The Project Gutenberg EBook of Stories and Legends of Travel and History, for Children, by Grace Greenwood This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: Stories and Legends of Travel and History, for Children Author: Grace Greenwood Release Date: October 1, 2008 [EBook #26735] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK STORIES, LEGENDS--TRAVEL, HISTORY *** Produced by Al Haines
To my little friends, MARY and ALICE SEELYE, I wish to inscribe this volume, in remembrance of a pleasant summer spent under their father's roof—the Water Cure, at Cleveland, where a part of these sketches were written,—in remembrance of their happy, cordial faces, and of the "loving kindness" of their parents—of much genial companionship and generous sympathy.
In remembrance of the beautiful wood, with its flowery paths, its hills and dells and darkly shadowed water, where we often wandered together;—where my dear baby grew like the flowers, drinking in dew and sunshine—strengthened by fresh winds and aromatic odors,—where under fluttering forest-leaves her little face caught its first gleams of thought and tender meanings, like their glinting lights and flying shades, and her little voice seemed intoned by their silvery murmurs, the love-notes of birds and prattle of streams. In remembrance of the sweet spring in the glen, and the shady resting-places on the hill,—of the grand old oaks, and of the violets at their feet.
In remembrance of the lovely child, with whom we last visited that
wood,—dear Georgiana Gordon.
LONDON PARKS AND GARDENS.—MABEL HOWARD AND HER PET
ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL.—STORY OF SIR PHILIP SIDNEY
GREENWICH HOSPITAL—THE PARK, ETC.—LITTLE
ROBERT AND HIS NOBLE FRIEND
HAMPTON COURT.—THE LADY MARY'S VISION
WINDSOR CASTLE.—KING JAMES OF SCOTLAND AND THE LADY JANE BEAUFORT
THE JOURNEY FROM ENGLAND TO IRELAND.—THE
DUBLIN, HOWTH.—GRACE O'MALLEY
DONNYBROOK.—THE LITTLE FIDDLER.
FROM DUBLIN TO CORK AND BLARNEY CASTLE.—LITTLE NORAH
AND THE BLARNEY STONE
A VISIT TO THE LAKES OF KILLARNEY.—KATHLEEN OF KILLARNEY
LIMERICK.—LITTLE ANDY AND HIS GRANDFATHER
WICKLOW.—TIM O'DALY AND THE CLERICAUNE
ANTRIM—THE GIANT'S CAUSEWAY.—THE POOR SCHOOLMASTER
After all, I think I had more real delight in the noble public parks and gardens of London than in palaces and cathedrals They were all wonders and novelties to me—for, to our misfortune and discredit,—we have nothing of the kind in our country. To see the poor little public squares in our towns and cities, where a few stunted trees seem huddled together, as though scared by the great red-faced houses that crowd so close upon them, one would think that we were sadly stinted and straitened for land, instead of being loosely scattered over a vast continent, many times larger than all Great Britain.
The English government, with all its faults, has always been wise and generous toward the people in regard to their out-door comfort and pleasure. It does not mean that they shall be stifled for want of air, or cramped for room to exercise in. Everywhere over the kingdom, the traveller sees shady parks, pleasant gardens, breezy downs, and wide heaths, open to the public, and as much for the enjoyment of the poor as the rich.
The great Hyde Park of London, has been the property of the crown since the time of Henry VIII. It was formerly walled in, and held deer for royal hunting—but in the reign of George IV. it was inclosed with an open iron railing, and is now only used for drives, promenades, rides, and military reviews.
Connected with Hyde Park, by a bridge over the Serpentine, an artificial river, are Kensington Gardens, beautiful pleasure-grounds attached to Kensington Palace, a building belonging to the royal family.
This palace was for several years the town residence of the widowed Duchess of Kent, and here her illustrious daughter, the princess, now Queen Victoria, was educated.
Strangers sometimes met the young princess walking in the gardens, or saw her sitting under the shade of the trees, accompanied by her mother, or governess. She was always very simply dressed, and always wore a sweet, gentle look on her fresh, young face.
In Hyde Park, every pleasant afternoon, there may be seen hosts of splendid equipages, and hundreds of ladies and gentlemen mounted on elegant horses, riding up and down a long, broad avenue, called "Rotten Row," which is devoted entirely to equestrians.
In Hyde Park stood the Crystal Palace—now removed to Sydenham—where it stands on an eminence, and seems in itself a great mountain of light.
A smaller, but yet a fine park, is that of St. James. King Charles I. walked through this from the Palace of St. James to the scaffold before White Hall, on the morning of his execution. He was very calm, and on his way he pointed out a tree to one of his attendants, as having been planted by his brother, the young Prince Henry, who, if he had lived, would have been king,—and poor Charles might have kept his head; which, doubtless, was of more value to him than all the crowns of all the kingdoms of the world.
King Charles II. made many improvements in this park, and took much pleasure in riding, sporting, and idly strolling here. He might often be seen with half a dozen dogs at his heels, lounging along by the banks of the ponds, feeding the ducks with his own delicate royal hands. The foolish people were greatly moved and delighted at this, thinking that a king, who could be so kind and gracious to dogs and ducks, must be a good sovereign; but they were wofully mistaken there.
Regent's Park was so named for the Prince Regent, afterwards George IV. This park is extensive, and exceedingly beautiful. It has winding roads and shady paths, ornamental plantations, clear, shining sheets of water—noble trees and fairy-like bowers, so secluded and shadowy, that the birds sing and nest in them as fearlessly as in the deep heart of a country wood.
Within this park are several elegant villas—among which I best remember St. Dunstan's Villa—the residence of the late Marquis of Hertford, about whom and this place I have heard a pretty little story, which I will tell you.
In Fleet Street, London, stands the Church of St. Dunstan, built on the site of a church of the same name, which was torn down about thirty years ago.
The old Church of St. Dunstan had a curious clock, which was considered a very wonderful piece of mechanism, almost a work of witchcraft. Standing out on the side of the church, in full view of the passers-by, were two figures of Hercules, holding clubs, with which they struck on two bells the hours and the quarters. All children took delight in watching these gigantic figures, but none so much as the little Marquis of Hertford, whose kind nurse used to take him to see them—whenever he was a particularly good boy. Every time that he saw them he would strike his hands together and declare that as soon as he was a grown man, he would buy those beautiful giants, and have them all to himself. Well, strangely enough, when the Marquis grew to be a man, and got possession of all his property, and built his new villa in Regent's Park, it happened that old St. Dunstan's Church was torn down, and that famous clock set up at auction. So, the Marquis, who had never forgotten his beloved giants, bought them, and set them up in his garden, where night and day, rain or shine, they still stand, sturdily swinging their big clubs, striking the hours and the quarters.
St. Dunstan's Villa contains fine marble statues, rare bronzes, vases, and pictures, and much costly furniture; but nothing in all the house or grounds was half so dear to the Marquis as that quaint old clock, and those uncouth giants—for the sight of them always took him back to the time when he was a happy innocent child, and thought them the most wonderful things in all the world.
Regent's Park contains The Botanical Gardens, where are to be seen almost all species and varieties of plants and flowers. In a great conservatory, I saw the Victoria Regia, the largest aquatic plant in the world. Its vast leaves lie on the water like those of the water-lily, which they resemble—and so broad and thick are they, that it is said a little girl of six years may stand on one of them, without weighing it down enough to wet her feet.
But the most interesting portions of Regent's Park are the Zoological Gardens, where are kept all varieties of beasts, birds, and serpents. I had far more pleasure in visiting these gardens than I had ever found in seeing collections of wild beasts in our own country, because the animals themselves seemed so much more comfortable and happy. I had been accustomed to see the lions, leopards, tigers, and bears cramped up in miserable little grated boxes, and looking as fierce, surly, and wretched as possible. But here they walked up and down large airy cages, or stretched themselves out in the sun, or dozed in their sleeping-rooms—with no brutal showmen to molest them, and no Van Amburgh to make them afraid—and seemed really very well to do, good-humored, and contented. Even the polar bear, who had a quiet, shady retreat, seemed to be taking matters coolly, instead of panting and lolling and tumbling about in the old uncomfortable way.
The zebras looked almost amiable, and the hyenas respectable, while the poor camels wore a far less woe-begone expression than those long-suffering animals are expected to wear. As for the monkeys, apes, and ourang-outangs, they were the noisiest, jolliest, most frolicsome set of creatures you can imagine.
In a yard by themselves, we saw several giraffes, who appeared to be having a pleasant gossipping time, overlooking the affairs of all their neighbors. It seemed to me that if they could put their necks together, they would reach almost as high as Jack's famous bean-stalk climbed.
Very curious sights to me were the rhinoceros and hippopotamus, both of whom I saw luxuriating in great vats of muddy water. This hippopotamus is an enormous animal, very clumsy in his motions, and rather indolent in his habits. He has an Arab keeper, of whom he is so fond that he will take food from no one else—will not even sleep away from him. The Arab is said to return his fat friend's affection, and by no means objects to him as a bedfellow.
A strange, piteous-looking creature was the seal, that I saw stretched on a rock at the edge of a little pond. Its eyes were large and dark and sad—so like human eyes, that I shuddered as I looked at them; for it almost seemed that the poor, helpless seal itself was a human form, bound and pinioned, and flung down there to die.
I have no fancy for serpents—indeed, to tell the truth, I detest and fear them—so, I did not visit that department.
Among the birds, I was most amused by the large collection of parrots. When I entered the gallery in which they are kept, I was almost crazed by the confusion of tongues. There were scores of parrots, parroquets, macaws, and cockatoos, all chattering and laughing and screaming together. It was like a village school just let out, or a large party of gossiping ladies over their tea.
No two were alike, except in name—for the majority were Pollies. Some were ugly, yet were vain enough to call themselves "pretty;" and some were beautiful, and sleek, and plump, though they piteously declared themselves "poor," and begged of us as we passed.
And now I will tell you a little story—something very simple in itself, but which I hope will serve to impress this chapter upon your memories.
Mabel Howard, my little heroine, was not exactly an English girl, though she was the daughter of English parents. She was born in India, in Calcutta, where her father, Colonel Howard, was stationed for several years with his regiment. Mabel was not, I am sorry to say, a bright and blooming little maiden, though she had a sweet, intelligent face, and very endearing ways. From her birth, she had been pale, slight, and feeble. The climate was very bad for her; and, though all possible pains were taken with her health, she did not gain strength, but grew weaker and weaker. At last, when she was about nine years of age, it was resolved to send her to England, to stay with her grandparents, who lived in London. Neither her papa nor her mamma could go with her; but Katuka, her ayah, or native nurse, a kind, faithful woman, would go and stay with her always, and a friend of Colonel Howard, an officer returning home, would take charge of them both till they should reach London.
Poor Mabel's loving little heart was almost broken at the thought of being sent so far away from her papa and mamma and baby-brother; but she knew it was all meant for her good, and did not complain.
Of all Mabel's pets, she loved best a beautiful red and white cockatoo, that her papa had given her on her seventh birthday.
Bobby—for so this favorite was called—was a very knowing bird indeed—talking fluently, if not wisely, in both English and Hindostanee; and though somewhat vain of his beauty and accomplishments, and a little too selfish and fond of good living, never arrogant or surly, but the most gracious and amiable of cockatoos.
Bobby had a fine gilded cage, which hung in a shaded veranda, where the family sat in the cool morning and evening hours; so, when not talking, or talked to himself, he picked up a good deal of knowledge by listening to the conversation of others.
Everybody liked Bobby, he was so clever and comical; but Mabel not only liked and petted him, but cared for him constantly; patiently ministered to his dainty appetite, and tried always to teach him good and useful things. Indeed, I am afraid that, if it had not been for his young mistress, Bobby would have been a wicked little heathen, like other Hindoo cockatoos.
When Mabel was told that she must go to England, almost the first words which she sobbed out were, "May I take Bobby?"
"Of course, darling," said her papa; "Bobby shall go with you."
But on the morning when Katuka and her young mistress sailed, lo, Bobby was nowhere to be found! He had been stolen in his cage from the veranda, and carried away during the night, by some straggling native; and poor little Mabel was obliged to go away with a new grief weighing down her tender, childish heart. All through the long voyage, she missed and mourned for her lost pet, and, when she reached London, her good grandmamma could give her nothing that would quite take its place.
Everybody was kind to the lonely little girl, and much was done to make her well and happy. Every day her grandmamma or her good ayah took her to drive or walk in Hyde Park, or Kensington Gardens, or out on the open, breezy heaths; and Mabel soon grew better, healthier, and stronger, and a soft color stole into her pale cheeks, and deepened and brightened, day by day, like the flush of an opening rose.
Mabel dearly loved her kind English friends, but there were sometimes chill wintry days, or dull rainy evenings, when she was very homesick, and cried to see again her far-off Indian home, her papa and mamma, and little baby-brother.
At such times, she would often say to her kind ayah, who wept with her, "Ah, Katuka, if I only had poor Bobby here, it would be some consolation."
One day, when Mabel had been about six months in England, her grandmamma took her to the Zoological Gardens. She was greatly interested in seeing the animals, though she shrank away with a shudder from the tigers, of whom she had heard fearful stories in India. At last, they entered a long, beautiful gallery, all hung with bright gilded cages of gorgeous birds, mostly parrots, of many different species. As Mabel walked slowly along, admiring the pretty chattering creatures, but sadly remembering her lost Bobby, and thinking that no one of all these was half so beautiful as he, suddenly she heard, from a cage just before her, a joyous familiar cry: "Good morning, Miss Mabel!—come to bring Bobby dinner? Poor Bobby hungry!"
With a cry of delight, Mabel sprang forward and flung her arms about the cage, and kissed the crimson-tuffed head of a pretty cockatoo, thrust through the bars—Bobby's head—for it was indeed her own dear lost bird!
Sir John Howard, Mabel's grandfather, was able to buy Bobby of the Zoological Society, who had bought him of a sailor from Calcutta so Mabel had her pet again.
He seemed the same intelligent, affectionate bird as ever. He had forgotten nothing he had ever known; but he had learned some rather rough sayings of the sailors, on his voyage from India, which did not go very well with the good things his gentle little mistress had taught him. But for all that, he was a great comfort to her, and she never was homesick any more.
After a few years, Mabel's papa, mamma, and little brother came to England to live—never to return to India. Ah, there was a joyful meeting one morning, in Leicester Square. Sir John and Lady Howard were overjoyed to see their darling only son again; and he, bronzed and weather-beaten soldier as he was, felt as glad to get home as he had ever been when he was a homesick school-boy at Eton. Mrs. Howard was welcomed as a real daughter, and her beautiful little boy almost smothered with kisses. Mabel was half wild with happiness, and her parents were surprised and delighted to find her grown so healthy and handsome. The faithful Katuka kissed the hands of her master and mistress with tears of joy—while Bobby, grown impatient at not being noticed, called out sharply from his perch—"Avast there shipmates! what a hullabaloo! Bobby wants breakfast!"
The Cathedral Church of St. Paul's is the largest religious edifice in London, and one of the largest in the world. It stands on high ground in the centre of the city, and can be seen for a long distance in several directions, though it is too closely surrounded by other large buildings to show to the best advantage. It is less beautiful than some of the old English minsters, but in size grander than any. It is built in the form of a Greek cross, and covers more than two acres of ground. The dome is nearly as large as that of St. Peter's, at Rome, and from every part of the vast city of London you can see it looming up toward the sky—a dark, stupendous object—sometimes gilded by the setting sun, sometimes wreathed by the mists of morning. The dome is surmounted by a cupola, called "the lantern," over which is placed an immense ball of gilt copper, weighing five thousand six hundred pounds, and bearing above it a gilt cross, weighing three thousand six hundred pounds.
The interior of the cathedral is very grand, but rather dark and gloomy, even under the great central light of the dome—except when viewed by a very clear sunshine, the rarest thing in the world in "great London town;" for what with the smoke, the fog, and the rain, the poor old sun has few opportunities of making himself agreeable to the Londoners. But when he does get a chance to shine, he seems to make the most of it, and surely nothing can be more pleasant than a right [Transcriber's note: bright?] sunny morning in London. On such a morning we visited St. Paul's Cathedral.
Before ascending to the dome, we wandered about for some time in the nave and transept, examining with much interest the monuments, statues, and tablets, erected in honor of celebrated English poets, artists, soldiers, naval heroes, and statesmen, and seeking out the famous epitaph of the noble architect, and the great and good man, Sir Christopher Wren. This is in Latin, but translated, reads thus:—
"Beneath lies Christopher Wren, the architect of this church and city, who lived more than ninety years, not for himself alone, but for the public. Reader, do you seek his monument? look around!"
About the interior of the dome are a series of pictures, illustrating the life of St. Paul. An incident occurred during the painting of these which I will relate, as a remarkable instance of presence of mind. The artist, Sir James Thornhill, painted standing on a scaffold, erected of course at a great height from the ground. This scaffold was securely built, but not protected by any railing. One day, while fortunately a friend was with him watching him at his work—having just finished the head of one of the apostles, he forgot where he was, and with his hand over his eyes, stepped hastily backward, to see how the picture would look from a distance. In a moment he stood on the very edge of the platform; another step—another inch backward were certain death! His friend dared not speak, for fear of startling him; but catching up a large brush, he dashed it over the face of the apostle, smearing the picture shockingly. Sir James sprang forward instantly, crying out:
"Bless my soul! what have you done?" "I have saved your life," replied his friend, calmly. For the next moment the two stood face to face, very pale and still, but thanking God fervently in their full, loud-beating hearts.
Within the dome is "The Whispering Gallery." This is surely very curious; the least whisper breathed against the wall at a certain point, being distinctly heard on the opposite side of the gallery, or making the entire inner circle of the great dome. After a long, weary ascent of very dirty and dark staircases, we reached the cupola, and great London and its environs lay beneath us! Oh, what a wide and wonderful view was that! It was almost overwhelming—and so bewildered me at first, that I could not clearly make out any thing. But soon that dizziness of astonishment passed away, and I began to recognize, one after another, places and buildings that had grown familiar to me. There was Hyde Park, looking at that distance like a plantation of young trees; there was Buckingham Palace, the new palace of Westminster, and the grand old Abbey. I could see the flash of the fountains in Trafalgar Square, and trace the silver winding of the Thames, through miles on miles of docks and warehouses, under dark bridges, past darker prisons, far up into the green and smiling country, and far down toward the blue and shining sea. There was the Tower, which, though not a dark or dilapidated building, always has a guilty, gloomy look,—after you know what it is. There was the Monument, towering toward the sky, in memory of the great conflagration in London, when, where those magnificent buildings now stand, were piles and masses of fire—and great flames going up in red columns, to heaven.
Brightly shone the sun on hundreds of spires and domes, cheerily lighting up all that vast scene beneath us; the wide, elegant streets, open squares and parks of the town, and the busy crowded streets and narrow lanes of the city. The kindly rays fell just as warmly and clearly into the dark and damp courts of the miserable parish of St. Giles, as on to the noble terraces and into the palace gardens of fashionable West End. Oh, the beautiful sunshine! God's manna of light—falling for the poor as well as for the rich.
While standing on that lofty balcony, I could but faintly hear that great noise of business and travel, which roars along London streets, without ceasing day or night. It was like being at the summit of a high rock, on the sea-shore, where the hoarse sound of the great waves comes up to your ear, softened to a low, deep murmur.
"Old St. Paul's," upon the site of which this noble cathedral now stands, was burned in the fire of 1660. Among the great men buried in "Old St. Paul's," was Sir Philip Sidney, the most brilliant, and the best man of Queen Elizabeth's court. Let me tell you more about him.
Philip Sidney was born in November, 1554. He was the son of Sir Henry Sidney, the dear friend of the amiable young King Edward VI., who died in his arms, and of the Lady Mary, only daughter of the ambitious and unfortunate Duke of Northumberland.
From his early childhood, Philip was remarkable for his genius, his beauty, his sweet and generous disposition, and the modesty and grace of his manners. Sir Fulke Greville—who was one of his schoolmates, knew him all his life, and so dearly loved and highly honored him that he directed it should be put on his tombstone, that, he was "the friend of Sir Philip Sidney"—said of him, that, while yet a child, he seemed a man, in gravity and wisdom, in steadiness of purpose, and love of knowledge, and that even his teachers found in him something to wonder at and learn, above what they could find in books, or were able to teach.
At the age of twelve, Philip corresponded with his father in French and Latin, with correctness and elegance; at thirteen, he entered the University at Oxford, where he distinguished himself by his scholarship, by his noble character, and blameless life. At the age of seventeen, having left college, he went to Paris in the suite of the Earl of Lincoln, the ambassador extraordinary of Queen Elizabeth to the court of France. Because of his high connections and reputation, and the letters which he carried from his uncle, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, he was received with much distinction. Charles IX., a courteous, though treacherous prince, and his wily mother, Catharine de Medicis, were extremely gracious to him. The king gave him an office of honor in his palace, and strove in various ways to win his regard and confidence. But Philip neither liked nor trusted him, but gave the respect and friendship of his noble heart to a more truly royal object, the brave and good King Henry of Navarre.
It was soon evident what secret object King Charles had in trying to conciliate the English at his court. It was to blind their eyes, that they should not foresee and help to arrest one of the most fearful and cruel crimes to be found in the dark history of Catholic persecution, the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. Charles, his wicked mother, and the priests, their advisers, chose this time when a large number of Protestants were assembled at Paris on the occasion of the marriage of the young Prince of Navarre to the sister of the King of France, for a general massacre of the Huguenots, throughout the city and kingdom. On St. Bartholomew's day the slaughter began, and lasted until many thousand Protestants—men, women, and children—were murdered, shot down and cut down in their houses, their churches, and in the open street. King Charles himself, though scarcely more than a boy, was the most brutal and blood-thirsty of all the persecutors. He stood at one of the windows of his palace, and fired at the poor, shrieking, struggling people, as fast as his carbine could be loaded. Many a brave Christian father and noble youth were laid low by his cruel shot, in those dreadful streets and courts, where the hard stones steamed with warm blood as meadows in May mornings smoke with ascending dews, and where down the very gutters, instead of swift currents of summer rain, ran sluggish red rivulets, slowly flowing from the bodies of the dead and dying, piled on either side. But though that bad and mad young king cruelly meant every shot, and though every drop of blood he shed was a guilt-stain on his soul, and every dying groan he caused was to ring on his ear and pierce his wicked heart till he died, yet, after all, he harmed only the poor, perishing bodies of his victims; their deathless souls he but early set free from mortal bondage, and hastened home to God.
But to return to Philip Sidney. During the massacre, he took refuge with the English resident minister, Sir Francis Walsingham, one of the most distinguished men of the age and court of Elizabeth.
Sir Francis had a young daughter, a beautiful, sweet-tempered little girl, in whom Philip Sidney became much interested. This child felt very deeply for the poor Huguenot martyrs. She prayed for them constantly, and wept for them tears of bitter anguish, that seemed to quench the glad sparkle of her tender blue eyes, and to wash all the rosy bloom from her soft, round cheeks.
Philip, who saw her sadness, often tried to comfort her; but her grief and her sweet, sorrowful words always so touched his own tender heart, that his manly voice trembled, and sometimes he bowed his beautiful face on her head, as it lay on his breast, and wept with her silently. And so he grew to love her; and she loved him more than all the world.
As soon as quiet was restored—a sad quiet it was—Philip Sidney set out to travel in Germany and Italy. He was glad to leave Paris, its vile court and viler king; he was sorry to leave nobody but little Fanny Walsingham.
Soon after returning to England, and when only twenty-one, Sidney was sent as ambassador to Vienna, by Queen Elizabeth, who knew how to perceive talent and worth, though she did not always reward them generously. He faithfully discharged the duties of his office, and was most honorably received by the queen on his return. But he was not of the stuff out of which courtiers are made. He was too honest, independent, and disinterested to gain wealth or power by intrigue or flattery; so, though the queen respected him, and often advised with him, he received neither gifts nor offices, but lived for several years in retirement, devoting himself to study and writing.
In 1583, he married Frances, only daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham, his well remembered little friend, now grown into a beautiful woman, well worthy of his noble love. During that same year he was knighted by the queen at Windsor, and became Sir Philip Sidney.
By the time that he reached the age of thirty, the fame of his many splendid qualities—his learning and literary talent, his bravery, and, above all, his noble honesty—had spread over Europe, while in England, he was the glory of the court and the idol of the people.
There are a kind of little great men who seek to impose on you by pompous ways, proud looks, and high-sounding words; but there was no such poor pride and pretension about Sir Philip Sidney. He was gay and free-hearted, frank in his words, simple and gentle in his manner, and always earnest in the endeavor to be and do good. His writings were full of noble thought and pure, sweet feeling, worthy his true heart and his great soul.
In 1585, a wonderful tribute was paid to the talent and exalted worth of Sir Philip Sidney.
The throne of Poland having become vacant by the death of Stephen Bathori, he was invited to enroll himself among the candidates. He does not seem to have been tempted by this splendid opportunity of obtaining sovereign power and honors, but cheerfully acquiesced in the queen's will that he should remain her loyal subject. She said, rather selfishly, I think, that she "could not consent to lose the jewel of her times."
Soon after this, she appointed him to a military command in the Low Countries. Here he soon distinguished himself by skilful generalship, rare coolness in danger, and courage in action. At last, on the 24th of September, 1586, in a gallant attack on a greatly superior force of the enemy, near Zutphen, a town he was besieging, after having had one horse shot from under him, he was severely wounded by a musket-ball in the left leg.
As his soldiers were bearing him from the field of battle toward his camp, he grew very faint from loss of blood, and asked for water. It was brought to him; but just as the glass was raised to his parched lips, he caught the eye of a poor dying soldier fixed wistfully upon it. In an instant he passed it to him, without having tasted a drop, saying, "Drink, my friend; thy necessity is yet greater than mine."
Oh, in all his noble life, Sir Philip Sidney had never done so grand a deed as this! It was, in truth, a Christ-like act, though performed upon a bloody battle-field,—and it will be remembered and honored while the world endures.
Sir Philip's wound was unskilfully treated, and finally caused his death. He died at Arnheim, about the middle of the next month.
