The Emergency Men
by George H.
The fourth morning after his arrival in Dublin, Mr. Harold Hayes,
of New York, entered the breakfast-room of the Shelbourne Hotel in a
very bad humour. He was sick of the city, of the people, and of his
own company. Before leaving London he had written to his friend, Jack
Connolly, that he was coming to Ireland, and he had expected to find a
reply at the Shelbourne. For three days he had waited in vain, and it
was partly, at least, on Jack's account that Mr. Hayes was in Ireland
at all. When Jack sailed from New York he had bound Harold by a solemn
promise to spend a few weeks at Lisnahoe on his next visit to Europe.
Miss Connelly, who had accompanied her brother on his American tour,
had echoed and indorsed the invitation.
Harold had naturally expected to find at the hotel a letter urging
him to take the first train for the south. He had seen a great deal
of the Connellys during their stay in the United States, and Jack and
he had become firm friends. He had crossed at this unusual season
mainly on Jack's account—on Jack's account and his sister's; so it
was little wonder if the young man considered himself ill used. He
felt that he had been lured across the Irish Channel—across the
Atlantic Ocean itself—on false pretences.
But in a moment the cloud lifted from his brow, a quick smile
stirred under his yellow moustache, and his eyes brightened, for a
waiter handed him a letter. It lay, address uppermost, on the salver,
and bore the Ballydoon postmark, and the handwriting was the
disjointed scrawl which he had often ridiculed, but now welcomed as
This is what Hayes read as he sipped his coffee:
LISNAHOE, December 23d.
MY DEAR HAROLD: Home I come from Ballinasloe yesterday, and find
your letter, the best part of a week old, kicking about among the
bills and notices of meets that make the biggest end of my
correspondence. You must be destroyed entirely, my poor fellow, if
you've been three days in dear dirty Dublin, and you not knowing a
soul in it. Come down at once, and you'll find a hearty welcome here
if you won't find much else. I don't see why you couldn't have come
anyhow, without waiting to write; but you were always so confoundedly
ceremonious. We're rather at sixes and sevens, for the governor's got
“in howlts” with his tenants and we're boycotted. It's not bad fun
when you're used to it, but a trifle inconvenient in certain small
ways. Let me know what train you take and I'll meet you at the
station. You must be here for Christmas Day anyhow. Polly sends her
regards, and says she knew the letter was from you, and she came near
opening it. I'm sure I wish she had, and answered it, for I'm a poor
fist at a letter.
The first available train carried Harold southward. On the way he
read the letter again. The notion of entering a boycotted household
amused and pleased him. He had never been in Ireland before, and he
was quite willing that his first visit should be well spiced with the
national flavour. Of course he had his views on the Irish question.
Every American newspaper reader is cheerfully satisfied with the
conviction that the Celtic race on its native sod has no real faults.
A constitutional antipathy to rent may exist, but that is a national
foible which, owing doubtless to some peculiarity of the climate, is
almost praiseworthy in Ireland, though elsewhere regarded as hardly
respectable. At any rate, with the consciousness that he was about to
come face to face with the much-talked-of boycott, Harold's spirits
rose, and as he read Polly Connolly's message they rose still higher.
He was a lively young fellow, and fond of excitement. And at one time,
as he recalled with a smile and a sigh, he had been almost fond of
When he alighted at the station—a small place in Tipperary—the
dusk of the early winter evening was closing in, and Harold
recollected that his prompt departure from Dublin had prevented him
from apprising Jack of his movements. Of course there would be no trap
from Lisnahoe to meet this train, but that mattered little. Half a
dozen hack-drivers were already extolling the merits of their various
conveyances, and imploring his patronage.
Selecting the best-looking car, he swung himself into his seat,
while the “jarvey” hoisted his portmanteau on the other side.
“Where to, yer honour?” inquired the latter, climbing to his place.
“To Lisnahoe House,” answered Hayes.
This question was asked with a vehemence that startled the young
“Lisnahoe. Don't you know the way?” he replied.
“In troth an' I do. Is it Connolly's?”
“Yes,” answered Harold. “Drive on, my good fellow; it's growing
The man's only answer was to spring from his seat and seize
Harold's portmanteau, which he deposited on the road with no gentle
“What do you mean?” cried the young man, indignantly.
“I mane that ye'd betther come down out o' that afore I make ye.”
Harold was on the ground in a moment and approached the man with
clinched fists and flashing eyes.
“How dare you, you scoundrel! Will you drive me to Lisnahoe or will
“The divil a fut,” answered the fellow, sullenly.
Hayes controlled his anger by an effort. There was nothing to be
gained by a row with the man. He turned to another driver.
“Pick up that portmanteau. Drive me out to Mr. Connolly's. I'll
pay double fare.”
But they all with one consent, like the guests in the parable,
began to make excuse. One man's horse was lame, another's car was
broken down; the services of a third had been “bespoke.” Few were as
frank as the man first engaged, but all were prompt with the obvious
lies, scarcely less aggravating than actual rudeness. The
station-master appeared, and attempted to use his influence in the
traveller's behalf, but he effected nothing.
“You'll have to walk, sir,” said the official, civilly. “I'll keep
your portmanteau here till Mr. Connolly sends for it.” And he carried
the luggage back into the station.
“How far is it to Mr. Connolly's?” Harold inquired of a ragged
urchin who had strolled up with several companions.
“Fish an' find out,” answered the youngster, with a grin.
“We'll tache them to be sendin' Emergency men down here,” said
The New-Yorker was fast losing patience.
“This is Irish hospitality and native courtesy,” he remarked,
bitterly. “Will any one tell me the road I am to follow?”
