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nexed to the very limited force of regulars despatched from Great Britain. Uncle Guy was now at the summit of his sublunary wishes; and when, at the close of some more than ordinarily brilliant affair, in which the naturally martial air of his honest countenance had been further enhanced by a couple of cuts from a Walloon sabre, Prince Ferdinand embraced the young colonelcommandant before his assembled étatmajor, to say that he returned to England covered with glory," would be to mar, by a modern common-place, a bit of chivalry worthy of the olden time.
That Colonel Guy Sydenham took rank henceforward among the female patriots of Great Britain with the great Frederick himself, (which grand monarque, by the way, he could have put into his pocket,) was perhaps but the natural consequence of patriotism on the one side, and celebrity on the other. But when, on his entrance into a modish circle, all the assumed fops who then formed its unbelligerent portion, shrunk into utter insignificance before the plain soldier, who carried (as he himself humourously asserted) his diploma of admission to the "ugly club" indisputably engraved on his countenance, there must have been something even beyond his very fine person and noble military air, which fixed all eyes, and many hearts among the female part of the assembly, at once on the fortunate hero.
By his rivals, the vogue of Uncle Guy was ascribed to feminine caprice and contradiction. Shakespeare would have said they loved him; but the truth simply was, (as my grandaunt Mabel, from a slight, personal singe could testify,) that, in spite of his scars, nobody else was half so agreeable and insinuating. By the mere force of good humour and good breeding, of pleasing and being pleased with every body, he remained a favourite with all during the brief interval of peace which intervened between his German campaigns, and his return to a scene of less civilized warfare in the wilds of North America.
From this also, in due time, he returned with a fresh crop of laurels, and no longer a mere flirting soldier of fortune, but a nan entitled from rank and station to carry weight in the matrimonial world. At five and twenty “toasts" (a word of antique and wellnigh forgotten significance) had fluttered around him. At five and thirty,
"heiresses" smiled propitiously, and "matches" (another exploded term for minor prizes in the lottery) looked as though it might, if he so pleased, be a match.
But though the nine sabre and gunshot wounds-through any one of which a soul less capacious than that of Uncle Guy might have easily slipped -were a joke to the ninety and nine orifices made by Cupid in the most susceptible of human hearts, it was somehow proof against every thing in the shape of a regular approach; and all those memorable "passages" in his eventful life which at all menaced matrimony, were invariably distinguished by the wildest romance, and utter disregard of what the French call "les convenances.”
Another week's detention, for example, in captivity among the Iroquois, would have infallibly been wound up by an union-repented of quickly enough, no doubt, yet honorably persevered in to death-with the beautiful Squaw, to whose interposition he owed his escape from the tomahawks of her tribe. And in Germany it had required all the authority, as a commander and a friend, of Prince Ferdinand, to prevent his Quixotic protégé from extending to a compact for life the protection afforded by him to a Westphalian vine-dresser's daughter, from the swords of murdering Croats. Guy, in short, could only love seri ously under circumstances of strong excitement and "high pressure;" and though in a drawing-room, with belles of his own standing, he could flirt, admire, and go through the routine of gallantry with all the spirit, and much of the zest of an adept, he came away, if not absolutely heart-whole, yet with none of the enthusiasni of passion which, in romantic and singular situations, had prompted him more than once, not only to sacrifice liberty, but friends, family, and fortune. So his hour not being come, or, at least, as yet averted by friendly interposition, Uucle Guy had once more returned at forty, from foreign service, a fine and unwedded man, when the catastrophe occurred which sealed his matrimonial destiny.
It was on a Christmas eve, I think, somewhere about the year 17-, when the inmates of a secluded farm house, situated at the head of an ocean creek, on the shores of the wild district forming the debateable land between the counties of Galway and Mayo, had
been for some hours retired to rest, that the slumbers of the farmer himself, a stout, hale, weather-beaten carle, of some fifty years and upwards, were disturbed by no midnight marauder, or less substantial supernatural visitant, but by the light hand of his favourite daughter Aileen, applied with gentle violence to his stalwart shoulder.
"Father dear!" whispered the beautiful apparition-one of the loveliest, perhaps, by which so rude a pillow was ever before haunted-"awake! awake! It's an hour or more since the cry of drowning men on Innismoran came moaning on my ear above the roar of the gale, and now when, the blessed saints be praised for it, there's a bit of a lull, their wild screech for help comes at times so plain to the shore, that it would wake the very dead in their graves. We must help them, father dear! else they'll all be dead before morning."
