Penelope's Irish Experiences
Kate Douglas Wiggin
Part 3 out of 4
baffled spider.' We delayed too long, however, and the Sea of Moyle
looked as bleak and stormy as it did to the children of Lir. We had
no mind to be swallowed up in Brecain's Caldron, where the grandson
of Niall and the Nine Hostages sank with his fifty curraghs, so we
took a day of golf at the Ballycastle links. Salemina, who is a
neophyte, found a forlorn lady driving and putting about by herself,
and they made a match just to increase the interest of the game.
There was but one boy in evidence, and the versatile Benella offered
to caddie for them, leaving the more experienced gossoon to
Francesca and me. The Irish caddie does not, on the whole, perhaps
manifest so keen an interest in the fine points of the game as his
Scottish brother. He is somewhat languid in his search for a ball,
and will occasionally, when serving amiable ladies, sit under a tree
in the sun and speculate as to its whereabouts. As for staying by
you while you 'hole out' on your last green, he has no possible
interest in that proceeding, and is off and away, giving his
perfunctory and half-hearted polish to your clubs while you are
passing through this thrilling crisis. Salemina, wishing to know
what was considered a good score by local players on these links,
asked our young friend 'what they got round in, here,' and was
answered, 'They tries to go round in as few as possible, ma'am, but
they mostly takes more!' We all came together again at luncheon,
and Salemina returned flushed with victory. She had made the nine
hole course in one hundred and sixty, and had beaten her adversary
five up and four to play.
The next morning, bright and early, we left for Coleraine, a great
Presbyterian stronghold in what is called by the Roman Catholics the
'black north.' If we liked it, and saw anything of Kitty's
descendants, or any nice pitchers to break, or any reason for
breaking them, we intended to stop; if not, then to push on to the
walled town of Derry,-
'Where Foyle his swelling waters
Rolls northward to the main.'
We thought it Francesca's duty, as she was to be the wife of a
Scottish minister of the Established Church, to look up
Presbyterianism in Ireland whenever and wherever possible, with a
view to discoursing learnedly about it in her letters,--though, as
she confesses ingenuously, Ronald, in his, never so much as mentions
Presbyterianism. As for ourselves, we determined to observe all
theological differences between Protestants and Roman Catholics, but
leave Presbyterianism to gang its ain gait. We had devoted hours--
yes, days--in Edinburgh to the understanding of the subtle and
technical barriers which separated the Free Kirkers and the United
Presbyterians; and the first thing they did, after we had completely
mastered the subject, was to unite. It is all very well for
Salemina, who condenses her information and stows it away neatly;
but we who have small storage room and inferior methods of packing
must be as economical as possible in amassing facts.
If we had been touring properly, of course we should have been going
to the Giant's Causeway and the swinging Bridge at Carrick-a-rede;
but propriety is the last thing we aim at in our itineraries. We
were within worshipping distance of two rather important shrines in
our literary pilgrimage; for we had met a very knowledgeable
traveller at the Sorley Boy, and after a little chat with him had
planned a day of surprises for the academic Miss Peabody. We
proposed to halt at Port Stewart, lunch at Coleraine, sleep at
Limavady; and meantime Salemina was to read all the books at her
command, and guess, we hoped vainly, the why and wherefore of these
On the appointed day, the lady in question drove in state on a car
with Benella, but Francesca and I hired a couple of very wheezy
bicycles for the journey. We had a thrilling start; for it chanced
to be a fair day in Ballycastle, and we wheeled through a sea of
squealing, bolting pigs, stupid sheep, and unruly cows, all pursued
on every side by their drivers. To alight from a bicycle in such a
whirl of beasts always seems certain death; to remain seated
diminishes, I believe, the number of one's days of life to an
appreciable extent. Francesca chose the first course, and, standing
still in the middle of the street, called upon everybody within
hearing to save her, and that right speedily. A crowd of 'jibbing'
heifers encircled her on all sides, while a fat porker, 'who (his
driver said) might be a prize pig by his impidence,' and a donkey
that was feelin' blue-mouldy for want of a batin', tried to poke
their noses into the group. Salemina's only weapon was her scarlet
parasol, and, standing on the step of her side-car, she brandished
this with such terrible effect that the only bull in the cavalcade
put up his head and roared. "Have conduct, woman dear!" cried his
owner to Salemina. "Sure if you kape on moidherin' him wid that
ombrelly, you'll have him ugly on me immajently, and the divil a bit
o' me can stop him." "Don't be cryin' that way, asthore," he went
on, going to Francesca's side, and piloting her tenderly to the
hedge. "Sure I'll nourish him wid the whip whin I get him to a more
We had no more adventures, but Francesca was so unhinged by her
unfortunate exit from Ballycastle that, after a few miles, she
announced her intention of putting her machine and herself on the
car; whereupon Benella proclaimed herself a competent cyclist, and
climbed down blithely to mount the discarded wheel. Her ideas of
propriety were by this time so developed that she rode ten or twelve
feet behind me, where she looked quaint enough, in her black dress
and little black bonnet with its white lawn strings.
"Sure it's a quare footman ye have, me lady," said a genial and
friendly person who was sitting by the roadside smoking his old
dudeen. An Irishman, somehow, is always going to his work 'jist,'
or coming from it, or thinking how it shall presently be done, or
meditating on the next step in the process, or resting a bit before
taking it up again, or reflecting whether the weather is on the
whole favourable to its proper performance; but however poor and
needy he may be, it is somewhat difficult to catch him at the
precise working moment. Mr. Alfred Austin says of the Irish
peasants that idleness and poverty seem natural to them. "Life to
the Scotsman or Englishman is a business to conduct, to extend, to
render profitable. To the Irishman it is a dream, a little bit of
passing consciousness on a rather hard pillow; the hard part of it
being the occasional necessity for work, which spoils the tenderness
and continuity of the dream."
Presently we passed the Castle, rode along a neat quay with a row of
houses advertising lodgings to let; and here is Lever Cottage, where
Harry Lorrequer was written; for Lever was dispensary doctor in Port
Stewart when his first book was appearing in the Dublin University
We did not fancy Coleraine; it looked like anything but Cuil-
rathain, a ferny corner. Kitty's sweet buttermilk may have watered,
but it had not fertilised the plain, though the town itself seemed
painfully prosperous. Neither the Clothworkers' Inn nor the
Corporation Arms looked a pleasant stopping-place, and the humble
inn we finally selected for a brief rest proved to be about as gay
as a family vault, with a landlady who had all the characteristics
of a poker except its occasional warmth, as the Liberator said of
another stiff and formal person. Whether she was Scot or Saxon I
know not; she was certainly not Celt, and certainly no Barney McCrea
of her day would have kissed her if she had spilled ever so many
pitchers of sweet buttermilk over the plain; so we took the railway,
and departed with delight for Limavady, where Thackeray, fresh from
his visit to Charles Lever, laid his poetical tribute at the
stockingless feet of Miss Margaret of that town.
O'Cahan, whose chief seat was at Limavady, was the principal urraght
of O'Neill, and when one of the great clan was 'proclaimed' at
Tullaghogue it was the magnificent privilege of the O'Cahan to toss
a shoe over his head. We slept at O'Cahan's Hotel, and--well, one
must sleep; and wherever we attend to that necessary function
without due preparation, we generally make a mistake in the
selection of the particular spot. Protestantism does not
necessarily mean cleanliness, although it may have natural
tendencies in that direction; and we find, to our surprise ( a
surprise rooted, probably, in bigotry), that Catholicism can be as
clean as a penny whistle, now and again. There were no special
privileges at O'Cahan's for maids, and Benella, therefore, had a
delightful evening in the coffee-room with a storm-bound commercial
traveller. As for Francesca and me, there was plenty to occupy us
in our regular letters to Ronald and Himself; and Salemina wrote
several sheets of thin paper to somebody,--no one in America,
either, for we saw her put on a penny stamp.
Our pleasant duties over, we looked into the cheerful glow of the
turf sods while I read aloud Thackeray's Peg of Limavady. He spells
the town with two d's, by the way, to insure its being rhymed
properly with Paddy and daddy.
'Riding from Coleraine
(Famed for lovely Kitty),
Came a Cockney bound
Unto Derry city;
Weary was his soul,
Shivering and sad he
Bumped along the road
Leads to Limavaddy.
. . . .
But a humble baithouse,
Where you may procure
Whisky and potatoes;
Landlord at the door
Gives a smiling welcome
To the shivering wights
Who to his hotel come.
Sits and knits a stocking,
With a wary foot
Baby's cradle rocking.
. . . .
Presently a maid
Enters with the liquor
(Half a pint of ale
Frothing in a beaker).
Gads! I didn't know
What my beating heart meant:
Hebe's self I thought
Entered the apartment.
As she came she smiled,
And the smile bewitching,
On my word and honour,
Lighted all the kitchen!
. . . .
This I do declare,
Happy is the laddy
Who the heart can share
Of Peg of Limavaddy.
Married if she were,
Blest would be the daddy
Of the children fair
Of Peg of Limavaddy.
Beauty is not rare
In the land of Paddy,
Fair beyond compare
Is Peg of Limavaddy.'
This cheered us a bit; but the wind sighed in the trees, the rain
dripped on the window panes, and we felt for the first time a
consciousness of home-longing. Francesca sat on a low stool,
looking into the fire, Ronald's last letter in her lap, and it was
easy indeed to see that her heart was in the Highlands. She has
been giving us a few extracts from the communication, an unusual
proceeding, as Ronald, in his ordinary correspondence, is evidently
not a quotable person. We smiled over his account of a visit to his
old parish of Inchcaldy in Fifeshire. There is a certain large
orphanage in the vicinity, in which we had all taken an interest,
chiefly because our friends the Macraes of Pettybaw House were among
It seems that Lady Rowardennan of the Castle had promised the
orphans, en bloc, that those who passed through an entire year
without once falling into falsehood should have a treat or festival
of their own choosing. On the eventful day of decision, those
orphans, male and female, who had not for a twelve-month deviated
from the truth by a hair's-breadth, raised their little white hands
(emblematic of their pure hearts and lips), and were solemnly
counted. Then came the unhappy moment when a scattering of small
grimy paws was timidly put up, and their falsifying owners confessed
that they had fibbed more than once during the year. These tearful
fibbers were also counted, and sent from the room, while the non-
fibbers chose their reward, which was to sail around the Bass Rock
and the Isle of May in a steam tug.
On the festival day, the matron of the orphanage chanced on the
happy thought that it might have a moral effect on the said fibbers
to see the non-fibbers depart in a blaze of glory; so they were
taken to the beach to watch the tug start on its voyage. The
confessed criminals looked wretched enough, Ronald wrote, when
forsaken by their virtuous playmates, who stepped jauntily on board,
holding their sailor hats on their heads and carrying nice little
luncheon baskets; so miserably unhappy, indeed, did they seem that
certain sympathetic and ill-balanced persons sprang to their relief,
providing them with sandwiches, sweeties, and pennies. It was a
lovely day, and when the fibbers' tears were dried they played
merrily on the sand, their games directed and shared by the
aforesaid misguided persons.
Meantime a high wind had sprung up at sea, and the tug was tossed to
and fro upon the foamy deep. So many and so varied were the ills of
the righteous orphans that the matron could not attend to all of
them properly, and they were laid on benches or on the deck, where
they languidly declined luncheon, and wept for a sight of the land.
