« VorigeDoorgaan »
stairs, with her convalescent patient, and the rest of her welcome visitors, enjoying beyond measure a discussion in which they were all engaged, relating to the immense proportion of happiness intended by God for his own world, if it were gratefully received and rightly used, when their attention was suddenly attracted by a distant noise, which seemed to come from the village, as of a rolling sea, or of a raging hurricane.
“The election takes place next week,” said Sir Allan; “but as my nomination has been withdrawn by Father Eustace, there is not likely to be any more than common excitement at Clanmarina on that account.”
The sound subsided for some moments, and then arose once more, apparently nearer and much louder than before; while Lady Edith listened, wondered, and finally rung for M*Ronald, the explainergeneral on all village affairs. The old veteran was unusually long of appearing, and when he did lingeringly enter the room, the ladies were all surprised at his evident unwillingness to answer their inquiries respecting the cause of this extraordinary uproar. M*Ronald evidently knew something which he was resolved not to tell, for his face was flushed to scarlet, and his eyes glittered with a look of fierce delight, so unlike his usual quiet, respectful, subdued expression before his venerable mistress, that Lady Edith if she had not known for many years past that he was a teetotaller, would almost have fancied that there must be whiskey in the case.
McRonald having hurriedly muttered that there were some idle people on the road making a riot, which would soon be over, was hastily withdrawing, when a deeper hum of voices and a louder roar than ever startled the whole party from their seats, while the ladies, really intimidated by its angry sound, flew towards the window.
When Lady Edith anxiously looked out, she saw approaching in the direction of her own house, like a rolling sea, crowds of men, women, and children, all evidently in a state of high excitement. She thought the whole village united could not have produced so numerous a multitude, all armed evidently with scythes, flails, pickaxes, and old rifles, while their voices were united in one exciting chorus of yells, shouts, execrations, and hurras. Meanwhile the leaders in front grasped hold of one individual whom they seemed to drag unwillingly along, while he struggled to escape, and at every such attempt, in which he was overpowered, fresh shouts followed of vehement execrations and of angry laughter. Lady Edith in agitated astonishment looked round at MoRonald for an explanation, but he continued inexplicably happy and silent. His eyes were expressive of the greatest delight, and though he began an unfinished sentence by saying, “I am very sorry, my lady,” yet Lady Edith began to suspect he was hurrying off to join the fray, as he had almost disappeared out of the door already, when in an imperative voice that must be obeyed, she called him instantly back, saying,
“M“Ronald ! I see you know more about this affair than you choose to acknowledge. I insist on your explaining what is the cause of that extraordinary riot.” It seemed as if Lady Edith might as well have spoken to the Falls of Niagara, and expected an answer. MoRonald, as silent as a catacomb, busied himself about the room, and was evidently making towards the door to effect his escape, when Lady Edith imperatively called him back, saying to the evidently disappointed old soldier that he must not stir till the riot was over. “You see, my lady,” replied M*Ronald, gazing out of the window with all the eagerness of a schoolboy detained from his cricket-field, “that foreign priest, Father Eustace, seems to have a motto of his own, that honesty is only the best policy, if there be no easier way to gain your ends. Old Farmer Carre died this morning, and the monks have produced a parchment in which he leaves every sixpence to them. We, in Scotland, call such legacies “a mortification to the Church, but it is also a very great mortification to his relatives, as his own sons are left penniless. This news has gone all round the village. As a natural consequence, my lady, the people have all risen in that hive-like uproar, and are going to—” “Stay, M*Ronald ! Where are you hurrying?” asked Lady Edith, looking as M*Ronald afterwards said through and through him, till he felt as if nailed to the wall. “What are they about to do?” “To duck him in the salmon-pool, my lady. He has not a feather left to fly with, and they are carrying the parchment before him as a banner mounted on that flag-staff,” answered M*Ronald, his old eyes gleaming with pleasure. “You see, my lady, there ! Every man of the village carries a paper round his hat, with the words written on it, “No Popery!' The Romish chapel was pulled down this morning, the pews torn up, and all the pictures and images burned in a bonfire.” “M*Ronald !” exclaimed Lady Edith, indignantly, “why did you not tell me all this sooner?” “I was afraid your ladyship might not approve.” “ Approvel of course not;” said Lady Edith, rising. “It is a lawless mob The poor Clanmarina villagers must be brought to their senses, or there may be bloodshed.” “Not a drop, my lady! Just as I feared,” muttered the old soldier. “Her ladyship will spoil all, but I hope it is too late now to rescue Father Eustace. He deserves the worst that can befal him, and more. Lady Edith would spare even that man's feelings and fears.” “I trust,” asked Lady Edith, “that Robert Carre has not been irritated into joining in this outrage?” “No, my lady; he exhorted his neighbours to let the law take its course, and he would be righted either now or in a better world,” said M“Ronald in a low voice of the deepest sympathy. “Poor Robert his arms, that used to be like bars of iron, are hanging by his side to-day in helpless sorrow. The old place of Daisybank is very dear to him, and his father's memory. My own poor Bessie too, for he still loves her It is a sad wreck, my lady, and you cannot wonder if we all feel for him.” M“Ronald roughly passed his hand across his eyes and turned away to hide his emotion, then hurrying to the door, he said, “I’ll just step out, my lady, to see what is the upshot.” Some mill-stones are very easily seen through, and Lady Edith plainly perceived where the warmest sympathies of M*Ronald were hastening, and that he was now in the state of one of his own soda-water bottles, wired down, but on the point of exploding. Alouder shout than ever now resounded from the crowd, all in a delirium of excitement. An Irish mob is like straw, easily set on fire, and as easily extinguished; but Scottish rioters, like wooden faggots, are slow to light, yet burn far more fiercely when once roused to a flame. Long had the anti-papal feeling smouldered at Clanmarina, while the honest villagers saw their own Chief seduced into forsaking his high position, their long-loved pastor, Mr. Clinton, carried off from his once happy home, and poor Bessie kidnapped into a convent; but now, since old Carre of Daisybank, the stoutest Protestant in Clanmarina, had been, as they said, “bamboozled on his death-bed into disinheriting his own dutiful son,” the cup of Father Eustace's crimes seemed full to overflowing, and Justice herself had no scales in which to measure the weight of his guilt. M“Ronald had been always a good hater, and though this noisy act of unruly vengeance was not