This seemed a sad closing to so brilliant a life. Far away from country and home, from his dearest friends, his beloved wife, and his darling child, with no loving one to sympathize with him in his pain, and comfort him in his sadness—to listen reverently to his dying words, to close tenderly his darkened eyes, and to weep over the pale beauty of his dead face. But we may trust, from all we know of his pure Christian life, that comforting angels were near him, whispering hope and peace to his heart—that divine love sustained him; and we may feel assured that, for the gift of that "cup of cold water" to the dying soldier, his soul drunk deep of "the waters of life that now from the throne of the Lamb," and make beautiful forever the Paradise of God.
Greenwich, though a large market town, containing a goodly number of elegant and noble buildings, and many thousand inhabitants, appears in this age of steam to form a part of London—for when you set out from the metropolis to visit it, you seem to have hardly got comfortably seated in the railway carriage, before you are there.
Greenwich is delightfully situated on the south bank of the Thames, and is certainly one of the most beautiful and interesting places in the vicinity of London. From the time of Edward I., the English monarchs had a royal residence here, but by the time of Charles II., this old palace had become a rather mouldy and tumble-down affair, so he commanded that it should be demolished entirely, and a magnificent structure of freestone erected in its place. We read that "riches take to themselves wings," but King Charles's riches seem to have gone off with one wing, for he had only means enough to finish that much of his new palace, and even that cost him thirty-six thousand pounds—an enormous sum for his time, or for any time, indeed. This answered his purpose tolerably well, and he condescended to reside here occasionally, when he was tired of Hampton Court and his London palaces.
No more was done to the building till the reign of William III. It had been suggested by his queen, Mary, that an asylum for old and disabled seamen should be built, and as the royal family had really no need of the palace at Greenwich, Sir Christopher Wren ventured to advise that it should be finished, and converted into a hospital. The king and queen graciously consented, and so the good work went on. The building was enlarged, beautified, and finished with simple elegance, and now there is not a more imposing palace in all England. Not only is it a princely, but a comfortable and happy home for nearly three thousand poor seamen. Here they have excellent and abundant food and clothing; skilful medical treatment, when they are ill, and their wives, as paid nurses, to attend them; a reasonable sum of pocket-money is given them to spend as they please. Here is a library, a picture-gallery, and a chapel, for their especial benefit, and a school, where their children can be educated. Is it any wonder that these veteran seamen, nearly every man of whom has lost a leg or an arm in the service of his country, should be contented and happy, in such a noble asylum as this—such a quiet and comfortable place of refuge and rest?
Near the hospital is Greenwich Park, an inclosure of nearly two hundred acres, planted principally with elms and Spanish chestnuts, many of which are very large and magnificent trees. This park is hilly, and on the highest eminence stands the Royal Observatory, where, as you know, many valuable astronomical calculations are made.
In the park, on pleasant days, many of the old pensioners can always be seen, hobbling along the shady avenues, or sitting together on the benches, under the great trees, talking over old times—telling tales of storms and shipwrecks, or more terrible still, of battles at sea.
Those who fought under the heroic Lord Nelson most love to talk of him, for he was idolized by all his men.
In the great hall of the hospital hang many pictures of him and his battles; and there also, in a glass case, are kept the clothes which he wore when he was killed—all stained with his blood. Not a man among his veteran seamen can look at these relics without feeling his dim old eyes grow yet more dim with tears. Among the pictures, there was one which, though not very fine in itself, impressed me not a little at the time, and which I still remember vividly. It represents an adventure which happened to Lord Nelson when he was a young sailor-boy, cruising in the north seas. In the picture, he seems to have wandered off in a freak of boyish rashness, far from the boat and crew, and is standing on the ice, surrounded by vast wastes and mountains of ice, alone, but in a very fearless attitude, facing a monstrous white bear, who is evidently coming up, eagerly, to hug the young mariner, yet has any thing but an affectionate expression on his ugly face. Nelson has his long knife drawn, and seems to say: "Come on; I'm ready for you, old fellow!"
I do not remember ever to have read any account of this adventure, so I cannot tell how it terminated for the bear. We know well enough that Bruin did not get the better of Nelson, for he lived to fight again and again with foes no less ferocious than the bear, though without his excuse of brute instincts and hunger. But only suppose it had been different; suppose the bear had killed and eaten the hero of Trafalgar, like any common sailor-boy, what a difference it would have made with the glory and boasting of England, and it may be, in its power on land and sea.
In the eastern part of Greenwich Park are "the barrows," very singular circular mounds, supposed to be burial-places of ancient Britons. These the English people so much respect that they will not suffer them to be opened, or even levelled.
Just without the park lies Blackheath, a large expanse of common, full a mile wide, and more than that long, I should say. Opening off from this is Blackheath Park, and here, in a lovely homelike cottage, embowered in trees and flowers and vines, I spent some of the happiest days of my happy visit in England. Oh, I so often think with a sad longing of that home, and wonder if I shall ever see it again! There is a certain pleasant window of the family parlor, looking out into the garden, and sometimes, when I sit alone at evening, I dream that I am sitting at that window, enjoying the long English twilight. I seem to see one very dear to me, flitting lightly about among the flowers, singing low, and smiling to herself, because her heart is made so glad by their beauty and their fragrance. And the flowers seem to know her, and bend to her and claim relationship with her—the roses for her bloom, the lilies for her white dress and innocent look, while the violets kiss her feet, as she passes, because she is good.
I can almost hear the good-night song of the blackbird, before he goes to sleep among the golden laburnum boughs; can almost smell the good-night sigh of the flowers, as they nod their sleepy heads and swing lazily in the evening wind.
Just across the heath lives another dear friend, Mrs. Crosland, whom my little readers know. When going to visit her, I never chose to ride, enjoying much more that walk across the heath. Here the air was always fresh and cool, and the winds, without a tree or house to obstruct them, had a bold, strong, frolicsome sweep, as though glad to be free of both forest and town.
The ground of this heath is smooth, and gently rolling. It does not grow the heather, but is covered everywhere with a firm turf of fine grass, which, thanks to frequent showers, always looks soft and green, though it is kept very closely cropped.
In pleasant summer weather there can always be seen ranged along one side of this heath, queer little pony chaises, donkey carts, goat carriages, and ponies and donkeys saddled and bridled, all waiting to be let to invalids and children, by the hour, or for the ride.
It was very amusing, on Saturday afternoons, to see school children consoling themselves for the week's confinement and study, by a wild pony trot, or a scrambling donkey gallop across the heath. Wild girls, with gipsy bonnets falling on their shoulders, and their long hair flying in the wind; wilder boys, with their satchels bobbing at their backs, their hats swung in the air, and their feet remorselessly digging into the sides of the poor little bewildered beasts who carried them.
"Great fun!" "splendid sport!" they said it was, when they dismounted and paid their six-pence, but perhaps the ponies and donkeys had an opinion of their own on the subject.
Donkey-riding is said to be a very healthful exercise, and invalids often drive out from town to the heaths, where these animals are always to be had, for the sake of a free ride in those fresh, open places.
Hampstead-heath, which lies on the other side of London, is more frequented, both for health and pleasure; and as this was the scene of the story I am about to tell, we will take leave of Blackheath, a dear, pleasant, sunny place, in spite of its name.
Robert Selwyn was the only son of a poor widow, who kept a small green grocer's shop, at Hampstead.
Robert, at the period at which our story commences, was a fine, handsome, intelligent lad of twelve, with frank, engaging manners, and a warm, honest heart.
For a boy of his age, he was remarkably thoughtful and serious; he loved books more than any thing in the world, except his mother, and actually seemed to hunger and thirst after knowledge. Mrs. Selwyn was a woman of considerable education, as she had seen better days in her youth, and now she taught Robert all that she knew, beside sending him to the parish school as often as she could spare him.
The widow owned a very pretty fawn-colored donkey,—good tempered and well trained, which she used to hire out to invalids, and so added something to her little income. Every pleasant summer afternoon she would send Robert with "Billy" to the heath, telling him never to allow any wild boys or girls to ride the good little animal for sport, but to let him to invalids or very young children, and always to walk or run by his side. Robert faithfully obeyed his mother, and though bold boys and girls thought him hard and disobliging, he and his pretty donkey were in great demand among the invalids and children. Many were the sweet little girls and gentle boys that he taught to ride—trotting along beside them, up and down the heath.
One balmy afternoon, late in May, Robert was standing on the edge of the heath, leaning against his donkey, waiting for a customer. Billy always plump and sleek, was wearing, for the first time, a nice new saddle, with a fine white linen cloth, fringed with crimson, and really looked fit to carry a prince.
At length, an open carriage came slowly driving that way; it had a coachman and a footman in handsome livery, and contained a lady and a little boy. This child was about Robert's age, but looked much smaller. He was slight and delicate, and his face, which was very beautiful, was almost as white as marble, and would have been sad to look upon, had it not been for a sweet lovingness about the mouth, and a cheerful, patient spirit smiling out of the eyes.
The lady was a noble, stately person, dressed all in black, and looking as if she had seen a great deal of sorrow. She had an anxious expression on her face, and held the hand of the little boy tenderly clasped in hers.
"Oh, mamma," the child suddenly exclaimed, "may I not have a ride on that nice donkey yonder, standing by that handsome, red-cheeked boy?"
The lady sighed as she looked at Robert's robust form and blooming face, but she answered, cheerfully:—
"Certainly, my love, you may take a little ride, if the donkey and the boy seem trustworthy."
So Robert was called, and questioned about Billy, and answered so frankly and modestly, that the young invalid was soon seated on donkey-back, and gently trotting down the heath, with Robert running at his side. He liked his attendant so well, that he soon got into conversation with him, asked his name, and told him his own. Robert was a little startled, when he found that his sociable new customer was a real young nobleman—Arthur, Lord Evremond.
When they returned to the carriage, his lordship felt so much benefited by his ride, and was so much pleased with both donkey and donkey-boy, that he engaged their services for the next afternoon.
Lady Evremond had come up to London from her country-seat, where she lived in great retirement, for the best medical advice for her son, who had come home from Eton, ill, and who, young as he was, seemed threatened with consumption. Her husband and daughter had died of that disease, in Italy, and she had not the heart to take her Arthur away from England to die.
The physicians gave her hope that the child would recover; he seemed better in the air of London than on his estate, which lay low in a little valley in Devonshire. His new exercise of donkey-riding, seemed to benefit him greatly for awhile. Two or three times a week the little lord drove out to Hampstead, to take his ride on the breezy heath. He became more and more friendly and confiding with Robert, whom he never treated as an inferior. He loved best to talk with him about the good he meant to do if God would only make him well, and let him grow up to be a man. He said that if he died, the title and estates must go to his cousin, who was a wicked, wasteful man, and who would do nothing for the poor and suffering; and that, he said, was what made it hardest for him to die. Next to that, was the thought of leaving his mother; but she would soon come to him in heaven, and all her grief be over—while the sorrows that his hard-hearted cousin might cause his poor tenants, would last a long time.
When the young lord spoke so sweetly and nobly, there was always such a holy light on his beautiful face that he seemed to have become already one of God's blessed angels, and Robert was almost ready to worship him. So great was the boy's reverence for his goodness, not for his title, that when Evremond asked him to call him "Arthur," instead of "my lord," he gently shook his head, and said: "I would rather not."
After a few weeks had gone by, Robert noticed that his noble friend seemed to be getting still weaker and paler. He talked more and more earnestly and tenderly of heaven, of his papa and angel sister, and seemed to feel yet more loving pity for all the poor and suffering. He now seldom rode faster than a walk, his voice grew faint, he rested his hand wearily on Robert's shoulder, and fell languidly into his arms, when he dismounted.
At last he failed to keep his engagement at the heath. Day after day, a whole week went by, and still he did not come, and poor Robert was almost heart-broken with disappointment and anxiety. At length, to his great joy, he saw the well-known carriage coming! Alas, it was empty! The footman brought a message from Lady Evremond—her son had been taken alarmingly ill, the night after his last ride—he had been failing ever since, and now it was thought he could not live many hours. The carriage was sent for his friend Robert, whom he wished to see before he died.
Robert sent home his donkey by a friend, and sprang into the carriage, where he buried his face in his hands and wept all the way to Grosvenor Square.
He was conducted into a great hall, up a noble staircase, through several elegant rooms, filled with beautiful and costly things, strange enough to poor Robert, but his eyes were too full of tears and his heart of grief to notice them. A chamber door was opened softly before him, and Robert saw his friend lying on a couch by the window, with his head resting in his mother's lap. His eyes were closed, and his face so deathly pale that Robert thought he had come too late, and staggering forward, he fell at the young lord's feet, and hiding his face against them, sobbed aloud.
"Dear Robert; have you come?" said a low, sweet voice.
"Yes, my lord," answered Robert, joyfully.
"Oh, won't you call me Arthur, now that I am dying?" said his friend.
"Arthur, dear Arthur," murmured Robert, and that was all that he could say for weeping.
After awhile, Lord Evremond, looking up to his mother and clasping Robert's hand, said:
"Mamma, I leave you Robert; love him and take care of him; send him to school, and let him have just such an education as you would have given to me. Promise me that you will, dear mamma."
"Yes, Arthur, my beloved child, I promise but oh, my son, my darling only boy, how can I part with you!"
"Dearest mother, only think, it is for but a little while, and then we shall all be together. Kiss me now, and let me sleep, I feel so drowsy."
And he did sleep, for some time, very peacefully, smiling sweetly, as though dreaming pleasant dreams. Suddenly he opened his eyes, and reached up his arms, calling out joyfully: "Papa! sister Mary!" and died without a pang of suffering.
Ten years had passed. It was Sunday morning, and the church bell of Evremond was calling the people to worship. All were eager to see and hear the new minister, who was to preach his first sermon that day. Out of the pleasant Rectory he came, supporting an elderly lady on his arm. It was Robert Selwyn and his mother. At the church door they met a lady, who grasped them both by the hand. This was Lady Evremond.
Robert Selwyn performed the sacred rites with dignity and true feeling, and preached a noble discourse, such an one as makes men's hearts strong against sin, but soft toward the erring.
After the services, when all save she had left the church, Lady Evremond lingered for some time before a white marble monument, which stood under a high church window. The sculpture on this monument represented the young Lord Evremond, as he lay on his couch, when dying,—and an angel, with a face very like his, lovingly lifting him from his mother's arms, to bear him to heaven.
As Lady Evremond gazed on the marble image of her dead boy, she murmured:
"Have I not been true to thy trust, my son?"
Late in the dim twilight of that day, another form was kneeling beside that monumental couch. It was Robert Selwyn; and when he rose, there were tears on that sweet marble face. All night long they glistened in the pale moonlight, and sad starlight, shining through that high church window; but in the morning the happy sunbeams came softly down and kissed them all away.
How well I remember one pleasant morning in September—more than two years ago, I declare!—when a merry party of us, English and Americans, met at the counting house of our noble friend, Mr. B——, to go from thence to Hampton Court. It was in the city of London that we met. This is entered from the town, which holds most of the parks and palaces of royalty and the nobility, by an old, old gateway, called Temple Bar. When the Queen is to pay a visit to the city, Temple Bar gate is closed, and she must respectfully ask admittance of the lord mayor, and he must graciously present the keys to her before she may come in. The lord mayor is the real king of London, and takes precedence of royalty in all processions in the city, as, for instance, the funeral procession of the Duke of Wellington, after it passed Temple Bar. All lord mayors are elected from the board of aldermen; they serve but one year, during which time they live in a very handsome residence, called "The Mansion House," and ride in a splendid, but rather gaudy and old-fashioned coach—something such as you have seen pictures of in the story of Dick Whittington.
Each new sovereign attends, with the court, a grand ball, given by the lord mayor, at Guildhall; on which occasion there is always a magnificent display, both on the part of the aristocracy and the citizens.
Guildhall is a large building, where the aldermen and councilmen meet, to transact business and eat good dinners. In the hall where balls and great banquets are given stand two gigantic painted figures, called Gog and Magog, which are very quaint and odd-looking, and I don't know how many years old.
"But what," you will say, "has all this to do with Hampton Court?"
Well, we started from the city, a social, merry party, of five or six; and, after laughing and chatting in a comfortable English railway carriage, for a few minutes, arrived at the station, near the palace.
The old palace of Hampton Court stands on the northern bank of the Thames, about twelve miles west of Hyde Park, and is situated in the parish of Hampton, and county of Middlesex.
In the reign of Henry VIII., when the great prelate, Cardinal Wolsey, was at the height of his power, he leased the old manor and manor-house of the Knights-Hospitallers of Jerusalem, to whom it then belonged, for the purpose of building a palace suitable to his rank and splendor. He erected a structure so magnificent, and so far surpassing any of the royal residences, that he quite overshot his mark, and roused the jealousy of the king, who bluntly asked him what he, a priest, and a butcher's son, meant by building for himself a palace handsomer than any of his king's. Then the cunning Cardinal, putting the best face he could on the matter, said that he had only been trying to build a residence worthy of so great and glorious a monarch, and that Hampton Court was at King Henry's service. The king jumped at the offer, but in return bestowed upon Wolsey the old manor of Richmond, the favorite residence of his father, Henry VII. It was observed, when the great Cardinal was going home, after this interview with his royal master, that he scowled and growled at his followers, and belabored the poor mule that he rode most unmercifully.
So, by gift from Cardinal Wolsey, Hampton Court became the property of the crown.
Edward VI. was born in this palace, and mostly resided here, during his short, but happy reign. Gloomy Queen Mary and her false hearted husband, Philip of Spain, spent their honey-moon, or rather vinegar-moon, here. Queen Elizabeth here gave several great festivals, and her successor, the mean and pedantic James I. held a great religious conference in the privy-chamber,—he, the most immoderate of bigots, sitting as moderator. Here he entertained some great French princes at one time, very handsomely; every thing being on a royal scale except the host. Here he lost his wife, Anne of Denmark, a very respectable sort of a woman, much too good for him.
Charles I., with his queen and court, sought refuge at this place from the plague, which was ravaging London. But there was another trouble that came upon him from which he could not escape, even here. Death, with his scythe, passed by the healthful shades of the country palace, but the executioner with his axe was not to be evaded.
The Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, resided sometimes at this palace; but his favorite daughter, Elizabeth, a very lovely woman, died here, and after that, it was the saddest place in all the world to him.
Charles II., with his gay court, which hardly held one honest man, or reputable woman, used to hold revels here; and stubborn James II. resided here now and then, till he was driven by a roused people from throne, palace, and country. William III. was very partial to Hampton Court, and did much to improve and adorn it. His queen here performed prodigious labors in the embroidery line, and kept her maids of honor as hard at work on chair covers and bed curtains as though they were poor seamstresses, toiling for their daily bread.
George II. and Queen Caroline were the last sovereigns who resided at this palace. It is now only occupied by the officers and servants who have charge of it, and some dowagers and poor women of rank, called in England "decayed gentlewomen." To those ladies the queen allots apartments, and they live very handsomely and comfortably, though I should think they would have rather lonely times, amid the melancholy grandeur and stillness of that deserted old palace.
Over the gateway by which we entered are carved the arms of Cardinal Wolsey, with a Latin inscription, signifying "God is my help," a lying motto, as his own words afterwards proved; for, when dying in disgrace, he exclaimed, "If I had served my God half as faithfully as I have served my king, He would not have given me over to my enemies in my old age."
We went up the grand staircase, to the guard-chamber, and from thence passed through several suites of noble rooms, hung with pictures and ancient tapestry, with frescoed ceilings, and carved and gilded cornices. The most interesting among the pictures are portraits of famous people, kings, queens, princes, heroes, and beauties, of whom we read in history.
But as there are more than a thousand paintings at Hampton Court, of course I cannot stop to describe any of these, though about many I could tell you very strange and romantic stories.
The most magnificent apartment in the palace, and one of the grandest in the world, is the great hall, which is one hundred and six feet long, forty wide, and sixty high. The roof is beautifully carved and decorated with the royal arms and badges, the walls are hung with costly tapestry, the windows are richly stained, and bear the arms and pedigree of Henry VIII. and his six wives.
From this hall we passed through another splendid apartment, called "the withdrawing room," down "the queen's staircase," into a court, containing a pretty fountain, and from thence into the gardens. These are very fine, but rather too stiffly and formally laid out to suit our modern taste. I remember one narrow, gloomy alley, of boxwood, or yew, called "Queen Mary's Walk," after bloody Mary, who used to take her evening exercise here alone, marching slowly up and down in the waning twilight, meditating, I fear, those frightful persecutions, rackings, and burnings of the poor Protestants, and trying to steel her heart against the womanly pity that would creep into it sometimes, in spite of all the admonitions of Cardinal Pole and Bishop Gardiner, and the counsels of her cruel husband.
The greatest curiosity of these gardens is a Hamburg grape-vine, supposed to be the largest in the world. It alone fills a green-house seventy-two feet long and thirty broad. It is itself one hundred and ten feet long; and is thirty inches in circumference, three feet from the ground. It often bears as many as two thousand five hundred bunches.
From the green-house, we walked down to the Thames, and then returned through a beautiful avenue of linden-trees, to the east part of the palace, where there is a fountain and a basin containing gold and silver fish. Then we whiled away another hour in the grounds, the "Labyrinth," and under the noble chestnut and lime trees in the great avenue, which is more than a mile in length, and then the golden day was over!
Some ten years ago, there resided for a time, in a pleasant suite of apartments at Hampton Court, a young and beautiful gentlewoman, who was greatly beloved by all who knew her, for her goodness and her sweet and winning ways. Lady Mary Hamilton, or "the Lady Mary," as she was called by the pensioners and retainers there, was the youngest daughter of a poor Scottish nobleman, and the widow of a still poorer young officer. Captain Hamilton, soon after his marriage, was ordered to join the army in Afghanistan and for several months dared danger and death, and endured frightful hardships, in that dreadful war against a treacherous and savage people.
At last, in a skirmish among the mountains, he was seen to fall under the spear-thrust of a fierce Afghan chief, and was reported as "killed," though his body was never recovered by his victorious comrades. It was supposed that the natives had carried him off in their retreat, to plunder him at leisure.
But the Lady Mary never would give him up as really dead; and though she was very sorrowful and anxious for him, she could not be persuaded to put on a widow's dress, or cover her soft, brown hair with a widow's cap. She even refused to receive a widow's pension, professing always a firm belief that her husband was yet living.
Month after month went by, till two long years had passed, and brought her no word from her beloved George; and still she did not despair.
It was said that she was kept up by happy dreams—that her husband often came to her in her sleep, and told her to be of good cheer, and all would yet be well. However that may have been, it is certain that she never wholly lost heart.
The queen kindly offered Lady Mary apartments at Hampton Court, and she gladly accepted, for she was poor, and then, she felt that she should like the melancholy quiet of the old palace far better than the gayety and bustle of the town. And so she came to Hampton Court to live, and "wait for my husband," she said, smiling sadly, while her friends shook their heads, and whispered among themselves that "the poor dear creature was hardly in her right mind."
The lonely Lady Mary soon became a great favorite with the guards and servitors at Hampton Court. They all felt for her a tender, respectful pity, and would do any thing in their power to serve her. Being very shy, she never liked to visit the show apartments of the palace, at hours when she might meet strangers. So, the kind porter would often let her go in by herself, and sometimes even give her the keys, that she might stay as long as she pleased in any of the halls or galleries.
She was romantic and poetical, and loved much to visit the grand old hall, on summer evenings, and see the rich sunset light pour in, and then fade softly out through the gorgeous stained windows. Sometimes, she would linger here till the long twilight was over, and the starlight and moonlight struggled through the stained glass, and faintly lit up the hall, silvering over the faded tapestry and banners, glistening on the old arms and armor. Strolling up and down the hall, or seated under one of the great windows, she would think and dream, and try to forget the sorrows of her humble life in remembering the misfortunes of the great and royal ones, who had so often walked where she walked, and sat where she sat.
Once old Roger, the porter, asked her if she were not afraid to stay there, all alone by herself, so late.
"Why, no," she answered, "what should I be afraid of?"
He shrugged his shoulders, but said no more; I suppose because he did not know what to say, to such a simple, childlike question.
One lovely August evening, the Lady Mary stayed later than usual in "Wolsey's Hall."
The sunset glory faded and faded away; the twilight deepened and deepened into night; the moon and the stars looked in upon her through the great window. She was weary and sad, and the lonely stillness of that place seemed to suit her; she seemed to feel the calm moonlight in which she sat, bathing her like a soft, soothing flood. She leaned her head against the tapestried wall, closed her eyes, and thought, and thought of the great days and splendid festivals long gone by—of kings and queens, brave knights, and beautiful ladies, and—when all at once that vast hall was lighted up as though by magic! Music swelled through the arches, and a splendid court came slowly sweeping in! First walked a stout, red-faced man, all velvets and jewels, with a dark, sorrowful-looking lady on his right; and on his left, an elderly man, with a bold, haughty face, and a rich dress of scarlet velvet and ermine.
The Lady Mary recognized these as Henry VIII., Queen Katharine, and Cardinal Wolsey.
They were followed by maids of honor, gentlemen, priests, and pages.
Soon there was a livelier peal of music, and the dance began. The king danced with the most beautiful of the maids of honor, whom he smiled lovingly upon, while the poor queen looked very unhappy. So the Lady Mary knew that this fair maid must be Anne Boleyn.
When the dance ended, the gay court passed out; but again there was music, and another swept in. This was headed by a proud, stately woman, with golden hair, and cold blue eyes. She wore a sparkling diadem; her dress was of stiff brocade, thickly bestrewn with pearls and diamonds, while about her neck was a ruff so prodigious, that it alone would keep everybody at a very respectful distance. On her left, walked a handsome noble, most royally dressed, and behind came a brilliant host of beauties, pages, cavaliers, poets, and statesmen.
The Lady Mary now recognized Queen Elizabeth, the Earl of Essex, and the court.
The queen took her place upon the throne and graciously desired her court to be seated. Before them was a stage; they were to witness a play. The queen signified that she was ready, and the play began. It was "Henry VIII., or the Fall of Wolsey."
The queen seemed interested, and applauded occasionally, though the actors played badly. They were half frightened to death at appearing in that august place, before her august majesty; all but one, who went through with his part in a quiet, manly way, which did him great credit. This was the author—William Shakspeare.