“Folly yer nose,” a voice shouted; and there was a general laugh,
in the midst of which the station-master reappeared.
He pointed out the way, and Harold trudged off to accomplish, as
best he might, five Irish miles over miry highways and byways through
the darkness of the December evening.
This was the young American's first practical experience of
It was nearly seven o'clock when, tired and mud-bespattered, he
reached Lisnahoe; but the warmth of his reception there went far to
banish all recollection of the discomforts of his solitary tramp. A
hearty hand-clasp from Jack, a frank and smiling greeting from Polly
(she looked handsomer than ever, Harold thought, with her lustrous
black hair and soft, dark-gray eyes), put him at his ease at once.
Then came introductions to the rest of the family. Mr. Connolly, stout
and white-haired, bade him welcome in a voice which owned more than a
touch of Tipperary brogue. Mrs. Connolly, florid and good-humoured,
was very solicitous for his comfort. The children confused him at
first. There were so many of them, of all sizes, that Hayes abandoned
for the present any attempt to distinguish them by name. There was a
tall lad of twenty or thereabouts,—a faithful copy of his elder
brother Jack,—who was addressed as Dick, and a pretty, fair-haired
girl of seventeen, whom, as Polly's sister, Harold was prepared to
like at once. She was Agnes. After these came a long array,—no less
than nine more,—ending with a sturdy little chap of three, whom Polly
presently picked up and carried off to bed. Mr. Connolly, of Lisnahoe,
could boast of a full quiver.
There was a general chorus of laughter as Harold related his
experience at the railway-station. The Connollys had rested for
several days under the ban of the most rigid boycott, and had become
used to small discomforts. They faced the situation bravely, and
turned all such petty troubles into jest; but the American was sorely
disquieted to learn that there was only one servant in the house—an
old man who for many years had blacked boots and cleaned knives for
the family, and who had refused to crouch to heel under the lash of
Harold stammered an apology for his unseasonable visit, but Jack
cut him short.
“Nonsense, man; the more the merrier. We're glad to have you, and
if you can rough it a bit you won't find it half bad fun.”
“Oh, I don't mind, I'm sure,” said Harold; “only I'm afraid you'd
rather have your house to yourselves at such a time as this.”
“Not we. Why, we expect some Emergency men down here in a few
days. We'll treat you as the advance guard; we'll set you to work and
give you your grub the same as an Emergency man.”
“What is an Emergency man?” inquired Harold. “Those Chesterfieldian
drivers at the station seemed to think it was the worst name they
could call me.”
A hearty laugh went round the circle.
“If they took ye for an Emergency man, it's small wonder they were
none too swate on ye,” observed Mr. Connolly.
“But what does it mean?” asked the New-Yorker.
“Well,” began the old gentleman, “there's good and bad in this
world of ours. When tenants kick and labourers clare out, an' a
boycott's put on a man, they'd lave yer cattle to die an' yer crops
to rot for all they care. It's what they want. Well, there happens to
be a few dacent people left in Ireland yet, and they have got up an
organization they call the Emergency men; they go to any part of the
country and help out people that have been boycotted through no fault
of their own—plough their fields or reap their oats or dig their
potatoes, an' generally knock the legs out from under the boycott. It
stands to reason that the blackguards in these parts hate an Emergency
man as the divil hates holy water; but ye may take it as a compliment
that ye were mistook for one, for all that.”
Here Dick thrust his head into the door of the large library, in
which the party was assembled.
“Dinner is served, my lords and ladies,” he cried; and there was a
general movement toward the dining-room.
“No ceremony here, my boy,” laughed Jack, as he led Harold across
the hall. “I'll be your cavalier and show you the way. The girls are
in the kitchen, I suppose.”
But Miss Connolly and Agnes were already in the dining-room, and
the party gathered round the well-spread board and proceeded to do
full justice to the good things thereon. The meal was more like a
picnic than a set dinner. Old Peter Dwyer, the last remaining
retainer, had never attended at table, so he confined himself to
kitchen duties, while the young Connollys waited on themselves and on
each other. A certain little maid, whom Harold by this time had
identified as Bella, devoted herself to the stranger, and took care
that neither his glass nor his plate should be empty. A glance of
approval, which he intercepted on its way from Miss Connolly to her
little sister, told Harold that Bella had been given a charge
concerning him, and he appreciated the attention none the less on
that account, while he ate his dinner with the agreeable confidence
that it had been prepared by Miss Polly's own fair hands.
Everything at table was abundant and good of its kind, and
conversation was alert and merry, as it is apt to be in a large family
party. So far, the boycott seemed to have anything but a depressing
effect, though Harold could not help smiling as he realised how it
would have crushed to powder more than one estimable family of his
After dinner Jack rose, saying that he must go round to the stables
and bed down the horses for the night. Harold accompanied him, and
acquitted himself very well with a pitchfork, considering that he had
little experience with such an implement. he had gone with a couple of
the younger boys to chop turnips for certain cattle which were being
fattened for the market.
“How did you come to be boycotted?” inquired Harold, with some
curiosity, as soon as he found himself alone with Jack.
“Oh, it doesn't take much talent to accomplish that nowadays,”
answered the young Irishman, with a laugh. “In the first place, the
governor has a habit of asking for his rent, which is an unpopular
proceeding at the best of times. In the second place, I bought half a
dozen bullocks from a boycotted farmer out Limerick way.”
“And is that all?” asked Harold, in astonishment. Notwithstanding
his regard for his friend, he had never doubted that there must have
been some appalling piece of persecution to justify this determined
“All!” echoed Jack, laughing. “You don't know much of Ireland, my
boy, or you wouldn't ask that question. We bought cattle that had
been raised by a farmer on land from which a defaulting tenant had
been evicted. Men have been shot in these parts for less than that.”
