There was, as yet, no gleam of light in the sky, and in a very few minutes he was again sound asleep. He woke up with a feeling of bitter cold, and, on rising, found that his limbs were completely stiffened by the wet. It was morning now, the wind had got up, and a driving rain shut out the view on all sides. Walter stamped his feet and swung his arms for some time to restore the circulation.
He had no idea in which direction he had been travelling, for he did not know whether the road from which he had started ran north, south, east, or west. He noticed that the wind had changed; for, whereas he had lain down under the lee of the wall, it was now the weather side. He walked in the same direction as before for two hours, and could then go no farther. He had seen no signs of human habitation, and had not crossed a road or even a footpath. Since starting in the morning he had passed no more walls or fences, and, as far as his eye could reach through the driving rain, nothing was to be seen save a desolate expanse of moor and bog. He was, at any rate, free from pursuit for the time, and he thought more of obtaining food and shelter than of the Enniskilleners.
It was useless pushing further on, even had he been able to do so, while the rain lasted; for he might have passed within a quarter of a mile of a habitation without seeing it. He accordingly threw himself down beside some low bushes, which afforded him some slight protection from the rain.
Chapter 7: The Coming Battle.
Some hours passed, and he was on the point of dropping off to sleep again, when he heard a whistle repeated once or twice, followed by the sharp bark of a dog. It was but a short distance away, and, leaping to his feet, he saw a peasant standing at a distance of two or three hundred yards.
Walter hurried towards him at a speed of which, a few minutes before, he would have thought himself incapable. The man continued whistling, at short intervals, and did not notice Walter till he was within twenty yards distant; then he turned sharply round.
“Who are you?” he asked, clubbing a heavy stick which he held in his hand, and standing on the defensive.
The dress and appearance of the man assured Walter that he was a Catholic, and therefore a friend, and he replied at once:
“I belong to one of the Irish troops of horse. The Enniskilleners surprised a party of us, yesterday, and wounded me, as you see. Fortunately, I escaped in the night, or they would have finished me this morning. I have been out all night in the rain, and am weak from loss of blood and hunger. Can you give me shelter?”
“That I can,” the man said, “and gladly. Those villains have been killing and destroying all over the country, and there’s many a one of us who, like myself, have been driven to take refuge in the bogs.”
“Is it far?” Walter asked; “for I don’t think I could get more than a mile or two.”