Authors: Alex Haley
conversations in his uncle's house, at the dinner parties, where he was
allowed to sit and talk with the older guests, and was included in their
conversations. His nerves tingled at the sense of revolution and
rebellion that was the undercurrent of all their talk, however guarded
they might be in front of him.
He came to love and respect Eleanor, whom he had never known well. The
red-haired passionate young woman and her wealthy, deeply committed
husband, Oliver Bond, were frequent visitors to his uncle's house, and
brought with them a sense of danger and glamour and excitement,
It was Eleanor who questioned James about his political beliefs, for she
had heard something of his adventures with Sean, in Ballybay, and it was
she who cautioned him.
"I must warn you to keep in strictest confidence whatever
you see and hear in this house," she said, when they were
alone together. I
Jamie, in awe of his sister, swore that he could be trusted with any
secret, and told her how he had kept to himself the information that
Father Moran would say mass. Eleanor nodded, and seemed satisfied, and
gave him books to read by Rousseau and Thomas Paine.
The books introduced him to concepts of democracy, and of the equality
of all men, and he began to sympathize with
the plight of the poor as he had sympathized with the peasants. He cheered
as lustily as any when Lord Edward Fitzgerald and his beautiful wife, Lady
Pamela, rode by in their carriage.
Lord Edward was now the commander of the revolutionary forces. The
British knew this, but were loath to touch him, because of his title and
position, and because he had not yet given them any great cause. But the
very sight of him offended them, just as it enthused the masses, for he
wore simple clothes, his hair was close-cropped in the peasant style, and
his lovely wife was dressed in peasant linen with a muslin apron.
With a young man's zeal, Jamie had mistaken the function of revolution;
he saw virtue in poverty and felt guilty because he was not poor. The
appalling contrast between the desperate masses and the few rich was so
overwhelming that he thought he had found the cause he had been looking
for. Again, it was Eleanor who instructed him.
"It is not just for the poor and the peasants," she told him. "it is for
all of us. It is for Ireland. When we are free of foreign domination,
when we rule ourselves, then we can address the problems of the masses."
Jamie knew he was teetering on the very edge of tumultuous times, and
longed to be closer to the center, although he was, by his relationships,
nearer than many. He spoke to his uncle Henry, and begged to be allowed
to join his association.
"It is not altogether your youth," Uncle Henry said, shaking his head
slightly. "It is that you are so new to the idea."
But Henry saw the potential of the young man, and did not dash his hopes
"But I would say you are a fair possibility," he said, and smiled.
Soon after Christmas, Oliver Bond and Eleanor came late at night to
Henry's house, and whispered the depressing news. A great French fleet,
led by Wolfe Tone, had sailed into Bantry Bay to invade Ireland and begin
the conquest of the British, but had been forced back by foul weather.
Oliver correctly predicted the bloodbath that was to come, but looked to
the future. They would strive for the revolution, and they would succeed,
but without French help. The disappointed nationalists retired and licked
their dashed hopes for
20 ALEX HALEY'S QUEEN
a while, but the violence of the British reprisals against the people
stirred them, and the coming spring brought them renewed vigor, renewed
hope, and renewed determination. But thev needed more men.
o on a cold and rainy April night, Jamie went with his uncle Henry to
a guarded garret in the slums of Whitechapel and was admitted to the
association of United Irishmen, and swore his solemn oath. Jamie's
youthful soul thrilled to this new world of whispered plots and plans and
secret passwords, and the inclusion in the company of men.
That summer, Jamie went home to Ballybay for Sara's wedding to Jimmy
Hanna, who was now tutoring Washington. Jamie was a hero to Washington as
Sean was a hero to Jamie, and Washington reveled in his company. His
father was surprisingly affable, perhaps because, with most of his
children living in Dublin or America, his position was more secure. Jugs
wept, and overfed Jamie, convinced he had lost weight, when he was merely
growing taller. Quinn shared a welcoming mug of poteen with him, and Sean
welcomed him as if there had never been a difference between them. Sean
was aware of some change in Jamie, and obviously approved of it, but did
not question him closely, nor could Jamie have told him of his new
political associations, because of the binding secrecy of his oath. But
now it was summer and they were young men, anxious to test their
burgeoning manhood and growing muscles, and they passed a pleasant season,
fishing, and boxing and wrestling, and getting into young men's trouble.
Jamie gave his virginity to a buxom peasant girl, who had long had Sean's,
under a hayrick, drunk on cider.
Of all the good summers of Jamie's life, this was golden, for underlying
their pastoral idleness was the growing whisper of rebellion.
Still the call to arms did not come, and, back in Dublin, Jamie chafed at
the lack of activity. They seemed to be doing nothing, getting nowhere,
and the British were still riding roughshod over the Irish community. He
poured out his frustrations to Eleanor, and she listened, and nodded her
"When?" he cried, for if anyone knew, it was Eleanor.
"When Ivers or Carlow is come," she told him, and he could see the
twinkle in her eyes.