“Pleasant state of affairs,” remarked the New-Yorker.
“I don't much care,” Jack went on, lightly. “We're promised a
couple of Emergency men from Ulster in a few days, and that will take
the weight of the work off our hands. It isn't as if it were a busy
time. No crops to be saved in winter, you see, and no farm work except
stall-feeding the cattle. That can't wait.”
“But your sisters—all the work of that big house—“ began Harold,
who was thinking of Polly.
“We expect two Protestant girls down from Belfast to-morrow.
That'll be all right. We get all our grub from Dublin,—they won't
sell us anything in Ballydoon,—and we mean to keep on doing so,
boycott or no boycott. We have been about the best customers to the
shopkeepers round here, and it'll come near ruining the town—and
serve them right,” the young man added, with the first touch of
bitterness he had displayed in speaking of the persecution of his
By next day the situation had improved. A couple of servant-girls
arrived from the north. They were expected, and accordingly Dick was
on hand with the jaunting-car to meet them and drive them from the
station. The Emergency men had not yet appeared, so Jack and such of
his brothers as were old enough to be of use were kept pretty busy
round the place. Harold had wished to return to England and postpone
his visit till a more convenient time, but to this no one would
listen. He made no trouble; he was not a bit in the way; in fact, he
was a great help. So said they all, and the young New-Yorker was quite
willing to believe them.
He did occasionally offer assistance in stable or farm-yard, but
he much preferred to spend his time rambling over the old place,
admiring the lawns, the woods, the gardens, all strangely silent and
deserted now. Miss Connolly was often his companion. The importation
from Belfast relieved her of some of the pressure of household cares,
and since her brothers were fully occupied, it devolved upon her to
play host as well as hostess, and point out to the stranger the
various charms of Lisnahoe.
This suited Harold exactly. He usually carried a gun and sometimes
shot a rabbit or a wood-pigeon, but generally he was content to
listen to Polly's lively conversation, and gaze into the depths of
her eyes, wondering why they looked darker and softer here under the
shadow of her native woods than they had ever seemed in the glare and
dazzle of a New York ball-room. Harold Hayes was falling in
love—falling consciously, yet without a struggle. He was beginning
to realise that life could have nothing better in store for him than
this tall, graceful girl, in her becoming sealskin cap and jacket,
whose little feet, so stoutly and serviceably shod, kept pace with his
own over so many miles of pleasant rambles.
One day—it was the last of the old year—Miss Connolly and Harold
were strolling along a path on which the wintry sunshine was tracing
fantastic patterns as it streamed through the naked branches of the
giant beech-trees. The young man had a gun on his shoulder, but he was
paying little attention to the nimble rabbits that now and then
frisked across the road. He was thinking, and thinking deeply.
He could not hope for many more such quiet walks with his fair
companion. She would soon have more efficient chaperons than the
children, who often made a pretence of accompanying them, but
invariably dashed off, disdainful of the sober pace of their elders.
Before long—next day probably—he would be handed over to the tender
mercies of Jack, who had constantly lamented the occupations that
prevented his paying proper attention to his guest. The heir of
Lisnahoe had promised to show the young stranger some “real good
sport” as soon as other duties would permit. That time was close at
hand now. The Emergency men had been at work for several days; they
were thoroughly at home in their duties; besides, the fat cattle would
be finished very shortly and sent off to be sold in Dublin. Jack had
announced his intention of stealing a holiday on the morrow, and
taking Hayes to a certain famous “snipe bottom,” when the game was, to
use Dick's expression, “as thick as plums in one of Polly's puddings.”
It was hard to guess then they might have such another rumble, and
Harold had much to say to the girl at his side; and yet, for the life
of him, he could not utter the words that were trembling on his lips.
“I don't believe you care much for shooting, Mr. Hayes.”
A rabbit loped slowly across die road not twenty yards from the
gun, but Harold had not noticed it. He roused himself with a start,
however, at the sound of his companion's voice.
“Oh yes, I do, sometimes,” he answered, glancing alertly to both
sides of the road; but no game was in sight for the moment.
“If this frost should break up, you may have some hunting,” pursued
Miss Connolly. “I'm afraid you're having an awfully stupid time.”
Harold interposed an eager denial.
“Oh yes, you must be,” insisted the young lady; “but Jack will find
more time now, and if we have a thaw you will have a day with the
hounds. Are you fond of hunting?”
“I am very fond of riding, but I have never hunted,” answered the
“Just like me. I am never so happy as when I am on horseback, but
mamma won't let me ride to hounds. She says she does not approve of
ladies on the field. It is traditional, I suppose, that every mistress
of Lisnahoe should oppose hunting.”
“Indeed, why so?” inquired Harold.
“Why, don't you know?” asked the girl. “Has nobody told you our
“No one as yet,” answered Hayes.
“Then mine be the pleasing task; and there is a peculiar fitness
in your hearing it just now, for to-morrow will be New-Year's Day.”
Harold failed to see the applicability of the date, but he made no
observation, and Miss Connolly went on.
“Ever so many years ago this place belonged to an ancestor of mine
who was devoted to field-sports of all kinds. He lived for nothing
else, people thought, but suddenly he surprised all the world by
Harold thought that if her remote grandmother had chanced to
resemble the fair young girl at his side, there was a good excuse for
the sportsman; but he held his tongue.
“The bride was exacting—or perhaps she was only timid. At any
rate, she used her influence to wean her husband from his outdoor
pursuits—especially hunting. He must have been very much in love
with her, for she succeeded, and he promised to give it all up—after
one day more. It seems that he could not get out of this last run.