At five the tug steamed up to the home landing. A few of the
voyagers were able to walk ashore, some were assisted, others were
carried; and as the pale, haggard, truthful company gathered on the
beach, they were met by a boisterous, happy crowd of Ananiases and
Sapphiras, sunburned, warm, full of tea and cakes and high spirits,
and with the moral law already so uncertain in their minds that at
the sight of the suffering non-liars it tottered to its fall.
Ronald hopes that Lady Rowardennan and the matron may perhaps have
gained some useful experience by the incident, though the orphans,
truthful and untruthful, are hopelessly mixed in their views of
He is staying now at the great house of the neighbourhood, while his
new manse is being put in order. Roderick, the piper, he says, has
a grand collection of pipe tunes given him by an officer of the
Black Watch. Francesca, when she and Ronald visit the Castle on
their wedding journey, is to have 'Johnnie Cope' to wake her in the
morning, 'Brose and Butter' just before dinner is served, a reel, a
strathspey, and a march while the meal is going on, and, last of
all, the 'Highland Wedding.' Ronald does not know whether there are
any Lowland Scots or English words to this pipe tune, but it is
always played in the Highlands after the actual marriage, and the
words in Gaelic are, 'Alas for me if the wife I have married is not
a good one, for she will eat the food and not do the work!'
"You don't think Ronald meant anything personal in quoting that?" I
asked Francesca teasingly; but she shot me such a reproachful look
that I hadn't the heart to persist, her face was so full of self-
distrust and love and longing.
What creatures of sense we are, after all; and in certain moods, of
what avail is it if the beloved object is alive, safe, loyal, so
long as he is absent? He may write letters like Horace Walpole or
Chesterfield--better still, like Alfred de Musset, or George Sand,
or the Brownings; but one clasp of the hand that moved the pen is
worth an ocean of words! You believe only in the etherealised, the
spiritualised passion of love; you know that it can exist through
years of separation, can live and grow where a coarser feeling would
die for lack of nourishment; still though your spirit should be
strong enough to meet its spirit mate somewhere in the realms of
imagination, and the bodily presence ought not really to be
necessary, your stubborn heart of flesh craves sight and sound and
touch. That is the only pitiless part of death, it seems to me. We
have had the friendship, the love, the sympathy, and these are
things that can never die; they have made us what we are, and they
are by their very nature immortal; yet we would come near to
bartering all these spiritual possessions for the 'touch of a
vanished hand, and the sound of a voice that is still.'
How could I ever think life easy enough to be ventured on alone! It
is so beautiful to feel oneself of infinite value to one other human
creature; to hear beside one's own step the tread of a chosen
companion on the same road. And if the way be dusty or the hills
difficult to climb, each can say to the other, 'I love you, dear;
lean on me and walk in confidence. I can always be counted on,
Chapter XIX. 'In ould Donegal.'
'Here's a health to you, Father O'Flynn!
Slainte, and slainte, and slainte agin;
Pow'rfulest preacher and tenderest teacher,
And kindliest creature in ould Donegal.'
Alfred Perceval Graves.
In Ould Donegal.
It is a far cry from the kingdom of Kerry to 'ould Donegal,' where
we have been travelling for a week, chiefly in the hope of meeting
Father O'Flynn. We miss our careless, genial, ragged, southern
Paddy just a bit; for he was a picturesque, likable figure, on the
whole, and easier to know than this Ulster Irishman, the product of
a mixed descent.
We did not stop long in Belfast; for if there is anything we detest,
when on our journeys, it is to mix too much with people of industry,
thrift, and business sagacity. Sturdy, prosperous, calculating,
well-to-do Protestants are well enough in their way, and undoubtedly
they make a very good backbone for Ireland; but we crave something
more romantic than the citizen virtues, or we should have remained
in our own country, where they are tolerably common, although we
have not as yet anything approaching over-production.
Belfast, it seems, is, and has always been, a centre of
Presbyterianism. The members of the Presbytery protested against
the execution of Charles I., and received an irate reply from
Milton, who said that 'the blockish presbyters of Clandeboy' were
'egregious liars and impostors,' who meant to stir up rebellion
'from their unchristian synagogue at Belfast in a barbarous nook of
Dr. La Touche writes to Salemina that we need not try to understand
all the religious and political complications which surround us.
They are by no means as violent or as many as in Thackeray's day,
when the great English author found nine shades of politico-
religious differences in the Irish Liverpool. As the impartial
observer must, in such a case, necessarily displease eight parties,
and probably the whole nine, Thackeray advised a rigid abstinence
from all intellectual curiosity. Dr. La Touche says, if we wish to
know the north better, it will do us no harm to study the Plantation
of Ulster, the United Irish movement, Orangeism, Irish Jacobitism,
the effect of French and Swiss Republicanism in the evolution of
public sentiment, and the close relation and affection that formerly
existed between the north of Ireland and New England. (This last
topic seems to appeal to Salemina particularly.) He also alludes to
Tories and Rapparees, Rousseau and Thomas Paine and Owen Roe
O'Neill, but I have entirely forgotten their connection with the
subject. Francesca and I are thoroughly enjoying ourselves, as only
those people can who never take notes, and never try, when Pandora's
box is opened in their neighbourhood, to seize the heterogeneous
contents and put them back properly, with nice little labels on
Ireland is no longer a battlefield of English parties, neither is it
wholly a laboratory for political experiment; but from having been
both the one and the other, its features are a bit knocked out of
shape and proportion, as it were. We have bought two hideous
engravings of the Battle of the Boyne and the Secret of England's
Greatness; and whenever we stay for a night in any inn where
perchance these are not, we pin them on the wall, and are received
into the landlady's heart at once. I don't know which is the finer
study: the picture of his Majesty William III. crossing the Boyne,
or the plump little Queen presenting a huge family Bible to an
apparently uninterested black youth. In the latter work of art the
eye is confused at first as the three principal features approach
each other very nearly in size, and Francesca asked innocently,
"Which IS the secret of England's greatness--the Bible, the Queen,
or the black man?"
This is a thriving town, and we are at a smart hotel which had for
two years an English manager. The scent of the roses hangs round it
still, but it is gradually growing fainter under the stress of small
patronage and other adverse circumstances. The table linen is a
trifle ragged, though clean; but the circle of red and green
wineglasses by each plate, an array not borne out by the number of
vintages on the wine-list, the tiny ferns scattered everywhere in
innumerable pots, and the dozens of minute glass vases, each holding
a few blue hyacinths, give an air of urban elegance to the dining-
room. The guests are requested, in printed placards, to be punctual
at meals, especially at the seven-thirty table d'hote dinner, and
the management itself is punctual at this function about seven
forty-five. This is much better than in the south, where we, and
sixty other travellers, were once kept waiting fifteen minutes
between the soup and the fish course. When we were finally served
with half-cooked turbot, a pleasant-spoken waitress went about to
each table, explaining to the irate guests that the cook was 'not at
her best.' We caught a glimpse of her as she was being borne aloft,
struggling and eloquent, and were able to understand the reason of
her unachieved ideals.
There is nothing sacred about dinner to the average Irishman; he is
willing to take anything that comes, as a rule, and cooking is not
regarded as a fine art here. Perhaps occasional flashes of
starvation and seasons of famine have rendered the Irish palate
easier to please; at all events, wherever the national god may be,
its pedestal is not in the stomach. Our breakfast, day after day,
week after week, has been bacon and eggs. One morning we had
tomatoes on bacon, and concluded that the cook had experienced
religion or fallen in love, since both these operations send a flush
of blood to the brain and stimulate the mental processes. But no;
we found simply that the eggs had not been brought in time for
breakfast. There is no consciousness of monotony--far from it; the
nobility and gentry can at least eat what they choose, and they
choose bacon and eggs. There is no running of the family gamut,
either, from plain boiled to omelet; poached or fried eggs on bacon
it is, weekdays and Sundays. The luncheon, too, is rarely inspired:
they eat cold joint of beef with pickled beetroot, or mutton and
boiled potatoes, with unfailing regularity, finishing off at most
hotels with semolina pudding, a concoction intended for, and
appealing solely to, the taste of the toothless infant, who, having
just graduated from rubber rings, has not a jaded palate.
How the long breakfast bill at an up-to-date Belfast hostelry awed
us, after weeks of bacon and eggs! The viands on the menu swam
together before our dazed eyes.
Fillets of Plaice
Kidneys and Bacon
I looked at this array like one in a dream, realising that I had
lost the power of selection, and remembering the scientific fact
that unused faculties perish for want of exercise. The man who was
serving us rattled his tray, shifted his weight wearily from one
foot to the other and cleared his throat suggestively; until at last
I said hastily, "Bacon and eggs, please," and Salemina, the most
critical person in the party, murmured, "The same."
It is odd to see how soon, if one has a strong sense of humanity,
one feels at home in a foreign country. I, at least, am never
impressed by the differences, but only by the similarities, between
English-speaking peoples. We take part in the life about us here,
living each experience as fully as we can, whether it be a 'hiring
fair' in Donegal or a pilgrimage to the Doon 'Well of Healing.' Not
the least part of the pleasure is to watch its effect upon the
Derelict. Where, or in what way, could three persons hope to gain
as much return from a monthly expenditure of twenty dollars, added
to her living and travelling expenses, as we have had in Miss
Benella Dusenberry? We sometimes ask ourselves what we found to do
with our time before she came into the family, and yet she is as
busy as possible herself.
Having twice singed Francesca's beautiful locks, she no longer
attempts hair-dressing; while she never accomplishes the lacing of
an evening dress without putting her knee in the centre of your back
once, at least, during the operation. She can button shoes, and she
can mend and patch and darn to perfection; she has a frenzy for
small laundry operations, and, after washing the windows of her
room, she adorns every pane of glass with a fine cambric
handkerchief, and, stretching a line between the bedpost and the
bureau knob, she hangs out her white neckties and her bonnet strings
to dry. She has learned to pack reasonably well, too. But if she
has another passion beside those of washing and mending, it is for
making bags. She buys scraps of gingham and print, and makes cases
of every possible size and for every possible purpose; so that all
our personal property, roughly speaking--hair-brushes, shoes,
writing materials, pincushions, photographs, underclothing, gloves,
medicines,--is bagged. The strings in the bags pull both ways, and
nothing is commoner than to see Benella open and close seventeen or
eighteen of them when she is searching for Francesca's rubbers or my
gold thimble. But what other lady's-maid or travelling companion
ever had half the Derelict's unique charm and interest, half her
conversational power, her unusual and original defects and virtues?
Put her in a third-class carriage when we go 'first,' and she makes
friends with all her fellow-travellers, discussing Home Rule or Free
Silver with the utmost prejudice and vehemence, and freeing her mind
on any point, to the delight of the natives. Occasionally, when
borne along by the joy of argument, she forgets to change at the
point of junction, and has to be found and dragged out of the
railway carriage; occasionally, too, she is left behind when taking
a cheerful cup of tea at a way station, but this is comparatively
seldom. Her stories of life belowstairs in the various inns and
hotels, her altercations with housemaid or boots or landlady in our
behalf, all add a zest to the day's doings.
Benella's father was an itinerant preacher, her mother the daughter
of a Vermont farmer; and although she was left an orphan at ten
years, educating and supporting herself as best she could after
that, she is as truly a combination of both parents as her name is a
union of their two names.