At length the queen, court, and actors all went out, and there came in next, not a court, with music and pomp, but quietly and silently, a dark, sad-looking man, leading two children by the hand. These three walked up and down the hall, several times—the man talking to the children, and telling them, it seemed, something very sad, for they cried and clung to him, and then the three passed out, weeping.
The Lady Mary knew these to be Charles I. and his children, whom he had been telling, perhaps, that he might soon be put to death.
Next there came, in stillness also, a stern, haggard-faced man, in a rough, half-military dress, with a sweet delicate-looking lady, in white. She was clinging to his arm, and seemed expostulating with him very earnestly, but he shook his head, yet at the same time he tenderly smoothed her hair, with his strong hand, and playfully pinched her thin cheek, and tried to smile. Then he suddenly turned, and strode out of the hall. The lady stood a moment, looking after him mournfully, and then passed out also.
The Lady Mary knew these two to be Cromwell and his daughter Elizabeth, who often interceded with her father, for political offenders.
Again there was loud music, and again a brilliant court came pouring in. First walked a dark, dissolute-looking young man, very gayly dressed, with long curls dangling about his shoulders, handing carelessly along a pale, dispirited lady, who didn't seem to find much comfort in the queenly diadem she wore.
The ball began, and soon it was turned into a wild revel. Beautiful, but bold ladies, and reckless looking gentlemen, danced and laughed, sung and feasted, and gamed, and grew merrier and madder every minute.
The Lady Mary became frightened, for she saw that she was in the profligate court of Charles II. She tried to hide behind the tapestry by the window, but a rollicking nobleman, whom she recognized by his portraits as the Earl of Rochester, caught sight of her, and sprang forward, to drag her out into the midst of the hall! She flung his hand off, with a scream, and lo, he, the king, the queen, the court, the lights, every thing vanished!
It was all a dream!
The Lady Mary was alone in the old hall, in the silent night, now darker than before, for a cloud had come over the moon.
She groped her way to the door, unlocked it, and passed into the withdrawing room. At the further end she saw some one coming, she could not see who it was, by the dim starlight, so she asked: "Roger, is that you?"
"No, Mary," answered a glad, tremulous voice, "it is not Roger—it is I—George!"
With a wild, joyful cry, the Lady Mary sprang forward, and was clasped in her husband's arms.
And this was not a dream.
Captain Hamilton had been severely wounded, and taken captive by the Afghans. They had kept him a close prisoner in the mountains, not even permitting him to write a letter to any one, for two years. He had at last been discovered, liberated, and sent home to recover his health, which had suffered somewhat in his hardship and confinement.
On arriving at Hampton Court, whither he had been directed from London, he had been told by old Roger where his wife probably was, as he could not find her in her apartments, and was on his way to the hall, when he met her, as we have seen.
The next time that the Lady Mary visited that old hall, to walk in the moonlight, or muse in her favorite window-seat, it was observed that she did not go alone.
One of the pleasantest excursions which a traveller can make from London is to Windsor, with its parks and grounds so wonderfully luxuriant and beautiful, and so vast in extent, and its royal old castle—certainly one of the noblest sights in all England.
This is finely situated on the Thames; it overlooks a rich and lovely country, and is seen from great distances—a grand, crowning object in the landscape.
I visited Windsor with a party of Americans, some of whom I had never seen before, and have not met since; but I always think of them with kindly interest, because I shared with them so great a pleasure. I wonder if they remember it as well as I do!
'Twas on a bright, but not unpleasantly warm day in midsummer, when the parks and gardens were in all the glory of their greenness and bloom, when fountains sparkled in the sun and birds warbled in the shade, and the sky above was clear and blue enough to make up for all the clouds and fogs I had seen since I came to England.
We went directly from the station to the Castle, a grand mass of ancient and modern buildings, towers, and turrets, and parapets—all solidly but elegantly built, of dark gray stone.
We entered through a lofty gateway, into the court-yard, from thence into a sort of guardroom, where we recorded our names in a book; and then were conducted up a great marble staircase, to the state apartments. These are somewhat jumbled up in my mind with the hosts of magnificent rooms which I have since seen in many other royal palaces; but I remember that they were all very handsome, richly furnished, and hung with fine pictures and gorgeous tapestry. I recollect most distinctly "The Vandyke Room," called so because of its containing several great pictures by that famous painter—principally portraits of Charles I. and his family. Then there is "The Waterloo Chamber," hung round with portraits of heroes and great men, and "St. George's Hall," a grand banqueting room, two hundred feet in length, and the beautiful ball-room, as brilliant as rich carving and gilding and delicate painting can make it.
Our party had permission to see not only the state, but the private apartments of the palace. These are less splendid than those great show rooms, but more tasteful, beautiful, and comfortable. Yes, comfortable—for the English, even in their grandest palaces, manage to have the dear, cosy home look and feeling about them. The Queen's breakfast parlor, looking out on a pleasant terrace, simply though richly furnished, and hung with portraits of herself, Prince Albert, and the royal children, is a very charming apartment indeed. We came to this through a long, bright corridor, lined with beautiful pictures, bronzes, graceful statuettes, and elegant curiosities, so that one could but be charmed to linger by the way. Several of the pictures represented scenes in her Majesty's life—her first council—her coronation—her marriage—the christening of the princess royal, etc.
Many palaces have such a vast, cold, awfully grand look that one fancies kings and queens must have very dull, stiff, dreary times, living in them, and must often long for a simple, snug little cottage-home, somewhere away from all their pomp and splendor. But it is not so at Windsor; I did not pity the Queen at all. I even fancied that I could be very comfortable myself, living at the palace, after getting a little used to it. Her Majesty never gave me an opportunity to test this, however.
Attached to the Castle is the beautiful chapel of St. George, in which the court, when at Windsor, attend service. Here, a place is partitioned off for the royal family, something like a box at the opera, only enclosed by a fine lattice work screen, to prevent the people, I suppose, from gazing at the Queen and Prince Albert, when they should be minding their devotions.
From the chapel we went to the royal stables, where we were shown some very fine horses and elegant equipages. There were the Queen's carriages of all varieties, and little pony phaetons, and Canadian sleighs and Russian sledges; and there were her carriage and riding horses, and Prince Albert's hunters, and the children's ponies. The stables are handsome and comfortable buildings, and are kept with the utmost care, order, and neatness. Thousands of poor people might envy the high-blooded brutes such a home as this. Some of the horses were very beautiful and graceful animals, and all were groomed so carefully it seemed no one hair was longer than the others. In almost every stall was a sleek, lazy, high-bred looking cat, either perched upon the back of the horse, dozing and blinking, or curled up in the straw at his feet, fast asleep. The grooms told us that the horses were really very fond of their feline companions, and treated them tenderly and protectingly.
From the castle we drove to the delightful pleasure-grounds of Virginia Water. Passing up a magnificent avenue, more than three miles long, we came to a height, on which stands a large equestrian statue of George III., in the dress of an ancient Roman. This is the king we rebelled against, you know. He was a domineering, stubborn, crack-brained old gentleman, but, for all that, honest and good-humored. I should not think him particularly like an ancient Roman, except in his obstinacy.
Next we came to Virginia Water, which is just the loveliest place I ever saw. Here are luxuriant plantations and gardens, summer-houses, temples, fountains, cascades, woods, walks, and drives. Here is a shining, winding little lake, with fairy-like pleasure-boats upon it, and graceful swans slowly sailing over the clear, blue waves, and looking like the reflection of small white clouds, floating in the sky above.
Virginia Water is the play-ground of royalty. The celebrated Duke of Cumberland, George IV., and William IV., amused themselves here a great deal, at an enormous and very foolish expense, sometimes. The duke built an absurd Chinese temple and a useless clock-tower. George had ruins brought from Greece and Egypt, and set up in the wood; while William, who had been a sailor, had a little vessel of war built to defend the miniature sea.
The Duke of Cumberland's clock-tower was sold to a rich country gentleman, who soon tired of it, and wished to sell it back to the crown. But King George objected to his price, and refused to buy. The owner, who was a shrewd fellow, a sort of English Barnum, said, "Very well," but immediately took means to render himself a very uncomfortable neighbor, by mounting a large telescope on the top of the tower, and coolly watching the king in all his loyal recreations. This quite enraged his Majesty; but he bought the tower on the owner's terms, who, I am sorry to say, was disloyal enough to make him pay dear for the telescope.
When Queen Victoria is at Windsor, the royal standard is seen floating from the highest tower, and strangers are not admitted to the castle. But the great park is always open to the people. Here they sometimes meet the Queen and Prince Albert walking or riding, without an escort, and so plainly dressed that those who expect to see sovereigns and princes always surrounded by pomp and show, might pass them by unnoticed. The little princes and princesses are often seen walking and playing in the grounds, also very simply dressed. They are fine, healthy, natural children, and are admirably governed and cared for. Their good mother sees that especial attention is paid to their health, and has established a wise and strict system of exercise and diet. She keeps them in the country and on the sea-shore as much as possible; she overlooks their studies, reading, and sports; she is very careful that they go early to bed, and rise in time to hear the good-morning song of the lark. As for their diet, many an American farmer's or shopkeeper's children would think it very hard if they were restricted to such simple food as these sons and daughters of a great queen are content with and thrive on; oatmeal porridge, butterless bread, a very little meat, no rich gravies,—water, milk, a limited amount of fruit, and no sweetmeats.
The Prince of Wales, who, if he lives, will be the next king of England, is an amiable and gallant young lad, but is a little too apt, I heard it said, to take kingly airs upon himself before his time. I was told of an instance of this very natural fault, in which he was taught a good lesson.
It happened some two or three summers ago, that he invited one of the boys from Eton College, which is near Windsor, to spend a day with him at the castle. This boy, though the son of a nobleman, was untitled, I believe, but perhaps all the more sturdy and manly for that, and not to be put upon, even by a prince.
All went well for a time, but at last, the prince took offence at some bit of sport, and did not restrain his temper or his tongue. The Etonian resented the insult, I am sorry to say, in the usual school-boy fashion, by a resort to blows; and being stronger than the prince, soon got the advantage of him. The attendants raised an alarm, and Prince Albert himself came to the field of battle. The Etonian, having let the little prince up, stood bravely facing his royal father.
"Why, what is the matter, boys?" asked Prince Albert.
"The matter is, your royal highness, that I have beaten your son. It was because he insulted me, and I won't stand an insult from any boy."
The prince, after inquiring into the matter, reproved young Albert; and being a soldier, did not blame the Eton boy for his want of peace principles, as you or I would doubtless have done.
There are many stories in English history connected with Windsor Castle, but none I think so pretty as that of
About four hundred and fifty years ago, when Henry IV. was king of England, King Robert III., of Scotland, put his son James, the heir to his throne, a boy of nine years old, on board ship, to send him to France, to be educated. But the vessel was taken by some English cruisers, and the little prince carried captive to King Henry, who treacherously imprisoned him at Windsor Castle.
King Robert was a very loving father, and when the news of this capture was brought to him, as he sat at supper in his palace at Rothesay, he was so overcome with grief that he fainted and seemed about to die. His attendants carried him to his chamber and laid him on his bed, which he never left again; for when he came out of his swoon, he hid his face in the pillow, and wept, and wept, refusing to be comforted,—sending all his food away untasted, and scarcely ever speaking, except to repeat the name of his son, over and over again, in a way to break one's heart. So he took on for three days and nights, and then died.
But the prince, now King James, was not so badly off as he might have been. Though a prisoner, he was not confined in a gloomy dungeon, but had handsome and comfortable apartments, in a tower which overlooked a beautiful garden, where trees waved, and birds sang, and fountains sparkled, and flowers sent up sweet perfumes to his windows. The sun shone and the stars looked in upon him; and when a prisoner can see the sun and the stars, he cannot feel that God has quite forgotten him, or the angels ceased to watch over him. He was not left alone, or deprived of employments and amusements. King Henry commanded that he should have a right princely education. He had masters who taught him history, grammar, oratory, music, sword-exercise, jousting, singing, and dancing. He was handsome, graceful, and clever, but always most celebrated for his poetical talent. As he grew to manhood, he became one of the noblest poets of his day, and even now his verses, though quaint and old-fashioned, are very sweet, pure, and pleasant to read.
One fresh May morning, when James had been a captive in Windsor Castle nearly eighteen years, as he was looking down from his window, he saw a beautiful young lady walking in the garden. She was dressed all in white; a net of pearls and sapphires confined her golden hair, and a rich chain of gold was about her delicate throat. By her side sported a pretty little Italian greyhound, with a string of tinkling silver bells around his neck.
As she moved among the flowers, the violet looked up into her eyes, and thought their tender blue was her own reflection. The rose said to herself, "What a rich bloom I must have, if even my shadow makes her cheeks so red!" The lily had similar thoughts about her neck; while the golden laburnum thought it and the sunbeams had been the making of her hair.
This lovely dame was the Lady Jane Beaufort, daughter of the Earl of Somerset. Of course, King James, having little else to do, fell in love with her without delay, and in a very short time told her so, by means of tender rhymes, which he sent fluttering down into her path. The Lady Jane was charmed with his verses, and found it easy to go from admiring the poetry into loving the poet. To be frank, and tell him so, she wrote a little billet, and tied it under the wing of a white dove, directing him to carry it straight to the captive's window,—and he did so. But if he had suspected what was to have come of it, I don't believe he would have gone; for it was little rest the poor bird got after that, between the two lovers, who kept him flying back and forth a dozen times a day with their fond messages under his wing.
At last, King Henry got wind of this romantic affair, and, instead of being angry; he was very glad, for he wanted King James to have an English wife. So he took him from prison, gave him Lady Jane in marriage, and restored him to his throne.
The poet-king and his noble queen were very kindly received in Scotland, and lived for some time very happily and peacefully, always dearly loving one another. But James found the kingdom in great confusion from misgovernment, and the common people very much oppressed. He bravely set himself to reform matters, trying to relieve and protect the poor, and restrain and humble the rich and powerful. His most difficult labor was to lessen the power of the great nobles, who were in fact almost kings themselves, on their own estates, and fought against each other, and even against the king, upon the slightest provocation, and often without any. They rebelled against this as being a spiteful action, and not, as it really was, a noble, kingly effort to benefit the whole kingdom. They took further offence at the levying of some taxes for the support of the throne and to carry on the government. The people being poor, and not used to paying such taxes, were easily led to believe that it was King James's avarice, and not the necessities of the government, which caused them to be exacted. So, although he was so wise and good, and had the welfare of his people so much at heart, he came to be looked upon as unjust and tyrannical, by both the nobles and the common people; and this led to a conspiracy to bring about his death.
The leader in this conspiracy was one Sir Robert Graham, a bold, ambitious man, who was greatly embittered by having suffered an imprisonment at the command of the King. He also enticed into the plot the old Earl of Athole, by promising that his son, Sir Robert Stewart, should be made king in James's place. Many others joined the plot, upon various grounds, bringing with them their followers, to whom they pretended that their object was to carry off a lady from the court. Graham went off into the far Highlands, to complete his plan, and from thence he formally recalled his allegiance to the king, bidding him defiance, and threatening to put him to death with his own hand. In reply to this, King James set a price upon the head of Graham, to be paid to any one who should capture and deliver him up to justice; but he managed to keep himself safely concealed in the mountains.
For the Christmas following this, the poor, doomed king had appointed a feast to be held at Perth. As he was about to cross a ferry on his way to attend this feast, he was stopped by a Highland woman, who professed to be a prophetess. She called out to him in a loud voice, "My lord, the king, if you pass this water, you will never return alive." The king had read in some book of prophecy, that a king would be killed in Scotland during that year, and was much struck by this speech of the old woman.
Better would it have been for both himself and Scotland had he given heed to this warning, which the old woman doubtless had better authority than her claim to prophecy for making; but he turned jestingly to a knight of the court, to whom he had given the title of "the King of Love," saying, "Sir Alexander, there is a prophecy that a king shall be killed in Scotland this year; now this must mean either you or me, since we are the only kings in Scotland." Several other things occurred which, if attended to, might have saved the king; but they were all suffered to pass unheeded.
When the king arrived at Perth, there being no castle or palace convenient, he selected for his residence an abbey of Black Friars, which made it necessary, unfortunately, to distribute his guards among the citizens, and thus make comparatively easy the execution of the design of the conspirators.
On the night of the 20th of February, 1437, after some of the conspirators, selected for that purpose, had knocked to pieces the locks of the doors of the king's apartment, carried away the bars which fastened the gates, and provided planks with which the ditch surrounding the monastery was to be crossed, Sir Robert Graham left his hiding-place in the mountains and entered the convent gardens, with about three hundred men.
The king had spent the evening with the ladies and gentlemen of the court, in singing, dancing, playing chess, and reading romances aloud. All the court had retired, and James was standing before the fire, in night-gown and slippers, talking with the queen and her ladies, when the same Highland prophetess that had warned him at the ferry, begged to speak with him, but was refused, because it was so late.
Suddenly there was heard without the clash of men in armor, and the glare of torches was seen in the gardens. The king at once thought of Sir Robert Graham and his threat, and called to the ladies who were still in the room to keep the doors fast, so as to give him time to make his escape. After vainly trying to break the bars of the windows, he suddenly remembered that there was a vault running beneath the apartment, which was used as a common sewer; whereupon he seized the tongs, raised a plank in the floor, and let himself down. This vault had formerly led out into the court of the convent; but, most unfortunately, he had only a few days before ordered this opening to be walled up, because, when playing ball, the ball had several times rolled into it.
In the mean time, the conspirators were hunting for him from room to room, and at last they reached the one beneath which he was hidden. The queen and her ladies kept the door shut as long as they could, but you will remember that the cowardly conspirators had broken the locks and carried off the bars; and this brings us to one of the most devoted and heroic acts in Scottish history. Catherine Douglas, one of the noblest (both by rank and nature) and loveliest of the queen's ladies, when she found that the bar was gone, with that high spirit which has made her race wellnigh the most famous of Scotland, thrust her beautiful, naked arm through the staples, in the place of the bar, and thus kept the door closed till her arm was crushed and broken by the pressure of the brutal traitors on the other side. When this heroic defence was overcome, they burst headlong into the room, with swords and daggers drawn, beating down and trampling on the brave ladies who did their best to keep them back. One of them was in the act of killing the queen, but a son of Graham prevented it, by exclaiming, "What would you do with the queen? She is but a woman! Let us seek the king!"
After a careful, but unsuccessful search, they went away to look in other parts of the building. The king having heard their departure, and being very cold and uncomfortable, asked the ladies to help him out of the vault. But some of the conspirators had remembered this vault, and just at this moment they returned to search it. They tore up the plank, and there stood the poor, doomed king in his night-gown, and entirely unarmed; at which, one of them said, "Sirs, I have found the bride for whom we have been seeking all night."
First, two brothers, named Hall, jumped into the vault, with drawn daggers; but the king was a very powerful and active man, and he at once threw them both down, and was trying to get a dagger from them, when Graham himself leaped down. Then James, finding that defence was useless, asked him for mercy, and for a little time to confess his sins. But Graham replied, "Thou never hadst mercy on any one, therefore thou shall receive no mercy; and thy confessor shall be only this good sword." Whereupon he ran the king through the body. Then, possibly overcome with remorse, or fearing the consequences of the deed, he was for leaving the king to the chances of life and death; but the others fiercely called out that if he did not kill the king, he himself should die. At this, he and the two Halls dispatched the poor monarch with their daggers. After his death, sixteen wounds were found upon his breast alone.
And this was the end of the great and good James I. of Scotland, who, king though he was, died a martyr for the rights of the people.
On a bright morning, early in August, I left London, with my dear friends, Mr. and Mrs. B., for a visit to Ireland, by the way of Wales and Holyhead. The first remarkable place we came to was the town of Chester, which stands just outside the Principality of Wales, and is so very ancient that antiquarians, who are often rather quarrelsome old gentlemen, have had many a hot dispute about its founder. Some say it was Leon Gaur, "a mighty strong giant," who first built caves and dungeons here, in which he confined all the poor stragglers he could catch, and fatted them for his table. Others affirm that it was old King Lear, whom you will sometime read about in Shakspeare, as being afflicted with a very testy temper and two wicked daughters, who were quite too sharp for him.
When the Romans had possession of Great Britain, they made Chester an important military station, under the name of Dova. There are many Roman remains shown here, to this day. Afterwards some of the Saxon kings held their court here. It is related that the proud Edgar once took a grand pleasure trip on the Dee, when his boat was rowed by eight tributary kings.
Under the Normans, the town grew fast in strength and importance, and, at last, took the name of Chester. Lupus, the first Earl of Chester, built a castle, rebuilt the walls, and made it the head-quarters of an army, maintained on the frontiers, to keep down the Welsh. That brave, half savage people kept attacking the town and setting fire to the suburbs; but were always beaten back with great slaughter and left so many of their dead behind them, that the cold-blooded English actually made a wall of Welshmen's skulls. So, in years after, when the young Welsh soldiers undertook to take the town; they were obliged, it may be said, to climb up over their fathers' and grandfathers' heads.
Chester is now a very interesting place, full of quaint, old-fashioned houses, with high pointed roofs and carved gables turned toward the streets, which are wide and straight. The walls remain nearly perfect—not preserved for defence, but as relics of the old fighting times.
The Dee is a strange looking river when the tide is low, for the sands stretch far out on each side. Mr. Kingsley, an English author, in a beautiful song, tells a sad story of a poor girl, who was sent one evening to call the cattle home across these wide sands. A blinding mist came up and the tide came in, but Mary never came home—only as she floated ashore the next morning, drowned.
A little way off the railway track, lies Maes Garmon, the scene of a great victory gained by the Britons over the Scots and Picts, in 429.
It was in the season of Lent;—the Britons had assembled in great numbers, in a valley amid the mountains, to listen to the preaching of St. Germanus and Bishop Lupus. These holy men preached with such extraordinary power, that thousands of rude warriors came forward, vociferously professing religion, and eager to be baptized. The enemy, hearing of this by their scouts, thought that here would be a fine opportunity to take them by surprise, and hastened to the spot to make the attack. But St. Germanus somehow got wind of their coming, and, taking the pick of the warriors; conducted them to a pass through which the heathen army must enter the valley. As soon as the enemy appeared, the Saint, lifting the rood in his hands, shouted three times at the top of his voice, "Hallelujah!" All his warriors repeated the cry, and the mountains echoed and reŽchoed it, till their caves and forests seemed to be alive with lurking Britons. The bloody-minded heathens were so astonished and frightened by this strange Christian uproar, that they flung down their aims and ran for their lives! The Britons, instead of going on with their Hallelujahs, as I think they should have done, took after them with great fury—slew thousands and drove thousands into the river, where they were drowned. It was a queer way to win a battle that—scaring the enemy out of their wits by shouting holy words at them. I doubt whether the plan would succeed as well in our enlightened Christian times.
The next object of interest is Flint Castle, to which King Richard II. was carried as a prisoner, and where he met the banished Bolingbroke, who was soon to step into his royal shoes and dub himself King Henry IV.
Next was the town of Holywell—so called for the famous, and, it is said, miraculous well of St. Winifred, which it contains. If you inquire for this, you are conducted to a beautiful Gothic building, erected by the good Margaret, Countess of Richmond. Within this edifice is a large bath; and in and out of this, the maimed, palsied, and rheumatic, are constantly hobbling, crawling, or being carried. Over head, fixed in the roof, are hosts of old canes and crutches, placed there by cripples who say they have been cured by the waters. Doubtless this spring has medicinal properties, like many in our own country, and very likely many a poor creature is cured by simply bathing repeatedly in pure cold water—a treatment tried here for the first time in all their lives.
But who was St. Winifred?
All I know of her I get from a Roman Catholic legend, which I, being a Protestant, and because it seems to me absurd, cannot credit; but which many good, simple-hearted people find no difficulty in believing—especially such as have had a lame leg cured by the well, and have hung up a crutch in the shrine.
There was once, (says the legend,) a great lord, whose name was Thewith, and a noble lady, whose name was Wenlo, and they had one only daughter, whose name was Winifred. Now Winifred grew up to be a marvellously beautiful maiden, and her hand was sought in marriage by lords and princes far and near. But strangely enough, she would have nothing to say to any of them, and seemed to care nothing for the pomps and pleasures of the world. She was pious and charitable, and loved better to nurse and pray with the sick than to wear fine dresses, or dance with handsome young gentlemen. Perhaps she had visions, in which she saw and heard all the palsied old men and women, and all the miserable cripples that were, or ever would be in the world, shaking their heads and thumping with their crutches at her. At any rate, she resolved to live a single, devout, and charitable life, and for that purpose, placed herself under the care and instruction of her uncle, Breno, a very holy priest.
But it happened that Prince Caradoc, the son of King Alen—who he was I don't know—saw her, and instantly fell desperately in love with her, and in the authoritative way which princes have, asked her to be his wife. Winifred said "no" very decidedly, and then he undertook to carry her off by force. But she escaped, and ran down the hill toward her uncle's cell. Caradoc followed, foaming with rage, and with his drawn sword in his hand. She ran very fast, but he soon overtook her, and with one blow of his sword cut off her head! The body dropped on the spot, but the head bounded forward and fell at the feet of Father Breno, who stood at the door of his cell. The good priest caught it up, and running to the body, put it on again—being very careful not to have it twisted toward one shoulder, or what would have been more awkward still, facing backward.
Immediately Winifred arose, as well as ever, only a little weak from loss of blood—and with nothing to remember her decapitation by, but a red line around her neck, which looked like a small string of coral beads, and was rather pretty than otherwise.
From that day it was settled that Winifred was a Saint, for on the spot where her head had rested, there bubbled up a spring of pure water, for the healing of the sick—particularly the crippled and rheumatic. Believers say that, in the Saint's time, the waters were more powerful than they are now. Then, after one dip, the palsied stopped shaking, the paralytic began talking, and cripples flung away their crutches while the maimed had only to thrust the stumps of arms and legs into the spring, to have beautiful new hands and feet sprout out before their eyes!
The part of North Wales through which we passed, is not so mountainous and picturesque as some other portions of the Principality; but it is very beautiful, even as seen in flying glimpses, from the railway carriage. We were very sorry that we could not stop to explore the lovely vales of Clwyd and Llangollen, and visit the little city of St. Asaph, where Mrs. Hemans once resided.