Help them! Aileen mavourneen!" repeated the old man, whom a few moments had sufficed to rouse to his long familiar duty of succouring shipwrecked mariners; "sure we'd try to do it any how, only bad luck to the day, God forgive me, (crossing himself,) that I should say so of this blessed Christmas eve. Who's to help them, and the boat oar at the mainland, and the boys up at the station, and Corney not come back from the pattern, and not a livin' being on the bit but yourself, ma colleen, and your father, who's not so young as he has been, and old lame Mike, who, for as good as he once was at rope and tiller, is now, God help him, neither fit to row nor steer?"
"I can steer, father dear, the saints be praised for it, and row a bit, too, for want of better; and sure you and I are all the crew the little boat that's left can want or hold, if we've men to bring off from Innismoran."
"The little boat! and you and me to work her in the dark o' the night, through the dead man's race, and the wind so high, and the sea that's running! It's madness entirely to speak of it, Aileen."
if the spray comes dash in my face here, father, it's dripping every thread must be on them even now where they stand. But if the wind (that's down a bit since I came to ye, just to give them a chance for their lives) slews round the least taste in lifeas ye well know, father dear, it will at the turn of the tide-the big long swell from the ocean will suck them off every one, if they were stuck as fast to the rock as so many
"The blessed virgin forbid! and on her own Christmas night too! No, no, girl, that must not be, if Maurice can help it! I'll soon launch the skiff, and put old Mike, for want o' better, at the helm; but for you to risk your life and go with us, it's out of the question entirely."
"Not go, father! and why, in the name of the saints, should I stay be hind? D'ye think 'tis for nothing the boys call me the mermaid? and have ye forgot how the soldier officer from England, Moriarty's colonel (a bright blush crossing her cheek at the name) stared at the sight when he saw me in the corragh, fishing alone, miles out in the bay ?"
"Ah! but Aileen, that was in smooth water and summer, and not in a winter's night that would daunt the stoutest heart!"
It were needless (continued Sir Edward) to say which prevailed, in a contest, an Irish one especially, be tween the energy of youth on the one hand, and paternal caution on the other. And it is fortunate both for your patience and my reputation, that a recent case of similar female devotedness, with which "all England rings from side to side," saves me from the task of exposing my land-lubberism, by attempting to narrate how the arduous enterprise was set about and accomplished. There was this difference, however, in the cases of the heroine of the Fearn islands, and the "mermaid" of Innismoran, that while the perils braved by the former were, perhaps, (though I speak ignorantly) the more formidable of the two, they were encountered with miraculous impunity; while poor Aileen very nearly fell a sacrifice to her exertions in the cause of humanity.
The skiff steered instinctively through the intricacies of a well-known channel. even by old Mike, whose services had been indispensable to give scope to his master's exertions at the oar, was seen by Aileen's anxious nurse (who had
i awoke too late to oppose her darling's departure) to rise, as she opened the island, on the tops of mountain waves, and sink as suddenly into their hollows. She gained, however, after tremendous efforts, redoubled by the sight and feeble cheers of the six human beings, cowering on their hourly narrowing vantage-ground, the lee side of the rock, to which, leaping ashore with the agility of a veteran cragsman, the father of Aileen succeeded in making her fast. But while he was surrounded and half drowned by the shivering soldiers, who seemed tempted to welcome as an angel from heaven their gallant deliverer, the boat, yielding to the tremendous suction to which poor Aileen had feelingly alluded, and by which larger craft are often resistlessly swept away, was forcibly drawn from the rock, lifted a moment on the crest of a mountain billow, and then, in the very sight of the distracted father, capsized and hid from view.
A moment of heart-rending suspense elapsed ere the floating drapery of his daughter showed the "stout swimmer in his agony" where to plunge to the rescue; and, ere he could buffet his way through opposing waves, a few more precious minutes were necessarily lost.
But these sufficed to show how providentially old Mike had been permitted, at his earnest entreaty, to act as live lumber in the boat. For, once on a time a swimmer of unparalleled skill and dexterity, it was astonishing with what poodle instinct the old, blind fisherman struck out, guided, of course, almost entirely by the ear, to the precise spot of his darling's disappearance; or how manfully, when she rose to the surface, he supported her till aid more powerful, in the shape of her father, came to his relief. The rope still mercifully remaining fast to the rocks, the boat was Boon righted, and the dripping Ailecn lifted insensible into it, while, as the interval between successive waves permitted, the six shipwrecked soldiers their commander, Uncle Guy, according to the British officers' immemorial usage, being the last to quit the scene of danger-cautiously stepped into their frail conveyance.