"I'm so 'fraid I shan't run across any of grandmother's folks over
here, after all," she said yesterday, "though I ask every nice-
appearin' person I meet anywheres if he or she's any kin to Mary
Boyce of Trim; and then, again, I'm scared to death for fear I shall
find I'm own cousin to one of these here critters that ain't brushed
their hair nor washed their apurns for a month o' Sundays! I
declare, it keeps me real nerved up . . . I think it's partly the
climate that makes 'em so slack," she philosophised, pinning a new
bag on her knee, and preparing to backstitch the seam. "There's
nothin' like a Massachusetts winter for puttin' the git-up-an'-git
into you. Land! you've got to move round smart, or you'd freeze in
your tracks. These warm, moist places always makes folks lazy; and
when they're hot enough, if you take notice, it makes heathen of
'em. It always seems so queer to me that real hot weather and the
Christian religion don't seem to git along together. P'r'aps it's
just as well that the idol-worshippers should get used to heat in
this world, for they'll have it consid'able hot in the next one, I
guess! And see here, Mrs. Beresford, will you get me ten cents'--I
mean sixpence--worth o' red gingham to make Miss Monroe a bag for
Mr. Macdonald's letters? They go sprawlin' all over her trunk; and
there's so many of 'em I wish to the land she'd send 'em to the bank
while she's travellin'!"
Chapter XX. We evict a tenant.
'Soon as you lift the latch, little ones are meeting you,
Soon as you're 'neath the thatch, kindly looks are
Scarcely have you time to be holding out the fist to them--
Down by the fireside you're sitting in the midst of them.'
Knockcool, County Tyrone.
Of course, we have always intended sooner or later to forsake this
life of hotels and lodgings, and become either Irish landlords or
tenants, or both, with a view to the better understanding of one
burning Irish question. We heard of a charming house in County
Down, which could be secured by renting it the first of May for the
season; but as we could occupy it only for a month at most we were
obliged to forego the opportunity.
"We have been told from time immemorial that absenteeism has been
one of the curses of Ireland," I remarked to Salemina; "so, whatever
the charms of the cottage in Rostrevor, do not let us take it, and
in so doing become absentee landlords."
"It was you two who hired the 'wee theekit hoosie' in Pettybaw,"
said Francesca. "I am going to be in the vanguard of the next
house-hunting expedition; in fact, I have almost made up my mind to
take my third of Benella and be an independent householder for a
time. If I am ever to learn the management of an establishment
before beginning to experiment on Ronald's, now is the proper
"Ronald must have looked the future in the face when he asked you to
marry him," I replied, "although it is possible that he looked only
at you, and therefore it is his duty to endure your maiden
incapacities; but why should Salemina and I suffer you to experiment
upon us, pray?"
It was Benella, after all, who inveigled us into making our first
political misstep; for, after avoiding the sin of absenteeism, we
fell into one almost as black, inasmuch as we evicted a tenant. It
is part of Benella's heterogeneous and unusual duty to take a
bicycle and scour the country in search of information for us: to
find out where shops are, post-office, lodgings, places for good
sketches, ruins, pretty roads for walks and drives, and many other
things, too numerous to mention. She came home from one of these
expeditions flushed with triumph.
"I've got you a house!" she exclaimed proudly. "There's a lady in
it now, but she'll move out to-morrow when we move in; and we are to
pay seventeen dollars fifty--I mean three pound ten--a week for the
house, with privilege of renewal, and she throws in the hired girl."
(Benella is hopelessly provincial in the matter of language:
butler, chef, boots, footman, scullery-maid, all come under the
generic term of 'help.')
"I knew our week at this hotel was out to-morrow," she continued,
"and we've about used up this place, anyway, and the new village
that I've b'en to is the prettiest place we've seen yet; it's got an
up-and-down hill to it, just like home, and the house I've partly
rented is opposite a fair green, where there's a market every week,
and Wednesday's the day; and we'll save money, for I shan't cost you
so much when we can housekeep."
"Would you mind explaining a little more in detail," asked Salemina
quietly, "and telling me whether you have hired the house for
yourself or for us?"
"For us all," she replied genially--"you don't suppose I'd leave
you? I liked the looks of this cottage the first time I passed it,
and I got acquainted with the hired girl by going in the side yard
and asking for a drink. The next time I went I got acquainted with
the lady, who's got the most outlandish name that ever was wrote
down, and here it is on a paper; and to-day I asked her if she
didn't want to rent her house for a week to three quiet ladies
without children and only one of them married and him away. She
said it wa'n't her own, and I asked her if she couldn't sublet to
desirable parties--I knew she was as poor as Job's turkey by her
looks; and she said it would suit her well enough, if she had any
place to go. I asked her if she wouldn't like to travel, and she
said no. Then I says, 'Wouldn't you like to go to visit some of
your folks?' And she said she s'posed she could stop a week with
her son's wife, just to oblige us. So I engaged a car to drive you
down this afternoon just to look at the place; and if you like it we
can easy move over to-morrow. The sun's so hot I asked the
stableman if he hadn't got a top buggy, or a surrey, or a carryall;
but he never heard tell of any of 'em; he didn't even know a shay.
I forgot to tell you the lady is a Protestant, and the hired girl's
name is Bridget Thunder, and she's a Roman Catholic, but she seems
extra smart and neat. I was kind of in hopes she wouldn't be, for I
thought I should enjoy trainin' her, and doin' that much for the
And so we drove over to this village of Knockcool (Knockcool, by the
way, means 'Hill of Sleep'), as much to make amends for Benella's
eccentricities as with any idea of falling in with her proposal.
The house proved everything she said, and in Mrs. Wogan Odevaine
Benella had found a person every whit as remarkable as herself. She
is evidently an Irish gentlewoman of very small means, very flexible
in her views and convictions, very talkative and amusing, and very
much impressed with Benella as a product of New England
institutions. We all took a fancy to one another at first sight,
and we heard with real pleasure that her son's wife lived only a few
miles away. We insisted on paying the evicted lady the three pounds
ten in advance for the first week. She seemed surprised, and we
remembered that Irish tenants, though often capable of shedding
blood for a good landlord, are generally averse to paying him rent.
Mrs. Wogan Odevaine then drove away in high good humour, taking some
personal belongings with her, and promising to drink tea with us
some time during the week. She kissed Francesca good-bye, told her
she was the prettiest creature she had ever seen, and asked if she
might have a peep at all her hats and frocks when she came to visit
Salemina says that Rhododendron Cottage (pronounced by Bridget
Thunder 'Roothythanthrum') being the property of one landlord and
the residence of four tenants at the same time makes us in a sense
participators in the old system of rundale tenure, long since
abolished. The good-will or tenant-right was infinitely subdivided,
and the tiniest holdings sometimes existed in thirty-two pieces.
The result of this joint tenure was an extraordinary tangle,
particularly when it went so far as the subdivision of 'one cow's
grass,' or even of a horse, which, being owned jointly by three men,
ultimately went lame, because none of them would pay for shoeing the
We have been here five days, and instead of reproving Benella, as we
intended, for gross assumption of authority in the matter, we are
more than ever her bond-slaves. The place is altogether charming,
and here it is for you.
Knockcool Street is Knockcool village itself, as with almost all
Irish towns; but the line of little thatched cabins is brightened at
the far end by the neat house of Mrs. Wogan Odevaine, set a trifle
back in its own garden, by the pillared porch of a modest hotel, and
by the barracks of the Royal Irish Constabulary. The sign of the
Provincial Bank of Ireland almost faces our windows; and although it
is used as a meal-shop the rest of the week, they tell us that two
thousand pounds in money is needed there on fair-days. Next to it
is a little house, the upper part of which is used as a Methodist
chapel; and old Nancy, the caretaker, is already a good friend of
ours. It is a humble house of prayer, but Nancy takes much pride in
it, and showed us the melodeon, 'worked by a young lady from
Rossantach,' the Sunday-school rooms, and even the cupboard where
she keeps the jugs for the love-feast and the linen and wine for the
sacrament, which is administered once in three years. Next comes
the Hoeys' cabin, where we have always a cordial welcome, but where
we never go all together, for fear of embarrassing the family, which
is a large one--three generations under one roof, and plenty of
children in the last. Old Mrs. Hoey does not rightly know her age,
she says; but her daughter Ellen was born the year of the Big Wind,
and she herself was twenty-two when she was married, and you might
allow a year between that and when Ellen was born, and make your own
She tells many stories of the Big Wind, which we learn was in 1839,
making Ellen's age about sixty-one and her mother's eighty-four.
The fury of the storm was such that it forced the water of the Lough
far ashore, stranding the fish among the rocks, where they were
found dead by hundreds. When next morning dawned there was
confusion and ruin on every side: the cross had tumbled from the
chapel, the tombstones were overturned in the graveyard, trees and
branches blocked the roadways, cabins were stripped of their
thatches, and cattle found dead in the fields; so it is small wonder
old Mrs. Hoey remembers the day of Ellen's birth, weak as she is on
all other dates.
Ellen's husband, Miles M'Gillan, is the carpenter on an estate in
the neighbourhood. His shop opens out of the cabin, and I love to
sit by the Hoey fireside, where the fan bellows, turned by a crank,
brings in an instant a fresh flame to the sods of smouldering turf,
and watch a wee Colleen Bawn playing among her daddy's shavings,
tying them about her waist and fat wrists, hanging them on her ears
and in among her brown curls. Mother Hoey says that I do not speak
like an American--that I have not so many 'caperin's' in my
language, whatever they may be; and so we have long delightful chats
together when I go in for a taste of Ellen's griddle bread, cooked
over the peat coals. Francesca, meantime, is calling on Mrs.
O'Rourke, whose son has taken more than fifty bicycle prizes; and no
stranger can come to Knockcool without inspecting the brave show of
silver, medals, and china that adorn the bedroom, and make the
O'Rourkes the proudest couple in ould Donegal. Phelim O'Rourke
smokes his dudeen on a bench by the door, and invites the passer-by
to enter and examine the trophies. His trousers are held up with
bits of rope arranged as suspenders; indeed, his toilet is so much a
matter of strings that it must be a work of time to tie on his
clothing in the morning, in case he takes it off at night, which is
open to doubt; nevertheless it is he that's the satisfied man, and
the luck would be on him as well as on e'er a man alive, were he not
kilt wid the cough intirely! Mrs. Phelim's skirt shows a triangle
of red flannel behind, where the two ends of the waistband fail to
meet by about six inches, but are held together by a piece of white
ball fringe. Any informality in this part of her costume is,
however, more than atoned for by the presence of a dingy bonnet of
magenta velvet, which she always dons for visitors.
The O'Rourke family is the essence of hospitality, so their kitchen
is generally full of children and visitors; and on the occasion when
Salemina issued from the prize bedroom, the guests were so busy with
conversation that, to use their own language, divil a wan of thim
clapt eyes on the O'Rourke puppy, and they did not notice that the
baste was floundering in a tub of soft, newly made butter standing
on the floor. He was indeed desperately involved, being so
completely wound up in the waxy mass that he could not climb over
the tub's edge. He looked comical and miserable enough in his
plight: the children and the visitors thought so, and so did
Francesca and I; but Salemina went directly home, and kept her room
for an hour. She is so sensitive! Och, thin, it's herself that's
the marthyr intirely! We cannot see that the incident affects us so
long as we avoid the O'Rourkes' butter; but she says, covering her
eyes with her handkerchief and shuddering: "Suppose there are other
tubs and other pup-- Oh, I cannot bear the thought of it, dears!