The meet was on the lawn; the hunt breakfast was to be at Lisnahoe
House. In short, it was an affair that could neither be altered nor
“This meet,” continued Polly, “was on New-Year's Day. There was a
great gathering, and after breakfast the gentlemen came out and
mounted at the door; the hounds were grouped on the lawn; it must
have been a beautiful sight.”
“It must, indeed,” assented Harold.
“Well, this old Mr. Connolly—but you must understand that he was
not old at all, only all this happened so long ago—he mounted his
horse, and his wife came out on the step to bid him good-bye, and to
remind him of his promise that this should be his last hunt. And so it
was, poor fellow; for while she was standing talking to him, a gust of
wind came and blew part of her dress right into the horse's face. Mr.
Connolly was riding a very spirited animal. It reared up and fell back
on him, killing him on the spot.”
“How horrible!” exclaimed Harold.
“Wait! The shock to the young wife was so great that she died the
“The poor girl!”
“Don't waste your sympathy. It was all very long ago, and perhaps
it never happened at all. However, the curious part of the story is
to come. Every one that had been present at that meet—men, dogs,
horses—everything died within the year.”
“To the ruin of the local insurance companies?” remarked Harold,
with a smile.
“You needn't laugh. They did. And next New-Year's night, between
twelve and one o'clock, the whole hunt passed through the place, and
they have kept on doing it every New-Year's night since.”
“A most interesting and elaborate ghost-story,” said Harold. “Pray,
Miss Connolly, may I ask if you yourself have seen the phantom hunt?”
“No one has ever done that,” replied Polly, “but when there is
moonlight they say the shadows can be seen passing over the grass,
and any New-Year's night you may hear the huntsman's horn.”
“I should like amazingly to hear it,” replied the young man. “Have
you ever heard this horn?”
“I have heard A horn,” the girl answered, with some reluctance.
“On New-Year's night between twelve and one?” he pursued.
“Of course—but I can't swear it was blown by a ghost. My brothers
or some one may have been playing tricks. You can sit up to-night and
listen for yourself if you want.”
“Nothing I should like better,” exclaimed Harold. “Will you sit up
“Oh yes. We always wait to see the Old Year out and the New Year
in. Come, Mr. Hayes, it's almost luncheon-time,” she added, glancing
at her watch; and they turned back toward the house, which was just
visible through the leafless trees.
Harold walked at her side in silence. He had heard a ghost-story,
but the words he had hoped to speak that day were still unuttered.
Loud were the pleadings, when the little ones' bedtime came, that
they might be allowed to sit up to see the Old Year die; but Mrs.
Connolly was inexorable. The very young ones were sent off to bed at
their usual hour.
Cards and music passed the time pleasantly till the clock was
almost on the stroke of twelve. Then wine was brought in, and healths
were drunk, and warm, cheerful wishes were uttered, invoking all the
blessings that the New Year might have in store. Hands were clasped
and kisses were exchanged. Harold would willingly have been included
in this last ceremony, but that might not be. However, he could and
did press Polly's hand very warmly, and the earnestness of the wishes
he breathed in her ear called a bright colour to her cheek. Then came
good-night, and the young American's heart grew strangely soft when he
found himself included in Mrs. Connolly's motherly blessing. He
thought he had never seen a happier, a more united family.
The party was breaking up; some had retired; others were standing,
bedroom candlesticks in their hands, exchanging a last word, when
suddenly, out of the silence of the night, the melodious notes of a
huntsman's horn echoed through the room. Harold recalled the legend,
and paused at the door, mute and wondering.
Jack and his father exchanged glances.
“Now which of you's tryin' to humbug us this year?” asked the old
man, laughing, while Jack looked round and proceeded, as he said, to
This was a useless attempt, for half the party that had sat up to
wait for the New Year had already disappeared.
Dick sprang to the window and threw it open, but the night was
cloudy and dark.
Again came the notes of the horn, floating in through the open
window, and almost at the same moment there was a sound of hoofs
crunching the gravel of the drive as a dozen or more animals swept
past at wild gallop.
“This is past a joke,” cried Jack. “I never heard of the old hunt
materializing in any such way as this.”
They rushed to the front door—Jack, Mr. Connolly, all of them.
Harold reached it first. Wrenching it open, he stood on the step,
while the others crowded about him and peered out into the night.
Only darkness, rendered mirker by the lights in the hall; and from
the distance, fainter now, came the measured beat of the galloping
No other sound? Yes, a long-drawn, quivering, piteous sigh; and as
their eyes grew more accustomed to the night, out of the darkness
something white shaped itself—something prone and helpless, lying on
the gravel beneath the lowest step. They did not stop to speculate as
to what it might be. With a single impulse, Jack and Harold sprang
down, and between them they carried back into the hall the inanimate
body of Polly Connolly.
Her eyes were closed and her face was as white as the muslin dress
she wore. Clutched in her right hand was a hunting-horn belonging to
Dick. It was evident that the girl had stolen out unobserved to
reproduce—perhaps for the visitor's benefit—the legendary notes of
the phantom huntsman. This was a favorite joke among the young
Connollys, and scarcely a New-Year's night passed that it was not
practised by one or other of the large family; but what had occurred
to-night? Whence came those galloping hoofs, and what was the
explanation of Polly's condition?
The swoon quickly yielded to the usual remedies, but even when she
revived it was some time before the girl could speak intelligibly.
Her voice was broken by hysterical sobs; she trembled in every limb.
It was evident that her nerves had received a severe shock.
While the others were occupied with Polly, Dick had stepped out on
the gravel sweep, where he was endeavouring, by close examination, to
discover some clue to the puzzle. Suddenly he ran back into the house.