I longed to go and pay my respects to some of those grand, old mountains, that stood afar off, in their stern majesty, clothed with purple-blossomed heather, flecked with golden sunshine and crowned with gorgeous clouds, or silvery mists. The dark-waving foliage of many a shadowy glen and rocky gorge seemed beckoning to us to search into their lovely, lonely places, and many a glad rill and wild cascade seemed to call to us to come and look upon its unsunned beauty. But the swift locomotive remorselessly whirled us away from glen and gorge, and its rush and clang soon drowned those pleasant mountain voices of dancing rivulet and laughing waterfall.
We hardly caught a breath of the free, fresh air of the hills, in exchange for the long, brown train of heavy, hot smoke we left behind us;—in truth, puffing and whirling in and out of the Principality, as we did, I am almost ashamed to count Wales as one of the countries I have seen.
In England, no town, however large it may be, is called a city, unless it has a Bishop and a Cathedral, as the capital of an Episcopal See. Thus the great seaport of Liverpool is only a town, while St. Asaph, with but one street and eight hundred inhabitants, is a city.
The first Bishop of St. Asaph was St. Kentigern, a famous monk and monk-maker, and founder of monasteries. He had a disciple by the name of Asaph, whom he brought up to be a Saint.
Legends say that one day the good Bishop got severely chilled by remaining in his bath too long, and young Asaph, not having any shovel or tongs, took up some live coals in his hands, and carried them to his master, without burning himself at all. People said this was a very fair beginning for a Saint, and as he continued to improve, the church canonized him when he died, and the city and diocese were named for him.
Near St. Asaph is Rhyddlan Castle—the place where Edward I. outwitted the Welsh nobles, by proposing that they should be ruled by a native Prince, whose character nobody could say a word against. All joyfully agreed, and then he presented to them his infant son, born at Carnarvon Castle, and whom he had made Prince of Wales.
At Conway, we passed close by a grand old castle, still very strong and imposing, though it was built by Edward I. Here we crossed the Tubular Bridge—a great curiosity—but far from equal to the Britannia Bridge, across the Menai Straits, which lie between Wales and the Island of Anglesea. I cannot describe this to you—but it is one of the most wonderful works in all the world.
Holyhead is a small town, on an island of the same name—divided by a narrow strait from the west coast of Anglesea. Here we took a steamer to cross the Irish channel.
We made the trip in about four hours; but they seemed to me no less than twelve—for I was mortally sick. I thought at one time that I was surely dying. I did not care much; people never do when they are sea-sick; still, I thought I should prefer a more romantic sort of a death, and I was heartily glad when I found myself on shore, at Kingstown, seven miles below Dublin, where we took the railway for that city. We arrived late at night, and drove to our hotel on a regular Irish jaunting car. This is a very funny looking vehicle—low and broad, with two wheels, concealed by the seats, which run lengthwise. There is another kind, called the inside car. An Irishman once explained the difference to an English traveller, in this way: "An outside car, yer honor, has the wheels inside, and an inside car has the wheels outside."
All Irish carmen drive furiously, and the cars go jumping and hopping along, and spinning round the corners, at such a rate that one feels rather nervous at first, and has no little difficulty in keeping on. But like many other things, it's easy enough, when you get used to it.
We found Gresham's Hotel a very comfortable, pleasant place, and we soon felt at home, though we saw none but Irish faces, and heard only the Irish brogue around us; for those faces were smiling and cordial, and that rich, musical brogue seemed bubbling up from kindly hearts.
I have not told you much about Wales in this chapter, because rushing through the country, as I did, I really saw very little of it. The people seemed quiet, cleanly, and industrious; but they did not look, or dress at all like the English. I noticed that many of the women seemed rather masculine in their tastes—wearing hats and coats like the men, and that the children were dressed in an odd old-fashioned way, and looked serious, shrewd, and mature—almost as though they were a race of dwarfs. The Welsh language had to me a strange, harsh, barbaric sound, and when listening to it, I realized for the first time since I had left America, that I was indeed far away from home. I do not doubt, however, but that if I had seen more of the Welsh, I should have liked them heartily, for they are said to be very kindly, honest, and hospitable. They are naturally brave and sturdy lovers of liberty. In old times the English had a hard and tedious struggle with them, before they could subdue them. Often, when they thought they had the whole rude nation under their hands, or rather under their feet, the rebellious spirit would break out again in a new spot, fiercer and hotter than ever, and all the work had to be done over again.
Many of the stories in Welsh history are very grand and heroic, but they are also very terrible; and I think you will find more to your taste a simple little story of domestic life, which I have picked up somewhere, and can assure you is as true as a great deal we find in history.
A good many years ago, somewhere on the southwestern coast of Wales, there lived an honest fisherman, by the name of John Jenkins. The Jenkinses are a very numerous and respectable family in Wales, and so are the Joneses.
Mrs. Jenkins was a Jones, but she was not half so proud of her high and vast family connections, as she was of her industrious, hardy husband, and her pretty little daughter, Fanny.
When Fanny was a fortnight-old baby, the least, puny, little, pink creature, wrapped in flannel, there came up a dreadful storm, and a small London packet was wrecked on the coast, near her father's cottage. The passengers were all lost except a little boy, about three years of age, whom John Jenkins saved at the risk of his life. Two of the crew escaped, but they could tell nothing of the child more than that he came from Ireland, and was bound for London, with his nurse. The boy could give no clear account of himself, but he wore round his neck a gold locket, with arms engraved on it, and containing a lock of black hair, twined with small pearls. So the fisherman concluded that he must belong to some great family; and when they asked what was his name, they expected to hear some prodigious great title, such as earl, or marquis; but when he proudly answered, "Brian O'Neill," they could make nothing of it—little knowing, simple folks as they were, that the O'Neills were once kings and princes in Ireland. But that was in the old, old time; great changes have taken place since, and there are a few O'Neills quite in common life nowadays.
John Jenkins did all that lay in his power to find the parents and home of the child—but he was poor and ignorant—the lord of the manor was a little boy, at school, and the steward could not or would not help him; so, his efforts all proving useless, he adopted Brian, and brought him up as his son, giving him a tolerably good education, and training him for his own honest calling.
O'Neill grew into a fine, hearty, brave lad,—not at all conceited or haughty in his ways, though he was proud, he scarcely knew why, of his Irish name,—always treasured up his locket of gold, and often declared that he could remember the head from which that hair was cut—his mother's—and how he had seen it shut away under the coffin-lid, the very day that his nurse set out with him for London. He said, too, that he could remember his home; a grand old castle, near a lake, and a great park, and a little cottage, where his foster-mother lived, and his foster-father, a terrible man, who used to get drunk and break things; and how once, when running away from him, he fell and cut his head. Here Brian always lifted the hair off his forehead, and, sure enough, there was a scar quite plain to be seen.
Fanny Jenkins grew up into a good and beautiful girl, and it seemed very natural that she and young O'Neill should love one another, and when they married and set up for themselves nobody objected. Indeed, so much were they beloved, that all who were able, helped them, and those who had nothing to give, wished them well and smiled on their courageous love, and so did them more good than they thought.
The lord of the manor built them a beautiful cottage by the sea, with long narrow windows and turrets, almost like a castle; and the Lord of lords blessed them and prospered them, and in due time gave them a little son, whom they called Brian Patrick Jenkins Jones O'Neill, and who was just the brightest, best, and most beautiful baby ever beheld,—at least Fanny thought so, and surely mothers are the best judges of babies.
They lived a very happy life, that humble little family. Every morning early the young fisherman went out in his pretty boat, the "Fanny Jenkins," for his day's toil and adventure, leaving his cheerful little wife at her work—spinning, sewing, or caring for the child; and every night, when he returned tired and hungry, as fishermen often are, and found a tidy home, a smiling wife, a crowing baby and a hearty meal awaiting him, he thought and said, that he was just the happiest O'Neill in all the world.
In tempestuous weather Fanny suffered a great deal from anxiety for her brave husband, who would always put out to sea, unless the storm was very serious indeed.
At length, one lowering day in September, when he was far out of sight of home, a sudden squall came up, which deepened into a tempest as the day wore on.
With anxious heart and tearful eyes poor Fanny watched through the gloomy sunset, for his coming,—half longing, half fearing to see his frail vessel driven toward the land on such an angry sea.
But the day and night passed, and he did not come. The next four or five days were dark and stormy; there were several wrecks upon the coast, and Brian was given up for lost by all but his wife. She still kept up a good heart and would not despair.
At last the storm ceased, the sea grew smooth, the skies smiled, and all looked cheerful again, save where along the wild shore fragments of wrecks came drifting in, and the people were burying the drowned.
At the close of a beautiful day, a week from the time that Brian O'Neill left his home, his wife sat in front of the cottage, with her baby asleep upon her lap. Her brave heart was failing her now; she grew tired of her sad, vain gazing out toward the west, and bowing her head on her hands, wept till the tears trickled through her fingers and dropped on the sleeping face before her.
So she sat a long time, weeping and praying, and calling her babe a "poor fatherless boy," when suddenly, the child smiled out of sleep and started up, calling "Papa!" Fanny sprung to her feet, almost hoping that her Brian was by her side. No, he was not there; but, oh, joy! a little way out to sea, between her and the sunset glory, came a dear familiar object—her aquatic namesake—the boat! Swiftly it came o'er the bright waters, joyfully dancing toward its home! Soon a beloved form was seen waving a shining sailor's hat; soon a beloved voice was heard calling her name, and soon, though it seemed an age to her, Brian O'Neill, with his oars and nets over his shoulder, as though he had only been absent for a day's fishing, sprang up the steps before the cottage and clasped his wife and child to his honest heart! Fanny laughed and wept and thanked God, the baby crowed and pulled his father's whiskers, and all were happier than I can tell.
In the evening, when his parents and the neighbors were in, to rejoice over his return, Brian told the story of his adventures.
When that dreadful storm came up, he would have been lost, had he not been near a large vessel which took up both him and his boat. This ship was bound to a northern Irish port, and as the storm continued, he was obliged to make the whole voyage. At B——, while he was waiting for fair weather, he looked about him a little, to see the country; and now comes the wonderful, romantic part of his story. On visiting an old and somewhat dilapidated castle, in the neighborhood of the town, he instantly recognized it as the home of his infancy; and walking straight through the park, he found the cottage of his foster-mother and the dear old woman herself—who didn't believe in him at first, because he was a great weather-beaten sailor, instead of the fair baby she had nursed. But when Brian lifted his hair and showed the scar, she was convinced and rejoiced exceedingly. Then she told him how his father, Sir Patrick O'Neill died when he was a mere baby, and left him to the guardianship of an uncle who proved to be a bad man. So when Lady O'Neill was dying, she made her nurse promise to take the child to her sister, in London, to have him brought up away from that wicked man. When the news came of the wreck of the "Erin," and the loss of all on board, this uncle went into mourning for six months—but his tenants were always in mourning, for he proved a very hard landlord.
Brian laid no claim then to his title and estate, but as soon as the sea was calm, went home to ask his wife's advice, like a sensible man and a good husband.
He and Fanny had often said that they did not envy the rich and great; but now, considering that the false baronet was so bad a man, and his tenantry so oppressed, they really thought it their duty to make an effort for rank and fortune.
Well, after a long time, Brian got his rights, by the help of a great lawyer, who took half the property in payment for his services. So he became Sir Brian O'Neill, the master of a dreary old castle and no end of bogs and potatoe patches, and Fanny became "Her Leddyship, God bless her!" as the peasants used to say.
For a long time they found it rather awkward and tiresome to be grand and idle, like other great folks; so much so, that for several years they used to go over to Wales in the fishing season, and live in the cottage by the sea, and Sir Brian would go out fishing every day, and Lady Fanny would spin and sew and take care of the baby, just in the old way. Living thus, they were happiest—but they were always happy and good—they lived to be very old, and died on the same day and were buried in the same grave.
Their great great-grandson, Sir Algernon O'Neill, is fond of the water, too; but he takes to it in a splendid yacht, called the "Fanny Ellsler," with his delicate wife, the Lady Ginevra, who abhors the sea, and gets dreadfully sick always, but will take cruises, because the sea air is good for the little O'Neills, she says,—because Queen Victoria has set the fashion, some people say.
It is not certainly know who was the founder of Dublin, or Dubhlywn, as the name was written formerly. Some learned historians say it was Avellanus, one of the Danish Vikings, an adventurous sort of monarchs of old times, very much given to a seafaring life, and piratical depredations. If Avellanus was the founder—and I don't dispute that he was—he showed great taste and wisdom in selecting the site of a city. It has a beautiful harbor; the River Liffey flows through it, a picturesque country lies around it, and in sight are romantic valleys and dark gorges and noble hills, which don't stop far short of real mountains.
Dublin remained under the rule of the Danish Sea-kings, and their descendants, till they were conquered by the English, in the year 1170. They were, however, put down for a time in the year 1014, by a league of native princes, led by the great king, Brien-Boro. It was during this struggle that the famous battle of Clontarf was fought.
Brien-Boro was a model monarch—the King Alfred of Ireland. So perfectly were the laws administered in his reign, that it was said a fair damsel might travel alone, from one end of the Kingdom to the other, with a gold ring on the top of a wand, without danger of being robbed. I doubt very much, however, if any young lady ever performed such a journey.
From the year 1173, when Henry II. received the submission of the Irish princes, and the last Irish king, Roderic O'Connor, Ireland has remained under the government of England, and though it has had several bloody rebellions, it has never been really independent. The Irish formerly had a parliament of their own, but toward the close of the last century it was suppressed, and the union made complete.
The governors of Ireland have always been called viceroys, or lord-lieutenants. Dublin Castle was built for their residence, but for some time past it has been abandoned for "The Lodge," in Phoenix Park. The Castle is a massive, gloomy-looking building, now principally occupied by the military.
The Parliament House, now the Bank of Ireland, the Custom-House, and Trinity College, are beautiful buildings; but I did not admire the cathedrals and churches very much, after those of England. The church of St. Anne is interesting, as containing the tomb of Felicia Hemans.
We drove about the town on a jaunting car, with a talkative driver, seeing all the sights and listening to strange, wild legends. In the pretty cemetery of Glasneven, we saw, through the grating of a vault, the magnificent coffin which contains the body of Daniel O'Connell, the great orator. We enjoyed most our drive in Phoenix Park, a noble enclosure, filled with fine trees and shrubbery, flowers, birds, gentle deer, and playful, brown-eyed fawns.
But if we liked the streets, buildings, and parka of Dublin, we liked the people better. Very courteous, generous, and cordial we found all those to whose hospitality we had been commended—and warm at my heart is now, and ever will be, the dear memory of my good Dublin friends.
A pleasant excursion from the city is to the Bay, which is considered one of the most beautiful in the world; and to Howth Harbor, formerly the landing-place of the Dublin packets, but now superseded by Kingston.
The first object which strikes one on approaching Dublin by sea, is the famous Hill of Howth, which rises bold and high, on the northern coast of the bay, and stands like the great guardian and champion of Ireland.
The Dublin people are as proud of this as the Neapolitans are of Mount Vesuvius, which overlooks their noble bay of Naples. "Ah, sure ma'am," said an Irish sailor,—"it's as fine an ilivation, barrin' a few thousand feet of height, as that same smokin', rumblin' ould cratur, an' a dale betther behaved."
At Howth there are some very interesting Druidical remains to be seen, a fine old castle and an abbey, in which repose many brave and famous knights—the Tristrams and St. Lawrences, barons of Howth.
There is a curious and romantic legend of Howth Castle, which I will relate here.
In the time of Queen Elizabeth, there was a celebrated woman living in the province of Connaught, Ireland, named Grana Uille, or Grace O'Malley. She was the chieftainess of the O'Malley's of Clare Island, and called herself a princess, but she was most famed as a female pirate-captain, or vi-queen, as, perhaps, she would have preferred to be called.
She lived in rude, stormy times, when the Irish were nearly as wild and warlike as savages, and fierce feuds and bold robberies, on land and sea, were every day affairs. Indeed, for a man to be a peaceful, honest, sober citizen, was then no ways to his credit; then children were taught by their quarrelsome parents, to fire up on the slightest occasion, and fight for their rights,—to revenge all insults, and make free with the property of their enemies; and little was the Sunday-school teaching they had to the contrary; then when women became leaders of lawless predatory bands, they were admired and wondered at; but few thought of condemning them, or dared to scout at them.
Those must have been the days, or Ireland the country, of "woman's rights," for throughout the warlike career of the great chieftainess, nobody seems to have been much shocked, or to have thought that Miss O'Malley was going out of her "proper sphere," and infringing on the sacred rights of the nobler sex, in fighting and pirating; except it may be those men who got the worst of it, in engagements with her.
Grace O'Malley was the daughter of a powerful chief, who, having no heir, brought up his one little girl as though she were a son—teaching her all sorts of manly and martial exercises. Instead of dolls and pets, her childish playthings were pistols and daggers, which she soon found very useful in scaring her attendants into instant obedience to her whims; and instead of being allowed to play among the sands and hunt shells on the wild seashore, she was taught to swim, to fish, to row, and to shoot the shy water-fowl. Instead of taking her airings, like a modern nobleman's little daughter, on a well-trained pony, or a sober, sure-footed donkey, over smooth lawns, and through shady parks and flowery lanes, she was accustomed to accompany her father and his rough followers, mounted on one of the wild horses of the country, on long mountain hunts—to dash through bog and briar, to ford swollen streams, and leap wide, dark chasms.
Once, when Grace was but a child, while she was out on one of these hunts, a young fawn that they were chasing, turned suddenly, and singling her out from all the party, ran to her side, laid its head in her lap, and lifted its large sorrowful eyes to her face, as though asking for her protection. "Stand back!" cried she, to the hunters,—"call off the dogs, and let no one harm her now,—she is mine!"
"Ah, well, comrades," said one of the men, "let us seek other game, and leave the fawn to our little lady, for a pet."
"No, by the Rock of Cashel!" cried old Cormac O'Malley, "I will not have my brave daughter made soft and silly, like other girls, by tending pets. Draw your hunting-knife across her throat, Grace, while you have her."
"That will I not, father, for she has trusted in me. I want no pets, but whoever kills this fawn, must kill me first," she said, flinging her arms around the poor trembling creature. She looked so fierce and determined that the men cheered, and the old chief laughingly promised her that the fawn should be allowed to escape unharmed. Grace jealously watched the disappointed hunters and yelping hounds till the swift-footed animal was out of sight, and then rode on with the rest.
Such was Grace O'Malley—stern and proud in temper, fearless and manly in her habits, but now and then giving way to a kind and generous impulse. When her father died, she assumed the command of his warlike retainers, and the sternest and bravest of them were not ashamed to acknowledge her authority. At first, she only fought in self-defence, or in revenge for what she considered aggressions and insults, and finally, for spoil and conquest, and for the habit and love of strife and adventure. She was a tall, handsome woman, with dark, flashing eyes, a clear, ringing voice, and a proud, soldier-like step. Her dress was a singular mingling of the masculine and feminine fashions of her half barbarous country; but it was picturesque and imposing; made of the richest materials she could procure, and worn with an air of majesty which not Queen Bess herself, in all her glory, could surpass.
But the proud Lady Grace professed to be a loyal subject of Elizabeth. In an Irish rebellion, headed by the Earl of Tyrone, she sided with the English government, and added immensely to her power and possessions, by the victories she gained over the rebels. She did not deign to receive a regular commission from the Queen, but fought in her own wild way, on her own responsibility, at her own risk, and for her own advantage. She took castle after castle, confiscated estate after estate, claiming always the "lion's share" of the plunder.
When some of the ships of the great Spanish armada, sent against England, were driven by a storm upon the Irish coast, she bore down upon them with her armed galleys, and took several noble prizes. With these ships, she obtained much magnificent dress, belonging to the proud Castilian officers and their stately ladies—velvets and brocades, stiff with woven jewels and broideries of gold, with which she went bravely dressed for the rest of her life. And the Spanish Dons and Donnas, what did they do, robbed of their splendid apparel? Ah, they went where they did not need it any more—down, down into still, dark ocean-caves, where they reposed on beds of silver sand, with the long sea-weed wrapping itself about them.
But I am not getting on with that legend of Howth Castle.
In the height of the fame and power of Grace O'Malley, when her rude bands were the terror of Connaught and the islands of that coast, and her ships the scourge of the Irish seas, she resolved to pay a visit to the court of Elizabeth. She went almost as a sovereign princess, and was royally received and entertained; for the politic English Queen was only too willing, I am afraid, to close her ears against stories of the cruelty and lawlessness of so useful a subject.
The warlike Grace made a decided sensation at court. In her strange, rich, half martial dress, and always wearing some sort of deadly weapon, she strode about like a terrible giantess among the Queen's laughing dames, awing them into momentary silence; and even the gay wits, pert young poets, and pages, shrank abashed from her haughty, flashing looks.
"Gra' mercy!" whispered one, as she passed, "she hath daggers in her eyes, as well as in her girdle."
"Ay, and pistols in her voice," said a saucy page, who served at the Queen's table; "when she saith 'Sirrah!' I have ever a mind to drop upon my knees and beg for my life."
But Grace O'Malley soon tired of the stately gayeties of the court. She curled her scornful lip at the safe and easy way of hunting in the royal parks—calling it "child's play." She laughed at their formal balls and feasts; and when the Queen, especially to please her, led off the court dance, the solemn, but graceful minuet, played the harpsichord with her own royal hands, and sung madrigals, and read Latin verses of her own composition, Grace only yawned, and said: "I wonder your Majesty should throuble yourself with things of this sort at all. Sure in Ireland, we have people to do the likes for us, and save us the worriment."
Once, on the Queen having expressed some curiosity in regard to the Irish national dances, Grace made sign to her harper, a wild-eyed, white-haired, long-bearded old gentleman, who struck up a stirring Celtic air, and instantly her warlike followers rushed into the midst of the hall, and began dancing, in the strangest, maddest way imaginable. Faster and louder played the harper, wilder and more furiously they danced; they wheeled and leaped and shook their arms in the air, and shouted fierce Celtic battle-cries, till all the court ladies trembled, and not a few of the courtiers drew near the throne for fear, and even the Queen had to thank her rouge for not looking pale. However, it all ended like a modern Irish jig, in a harmless "whoop!" and the fiery dancers quietly returned to their places about their mistress. "That, your Majesty," said Grace, proudly, "is rale Irish dancing."
"And by our faith, brave Lady Grace, we hope it may ever remain Irish dancing. The fashion suits not our peaceful court," replied Elizabeth, laughing.
Grace O'Malley returned to Ireland loaded with princely gifts. It is not recorded in history that Elizabeth ever returned her visit, though at parting, Grace gave her Majesty a cordial invitation to come over to Connaught and see some hunting and fighting that were no shams.
"The O'Malley," as Grace called herself, after the fashion of great Irish chiefs, landed first at Howth, intending to pay the Earl a visit. But it happened to be dinner time, and the castle gates were shut, as they always were at that hour, by command of his lordship, who was a high liver, and had a particular objection to being disturbed at his meals. When Grace haughtily demanded admittance, the warder not having a proper sense of the honor she was intending to do his master, sturdily refused. This surly, inhospitable reception so enraged the chieftainess, that she was quite ready to storm the castle, and slay the fat Earl at his own dinner-table, with all his guests and retainers. But she had not with her a sufficient force for this; so was obliged to return to her ship, where she strode up and down the deck in a terribly wrathful state, and made all ring again with her threats and imprecations against the Earl, for the insult she had received. Suddenly a gleam of malicious joy flashed over her dark face. She commanded her men to land her again, and as soon as she reached the shore, she rushed up to a cottage, where she remembered that the nurse of the young lord, the Earl's little son, was living. She caught the child from the woman's arms, telling her to tell her master that she would take charge of his heir, and bring him up to have better notions of hospitality and good manners than could be learned at Howth Castle. Then she hurried back to her ship, with the poor little lordling who seemed too frightened to cry, and hid his face against her bosom, as though shrinking from the look of her dark, angry eyes. Immediately she ordered all sails to be set, and sped away toward Connaught. The nurse ran up to the castle with the news, but as she could not be admitted till the Earl had dined and drunk his punch, so much time was lost that, before his galley could be manned and sent on, Lady Grace's sails were already glimmering down the horizon, and the pursuit was hopeless.
Tristram St. Lawrence, the little lord, was a handsome child, between two and three years old, with a look of brave, yet quiet dignity in his face, which roused some kindly feeling in the sternest mariners and warriors, on board the piratical ship, and even touched the heart of the Lady Grace herself—that unsuspected womanly heart, which she had kept sternly pressed down so many years under her breastplate of steel.
When she first went on board, she gave the boy to one of her women, telling her to tend him and give him food and playthings. But when they had been at sea some time, the woman came to her mistress, and said that the child would neither eat, nor play; that he gave no heed to any one, but stood apart, sullen and silent, looking back over the sea toward Howth. Then Grace, whose quick anger had cooled down in the fresh evening breeze, went to him, laid her hand on his shoulder and spoke his name. He did not start, or answer, but kept his sad, wistful eyes fixed on the distant towers of his father's castle. So she stood over him, watching, and so he stood gazing, till the ship rounded a point which hid the castle from sight. Then, for the first time, the child burst into tears; but, flinging himself on the deck, he covered his face with his hands, as though to conceal his crying, and seemed to try to check the sobs which shook his little breast. So much proud and delicate feeling in one so young—a mere baby—appealed strongly to the Lady Grace. She felt her heart soften and yearn over the noble child, in his grief and loneliness. She knelt at his side and slid her hand under his head, and speaking his name more tenderly than before, she told him not to be afraid, not to grieve any more, and he should go home soon. She made her harsh, commanding voice sound so sweet and motherly that the child turned a little, and clasped that large brown hand, and held it against his lips and his eyes, while he wept and sobbed, till his heavy heart grew lighter. When Grace drew away her hand, and found it all wet with tears, she looked at it for a moment, with a strange tenderness in her imperious eyes. It seemed to her that those tears of a sinless child, were like the holy water of baptism, and would purify that hand, so often stained with blood.