Please change the subject, and order me two hard-boiled eggs for
Leaving Knockcool behind us, we walk along the country road between
high, thick hedges: here a clump of weather-beaten trees, there a
stretch of bog with silver pools and piles of black turf, then a
sudden view of hazy hills, a grove of beeches, a great house with a
splendid gateway, and sometimes, riding through it, a figure new to
our eyes, a Lady Master of the Hounds, handsome in her habit with
red facings. We pass many an 'evicted farm,' the ruined house with
the rushes growing all about it, and a lonely goat browsing near;
and on we walk, until we can see the roofs of Lisdara's solitary
cabin row, huddled under the shadow of a gloomy hill topped by the
ruins of an old fort. All is silent, and the blue haze of the peat
smoke curls up from the thatch. Lisdara's young people have mostly
gone to the Big Country; and how many tears have dropped on the path
we are treading, as Peggy and Mary, Cormac and Miles, with a wooden
box in the donkey cart behind them, or perhaps with only a bundle
hanging from a blackthorn stick, have come down the hill to seek
their fortune! Perhaps Peggy is barefooted; perhaps Mary has little
luggage beyond a pot of shamrock or a mountain thrush in a wicker
cage; but what matter for that? They are used to poverty and
hardship and hunger, and although they are going quite penniless to
a new country, sure it can be no worse than the old. This is the
happy-go-lucky Irish philosophy, and there is mixed with it a deal
of simple trust in God.
How many exiles and wanderers, both those who have no fortune and
those who have failed to win it, dream of these cabin rows, these
sweet-scented boreens with their 'banks of furze unprofitably gay,'
these leaking thatches with the purple loosestrife growing in their
ragged seams, and, looking backward across the distance of time and
space, give the humble spot a tender thought, because after all it
was in their dear native isle!
'Pearly are the skies in the country of my fathers,
Purple are thy mountains, home of my heart;
Mother of my yearning, love of all my longings,
Keep me in remembrance long leagues apart.'
I have been thinking in this strain because of an old dame in the
first cabin in Lisdara row, whose daughter is in America, and who
can talk of nothing else. She shows us the last letter, with its
postal order for sixteen shillings, that Mida sent from New York,
with little presents for blind Timsy, 'dark since he were three
years old,' and for lame Dan, or the 'Bocca,' as he is called in
Lisdara. Mida was named for the virgin saint of Killeedy in
Limerick.* "And it's she that's good enough to bear a saint's name,
glory be to God!" exclaims the old mother returning Mida's
photograph to a hole in the wall where the pig cannot possibly
* Saint Mide, the Brigit of Munster.
At the far end of the row lives 'Omadhaun Pat.' He is a 'little
sthrange,' you understand; not because he was born with too small a
share of wit, but because he fell asleep one evening when he was
lying on the grass up by the old fort, and--'well, he was niver the
same thing since.' There are places in Ireland, you must know,
where if you lie down upon the green earth and sink into untimely
slumber, you will 'wake silly'; or, for that matter, although it is
doubtless a risk, you may escape the fate of waking silly, and wake
a poet! Carolan fell asleep upon a faery rath, and it was the
faeries who filled his ears with music, so that he was haunted by
the tunes ever afterward; and perhaps all poets, whether they are
conscious of it or not, fall asleep on faery raths before they write
Little Omadhaun Pat is pale, hollow-eyed, and thin; but that, his
mother says, is 'because he is over-studyin' for his confirmation.'
The great day is many weeks away, but to me it seems likely that,
when the examination comes, Pat will be where he will know more than
Next door lives old Biddy Tuke. She is too aged to work, and she
sits in her doorway, always a pleasant figure in her short woollen
petticoat, her little shawl, and her neat white cap. She has
pitaties for food, with stirabout of Indian meal once a day (oatmeal
is too dear), tea occasionally when there is sixpence left from the
rent, and she has more than once tasted bacon in her eighty years of
life; more than once, she tells me proudly, for it's she that's had
the good sons to help her a bit now and then,--four to carry her and
one to walk after, which is the Irish notion of an ideal family.
"It's no chuckens I do be havin' now, ma'am," she says, "but it's a
darlin' flock I had ten year ago, whin Dinnis was harvestin' in
Scotland! Sure it was two-and-twinty chuckens I had on the floore
wid meself that year, ma'am."
"Oh, it's a conthrary world, that's a mortial fact!" as Phelim
O'Rourke is wont to say when his cough is bad; and for my life I can
frame no better wish for ould Biddy Tuke and Omadhaun Pat, dark
Timsy and the Bocca, than that they might wake, one of these summer
mornings, in the harvest-field of the seventh heaven. That place is
reserved for the saints, and surely these unfortunates, acquainted
with grief like Another, might without difficulty find entrance
I am not wise enough to say how much of all this squalor and
wretchedness and hunger is the fault of the people themselves, how
much of it belongs to circumstances and environment, how much is the
result of past errors of government, how much is race, how much is
religion. I only know that children should never be hungry, that
there are ignorant human creatures to be taught how to live; and if
it is a hard task, the sooner it is begun the better, both for
teachers and pupils. It is comparatively easy to form opinions and
devise remedies, when one knows the absolute truth of things; but it
is so difficult to find the truth here, or at least there are so
many and such different truths to weigh in the balance,--the
Protestant and the Roman Catholic truth, the landlord's and the
tenant's, the Nationalist's and the Unionist's truth! I am sadly
befogged, and so, pushing the vexing questions all aside, I take
dark Timsy, Bocca Lynch, and Omadhaun Pat up on the green hillside
near the ruined fort, to tell them stories, and teach them some of
the thousand things that happier, luckier children know.
This is an island of anomalies: the Irish peasants will puzzle you,
perplex you, disappoint you with their inconsistencies, but keep
from liking them if you can! There are a few cleaner and more
comfortable homes in Lisdara and Knockcool than when we came, and
Benella has been invaluable, although her reforms, as might be
expected, are of an unusual character, and with her the wheels of
progress never move silently, as they should, but always squeak.
With the two golden sovereigns given her to spend, she has bought
scissors, knives, hammers, boards, sewing materials, knitting
needles, and yarn,--everything to work with, and nothing to eat,
drink, or wear, though Heaven knows there is little enough of such
things in Lisdara.
"The quicker you wear 'em out, the better you'll suit me," she says
to the awestricken Lisdarians. "I'm a workin' woman myself, an'
it's my ladies' money I've spent this time; but I'll make out to
keep you in brooms and scrubbin' brushes, if only you'll use 'em!
You mustn't take offence at anything I say to you, for I'm part
Irish--my grandmother was Mary Boyce of Trim; and if she hadn't come
away and settled in Salem, Massachusetts, mebbe I wouldn't have
known a scrubbin' brush by sight myself!"
Chapter XXI. Lachrymae Hibernicae.
'What ails you, Sister Erin, that your face
Is, like your mountains, still bedewed with tears?
. . . . . . .
Forgive! forget! lest harsher lips should say,
Like your turf fire, your rancour smoulders long,
And let Oblivion strew Time's ashes o'er your wrong.'
At tea-time, and again after our simple dinner--for Bridget
Thunder's repertory is not large, and Benella's is quite unsuited to
the Knockcool markets--we wend our way to a certain house that
stands by itself on the road to Lisdara. It is only a whitewashed
cabin with green window trimmings, but it is a larger and more
comfortable one than we commonly see, and it is the perfection of
neatness within and without. The stone wall that encloses it is
whitewashed too, and the iron picket railing at the top is painted
bright green; the stones on the posts are green also, and there is
the prettiest possible garden, with nicely cut borders of box. In
fine, if ever there was a cheery place to look at, Sarsfield Cottage
is that one; and if ever there was a cheerless gentleman, it is Mr.
Jordan, who dwells there. Mrs. Wogan Odevaine commended him to us
as the man of all others with whom to discuss Irish questions, if we
wanted, for once in a way, to hear a thoroughly disaffected,
outraged, wrong-headed, and rancorous view of things.
"He is an encyclopaedia, and he is perfectly delightful on any topic
in the universe but the wrongs of Ireland," said she; "not entirely
sane and yet a good father, and a good neighbour, and a good talker.
Faith, he can abuse the English government with any man alive! He
has a smaller grudge against you Americans, perhaps, than against
most of the other nations, so possibly he may elect to discuss
something more cheerful than our national grievances; if he does,
and you want a livelier topic, just mention--let me see--you might
speak of Wentworth, who destroyed Ireland's woollen industry, though
it is true he laid the foundation of the linen trade, so he wouldn't
do, though Mr. Jordan is likely to remember the former point and
forget the latter. Well, just breathe the words 'Catholic
Disqualification' or 'Ulster Confiscation,' and you will have as
pretty a burst of oratory as you'd care to hear. You remember that
exasperated Englishman who asked in the House why Irishmen were
always laying bare their grievances. And Major O'Gorman bawled
across the floor, "Because they want them redressed!"
Salemina and I went to call on Mr. Jordan the very next day after
our arrival at Knockcool. Over the sitting-room or library door at
Sarsfield Cottage is a coat of arms with the motto of the Jordans,
'Percussus surgam'; and as our friend is descended from Richard
Jordan of Knock, who died on the scaffold at Claremorris in the
memorable year 1798, I find that he is related to me, for one of the
De Exeter Jordans married Penelope O'Connor, daughter of the king of
Connaught. He took her to wife, too, when the espousal of anything
Irish, names, language, apparel, customs, or daughters, was high
treason, and meant instant confiscation of estates. I never thought
of mentioning the relationship, for obviously a family cannot hold
grievances for hundreds of years and bequeath a sense of humour at
the same time.
The name Jordan is derived, it appears, from a noble ancestor who
was banner-bearer in the Crusades and who distinguished himself in
many battles, but particularly in one fought against the infidels on
the banks of the River Jordan in the Holy Land. In this conflict he
was felled to the ground three times during the day, but owing to
his gigantic strength, his great valour, and the number of the
Saracens prostrated by his sword, he succeeded in escaping death and
keeping the banner of the Cross hoisted; hence by way of eminence he
was called Jordan; and the motto of this illustrious family ever
since has been, 'Though I fall I rise.'
Mr. Jordan's wife has been long dead, but he has four sons, only one
of them, Napper Tandy, living at home. Theobald Wolfe Tone is
practising law in Dublin; Hamilton Rowan is a physician in Cork; and
Daniel O'Connell, commonly called 'Lib' (a delicate reference to the
Liberator), is still a lad at Trinity. It is a great pity that Mr.
Jordan could not have had a larger family, that he might have kept
fresh in the national heart the names of a few more patriots; for
his library walls, 'where Memory sits by the altar she has raised to
Woe,' are hung with engravings and prints of celebrated insurgents,
rebels, agitators, demagogues, denunciators, conspirators,--pictures
of anybody, in a word, who ever struck a blow, right or wrong, well
or ill judged, for the green isle. That gallant Jacobite, Patrick
Sarsfield, Burke, Grattan, Flood, and Robert Emmet stand shoulder to
shoulder with three Fenian gentlemen, names Allan, Larkin, and
O'Brien, known in ultra-Nationalist circles as the 'Manchester
martyrs.' For some years after this trio was hanged in Salford
jail, it appears that the infant mind was sadly mixed in its attempt
to separate knowledge in the concrete from the more or less abstract
information contained in the Catechism; and many a bishop was
shocked, when asking in the confirmation service, "Who are the
martyrs?" to be told, "Allan, Larkin, and O'Brien, me lord!"