“Something's on fire!” he cried. “I believe it's the yard.”
They all pressed to the open door—all except Mrs. Connolly, who
still busied herself with her daughter, and Harold, whose sole
interest was centred in the girl he loved.
Above a fringe of shrubbery which masked the farm-yard, a red glow
lit up the sky. It was evident the buildings were on fire. And even
while they looked a man, half dressed, panting, smoke-stained, dashed
up the steps. It was Tom Neil, one of the Emergency men.
These men slept in the yard, in the quarters vacated by the
deserting coachman. In a few breathless words the big, raw-boned
Ulsterman told the story of the last half-hour.
He and his comrade Fergus had been awakened by suspicious sounds
in the yard. Descending, they had found the cattle-shed in flames.
Neil had forced his way in and had liberated and driven out the
terrified bullocks. The poor animals, wild with terror, had burst
from the yard and galloped off in the direction of the house. This
accounted for the trampling hoofs that had swept across the lawn, but
scarcely for Polly's terrified condition. A country-bred girl like
Miss Connolly would not lose her wits over the spectacle of a dozen
fat oxen broken loose from their stalls. Had the barn purposely
burned, and had the girl fallen in with the retreating incendiaries?
It seemed likely. No one there doubted the origin of the fire, and
Mr. Connolly expressed the general feeling as he shook his head and
“I mistrusted that they wouldn't let us get them cattle out o' the
country without some trouble.”
“But where is Fergus?” demanded Jack, suddenly.
“Isn't he here?” asked the Ulsterman. “When we seen the fire he
started up to the big house to give the alarm, while I turned to to
save the bullocks.”
“No, he never came to the house,” answered Jack, and there was an
added gravity in his manner as he turned to his brother.
“Get a lantern, Dick. This thing must be looked into at once.”
While the boy went in search of a light, Mr. Connolly attempted to
obtain from his daughter a connected statement of what had happened
and how much she had seen; but she was in no condition to answer
questions. The poor girl could only sob and moan and cover her face
with her hands, while convulsive tremblings shook her slight figure.
“Oh, don't ask me, papa; don't speak to me about it. It was
dreadful—dreadful. I saw it all.”
This was all they could gain from her.
“Don't thrubble the poor young lady,” interposed old Peter,
compassionately. “Sure, the heart's put acrass in her wid the fright.
Lave her be till mornin'.”
There seemed nothing else to be done, so Polly was left in charge
of her mother and sister, while the men, headed by Dick, who carried
a lantern, set out to examine the grounds.
There was no trace of Fergus between the house and the farm-yard.
The lawn was much cut up by the cattle, for the frost had turned to
rain early in the evening, and a rapid thaw was in progress. The
ground was quite soft on the surface, and it was carefully scrutinised
for traces of footsteps, but nothing could be distinguished among the
hoof-prints of the bullocks.
In the yard all was quiet. The fire had died down; the roof of the
cattle-shed had fallen in and smothered the last embers. The barn was
a ruin, but no other damage had been done, and there were no signs of
the missing man.
They turned back, this time making a wider circle. Almost under the
kitchen window grew a dense thicket of laurel and other evergreen
shrubs. Dick stooped and let the light of the lantern penetrate
beneath the overhanging branches.
There, within three steps of the house, lay Fergus, pale and
blood-stained, with a sickening dent in his temple—a murdered man.
Old Peter Dwyer was the first to break the silence: “The Lord be
good to him! They've done for him this time, an' no mistake.”
The lifeless body was lifted gently and borne toward the house.
Harold hastened in advance to make sure that none of the ladies were
astir to be shocked by the grisly sight. The hall was deserted.
Doubtless Polly's condition demanded all their attention.
“The girl saw him murdered,” muttered Mr. Connolly. “I thought it
must have been something out of the common to upset her so.”
“D' ye think did she, sir?” asked old Peter, eagerly.
“I havnen't a doubt of it,” replied the old gentlemen shortly.
“Thank goodness, her evidence will hang the villain, whoever he may
be.” “Ah, the poor thing, the poor thing!” murmured the servant, and
then the sad procession entered the house.
The body was laid on a table. It would have been useless to send
for a surgeon. There was not one to be found within several miles,
and it was but too evident that life was extinct. The top of the
man's head was beaten to a pulp. He had been clubbed to death.
“If it costs me every shilling I have in the world, and my life to
the boot of it,” said Mr. Connolly, “I'll see the ruffians that did
the deed swing for their night's work.”
“Amin,” assented Peter, solemnly; and Jack's handsome face darkened
as he mentally recorded an oath of vengeance.
“There'll be little sleep for this house to-night,” resumed the
old gentleman after a pause. “I'm goin' to look round and see if the
doors are locked, an' then take a look at Polly. An', Peter.”
“The first light in the mornin'—it's only a few hours off,” he
added, with a glance at his watch —“you run over to the police
station, and give notice of what's happened.”
“I will, yer honour.”
“Come upstairs with me, boys. I want to talk with you. Good-night,
Mr. Hayes. This has been a blackguard business, but there's no reason
you should lose your rest for it.”
Mr. Connolly left the room, resting his arms on the shoulders of
his two sons. Harold glanced at the motionless figure of the murdered
man, and followed. He did not seek his bedroom, however; he knew it
would be idle to think of sleep. He entered the smoking-room, lit a
cigar, and threw himself into a chair to wait for morning.
All his ideas as to the Irish question had been changing insensibly
during his visit to Lisnahoe. This night's work had revolutionised
them. He saw the agrarian feud—not as he had been wont to read of
it, glozed over by the New York papers. He saw it as it was—in all
its naked, brutal horror.