The transport containing a detachment of men (chiefly invalids) whom Colonel Sydenham was accompanying from America, had been blown, by tremendous westerly hurricanes, on the dangerous point of Achill head, where she had almost immediately gone to
pieces. A boat was set adrift from her just as she parted, by some of the more provident of the crew; but, weakened by their previous exertions, they were unable to profit by their own foresight, and the skiff was instantly filled by half a dozen of the most robust among the veterans-the simultaneous cry among whom, even amid the care of their own safety, was for that of their gallant colonel. Almost in spite of himself he was forced into the boat, (which his gigantic proportions, by the by, had well nigh swamped at the outset,) a piece of devotion in his rude followers which, during that long night of despair, when their boat having been stove in the very act of touching the rock, there seemed nothing before them but inevitable destruction, their brave commander repaid by the pious eloquence of his counsels, and the animating influence of his example.
The tide the return of which seemed destined to terminate at once their existence and misery-had been so manifestly rising, and the skiff by which their deliverance was effected had remained till nearly the last moment so unseen amid the intricacies of the narrow channel she had to tread, that the whole thing still partook, to all on board, of the nature of a dream; and they had urged their way through comparatively smooth water for a mile or more ere rescuers or rescued woke to the realities of their situation.
When Uncle Guy, with the character and disposition already described, became aware that it was to a woman, a young and beautiful one, too, that, under Providence, his rescue from inevitable destruction was due, and that, moreover, his life had nearly been ransomed at the price of her own-his old spirit of enthusiasm and romance was up in a moment; and never did votary in the isle of saints more devotedly worship the image of some heavenly benefactress than the warm-hearted soldier felt inclined to do his long inanimate deliverer. was on his costly pelisse of American sables (thrown into the ship's boat after him by the thoughtful kindness of an attached domestic) that the corpse-like form of the fair girl reposed; while, kneeling at her feet, he chafed, with eager solicitude, each small cold hand, and gazed wildly on the still symmetry of the upturned features, round which the hood of her country's national cloak half closed its shroud-like folds.
That she breathed, however, though
faintly, was sufficient to preclude despair; and when the light morning breeze, which, as if in mockery of its having raged of late so fiercely, blew over her face, just raised a stray lock of yet dripping silken hair, the hand that gently put it back no longer recoiled from the touch of a cheek of marble coldness. On her eyes, how ever, something deeper than mere slumber still laid its leaden weight; but though their bright light was quenched, the closed lids did but show, the fairer for their paleness, the blue veins that meandered over them; while the deep shadow gather ing beneath supplied to the nearly perfect countenance perhaps the only defect ever ascribed to it-a little want of shade.
It was a strange picture that little rugged fishing-boat displayed-and truly a striking contrast between the statue-like figure of the reclining peasaut girl and the fine martial form of the completely accoutred soldier, who, with a woman's tenderness, bent over it! The father, too, would have been a study for a painter, as, with his grey locks partially dried and floating in the wind, he grasped the helin on which the safety of the over-loaded craft depended and yet ever and anon cast on his child, so lately well-nigh lost, a look of unutterable fondness. The old fisherman, too, whose aged arm-perhaps the original though blameless cause of the disaster-had been so nobly exerted to redeem its consequences, seemed to have concentrated all his feeble powers of vision on the face of his still senseless darling; while, as he turned at times his half sightless eyes to heaven, a long-drawn sigh and muttered prayer gave token of his deep interest in her recovery. The scene was one to wake romance in a colder bosom than Guy Sydenham's; and if the thought to make the hand that saved him his for life, had not yet risen even to his lively imagination, its germ had already been deposited in that still more genial soil-his heart. The rescue from the waters had not been witnessed in vain from Letrewel, (the name of the island farm whose inmates had so gallantly achieved it.) Huge turf fires blazed in room and kitchen a warm bed awaited the half resuscitated victim of the catastrophe, whilst food and steaming jugs of whiskey punch were there to revive the hearts of the sufferers from the wreck. Old Oonagh, Aileen's nurse-who,
happily for herself, had slept through the storm-had woke just in time to see her foster-child drawn dripping from her native waves; and to a ld to thanksgiving for her safety, the most active and judicious exertions for her recovery.
They were successful. The cheek of Aileen bloomed once more, and her blue eyes laughed on all around. But scarcely had Uncle Guy witnessed even for a day what sunshine the opening of those glad eyes could shed upon a joyous household, ere old Oonagh's lecch-craft was again in requisition; and from the seeds which had been lurking in him ere he left the vessel, gave her in the tall soldier gentleman a patient of almost infantine weakness. For the few hours, however, that consciousness remained, his eyes sought the hovering form of a far younger and gentler nurse; and the last exercise of not very coherent speech was to pour out a passionate flood of enthusiastic admiratior and gratitude to his fair rescuer, and a faint hope of life to testify its sincerity and extent.
