all you can tell me?" queried Cleland with a look of disappointment.
Maginn looked around cautiously, and then asked - "Can onybuddy hear us?"
"No", replied Cleland, opening the door and again closing it; "we are entirely alone and safe from interruption."
Still Maginn hesitated.
"Have you anything to tell me?" asked Cleland.
"A hae," said Maginn, "but luk here, yer reverence, if it wuz kent that a wuz carryin' news tae you a wud be blown tae smithereens. A wud never gang home this night alive."
"Never fear, my man," replied Cleland, assuringly; "you are perfectly safe in communicating everything that you know to me, and your reward is certain."
"Hoo muckle wull a get?" he asked.
"That depends upon the nature of the information you give," said his reverence.
"Well, then, a shud get a guid dale," replied Maginn, "fur a think a can pit ye on the track o' what's to be General in command!" "Ha!" cried Cleland. "Who is he?"
Again Maginn's caution returned, and he looked around suspiciously. Then crossing the room to where Cleland stood, he whispered in his ear -
"Mister Steele Dickson!"
The announcement appeared to take Cleland completely by surprise. He stood for several minutes absolutely speechless, then a smile of satisfaction lit up his face.
"You are sure of this, Maginn?" he asked, eagerly, "As shair as a'm a leevin' man."
"Good!" exclaimed Cleland.
He paced the room for a minute, buried in thought, then turning to his companion, he said -
"Maginn, if your information proves to be correct, you shall indeed merit a large reward, and you may rely upon my word that you will receive it,
Tell me now, how came you to obtain this in formation, for we must act with caution and be sure of the nature of the ground upon which we tread. Will you have a glass of whiskey?"
Maginn drew the back of his hand across his mouth and nodded assent. His reverence produced a decanter and tumbler, and, having helped his guest freely, sat down.
Maginn refreshed the inner man and then proceeded to unbosom himself, while his reverend companion listened eagerly, now and then taking notes in his pocket book.
Let us leave the worthy pair so occupied, and turn to other personages
more deserving of attention.