He had observed that there had been no attempt on the Connollys to
appeal to neighbours for sympathy in this time of trouble, and he had
asked Jack the reason. Jack's answer had been brief and pregnant.
“Where's the good? We're boycotted.”
And that dead man lying on the table outside was only an example
of boycotting carried to its logical conclusion.
The sound of a door closing softly aroused Harold from his reverie.
A little postern leading from the servants' quarters opened close to
the smoking-room window. Harold looked out, and, as the night had
grown clearer, he distinctly saw old Pete Dwyer making his way with
elaborate caution down the shrubery path.
“Going to the police station, I suppose,” mused Hayes. “Well, he
has started betimes.”
Then he resumed his seat and thought of Polly.
What a shock for her, poor girl, to leave a happy home with her
heart full of innocent mirth, only to encounter murder lurking
red-handed at the very threshold!
“I wish I had spoken to her to-day,” he muttered. “Goodness alone
knows when I shall find a chance now. I wonder how she is?”
He realised that he could see nothing of her till breakfast time
at any rate—if, indeed, she would be strong enough to appear at that
meal. He had been sitting in the dark; he now threw aside his cigar,
and, drawing his chair closer to the window, set himself resolutely to
watch for the dawn and solace his vigil with dreams of Polly.
A raw, chill air blew into the room. He noticed that a pane of
glass was broken. One of the children had thrown a ball through it a
few days before, and in the present situation of the Connolly
household a glazier was an unattainable luxury.
Harold rose with the intention of moving his chair out of the
draught, but as he did so the sound of whispered words, seemingly at
his very ear, made him pause. The voices came from the shrubbery below
the window, and in one of them he recognised the unmistakable brogue
of old Peter Dwyer.
Had the man been to the police station and returned with the
constables so quickly? This was Harold's first thought, but he
dismissed it as soon as formed. Peter had been barely half an hour
absent, and the station was several miles off. Where had he been,
then, and with whom was he conversing? Harold bent his head close to
the broken pane and listened.
“Are ye sure sartin that the young woman seen us?” inquired a rough
voice—not Peter's—“because this is goin' to be an ugly job, an'
there's no call for us to tackle it widout needcessity?”
“Sartin as stalks,” whispered the old servant. “She was all of a
thrimble, as if she'd met a sperrit an' all the words she had was 'I
seen it—I seen it all,' an' she yowlin' like a banshee.”
“It's quare we didn't take notice to her, for she must ha' been
powerful close to see us such a night. I thought I heerd the horn,
too, an' I lavin' the yard.”
She wint out to blow it,” whispered Peter. “Most like it was stuck
in the shrubbery she was.”
“Come on thin,” growled the other; “it's got to be done, an' the
byes is all here. Ye left the little dure beyant on the latch?”
“I did that,” responded old Peter; and then a low, soft whistle
sounded in the darkness. It was a signal.
Rapidly but cautiously Harold Hayes left the window and stole
across the room. He understood it all. Polly had seen the murder and
had recognised the assassins. Old Dwyer was a traitor. He had slipped
out and warned the ruffians of the peril in which they stood, and now
they were here to seal their own safety by another crime —by the
sacrifice of a life far dearer to Harold than his own.
Swiftly, silently, he sped down the gloomy passage. The lives of
all beneath that roof were hanging on his speed. Breathless he reached
the little door, and flung himself against it with all his weight
while his trembling fingers groped in the darkness for bolt or bar.
A heavy hand was laid on the latch, and the door was tried from
“How's this, Peter?” inquired the rough voice. “I thought ye said
it wasn't locked.”
“No more it is; it's only stiff it is, bad cess to it. Push hard,
yer sowl ye.”
But at this moment Harold's hand encountered the bolt. With a sigh
of relief he shot it into the socket, and then, searching farther, he
supplemented the defences with a massive bar, which, he knew, ought
always to be in place at night.
Then he sped back along the passage, while muttered curses reached
his ears from without, and the door was shaken furiously.
“Jack, Jack,” he panted, as he flung open the door of the room in
which the young men slept—“Jack, come down and—”
He stopped abruptly. Mr. Connolly was kneeling at the bedside, and
his two sons knelt to the right and left of him.
There were no family prayers at Lisnahoe; only the ladies were
regular church-goers; but that it was a religious household no one
could have doubted who knew the events of the night and saw the old
man on his knees between his boys.
They rose at the noise of Harold's entrance, and the American, who
felt that there were no moments to be wasted on apologies, announced
“Old Peter Dwyer is a traitor! He has gone out and brought the
murderers to finish the work they have commenced.”
And then, in eager, breathless words, he told them how he had heard
the conversation in the shrubbery, and how the men, apprehensive that
Miss Connolly could identify them, had returned to stifle her
“They were right there,” said the old man. “She saw the first
blow, and it was struck by Red Mike Driscoll.”
“Then she is better?” asked Harold, eagerly.
The boys were at the other end of the room, slipping cartridges
loaded with small shot into the fowling-pieces they had snatched from
“Oh yes,” replied Mr. Connolly; “she is all right now.”
A sound of heavy blows echoed through the house. The men below had
convinced themselves that the door was firmly fastened, and, desperate
from the conviction that they were identified, and relying on the
loneliness of the place, they were attacking the barrier with a
“I'll soon put a stop to that,” cried Jack; and cocking his gun,
he left the room.
Dick was about to follow, but his father stopped him.
There's no one in front of the house yet,” said the old gentleman.
“Slip out quietly, my boy, and make a dash for it to the police
station. You've taken the cup for the two-mile race at Trinity. Let's
see how quick you can be when you are running for all our lives.”
