« PreviousContinue »
sion; wbile, comparatively unharmed, the gallant vessels made good their passage past the fort.
“ The boom ! the boom !" was breathed in gasps, and whispers of unutterable agony, by the terribly interested spectators on the walls. · Will they venture to pass ?-Can they break it !--Oh now, now, OR NEVER !-God give them resolution !-Still they approach!” Such exclamations burst from the parching lips that had so recently moved in united prayer; while a party of the townsmen mounted the cathedral, firing as a knell their minute guns of distress, and combining the efforts of their trembling arms to wave the crimson flag, in mute, yet touching appeal to the hearts of their compassionate deliverers.
The Mountjoy had taken the lead : her captain was a native of Derry, and within its walls were bis wife, his children, and his friends. The boom was right before her, and she swerved not; but rising upon the flowing tide, impelled by a lively breeze, she bore with all her force upon the sturdy barrier. It broke :
-alas! the shock was too severe for the vessel ; she recoiled, rolled deeply in the waters, and, striking into the shallow stream, was instantly aground.
A shout, or rather a yell of rapturous exultation, resounded from the hostile banks; and boats were rapidly pushed off for the purpose of boarding the Mountjoy ; while a groan, a deep, low, scarcely uttered groan, seemed to issue from the walls of Derry,
with now and then a shriek of female agony, reechoed by terrified children. There was a horror on the minds of those devoted beings, compared with which, all their preceding sufferings seemed light and trifling: but there was also many a prayerful spirit wrought into that intenseness of supplication, which cannot fail of entering into the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth.
The Mountjoy lay upon her side, seemingly a helpless victim, within the reach of the foe : but the stake for which her captain fought was too precious to be trifled with. He fixed an earnest gaze upon the crowded walls of Derry, then raised his eyes to heaven as in passionate appeal; and drawing his sword, sprang forward to the most commanding station upon deck, cheering his men to a determined resistance. His shout was answered by a general huzza from the crew, each gunner applying his ignited match, and a tremendous broadside instantly enveloped the combatants in a cloud of smoke.
This was indeed the climax of agonized expectation to the gasping spectators, who clung to their rampart walls for that support which their own trembling knees refused to yield. Mothers strained their infants as in the very grasp of death, and joined their little hands together, lifting them between their own in mute supplication. Some were actually fainting under the conflict of hope and terror; not a few of whom had mounted the walls by
that strength alone which desperation gives, to sink exhausted into the arms of bystanders somewhat less enfeebled. And the voice of trembling affection was heard in anxious whispers, imploring some loved one to revive, and hope, and pray for the issue of that fearful hour. It was a scene to mock description ; a reality before which all the powers of imagination fade into contemptible nothingness.
The few seconds that elapsed before that cloud of smoke rolled away, leaving the Mountjoy once more fully visible - these few seconds seemed long indeed to the breathless gazers. They passed, and the gallant ship re-appeared, not lying in stranded helplessness upon the bank, but majestically floating in deep water, she ploughed the dancing tide right onwards towards the town.
“ That broadside saved her !" shouted Walker. “ She has bounded from the shore--she has passed the boom! Derry and victory!”
Loud and long, varied and strange, were the sounds that pealed from those invincible walls. The thundering shout of triumph again and again burst forth, mingled with passionate cries of devout thanksgiving “ Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise !” was the language of many a lip : while streaming eyes, and outspread hands were raised towards the dwelling-place of Him to whom out of the depths they had called, and from whom they had received so gracious a reply.
Hush, baby, hush !” said the mother, while the laughter of joy mingled with her agitated sobs; “ look yonder at the pretty ships : they come like birds—they come like angels to us. There is food for my baby-bread for my child-meat, meat for us all. Oh God of mercy, ever mindful of thy covenant, thou wilt open thy hand and fill us all with plenteousness !"
Leaping from the walls, the men of Derry now hastened to throw wide the ship-quay gate, and in the bustle of rapturous preparation, they made all ready for receiving their precious freight. The other ships had fought their passage past Culmore, and followed the Mountjoy, whose gallant captain had fallen in the moment of success. A musket ball had terminated his mortal career, the last effective shot discharged by the baffled foe.
Magrath hastened to his favourite post, the bedside of Colonel Murray, whom he found in joyous exultation, too great for language to express. A silent grasp of the hand bespoke their mutual congratulations, and then Magrath sat down, and burying his face in his palms, wept like a child.
Many a stout heart has melted to-day, my lad, said the colonel, after a short pause,
" and I should not envy the feelings of the man who could be ashamed to weep, when he looks upon our living spectres, and thinks upon our martyred dead.”
“ True for you, Colonel Murray: and the last soul that passed hasn't left its fellow among us."
“ Do you mean the gallant Browning ?" “ No, Sir; I mean the Lady O'Neill.”
“ The lady of M‘Alister !” exclaimed Murray, almost starting from his pillow : and before Magrath could resume, Bryan entered, with Morrison and Ross.
The smile with which M‘Alister greeted his friend met no response; Murray's brow was contracted, and he said in a tone almost resentful, “ Surely, surely, she might have been spared to rejoice a while with us !! “ Aye, surely," said Morrison.
« She is spared indeed ; spared all farther conflict with a body of sin and death ; spared to rejoice with us for ever."
“ Don't teach me rebellion, dear colonel,” said Bryan, smiling through his tears: “my own heart is ready enough to prompt that lesson. The libe rated saint whom we would fain have kept, a longer tenant in this dreary dungeon, lingered till our deliverance was certain. At her own request, she was taken to the church battery, where we were stationed ; and there, upon that hallowed roof, she poured forth the supplications of a soul that truly wrestled unto death, for us and for our cause."
“ When the minute guns of distress were fired," observed Morrison, “ she expressed her thankfulness, that even our engines of destruction bad laid