Imágenes de páginas

jist played a thrick upon you; but remember what you are sworn to, and stand to the oath ye tuck."

Unhappily, notwithstanding the wetness of the preceding weather, the materials of the house were extremely combustible; the whole dwelling was now one body of glowing flame, yet the shouts and shrieks within, rose awfully above its crackling and the voice of the storm, for the wind once more blew in gusts, and with great violence. The doors and windows were all torn open, and such of those within, as had escaped the flames rushed towards them, for the purpose of further escape, and of claiming mercy at the hands of their destroyers—but whenever they appeared, the unearthly cry of no mercy rung upon their ears for a moment, and for a moment only, for they were flung back at the points of the weapons which the demons had brought with them to make the work of vengeance more certain.

As yet there were many persons in the house, whose cry for life was strong as despair, and who clung to it with all the awakened powers of reason and instinct; the ear of man could hear nothing so strongly calculated to stifle the demon of cruelty and revenge within him, as the long and wailing shrieks which rose beyond the element, in tones that were carried off rapidly upon the blast, until they died away in the darkness that lay behind the surrounding hills. Had not the house been in a solitary situation, and the hour the dead of night, any person sleeping within a moderate distance must have heard them, for such a cry of sorrow deepening into a yell of despair, was almost sufficient to awaken the dead. It was lost however upon the hearts and ears that heard it: to them, though in justice be it said, to only comparatively a few of them, it was as delightful as the tones of soft and entrancing music.

The claims of the poor sufferers were now modified; they supplicated merely to suffer death at the hands of their enemies; they were willing to bear that, provided they should be allowed to escape from the flames; but, no, the horrors of the conflagration were calmly and malignantly gloried in by their merciless assassins, who deliberately flung them back into all their tortures. In the course of a few minutes a man appeared upon the side-wall of the house, nearly naked; his figure, as he stood against the sky in horrible relief, was so finished a picture of woe-begone agony and supplication, that it is yet as distinct in my memory as if I were again present at the scene. Every muscle, now in motion by the powerful agitation of his sufferings, stood out upon his limbs and neck, giving him an appearance of desperate strength, to which by this time he must have been wrought; the perspiration poured from his frame, and the veins and arteries of his neck were inflated to a surprising thickness. Every moment he looked down into the thick flames which were rising to where he stood; and as he looked, the indescribable horror which flitted over his features might have worked upon the devil himself to relent. His words were few; "my child," said he, "is still safe, she is an infant, a young creature that never harmed you nor anyone—she is still safe. Your mothers, your wives have young innocent children like it—Oh, spare her, think for a moment that it's one of your own, spare it, as you hope to meet a just God, or if you don't, in mercy shoot me first, put an end to me, before 1 see her burned."

The Captain approached him coolly and deliberately. "You will prosecute no one now, you bloody informer," said he, " you will convict no more boys for taking an ould rusty gun an' pistol from you, or for givin' you a neighbourly knock or two into the bargain." Just then from a window opposite him, proceeded the shrieks of a woman who appeared at it with the infant in her arms. She herself was almost scorched to death; but with the presence of mind and humanity of her sex, she was about to thrust the little babe out of the window. The Captain noticed this, and with characteristic atrocity, thrust, with a sharp bayonet, the little innocent, along with the person who endeavoured to rescue it, into the red flames, where they both perished. This was the work of an instant. Again he approached the man; "your child is a coal now," said he with deliberate mockery. "I pitched it in myself on the point of this," showing the weapon, "and now is your turn," saying which he clambered up by the assistance of his gang, who stood with a front of pikes and bayonets bristling to receive the wretched man, should he attempt in his despair to throw himself from the wall. The Captain got up, and placing the point of his bayonet against his shoulder, flung him into the fiery element that raged behind him. He uttered one wild and piercing cry, as he fell back, and no more; after this nothing was heard but the crackling of the fire, and the rushing of the blast; all that had possessed life within were consumed, amounting either to eleven or fifteen persons.

When this was accomplished, those who took an active part in the murder, stood for some time about the conflagration, and as it threw its red light upon their fierce faces and rough persons, soiled as they now were with smoke and black streaks of ashes, the scene seemed to be changed to hell, and the murderers to spirits of the damned, rejoicing over thearrival and the torture of a guilty soul. The faces of those who kept aloof from the slaughter, were blanched to the whiteness of death; some of them fainted—and others were in such agitation that they were compelled to leave their comrades. Theybecame actually stiff and powerless with horror; yet to such a scene were they brought by the pernicious influence of Ribbonism.

