Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

upon the rebel camp, and the Royal army, without further opposition, took possession of the town.

The sun was setting when the struggle terminated, and the rebel line upon the hill were greatly inspirited by the obstinacy with which their detached forces had disputed the occupation of the streets beneath them. Henry marked with delight the enthusiasm of the whole, and for once suffered a gleam of hope to break on the darkness.of his despondency.

The Royal army were distinctly seen from the commanding position of the insurgents, mounting their guards for the night, and preparing for refreshment and repose. Nothing could exceed their apparent fatigue. The trooper contented himself with providing from the plentiful supply of forage which the town afforded, a necessary proportion for his weary charger, and then hastily disencumbering himself of his accoutrements, stretched on the litter beside his horse. The matross threw himself beneath his gun, while every well and watering-place seemed likely to be exhausted, from the avidity with which the harassed sol

diery sought to quench their thirst. The day had been sultry in the extreme, and the long march, executed under a noontide sun, over roads almost impassable from dust, had left them subdued in spirit, and incapable of exertion.

O'Hara advanced as nearly to the out-lying picket as safety would warrant, and a more minute observation attested the sufferings of the wearied forces, and the frequent yawns of the sentries betrayed the struggle which was necessary to keep them on the alert. Almost the half of the soldiery were already stretched in deep repose, and it occurred to the rebel leader how advantageous a night attack would be. Nothing could be more favourable to the irregular forces on the hill than the present exhaustion of their opponents. The night mists began to rise in fleecy wreaths from the low grounds which encircled them, and under its concealment how easily might they have been surprised ? The superior construction of the troops would give way to physical foree, and discipline be overmatched by unpractised courage.

Now was the time for action

now the tide-flood of success was high; and Henry hastened to the camp just as a summons to the council was delivered by a rebel sentinel.

The leaders had assembled at the ruined tower of a windmill, which was erected on the summit of the hill, and Henry hurried to the spot, anxious to recommend an instant assault upon the royalists. A warm and angry debate occupied the council, and as he got sufficiently near to comprehend the nature of the discussion, how was he mortified to find that no military question was agitated, but that a bitter and religious quarrel engaged this enlightened cabinet. The Roman Catholic leaders were upbraiding the Presbyterians with duplicity, and they, in turn, were assailed by invectives and reproach. O'Hara burst into the circle, and a temporary calm succeeded his appearance.

" Merciful God!" said the young rebel, “ do my ears deceive me, or is it possible that such madness should possess you all ? Wasting the precious moments for action in empty babbling and bigoted contention!-Shame on you

all! By Heaven ! a man would think you had leagued to betray your wretched followers to sure defeat, and no less certain death."

“ Not mine, by God," said a Popish shopkeeper ; “ for never was there luck with heretics yet, and I'll bring off my people from among you."

“ You cursed idolater,” roared a Presbyterian preacher; “ do you call true faith heresy ?

Again the clamour became overpowering. One or two of the more sensible of the party perceived the ruinous effects likely to be produced by this unhappy disagreement, and strove to check it, and having requested O'Hara to go for the commander-in-chief, who was yet absent, they promised, if possible, to tranquillize the opposing parties.

To reach the rebel chieftain was a matter of no small difficulty, and when Henry gained the hut, which was denominated the general's tent, he found the commander quietly engaged in drawing plans for visionary battles. In a few words he communicated his business, and implored him to hurry and arrest the disunion which threatened to annihilate every chance of

success.

On their arrival at the late scene of contention, they found O'Hara's worst fears had been realised, for the Popish leaders had already retired from the meeting for the purpose of abandoning the camp, and every subsequent attempt to prevent the desertion of their followers proved abortive.

Reduced as their numbers would be, Henry, as a last effort, called the attention of the remaining leaders to the necessity of prompt exertion, and briefly explained the situation of their opponents, and pointed out the means of probable success. The younger leaders unanimously approved the proposal of an immediate assault, but, unfortunately, Munro as decidedly objected to it.

Some of the party, from a deference to his opinion, and others actuated by personal apprehension of an instant conflict, voted for postponing the attack till morning ; and, after a violent and protracted debate, O'Hara saw, what he supposed, the last hope of his country's liberty extinguished. Sick at heart, he left the tower to mourn in silence over the approaching ruin of the cause, and antici

« ForrigeFortsæt »