“I'll go down and fasten the door after him,” volunteered Hayes,
and the old man nodded. Outside, on the landing, they could hear the
blows of the pickaxe more distinctly. Suddenly, above the clangour,
rang out close and sharp the two reports of Jack's double-barrel. He
had selected a window commanding the attack, and had fired point-blank
down into the group of men.
Shrieks and groans and curses testified to the accuracy of the
young man's aim, and the sound of blows ceased. Harold and Dick ran
rapidly downstairs. The latter unbarred the front door.
“Don't you run a fearful risk if you are seen?” inquired the
“Of course I do,” returned the brave lad, without a tremor in his
voice; “but somebody's got to take the chance; we can't defend the
house forever; and I wouldn't miss this opportunity of nabbing the
whole gang for a thousand pounds.”
He opened the door and sped out into the night. He was out of
sight in a moment, and, as far as Harold could judge, he had not been
observed. Again the blows of the pickaxe rang out from the rear of the
Hayes closed the door and replaced the heavy bar. Then he turned
to remount the stairs, and met Polly, who was standing near the top
with a candle in her hand.
She was quite composed now, but very pale. He tried to ask if she
had recovered, but she cut him short impatiently.
“There is nothing the matter with me. What is the meaning of all
this uproar and—and the firing?”
For at this moment the twin reports of Jack's breech-loader again
echoed through the house, this time it was answered by a fusilade
There was nothing to be gained by concealment, and Harold told her
the whole story in a few words.
“How prompt and clever of you!” she said; “You have saved all our
Her praise was very sweet to him, but there was no time to enjoy
“Where are you going?” she asked, as he turned again to spring up
I am going to my room for my revolver,” he answered. “I may have
use for it before this is over.”
“Do,” she replied. “I will wait for you here.” Haves hurried on.
Jack was in the guest's room. The young Irishman had selected that
window, as it commanded the little door against which the brunt of
the attack had hitherto been directed. Every pane was shattered, and
walls and ceiling showed the effect of the volley that had been
directed against him, but the young fellow stood his ground uninjured.
“Don't mind me,” he said, in answer to Harold's inquiry. “I'm all
right, and can hold this fort til morning if they don't get ladders. I
fancy I've sickened them of trying that door below.”
Harold hastily grasped his revolver and went His idea was to stand
in the passage near the smoking-room, and defend the place should the
door give way; for he did not believe that timber had ever been grown
to withstand such blows.
Mrs. Connolly put her head out of the nursery door as he passed.
Her husband had told her of the position of affairs.
“Is that you, Mr. Hayes?” she whispered. “Is Jack hurt?”
“Jack is quite safe,” answered the young American. “Are the
children very much frightened?”
“Not as long as I am with them,” the old lady answered. “And
Dick—what of him?”
“Dick is all right too,” replied Harold. He could not tell the
poor woman that her boy was out in the open country without a wall
between him and the ruffians.
Mrs. Connolly drew back into the nursery to take the post assigned
her—assuredly not the easiest on that terrible night—to listen to
the doubtful sounds from without, and to support, by her own
constancy, the courage of her children.
Harold found Miss Connolly in the hall where he had left her.
“What do you intend to do?” she asked.
“I was going to stand inside the door they have been hammering at,”
he answered, “in case they should break it in.”
“Papa is there,” said the girl; “perhaps you had better wait here.
They will try the front door next”
“Very good,” he assented; and then added, with a sudden
apprehension, “but the windows. There are so many of them. How can we
watch them all?”
“There are bars to all the lower windows,” she replied, “and I do
not think they know where to find ladders. No; their next attempt
will be at the hall door, and it will be harder to repel than
anywhere else, for the portico will protect them from shots from the
“And now, Miss Connolly,” urged Harold, “you can do no good here.
Had not you better go upstairs out of the way?”
“No, no; I would rather wait here,” she answered. “Don't be afraid.
I sha'n't give way again as I did to-night. I don't know what came
over me, but it was all so horrible—so unexpected—“ She broke off
with a little shuddering sigh.
“You saw them attack him?” asked Harold.
She nodded. “I was under that big cedar outside the parlor window.
I had hidden there to blow the horn. Suddenly I saw Fergus with a
lantern in his hand coming full speed toward the house. Just as he
got within a few paces of me, half a dozen men burst out from the
laurels. Oh, how savagely they struck at him! He was down in a moment.
It was all so close to me: I recognised Red Mike by the light of poor
“And then?” asked Hayes.
“I don't think I remember any more. I must have staggered on to
the house, for they tell me I was found at the foot of the steps, but
I don't know how I got there. I was terribly frightened, but I sha'n't
do it again—not if they blow the roof off,” she said, trying to
“I should think they would be afraid to persevere now that they
are discovered,” observed Harold. “This firing must alarm the
“In a lonely place like this!” said the girl. “No, no, Mr. Hayes;
there are not many to hear these shots, and none that would not sooner
fight against us than on our side. We must depend on ourselves. But
oh,” she wailed, her woman's heart betraying itself through the
mechanical calm she had maintained so long, “oh, I am sorry that your
friendship for us should have brought you into such peril—to think
that your visit here may cost you your life,” and she broke off and
covered her streaming eyes with her hands.
“Indeed, indeed,” said Harold, earnestly, “I think any danger I
may run a small price to pay for the privilege of knowing you, and,
and—of loving you.”
It was out at last; the words that had been so difficult to say
came trippingly from his tongue now, and she did not repulse nor
attempt to licence him.
There, in the dimly lighted, lofty hall, he poured out all that
had been in his heart since he had known her, and won from her in
return a whisper that emboldened him to draw the yielding form toward
him and press his lips to hers.