It was only when the last victim went down, that the conflagration shot up into the air with most unbounded fury. The house was large, deeply thatched, and well furnished; and the broad red pyramid rose up with fearful magnificence towards the sky. Abstractedly it had sublimity, but now it was associated with nothing in my mind but blood and terror. It was not, however, without a purpose that the Captain and his guard stood to contemplate its effect. "Boys," said he, "we had better be sartin' that all's safe; who knows but there might be some of the sarpents crouchin' under a hape of rubbish, to come out and gibbet us to-morrow or next day; we had betther wait a while, any how, if it was only to see the blaze."

Just then the flames rose majestically to a surprising height; our eyes followed their direction, and we perceived for the first time, that the dark clouds above, together with the intermediate air, appeared to reflect back, or rather to have caught the red hue of the fire; the hills and country about us appeared with an alarming distinctness; but the most picturesque part of it, was the effect or reflection of the blaze on the floods that spread over the surrounding plains. These, in fact, appeared to be one broad mass of liquid copper, for the motion of the breaking waters, caught from the blaze of the high waving column, as reflected in them, a glaring light, which eddied and rose, and fluctuated, as if the flood itself had been a lake of molten fire,

Fire, however, destroys rapidly; in a short time the flames sank— became weak and flickering—by and by, they only shot out in fits —the crackling of the timbers died away—the surrounding darkness deepened; and ere long, the faint light was overpowered by the thick volumes of smoke, that rose from the ruins of the house, and its murdered inhabitants.

"Now, boys," said the Captain, "all is safe, we may go. Remember every man of you, that you've sworn this night on the book and altar of God—not a heretic bible. If you perjure yourselves, you may hang us; but let me tell you for your comfort, that if you do, there is them livin' that will take care the lase of your own lives will be but short." After this we dispersed, every man to his own home.

Reader, not many months elapsed ere I saw the bodies of this Captain, whose name was Paddy Devan, and all those who were actively concerned in the perpetration of this deed of horror, withering in the wind, where they hung gibbeted, near the scene of their nefarious villany ; and while I inwardly thanked hei>ven for my own narrow and almost undeserved escape, I thought in my heart how seldom, even in this world, justice fails to overtake the murderer, and to enforce the righteous judgment of God, " that whoso sheddelh man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed."

"Mariana in the moated grange."—Jtfeaiurs far Sl^nire.

With blackest moss the flower-plots
Were thickly crusted, one and all, The rusted nails fell from the knots
That held the peach to the garden wall. The broken sheds look'd sad and strange,
Unlifted was the clinking latch,
Weeded and worn the ancient thatch, Upon the lonely moated grange.
She only said '' My life is dreary. He cometh not," she said:
She said, '* I am aweary, aweary;
I would that I were dead!"

Her tears fell with the dews at even,
Her tears fell ere the dews were dried,

She could not look on the sweet heaven,
Either at morn or eventide.

After the flitting of the bats,
When thickest dark did trance the sky,
She drew her casement curtain by,

And glanced athwart the glooming flats.
She only said, "The night is dreary,

He cometh not," she said:
She said, " I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead I"

Upon the middle of the night,
Waking she heard the nightfowl crow

The cock sung out an hour ere light:
From the dark fen the oxen's low Came to her: without hope of change,
In sleep she seem'd to walk forlorn,
Till cold winds woke the grey-eyed morn About the lonely moated grange.
She only said, "The day is dreary,

He cometh not," she said:
She said, "1 am aweary, aweary,
I would that 1 were dead 1"

About a etoneeast from the wall,

A sluice with blacken'd waters slept, And o'er it many, round and small,

The cl aster'd marish-mosses crept. Hard by .a poplar shook alway,

All silver green with gnarled bark,

For leagues no other tree did dark
The level waste, the rounding grey.

She only said, "My life is dreary,
He cometh not," she said:

She said, " I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!"

And ever when the moon was low,

And the shrill winds were up an' away, In the white curtain, to and fro,

She saw the gusty shadow sway. But when the moon was very low,

And wild winds bound within their cell,

The shadow of the poplar fell
Upon her bed, across her brow.

She only said, "The night is dreary,
He cometh not," she said:

She said, " I am aweary, aweary,
I would that I were dead!''

All day within the dreamy house, The doors upon their hinges creak'd,
The blue fly sung i' the pane ; the mouse Behind the mouldering wainscot shriek'd,
Or from the crevice peer'd about. Old faces glimmer'd through the doors, Old footsteps trode the upper floors,
Old voices call'd her from without. She only said, "My life is dreary,
He cometh not," she said": She said, " I am aweary, aweary,
I would that 1 were dead I"

The sparrow's chirrup on the roof, The slow clock ticking, and the sound
Which to the wooing wind aloof The poplar made, did all confound
Her sense; but most she loath'd the hour When the thick-moated sunbeam lay Athwart the chambers, and the day
Downsloped was westering in his bower. Then, said she, *' I am very dreary,
He will not come," she said:

She wept, "I am aweary, aweary,
Oh God, that I were dead!"

Alfred Tennvson.

« AnteriorContinuar »