Great was the astonishment of the rough mariners and warriors when they saw their stern mistress, whose name was used by mothers and nurses all over the kingdom, as a bugbear, with which to frighten naughty children, now comforting and caressing this stolen child; when she fed him with her own hands, and then took him in her arms and hushed him to sleep—singing to him a wild, childish ditty, which she remembered, because her own long dead mother had sung it to her, when she also was an innocent babe.
So kind and gentle did the bold vi-queen become, that before many days the baby-lord became passionately attached to her, and ceased to ask for his nurse and parents. And he, with all his endearing, infantile ways, was such brave, grand little fellow—a child so after her own heart—that Grace, who, in her pride and independence, had never envied anybody any thing, not even Elizabeth her crown—envied the stout Earl of Howth his only son and heir, with a bitter, hopeless, lonely envy. It made her sometimes sad, but it made her better, and gentler, and even almost humble; and the most harmless, if not the happiest part of her life, was that in which she retained the child with her, at her gloomy stronghold in Connaught.
At length, after sending several messengers and agents in vain, the proud and indolent Earl of Howth came himself, with a large ransom, to buy back his heir. Grace O'Malley refused the money with scorn, but offered to restore the child to him, if he would solemnly promise that the gates of Howth Castle should always be thrown wide open when the family were at dinner. He readily promised this, and the hospitable custom has remained in his noble house to this day.
The Earl could scarcely believe his eyes when, as he was about to leave, he saw the stern chieftainess lift little Tristram in her arms and embrace him tenderly, while the child clung to her and cried. "By my soul," whispered his lordship to one of his train, "there's a saisoning of the woman and the Christian about the heathen Amazon, after all."
The Earl and the Lady Grace parted very good friends, and the baby-lord went home loaded with presents. Oh, lonely and dreary seemed Grace O'Malley's old castle when he was gone—doubly dark seemed its great cavernous hall, without the sunshine of his joyous life—doubly desolate the lady's shadowy chamber, in the windy old turret alone, without the brightness of his winsome face and the music of his happy voice.
The Lady Grace became sadder and more silent than before, but she seemed less haughty and warlike. She still followed the chase as fiercely as ever, but she gradually gave over fighting and plundering. She began to notice kindly little children—to give more generously to the poor, and was even suspected of praying sometimes, and of wearing a concealed crucifix. Her men said that the baby-lord had spoiled their fiery vi-queen, who led them no longer on marauding and piratical expeditions; but her women blessed the saints that their mistress had "softened down a bit, and made it more comfortable like to sarve her."
Once every year, Grace O'Malley went in state to Howth Castle, to see her beloved little friend and carry him presents, till at last, just as he was growing into manhood, a cruel sickness came upon her, and she was unable to go. Yet she sent her galley and the presents, as usual, to prove her faithful love.
Tristram, who had grown up a noble, generous youth, was grieved to hear of the illness of this strange, proud woman, who had seemed to lay aside her very nature to love him, and as he had always kept his old childish affection for her, he resolved to go and see her once more.
So the galley, on its return, took the young Lord of Howth to the O'Malley's Castle, in Connaught.
It was night when they arrived—a wild November night. The sky was heavy with storm-clouds, and the sea was running high before a strong wind, and breaking with a sound like thunder upon that bleak, black shore. There was a great fire burning in the vast chimney of the old hall, but in the farther corners, dark shadows were lurking, and the stone walls were glistening with a chill dampness.
As the heavy hall door swung open, to admit the young lord and his train, so much of the tempestuous night rushed in with them, that the old armor and the banners hanging on the walls clanged and flapped, and the fire roared fiercely and whirled out an angry cloud of smoke. In the midst of the hall the Lady Grace was lying, surrounded by her retainers, her warriors, and seamen, on a rude couch, piled with skins of deer she had slain, but curtained with rich crimson drapery, suspended from the ceiling by enormous antlers of elks. She was dressed in her old way, except that she had no arms in her girdle, and wore a rosary about her neck. By her side stood a venerable priest, holding a crucifix and the Lady Grace was repeating after him very devoutly a prayer for the dying; but when she saw Tristram, she forgot both priest and prayer. She sprang up from her couch to meet him, with a glad cry; and though she sank back at once, in weakness and mortal pain, she was content, for her arms were about the neck of her darling. She wiped the rain-drops from his face and pressed them out of his soft brown hair, and gazed at him with a fierce joy of love in her great dark eyes, which seemed larger and darker now, and shone with new splendor, since her long black locks had turned to silvery white.
"It was noble and like thee, mavourneen deelish," she said, "to give my dying eyes this last best blessing of life—beholding thee once more. For this boon, I bestow upon thee the proudest legacy I have to leave—this ring of most precious stones—the gift of my sister, Elizabeth of England. With the ring, I would give thee my benison, but that I fear the blessing of so sinful a woman might do thee harm. And yet, as I have loved thee purely, as a mother might, the saints may make it good. So, I will bless thee, jewel of my heart!"
The young lord knelt reverently to receive her blessing, and after she had ceased to murmur the fervent words, he still kept his place, for her large hand yet pressed heavily upon his head. After a moment's silence, she recommenced speaking, but rapidly and wildly, for her mind was wandering. It seemed to have gone back to the night when she had taken the heir of Howth from his nurse. She began railing against the old Earl's churlishness, and vowing she would teach him a lesson in hospitality Then she called out in loud, stern tones to her mariners to set sail for Connaught, and laughed fiercely over her prize. But soon her mood changed; she began to stroke the head of Tristram, and comfort him by gentle words and kind promises. She did not seem to perceive that the firm, manly face now before her, was not the smooth little face all wet with tears, she once caressed. The young lord was again a baby-boy to her; and presently she drew him closer, and began singing that same nursery song with which she used to soothe him to sleep.
It was a strange sight to see,—that dying woman, rocking herself back and forth, and singing that wild lullaby, with her staring servitors and grim old fighters grouped around her, hardly able to believe that this was indeed their haughty mistress, their brave leader, their bold sea-captain.
At first, her voice rang out clear and full, but soon it faltered and failed, and sunk lower and lower. And lower and lower sunk the head of the old chieftainess, till her long white locks mingled with the dark curls of the young lord; then her voice ceased altogether, and her forehead lay heavy and cold against his, and he knew that Grace O'Malley was dead.
A mile or two south of Dublin is Donnybrook, the place where a famous annual fair is held. We happened to be in the city at the time of this, and one pleasant afternoon we drove out to see this great gathering of the Irish peasantry. The fair-ground presented a busy, gay, and curious scene. A large enclosed space was covered with booths and tents—horse-markets—cattle-markets—buyers, sellers, and crowds of spectators. There was almost every thing one could think of, for sale; there were all sorts of games, and sports and shows going on; there were Ethiopian concerts, plays, exhibitions of Punch and Judy, little circuses and menageries, jugglers, tumblers, hurdy-gurdy players, ballad singers, pipers, fiddlers, and dancers.
In nearly all the tents were gay young couples, dancing away as though for dear life—dancing not alone with their feet, but with their arms, their heads, and their merry, twinkling eyes. They were not all well dressed, or even clean, but they seemed happy and healthy, and merrily snapped their fingers at care. Everywhere there was laughter, and chatter, and feasting, and frolic; but, I am glad to say, we saw little tippling, and no quarrelling. It was very different in old times, when the wild fun of Donnybrook Fair always ended in confusion, drunkenness, and fighting. This happy change has been effected partly by the Temperance reform, and partly by the establishment of a strong and active government police.
Now for a short story of Donnybrook Fair.
Away toward the hills of Wicklow, some five or six miles from Dublin, there lived, not many years ago, a humble peasant family, by the name of O'Shaughnessy. Michael O'Shaughnessy worked in the bog—that is, he cut up the turf of the bogs, and piled it in stacks for drying—so making the peat which is the common fuel of Ireland. He was very poor, and with his wife and five children lived in a little low cabin, built of mud and stones, and thatched with straw. There was but one small window to this cabin, but then a good deal of light came down through a hole in the roof, left for the smoke to go out of—for there was no chimney.
Mrs. O'Shaughnessy kept a few geese, and just before the door there was a little muddy pond, where they enjoyed themselves, and on the edges of which the pig wallowed, and dozed; except on stormy days, when he preferred to go into the house. Now, among the poor Irish peasants, the pig is a very important personage, and is treated with a great deal of respect, for he usually pays the rent. With Mrs. O'Shaughnessy, it was first herself and husband, then her son Teddy, then the Pig; then the girls, Biddy and Peggy and Katy; and then, our hero, Larry O'Sullivan. If she had known he was to be our hero, she might have put him before the colleens, (girls,) but not, I think, before the pig.
Larry O'Sullivan was a poor orphan boy, the child of a sister of Michael O'Shaughnessy, by whom he had been adopted, when his father and mother died of the fever. Larry was very handsome, and what was better, very good, but he led rather a hard life of it at his new home. His uncle was kind, but he was a gentle, meek sort of a man—his wife ruled every thing at the cabin, and she did not like Larry overmuch. She thought it hard that he should not only eat the food and wear the clothes that her own children needed, but should be more liked and admired in the neighborhood than they. She doted on her own boy, Teddy, and thought him not only good-looking, but wonderfully clever—when, in fact, a plainer or more stupid young bog-trotter could hardly be found in all Ireland. She was a strong-minded woman, and did not make much account of her girls—and there she was not far wrong—except in regard to the youngest, Katy, who was a pretty, blue-eyed darling, as sweet and as bright as a May morning. Katy and Larry were famous good friends—Larry was the pulse of Katy's heart, and Katy was the light of Larry's eyes.
The children all went to school in the village, about a mile away. Dermot Finnigen, the schoolmaster, was also a tailor, a barber, a bit of a doctor, and a fiddler. He did very well at all his professions, but he was greatest at fiddling.
From the first, Larry was the master's favorite—not because he was particularly studious, but because he took to the fiddle as naturally, Dermot said, "as a ducklin' takes to the wather, just." Indeed, the boy showed such extraordinary talent for music, that, for the mere love of it, Dermot gave him lessons, and often lent him an old fiddle to practise on.
Larry had also a very sweet voice, and in singing the wild ballads of the country, could make people laugh or cry, just as it pleased him to do.
Larry coveted, more than any thing in the world, the old fiddle of his master. Dermot was willing to sell it, as he had a better, but he said he could not part with it even to his favorite pupil, for less than a crown. Now Larry in all his life had never held so much money—so he despaired of ever being rich enough to have a fiddle of his own.
One spring-time, when Larry was about twelve and Teddy fourteen, a great trouble came upon the house of the O'Shaughnessys—the pig died!
One morning, soon after this sad event, as the two boys were on the way to the little village, on some errand, a travelling carriage passed them, driving rapidly. As it turned a corner, a small writing-case was jolted off from one of the seats, and fell into the road. Larry picked it up, and the two boys ran after the carriage, shouting to the driver to stop. But he took them for beggars, and drove on the faster. So they followed, for more than a mile, running at the top of their speed, calling and holding up the writing-case.
At last, the carriage stopped, and the boys came up panting, and gave the writing-case to a gentleman, who seemed very happy to get it, as he said it contained valuable papers and money. He thanked the boys, and gave them each a crown.
Larry's beautiful brown eyes danced with joy. "Arrah, Teddy," said he, "sure this is a rale providince! I'll go immadiately an buy Dermot's ould feddle."
"Faix thin, Larry, ye'll make thrue the sayin'—'a fool and his money be soon parted.' I'll go an' buy the Widdy Mullowny's pig, and fat it for the Fair. It's meself that knows how to spind money in a sinsible way. A feddle indade!"
Larry did not heed Teddy's sneers, but went directly and bought the fiddle. He hugged it to his heart, and danced for joy all the way home. But such a scolding as met him there! All blamed him for his extravagance, but little Katy, who stole up to him and whispered—"Niver mind the hard discoorse, Larry; ye've got the feddle ony how, and it's mighty glad I am."
Larry was never allowed to play on his treasure within the cabin walls; it was always "Away wid ye now, ye lazy feddling spalpeen!" But up amid the gorge of the hill side, he used to sit, with Katy, on pleasant summer evenings, playing so late that Katy would creep close to him, fancying she saw the "little folk," or fairies, dancing in the moonlight, to his delicious music.
In the mean time, "Phelim," the pig, throve finely, and grew to be, as Mrs. O'Shaughnessy said, "an iligant cratur, intirely." Every meal, after the family had eaten, the remains were thrown into the potato-kettle, and "the sinsible baste claned it out beautifully," so saving work for Mrs. O'Shaughnessy.
At last, the first day of the Fair arrived, and Teddy and Larry set out for Donnybrook, with the pig,—Larry taking his fiddle.
Now Phelim had been a wonderful animal at home, and in his own mud-puddle, but it was quite another thing at Donnybrook. There he was eclipsed by pigs of a more choice breed, fatter, cleaner, and better behaved. Teddy was sadly disappointed and mortified—he had supposed that there would be a tremendous competition for that jewel of a pig.
"Suppose, Larry, ye strike up a tune on yer feddle, to call the attintion of the folk, just," said he, at last.
Larry began very timidly, but in a few moments an admiring group was collected around him. A purchaser was soon found for Phelim, and Teddy having doubled his money, felt rich and grand, and cast rather contemptuous looks on his thriftless cousin. But before the day was over, Larry had made more money than two pigs like Phelim would bring—by playing for the dancers, and singing ballads. Among those who listened most attentively to him was a great musician from Dublin, who saw at once that the lad had a remarkable genius for music. He talked with him, and was much pleased with his intelligence and modesty. Larry was glad to find it was the same gentleman whose writing-case he had picked up a few months before.
Mr. R—— inquired where the boys lived, and the next day drove down to Michael O'Shaughnessy's, and offered to take his nephew and educate him for a musician.
So Larry went to town, to live with his kind benefactor. He was well clothed and cared for and being good and grateful, studied hard to be a finished musician. He never forgot his humble home, or felt above his poor relations. Every Sunday he walked out to see them, and good old Dermot, who was fond and proud of him, you may depend. His cousin Katy grew still dearer to him as the years wore on, and he blessed the time when he was rich enough to take her to Dublin, and put her to school. It was said she was to be governess—but every body thought Larry would have no other wife but Katy—and every body was right.
Larry has become a great musician—so great that even Mrs. O'Shaughnessy admits that he "is not a bad fiddler."
We left Dublin for Cork, on a fresh August morning—pleasant but showery, like nearly all mornings in Ireland. The railway on which we travelled, passes for the most part through a barren, boggy, desolate country, with only here and there a tract of well cultivated land—past low, miserable hovels of bog-working peasants, and wretched, tumble-down little villages.
It was melancholy to see, all along our way, multitudes of ruins—churches and castles and towers—battered, dismantled, and ivy-grown—making it look more like a country of the dead than of the living. In these crumbling remains, you read, almost as in a book, the history of the ancient prosperity and power of Ireland, and of its gradual destruction by wars, sieges, famine, and pestilence, till it was brought to its present state of poverty and desolation.
We passed through, or in sight of, several famous old places, such as Kildare, the Rock of Dunamase, Cashel, Kilmallock, and Buttevant.
Kildare, though now a small, dilapidated town, was once a large city, renowned for its religious institutions. Its principal buildings were churches, monasteries, and nunneries, and its chief productions crucifixes, rosaries, and saints. The most celebrated among the latter, was Saint Bridget, who received the veil from the hands of St Patrick himself. She founded a nunnery here, which was most remarkable for "the sacred fire," which the nuns who succeeded her kept burning for hundreds of years—in remembrance of her, probably. From a little story related of her, when she was a child, I should say she better deserved to be called a saint than many of those so honored by the Church.
The father of Bridget was a warlike Irish chieftain, but a loyal subject of the King of Leinster, and on one occasion, that monarch bestowed upon him a rich sword, with the hilt set with costly jewels. Now the peasants on this chieftain's estates were very poor—indeed, suffering absolute starvation, and there was no one to help them, for their lord had enough to do to fight his enemies, without feeding his humble friends; and his wife, Bridget's stepmother, was a hard, cruel woman. Poor little Bridget gave all her pocket-money, and sold all her little keepsakes, for their relief, and still they were starving. At last, she went to the armory and took down her father's idle, show sword, and had the rich jewels taken out of the hilt and sold. With the money she bought food, and saved the lives of several most worthy but unfortunate families. When her father came home, she told him what she had done. History does not say, but we can easily guess, what he did. And that was not the last of it; soon after, the King came to her father's house to dine, and having heard about the theft, called the child up to him, and asked her how she had dared to do such a wicked thing as to rob her father and deface the gift of a great monarch. Now, we republicans can have very little idea of what it was to be called up and spoken to in this way. Kings, in old times, were far more terrible than they are now, and Irish kings were the most terrible of all. But brave little Bridget, though she was only nine years old, was not frightened by his black frown and thunder-like voice. She stood up straight, and looked calmly into his angry eyes, as she replied: "I have but bestowed thy gift upon a greater and a mightier king than thou art—even Christ, who hath said that whatsoever we give unto his poor children is given unto him."
In the neighborhood of Kildare, is Inch Castle, about which Mrs. S. C. Hall tells a touching legend. Inch Castle was once in the possession of the MacKellys—a proud and powerful family. Ulick, one of the sons of the old lord, a handsome, gay, daring young man, but wild and heartless, paid court to a beautiful peasant girl, named Oona More. He won her love, and then, being very fickle, cruelly forsook her. Oona was very good and gentle—she forgave her false lover, and would not allow her brothers to harm him, though he had broken her loving heart. Suddenly the plague broke out in the neighborhood, and Ulick MacKelly was one of the first struck. As was the custom, for fear of the infection, he was removed at once from the castle to the fields, where a shed was erected over him, and he was left alone with only a loaf of bread and a pitcher of water by his side. When Oona heard of this, she forgot his cruel desertion—forgot every thing but his suffering and her love—and went to him, and tended him, and prayed beside him, day and night, till he died. Even then, she did not leave him. She had taken his deadly disease; on her breast came a bright red spot—the sure sign of the plague. She was not sorry to see it there and the next day, all her pain and trouble and sorrows were over. Then her brother came to take her away. She still sat by the dead—her hood fell over her face, so she seemed to be yet alive. Her brother laid his hand on her shoulder, and said, gently—
"Oona, come home—the cow is lowing for you—the little lambs have no one to care for them. Oona, dear, come home with me!"
Seeing that she did not stir, he lifted the hood, looked in her dead face, and gave a bitter cry. He had no sister any more.
We passed through a portion of the "Bog of Allen," the largest of all Irish bogs—said to be full 300,000 acres in extent. Some of my readers may not know that the bog is not the primitive soil, but masses of partly decomposed vegetable matter, which have accumulated during many, many ages. In nearly all of the bogs, trees of various kinds have been found imbedded—sometimes small buildings, arms, ornaments, strange implements, and the bones of enormous animals, now extinct. From oak dug up from bogs, many pretty black ornaments are now made.
This bog takes its name from the hill of Allen, or "Dun Almhain," on which was the residence of the famous old Irish chief, Fin MacCual, or Fingal, as he is called in Ossian's Poems. He was the king of the Fians, the name of the ancient Irish tribes who lived by hunting. He must have been handsome as well as heroic, for he was, it seems, a wonderful favorite with the ladies. It is related that when he concluded that it was time for him to take a wife, he was sadly puzzled who to choose among his many fair admirers. Finally, he settled upon a plan odd and funny enough, certainly. He sent out a proclamation to all the beautiful young women of Ireland, calling upon them to assemble on a certain day, at the foot of a mountain in Tipperary, now called Slieve-na-man. When they had all come together, a host of rival beauties in their best array, the great chief coolly announced to them that he was about to ascend the mountain, and that from the summit, he would make a signal to them, when they should all start fair, and whoever should first reach the summit, should have the honor and felicity of being Mrs. Fin MacCual. He then proceeded leisurely up the mountain, seated himself on an old Druidical altar, at the very topmost point, and graciously waved his hand to the expectant ladies below. Off they started like eager young race-horses,—nothing daunted by the hard course they had to run. Up, up, over rocks and streams, and patches of black bog—up, up, through woods and briars and furze, they leaped and climbed and scrambled—laughing and panting and scolding and screaming! Ah, what sport it must have been for Fin, watching them from above! Yet, though they all ran well, only one came in winner. But that was the highest princess of the country—Graine, daughter of Cormac, monarch of all Ireland. I hope she found her husband worth the chase.
The great rock of Dunarnase stands alone in the midst of a plain, and is crowned with the ruins of a castle—once a very strong fortress. The rock of Cashel is seen from a great distance, and upon its summit are the finest ruins in all Ireland. This noble height was a stronghold of the ancient kings of the province of Munster. The first Christian kings built churches, chapels, towers, and cathedrals here, and the present ruins are mostly of religious edifices. This imposing site is much venerated still, and a favorite oath among the Irish peasantry is—"By the Rock of Cashel!"
Kilmallock, now all in ruins, was once a city of great beauty and consideration. It was destroyed by the troops of Cromwell, the desolater of Ireland. Kilmallock was the seat of the ancient and powerful race of the Desmonds.
Buttevant is a poor little place, but containing the ruins of a fine old abbey. Near Buttevant are the ruins of Kilcoleman Castle, at which the great poet Spenser lived, and which was burned by the Irish in a rebellion. The youngest child of the poet perished in the flames.
Cork is usually ranked as the second city of Ireland, and is a handsome, pleasant, prosperous looking place. It has not many interesting antiquities, but some of its modern buildings are very fine. The country around Cork is exceedingly picturesque, and its harbor is very beautiful. The city itself is about twelve miles from the mouth of the harbor, upon the River Lee.
We had letters of introduction to a gentleman living at Monkstown, about six miles below the city, and on the day after our arrival, we took the steamboat and went down to his residence. We were received with warm Irish hospitality, and throughout that day and the next, every thing that our friend and his family could do for our enjoyment was done in the pleasantest and heartiest way. They took us boating up and down the noble bay—driving along the shores, and walking over their estate. There was always a large, lively party, and we had the merriest times imaginable. They made a pic-nic for us, on Cove Island, but a rain coming on, we took refuge in an old, old castle, where we feasted, and jested, and laughed, and sung songs, and even danced, in the rough and gloomy halls in which, hundreds and hundreds of years ago, were gathered barbaric Irish chieftains—grim, terrible fellows—parading the spoils of the chase, or the plunder of war.
A little way back from their house, our friends have another ruin—Monkstown Castle. This was built in 1636—tradition says at only the cost of a groat. Of course, the statement was a puzzle to me, when I first heard it, but it was soon explained. The estate belonged, at that time, to John Archdeken, who, while serving with the army abroad, left his wife in charge of his property. She was a thrifty woman, and determined to surprise him on his return by a noble residence, which should cost very little. So she hired workmen, with the privilege of supplying them with all their provisions and articles of clothing. These she purchased by wholesale, and though she sold them at the ordinary retail price, found in the end, that the profits had only fallen short of paying the expenses of building, one groat.
It came very hard for us to part from our kind friends at Monkstown—but it has by no means been hard to keep them in loving remembrance.
Just a pleasant drive from Cork is Blarney Castle—a noble ruin, towering above a beautiful little lake, all surrounded by delightful, though neglected grounds—made famous by an old comic song, called "The Groves of Blarney."
This stronghold was built in the fifteenth century, by the great chief, Cormac MacCarty, and retained by his descendants, the lords of Clancarty and Musterry, until 1689, when it was confiscated. It has since belonged to a family of Jeffries. The sad work of decay and demolition has been going on for several centuries, and yet some of the walls look as though they would stand centuries longer.
The chief object of curiosity here is the famous "Blarney Stone," about which there is a foolish tradition that whoever kisses it shall be gifted with such shrewdness and eloquence that nobody will be able to resist his persuasions. From this comes the expression of "blarney" for cunning and flattering talk. I did not perceive that the people in this neighborhood had any more of this peculiar gift than those of other provinces;—indeed, I should suppose that there was a Blarney stone in every town in Ireland, and that no Irishman, woman, or child had failed to kiss it.
This stone is now on the inside of the highest battlement of the great tower. It was formerly on the outside, some feet from the top, and those who wished to kiss it, were obliged to be let down by their heels—which being a rather disagreeable and dangerous process, Mr. Jeffries had it removed to its present place. Some learned men say that this is nothing but a spurious stone, after all; and that the real magical stone is yet imbedded in the outer wall, about twenty feet from the top, and bears the name of the great MacCarty. Perhaps it is so—but I don't believe it.
In the grounds about the Castle, or "The Groves," there is many a sweet, dewy, flowery spot, where the grass, moss, and ivy, are green as green can be, and no sound is heard in the deep shade but the gurgle of water and the warble of birds. Here are some rude steps made in the rock, called "The Witches' Staircase," and a cave, in which it was said a fair Princess remained enchanted for many years. Legends say that the last Earl of Clancarty sunk all his valuable plate in the lake, where it will remain until one of the old race regains possession of the estate. Our guide told us that Lady Jeffries tried to drain the lake, but that though she made a deep opening in the bank, not a drop would run out—"for fear of exposing the plate of the rale lord!" He said, too, that enchanted cows in the MacCarty interest came often at night, and drove the Jeffries cows out of their pastures; and that no earthly cattle had any chance at all against them—for they were furious animals, with "mighty sharp horns." Of course, all this is very absurd, and not half so pretty as the legends we heard everywhere in Ireland of the fairies, or "good people." I will tell you more of these another time. Now I have only room for a little anecdote of the last Lord Clancarty, which I find set down as a great lesson to people to read their Bibles.
When this unfortunate nobleman was going into exile, he told his relative, the beautiful Duchess of Marlborough, that he was certain he could recover his property, if he only had money enough to carry on a lawsuit for it. She did not offer to help him, but she placed in his hands a Bible, saying that he would find in it comfort and support in all his troubles. The young lord thanked her with such a pious face that one would have thought he meant to do little else than study the good book for the next six months. But the rogue never once looked into it, and when, long after, he returned to England, the Duchess asked him for it, and opening it before his eyes, showed him that she had placed between the leaves, bank notes enough to have recovered his estates, now hopelessly lost.
I must say that this account of Lord Clancarty's poverty, and that of his treasure hid in Blarney Lake, do not hang together very well; but, as the Bible story has the best moral, perhaps we had better hold on to that, and let the other go, with the legends of enchanted cows and princesses.
One pleasant summer morning, in 18—, a gay party of English ladies and gentlemen visited the old Castle of Blarney. They strolled along the green shore of the lake, wandered about the wild neglected gardens and "groves," ran up and down the Witches' Staircase, poked their heads into the princesses cave, and then ascended the great tower of the castle. This party was headed by a gentleman of middle age, tall and stately, but very kindly and pleasant in his looks. He wore a military uniform, but was addressed as "my lord." He held by the hand, that is, whenever he could catch her, a smiling rosy, dimple-cheeked little girl, whom he called "Fanny," and the rest of the party "Lady Frances." It was a pretty sight to see her break away from them all, and flit about the ruins and through the dark tangled alleys of the groves, like a bird on the wing. She laughingly skipped up and down the Witches' Staircase with the rest, but she lingered longest in the haunted cave, looking about her wistfully, as though she expected to see the enchanted princess; and once her father found her peering into a dark green dell, and listening attentively, her dark eyes growing big with expectant awe.
"Why, daughter Fanny, what have you there?" he asked. "What wonderful discovery are you making?"
"Hush, father!" she replied, with her small taper finger on her lip, "it's the fairies I'm after—the 'good people,' nurse Bridget has told me so much about. I am sure there must be some of them in this still, shady place. I've found their 'rings' in the fresh, green grass."
Lord Clare at first smiled at this simple, childish faith, then grew serious, and sitting down on a flowery bank, drew his little daughter on to his knee, and explained to her how the story of fairies was, in the beginning, only a fable of poets and romance-writers, and was now only believed in by ignorant peasants, like her Irish nurse; that, in truth, there were no such beings as the fairies in all the world. When he had finished, he was surprised to see that the child had covered her face with her hands, and that the tears were fast trickling through her fingers. "What is my little daughter weeping for?" he asked.
"For the fairies, papa; the dear, beautiful fairies. I can't believe in them any more."
"But was it not right for papa to tell you the truth, my darling, even though it gave you pain?"
"Yes, I suppose it was. But, oh, papa, somehow things don't look so beautiful as they did when I believed in the 'good people.' Then every bank of moss, or bit of green turf, I thought might be a fairy ball-room. Whenever I saw a flower, or a leaf floating on the water, I thought some fairy might be sailing on it. I was almost sure full-blown roses were the thrones of fairy queens, and buds just opening they were the little baby-fairies' cradles. Oh, it was so beautiful! and then, the kindness and goodness of the wee things, papa; that is, when you did not happen to offend them. They were always helping people out of trouble, especially poor persecuted princes and princesses, and they were such fast friends of good children—at least, so nurse and the fairy books said, and I used to believe so;—now it's all over."
"But, my daughter," said Lord Clare, "we can be better than fairies to one another, if we will; and then, remember, that we have God's good angels to watch over and help us, when they can."
"Yes," said Fanny, brightening up a little, "that is some comfort."
It was soon after this conversation that the party ascended the old crumbly stone steps of the great tower of the castle. After enjoying the fine prospect from the summit for some time, Lord Clare inquired for the famous Blarney Stone.
Rooney, the guide, a shrewd, smooth-tongued fellow, leaned over the ruined parapet, and pointing to a stone, several feet below, replied, "There it is, yer honor, the rale meraculous ould stone. Sure if your lordship would so demane yourself as to kiss it, to-day, you would never have any trouble in governing Irishmen at all. You would have only to spake, and the spirit of fight and rebellion would leave them, and they would be quiet as lambs."
"Indeed! that would be a miracle; but how am I to get at the stone?"
"Oh, that is aisy done. I'll hould your lordship by the heels and swing you over just—all for half a crown, and as much more as yer lordship is plased to give."
"O yes, I remember to have heard of your original way of showing up the Blarney Stone," said Lord Clare, "but how can I be sure that you will not raise your price before raising me. It strikes me that I have heard of your once playing off that trick upon a tourist."
"Ah!" said Rooney, with a sly chuckle, "yer lordship alludes to a mean-souled tailor, from London. He stood where yer lordship stands for more nor an hour, beating me down from half a crown, my lawful fee, to a shilling,—and me with seven children and the wife at home down with the fever. At last, I gave in, and swung him over. He kissed the stone, and then called to me to pull him up. 'Wait a bit, my man,' says I, 'you gave me only a shilling for letting you down; it's a dale harder job to pull you up. I must have half a crown for that same.' With that, he began to swear and call me a chate, and threaten me with the police. But I only said, 'my arms is givin' out, and I can't hold on much longer, and if you won't pay me my just demand, I shall be under the necessity of dropping yer acquaintance.' Then he began to beg, for you see, he could look down and see the ugly rocks and the black water more nor a hundred feet below him. But I told him he had bothered so long, and given my arms such a strain, that I could not let him up so aisy. At last, to save his neck, he promised me the half guinea I asked, and paid it as soon as he set foot on the tower. I know it was a big price for the article, but that was his own affair. And now, begging your lordship's pardon, for proposing such a thing as your kissing the stone after a tailor, shall I have the pleasure of suspending your lordship over the wall, this morning?"
"No, Rooney, you must excuse me. But here is your half crown, all the same," said Lord Clare, with a good-humored smile.
Just at this moment, Fanny called the attention of the party to a little girl, about her own age, who had just ascended the tower, and was standing near them, looking about her curiously and wistfully. She was evidently one of the poorest class of peasants, for her dress was coarse and patched, though clean and tidy. But she was a beautiful child. She had large, dark, tender eyes, and soft curling, brown hair; her arms and hands, though much sunburnt, and her feet, which were bare, were small and gracefully formed. Her face wore now a weary and troubled look, so little befitting a child, that it touched the hearts of all that gay company. One of the gentlemen asked very kindly what it was she wanted. She courtesied, as she answered timidly, "Sure, yer honor, it's the Blarney Stone I'm after. Will you tell me, plase, where I can find it?"
"Why, child," said Lord Clare, "what do you want of the Blarney Stone?"
"Only to kiss it, yer honor. I've come all the way from Bantry, on my two feet, barring a lift now and then on a car, just to do that same—all for the sake of poor Phin."
"And who is Phin?"
"He is my brother, sir—my own brother, and he has gone and 'listed, and it's breaking my mother's heart; and sure, yer honor, if he goes away for a soldier, she will die, and it's all alone in the world I'll be." With that, her little red lips began to quiver, and the tears to fall from her soft, brown eyes.
"But what good will it do Phin, for you to kiss the Blarney Stone?" asked one of the ladies.
"Whist!" said the child, looking about her, and speaking low, as though afraid of being overheard by some one unfriendly to Phin, "it's just a little plot of my own. I was told that the new lord-lieutenant was coming to Cork, and I knew he could let poor Phin off from being a soldier; so I said nothing to nobody, but came up to entrate him. You see I had often heard how this same Blarney Stone would give people an ilegant and moving discoorse; and sure I thought I'd need to kiss it, before I could stand up forninst a great lord, and say my story. That is all, yer ladyship."
"Oh, little girl!" cried Fanny, joyfully, "you need not kiss the old stone for that, for my papa is—" Here the impulsive little girl caught a warning look from her father, and paused suddenly, while his lordship took up the conversation with the peasant child.
"What is your name?"
"Norah McCarthy, yer honor."
"Ah, quite a pretty name. Well, Norah, how came this brother of yours to enlist?"
"Och! it all came from going to Darby O'Hallagher's wake."
"What is a wake?" asked Fanny.
"A wake, my darling young lady," said Rooney, very politely, "sure it's an entertainment that a man gives after he is dead, when his disconsolate friends all assemble at his house, to discuss his virtues and drink his poteen. There is one who is called a 'keener,' usually an elderly woman, with a touch of madness, or poetry, and a wild rolling eye, who chants a 'keen,' or lamentation; in short, it's a sort of melancholy frolic, where we only drink to drown our sorrow—a good old Irish custom. Now, go on, Norah, my jewel."
"Well, may be Phin was a great mourner for Darby, for he was overtaken in drink that night, and brought shame upon himself, that had always been a dacent and a sober lad; and the next day Mary Nelligan wouldn't spake to him, and even our mother turned her face away from him; and so, with the hot shame at his heart, he went straight to the sergeant and 'listed. He was sorry soon, and Mary was sorry, and mother is just kilt with grief, for she has nobody to look to now."
"And to obtain your brother's discharge, you have come on this pilgrimage to Blarney Castle, my poor child?" said Lord Clare, laying his hand gently on the little girl's head.
"Yes, and will yer honor kindly point out the stone to me? for I must go back to Cork this day."
Lord Clare took her by the hand, and leading her to the parapet, pointed down to the stone, imbedded in the outside wall. "Ah," cried Norah, in a tone of dismay and grief, "how can I reach it there? and where am I to get the heart to spake up to the lord-lieutenant for poor Phin?"
Just then, an idea of testing the courage and devotion of the child occurred to Lord Clare. Unwinding from his waist a long silk, military sash, he said, "If you will let me tie this around you, under your arms, and let you down by it, you can kiss the Blarney Stone, and I will draw you up again. Are you brave enough to venture?"
As Norah looked down from what seemed to her a dreadful height, she grew dizzy and shrank back; but when she looked up into the calm, kind eyes of Lord Clare, she took courage, and said she would go. As he tied the sash firmly about her, she said,—"If yer honor finds me heavy you'll not let me fall, for sure you have a colleen (girl) of your own."
She put up a little prayer when she went over the wall, which I doubt not was lovingly listened to, by Him who blessed little children. Safely she was lowered to the stone, and eagerly she pressed against it her soft red lips, and then called out, "I've done it, yer honor; now pull me up, if you plase."
As Lord Clare lifted her up over the parapet, Fanny, in admiration of her courage, rushed forward, flung her arms about her and kissed her—calling her "the best and bravest girl in the world." The ladies and gentlemen of the party all made presents of money, which she received with grateful thanks, but seemed bewildered by their great kindness and in a hurry to get away.
"Where are you going?" asked one.
"Back to Cork, sure, to find the lord-lieutenant, while the feel of the Blarney Stone is on my lips."
"But how will you get to speak to him?"
"Ah, then, I cannot tell; but the saints will help me, may be."
"I will tell you what to do," said Lord Clare. "Come to the Royal Hotel, where he lodges, just after the Review, to-day. I know him, and will see that orders are given to admit you, at once."
"But hadn't I better wait till his lordship has dined?" asked Norah, "for I have heard that gentlemen are better natured after dinner."
"Ah, you are a shrewd child," said Lord Clare, laughing, "but you forget that you have kissed the Blarney Stone, and need not fear even a hungry lord-lieutenant. Come at the time I set."
"And keep up good courage," whispered Fanny. "You can't expect any help from the fairies, for there are no such little folks nowadays; but there are the angels, you know—and my papa, he is almost as good as a fairy."
At the hour appointed for receiving his humble petitioner, the lord-lieutenant was standing in his parlor, at the Royal Hotel, with a group of officers in rich uniforms and ladies in full dress about him. He was amusing some of the company who had not been with him in the morning, by an account of the simplicity and heroism of the beautiful Irish child he had met, when she was shown in, by a pompous serving-man, in showy livery, who looked very much astonished and somewhat indignant at being obliged to introduce such a humble little body to a room full of grand people. But no one cared for his looks. Norah was dazzled by the sight of so much splendid dress, and went forward with timid, wavering steps to where she was told the lord-lieutenant was standing. She stood before him, quite silent for a moment, her eyes cast down, and a painful blush overspreading her artless face; then, in a trembling, hesitating voice, she began—"Will yer honor plase—no, may it plase yer lord-lieutenantship to let our poor Phin go! Sure, with all these fine soldiers you'll never miss him, and then"—here she stammered and broke quite down. Covering her face with her hands, she cried out, half sorrowfully and half in vexation, "Bad luck to the Blarney Stone! There's no good in it at all, at all—sorra a word more will it give me to spake."
Lord Clare laughed at this—a pleasant, familiar laugh—and Norah dropped her hands and looked up full in his face, for the first time during the interview. In an instant, her eyes flashed joyfully through their tears, she clapped her hands and cried,—"Blessed Saint Patrick it is himself!" The next moment, Fanny was at her side, smiling and whispering joyfully, "Didn't I tell you my papa was almost as good as a fairy?"
To make a long story short, I will say that Phin McCarthy's discharge was soon obtained, and Norah McCarthy returned to Bantry, by the public car, loaded with presents from the generous friends her beauty and brave devotion had made.
A short time after, as the lord-lieutenant and his party were passing through Bantry, on their way to Killarney, their travelling car was surrounded by the McCarthys and Nelligans, (Mary Nelligan was already Mrs. Phin McCarthy,) all come to return their thanks.
Little Lady Frances was very happy to see her Irish friend, who looked prettier than ever, in a neat new dress; and drawing her father's face down to hers, she whispered,—"Oh, papa, dear! won't you take Norah home with us, to be my little maid?" This thought had already occurred to Lord Clare, so he proposed it at once to Mrs. McCarthy. Though feeling greatly honored, the good woman was, at first, unwilling to part from her darling, and Norah to go so far from her mother; but when his lordship promised that they should often visit each other, they gratefully consented.
So Norah went to live in Dublin Castle, as the maid and playmate of Lady Frances. She was always most kindly cared for, received a good education, and was treated more as a friend than as a servant by all Lord Clare's household, for she ever retained her simple, endearing ways, and was as good as she was beautiful.
When she had been a year or two in his family, Lord Clare one day explained to her, as well as he could, the curious superstition of the Blarney Stone,—assuring her that there was in reality no virtue or power in it whatever. Norah smiled and blushed at his earnest words, as she answered in her sweet brogue, which she had not yet been educated out of,—"My Lady Frances told me long ago, that the fairies were all a pretty fable, and the Blarney Stone was like any other stone, just. I'll let the fairies go, but," (taking Fanny's hand and kissing it,) "by your lordship's leave and hers, I will stand by the Blarney Stone, for the good fortune it has brought me."
The morning of our leaving Cork was dark and rainy; but it gradually cleared up, and by the time we reached Bantry, the first place of much note on our route, all was bright and smiling, overhead and along our way.
Bantry Bay is very beautiful, and is historically remarkable as the place where the French have twice attempted a landing, for the purpose of invading and revolutionizing Ireland.
Late in the afternoon, we arrived at Glengariff—one of the wildest and yet loveliest spots in all that picturesque country. How I wish I could give you such an idea of it as I have in my own mind—a great, magnificent picture, painted on my memory—in some parts sunny and green, and flowery; in others, dark and rugged, and grand. I shall always particularly remember a long row we had on the bay, in the twilight, and how the scenery of the mountainous shore and the rocky islands, and the swelling, booming waves, grew stern, solemn, and even awful, in the fast-falling shadows of evening, and the rising winds and gloomy clouds of a coming storm.
But the next morning, every thing was more sweet and quiet and radiant than I can tell. So, wild Glengariff smiled upon us in our parting, but we found it hard to smile back. We really felt sad to go so soon and forever from such a bit of paradise.
We travelled now upon a large outside car, which allowed us to see every thing on our way, and would have been a very pleasant conveyance if it had not left us too much exposed to the attacks of the beggars. The seats were so low that when the car was going slowly up the hills, we could step off and walk—so, of course, the beggars could come close beside us. Nothing kept them off—neither laughing, nor commanding; alms-giving, nor refusals. Drive as fast as we might, they kept up with us—crowds of little boys and girls, and sometimes full-grown men and women. Some of the children were exceedingly handsome, with black hair and eyes, and dark olive skins—descendants, it is said, of the Spaniards, who, in the time of Queen Elizabeth, invaded Ireland.
The Lakes of Killarney would scarcely be called lakes in our country, where we boast such grand inland seas under that name. They are small, but certainly very beautiful, and surrounded by delightful scenery. They are three in number—the Upper, the Lower, and Torc Lake.
The town of Killarney has a miserable, dilapidated appearance, and is overflowing with beggars. We did not stop here, however, but at a hotel a mile or two away, on the northern shore of the Lower Lake—a most charming situation. A little way out of the town, we had stopped to visit Torc waterfall—a beautiful cascade, in a wild and shady glen—one of the very finest sights of that region.
In the morning, we set out early on an excursion through the Gap of Dunloe, to the Upper Lake. This time I was mounted on a fleet-footed pony, which gave me an advantage over the beggars. One friend rode beside me; the others were, as usual, on a jaunting car.
The "Gap" is a long, dark, rocky pass, with a noisy stream, called the Loe, rushing through it. On the right, are the mountains called the Reeks; on the left, the Toomies, and the "Purple Mountain." On reaching the Upper Lake, we left our ponies and car, and embarked in a boat, which was awaiting us, for a row down a still, silvery, and fairy-like sheet of water. Passing many green and flowery islands—always in sight of grand mountains and lovely shores—we entered upon "the long range"—a sort of river, connecting the lakes. On this stands old "Eagle's Nest," a mountain about eleven hundred feet in height, on whose summit the eagles have built their nests for centuries.
It is principally remarkable for the fine echoes which it gives forth. Our guide played the bugle before it, and every note came back, clear and sweet.
Mrs. Hall, in her beautiful book on Ireland, relates an amusing story which a peasant told her, of a daring attempt a mountaineer once made to rob the eagle's nest. He watched till he saw the old eagles fly away, and then let himself down by a rope from the rock above, and was just about to seize upon the young eaglets, when suddenly out darts the mother eagle from a thunder-cloud, and stood facing him! But she spoke very civilly, and said—
"Good morning, sir; and what brings you to visit my fine family so early, before they've had their breakfast?"
"Oh, nothing at all," said the man, "only to ax after their health, ma'am, and to see if any of them is troubled with the tooth-ache; for I've got a cure for it, here in my pocket, something I brought wid me from furrin parts."
"Aha! and you brought some blarney in the other pocket," said the mother eagle; "for don't I know you came to steal my children—the darlings?"
"Honor bright," said he, "do you raly think now I'd be sarving ye such a mane trick as that?"
"I'll leave it to a neighbor of mine," said she; and with that she raised her voice and screeched out—"Did he come to rob the eagle's nest?"
Of course, the echo answered—"To rob the eagle's nest."
"Hear that! you thieving blackguard," said the eagle, "and take that home with you!" and with one blow of her great beak, she pitched him over, and he tumbled down the mountainside into the lake; getting severely bruised and well ducked for interfering with the domestic happiness of his neighbors.
About a mile below this mountain, we passed under Old Weir Bridge. This is called "shooting the bridge," and unless you have very skilful boatmen, is considered very dangerous, as the rapids are swift and strong.
We next passed the bay and mountain of Glena, by far the most beautiful scenes of Killarney.
We took dinner on shore, seated on the soft, cool grass, under the shade of arbutus-trees, and after a little stroll, returned over the water to our hotel, but a very little wearied by our day of pleasure.
Our first excursion the next morning was to the ruins of Muckross Abbey, on a peninsula which divides the Lower Lake from Torc Lake.
This is a beautiful, solemn old spot, and is very much venerated by the Irish peasantry, not only as having been built and occupied by holy priests and saints, but as the burial-place of many of the ancient Princes of Desmond, the MacCartys-Mor, and the O'Donoghues.
After leaving the Abbey, we commenced the ascent of Mangerton, a mountain some 2,550 feet high. We were now all mounted on ponies, who were very sagacious and sure-footed, and climbed the rocky, narrow path like goats. We were followed every step of the way by a host of lads and girls, carrying jugs and cups of milk and whisky, which they offered to us at almost every moment. The greatest curiosity upon this mountain is a little lake, near the summit, called, "The Devil's Punch-Bowl." It is surrounded by almost perpendicular rocks; the water is very dark, and is said to be unfathomable. Though so completely shut in, it is never calm, and though icy cold in summer, it never freezes in winter.
From the summit, we had a vast, magnificent view, which, however, I must confess, I enjoyed less than the wild, frolicking ride which I took soon after, down the mountain, following closely upon the steps of one of my friends, who, for mischief, went far out of the path, and took his way over rocks and gullies, through bogs and briars. It was great sport to us, but I am afraid my poor pony had some private objections to it.
We enjoyed another pic-nic dinner in Lord Kenmare's grounds, and afterwards rowed to the lovely little island of Innisfallen, upon which are some ruins of a famous old abbey, which is said to have been built as early as the seventh century.
From Innisfallen we went to Ross Castle—a very well-preserved ruin.
In old times it was the stronghold of the war-like O'Donoghues. It was besieged in 1652, by the forces of Cromwell, commanded by General Ludlow, and though very strong and well provisioned, surrendered, with scarcely an attempt at defence. The reason of this was that the garrison was frightened at seeing the war ships which Ludlow brought against them—as, long before, some old priest or wizard had made a prophecy that when such vessels should appear on the lake, all would be up with the castle. So superstition makes cowards of the bravest men.
There is a very curious and absurd legend which the peasants relate about the last O'Donoghue; and they really seem to believe what they are telling. Some say that when Ludlow marched his men into his castle, the O'Donoghue, driven to despair, leaped from one of the windows into the lake,—that he was not drowned, but turned into a sort of merman under the waves, and has lived there ever since, with the friendly water-spirits, and his family and many of his friends who have followed him. They say he has a splendid sub-marine palace, and dogs and horses, and harpers and fiddlers, good whisky punch, and potatoes that are never touched with the rot—fairs and dances, and weddings and wakes, and now and then a fight—in short, every thing that can make a real old-fashioned Irishman feel at home and comfortable. The wakes and fights are only make-believes, "for divarshin," they say; for the people down there cannot die—cannot even be wounded, or hurt in any way.
Others say that the O'Donoghue under the lake is a more ancient prince—an enchanter, who for some act of impiety, got enchanted in his turn and was condemned to dwell under the water, and is only allowed to come to the surface once a year—on the first morning in May, when he rides over the lake in grand style, clad in silver armor, with snowy plumes in his casque, mounted on a white steed, splendidly caparisoned. Before him go beautiful water-spirits, scattering flowers—all running and dancing on the water, without the slightest difficulty. It is said the enchantment of the O'Donoghue will last until the silver shoes of his horse are worn off by the friction of the waves.
There are many yet living at Killarney, who solemnly declare that they have seen the chieftain on his May-morning ride. But these, if honest persons, have doubtless been deceived by singular appearances in the atmosphere, called optical illusions, or mirages.
Many other legends are told by the peasants and guides. All are strange and improbable, but some are very amusing, and some, I think, quite poetic and beautiful.
One is about a holy man of Muckross, who fell into some great sin, and repenting of it, waded into the lake, and stuck a holly-stick into the bottom, and said he would not leave the spot till it should throw out leaves and branches. So he did penance for seven years, and then the stick suddenly leaved out and blossomed, and became a great tree, by which the good man knew that he was pardoned. We may take a lesson from this. If we do wrong, and try to atone for it, in the best way we know how, it may seem a hopeless work; but if we wait patiently and pray, we shall surely see, at last, God's love and blessing blossoming before us like the holly-stick, and overshadowing us like the great tree.
There is another legend about an ancient Abbot of Innisfallen, which is sweet and touching, though I do not see that it has any moral. This good man was at his prayers one morning, very early, when he heard a little bird singing so melodiously out among the trees, that he got up from his knees and followed it. The bird flew from tree to tree, and still he walked after, for its music was so delicious he could not tire of it. He thought in his heart that he could listen to it forever, and he came very near doing that same, for the bird was an enchanted singer, and so bewitched the priest that he had no idea how the time went by. At last, he thought that it was about the hour for vespers—so he gave his blessing to the little bird, and went back into the abbey. But, when he entered, he was astonished to see only strange faces and to hear a strange tongue, which was the English, in place of the Irish. There were monks about, who asked him who he was, and where he came from. He told them his name, and that he was their Abbot. He had gone out, he said, in the morning to hear a little bird sing, and somehow it had kept him following it about the island ever since. Then they told him that no less than two hundred years had passed since he went out to hear that singing, and that he had never been seen since—for being enchanted, he had been invisible. Then the old monk cried out—"Give me absolution, some of you, for my time is come!" They gave him absolution, and he died in peace; but just as he was passing away, there came to the holly-tree, before the window, a little white bird, and sat and sung the sweetest song ever heard; and when the soul left the body of the old Abbot, another white bird appeared, and the two sang together very joyfully for awhile, in the holly tree, and then flew out into the sunshine, and up into the blue heaven, away!
Not many years ago there lived at Glena, the loveliest spot in all Killarney, a small farmer, by the name of Mickey, or Michael More, his wife, and one daughter. Though Mickey was a poor, hard-working man, he boasted that he was descended from a regular Irish chieftain, the great MacCarty-Mor, and held his head up accordingly. But his wife, Bridget O'Dogherty, that was—used sometimes to put him down a little, by boasting that her great ancestor of all, was "a mighty king, or monarch, that ruled over the biggest part of Ireland, shortly after the flood,—long before the MacCartys-Mor were ever heard of. Why man, it took all the lakes of Killarney to water his cattle—and the bog of Allen was only his potato-patch."
In truth, Mrs. More was but a silly, ignorant woman, and her husband was not much better, though he thought himself infinitely more clever and sensible. In one thing, however, this couple were perfectly agreed: it was in thinking their daughter, Kathleen, the most beautiful and bewitching creature that the sun ever shone upon. They were so foolishly proud of her that they resolved and declared that no one short of a lord, or a rich baronet should ever marry her—that she should become "my lady" somebody, or remain Kathleen More, to the day of her death. They were strengthened in this resolution by a famous fortune-teller, who foretold that Kathleen would become a grand lady—live in a castle, ride in a coach, and have jewels and fine dresses, ponies, pages, parrots, and poodle-dogs to her heart's content.
So they kept as keen a watch over her as though she had been a royal princess, whose marriage was a great affair of state. They would hardly allow her to speak to the young people of her own rank, but were always telling her to hold her head high, and remember that she was "a mate for their betters."