It was the whispered password that got them into their meetings: "Is
lvers or Carlow come?" The two names were changed frequently, for fear
of traitors, but the substance remained the same, and one day, when the
given answer would be yes, Ivers or Carlow is come, the revolution would
Ivers, or Carlow, came the following March, but not in a way that any of
them expected or wanted. Rioting by peasants farther to the south, in
County Wexford, persuaded the British that it was time to destroy the
leadership of the United Irishmen. A traitor came to them, Thomas
Reynolds, a silk merchant, who had been in Paris during the Terror, and
was appalled by the mob rule. After the debacle of Wolfe Tone and the
French fleet, he was persuaded by his wife that perhaps they should
reconsider their commitment to the Irish cause. Both were social
climbers, both realized what patronage from the British could do for
them, and as the possibility of Irish victory receded in their minds,
Reynolds turned his coat to the British.
Oliver Bond himself opened the door to the three burly men whose faces
he did not recognize.
"What do you want?" he demanded.
"Is Ivers or Carlow come?" the first man said, smiling. It was the proper
password, but still Oiiver was confused, and hesitated a fraction too
long. The men burst into his house, and arrested all who were gathered
there. United Irish guards keeping watch on the house from the Brazenhead
Inn, across the street, were astonished to see the reinforcing British
troops that now arrived, and, knowing the game was lost, some scattered
into the night to wam the others. Those remaining saw Lord Fitzgerald's
coach arriving, and rushed to head him off. He needed no second bidding
but whipped his horses, and drove, hard as he could, toward Whitechapel.
The troops gave chase, but as they came to the slums, word spread like
wildfire, and the poor people thronged into the streets behind Lord Ed-
ward's carriage, and blocked the passage of his pursuers.
A lookout got to Henry's house just before the soldiers, and raised the
alarm. For himself, Henry saw no point in flight, but worried for his
nephew. He gave Jamie a little money, and
22 ALEX HALEY'S QUEEN
told him to get to Ballybay, where he would be safe. Jamie was reluctant. He
had a young man's need to prove himself.
"This is just a skirmish, not the battle," Uncle Henry urged him. "You are
more useful to us free than in prison. Go free and fight."
He pushed Jamie out of the back door, and returned to the hallway, where
the -soldiers were already battering their way inside.
Jamie crept through the back alleys and lanes to the slums, where he used
the password to find friends. He was sheltered for the night, and in the
morning they guided him to the outskirts of the city. They cropped his hair
and put him in peasant clothes, and found a friendly farmer, who hid him in
his cart and took him to his home county. Along the way they heard the news.
The conditions of martial law were to be made stricter, harsher. British
troops would now be dispersed throughout Ireland, and free-quartered
wherever they chose. It was Crown-ordered that the association of United
Irishmen be crushed by whatever means necessary, and many of the leaders
were now in Newgate Prison, following the arrests in Dublin. The Sheares
brothers and Oliver Bond. Uncle Henry, although not a ringleader, was with
them. Lord Fitzgerald, who had not been caught, was in hiding somewhere in
the city, and Lady Pamela. Eleanor had not been arrested, as women were not
At Rockfield, Jamie bade farewell to his farmer friend, and made his way on
foot, under cover of night, to Carrickmacross and thence Ballybay. He
avoided the towns,and villages, slept in the hedgerows, and used the money
his uncle had given him to buy food at peasant cottages.
On a moonlit evening, he reached his father's house, and saw half a dozen
British soldiers gathered around a campfire on the front lawn. He sneaked
through the grounds, made his way to the stables, and scraped his nails on
old Quinn's door. The hostler, rubbing sleep from his eyes, was immediately
awake when he saw Jamie. He dragged the boy inside, shushed him to silence,
and closed and barred the door.
"The sodyers are after ye," he said. He hid Jamie under the bed, and went
to find Jugs. She came to him in dead of
night, and held him to her, and wept for him. The soldiers had come for
him, and were waiting in case he should come home. His father was
practically a prisoner in his own house, a suspect despite his past record
because of Henry and Eleanor, and their known association with the United
Irishmen. Jamie's membership was also known, and, despite his youth, a
warrant was out for his arrest, as brother-in-law to the traitor Oliver
Bond, and nephew to Henry Jackson. Jugs had a message from his father,
given in case he should come home.
"Don't come here, and I may yet be able to get us out of this."
Jamie was touched, for these were almost the kindest words he had ever
had from his father. But he despaired. He could not stay in his father's
house, and had nowhere else to go. Jugs came to his rescue again. Quinn
created a distraction with a horse, causing it to bolt in its paddock,
and the soldiers mocked and jeered the old man's apparently feeble
efforts to calm it down. Jugs led Jamie through the night and took him
to a small, abandoned barn on a nearby property,
Sean was there, in hiding from the soldiers.
Jamie smiled in relief when he saw his old friend, and Sean was
astonished at the muddy, peasant-clad, crop-haired young man who stood
"Is Ivers or Carlow come'?" Jamie whispered with a grin, and Sean grinned
too, and hugged Jamie hard.
"Yes," Sean said. "He is come."
They talked until dawn, and made their plans. They were not
safe in Ballybay, and they needed to fight, for they were
young, and their blood ran hot for their cause, and they were
men of Ireland, and their country was bleeding. Sean had
heard, as Jamie before him, of the riots to the south, in County
Wexford, and they looked at each other, and nodded their
24 ALEX HALEY'S QUEEN
heads, and knew, without voicing it, where they would go.
Maureen and Jugs made food for them, and wept in their hearts, but would
not show their tears to their sons, for they were women of Ireland. Old
Quinn gave them two nags from the stables, workhorses too old to work,
who would otherwise have been sent to the knacker's yard, and justified