The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck/Chapter 15
THE LANDING AT CORK.
Then Paridell, in whom a kindly pride
Of gracious speech, and skill his words to frame
Abounded, being glad of so fit tide
Him to commend to them, thus spake, of all well eyed.
Cork was an asylum for civilization in the centre of a savage district. The cautious burghers, made wealthy by trade, and ever in fear of incursions from the surrounding septs, kept the strictest guard upon their city, as if they had a continual siege laid to it. They forbade all intercourse or intermarriage between those within and without the walls, till every citizen became linked together by some sort of kindred. It is true, that the country around was peopled to a great degree by English lords; but they were the degenerate English, as they were styled, who imitated the state and. independence of the native chiefs. Such was the earl of Desmond, of the family of the Geraldines, who ruled as a king over Munster, and with whom the Barrys, the De Courcys, the Barrets, and the Mac Carthys, Mac Swineys, and other native chiefs, were connected by marriage, or struggling with him for "chieferie" in the mutable chance of war.
There was no appearance of timidity in the frank and assured aspect of the unfriended adventurer, as, without entering the city, but merely passing through its suburbs, he proceeded to the cathedral church. It was twelve o'clock on the 24th of June, the feast of Saint John the Baptist; and high mass was celebrating. The duke of York entered the church—his soul was filled with pious gratitude for his escape from the dangers of the sea, and the craft of his enemies; and, as he knelt, he made a vow to his sainted patroness, the Virgin, to erect a church on the height which first met his eyes as he approached shore, and to endow a foundation of Franciscans—partly, because of all monkish orders they chiefly venerate her name, partly to atone for his involuntary crime in the death of Meiler Trangmar, who wore that habit. The appearance of this young, silken-suited, and handsome cavalier, drew the eyes of Erin's blue-eyed daughters:—the men whispered together that he must be some Spanish grandee or English noble; but wherefore, unannounced and unattended, he came and knelt in their church before the shrine of Saint Finbar, was matter of vague conjecture. The congregation passed out; then, impelled by curiosity, formed a wide semicircle round the gates of the cathedral, watching the motions of the graceful stranger. Master John Lavallan, the mayor, John O'Water, the wealthiest citizen, and former mayor of the town, and other rich burghers, stood close to the Round Tower within the walls of the Garth, in expectation of being addressed by their distinguished visitor. The duke of York cast a quick glance around; and then, as the mayor advanced, the youth stepped forward to meet him. The citizen, as one habituated to exercise hospitality, bade the knight welcome, beseeching him to honour his abode with his presence, and to command his services. The duke frankly accepted the invitation, and descended with the mayor into the main street, where that officer resided; and here again Richard was made welcome to the city of Cork.
It was a gala day at the mayor's; and now, at the dinner hour, twelve o'clock, the long tables groaned under the weight of viands, and round the hospitable board were seated the principal families of the town. No questions were asked the visitor—his golden spurs bespoke his honourable rank; he was placed at the right hand of Lavallan; and, while the clatter of knives and trenchers went on, he was only remarked by the younger guests, who gazed, even to the injury of their appetites, on his burnished ringlets, his fair open brow, his bright blue eyes, and smile of courteous affability: but time went on; the dishes were carried away, the goblets placed; when the mayor, rising, drank welcome to the stranger, and asked, if no reason forbade him to reply, his name and mission. Already Richard had become acquainted with most of the countenances of his entertainers—that is, of those nearest him; for, far through the long hall, almost out of sight, the table extended, crowded by city retainers, and a few of the mere "Irishry," whose long hair and loose saffron-coloured mantles contrasted with the doublet, hose, and trimmed locks of the townsmen. Those near him bore the latter character, though their vivacious glances and quick gestures were more akin to the inhabitants of the south, among whom he had been accustomed to live, than to the steady, dull demeanour of English traders.
When Lavallan drank to the stranger, every eye turned to the object of the toast, Bichard arose—his plumed cap was doffed; his shining hair, parted on his brow, clustered round his throat; his sunny countenance was full of confidence and courage—"Sir Mayor," he said, "my most kind entertainer, and you, my friends, men of Cork, may the grateful thanks of the homeless adventurer be as kindly received by you, as they are gladly paid by him. Who am I? you ask. Wherefore do I come? My name is the best in the land; my coming is to claim your aid, to elevate it to its rightful place of pride and honour. Were I craven-hearted, or you less generous, I might dread to declare myself; but fear never entered the heart of a Plantagenet; and, when, unreservedly, I place my life in your hands, will you betray the trust?"