With a pealing crash the pickaxe bit into the stout oaken door, and
the young lovers sprang apart, terrified at this rude interruption of
dreams. Blow followed blow, and the massive woodwork shivered and
splintered and swayed under the savage impulse from without.
The assailants had abandoned their attempt on the postern; they had
ignored the kitchen door, within which stout Tom Neil with Dick's
double-barrel stood on guard; they had turned their attention to the
main entrance, where a projecting portico partially sheltered them
from the galling discharges of Jack's favourite “Rigby.”
They were only partially sheltered, however. The heir of Lisnahoe
had quickly shifted his ground when the attack on the postern was
abandoned, and he now stood in another room, ready, with the quickness
of a practised snipe-shot, to fire on any arm or hand or foot which
showed even for an instant outside the shadow of the portico.
Crash, crash, crash! Again and again the steel fangs of the pick
ate their way through the solid timber. The lock yielded quickly,
but, heavily barred at top and bottom, the good door resisted
staunchly. Polly had glided away from Harold's side. He fancied that
she had sought a place of safety, and rejoiced thereat; but in a
moment she reappeared. She carried a shot-gun in her hands, and when
she reached his side she rested the butt on the ground and leaned on
“I have often fired at things,” she said, simply. “Why shouldn't I
Mr. Connolly and Jack joined them in the hall, and Neil had come up
from the kitchen door. The main entrance was evidently the weak
point, and the whole garrison must be on hand to defend it. The
assailants had waxed cautious of late, and for some time had allowed
the sharp-shooter no chance. He thought that he would be of more
service below; but, as it proved, when he abandoned his post he
committed a fatal error.
Apparently the enemy had discovered that the galling fire from
above had ceased. Perhaps some of their number had ventured out and
returned scatheless. They speedily took advantage of this immunity.
While the attacks with the pickaxe were not relaxed for a moment, a
score of men had brought the trunk of a young larch from the saw-pit
at the back of the house. Poised by forty strong arms, this improvised
battering-ram was hurled against the front door, carrying it clear off
its hinges. In the naked entry a crowd of rough men jostled one
another, as they sprang forward with hoarse imprecations on their
prey. The garrison was vanquished at last.
Not yet. Four shots rang out as one, instantly repeated as the
defenders discharged their second barrels into the very teeth of the
advancing mob. Then Mr. Connolly, Neil, and Jack clubbed the guns they
had no time to reload, and prepared to sell their lives dearly in a
hand-to-hand struggle. Polly, as soon as she had fired, dropped her
weapon, and in an instant Harold had swept her behind him, and stood,
revolver in hand, his breast her bulwark, confronting the mob.
But the mob, withered by the volley, hesitated a moment. The
vestibule was streaming with blood, and shrieking, writhing victims
strove in vain to rise. It was a sickening sight, but there was the
electricity of anger in the air and no one faltered long. On they
came again with undiminished fury.
But again the rush was checked. Sharp and vengeful rang out the
close reports of the American revolver, and at each echo a man fell.
Less noisy, less terrific, but far more deadly, the six-shooter took
up the work where the breech-loaders had left it; and Harold, covering
with his body the girl he loved, fired as steadily as if practising in
a pistol gallery, and made every shot tell.
He had not used his weapon in the first rush; somewhere or other,
young Hayes had heard of the advantages of platoon firing.
The lights had been extinguished and day was just breaking. Firing
from the obscurity into the growing light, the garrison had the best
of the position; but there were firearms among the assailants too, and
the balls whistled through the long hall and buried themselves in the
But this could not last. Much as they had suffered in the assault,
the assailants were too numerous to be longer held at bay. With a
feeling of despair, Harold recognised the futile click that followed
his pressure on the trigger and told him that he had fired his last
With a wild yell the assailants rushed forward. Not a shot met
them; nothing stood between them and their vengeance but four pale,
determined men, weaponless but unflinching.
A quick trampling as of a body of horse was heard on the gravel
without. A sharp, stern order reached the ears even of those in the
“Unsling carbines! Make ready! Present!”
Clubs and blunderbusses dropped from nerveless hands as the
advancing mob paused, faltered, and then surged backward through the
doorway. The lust of vengeance gave way to the instinct of
self-preservation, and the rioters scattered in flight.
Dick's gallant race against time had not been fruitless. A squadron
of constabulary had reached the ground at the critical moment, and
Lisnahoe was saved.
Few of the assailants escaped—every avenue was guarded by mounted
policemen; and the gang which had long terrorised the
neighbourhood—whose teachings and example had done so much to convert
the sullen discontent of the peasantry into overt violence—was
effectually broken up. From that night the boycott on the Connolly
household was raised.
Red Mike Driscoll expiated on the gallows the murder of the
Emergency man Fergus, and nearly a score of others were sentenced to
various terms of imprisonment for assault and housebreaking.
The attacking party had lost three men killed, besides many
wounded, more or less severely, by the shot-guns. The judicial inquiry
into the casualties brought out details of the defence which struck
terror to the hearts of the country people. It was not likely that
Lisnahoe would be molested again.
Harold Hayes and Polly Connolly were married shortly after Easter.
They are living in New York now, in a pleasant flat overlooking
Central Park. They entertain a good deal, and Irish affairs are
sometimes discussed at Mr. Hayes's table; but so far he has failed to
convince any of his American friends that there may be more than one
side to the agrarian question in Ireland.
“Nonsense,” remarked one gentleman, who professed to be deeply
read in the subject; “they are an oppressed and suffering people. Let
them have their land.”
“And what is to become of the landlords?” inquired Polly, with a
wistful remembrance of her girlhood's beautiful home.
But to this question there has been no reply, and none has been