Francesca says she longs to smuggle into Mr. Jordan's library a
picture of Tom Steele, one of Daniel O'Connell's henchmen, to whom
he gave the title of Head Pacificator of Ireland. Many amusing
stories are told of this official, of his gaudy uniform, his strut
and swagger, and his pompous language. At a political meeting on
one occasion, he attacked, it seems, one Peter Purcell, a Dublin
tradesman who had fallen out with the Liberator on some minor
question. "Say no more on the subject, Tom," cried O'Connell, who
was in the chair, "I forgive Peter from the bottom of my heart."
"You may forgive him, liberator and saviour of my country," rejoined
Steele, in a characteristic burst of his amazingly fervent rhetoric.
"Yes, you, in the discharge of your ethereal functions as the moral
regenerator of Ireland, may forgive him; but, revered leader, I also
have functions of my own to perform; and I tell you that, as Head
Pacificator of Ireland, I can never forgive the diabolical villain
that dared to dispute your august will."
The doughty Steele, who appears to have been but poorly fitted by
nature for his office, was considered at the time to be half a
madman, but as Sir James O'Connell, Daniel's candid brother, said,
"And who the divil else would take such a job?" At any rate, when
we gaze at Mr. Jordan's gallery, imagining the scene that would
ensue were the breath of life breathed into the patriots' quivering
nostrils, we feel sure that the Head Pacificator would be kept busy.
Dear old white-haired Mr. Jordan, known in select circles as
'Grievance Jordan,' sitting in his library surrounded by his
denunciators, conspirators, and martyrs, with incendiary documents
piled mountains high on his desk--what a pathetic anachronism he is
The shillelagh is hung on the wall now, for the most part, and
faction fighting is at an end; but in the very last moments of it
there were still 'ructions' between the Fitzgeralds and the
Moriartys, and the age-old reason of the quarrel was, according to
the Fitzgeralds, the betrayal of the 'Cause of Ireland.' The
particular instance occurred in the sixteenth century, but no
Fitzgerald could ever afterward meet any Moriarty at a fair without
crying, "Who dare tread on the tail of me coat?" and inviting him to
join in the dishcussion with shticks. This practically is Mr.
Jordan's position; and if an Irishman desires to live entirely in
the past, he can be as unhappy as any man alive. He is writing a
book, which Mrs. Wogan Odevaine insists is to be called The Groans
of Ireland; but after a glance at a page of memoranda pencilled in a
collection of Swift's Irish Tracts that he lent to me (the volume
containing that ghastly piece of irony, The Modest Proposal for
Preventing the Poor of Ireland from being a Burden to their Parents
and Country), I have concluded that he is editing a Catalogue of
Irish Wrongs, Alphabetically Arranged. This idea pleased Mrs. Wogan
Odevaine extremely; and when she drove over to tea, bringing several
cheerful young people to call upon us, she proposed, in the most
light-hearted way in the world, to play what she termed the
Grievance Game, an intellectual diversion which she had invented on
the instant. She proposed it, apparently, with a view of showing us
how small a knowledge of Ireland's ancient wrongs is the property of
the modern Irish girl, and how slight a hold on her memory and
imagination have the unspeakably bitter days of the long ago.
We were each given pencil and paper, and two or three letters of the
alphabet, and bidden to arrange the wrongs of Ireland neatly under
them, as we supposed Mr. Jordan to be doing for the instruction and
the depression of posterity. The result proved that Mrs. Odevaine
was a true prophet, for the youngest members of the coterie came off
badly enough, and read their brief list of grievances with much
chagrin at their lack of knowledge; the only piece of information
they possessed in common being the inherited idea that England never
had understood Ireland, never would, never could, never should,
never might understand her.
Rosetta Odevaine succeeded in remembering, for A, F, and H,
Absenteeism, Flight of the Earls, Famine, and Hunger; her elder
sister, Eileen, fresh from college, was rather triumphant with O and
P, giving us Oppression of the Irish Tenantry, Penal Laws,
Protestant Supremacy, Poynings' Law, Potato Rot, and Plantations.
Their friend, Rhona Burke, had V, W, X, Y, Z, and succeeded only in
finding Wentworth and Woollen Trade Destroyed, until Miss Odevaine
helped her with Wood's Halfpence, about which everybody else had to
be enlightened; and there was plenty of laughter when Francesca
suggested for V, Vipers Expelled by St. Patrick. Salemina carried
off the first prize; but we insisted C and D were the easiest
letters; at any rate, her list showed great erudition, and would
certainly have pleased Mr. Jordan. C, Church Cess, Catholic
Disqualification, Crimes Act of 1887, Confiscations, Cromwell,
Carrying Away of Lia Fail (Stone of Destiny) from Tara. D,
Destruction of Trees on Confiscated Lands, Discoverers (of flaws in
Irish titles), Debasing of the Coinage by James I.
Mrs. Odevaine came next with R and S. R, Recall of Lord Fitzwilliams
by Pitt, Rundale Land Tenure, Rack-Rents, Ribbonism. S, Schism Act,
Supremacy Act, Sixth Act of George I.
I followed with T and U, having unearthed Tithes and the Test Act
for the first, and Undertakers, the Acts of Union and Uniformity,
for the second; while Francesca, who had been given I, J, K, L, and
M, disgraced herself by failing on all the letters but the last,
under which she finally catalogued one particularly obnoxious wrong
This ignorance of the past may have its bright side, after all,
though to speak truthfully, it did show a too scanty knowledge of
national history. But if one must forget, it is as well to begin
with the wrongs of far-off years, those 'done to your ancient name
or wreaked upon your race.'
Chapter XXII. The Weeping West.
'Veiled in your mist, and diamonded with showers.'
Shan Van Vocht Hotel,
Heart of Connemara.
Shan Van Vocht means in English the 'Poor Little Old Woman,' one of
the many endearing names given to Ireland in the Gaelic. There is,
too, a well-known rebel song called by this title--one which was not
only written in Irish and English, but which was translated into
French for the soldiers at Brest who were to invade Ireland under
We had come from Knockcool, Donegal, to Westport, in County Mayo,
and the day was enlivened by two purely Irish touches, one at the
beginning and one at the end. We alighted at a certain railway
junction to await our train, and were interested in a large
detachment of soldiers--leaving for a long journey, we judged, by
the number of railway carriages and the amount of luggage and
stores. In every crowded compartment there were two or three men
leaning out over the locked doors; for the guard was making ready to
start. All were chatting gaily with their sweethearts, wives, and
daughters, save one gloomy fellow sitting alone in a corner,
searching the crowd with sad eyes for a wished-for face or a last
greeting. The bell rang, the engine stirred; suddenly a pretty,
rosy girl flew breathlessly down the platform, pushing her way
through the groups of onlookers. The man's eyes lighted; he rose to
his feet, but the other fellows blocked the way; the door was
locked, and he had but one precious moment. Still he was equal to
the emergency, for he raised his fist and with one blow shattered
the window, got his kiss, and the train rumbled away, with his
victorious smile set in a frame of broken glass! I liked that man
better than any one I've seen since Himself deserted me for his
Duty! How I hope the pretty girl will be faithful, and how I hope
that an ideal lover will not be shot in South Africa!
And if he was truly Irish, so was the porter at a little way station
where we stopped in the dark, after being delayed interminably at
Claremorris by some trifling accident. We were eight persons packed
into a second-class carriage, and totally ignorant of our
whereabouts; but the porter, opening the door hastily, shouted, "Is
there anny one there for here?"--a question so vague and illogical
that none of us said anything in reply, but simply gazed at one
another, and then laughed as the train went on.
We are on a here-to-day-and-gone-to-morrow journey, determined to
avoid the railways, and travel by private conveyance and the public
'long cars,' just for a glimpse of the Weeping West before we settle
down quietly in County Meath for our last few weeks of Irish life.
Thus far it has been a pursuit of the picturesque under umbrellas;
in fact, we're desthroyed wid the dint of the damp! 'Moist and
agreeable--that's the Irish notion both for climate and company.'
If the barometer bore any relation to the weather, we could plan our
drives with more discretion; but it sometimes remains as steady as a
rock during two days of sea mist, and Francesca, finding it wholly
regardless of gentle tapping, lost her temper on one occasion and
rapped it so severely as to crack the glass. That this peculiarity
of Irish barometers has been noted before we are sure, because of
this verse written by a native bard:-
'When the glass is up to thirty,
Be sure the weather will be dirty.
When the glass is high, O very!
There'll be rain in Cork and Kerry.
When the glass is low, O Lork!
There'll be rain in Kerry and Cork!'
I might add:-
And when the glass has climbed its best,
The sky is weeping in the West.
The national rainbow is as deceitful as the barometer, and it is no
uncommon thing for us to have half a dozen of them in a day, between
heavy showers, like the smiles and tears of Irish character; though,
to be sure, one does not need to be an Irish patriot to declare that
a fine day in this country is worth three fine days anywhere else.
The present weather is accounted for partially by the fact that, as
Horace Walpole said, summer has set in with its usual severity, and
the tourist is abroad in the land.
I am not sure but that we belong to the hated class for the moment,
though at least we try to emulate tourist virtues, if there are any,
and avoid tourist vices, which is next to impossible, as they are
the fruit of the tour itself. It is the circular tour which, in its
effect upon the great middle class, is the most virulent and
contagious, and which breeds the most offensive habits of thought
and speech. The circular tour is a magnificent idea, a praiseworthy
business scheme; it has educated the minds of millions and why it
should have ruined their manners is a mystery, unless indeed they
had none when they were at home. Some of our fellow-travellers with
whom we originally started disappear every day or two, to join us
again. We lose them temporarily when we take a private conveyance
or when they stop at a cheap hotel, but we come altogether again on
coach or long car; and although they have torn off many coupons in
the interval, their remaining stock seems to assure us of their
society for days to come.
We have a Protestant clergyman who is travelling for his health, but
beguiling his time by observations for a volume to be called The
Relation between Priests and Pauperism. It seems, at first thought,
as if the circular coupon system were ill fitted to furnish him with
corroborative detail; but inasmuch as every traveller finds in a
country only, so to speak, what he brings to it, he will gather
statistics enough. Those persons who start with a certain bias of
mind in one direction seldom notice any facts that would throw out
of joint those previously amassed; they instinctively collect the
ones that 'match,' all others having a tendency to disturb the
harmony of the original scheme. The clergyman's travelling
companion is a person who possesses not a single opinion,
conviction, or trait in common with him; so we conclude that they
joined forces for economy's sake. This comrade we call 'the man
with the evergreen heart,' for we can hardly tell by his appearance
whether he is an old young man or a young old one. With his hat on
he is juvenile; when he removes it, he is so distinctly elderly that
we do not know whether to regard him as damaged youth or well-
preserved old age; but he transfers his solicitous attentions to
lady after lady, rebuffs not having the slightest effect upon his
warm, susceptible, ardent nature. We suppose that he is single, but
we know that he can be married at a moment's notice by anybody who
is willing to accept the risks of the situation. Then we have a
nice schoolmaster, so agreeable that Salemina, Francesca, and I draw
lots every evening as to who shall sit beside him next day. He has
just had seventy boys down with measles at the same time, giving
prizes to those who could show the best rash! Salemina is no friend
to the competitive system in education, but this appealed to her as
being as wise as it was whimsical.