A murmur quickly hushed, the sound of suppressed emotion, as the winds of thought passed over the minds of those around, for an instant interrupted the speaker—
"Neither is my name nor lineage unknown to you," he continued: "you honour both and have obeyed them; will you refuse to submit to me, their descendant and representative? Did you not vow fealty to Richard duke of York, who, driven from his own England by false Lancaster, found refuge and succour here? Was not Clarence your ruler, and Edward of England monarch of your isle? In the name of these, in the name of the White Rose and Mortimer and Plantagenet—I, the son of Edward the Fourth, the victim of my uncle Gloster's treachery, and low-born Tudor's usurpation; I, named in my childhood duke of York and lord of Ireland, now, if rightly styled, Richard the Fourth of England, demand my lieges of Cork to acknowledge my rights, to rise in my cause. I, a prince and an outcast, place myself in their hands, through them to be a fugitive for ever, or a king."
Had Richard planted this scene, with deep insight into the dispositions of those with whom he had to deal, he could not have projected a better arrangement. They had learned of his existence from Lord Barry, and were prepossessed in his favour. Their fiery hearts were lighted at the word—his name, with a thousand blessings attached to it, rang through the hall: by means of the servants and followers at the lower end of the table, it reached the outer apartments and avenues of the mansion-house; while, with a kind of exalted rapture, the mayor and his guests hung over their new-found prince. The citizens began to gather without, and to call aloud for the White Rose of England; the day was finished in festal tumult; the mayor led forth his princely visitor—he was hailed lord of Ireland with one acclaim. Some elders, who had known his grandfather, or had been followers of the duke of Clarence, and others who, visiting England, had seen Edward the Fourth were struck by the likeness he bore to his progenitors, and enthusiastically Touched for his truth. To see and hear the mad exultation of the moment, an uninterested spectator must have thought that a messenger from heaven had arrived, to bestow liberty on the groaning slaves of some blood-nurtured tyrant. The duke was installed in the castle with princely state, a town-guard appointed him, and the night was far advanced, before he was permitted to repose, and wondering to collect his thoughts, and feel himself an acknowledged sovereign in the first town of his alienated dominions in which he had set foot.
The morrow brought no diminution to the zeal of his partizans. The first measure of the day was his attending high mass, surrounded by the mayor and citizens; when the holy ceremony was finished, he took oath on the Gospels, that he was the man he had declared himself. The eager people clamoured for him to assume the name of king; but that he said he would win with his good sword, nor, till he possessed its appanage, assume a barren title: he was the duke of York, until at Westminster he received his paternal crown.
From the church the mayor and citizens attended his council at the Castle, and here Richard more fully explained to them the projects of Lord Barry, his hopes from the earl of Desmond, and his wish to attach to his cause the earl of Kildare, Lord Deputy of Ireland. He learned the changes that had taken place but a month or two before: some suspicion having entered Henry's mind, the earl of Kildare had been dismissed from his high office, and Walter, archbishop of Dublin, substituted in his room. The baron of Portlester, who had been treasurer for forty years, was obliged to resign in favour of a Butler, hereditary and bitter enemies of the Geraldines, while the exaltation of Plunket, from the office of chief justice to that of chancellor, only proved that he was entirely gained over to the Lancastrians. The acts of this new government tended to mortify the late deputy, who bore ill his own degradation and the triumph of his enemies. On various occasions brawls had ensued; and when Sir James of Ormond wished to place a creature of his own in a castle over which Kildare claimed seignory, the latter defended it by arms. This turbulent state of things promised fair for the adventurer: and his first deed was to despatch letters to the earls of Kildare and Desmond, soliciting their assistance, setting forth the ready zeal of the city of Cork, and the promises and attachment of Lord Barry, whom he daily expected to see arrive.