Of course, this ambition and pretension excited some ill feeling at Killarney, and laughter and ridicule without end. But Kathleen was truly a very beautiful young girl—so beautiful that her fame spread far and wide, and toasts were made and songs were written in her praise. Visitors to the Lakes used to inquire after her, and sometimes hire their boatmen to land them near her father's cottage, so that they might, by chance, catch a glimpse of "the Beauty of Glena." But Kathleen was a good and sensible girl, and, strange to say, was not spoiled by the constant flattery of her parents, and the evident admiration of all who beheld her. She knew that she was very beautiful,—every glance into the clear waters of the lake showed her what sweet blue eyes, what lustrous black locks, what rosy, dimpled cheeks were hers,—showed her that no lily could be fairer than her brow, her neck, and her lovely taper [Transcriber's note: tapered, tapering?] arms. Yet she knew also that this beauty was hers by no merit, or power of her own; that it was the gift of the good God, bestowed in kindness, though it brought her little happiness, poor girl. Watched and guarded like a nun, she had few friends and little pleasure, and often envied the humblest village maids and farm-servants, as she saw them, strolling along the lake shore, with their brothers and friends, on summer evenings, when their work was done—or sometimes rowing over the lake, their plain brown faces lighted up with innocent enjoyment, and their gay songs and happy laughter ringing out over the water.
There was one young man, braver or more persevering than most of Kathleen's untitled admirers, who would not be frowned off by her ambitious parents;—perhaps because he was encouraged by the kind smiles of the beautiful girl herself. This was a young tradesman, named Barry O'Donoghue—a fine, manly fellow, industrious, intelligent, and though not rich, in better circumstances than most young men of the parish. But when "bold Barry O'Donoghue," as he was called, proposed to Michael More for the hand of his daughter, he received as stern and scornful a "No, young man," as any who had been before him. Barry had a proud as well as a loving heart, and felt the slight and disappointment so keenly that he left his home at once, and sailed for Australia, to seek his fortune in that rich, but then almost unknown land. People laughed, and said that Mickey and Biddy More were keeping their daughter for "the O'Donoghue"—expecting him to come for her, some May-day morning, in grand style, riding over the waves on his silver-shining steed, to carry her off to his palace under the lake. But when it was seen how poor Kathleen took Barry's going to heart, few were so unfeeling as to laugh. She never had been as merry as most young girls, and now she grew sad and silent and very weary-looking. She did not complain, but her eyes seemed heavy with the tears she would not shed, and the roses went fading and fading out of her cheeks, till her father became alarmed, and would bid her eat more, and spin less—to get up early in the morning and drink new milk, "with a drop of mountain-dew in it." ("Mountain-dew," I must tell you, is an Irish name for whisky.) "Ah darling," her mother would say, "if you don't howld on to your beauty, what'll his lordship say, when he comes after you? Sure, he'll consider himself imposed upon."
"But mother, dear," Kathleen would reply, "I don't want any lord—I'll just stay with father and you, always as I am."
"Hush now, you simple child! It's just flying in the face of Providince, you are—your fortune has all been foretowld this many a year, and you've only to submit to it—though you don't desarve it."
Well, one May-day morning, when Barry O'Donoghue had been gone somewhat over a year, Kathleen More went out as usual, to take her early walk; but did not come back again. All day long they searched, far and near, but without obtaining any trace or tidings of her; but just at night, a note was found at the door of Michael's cottage, which ran thus:—
"I have taken away your daughter, and married her, before a priest. Be
easy about her. She is happy, and sends her dutiful respects.
"Ochone!" cried Bridget More, "the Phantom Prince has come and gone off wid our darling Kathleen. I always towld you that trouble would come of them early walks;—and how do you feel, Mickey More, to have gone and made yourself father-in-law to a merman—a wicked water-wizard? Answer me that!"
"Hush now, Biddy," said Michael, "it's not the O'Donoghue at all. It's the great lord we've been waiting for so long, trying to make believe he is the Phantom Prince. Maybe, for reasons of state, he don't like to reveal himself; and maybe," he added, with a sly laugh, "he don't care to make the acquaintance of his talkative mother-in-law."
Mrs. More was very indignant at this supposition, and persisted in believing that the O'Donoghue, and no one else, had carried off and married her daughter,—and as time went by and brought, always in some mysterious way, good news, and now and then a handsome present, from Kathleen, she became reconciled to her marriage, and even proud of it. In her talks with her cronies, she would often speak of "her ladyship, my daughter Kathleen,"—or "my daughter, the Princess O'Donoghue." This greatly amused some of her neighbors, and they used to question and quiz her without mercy.
"And why don't you go and visit your daughter, Mistress More?" asked one—"Sure they invite you."
"Why, you see, Mistress Hallaghan," replied the cunning Bridget, "it's all on account of my rhumatiz—I'm thinking that the climate down there wouldn't agree with me."
But Mrs. More grew yet prouder and more important than ever, when there came another letter from the O'Donoghue, bringing the good news that she was grandmother to a fine little boy. Such grand calculations as she laid on this event. "Who knows," she said, "but that the heir will break up the long enchantment and grow up a good Christian, and come back and take possession of Ross Castle, and we'll be ruled by a rale Irish Prince once more."
At all these foolish anticipations Michael only laughed contemptuously; but as his efforts to find out any thing about his daughter and her husband had all failed, it was thought that he finally more than half believed in the O'Donoghue story himself, though he never owned that he did.
May-day morning had come round again. It was three years since Kathleen More was carried off, and as usual, on that day, her father and mother awoke very early, for it was a sad anniversary for them.
"Troth!" exclaimed Michael, "and it was a queer drame I had last night."
"Ah then, avick, tell me it!" cried his wife, who was particularly curious and superstitious about dreams.
"Well, then, I dramed that I paid a visit to the O'Donoghue; in his grand palace under the lake. I received my invitation by being upset in my boat, and pulled downwards by a big merman, who never let go of my coat-tails till he landed me at the palace gate.
"The O'Donoghue himself met me in the hall. 'Welcome, Mr. MacCarty-Mor,' (mind that, MacCarty-Mor!) said he—'welcome kindly! Sure it's delighted I am to see you—and you are just in time for dinner.' With that a sarvent began sounding a big conch-shell, a great door was flung open, and the next thing, I found myself in an ilegant room, sitting down to dinner with a mighty genteel looking company."
"Arrah! and was our Kathleen amongst them?" asked Mrs. More.
"Of course she was—sitting at the O'Donoghue's right hand, all silks and gold, and heaps of pearls in her hair. She kissed her hand to me, very politely, which was the most she could do, being a Princess, so grandly dressed, and meself in my old grey coat and patched corduroys."
"And did she look natural?—the darling!"
"A trifle paler and prouder—but pretty much the same as ever, Biddy."
"And who else did you see, Mickey?"
"Oh hosts of the quality. First there was Fin MacCual, and Brian Boro, and old King Cormac and the O'Tooles—with their crowns on, and the O'Neills, and the O'Connors, and the O'Meaghers, and the O'Malleys, and the O'Doghertys, and the O'Briens, and no end of O'Donoghues,—and the Dermods, and Desmonds, and my ancestor, the great MacCarty-Mor himself."
"And what was your dinner, Mickey?"
"Why, principally oysters, and lobsters, and turtles, sarved up in their shells—and plenty of good potheen to drink. The trouble of it was, every thing was cowld, for you see they had no fire down there; and candles wouldn't burn, by raison of the dampness,—so we went to bed by moonlight, and slept on pillows of soft sand, between two sheets of water."
"Ah, Mickey!" cried out Mrs. Bridget, in alarm, "why didn't you excuse yourself, and come home before bed-time, for you know you always take cowld from sleeping in damp sheets."
Michael burst into a laugh at this—"Why Biddy, woman," said he,—"sure you forget it's all a drame."
"Arrah, and so it is," replied his wife, sadly, "and we know no more about our poor Kathleen than we did the day she was spirited away. Ah, Mickey dear, I often think that if I had her back, in my ould arms again, I'd have no more such high notions for her, and I'd niver cross her in any way."
Michael said nothing, but sighed heavily, and turned his face toward the wall.
A short time after this conversation, while Michael More was stirring up the peat fire in the little kitchen, to boil the potatoes for breakfast, and his wife was milking the cow, just outside the door, he was startled by her calling put to him, in a tone of joyful excitement—"Mickey, oh, Mickey! they're coming!"
"Who are coming?" cried he, rushing to the door.
"The O'Donoghue and our Kathleen. Don't you see them? Sure it's the morning for them—only they are in a boat, instead of on horseback. Hark, don't you hear the fairy music? and that's our Kathleen's voice calling!"
"Faith, you are right, for once," replied Michael, running with her down to the shore. Yes, a boat came dancing over the bright waters of the bay; containing a tall young man, quite proud, and happy looking enough for a Prince, though not dressed in silver armor,—and a very beautiful lady, holding a child in her arms. The "fairy music" was made by the bugle of old Stephen Spillane, the Killarney guide.
In a few moments, there leaped to land, not the enchanted Irish chieftain, but a better man, Barry O'Donoghue, who had as good a right to call himself "the O'Donoghue" as any other member of that numerous family. Then he handed out his wife, Kathleen, who three years before he had been obliged to steal away from her unkind and foolish parents,—and little Master Harry O'Donoghue, a handsome, curly-headed little rogue, who jumped at once with a merry laugh, into the arms and into the hearts of his grandparents.
After a great deal of embracing and kissing, Barry said, in reply to a host of wondering exclamations and questions: "We have come back from Australia, where we were getting rich, because Kathleen could not be longer away from home and you. We have brought a little fortune with us, and mean to settle down here in dear old Killarney, if you will be reconciled to us, and take us for neighbors."
"And if you will forgive me, for not coming back to you a great lady," said Kathleen, smiling.
"Don't say any more about that," said Michael More, embracing her for the twentieth time,—"We are glad enough to have you back just your old self, and it's quite content we are with your husband and the boy—and bad luck to all fortune-tellers! say I."
With that, old Stephen blew an applauding farewell note on his bugle, and the Mores and O'Donoghues all went into the cottage, where we will leave them.
We travelled from Killarney to Tarbert, on the Shannon, by the stage-coach, passing through several old, but uninteresting towns, and seeing a great deal of barrenness and wretchedness on our way. At Tarbert, we took a steamer, to ascend the river to Limerick, and as the weather that afternoon was clear and bright, we had one of the most delightful trips you can imagine.
The Shannon is a very noble river—in some places widening out like a sea, and all the way running between beautiful green shores. There is a place in the river, near the mouth, which has somewhat the appearance of rapids, when the tide is coming in. This, the people say, is the site of a sunken city, whose towers and turrets make the roughness of the water. The whole city can be seen every seven years, but, as the sight is said to be unlucky, every body avoids it. The whole story is about as probable as the one I have told you of the damp and dubious palace of the O'Donoghue.
Limerick is a pleasant and prosperous city, and has a very honorable name in Irish history. The most interesting object that it contains is the Castle, which was built by King John, and has stood for more than six hundred years. In 1651, Limerick sustained a terrible siege, by the Parliamentary forces, under General Ireton, the son-in-law of Cromwell. It held out for six months, and would not have surrendered then, though the inhabitants were dying of starvation and plague, had it not been for the treachery of an officer of the garrison—one Colonel Fennel. Among the most faithful and heroic of the city's defenders, was a priest—Terence Albert O'Brien, Bishop of Emly. He was so active and influential that Ireton made him an offer of forty thousand pounds, (two hundred thousand dollars,) and a free pass to the Continent, if he would cease his exhortations, and advise immediate surrender. He scorned the offer, and so when the city at last fell into the hands of the English, he was tried and condemned to death. He was calm and heroic to the last; but before he was beheaded, he addressed a few solemn, warning words to Ireton, which made the stern soldier's blood curdle. He accused him of cruel injustice, and summoned him to appear before the tribunal of God within a few days. It is a singular fact that in a little more than a week from that time, Ireton died of the plague.
Limerick was again besieged in 1690, by William III. It was defended by the Irish Catholic adherents of James II. and their French allies, and so well defended, that the King and his army beat a retreat in less than a month. However, they made another trial the next year and with a little better success, for after a six months' siege, the garrison capitulated. A treaty was signed between the two armies, in which it was stipulated that Limerick and the other Irish fortresses should surrender to the new King—that the garrisons should be allowed to march out with all the honors of war, and that they should be provided with shipping to carry them to any country they should please to go to. Then there were several other articles very favorable to the rights and liberties of the Roman Catholics. To the shame of the English government of that day, it must be said that this compact was most dishonorably broken, and through that reign and many succeeding, the Irish Catholics were greatly wronged and meanly persecuted. From this circumstance, Limerick has always been called "The City of the Violated Treaty"—at least, until the year 1847, when, one evening, a famous tea-party given to the rebel leader, Smith O'Brien, was broken up by a mob—on which occasion, Mr. Punch made a little change in the old title, and called it "The City of the Violated Tea-tray."
The Cathedral of St. Mary's is a large, gloomy-looking building, with a very high tower, from which one can get a magnificent view of the surrounding country. In this tower is a very melodious chime of bells, about which there is told a pretty and touching story, which I do not doubt is true.
Once there lived in Italy a skilful young artisan, who was celebrated for founding bells. No founder in all Europe could equal him—no chimes in all the world were so grand and sweet-sounding as his. At last, he made a chime for a convent, which proved to be finer than any he had cast before. He had spent years upon them; they were his great work; he was very proud of them; he even seemed to have fallen in love with them, for he could not live out of the sound of their melodious ringing. So he purchased a little villa, in a lovely seaside nook, beneath the lofty cliff on which the convent stood, and every night and morning he had the happiness of hearing the solemn silver chiming of his own dear bells, which, when sounding at that height, it almost seemed to him God had taken and hung in the clouds, to call him and his children to prayer and to heaven.
But after a few bright, peaceful years, there came a dark, troubled time of war and pillage. The good Italian lost all in the terrible struggle—home, family—even his beloved bells—for the convent on the cliff was destroyed, and they were carried away to some distant land. At last, he was released from a miserable dungeon, to find himself old, infirm, poor, and alone in the wide world. Then a great longing came to him, and grew and grew at his lonely heart, to hear his bells once more before he should die. So he became a wanderer over Europe, searching for them every where. He would be told of wonderful chimes in this and that city, and go many weary leagues to hear them; but as soon as they sounded on his ear, he would sadly shake his head, his eyes would fill with tears, and he would turn to go on his way.
When, at length, he heard of the sweet bells of Limerick, he was very old and feeble, but he set out at once on what he knew must be his last pilgrimage. The vessel on which he sailed went up the Shannon, and anchored opposite the city. The old Italian took a boat to go on shore, at the close of a calm and beautiful day. He was very weak and ill, and reclined in the stern of the boat, looking longingly toward St. Mary's Cathedral. Suddenly, from the tall tower, rang softly out the vesper chime. The Italian started up joyfully at the sound. Then he crossed himself, looked upward, and murmured—"I thank thee, blessed mother of Jesus! I hear my bells at last!" Then he sank back, and closed his eyes and listened. The men rested on their oars, and all was still, except that sweet, solemn ringing. The Italian seemed to hear in his bells more than their old melody—all the music of his happy home—the deep murmur of the sea below the convent cliff—the sighing of the winds in the cypress and olive trees—and sweeter and dearer than all, the voices of his wife and children. They seemed to be softly calling his pious soul to leave the trouble and weariness of earth for the blessedness and rest of God. And his soul obeyed the call,—for, when the bells ceased their ringing, and the boatmen rowed to land, they found that the aged stranger was dead.
About six miles above Limerick are the Rapids of the Shannon, usually called the Falls of Doonas. These can be part way descended in long, narrow skiffs, constructed for the purpose, but the feat is a very hazardous one. I went down, with a friend and two brave boatmen, but though I enjoyed the adventure, I would not advise any one to follow my example.
Not far from Limerick are the ruins of Mungret Priory, said to have been founded by St. Patrick, and which once contained no less than one thousand five hundred monks.
"As wise as the women of Mungret," is a saying among the Irish, which had its rise, according to tradition, in this way:—
The monks of Cashel having heard great stories of the learning of those of Mungret, resolved to send a deputation to them, to settle the point as to which college possessed the finest scholars in the dead languages. Now the monks of Mungret enjoyed a better reputation for such learning than they deserved,—being rather more fond of good living than hard study,—so they were mortally afraid of being beaten in the contest, and losing their good name forever. But they hit upon a very ingenious plan of escape from their embarrassment. They dressed up a number of their best scholars—some as women and some as peasants—and placed them along the road by which their rivals must travel. As the deputation came on, they naturally asked the way to Mungret, and put other questions to the persons they met, and to their great astonishment, every question was answered in Greek or Latin. At last, they came to a halt, held a consultation, and prudently resolved to go back to Cashel, as they could not hope to win any honor in a controversy with a priory of monks who had so filled all the country around with learning, that even the women and workmen spoke the dead languages fluently.
We saw a great deal of poverty, squalor, and idleness, in Limerick, but also much honest industry. We visited the lace and glove manufactories, where many poor girls earn not only their own living, but often that of their families.
The peasantry in this county seemed sober and quiet people, but, as in other parts of Ireland, they are mostly ignorant and superstitious. They are workers in the bogs, or day-laborers, and all think themselves very fortunate if they can obtain employment at wages which will keep them and their children from starvation. Beggary is very common everywhere, and is not considered a disgrace, except by the better order of people.
There is in Ireland a class of small farmers, who live very respectably and comfortably, though they can never hope to get very much beforehand, as they do not own their farms, are obliged to pay many taxes, and the more valuable they make the land, by their industry, the higher is the rent.
I have heard a pretty little story about one of these farmer-families, with which I will close this chapter.
In the county of Waterford once lived an honest old farmer, by the name of Walsh. His wife died young, and left him one only child—a son, of whom he was very proud. And Patrick Walsh was worthy of a great deal of affection and respect; for he was a fine, amiable, industrious young man.
Unfortunately, Patrick fell in love with a proud, handsome young woman, the daughter of a well-to-do farmer in the neighborhood, and finally persuaded her to marry him, though she gave him to understand pretty plainly that she thought she was condescending not a little in doing so.
Why, the Mullowneys (she was a Mullowney) actually had three rooms in their cabin, and kept a horse, two cows, a goat, and a good-sized donkey! And then, they had relations who were very well off in the world—in particular, some fourth cousins, who kept a draper's shop in Waterford, who, though they never visited the country Mullowneys, couldn't help being an honor to the family. So it was little wonder that "Peggy Mullowney Walsh," as she always insisted on being called, held her pretty nose rather high, and curled her red lip a little scornfully, as she stepped into the neat, but humble cabin of her handsome young husband. Old Mr. Walsh felt for Patrick, and in order to make his fortune equal the goods and the honors which his wife had brought him, he made over to him the farm and all his possessions, and left himself a pennyless dependent upon his son and daughter-in-law.
All went well for a few years, for Patrick honored and loved his father, and did all that he could to make him happy and comfortable. But I am sorry to say that Mrs. Peggy never was very kind to him. With her high notions, she rather looked down upon him than felt grateful to him for being simple enough to give up all his property to his son. Then she was selfish and violent tempered, and did not like "the bother of an ould body like him about the cabin." Still, she bore with him, for he made himself quite useful, mostly in taking care of the children, especially of the oldest boy, Andy. This child was all the comfort the old grandfather had. He was always gentle and loving to him, and made him as little trouble as possible. Sometimes, when the poor old man was lying awake at night, grieving over the hard, scornful treatment of his proud daughter-in-law, and praying God to take him to a home of peace and love, where he would never be "in the way" any more, little Andy would hear his low sobs, and go to him, creep close to his desolate old heart, and whisper—
"Don't cry, gran'daddy—I love you wid all my heart, avourneen."
But the older and more feeble her father-in-law grew, the more unkindly Mrs. Peggy treated him, till she made the cabin such a scene of constant storm and confusion that everybody in it was wretched. At last, old Mr. Walsh came to a resolution to put an end to all this trouble. He would take to the road—that is, go a-begging. "The Lord will take care of me," he said: "He who feeds the sparrows will put it into the hearts of good Christians to give me all that I need."
Of course, Patrick was sad at the thought of his old father becoming a mendicant; but he was a peaceable man and ruled by his wife; he was tired of her scolding and complaints, and so, at last, consented.
As for Mrs. Peggy, she was very glad; she thought it was the best thing the "ould body" could do, and set about making a beggar's bag for him at once. He was to start the next morning.
Little Andy heard all the talk, but did not say any thing. He sat in a corner, busily at work, sewing up his bib.
"What's that yer doing, Andy, darling?" said his father.
The child looked up at him sadly and reproachfully, and answered,—"Making a bag for you to go beg—when you're as old as gran'daddy."
Patrick Walsh burst into tears, flung his arms around his old father's neck, and begged his forgiveness. And even the proud Peggy was so affected that she fell upon her knees and asked pardon of God, of her husband and his father, for her undutiful conduct. For his part, the good old man forgave her at once. I need hardly say that he never went on the road; for, from that hour, Peggy was a better and gentler woman, and tried hard to make her house a happy home for her father-in-law, and so, for all her family. To be sure, her besetting sins—pride and temper—would break out once in a while, but God was stronger than either; she prayed to Him, and He gave her strength to get the better of them at last.
Grandfather Walsh lived in comfort and content several years, and on his peaceful death-bed, blessed his son and daughter, and their children, very solemnly and lovingly. When all thought that he was gone, little Andy, who had been very quiet till then, began to cry aloud. The good old man, whose soul was just at the gates of heaven, heard him, opened his eyes, reached out his hand, and blessed his darling once more. Then he died.
After leaving Limerick, we returned to Dublin, and there took a carriage, for a little tour in the neighboring county of Wicklow.
Wicklow has been called "The Garden of Ireland," for the beauty of its scenery and the high cultivation of a large portion of its lands. It is full of romantic valleys and streams, lakes, glens, and waterfalls—varied by rugged, untamable wilds, and bleak, barren mountains.
We first visited "the Dargle," or Glenislorane River, upon Lord Powerscourt's domain. This would be thought "a small specimen" of a river with us, as, except when the waters are swollen with a freshet, it is but a narrow and shallow mountain stream. But in Ireland it passes at such times for a mighty torrent, and at all times is greatly admired and respected.
It runs very rapidly, with bright sparkles and pleasant murmurs, down a deep rocky ravine, whose jagged sides are overgrown with moss and ferns, and overhung with luxuriant foliage.
A path leads up the glen to the waterfall. This is considered by the people here a sublime and magnificent cataract, and it is very fine in its way, and abundantly makes up in beauty for what it lacks in awfulness; it is a charming thing to look at, and listen to, and ramble about; and though it does not thunder and plunge and roar, like Niagara, it glads the hearts of all who behold it—it manufactures quite as radiant bows in the sunshine, and makes soft, musical, lulling sounds enough to soothe all the peevish and restless children in the world to sleep.
The entire descent at this fall is said to be about three hundred feet; but it is only when the stream has been reinforced and encouraged by heavy winter rains, that it takes the whole great jump at once.
The next stopping-place of much interest was Glendalough, which means, "The Glen of the Two Lakes." This is usually called "The Valley of the Seven Churches;" for here, in a very small space, are the ruins of that number of rude little churches, and several other edifices, most of them said to have been built as early as the sixth century, by St. Keven.
The place reminds one of "The Valley of the Shadow of Death," in "Pilgrim's Progress," and it is hard to believe that any thing like a "city" ever stood on so gloomy and desolate a spot. Yet history says so; and it is certain the O'Tooles and MacTooles, for centuries kings of all this region, lived here, or near here, in old-fashioned Irish state, and were buried generation after generation of them in the Church of Rhefeart.
The two lakes are small and quiet; but the water seems very deep, and is remarkably dark-colored. There is something really awful in the look of the lower lake, which is shut in by steep black mountains. On the side of one of these, Lugduff, about thirty feet above the water, is a singular little cave, which looks as though it had been hewn from the solid rock, and is called St. Keven's Bed. The legend about it is, that when St. Keven was a handsome young man of twenty, he made up his mind to be a priest, and a saint—so, gave up all thoughts of love and marriage, and devoted himself to a life of loneliness, privation, and penance. It unluckily happened that a certain noble young lady, named Kathleen, (the last name has not come down to us—perhaps it was O'Toole,) took a great fancy to him, and offered him her hand, with a very respectable property. To her surprise and mortification, he not only did not accept, but actually ran away from her. He went to Glendalough, then a wilderness, and scooped out this little den in the rock—a place very difficult of access, both from the mountain and the lake. Here he hid, laughing to himself that he had outwitted Kathleen. But, one morning, he was wakened by hearing his name called, very softly, and opening his eyes, who should he see but Miss Kathleen, standing at the opening of the little cave, and smiling at him—as much as to say, "Ah, you rogue, you see you can't escape me."
Shocked at the impropriety of her conduct, and provoked at being found out, he put his feet against her, and kicked her into the lake! where, I am sorry to say, she drowned in a very short time. In our day, there would have been a hue and cry raised—a coroner's inquest—a great talk in the newspapers—a trial—and, if the jury agreed, a hanging; but there was nothing of the kind in that benighted time—nobody arrested Keven, or punished him, and he went on his pious way in peace, building churches and monasteries, and working miracles, or what passed for such, till he got to be a very famous saint indeed. But my opinion is, that it took more than the working of all the miracles assigned to him, and the building of those miserable little edifices at Glendalough, to atone for the drowning of that poor, foolish girl, Kathleen.
Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall, in their admirable work On Ireland, give several other anecdotes, told by their guide, Wynder, which illustrate the saint's goodness of heart in rather an improbable way. "One day, when he had retired to keep the forty days of Lent, in fasting, meditation, and prayer, as he was holding his hand out of the window, a blackbird came and laid her four eggs in it; and the saint, pitying the bird, and unwilling to disturb her, never drew in his hand, but kept it stretched out until she had brought forth her young, and they were fully fledged and flew off with a chirping quartette of thanks to the holy man, for his convaynience." Another is of "how he was once going up Derrybawn, when he met a woman that carried five loaves in her apron. 'What have you there, good woman?' said the saint. 'I have five stones,' said she. 'If they are stones,' said he, 'I pray that they may be bread; and if they are bread, I pray that they may be stones.' So with that, the woman let them fall; and sure enough, stones they were, and stones they are to this day." Our guide told us this same anecdote, in a queer, half jesting, half believing way, and pointed out the stones to us. I thought to myself that if they had not been stones in the first place, they must have been very heavy bread—too hard fare even for a saint.
We clambered up the rock, and crawled into the cave, which we found all carved and written over with names—among them a few of distinguished persons, such as Thomas Moore, Maria Edgeworth, Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Hall, and Walter Scott.
