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“ Naughty mother wouldn't catch the boy,” roared her brother : the third child was too young to join in the explanation.
The poor woman, who had sunk into a chair, clasped her withered hands, exclaiming, “ when will mercy come ?”
“ It will come,” said the lady, 66 when we cast ourselves on it in utter self-despair.” Then looking round on the miserable objects that encompassed her, she uttered, with a burst of anguish,
“ Hath the Lord forgotten to be gracious ? hath he shut up his loving kindness in displeasure?"
“ Never ask such a question, my lady,” said Magrath, who had entered : « it's the first doubtful word that ever came out of your mouth. Forgotten ! No, no; God hasn't forgotten any thing but our sins; and doesn't he say that he will remember them no more?»
He then drew from beneath his coat a wooden bowl, adding, “ here's a new dish just invented, that's in great request among us : enough to mess ye all.” He glanced at the squalid children and their stupified mother, adding, as he put down the provisions, with a look of deep feeling, “When God sends mouths, he will send meat.”
This supply proved to be a composition of starch and tallow, fried together : a large quantity of the former article having been found in a store, a respectable merchant, Mr. James Cunningham, was induced to try whether it might not be made available in the extremity of famine. He found it not only eatable, but medicinal ; and gladly published the important discovery, which became a means of saving many valuable lives. With the greediness of young wolves did those poor babes devour the portion joyfully raised to their livid lips; and that sight, melting the mother into tears, relieved her brain from its intolerable oppression. She also ate, and invoking blessings on that hospitable roof, departed with her now laughing little ones.
On the twenty-seventh day of July, there was a general darkening of countenance, an interchange of looks among those who had charge over the public stores, that bespoke an approaching failure of the last poor pittance: and by the governor's order, an urgent invitation was circulated through the town, for all to assemble on the morrow at the cathedral, and with united supplication to make known their request to God.
The lady of M‘Alister, reclined in her antique chair, with folded hands and closed eyes, was placidly meditating on the inscrutable ways of Him whose path is in the deep waters. She sensibly felt the loosening of those cords which held her earthly tabernacle together, and secretly resolved to waste as little of the city's scanty provisions upon it, as the vigilance of her attached household circle would allow. More than once she had baffled the watchful anxiety of even Bryan; but Magrath it was still harder to elude, with such jealous care did he note her reception of each providential supply. Neither could her dignity overawe him ; for when, with a semblance of displeasure, she had demanded to be left alone over her pittance, the poor fellow replied, with glistening eyes, “ And I'll go, my lady, as soon as I have seen the morsel pass your lips. Sure and what is it that keeps the life in poor old Shane, but the hope of looking you in the face again.”.
“ Shane has a better hope, Magrath,” she answered: but touched by his evident distress, partook of what his affectionate zeal had provided. On this evening no inducement presented itself, for food there was none; and Bryan returned from an unsuccessful search, with looks of deeper dejection than he had ever worn, and seating himself opposite, silently gazed on the venerable ruin before him.
It was then that the summons reached them, to join the morrow's solemnity; and the lady, aroused by the welcome sound, said, “ It is well : be the issue life or death, in God's temple let us find it.”
The silence of the grave reigned in Derry throughout that solemn night, save only one unceasing sound - the cries of hungry children, unsupported by the high resolve which nerved the adult population. Morning arrived ; and at an early hour, the ghastly apparitions of that famished town were seen approaching from every quarter to the house of prayer. In little more than the space of a fortnight
the garrison had lost upwards of a thousand men : the mortality among other classes being proportionate. No marvel that death, become so familiar to their daily and hourly view, seemed stripped of half its terrors: no marvel that the burying ground, crowded as it was with objects nearest and dearest to their hearts, presented to many an inviting couch of repose. They entered the cathedral, and, prostrate in supplication, sought help of Him who alone is mighty to save.
Walker, still robed as in the pulpit, paced slowly among the scattered groups, his gaunt frame and hollow cheek presenting a personification of suffering as acute as had been undergone by any one. Arrived at an eminence, formed by the recent interment of several bodies beneath one mound, he looked for a moment at the crimson flag, whose folds fell languidly over the battlements of the church tower, then cast his eyes around upon the patient sufferers, who met it with something approaching to a smile, so full of melancholy endurance, that his tears well nigh overflowed, while once more addressing them in the tones of soothing encouragement. doubt not, my faithful, my true-hearted fellow Protestants : the Lord has heard - the Lord will assuredly answer—the united appeal of his poor perishing creatures. Doubt not, for when did he reject the prayer of faith? when did”-A sound, sudden and strange, and wildly joyful, came from the
« Nay, direction of the waterside : it produced a singular effect upon the hearers, and occasioned even in Walker, a sensation of such choking emotion, as cut short his address. That sound. -dare they believe it? had they heard it aright? Yes, again it was repeated, and again the shout was raised; and again in articulate words was the transporting intelligence borne to their ears. " The fleet, the fleet approaches !—The ships are in the Lough !”
It was as in a death-struggle that the greater number of those emaciated beings rushed to the walls. Husbands carried their dying wives, mothers their expiring children, and by efforts that seemed supernatural, they gained the height to witness, what to their eyes appeared a celestial vision—the broad sails of three stately vessels, filled by a favouring gale, whitening upon the curled waters, and steadily approaching, with the undoubted purpose of anchoring beneath the walls. In the besiegers' camp all was bustle:: a desperate resistance would no doubt be made; and the boom that stretched across the Lough menaced destruction to the coming deliver
The fort of Culmore was manned, and its batteries opened with thundering fury upon the advancing ships; while volleys of musquetry from either bank, poured upon their sides. The fire was returned, and evidently with considerable execution, upon the wretched instruments of Romish aggres: