PLOT: Set in Co. Antrim (Carnmorney) at the time of the Pretenders rising (45). The narrator is Robert Brown, tearaway son of a man who was rewarded by King William for his courage at the Battle of Boyne, andbecause he disapproves of the breaking of the Limerick Treaty termsholds land besides his own for a branch of the ONeills. Robert is engaged in smuggling, more or less with the approval of the whole community. He is in love with the beautiful Rose Mary ONeill, but has a playful friendship with Rebecca, the daughter of the Quaker from whom he borrows the boat in which he sails out to the French ship, on board which Col. Patrick ONeill, in the service of the Emperor of Germany, on his way to the ONeills on the Pretenders business.
Delivering Col. ONeill to the ONeillsland, he discovers that his father has fended off an attack from Neeshy Hockon, the tory [highwayman] of the title. Robert rescues the Catholic fortune-teller (spae-wife) from the loyalist mob at Carrickfergus, and later meets her son Neesy Hockon. Col. ONeill sets out to gather support for the Pretender, and is unhorsed and robbed by the tory of his money and his papers. He is found by Robert and brought to his fathers house. Robert is arrested for neglecting his duties as a militia man by the Colonel in Carrickfergus, and later acquitted at courtmartial.
Charles ONeill, who has gone to the bad, engages with Neeshy to have the stolen papers returned, and also to have Rebecca, whome he fancies, kidnapped. Meanwhile, Patrick ONeill mets with the Protestant gentlement of Ulster seeking to enlist them for the King James; a messenger arrives from Dublin with news that the Scottish rebellion is over, and support crumbles. ONeill retires to Browns house again. The Browns convinced that he is no danger to King George, agree to help him quit the country. Rebecca visits, and rebukes ONeill for risking the Browns lives. Suddenly, the house is surrounded by the militia, searching. ONeill prepares to fight, but Rebecca makes him take Robins soldiers greatcoat to escape without detection.
Charles rides to Carrickfergus and informs on Col. Patrick. John ONeill and all the great Catholics are arrested, and Rose Mary goes to stay with the Quaker family. ONeill hides in a quarry, where Rose Mary plans to meet her cousin for a last time. Rebecca and Rose Mary are both taken by Neeshy Hockon before they can reached him. Neeshy ties the girls up at his motherthe spaewifes place, and explains his plan is to force Charles to marry Rebecca while he marries Rose Mary himself. He goes off for a bent priest. Brown and Col ONeill have discovered their whereabouts by guesswork when Tam Lynn tell them that hes seen Lesshy with two captive girls. They release them. Rose Mary plights her troth to Col. Patrick, and Brown inadvertantly spurns Rebecca.
A sea-chase ensues, in which Brown eludes the English brig. On boad the Frenchman, Col. Patrick and Rose Mary are married. Rebecca goes abroad with them, spurned again by Robert who takes the view that she is safer in Germany than in Ireland, at the mercy of brigands like Neeshy Hockon. He now pledges himself to capture Neeshy. In the five-year epilogue of these events, the pursuit of Neeshy and his associates is told.
Brown and the tory, now disguised as a redcoat, finally meet up in a Dundalk rally of the militia, where Brown is to leap horses in a contest with him. Hockon is recognised and captured after his victory in the contest, but not before Brown has cross swords with him. When Neeshy is hanged, he tells Brown where to find Col. ONeills papers, in which the name of an important man is signed below an undertaking to support James III. Brown agrees with his father to go abroad to see Col. ONeill on John ONeills estate business.
In London, he meets Rose Mary and Rebecca again; the Col. has now become Count Lichentstein. He is spotted by Charles ONeill, and shortly after arrested for High Treason; Brown goes to the Lord whose signature is on the letter, and forces him to get an interview with Walpole for Brown.
Sir Robert Walpole understands the case, and arranges Col Patricks release to the German ambassador. He offers Brown the commission of coast-officer after a grilling that confirms his secret information on his place in East Antrim society as leader of the smugglers. Brown appears not to understand the nature of the appointment in relating the events to Rebeccawhom he begs (my dear little comrade) to return to Ireland for his sake. Not pleased with his appointment as a preventive man, Brown begins to find in Rebeccas response that even a custom house officer may have his consolations. END
THEME: Chivalry prevailing over sectarian differences; loyalty to the Crown without insult to the native Irish; and the indifference of all kinds of Irishmen to law in a country which has been corruptly governed.
Now, though a member of the Established Church and a bitter enemy to the House of Stuart, he was no bigot either in religion or in politics; and when the Parliament first violated the Treaty of Limrick, and then proceeded to pass those various penal laws, which have sown so much misery and crime in this island, my father ... denounced the folly and injustice of those acts .. 
John ONeill sought out my father, therefore, and proposed such an arrangement [to act as trustee for him] my father accepted but flatly refused to take any money 
[Law prohibiting export of wool to foreign countries] was broken all over Ireland, as cheerfully and openly in Antrim as in Kerry, for Protestant and Roman Catholic found their common interest in making a dead letter of an Act passed by a timorous and unpatriotic Parliament at the bidding of a pack of Yorkshire woolstaplers. 
[Dr. David Grey] In religion he was a Quaker, a sect that has undergone much persecution, though I know not why, for all I have known of that community were good-living men and peaceable citizens; indeed, the ways of oppressors are full of riddles hard to solve. 
[Rebecca] was as arrant a madcap as ever approached the end of her teens, though in some ways her shrewd common-sense surpassed the ordinary.  a thorn in the side of her father and very light in his eyes. There was little relish of Quaker sobriety in aught about her 
Col. ONeill, have you been too long out of Ireland to remember that, while the English take their pride in obeying law, the Irish take theirs in breaking it? [LAW] 
[Young Brown no political prejudice] Well, the reason is not hard to find. In the first place, I know a great many of your way of thinking [to the Jacobite ONeill] and never found any worse faults in them than in myself, so I dont prejudge men on account of their politics 
All the Protestants have become Whigs now, I answered, and all the Roman Catholics are disarmed; there you have the matter in a nutshell. [Brown, 32]
The English boast their freedom, and yet put such laws on their statute-book what a pack of hypocrites they are! [ONeill, 33]
[In the Quakers livingroom] I could never sit long without being attacked by a fit of black depression or else an almost irresistable impulse to sing and shout and stamp my feet and so awaken the spirit of life in the gloomy furnishings and the carefully dusted rows of folios on the shelves. 
.. habit had made me as good a runer as most native Irishmen, and all the world knows how much they are prized in England as footmen, being able to run all day in advance of a coach and four without flagging. 
.. to be able to talk their language [French] is one advantage you have gained by being educated with the ONeills children, even if you tutor were a popish priest. [Rs father to him, 52]
[Robert to Rebecca:] All the flower of the fighting men of that party followed Sarsfield across the sea; and since then a continual stream of Roman Catholic courage and vigour has been flowing abroad, so tha tthe best blood is drained from their veins here; those that remain are unarmed and undrilled, without natural leaders and without hope. The irish Jacobites have proved their worth on every battlefield of Europe; but they will never prove it in their own country. 
[Fair at Carrickfergus:] the peddlars did so good a trade that day that there was not a copy of The Boyne Water or Lillibulero left in their packs, nor yet an inch of ribbon whose shade approached in the most remote degree to the colour most beloved of all true supporters of the Hanoverian succession; while some misinformed speculators, who hasd come provided with broadsheets of a jacobite tendency and rols of white ribbon, saw their stock in trade regarded with contempt, or in some cases destroyed by zealous loyalists of the baser sort. !
[Brown: On hearing from his own mouth that ONeill intended to raise a rebellion:] The God fogive you! I am old enough to remember civil war, and I know what it means. If you had seen the work that went on in those days, you would know what a crime it is to stir up neighbour against neighbour, and religion against religion. You many thank God on your knees every day of your life that you have failed to bring back that bad family to tyrannise over us again! 
[Robin to Rebecca:] God bless thy clever wit If Colonel Patrick had been taken it would have broken Mistress Rose Marys heart. Oh, thou and thy Mistress Rose Mary! 
I do often see my own headstrong and wilful youth born again in you dear son It is ever the same tale, said my father; the wild unrest in your blood will have to be mastered, if ever you will become a good man and happy. 
.. I recalled my sisters description of Charles behaviour to REbecca; nothing was more natural than that an abduction should follow such an incident: for an Irish gentleman of this type never hesitates at imperilling his soul or his neck when his vanity has been wounded. 
The footnotes make a fuss of explaining words, anglice; on p. 190-92, however, skirling, girning, and dunching are all unaccounted for. A tory in arms and upon his keeping is a constant refrain, both of the tory himself and others. [195, 196]; hard stuff, intoxicating liquor, in contradistinction to soft stuff, temperance drinks. 
[Nessy describes the priest whom he will make marry Charles to Rebecca for spite;] The rite will be performed by a drunken priest, a true buckle-beggar, a man infamous in his life, who yet by his office prroves the truth of the saying that a handful of a trade is better than handful of gold.
[Browns sea-chase:] Now if the great Dean Swift, or Mr. Daniel Defoe, had head me tell the story of that sail in my own words, I have no doubt they could have written it down in a way to delight every man who reads. But the art is not mine 
[Father to Robert;} Confound it all, Robert Do you think because I am an old man that I have lost all myi wits, and havent marked your fondness for one, whose fortune and religion like two flaming swords barred the way to the church door for you and her? Do you think that I hadnt sympathy for you in your folly, though I deplored it? 
The Irishman, whether of the true Celtic race or the settler breed, always has a soft corner in his hear for anyone who has snapped his fingers at law and order; for when a country is badly and corruptly governed the rebel or outlaw can always count on popularity. 
[Mother Barclays version of Irish history, from memory, is equitably constructued:] We were well to do under the Chicesters Then the starving Irish rose and swept down un us from the woods and bogs and mountains black winter the cahrity of an Irishwoman granted me an old smock My baby died My man was killed at the sack of Drogheda very loyal to the King I learnt to speak the irish tongue and think like the Irish [rescued by a couple of which the husband had served under Cromwell] He wsnt anunkind man, though greatly given to preaching and praying, which is unseemly in one not of the clergy Death has fogotten to fetch me away [257-59]