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- Peg O' My Heart - 5/72 -
sounds of marching troops: the unintelligible words of command, broke in on them.
Father Cahill plunged in amongst them. "The constabulary," he cried. "Back to your homes."
"Stay where you are," shouted O'Connell.
"I beg you, my children! I command you! I entreat you! Don't have bloodshed here to-day!" Father Cahill turned distractedly to O'Connell, crying out to him:
"Tell them to go back! My poor people! Tell them to go back to their homes while there's time."
Turning his back on the priest, O'Connell faced the crowd:
"You have taken your oath. Would you perjure yourselves at this old man's bidding? See where the soldiers come. Look--and look well at them. Their uniforms stand for the badge of tyranny. The glint of their muskets is the message from their illustrious sovereign of her feeling to this part of her kingdom. We ask for JUSTICE and they send us BULLETS. We cry for 'LIBERTY' and the answer is 'DEATH' at the hands of her soldiers. We accept the challenge. Put yer women and childhren behind you. Let no man move."
The men hurriedly placed the women and children so that they were protected from the first onslaught of the soldiery.
Then the men of St. Kernan's Hill, armed with huge stones and sticks, turned to meet the troops.
Mr. Roche, the resident-magistrate, rode at their head.
"Arrest that man," he cried, pointing to O'Connell.
An angry growl went up from the mob.
Father Cahill hurried to him:
"Don't interfere with them, Mr. Roche. For the love of heaven, don't. There'll be murder here to-day if ye do."
"I have my instructions, Father Cahill, and it's sorry I am to have to act under them to-day."
"It isn't the people's fault," pleaded the priest; "indeed it isn't."
"We don't wish to hurt them. We want that man O'Connell."
"They'll never give him up. Wait till to-night and take him quietly."
"No, we'll take him here. He's given the police the slip in many parts of the country. He won't to-day." The magistrate pushed forward on his horse through the fringe on the front part of the crowd and reined up at the foot of the mount.
"Frank Owen O'Connell, I arrest you in the Queen's name for inciting peaceable citizens to violence," he called up to the agitator.
"Arrest me yerself, Mr. Magistrate Roche," replied O'Connell.
Turning to an officer Roche motioned him to seize O'Connell.
As the officer pressed forward he was felled by a blow from a heavy stick.
In a second the fight was on.
The magistrate read the riot-act.
He, together with Father Cahill, called to the mob to stop. They shouted to O'Connell to surrender and disperse the people.
The soldiers formed into open formation and marched on the mob.
Maddened and reeling, with no order, no discipline, with only blind fury and the rushing, pulsing blood--that has won many a battle for England against a common foe--the men of Ireland hurled themselves upon the soldiers. They threw their missiles: they struck them with their gnarled sticks: they beat them with their clenched fists.
The order to "Fire" was given as the soldiers fell back from the onslaught.
When the smoke cleared away the ranks of the mob were broken. Some lay dead on the turf; some groaned in the agony of shattered limbs. The women threw themselves moaning on the bodies. Silence fell like a pall over the mob. Out of the silence a low angry growl went up. O'Connell had fallen too.
The soldiers surrounded his prostrate body.
The mob made a rush forward to rescue him. O'Connell stopped them with a cry:
"Enough for to-day, my men." He pointed to the wounded and dying: "Live to avenge them. Wait until `The Day'!" His voice failed. He fell back unconscious.
Into the midst of the crowd and through the ranks of the soldiers suddenly rode a young girl, barely twenty years old. Beside her was a terrified groom. She guided her horse straight to the magistrate. He raised his hat and muttered a greeting, with a glance of recognition.
"Have him taken to 'The Gap,'" she said imperatively, pointing to the motionless body of O'Connell.
"He is under arrest," replied the magistrate.
"Do you want another death on your hands? Haven't you done enough in killing and maiming those unfortunate people?" She looked with pity on the moaning women: and then with contempt on the officer who gave the order to fire.
"You ought to be proud of your work to-day!" she said.
"I only carried out my orders," replied the man humbly.
"Have that man taken to my brother's house. He will surrender him or go bail for him until he has been attended to. First let us SAVE him." The girl dismounted and made a litter of some fallen branches, assisted by the groom.
"Order some of your men to carry him."
There was a note of command in her tone that awed both the officer and the magistrate.
Four men were detailed to carry the body on the litter. The girl remounted. Turning to the magistrate, she said:
"Tell your government, Mr. Roche, that their soldiers shot down these unarmed people." Then she wheeled round to the mob:
"Go back to your homes." She pointed to the dead and wounded: "THEY have died or been maimed for their Cause. Do as HE said," pointing to the unconscious O'Connell, "LIVE for it!"
She started down through the valley, followed by the litter-bearers and the magistrate.
The officer gave the word of command, and, with some of the ringleaders in their midst, the soldiers marched away.
Left alone with their dying and their dead, all the ferocity left the poor, crushed peasants.
They knelt down sobbing over the motionless bodies. For the time being the Law and its officers were triumphant.
This was the act of the representatives of the English government in the year of civilisation 18--, and in the reign of her late Gracious Majesty, Queen Victoria, by the grace of God, Empress of India.
NATHANIEL KINGSNORTH VISITS IRELAND
While the incidents of the foregoing chapters were taking place, the gentleman whose ownership shaped the destinies of many of the agitators of St. Kernan's Hill, was confronting almost as difficult a problem as O'Connell was facing on the mount.
Whilst O'Connell was pleading for the right of Ireland to govern herself, Mr. Nathaniel Kingsnorth was endeavouring to understand how to manage so unwieldy and so troublesome an estate.
The death of his father placed a somewhat extensive--and so far entirely unprofitable--portion of the village in his care. His late father had complained all his life of the depreciation of values; the growing reluctance to pay rents; and the general dying-out of the worth of an estate that had passed into the hands of a Kingsnorth many generations before in the ordinary course of business, for notes that had not been taken up, and mortgages that had been foreclosed.
It was the open boast of the old gentleman that he had never seen the village, and it was one of his dying gratifications that he would never have to.
He had all the racial antipathy of a certain type of Englishmen to anything IRISH. The word itself was unpleasant to his ears. He never heard it without a shudder, and his intimates, at his request, refrained from using it in his presence. The word represented to him all that was unsavoury, unpatriotic and unprincipled.
One phrase of his, in speaking of Ireland at a banquet, achieved the dignity of being printed in all the great London daily papers and was followed by a splenetic attack in the "Irish Nation." Both incidents pleased the old gentleman beyond measure. It was an
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