In all that the English prince did, nothing spoke louder for him to his Irish friends than his fearless confidence, and artless, yet not undignified reliance on their counsels. He had gained a warm friend in the former mayor, O'Water, a man reverenced throughout Munster. In his youth he had served in the army, and his spirit was hardly yet tamed to the pacific habits of a burgher. He was sixty years of age; but he bore his years lightly, and remembered but as the occurrence of yesterday the time when the duke of York, grandfather of young Richard, was lord of Ireland. He had attached himself particularly to his person, and followed him to England, returning to his own country after his patron's death. He saw in the descendant of his chief, his rightful lord, to refuse obedience to whom was a sin against the laws of God and man. He fervently swore never to desert him, and despatched emissaries on all sides to spread the tidings of his arrival, and excite the partizans of the White Rose to his active assistance.
When the letters were written, council held, and a course of conduct determined, on, still the caravel of De Faro did not appear, and Richard grew weary of his state of indolence. A week passed; and during the second, at the conclusion of which, the answers from the noble chieftains were expected, the duke of York announced to O'Water his intention of visiting Buttevant, the seat of Lord Barry, where, in the Abbey of Ballybeg, he hoped to find the abbot of Kilmainham; a man who, in exile and poverty, exercised great influence over the Irish Yorkists. He had been insolent and cruel towards his enemies when in power, but he was endowed with popular qualities for his followers; while among his friends, he was valued for his boldness, sagacity, and undaunted courage. His career had been turbulent; he had supported himself against his sovereign by acts of lawless violence, till, obliged at last to yield, he found himself, in his old age, a poor brother in a distant monastery, obliged, for safety's sake, to veil his lofty pretensions in the obscurest guise. Lord Barry had offered him an asylum in the Abbey of Ballybeg; venerating, with the blind admiration of a soldier, the learning and craft of the priest, conjoined, as it here was, to dauntless courage. O'Water, on the contrary, disliked the subtle prior, and endeavoured to dissuade the prince from the journey; but he spurned the city laziness, and in spite of his friends' entreaties, and their fears for his safety among the followers of Desmond, Barry, and Macarthy, departed on his intended visit, attended only by Hubert Burgh, the foster-brother of Lord Barry.
The way from Cork to Buttevant was not far, but more desolate than Granada during the Moorish war. Summer and the sun adorned that smiling land, casting a verdurous mantle over her deep wounds, painting the rude visage of war with brilliant hues. The forests, dark hills, and uncultivated wilds of Munster, showed nakedly the deep traces of the sovereign ill. But lately this neighbourhood had been the seat of war between the earl of Desmond and the chief of the Macarthys; the latter had fallen in battle, but his brother and Tanist had succeeded to him, and was already gathering together his sept for a more desperate struggle. Never in Spain had Richard seen such wild, strange figures, as crossed his path during this short journey; whether it were the native kern, wrapt in his mantle, disguised by his glibb, or long shaggy hair, or the adherents of Desmond, who afiected the state of an Irish chieftain, whose leather-quilted jackets, long saffron-coloured shirts, cloaks and shaggy mustachios, riding without stirrups, bearing spears, formed objects not less uncouth and savage; the very women bore a similar appearance of incivilization. And as a comment on such text, Burgh told, as they rode, the history of the late wars of Desmond with O'Carrol, prince of Ely, and with Macarthy; and, a still more dread tale, the incursion of Murrogh-en-Ranagh, an O'Brien; who, rising first in Clare, spread through the country, overrunning Munster, and bold from success, advanced into eastern Leinster. All these accounts of battle were interwoven with tales of feuds, handed down from father to son, of the natural hatred of the native chiefs to the lords of English origin; interspersed with such strange wild tales, where the avowedly supernatural was intermingled with deeds of superhuman prowess and barbarity, that the English-born prince, nursling of romantic Spain, felt as if he were transplanted into a new planet, and stopped the speaker at each moment, to obtain some clearer explanation, or to have interpreted words he had never before heard, the names of customs and things found only in this land.
Thus entertained, the way to Buttevant, or as the Irish called it, Kilnemullagh, which was about twenty miles, seemed short. One thing was evident in all these details, that it was easy to rouse the English lords in Ireland to any act of turbulence and revolt; but that it would be difficult nevertheless for their ill-armed followers, and undisciplined bands, to compete with the soldiery of England.