We have also in our company an indiscreet and inflammable Irishman
from Wexford and a cutler from Birmingham, who lose no opportunity
to have a conversational scrimmage. When the car stops to change or
water the horses (and as for this last operation, our steeds might
always manage it without loss of time by keeping their mouths open),
we generally hear something like this; for although the two
gentlemen have never met before, they fight as if they had known
each other all their lives.
Mr. Shamrock. "Faith, then, if you don't like the hotels and the
railroads, go to Paris or London; we've done widout you up to now,
and we can kape on doing widout you! We'd have more money to spind
in entertainin' you if the government hadn't taken three million of
pounds out of us to build fortifications in China."
Mr. Rose. "That's all bosh and nonsense; you wouldn't know how to
manage an hotel if you had the money."
Mr. Shamrock. "If we can't make hotel-kapers, it's soldiers we can
make; and be the same token you can't manage India or Canada widout
our help! Faith, England owes Ireland more than she can pay, and
it's not her business to be thravelin' round criticisin' the
throubles she's helped to projuce."
Mr. Rose. "William Ewart Gladstone did enough for your island to
make up for all the harm that the other statesmen may or may not
Mr. Shamrock, touched in his most vulnerable point, shrieks above
the rattle of the wheels: "The wurrst statesman that iver put his
name to paper was William Ewart Gladstone!"
Mr. Rose. "The best, I say!"
Mr. Shamrock. "I say the wurrst!"
Mr. Rose. "The best!!"
Mr. Shamrock. "The wurrst!!"
Mr. Rose (after a pause). "It's your absentee landlords that have
done the mischief. I'd hang every one of them, if I had my way."
Mr. Shamrock. "Faith, they'd be absent thin, sure enough!"
And at this everybody laughs, and the trouble is over for a brief
space, much to the relief of Mrs. Shamrock, until her husband finds
himself, after a little, sufficiently calm to repeat a Cockney
anecdote, which is received by Mr. Rose in resentful silence, it
being merely a description of the common bat, an unfortunate animal
that, according to Mr. Shamrock, "'as no 'ole to 'ide in, no 'ands
to 'old by, no 'orns to 'urt with, though Nature 'as given 'im 'ooks
be'ind to 'itch 'imself up by."
The last two noteworthy personages in our party are a dapper
Frenchman, who is in business at Manchester, and a portly Londoner,
both of whom are seeing Ireland for the first time. The Frenchman
does not grumble at the weather, for he says that in Manchester it
rains twice a day all the year round, save during the winter, when
it commonly rains all day.
Sir James Paget, in an address on recreation, defined its chief
element to be surprise. If that is true, the portly Londoner must
be exhilarated beyond words. But with him the sensation does not
stop with surprise: it speedily becomes amazement, and then horror;
for he is of the comparative type, and therefore sees things done
and hears things said, on every hand, that are not said and done at
all in the same way in London. He sees people--ay, and policemen--
bicycling on footpaths and riding without lamps, and is horrified to
learn that they are seldom, if ever, prosecuted. He is shocked at
the cabins, and the rocks, and the beggar children, and the lack of
trees; at the lack of logic, also, and the lack of shoes; at the
prevalence of the brogue; above all, at the presence of the pig in
the parlour. He is outraged at the weather, and he minds getting
wet the more because he hates Irish whisky. He keeps a little
notebook, and he can hardly wait for dinner to be over, he is so
anxious to send a communication (probably signed 'Veritas') to the
The multiplicity of rocks and the absence of trees are indeed the
two most striking features of the landscape; and yet Boate says, 'In
ancient times as long as the land was in full possession of the
Irish themselves, all Ireland was very full of woods on every side,
as evidently appeareth by the writings of Giraldus Cambrensis.' But
this was long ago,-
'Ere the emerald gem of the western world
Was set in the brow of a stranger.'
In the long wars with the English these forests were the favourite
refuge of the natives, and it was a common saying that the Irish
could never be tamed while the leaves were upon the trees. Then
passages were cut through the woods, and the policy of felling them,
as a military measure, was begun and carried forward on a gigantic
scale in Elizabeth's reign.
At one of the cabins along the road they were making great
preparations, which we understood from having seen the same thing in
Lisdara. There are wee villages and solitary cabins so far from
chapel that the priests establish 'stations' for confession. A
certain house is selected, and all the old, infirm, and feeble ones
come there to confess and hear Mass. The priest afterwards eats
breakfast with the family; and there is great pride in this
function, and great rivalry in the humble arrangements. Mrs.
Odevaine often lends a linen cloth and flowers to one of her
neighbours, she tells us; to another a knife and fork, or a silver
teapot; and so on. This cabin was at the foot of a long hill, and
the driver gave me permission to walk; so Francesca and I slipped
down, I with a parcel which chanced to have in it some small
purchases made at the last hotel. We asked if we might help a bit,
and give a little teapot of Belleek ware and a linen doily trimmed
with Irish lace. Both the articles were trumpery bits of souvenirs,
but the old dame was inclined to think that the angels and saints
had taken her in charge, and nothing could exceed her gratitude.
She offered us a potato from the pot, a cup of tea or goat's milk,
and a bunch of wildflowers from a cracked cup; and this last we
accepted as we departed in a shower of blessings, the most
interesting of them being, "May the Blessed Virgin twine your brow
with roses when ye sit in the sates of glory!" and "The Lord be good
to ye, and sind ye a duke for a husband!" We felt more than repaid
for our impulsive interest, and as we disappeared from sight a last
'Bannact dea leat!' ('God's blessing be on your way!') was wafted to
I seem to have known all these people before, and indeed I have met
them between the covers of a book; for Connemara has one prophet,
and her name is Jane Barlow. In how many of these wild bog-lands of
Connaught have we seen a huddle of desolate cabins on a rocky
hillside, turf stacks looking darkly at the doors, and empty black
pots sitting on the thresholds, and fancied we have found Lisconnel!
I should recognise Ody Rafferty, the widow M'Gurk, Mad Bell, old
Mrs. Kilfoyle, or Stacey Doyne, if I met them face to face, just as
I should know other real human creatures of a higher type,--Beatrix
Esmond, Becky Sharp, Meg Merrilies, or Di Vernon.
Chapter XXIII. Beams and motes.
'Mud cabins swarm in
This place so charming,
With sailor garments
Hung out to dry;
And each abode is
Snug and commodious,
With pigs melodious
In their straw-built sty.'
'"Did the Irish elves ever explain themselves to you, Red Rose?"
'"I can't say that they did," said the English Elf. "You can't call
it an explanation to say that a thing has always been that way,
just: or that a thing would be a heap more bother any other way."'
The west of Ireland is depressing, but it is very beautiful; at
least if your taste includes an appreciation of what is wild,
magnificent, and sombre. Oppressed you must be, even if you are an
artist, by its bleakness and its dreariness, its lonely lakes
reflecting a dull, grey sky, its desolate boglands, its solitary
chapels, its wretched cabins perched on hillsides that are very
wildernesses of rocks. But for cloud effects, for wonderful
shadows, for fantastic and unbelievable sunsets, when the mountains
are violet, the lakes silver with red flashes, the islets gold and
crimson and purple, and the whole cloudy west in a flame, it is
unsurpassed; only your standard of beauty must not be a velvet lawn
studded with copper beeches, or a primary-hued landscape bathed in
American sunshine. Connemara is austere and gloomy under a dull
sky, but it has the poetic charm that belongs to all mystery, and
its bare cliffs and ridges are delicately pencilled on a violet
background, in a way peculiar to itself and enchantingly lovely.
The waste of all God's gifts; the incredible poverty; the miserable
huts, often without window or chimney; the sad-eyed women, sometimes
nothing but 'skins, bones, and grief'; the wild, beautiful children,
springing up like startled deer from behind piles of rocks or
growths of underbrush; the stony little bits of earth which the
peasants cling to with such passion, while good grasslands lie
unused, yet seem for ever out of reach,--all this makes one dream,
and wonder, and speculate, and hope against hope that the worst is
over and a better day dawning. We passed within sight of a hill
village without a single road to connect it with the outer world.
The only supply of turf was on the mountain-top, and from thence it
had to be brought, basket by basket, even in the snow. The only
manure for such land is seaweed, and that must be carried from the
shore to the tiny plats of sterile earth on the hillside. I
remember it all, for I refused to buy a pair of stockings of a woman
along the road. We had taken so many that my courage failed; but I
saw her climbing the slopes patiently, wearily, a shawl over her
white hair,--knitting, knitting, knitting, as she walked in the rain
to her cabin somewhere behind the high hills. We never give to
beggars in any case, but we buy whatever we can as we are able; and
why did I draw the line at that particular pair of stockings, only
to be haunted by that pathetic figure for the rest of my life?
Beggars there are by the score, chiefly in the tourist districts;
but it is only fair to add that there are hundreds of huts where it
would be a dire insult to offer a penny for a glass of water, a sup
of milk, or the shelter of a turf fire.
As we drive along the road, we see, if the umbrellas can be closed
for a half-hour, flocks of sheep grazing on the tops of the hills,
where it is sunnier, where food is better and flies less numerous.
Crystal streams and waterfalls are pouring down the hillsides to
lose themselves in one of Connemara's many bays, and we have a
glimpse of osmunda fern, golden green and beautiful. It was under a
branch of this Osmunda regalis that the Irish princess lay hidden,
they say, till she had evaded her pursuers. The blue turf smoke
rises here and there,--now from a cabin with house-leek growing on
the crumbling thatch, now from one whose roof is held on by ropes
and stones,--and there is always a turf bog, stacks and stacks of
the cut blocks, a woman in a gown of dark-red flannel resting for a
moment, with the empty creel beside her, and a man cutting in the
distance. After climbing the long hill beyond the 'station' we are
rewarded by a glimpse of more fertile fields; the clumps of ragwort
and purple loosestrife are reinforced with kingcups and lilies
growing near the wayside, and the rare sight, first of a pot of
geraniums in the window, and then of a garden all aglow with red
fuchsias, torch plants, and huge dahlias, so cheers Veritas that he
takes heart again. "This is something like home!" he exclaims
breezily; whereupon Mr. Shamrock murmurs that if people find nothing
to admire in a foreign country save what resembles their own, he
wonders that they take the trouble to be travelling.
"It is a darlin' year for the pitaties," the drivers says; and there
are plenty of them planted hereabouts, even in stony spots not worth
a keenogue for anything else, for "pitaties doesn't require anny
inTHRICKet farmin', you see, ma'am."
The clergyman remarks that only three things are required to make
Ireland the most attractive country in the world: "Protestantism,
cleanliness, and gardens"; and Mr. Shamrock, who is of course a
Roman Catholic, answers this tactful speech in a way that surprises
the speaker and keeps him silent for hours.
The Birmingham cutler, who has a copy of Ismay's Children in his
pocket, triumphantly reads aloud, at this moment, a remark put into
the mouth of an Irish character: "The low Irish are quite destitute
of all notion of beauty,--have not the remotest particle of artistic
sentiment or taste; their cabins are exactly as they were six
hundred years ago, for they never want to improve themselves."
Then Mr. Shamrock asserts that any show of prosperity on a tenant's
part would only mean an advance of rent on the landlord's; and Mr.
Rose retorts that while that might have been true in former times,
it is utterly false to-day.
