the moon had not yet risen), enabled the parties to see each other, and in a few minutes Andrew and his master were joined by four men, the principal person among them being the identical individual whom they both had dreaded—the Red Rapparee.
"Master," said Cummiskey, in a whisper, on seeing them approach, "we must fight for it, I'm afeered, but let us not be rash; there may be a friend or two among them, and it is better to come off peaceably if we can."
"I agree with you," replied his master. "There is no use in shedding unnecessary blood; but, in any event, let us not permit them to disarm us, should they insist on doing so. They know I never go three yards from my hall-door without arms, and it is not improbable they may make a point of taking them from us. I, however, for one, will not trust to their promises, for I know their treachery, as I do their cowardice, when their numbers are but few, and an armed opponent or two before them, determined to give battle. Stand, therefore, by me, Andy, and, by King William, should they have re-course to violence, we shall let them see, and feel too, that we are not unprepared."
"I have but one life, sir," replied his faithful follower; "it was spent—at least its best days were—in your service, and sooner than any danger should come to you, it will be lost in your defence. If it was only for the sake of her, that is not here, the Cooleen Bawn, I would do it."
"Who goes there?" asked a deep and powerful voice when the parties had come within about twenty yards of each other.
"By the powers!" exclaimed Andrew in a whisper, "it's himself the Red Rapparee!"
"We are friends," he replied, "and have lost our way."
The other party approached, and, on joining our travellers, the Rapparee started, exclaiming, "What, noble Squire, is it possible that this is you? Hut! it can't be—let me look at you closer, till I make sure of you."
"Keep your distance, sir," replied the old man with courage and dignity; "keep your distance; you see that I and my servant are both well armed, and determined to defend ourselves against violence."
An ominous and ferocious glance passed from the Rapparee to his comrades, who, however, said nothing, but seemed to be resolved to guide themselves altogether by his conduct. The Red Rapparee was a huge man of about forty, and the epithet of "Red" had been given to him in consequence of the color of his hair. In expression his countenance was by no means unhandsome, being florid and symmetrical, but hard, and with scarcely any trace of feeling. His brows were far asunder, arguing ingenuity and invention, but his eyes, which were small and treacherous, glared—whenever he became excited—with the ferocity of an enraged tiger. His shoulders were broad, his chest deep and square, his arms long and powerful, but his lower limbs were somewhat light in proportion to the great size of his upper figure. This, however, is generally the case when a man combines in his own person the united qualities of activity and strength. Even at the period we are describing, when this once celebrated character was forty years of age, it was well known that in fleetness of foot there was no man in the province able to compete with him. In athletic exercises that required strength and skill he never had a rival, but one—with whom the reader will soon be made acquainted. He was wrapped loosely in a gray frieze big-coat, or cothamore, as it is called in Irish—wore a hat of two colors, and so pliant in texture that he could at any time turn it inside out. His coat was—as indeed were all his clothes—made upon the time principle, so that when hard pressed by the authorities he could in a minute or two transmute himself into the appearance of a nun very different from the individual described to them. Indeed he was such a perfect Proteus that no vigilance of the Executive was ever a match for his versatility of appearance, swiftness of foot, and caution. These frequent defeats of the authorities of that day made him extremely popular with the people, who were always ready to afford him shelter and means of concealment, in return for which he assisted them with food, money, and the spoils of his predatory life. This, indeed, was the sagacious principle of the Irish Robbers and Rapparees from the beginning to rob from the rich and give to the poor being their motto.
The persons who accompanied him on this occasion were three of his own gang, who usually constituted his body-guard, and acted as videttes, either for his protection or for the purpose of bringing him information of such travellers as from their known wealth or external appearance might be supposed worth attacking. They were well-made, active, and athletic men, in whom it would not be easy to recognise any particular character at variance with that of the peasantry around them. It is unnecessary to say that they were all armed. Having satisfied himself as to the identity of master and man, with a glance at his companions, the Rapparee said,
"What on earth brought you and Andy Cummiskey here, noble squire? Oh! you lost your way Andy says. Well now," he proceeded, "you know I have been many a day and night on the lookout for you; aye, could have put daylight through you many and many a time; and what do you think prevented me?"
"Fear of God, or of the gallows, I hope," replied the intrepid old man.
"Well," returned the Rapparee, with a smile of scorn, "I'm not a man—as I suppose you may know—that ever feared either of them much—God forgive me for the one, I don't ask his forgiveness for the other. No, Squire Folliard, it was the goodness, the kindness, the generosity, and the charity of the Cooleen Bawn, your lovely daughter, that held my hand. You persecuted my old uncle, the priest, and you would a' hanged him too, for merely marryin' a Protestant and a Catholic together. Well, sir, your fair daughter, and her good mother—that's now in heaven, I hope—went up to Dublin to the Lord Lieutenant, and before him the Cooleen Bawn, went on her two knees and begged my uncle's life, and got it; for the Lord Lieutenant said that no one could deny her any thing. Now, sir, for her sake, go home in peace. Boys, get their horses."
Andy Cummiskey would have looked upon all this as manly and generous, but he could not help observing a particular and rather sinister meaning in the look which the Rapparee turned on his companions as he spoke. He had often heard, too, of his treacherous disposition and his unrelenting cruelty whenever he entertained a feeling of vengeance. In his present position, however, all he could do was to stand on his guard; and with this impression strong upon him he resolved to put no confidence in the words of the Rapparee. In a few minutes the horses were brought up, and Randy (Randall) Ruah having wiped Mr. Folliard's saddle—for such was his name—with the skirt of his cothamore, and removed the hoar frost or rime which had gathered on it, he brought the animal over to him, and said, with a kind of rude courtesy,
"Come, sir, trust me; I will help you to your saddle."
"You have not the reputation of being trustworthy," replied Mr. Folliard; "keep back, sir, at your peril; I will not trust you. My own servant will assist me."
This seemed precisely the arrangement which the Rapparee and his men had contemplated. The squire, in mounting, was obliged, as every man is, to use both his hands, as was his servant also, while assisting him. They consequently put up their pistols until they should get into the saddles, and, almost in an instant, found themselves disarmed, and prisoners in the hands of these lawless and unscrupulous men.
"Now, Squire Folliard," exclaimed the Rapparee, "see what it is not to trust an honest man; had you done so, not a hair of your head would be injured. As it is, I'll give you five minutes to do three things; remember my uncle, the priest, that you transported."
"He acted most illegally, sir," replied the old man