Chapter 5: The Relief Of Derry.
It was late in the afternoon before John woke. He started up, as his eyes fell upon Captain Davenant.
“You have had a good sleep, and I hope you are all the better for it,” Captain Davenant said, kindly. “My son has been telling me all about your expedition, and I honour you very much, for the courage you have shown in thus risking your life to get food for those starving children. I quite approve of the promise Walter has given to assist you, and if you should, by any chance, be taken prisoner, I will stand your friend.”
John expressed his gratitude warmly.
“It is a sad thing, in these civil wars, when friends are arrayed against friends,” Captain Davenant said. “Who would have thought, three months ago, that you and Walter would be arrayed on opposite sides? It is true you are neither of you combatants, but I have no doubt you would gladly have joined in some of the sallies, just as Walter is eager to be riding in my troop. If we must fight, I wish, at any rate, that it could be so managed that all the suffering should fall upon the men who are willing to take up the sword, and not upon the women and children. My heart bleeds as I ride across the country. At one time, one comes upon a ruined village, burned by the midnight ruffians who call themselves rapparees, and who are a disgrace to our cause. At another, upon a place sacked and ruined by one of the bands of horsemen from Enniskillen, who are as cruel and merciless as the rapparees. Let the armies fight out their quarrels, I say, but let peaceful people dwell in quiet and safety. But wholesale atrocities have ever been the rule on both sides, in warfare in Ireland, and will, I suppose, remain so to the end.
“And now, we are just going to have dinner, and another hearty meal will do you good. Each night, when my son brings down the supplies for you, he will bring a substantial meal of cold meat and bread, and you must give me your promise, now, that you will eat this at once. You will need it, after being so long in the water, and having another swim before you, besides. Although I approve of sending in milk for the children, I can be no party to the supply of food for the garrison. Do you promise?”
“Yes, sir, I promise,” John said, “though I would rather save all but a mouthful or two for the people who are starving at home. Still, of course, if you insist upon it, I will promise.”
“I do insist upon it, John. The lives of these children of yours depend on your life, and even one good meal, every four days, will help you to keep enough strength together to carry out the kind work you have undertaken.”
Larry now brought in the dinner. He had been told by Walter of John’s arrival, but he otherwise would have failed to recognize, in him, the boy who had sometimes come down to the village with Walter.