Mrs. Shamrock, who is a natural apologist, pleads that the Irish
gentry have the most beautiful gardens in the world and the greatest
natural taste in gardening, and there must be some reason why the
lower classes are so different in this respect. May it not be due
partly to lack of ground, lack of money to spend on seeds and
fertilisers, lack of all refining, civilising and educating
influences? Mr. Shamrock adds that the dwellers in cabins cannot
successfully train creepers against the walls or flowers in the
dooryard, because of the goat, pig, donkey, ducks, hens, and
chickens; and Veritas asks triumphantly, "Why don't you keep the pig
in a sty, then?"
The man with the evergreen heart (who has already been told this
morning that I am happily married, Francesca engaged, Salemina a
determined celibate, but Benella quite at liberty) peeps under
Salemina's umbrella at this juncture, and says tenderly, "And what
do you think about these vexed questions, dear madam?" Which gives
her a chance to reply with some distinctness, "I shall not know what
I think for several months to come; and at any rate there are
various things more needed on this coach than opinions."
At this the Frenchman murmurs, "Ah, she has right!" and the
Birmingham cutler says, "'Ear! 'ear!"
On another day the parson began to tell the man with the evergreen
heart some interesting things about America. He had never been
there himself, but he had a cousin who had travelled extensively in
that country, and had brought back much unusual information. "The
Americans are an extraordinary people on the practical side," he
remarked; "but having said that, you have said all, for they are
sordid, and absolutely devoid of ideality. Take an American at his
roller-top desk, a telephone at one side and a typewriter at the
other, talk to him of pork and dollars, and you have him at his very
best. He always keeps on his Panama hat at business, and sits in a
rocking-chair smoking a long cigar. The American woman wears a blue
dress with a red lining, or a black dress with orange trimmings,
showing a survival of African taste; while another exhibits the
American-Indian type,--sallow, with high cheekbones. The manners of
the servant classes are extraordinary. I believe they are called
'the help,' and they commonly sit in the drawing-room after the work
"You surprise me!" said Mrs. Shamrock.
"It is indeed amazing," he continued; "and there are other
extraordinary customs, among them the habit of mixing ices with all
beverages. They plunge ices into mugs of ale, beer, porter,
lemonade, or Apollinaris, and sip the mixture with a long ladle at
the chemist's counter, where it is usually served."
"You surprise me!" exclaimed the cutler.
"You surprise me too!" I echoed in my inmost heart. Francesca would
not have confined herself to that blameless mode of expression, you
may be sure, and I was glad that she was on the back seat of the
car. I did not know it at the time, but Veritas, who is a man of
intelligence, had identified her as an American, and wishing to
inform himself on all possible points, had asked her frankly why it
was that the people of her nation gave him the impression of never
being restful or quiet, but always so excessively and abnormally
quick in motion and speech and thought.
"Casual impressions are not worth anything," she replied
nonchalantly. "As a nation, you might sometimes give us the
impression of being phlegmatic and slow-witted. Both ideas may have
some basis of fact, yet not be absolutely true. We are not all
abnormally quick in America. Look at our messenger boys, for
"We! Phlegmatic and slow-witted!" exclaimed Veritas. "You surprise
me! And why do you not reward these government messengers for
speed, and stimulate them in that way?"
"We do," Francesca answered; "that is the only way in which we ever
get them to arrive anywhere--by rewarding and stimulating them at
both ends of the journey, and sometimes, in extreme cases, at a
"This is most interesting," said Veritas, as he took out his damp
notebook; "and perhaps you can tell me why your newspapers are so
poorly edited, so cheap, so sensational?"
"I confess I can't explain it," she sighed, as if sorely puzzled.
"Can it be that we have expended our strength on magazines, where
you are so lamentably weak?"
At this moment the rain began as if there had been a long drought
and the sky had just determined to make up the deficiency. It fell
in sheets, and the wind blew I know not how many Irish miles an
hour. The Frenchman put on a silk macintosh with a cape, and was
berated by everybody in the same seat because he stood up a moment
and let the water in under the lap covers. His umbrella was a
dainty en-tout-cas with a mother-of-pearl handle, that had answered
well enough in heavy mist or soft drizzle. His hat of fine straw
was tied with a neat cord to his buttonhole; but although that
precaution insured its ultimate safety, it did not prevent its
soaring from his head and descending on Mrs. Shamrock's bonnet. He
conscientiously tried holding it on with one hand, but was then
reproved by both neighbours because his macintosh dripped over them.
"How are your spirits, Frenchy?" asked the cutler jocosely.
"I am not too greatly sad," said the poor gentleman, "but I will be
glad it should be finished; far more joyfully would I be at
Manchester, triste as it may be."
Just then a gust of wind blew his cape over his head and snapped his
"It is evidently it has been made in Ireland," he sighed, with a
desperate attempt at gaiety. "It should have had a grosser stem,
and helas! it must not be easy to have it mended in these barbarous
We stopped at four o'clock at a wayside hostelry, and I had quietly
made up my mind to descend from the car, and take rooms for the
night, whatever the place might be. Unfortunately, the same idea
occurred to three or four of the soaked travellers; and as men could
leap down, while ladies must wait for the steps, the chivalrous sex,
their manners obscured by the circular tour system, secured the
rooms, and I was obliged to ascend again, wetter than ever, to my
perch beside the driver.
"Can I get the box seat, do you think, if I pay extra for it?" I had
asked one of the stablemen before breakfast.
"You don't need to be payin', miss! Just confront the driver, and
you'll get it aisy!" If, by the way, I had confronted him at the
end instead of at the beginning of the journey, my charms certainly
would not have been all-powerful, for my coat had been leaked upon
by red and green umbrellas, my hat was a shapeless jelly, and my
face imprinted with the spots from a drenched blue veil.
After two hours more of this we reached the Shan Van Vocht Hotel,
where we had engaged apartments; but we found to our consternation
that it was full, and that we had been put in lodgings a half-mile
Salemina, whose patience was quite exhausted by the discomforts of
the day, groaned aloud when we were deposited at the door of a
village shop, and ushered upstairs to our tiny quarters; but she
ceased abruptly when she really took note of our surroundings.
Everything was humble, but clean and shining--glass, crockery,
bedding, floor, on the which we were dripping pools of water, while
our landlady's daughter tried to make us more comfortable.
"It's a soft night we're havin'," she said, in a dove's voice, "but
we'll do right enough if the win' doesn't rise up on us."
Left to ourselves, we walked about the wee rooms on ever new and
more joyful voyages of discovery. The curtains rolled up and down
easily; the windows were propped upon nice clean sticks instead of
tennis rackets and hearth brushes; there was a well-washed stone to
keep the curtain down on the sill; and just outside were tiny window
gardens, in each of which grew three marigolds and three asters, in
a box fenced about with little green pickets. There were well-
dusted books on the tables, and Francesca wanted to sit down
immediately to The Charming Cora, reprinted from The Girl's Own
Paper. Salemina meantime had tempted fate by looking under the bed,
where she found the floor so exquisitely neat that she patted it
affectionately with her hand.
We had scarcely donned our dry clothing when the hotel proprietor
sent a jaunting-car for our drive to the seven-o'clock table d'hote
dinner. We carefully avoided our travelling companions that night,
but learned the next morning that the Frenchman had slept on four
chairs, and rejected the hotel coffee with the remark that it was
not 'veritable'--a criticism in which he was quite justified. Our
comparative Englishman had occupied a cot in a room where the tin
bathtubs were kept. He was writing to The Times at the moment of
telling me his woes, and, without seeing the letter, I could divine
his impassioned advice never to travel in the west of Ireland in
rainy weather. He remarked (as if quoting from his own
communication) that the scenery was magnificent, but that there was
an entirely insufficient supply of hot water; that the waiters had
the appearance of being low comedians, and their service was of the
character one might expect from that description; that he had been
talking before breakfast with a German gentleman, who had sat on a
wall opposite the village of Dugort, in the island of Achill, from
six o'clock in the morning until nine, and in that time he had seen
coming out of an Irish hut three geese, eight goslings, six hens,
fifteen chickens, two pigs, two cows, two barefooted girls, the
master of the house leading a horse, three small children carrying
cloth bags filled with school-books, and finally a strapping mother
leading a donkey loaded with peat-baskets; that all this poverty and
ignorance and indolence and filth was spoiling his holiday; and
finally, that if he should be as greatly disappointed in the fishing
as he had been in the hotel accommodations--here we almost fainted
from suspense--he should be obliged to go home! And not only that,
but he should feel it his duty to warn others of what they might
"Perhaps you are justified," said Francesca sympathetically.
"People who are used to the dry, sunny climate and the clear
atmosphere of London ought not to expose themselves to Irish rain
without due consideration."
He agreed with her, glancing over his spectacles to see if she by
any possibility could be amusing herself at his expense--good, old,
fussy, fault-finding Veritas; but indeed Francesca's eyes were so
soft and lovely and honest that the more he looked at her, the less
he could do her the injustice of suspecting her sincerity.
But mind you, although I would never confess it to Veritas, because
he sees nothing but flaws on every side, the Irish pig is, to my
taste, a trifle too much in the foreground. He pays the rent, no
doubt; but this magnificent achievement could be managed from a sty
in the rear, ungrateful as it might seem to immure so useful a
personage behind a door or conceal his virtues from the public at
Chapter XXIV. Humours of the road.
'Cheerful at morn, he wakes from short repose,
Breasts the keen air, and carols as he goes.'
If you drive from Clifden to Oughterard by way of Maam Cross, and
then on to Galway, you will pass through the O'Flahertys' country,
one of whom, Murrough O'Flaherty, was governor of this country of
Iar (western) Connaught. You will like to see the last of the
O'Flaherty yews, a thousand years old at least, and the ruins of the
castle and banqueting-hall. The family glories are enumerated in
ancient Irish manuscript, and instead of the butler, footman, chef,
coachman, and gardener of to-day we read of the O'Flaherty
physician, standard-bearer, brehon or judge, master of the revels,
and keeper of the bees; and the moment Himself is rich enough, I
intend to add some of these picturesque personages to our staff.
We afterwards learned that there was formerly an inscription over
the west gate of Galway:-
'From the fury of the O'Flaherties,
Good Lord, deliver us.'
After Richard de Burgo took the town, in 1226, it became a
flourishing English colony, and the citizens must have guarded
themselves from any intercourse with the native Irish; at least, an
old by-law of 1518 enacts that 'neither O' nor Mac shalle strutte ne
swaggere thro' the streetes of Galway.'
We did not go to Galway straight, because we never do anything
straight. We seldom get any reliable information, and never any
inspiring suggestions, from the natives themselves. They are all
patriotically sure that Ireland is the finest counthry in the world,
God bless her! but in the matter of seeing that finest counthry in
the easiest or best fashion they are all very vague. Indirectly,
our own lack of geography, coupled with the ignorance of the people
themselves, has been of the greatest service in enlivening our
journeys. Francesca says that, in looking back, she finds that our
errors of judgment have always resulted in our most charming and
unforgettable experiences; but let no one who is travelling with a
well-balanced and logical-minded man attempt to follow in our
Being as free as air on this occasion (if I except the dread of
Benella's scorn, which descends upon us now and then, and moves us
to repentance, sometimes even to better behaviour), we passed
Porridgetown and Cloomore, and ferried across to the opposite side
of Lough Corrib. Salemina, of course, had fixed upon Cong as our
objective point, because of its caverns and archaeological remains,
which Dr. La Touche tells her not on any account to miss. Francesca
and I said nothing, but we had a very definite idea of avoiding
Cong, and going nearer Tuam, to climb Knockma, the hill of the
fairies, and explore their ancient haunts and archaeological
remains, which are more in our line than the caverns of Cong.