After leaving Glendalough, we visited the "Sweet Vale of Avoca," which the poet Moore has rendered famous by a song, called "The Meeting of the Waters."
It is a little green valley, in which meet two streams—the Avonmore and the Avonbeg—a pretty place enough, but hardly coming up to Mr. Moore's description.
The next day we explored "The Devil's Glen," an exceedingly beautiful place, for all its naughty name. It is somewhat like the Dargle, but more wild and romantic. It also has its rugged hills, its stream, and its waterfall—or its mountains, river, and cataract; as, being in a foreign country, I suppose we should be polite enough to call them, instead of letting ourselves be carried away by conceit in our Mississippis and Niagaras, and being "stuck up" on our Alleghanies and Mount Washingtons.
Our last day in Wicklow was spent at the beautiful and romantic country seat of Sir Philip Crampton, or Lough Bray, a wild, lonely little mountain lake, whose shores are all black peat, or barren rock, except where flourish the pleasant plantations and shrubberies of Sir Philip, growing upon manufactured ground, and looking like the enchanted gardens we read of in fairy tales.
The Lough is a smooth dark sheet of water, so deep in the centre that it cannot be sounded. There is a pretty pebbly beach at one end, and all around the other shores the waves make a peculiar musical sound against the precipitous rocks. It is a charming little lake for boating, and in fine weather, Sir Philip Crampton always gives his guests the pleasure of a trip in his pretty row-boat. There are great numbers of duck and other water-fowl about the lake, which Sir Philip, who is a kind, genial, delightful old gentleman, has tamed, by feeding them with crumbs of bread, which he always carries about him when he goes on the water. No sooner does he make his appearance, than his winged pets are after him in flocks, all clamoring eagerly for their "daily bread."
Sir Philip Crampton told me that when his friend, Sir Walter Scott, was at Lough Bray, on his last visit, a boat excursion was proposed. Sir Walter had always been passionately fond of boating, and now his eye brightened, and he smiled gladly at the thought of his favorite amusement. But just as the party were about stepping into the boat, Mrs. Scott, Sir Walter's young daughter-in-law, drew back, and declared that she was afraid to go. Everybody urged her and reasoned with her, but she could not be persuaded—she would not go—she would stay where she was. Sir Walter did not seem at all vexed with her, though he laughed at her childish fears, but insisted on staying with her; and as the boat pushed off, he sat down on the shore beside her, and plucked flowers for her hair, and tried his best to entertain her—the good, kind great man! When the laughter and songs of his merry friends came to him across the water, he would smile cheerily, and wave his hat to them, and never once said how sorry he was not to be with them. I have heard many noble things about Sir Walter Scott, but nothing that speaks better for his generous, tender heart, than this little anecdote.
I should like to describe further this strange and charming place, but I fear I have no room for any more descriptions of scenery. I will now try to give you some idea of the fairy lore and superstitions of this part of Ireland.
The fairies, or "good people," according to the belief of the peasants, are not confined to any locality; they are all over the country, wherever they can find pleasant, secluded nooks, flowers, and green grass. Their meeting-places are said to be the "Raths," which are singular artificial mounds, supposed to have been built by the Danes, away back in the heathen ages. Fairies have the reputation of being in general good-humored and kindly, though full of merry pranks and frolicsome tricks; yet the peasants are very careful not to offend them by intruding upon their haunts at night, or speaking disrespectfully of their little mightinesses—for they say, "they have tempers of their own, and not having a Christian idication, can't be blamed for not behaving in a Christian-like fashion—poor craturs."
The Phooka is said to be a half-wicked, half-mischievous spirit, who takes the form of many strange animals, but oftenest assumes that of a wild horse. His great object then, is to get a rider, and when he has persuaded a poor fellow to mount him, he never lets him off till he has treated him to a ride long and hard enough to last him his lifetime. Over bogs and moors, ditches and walls, across streams, up and down mountains, he gallops, leaps, and plunges, making the welkin ring with his horrible horse-laugh, and snorting fire from his nostrils.
There is a funny story told of one Jerry Deasy, who paid the Phooka well for such a ride. The next night, he provided himself with a "shillalah," or big stick, and put on a pair of sharp spurs, and when the Phooka appeared, and invited him to take another little excursion, he mounted, and so belabored the head and cut up the sides of the beast, that he was quite subdued, and trotted home, with Jerry, to his own cabin door.
The "Banshee" is a gloomy, foreboding spirit, of rather aristocratic tastes, as she is only attached to highly respectable old families. She never appears but to announce some great misfortune, or the death of a member of the household. She does this by howling and shrieking in the night; and sometimes, they say, she is seen—a tall, pale woman, in long white robes, with black hair flying in the wind.
The most amusing of these supernatural creatures is the Leprehawn, or Luriceen, or Clericaune, the brogue-maker of the "good people." This fairy cobbler is said to have inexhaustible concealed treasure; and sometimes, when he is busily at work, he is surprised and caught. Then he can be made to give up his riches, if his captor keeps his eye fixed on him all the time. But he is almost sure to divert attention, and then is off like a flash. While we are on this subject, I will tell you a little story.
Tim O'Daly was an under-gamekeeper upon Lord Powerscourt's estate, and lived in a nice comfortable cottage, near the Dargle. He had a tidy, thrifty, good-tempered wife, and half a dozen fine, hearty boys and girls—the eldest nearly young men and women. Tim, himself, was honest and industrious, and very much trusted by his master, and yet he was not a happy man. He was discontented, because he was poor, and obliged to work for a living. He longed for wealth and ease—to see his wife ride in her carriage, and to make his sons and daughters gentlemen and ladies. In short, he thought that riches were all that was needed to put the O'Dalys where they deserved to be in the world, and make them great and happy. So much did he think of these things, that he was always on the look-out for the Clericaune, determined, if ever he should see him, to catch him, and make him deliver up his treasure.
One evening, as he was going home through the Dargle, he sat down on a mossy stone, and fell to thinking of his hard lot, and wondering what Providence had against the O'Dalys, that he had not been made a lord, or at least, a rich squire.
All at once, he heard the click, click, of the Clericaune's little hammer on his lapstone! He rose softly—parted the bushes, and there sat the wee brogue-maker, busily at work.
The next moment, Tim had him fast in his fist, and fast he held him, till the elf showed him where his treasure was hid.
Then, after loading himself with gold and jewels, he set the fairy free, and went home dancing and singing in a very strange and indecorous way. The news and the treasure he brought set his sober family wild with joy. They had a great feast and dance over it—all to themselves, for they were grown too grand to associate with their poor neighbors.
Then Tim went and bought a castle, a real old castle, from an impoverished lord—with fine furniture, pictures, horses, hounds, plate, wines, whiskey, and a famous Banshee, who lived in an old turret, especially built for her accommodation.
Tim took his family to this castle, and set up a splendid style of living. Nobody was troubled with work or care now, except in the pursuit of pleasure; and yet, to poor Tim's astonishment, nobody was happy. He was most miserable of all, for he found it hardest to get used to rich clothes, rich food, authority, and idleness. His wife had her carriage—but she was always driving about in it—never at home with him. His daughters put on fine airs, with fine clothes, and learned to despise their ignorant old father, His sons took to bad company, drinking, rioting, and fox-chasing—and, as they did not know much about riding, they were always getting tumbles, and breaking their necks. His old friends were too humble to come near him in his grandeur, and the gentry too proud to notice such a rough, vulgar fellow, who had got rich in some sudden, suspicious way. He had hoped that Lord Powerscourt, at least, would visit him, "for the sake of old times, and out of neighborly feeling just,"—and Mrs. O'Daly counted confidently on a "betther acquaintance with her Ladyship." "An' sure," she said, "our young folk will be mighty thick directly, and what should hinder the young lord from taking a fancy to our Peggy? Arrah! they would make an ilegant match, by raison of his height an' her shortness,—an' thin, haven't they hair of the same lively shade of red?"
But Lord Powerscourt, who had always been a kind and affable master, seemed put upon the very tallest stilts of his dignity, when he met his old servant now; and though he congratulated him on his good fortune, never honored him with either a formal or friendly call—while Lady Powerscourt and her daughters, who had often visited the cottage by the Dargle, in times of sickness and trouble, were never seen driving up the avenue of O'Daly Castle,—and as for the young lord, he went abroad, about these days, and was lost to Miss Peggy O'Daly forever.
Tim's new neighbors laughed at him for his pretensions, and the blunders his family made in "aping their betters,"—his servants imposed on him, and there was nothing but coldness, discord, and wicked waste in his grand old castle, so unlike the humble, happy home of the game-keeper.
Even the Banshee, in whom he had felt so much pride, was no consolation; for, being indignant that low-born peasants had dared to take the place of the ancient and noble family she had so long patronized, she did nothing but howl about the castle, every night of her life.
At length, things got to such a desperate pass, that Tim could endure them no longer, but took the few fairy jewels and guineas that remained, and went with them to the place where he had caught the Clericaune.
There he was again, and he looked up at Tim with a wicked twinkle in his eye, for he knew, the rascal, what trouble unearned riches bring upon one. Tim emptied his pockets of gold and precious stones, and flung them at the little brogue-maker's head—crying out—
"There, take back yer dirty treasure, and bad luck to you, you spalpeen of a fairy, for decaying a Christian!"
He threw with such force, that he flung himself off the stone—and that woke him!
Yes, the capture of the Clericaune, his wealth, his grand castle, and all his trouble were a dream. He got up and looked about him, a little bewildered at first, but soon recollected himself, and set out for home, a wiser and happier man than when he entered the Dargle that afternoon.
It was late and supper was waiting for him. His good wife smiled when he came in, and put by her sewing; his sons and daughters had all come from their work or school, and greeted him affectionately. As he sat down with them to their simple evening meal of bread, milk, and potatoes, they noticed that he said grace with unusual fervor, and then looked round upon them all with tears in his eyes.
His home was as humble as ever—but somehow, it had grown beautiful to him, for the sunshine of contentment was over every thing. His wife was as far from riding in her carriage, and his boys and girls from being gentlemen and ladies, as ever; but he loved them and was proud of them for their goodness and honesty, and he felt that God had done better for them than he could do, with all the riches in the world.
The county of Antrim is not only one of the most picturesque, but most prosperous in all Ireland. It is also remarkable for being entirely surrounded by water—by the ocean, Lough Neagh, and the rivers Bann and Lagan. In this county vast quantities of flax are raised and manufactured into linen—-chiefly at Belfast, the handsomest and most important commercial town in the north of Ireland.
Belfast is particularly dear to me as a place where I spent many pleasant days, with some warm-hearted Irish friends, whose constant kindness and affectionate care made me feel as though my long voyage across the stormy sea was only a troubled dream, and that I was still at home, surrounded by the dear ones I had loved and clung to always.
In sight of this town is a large hill, which is remarkable for presenting at a particular point of view, a most gigantic likeness to the first Napoleon. Certain swells and ledges of the summit form the great profile very distinctly. He seems to be lying on his back, asleep, or in a meditative mood, and the face has such a dejected, melancholy look that one might suppose the likeness had been taken when the Emperor was a prisoner at St. Helena. There was one of the Bonapartes at Belfast, at the time I was there—attending the meeting of the British Association, a celebrated scientific society. This was Lucien, Prince of Canino, a grand-nephew of the Emperor. He recognized the likeness in the great rocky profile, when it was pointed out to him, and professed to be a good deal affected by it, and many people saw a strong family likeness between him and the old hill. This Bonaparte, unlike most princes, is fond of learning and science—is what is called a savant—but unlike most savants, he is stout and jovial-looking, and extremely fond of children, which is the best thing I can say for him.
Near Belfast is a famous "Druidical circle," or a large amphitheatre, enclosed by high mounds of earth, where the ancient Druids used to meet for their heathen worship. As we stood in that great circle, beside a rude altar of stones, it made us shudder to think that hundreds of human beings had probably been cruelly sacrificed there as offerings to the gods of the Druids. What a happy, blessed thing it is to know that such dreadful crimes can never again be committed here, under the name of religion.
I should like to tell you about some of the admirable charitable institutions of Belfast—in which I became interested—and describe some of the beautiful scenery of the neighborhood, but I have so many things and places to speak of in this chapter, that I must not allow myself to linger longer here.
While at Belfast, we made a delightful excursion to Shane's Castle, the seat of Lord O'Neil.
The O'Neils were for many centuries kings of Ulster, and were a very proud and warlike race. There is a curious tradition of the manner in which they came into possession of their kingdom: "In an ancient expedition for the conquest of Ireland, the leader declared that whoever of his followers should first touch the shore, should possess the territory. One of them, the founder of the O'Neils, seeing that another boat was likely to reach the land before him, seized an axe and with it cut off his left hand, which he flung on shore, and so, was the first to 'touch' it."
Shane's Castle and the O'Neil estate are situated upon Lough Neagh, the largest lake in Great Britain. There is a legend that this sheet of water covers land that was once cultivated—cottages, castles, and even villages. The peasants say that there was once a well in the midst of this country—an enchanted well—which was always kept covered with a heavy stone, lest its waters should rise and overwhelm the land. One day, a careless woman went to this well to get water to boil her potatoes in, and hearing her baby cry, ran home without waiting to cover the well—which presently began to leap up in a great column, like a water-spout of an under-ground sea—and poured out so fast and furious, that before many hours the whole valley was overflowed, and that night, the moon smiled to see herself reflected in a new lake.
On our route from Belfast to the Giant's Causeway, we passed through several towns, of little importance now, though of some historical note—such as Carrickfergus, Larne, and Glenarm. This last is a beautifully situated town, with a pleasant little bay, which usually affords a safe shelter for shipping on a coast somewhat renowned for wrecks and disasters. Here is a fine castle—the seat of the ancient family of the MacDonnels—Earls of Antrim.
Scarcely any thing in the world can be grander or more beautiful than the coast road all the way from Glenarm to the Giant's Causeway. It is altogether too fine to be described—it should be painted, not written about.
One of the grandest points in the scenery is the great promontory of Benmore, or Fairhead. From the sea it rises an immense precipice, formed of a multitude of enormous basaltic columns, at the highest point more than five hundred feet above the water.
We reached the Causeway late in the evening—so hungry and tired that we were very glad to get our supper and go to bed, without putting our heads out of doors. In the morning early we engaged a guide, and set out on our tour of sight-seeing.
The Causeway is formed by a vast collection of rocky columns—mostly as regular in shape as though cut by masonry—five-sided, six-sided, seven or eight-sided—piled and packed together, varying much in height, but little in size. Some form a floor almost as even as a city pavement—some form gradual steps leading down to the sea—and some tower upward, like spires and turrets.
There is a very singular collection of these columns on the side of the highest cliff, a hundred and twenty feet in height, called "the Giant's Organ," from their resemblance to the pipes of that instrument.
According to tradition, the mighty Giant, Fin Mac Cual, was musical in his taste, and used to give himself "a little innocent divarsion" here, after his hard labors in building the Causeway. Even now, when the sea roars, and the deep thunder rolls along the rocky coast, they say—"the giant is playing on his big stone organ under the cliff."
Sometimes they say,—"Listen to Fin, now!—he's at his avening devotions—Heaven help us, an' him, poor cratur!" and then they cross themselves, for Fin was but a miserable heathen, and can have no part now, they think, in the true church.
By the way, I was told while here, a ludicrous little anecdote of the great Fin, from which it seems that he was not, after all, quite as brave as a giant should be. It is said that when he had finished the Causeway, he went up on a high point and shouted across the channel to the Scotch Giant, Benandonner, to come over and fight him, if he dared. Bold Benandonner accepted the challenge, and began to wade across—threatening and bullying his Irish enemy. As he drew near, he seemed to grow so much bigger, that Fin got frightened, and turned and ran into his house, which stood near the cliff.
"What's the matter, Fin?" said his wife, who saw what a tremble he was in, and how pale he looked.
"Ah, my darling," said he, "there's big Benandonner coming over to have a fight—and as I'm not very well to-day, I don't like to meet him."
Now, Mrs. Mac Cual was really very much ashamed of her husband for being such a booby; but like the good wife she was, she kept her contempt to herself, just then, and told him to lie down in the cradle, and keep quiet, and she would attend to the Scotch Giant. Fin did as he was bid—his wife covered him up in the cradle, and commenced rocking and singing to him. Presently, Benandonner came stamping and storming in, and asked for "that rascal, Fin Mac Cual."
"If you'll please sit down and rock my baby a minute—I'll go and look for him," said Mrs. Mac Cual. Benandonner looked down into the cradle, and seeing that enormous giant lying there, with his feet hanging over the foot-board, thought to himself, "if Fin's baby is so big, what must Fin himself be!"—and became so frightened that he turned and hurried back home, much quicker than he came. It is a foolish little tradition, but I have related it as a specimen of the stories which are told to amuse the children of Irish peasants.
There are two caves near the Causeway, which are entered from the sea. Our visits to these were the most interesting and exciting incidents of the day. Though the waves ran high, our skilful boatmen rowed us safely in—and though the roar of the sea and the reverberation of some fire-arms discharged by the guides, were rather awful, we certainly enjoyed the sight of those ocean temples, gloomy, rude, and jagged though they were.
From the Causeway we went to Dunluce Castle—a grand old ruin, which stands on an insulated rock, a hundred feet above the sea. It is separated from the land by a chasm twenty feet wide, which is crossed by an arch only about eighteen inches broad.
This castle was once the stronghold of a very powerful, proud, and warlike family—the Mac Donnels. They had a whole regiment of retainers; they had their bard, an elderly gentleman, with a long white beard, who spent most of his time in singing songs in praise of their glory and great exploits, to the music of a rude harp—and they had their Banshee, who occupied a choice apartment in one of the turrets, and doubtless howled as seldom as possible. But all this glory has passed away, and now, the rooks and sea-birds have the famous old castle all to themselves—wheel fearlessly about the lofty black precipices, and scream back the shrillest shriek of the storm-winds. Now, no bard, however poor, ever visits that once hospitable hall, to "sing for his supper," and even the gloomy Banshee has retired from her turret in disgust.
A branch of the Mac Donnels clung to the haunted, dilapidated, old castle as long as possible, to keep up the family credit, I suppose. It was within this century, I think, that a frightful accident happened, which drove the last of them away. In a terrible storm, one winter afternoon, the part of the castle containing the kitchen was blown down, and tumbled over the precipice into the sea, with the family stores of meat and potatoes, and Biddy, the cook, who was preparing dinner, and Teddy, the little scullion, who was turning the spit. The Mac Donnels, for all their pride, were shocked and afflicted by this misfortune,—for Biddy was an excellent cook, and Teddy, her son, though careless and lazy, and given to little thefts and large stories, had his good points, as what Irish boy has not. So they, the Mac Donnels, sought out some other home,—safer and more comfortable, if not quite so grand in its isolated, ancient gentility,—and it may be, took the Banshee with them for their comfort. Trouble, I believe, always goes with people in this world, wherever they move to,—in some form or other, it travels with them, and settles down with them,—as sorrow, ill-luck, disease, disgrace, discontent, fear, or remorse,—and if we may credit Irish traditions, the old nobility and gentry had to endure howling Banshees in addition. No wonder they wasted away under their aristocratic infliction.
In my story, I shall make bold to turn my back on the Causeway, Dunluce Castle, the Mac Donnels, Banshees, and all,—return to the beautiful neighborhood of Glenarm, and relate a little incident in the lives of some humble peasant people there.
Some forty or fifty years ago, there lived at Glenarm, near the castle, a poor schoolmaster, named Philip O'Flaherty.
Philip, though a very quiet, well meaning man, was singularly unfortunate in all but one thing—he had an excellent wife. Yet she, poor woman, was but "a weakly body," while, as for Philip, if any sickness whatever was going about, he was sure to catch it. He was a sort of Irish "Murad the Unlucky," nothing seemed to prosper with him. His potatoe-crop always fell short—if he took a fancy to keep a few ducks, or geese, a thieving fox carried them on—his pigs ran away, and he had not even "the poor man's blessing"—children, to comfort him. One after another, his babes were borne to the churchyard, and his cabin was left silent and lonely.
Poor Philip, though a schoolmaster, was not very remarkable for learning. In truth, he was a good deal behind the times, and his few scholars, if at all clever, soon got beyond him, and left him. When his wife was well, she did more than her part toward their support, and when she was ill, they fared very poorly, I assure you.
One September night, Philip and his wife sat alone in their cabin, more than usually dejected and sorrowful. They had just buried their last child—a baby-boy, only a few months old, but as dear to them as though he had grown to their hearts for years.
There was a terrible storm on the coast that night; the winds almost shook their old cabin to pieces, and torrents of rain were fast quenching the peat fire upon the hearth. Suddenly they were startled by hearing the sound of a gun, above the roaring of the sea. "There's a ship in distress!" cried Philip—"God help the poor creatures, for it's an awful night to be on the deep!" "Amen!" said Nelly, solemnly.
Soon after they heard the shouts of fishermen and cottagers, hurrying to the shore, and, protecting themselves as well as they could, they joined their neighbors—hoping to do some good upon the beach.
They arrived just in time to see the distressed vessel dashed upon a rock, and to witness a still more dreadful sight—the falling of a bolt of fire, from the black sky, right on to the ship—which in a few moments was enveloped in flames! No boatman, however brave, dared put out through the wild breakers to rescue the passengers and crew—and in the morning it was announced along that coast, that an unknown ship had gone down, in storm and fire, with every soul on board! But no—one little babe had been taken from the arms of its dead mother, and though apparently lifeless, was restored, by Nelly O'Flaherty, the schoolmaster's wife, who took it home to her cabin, where it was doing well. There was no mark upon the few fragments of clothing which remained upon the mother and child, when they reached the shore, by which it could be told who or what they were—but they both had a delicate look, which made the peasants think that they belonged to "the quality."
Nelly took the poor foundling at once to her heart—clad him in her dead baby's clothes, and would not hear to his being taken to the almshouse. "God," she said, "knew what was the best almshouse for the pretty little cherub, when He sent it to cheer the lone cabin of the childless."
As a matter of course, unlucky Philip took cold from the exposure of that stormy night, and had one of his fevers, which confined him several weeks. The first day that he was able to get out, he walked down to the bay, with his wife, to say good-bye to some friends, who were going to America. After the ship had set sail, they sat for a long time on the shore, watching it sadly and silently. "Ah, Nelly," said Philip at last, "if it weren't for my faver and your being burdened with that strange baby, sure we might work and earn enough to take us to America. Faith, that shipwreck was a misfortune to us, entirely!"
"Sure, and it was no such thing," said Nelly; "what's a faver more or less to you, avourneen; and has it not given us a beautiful boy, to take the place of our little dead Phil? 'Twas the Lord sent him, and He'll not let him bring us any trouble."
"The Lord,—why, Nelly, woman, do you suppose He ever busies himself with the likes of us?" said the schoolmaster, bitterly.
"Philip, avick, what do you mean?" exclaimed Nelly, in astonishment.
"I mean," replied her husband, "that our cabin is so small and poor, and the castle near by so big and grand, that it's natural Providence should overlook us just, and attend to the affairs of the quality. It's the way of the world."
"It may be the way of the world, but it's no the way with God, Philip. Our cabin is bigger than a sparrow's nest, afther all, and we—even you, miserable sinner, as ye are, 'are of more value than many sparrows.' 'The likes of us,' indade! Have ye ever come yet to sleeping in a stable in Bethlehem, among cows and sheep and asses? Answer me that! Ah, it's ashamed of you, I am, Philip O'Flaherty."
The next morning, this poor couple sat down to a breakfast of only half a dozen potatoes and a little salt.
"Philip, dear," said Nelly, sadly, when they had finished, "these are our last potatoes—I have sold all the rest to pay our rent, and the Doctor's little account, just."
"Blessed Saints!" exclaimed Philip, "what'll we do?"
"I'm afraid we must ask charity, till we can get work," said Nelly.
"No, no! I can't do that! I will die first!" cried Philip; then laying his face down on the table, he burst into tears and sobbed out—"Oh Nelly, darling, I wish I were dead and out of your way!—sure I'm no use in the world."
Nelly clasped the "strange baby" to her heart and murmured—"God help us!" Just at that moment, there came a knock at the cabin door—she opened it and dropped a respectful curtesy. It was the Earl, and a gentleman in mourning, who as soon as he saw the baby that Nelly held, caught it in his arms and began kissing it, and weeping over it, crying out that he had found his boy! The Earl explained that the stranger was a kinsman of his, a Scotch Laird, whose wife had been lost in the wreck, a few weeks before, while on her way to visit her relatives at the castle, with her child and servants. He said, they had not received the letter announcing her coming—so had not thought of looking for friends among the drowned and burned who were washed ashore after the wreck; but they had heard of the child so miraculously saved, and hoped that it might be their kinsman's son.
When Nelly fully realized that she must lose her adopted child, she fell at the feet of the father, crying with tears and sobs,—"Oh, sir, I cannot let him go! I warmed him out of the death-chill at my heart—I gave him my own dead darling's place! It will kill me, just, to part with him!"
"And you shall not part with him, my good woman," said the Laird—"the child must have a nurse—he should have none but you. I will take you and your husband with me to Scotland, if you will come!"
So, to make a long story short, the poor schoolmaster and his wife were provided with a comfortable home for the rest of their days, for their kindness to the little shipwrecked boy, who was always dear to them, and always returned their love.
Many others may adopt poor foundlings and care for them tenderly, and yet never have rich lords come to claim their charges and reward them so generously; but the Lord of all will not fail to ask for his "little ones" at last,—and to those who do good to "the least of these" He has promised rewards more glorious than the greatest earthly monarch could give—and He will keep his word.
Here end my stories and legends of dear old Ireland. I returned from
visiting the Causeway, to Belfast, from which place, after a few weeks
of rest and quiet social enjoyment, I passed over to Scotland. And
now, may I not hope that all the dear young readers who have gone with
me thus far, in my wanderings, will wish to bear me company yet
further? In another volume, I will describe what I saw, and tell
appropriate histories and legends of the rugged, but beautiful land of
Wallace and Bruce—of Burns and Scott. So, for the present, I will
only bid you a short farewell—or as the French say, when they part
with the hope of meeting again—au revoir.