Page images
PDF
EPUB

age, joined, or, it is said, led forth the first small band who raised the cry of insurrection. He is described as a fanatical person, acting only from the goad of his aroused feelings, and regarding that as a good cause, which alone seemed to promise safety to himself and his terrified flock, and predominance to a religion he fancied he was born to spread far and wide. And this individual, either because he had originated “the rising,” or that his views came nearest to those of the multitude, ranked, on the present occasion, as chief commander. He rode with his colleagues, in front (after the drove of cattle) of the tumultuous concourse; a long rusty sword dangling awkwardly round his legs, and as rusty a pistol swinging by a cord from the pummel of his saddle. Another reverend captain was a man of weak and shallow intellect, whose junction with the insurgents resulted from mere momentary impulse, when he found his chapel burnt down by a zealous band of Orange yeomen. With Father General Rourke the reader is already acquainted. As he strode before his chosen band, now disdaining a horse, with his pike for a walking-staff, he seemed, although his rusty black suit was bad attire for a military leader, exactly occupying the place nature had intended him to fill. There was yet another clergyman, of giant stature, who, it is said, when he flung off his sacerdotal character, relapsed into a nature of great original ferocity. But we must continue our narrative.

CHAPTER XI.

IT was after the hour of noon, upon, as has been intimated, a sultry summer day, that the first formidable insurgent throng of the County of Wexford, still preceded by their advance of horned cattle, set forward, shouting until, as Pistol would say, “the welkin rang,” to attack the town of Enniscorthy. They were followed, in numbers nearly equal to their own, by the clamorous women and children, many bearing the pikes of father, of husband, of brother, or of some other relative, to be handed to the insurgent soldier after he had expended his fire-arm's ammunition, or even after his first musket-shot, if chance led him to close action: and it was regularly stipulated that his weapon-bearer should always be at hand, prepared to effect the necessary change of arinS.

At four o'clock, the town was in possession of the insurgents. Its garrison, of about three hundred men, gallantly defended themselves for more than three hours against the furious but irregular attacks of their untutored assailants. The greater portion of Enniscorthy, or at least the more important portion, lies in a hollow ; its thatched suburbs run up ascents that; at every side inclose it; and these had been fired by the destroying assaulters, while they contended for entrance into the better quarter of the town. They at last possessed themselves of that quarter; and we would speak of the ensuing half-hour, during which the majority of the shrieking inhabitants—the young, the old—the wealthy, the needy—beauty and deformity, flew pell-mell, with the retreating garrison, through scorching flames, along the scarce less scorching and dusty road, to the capital of the county, the important town of Wexford. Hundreds of burning dwellings sent masses of fire to surcharge the already sultry atmosphere; until, in the lower streets of Enniscorthy, overhung by clouds of smoke, and strewed with hot ashes, respiration became painful, and exertion difficult. And through the dense vapour, and through the glowing air, pealed the triumphant and deafening shouts of the ferocious visitors, as, trampling indifferently the heaped bodies of comrades and foes, they rushed on, at every side, to plunder the abandoned houses, and pour into their parched throats whatever liquor they could seize upon;–some wastefully and wantonly destroying property that they could not appropriate; others loading their attendant females with portable articles of value; and others giving cause for the unheeded cry of supplication, distinctly heard amid the whoop of rude triumph, while they dragged trembling wretches from places of concealment, to be piked in the streets, already too deeply stained with blood. All was shout, shriek, and clamour below ; and overhead roared the ravenous flames; when, amid the hellish din and its accompaniments, Sir William Judkin, not an undistinguished leader in that day's battle, stood before the inner or entrance-gate of the castle of Enniscorthy. Through every dungeon slit and window were presented the anxious faces of the prisoners, who, abandoned by their guards and turnkeys—Saunders Smyly amongst the foremost

« PreviousContinue »