Speaking of Dr. La Touche reminds me that we have not the smallest
notion as to how our middle-aged romance is progressing. Absence
may, at this juncture, be just as helpful a force in its development
as daily intercourse would be; for when one is past thirty, I fancy
there is a deal of 'thinking-it-over' to do. Precious little there
is when we are younger; heart does it all then, and never asks
head's advice! But in too much delay there lies no plenty, and
there's the danger. Actually, Francesca and I could be no more
anxious to settle Salemina in life if she were lame, halt, blind,
and homeless, instead of being attractive, charming, absurdly young
for her age, and not without means. The difficulty is that she is
one of those 'continent, persisting, immovable persons' whom Emerson
describes as marked out for the blessing of the world. That quality
always makes a man anxious. He fears that he may only get his
rightful share of blessing, and he craves the whole output, so to
We naturally mention Dr. La Touche very often, since he is always
writing to Salemina or to me, offering counsel and suggestion.
Madame La Touche, the venerable aunt, has written also, asking us to
visit them in Meath; but this invitation we have declined,
principally because the Colquhouns will be with them, and they would
surely be burdened by the addition of three ladies and a maid to
their family; partly because we shall be freer in our own house,
which will be as near the La Touche mansion as possible, you may be
sure, if Francesca and I have anything to do with choosing it.
The La Touche name, then, is often on our lips, but Salemina offers
no intimation that it is indelibly imprinted on her heart of hearts.
It is a good name to be written anywhere, and we fancied there was
the slightest possible hint of pride and possession in Salemina's
voice when she read to us to-night, from her third volume of Lecky's
History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century, a paragraph concerning
one David La Touche, from whom Dr. Gerald is descended:-
'In the last of the Irish Parliaments no less than five members of
the name sat together in the House of Commons, and his family may
claim what is in truth the highest honour of which an Irish family
can boast,--that during many successive governments, and in a period
of most lavish corruption, it possessed great parliamentary
influence, and yet passed through political life untitled and
There is just the faintest gleam of hope, by the way, that Himself
may join us at the very end of June, and he is sure to be helpful on
this sentimental journey; he aided Ronald and Francesca more than
once in their tempestuous love-affair, and if his wits are not
dulled by marriage, as so often happens, he will be invaluable. It
will not be long then, probably, before I assume my natural, my
secondary position in the landscape of events. The junior partners
are now, so to speak, on their legs, although it is idle to suppose
that such brittle appendages will support them for any length of
time. As soon as we return in the autumn I should like to advertise
(if Himself will permit me) for a perfectly sound and kind junior
partner,--one who has been well broken to harness, and who will
neither shy nor balk, no matter what the provocation; the next step
being to urge Himself to relinquish altogether the bondage of
business care. There is no need of his continuing in it, since
other people's business will always give him ample scope for his
energies. He has, since his return to America, dispensed justice
and mercy, chiefly mercy, to one embezzler, one honest fellow
tempted beyond his strength, one widow, one unfortunate friend of
his youth, and two orphans, and it was in no sense an extraordinary
To return to notes of travel, our method of progression, since we
deserted the high-road and the public car, has been strangely
varied. I think there is no manner of steed or vehicle which has
not been used by us, at one time or another, even to the arch donkey
and the low-backed car with its truss of hay, like that of the
immortal Peggy. I thought at first that 'arch' was an unusual
adjective to apply to a donkey, but I find after all that it is
abundantly expressive. Benella, who disapproves entirely of this
casual sort of travelling, far from 'answerable roads' and in
'backwards places' (Irish for 'behind the times'), is yet
wonderfully successful in discovering equipages of some sort in
In towns of any size or pretensions, we find by the town cross or
near the inn a motley collection of things on wheels, with drivers
sometimes as sober as Father Mathew, sometimes not. Yesterday we
had a mare which the driver confessed he bought without
'overcircumspectin' it,' and although you couldn't, as he said,
'extinguish her at first sight from a grand throtter, she hadn't
rightly the speed you could wish.'
"It's not so powerful young she is, melady!" he confessed. "You'd
be afther lookin' at a chicken a long time and niver be reminded of
her; but sure ye might thry her, for belike ye wouldn't fancy a
horse that would be leppin' stone walls wid ye, like Dan Ryan's
there! My little baste'll get ye to Rossan before night, and she
won't hurt man nor mortial in doin' it."
"Begorra, you're right, nor herself nayther," said Dan Ryan; "and if
it's leppin' ye mane, sure she couldn't lep a sod o' turf, that mare
couldn't! God pardon ye, melady, for thrustin' yerself to that
paiceable, brindly-coloured ould hin, whin ye might be gettin' a
dacint, high-steppin' horse for a shillin' or two more; an' belike I
might contint meself to take less, for I wouldn't be extortin' ye
like Barney O'Mara there!"
Our chosen driver replied to this by saying that he wouldn't be
caught dead at a pig fair with Dan Ryan's horse, but in the midst of
all the distracting discussions and arguments that followed we held
to our original bargain; for we did not like the look of Dan Ryan's
high-stepper, who was a 'thrifle mounTAIny,' as they say in these
parts, and had a wild eye to boot. We started, and in a half-hour
we could still see the chapel spire of the little village we had
just left. It was for once a beautiful day, but we felt that we
must reach a railway station some time or other, in order to find a
place to sleep.
"Can't you make her go a bit faster? Do you want to keep us on the
road all night?" inquired Francesca.
"I do not, your ladyship's honour, ma'am."
"Is she tired, or doesn't she ever go any better?" urged Salemina.
"She does; it's God's truth I'm tellin' ye, melady, she's that
flippant sometimes that I scarcely can hould her, and the car jumps
undher her like a spring bed."
"Then what on earth IS the matter with her?" I inquired, with some
fire in my eye.
"Sure I believe she's takin' time to think of the iligant load she's
carryin', melady, and small blame to her!" said Mr. Barney O'Mara;
and after that we let him drive as best he could, although it did
take us four hours to do nine Irish miles. He came, did Mr. Barney,
from County Armagh, and he beguiled the way with interesting tales
from that section of Ireland, one of which, 'the Old Crow and the
Young Crow,' particularly took our fancies.
"An old crow was teaching a young crow one day, and says to him,
'Now, my son,' says he, 'listen to the advice I'm going to give
you,' says he. 'If you see a person coming near you and stooping,
mind yourself, and be on your keeping; he's stooping for a stone to
throw at you,' says he.
"'But tell me,' says the young crow, 'what should I do if he had a
stone already down in his pocket?' says he.
"'Musha, go 'long out of that,' says the old crow, 'you've learned
enough; the divil another learning I'm able to give you.'"
He was a perfect honey-pot of useless and unreliable information,
was Barney O'Mara, and most learned in fairy lore; but for that
matter, all the people walking along the road, the drivers, the
boatman and guides, the men and women in the cottages where we stop
in a shower or to inquire the way, relate stories of phookas,
leprehauns, and sprites, banshees and all the various classes of
elves and fays, as simply and seriously as they would speak of any
other occurrences. Barney told us gravely of the old woman who was
in the habit of laying pishogues (charms) to break the legs of his
neighbour's cattle, because of an ancient grudge she bore him; and
also how necessary it is to put a bit of burning turf under the
churn to prevent the phookas, or mischievous fairies, from
abstracting the butter or spoiling the churning in any way. Irish
fays seem to be much interested in dairy matters, for, besides the
sprites who delight in distracting the cream and keeping back the
butter (I wonder if a lazy up-and-down movement of the dasher
invites them at all, at all?), it is well known that many a milkmaid
on a May morning has seen fairy cows browsing along the banks of
lakes,--cows that vanish into thin mist at the sound of human
When we were quite cross at missing the noon train from Rossan,
quite tired of the car's jolting, somewhat vexed even at the mare's
continued enjoyment of her 'iligant load,' Barney appeased us all by
singing, in a delightful, mellow voice, a fairy song called the
'Leprehaun,'* This personage, you must know, if you haven't a large
acquaintance among Irish fairies, is a tricksy fellow in a green
coat and scarlet cap, with brave shoe buckles on his wee brogues.
You will catch him sometimes, if the 'glamour' is on you, under a
burdock leaf or a thorn bush, and he is always making or mending a
shoe. He commonly has a little purse about him, which, if you are
quick enough, you can snatch; and a wonderful purse it is, for
whatever you spend, there is always money to be found in it. Truth
to tell, nobody has yet succeeded in being quicker than Master
Leprehaun, though many have offered to fill his cruiskeen with
'mountain dew,' of which Irish fairies are passionately fond.
* By Patrick W. Joyce.
'In a shady nook, one moonlight night,
A leprehaun I spied;
With scarlet cap and coat of green,
A cruiskeen by his side.
'Twas tick, tack, tick, his hammer went,
Upon a weeny shoe;
And I laughed to think of his purse of gold;
But the fairy was laughing too!
With tip-toe step and beating heart,
Quite softly I drew nigh:
There was mischief in his merry face,
A twinkle in his eye.
He hammered, and sang with tiny voice,
And drank his mountain dew;
And I laughed to think he was caught at last;
But the fairy was laughing too!
As quick as thought I seized the elf.
"Your fairy purse!" I cried.
"The purse!" he said--"'tis in her hand--
That lady at your side."
I turned to look: the elf was off.
Then what was I to do?
O, I laughed to think what a fool I'd been;
And the fairy was laughing too!'
I cannot communicate any idea of the rollicking gaiety and quaint
charm Barney gave to the tune, nor the light-hearted, irresistible
chuckle with which he rendered the last two lines, giving a snap of
his whip as accent to the long 'O':-
'O, I laughed to think what a fool I'd been;
And the fairy was laughing too!'
After he had sung it twice through, Benella took my guitar from its
case for me, and we sang it after him, again and again; so it was in
happy fashion that we at least approached Ballyrossan, where we bade
Barney O'Mara a cordial farewell, paying him four shillings over his
fare, which was cheap indeed for the song.
As we saw him vanish slowly up the road, ragged himself, the car and
harness almost ready to drop to pieces, the mare, I am sure, in the
last week of her existence, we were glad that he had his Celtic
fancy to enliven his life a bit,--that fancy which seems a
providential reaction against the cruel despotisms of fact.
Chapter XXV. The wee folk.
'There sings a bonnie linnet
Up the heather glen;
The voice has magic in it
Too sweet for mortal men!
Sing O, the blooming heather,
O, the heather glen!
Where fairest fairies gather
To lure in mortal men.'
Carrig-a-fooka Inn, near Knockma,
On the shores of Lough Corrib.
A modern Irish poet* says something that Francesca has quoted to
Ronald in her letter to-day, and we await from Scotland his
confirmation or denial. He accuses the Scots of having discovered
the fairies to be pagan and wicked, and of denouncing them from the
pulpits, whereas Irish priests discuss with them the state of their
souls; or at least they did, until it was decided that they had
none, but would dry up like so much bright vapour at the last day.
It was more in sadness than in anger that the priests announced this
fiat; for Irish sprites and goblins do gay, graceful, and humorous
things, for the most part, tricksy sins, not deserving annihilation,
whereas Scottish fays are sometimes malevolent,--or so says the
* W. B. Yeats.
This is very sad, no doubt, but it does not begin to be as sad as
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