In this position matters were, when the Castle Cumber corps of cavalry made their appearance under all the glitter of new arms, housings and uniforms, with Valentine M’Clutchy as their captain and paymaster, and graceful Phil as lieutenant. Upon what slight circumstances do great events often turn. Because Phil had an ungainly twist in his legs, or in other words, because he was knock-kneed, and could not appear to advantage as an infantry officer, was the character of the corps changed from foot to cavalry, so that Phil and Handsome Harry had an opportunity of exhibiting their points together. A year had now elapsed, and the same wintry month of December had again returned, and yet no search had been successful in finding any trace of O’Regan; but if our readers will be so good as to accompany us to another scene, they will have an opportunity of learning at least the character which M’Clutchy’s new corps had won in the country.
CHAPTER VIII.—Poverty and Sorrow
A Winter Morning—Father Roche—A Mountain Journey—Raymond Na-hattha—Cabin on the Moors—M’Clutchy’s Bloodhounds—The Conflict—A Treble Death.
It is the chill and ghastly dawn of a severe winter morning; the gray, cheerless opening of day borrows its faint light only for the purpose of enabling you to see that the country about you is partially covered with snow, and that the angry sky is loaded with storm. The rising sun, like some poverty-stricken invalid, driven, as it were, by necessity, to the occupation of the day, seems scarcely able to rise, and does so with a sickly and reluctant aspect. Abroad, there is no voice of joy or kindness—no cheerful murmur with which the heart can sympathize—all the warm and exhilarating harmonies that breathe from nature in her more genial moods are silent. A black freezing spirit darkens the very light of day, and throws its dismal shadow upon everything about us, whilst the only sounds that fall upon the ear are the roaring of the bitter winds among the naked trees, or the hoarse voice of the half-frozen river, rising and falling—now near, and now far away in the distance.
On such a morning as this it was, and at such an hour, that a pale-faced, thin woman, with all the melancholy evidences of destitution and sorrow about her, knocked at the door of her parish priest, the Rev. Francis Roche. The very knock she gave had in it a character of respectful but eager haste. Her appearance, too, was miserable, and as she stood in the cold wintry twilight, it would have satisfied any one that deep affliction and wasting poverty were both at her humble heart. She had on neither shoe nor stocking, and the consequence was, that the sharp and jagged surface of the frozen ground, rendered severer by the impatient speed of her journey, had cut her feet in such a manner that the blood flowed from them in several places. Cloak or bonnet she had none; but instead