And how did this unlooked-for, and, to one in her station, overwhelming declaration, from a man of Colonel Sydenham's rank, and with personal advantages to boot, which ladies of high degree had proved to be irresis tible, fall on the ear of the Connaught farmer's daughter? Did her heart beat high at the thought of rising so immeasurably superior to all around her to the undreamt-of exaltation of a colonel's lady? Or did it-as, from ber amiable character, was far more likely-swell with honest pride at having deserved, or melt with soft emotion at having gained, the spontaneous devotion of a warm and manly
That her pulse had beat quicker for a moment under the influence of sur. prise, and her heart warmed with reciprocal good will towards the kind, good, grateful gentleman, it would be belying female nature to deny. But it would be traducing poor Aileen far more unpardonably to say that she felt the slightest temptation to share the brilliant lot, one glimpse of which had been made to flash before her, ere a cloud-possibly a fatal one-settled down on her gallant admirer. And why was she thus callous to so hewitching a prospect? Simply because her mind, long engrossed by visions of felicity of an humbler, yet more congenial character, had no room to spare for
kingdoms had they been placed in her offer, because, already in heart if not in rite a soldier's bride, not all the colonels and field-marshals in his Britannic majesty's service could have seduce her faithful heart into one moment's forgetfulness of her cousin and betrothed Corporal Moriarty Carroll, of the regiment of foot.
It was happily just at that oblivious stage of Colonel Guy Sydenham's fever, when even the power of discriminating between his two very opposite female nurses had for the present left him, and when, consequently, the absence of the fair form which yet flitted before his mind's eye was unmarked by his bodily optics, that the long-expected sailing orders for the regiment obliged Moriarty Carroll to claim, however unseasonably, his plighted bride. Letrewel was, under present circumstances, no house for a wedding, an Irish one especially, even could the bridegroom have so far deserted his colours, or could the few relatives most interested have been there assembled. But even had it been otherwise, the never-selfish Aileen had reasons for deciding-and when she did so, her father (as we have seen) as a matter of course acquiesced-that as the mountain could not go to Mahomet, the programme should be reversed; and that her father, with whose support at the ceremony worlds would not have made her dispense, should escort her to the house of her maternal grandmother at Westport; the vicinity of which to the bridegroom's head-quarters at Castlebar, made it the most convenient scene for the nuptials, to the festivities of which the thoughts of immediate parting must needs lend a sobered character.
There resided under that roof, besides the venerable lady, (for such, in the strictest acceptation of the word, might Mrs. Evelyn be styled,) another near and dear one, on whom Aileen's thoughts had scarcely for a moment, even in the midst of her own bridal prospects, ceased of late to run; and on whose behalf the warm-hearted and imaginative girl had already woven a romance, the denouement of which it grieved her very soul to be unable to forward and witness, though of its success her sanguine temper would not allow her to cherish a doubt.
This object of a fond solicitude, which, though now specially called into exercise, had never, since early childhood, slumbered in Aileen's bosom, VOL. XIV.
was her twin-sister Evelyn, yielded almost in infancy by a widowed father to his wife's English mother, partly in compassion for her utter desolation, and still more, perhaps, in deference to that superiority in birth and breeding, from which he could not but anticipate advantages to his girl such as the rude shores of Mayo could never afford.
There had-as is usual when misalliances take place even in comparatively humble life-been faults on all sides; and breaches had ensued which one sad event alone, perhaps, might have proved capable of healing. When the only daughter of one-who herself had disobliged her proud English friends by marrying an Irish army surgeonran away at sixteen with the bestlooking young farmer in the remote parish where her father had settled on being disbanded, Mrs. Neale (for such had been the literal nom de guerre of the wife of the military Esculapius) unhappily cast off aud disclaimed those whom her countenance might have guided and raised in the scale of society; and the consequence had been, Irish habits and Irish improvidence during the few years the union lasted. But when her only child-seven years after her marriage -was taken away in giving birth to twins, while (her own husband having died) her English parents had relented and left her independent, on the sole condition of relinquishing her obnoxious Irish name, the heart of Mrs. Evelyn yearned at length towards her daughter's orphans; and, already reconciled in some degree to residence in Ireland, she offered to fix her abode in the nearest town to Letrewel, where the means of education might be procurable, on condition of having resigned to her charge the elder of the two little creatures, on whom their poor mother, in fond anticipation of possible reconciliation, had bestowed her maternal family name of Evelyn.
Broken in heart and in fortunesfor, since his wife's death especially, matters had gone backward at the farm - Maurice had cheerfully made a sacrifice so much for his elder and gentler child's advantage; feeling only enough of natural selfishness to clasp the closer to his widowed breast the laughing, playful elf, whose somewhat hardier roses (though, apart, the children were wholly undistinguishable) seemed to bespeak her formed to brave a ruder clime.
The bitterest part of the business