Penelope's Irish Experiences
Over the sea, over the sea,
Till I come to Ireland one sunny day, —
Betther for me, betther for me :
The first time me fut got the feel o’ the ground
I was strollin’ along in an Irish city
That has n’t its aquil the world around,
For the air that is sweet an’ the girls that are pretty.”
DUBLIN, April, 1900.
MacCrossan’s Private Hotel.
IT is the most absurd thing in the world that Salemina, Francesca, and I should be in Ireland together.
That any three spinsters should be fellow travelers is not in itself extraordinary, and so our former journeyings in England and Scotland could hardly be described as eccentric in any way; but now that I am a matron and Francesca is shortly to be married, it is odd, to say the least, to see us cosily ensconced in a private sitting room of a Dublin hotel, the table laid for three, and not a vestige of a man anywhere to be seen. Where, one might ask, if he knew the antecedent circumstances, are Miss Hamilton’s American spouse and Miss Monroe’s Scottish lover ?
Francesca had passed most of the winter in Scotland. Her indulgent parent had given his consent to her marriage with a Scotsman, but insisted that she take a year to make up her mind as to which particular one. Memories of her past flirtations, divagations, plans for a life of single blessedness, all conspired to make him incredulous, and the loyal Salemina, feeling some responsibility in the matter, had elected to remain by Francesca’s side during the time when her affections were supposed to be crystallizing into some permanent form.
It was natural enough that my husband and I should spend the first summer of our married life abroad, for we had been accustomed to do this before we met, a period that we always allude to as the Dark Ages; but no sooner had we arrived in Edinburgh, and no sooner had my husband persuaded our two friends to join us in a long delicious Irish holiday, than he was compelled to return to America for a month or two.
I think you must number among your acquaintances such a man as Mr. William Beresford, whose wife I have the honor to be. Physically the type is vigorous, or has the appearance and gives the impression of being vigorous, because it has never the time to be otherwise, since it is always engaged in nursing its ailing or decrepit relatives. Intellectually it is full of vitality; any mind grows when it is exercised, and the brain that has to settle all its own affairs and all the affairs of its friends and acquaintances would never lack energy. Spiritually it is almost too good for earth, and any woman who lives in the house with it has moments of despondency and selfchastisement, in which she fears that heaven may prove all too small to contain the perfect being and its unregenerate family as well.
Financially it has at least a moderate bank account; that is, it is never penniless, indeed it can never afford to be, because it is peremptory that it should possess funds in order to disburse them to needier brothers. There is never an hour when Mr. William Beresford is not signing notes and bonds and drafts for less fortunate men; giving little loans just to “ help a fellow over a hard place ; ” educating friends’ children, starting them in business, or securing appointments for them. The widow and the fatherless have worn such an obvious path to his office and residence that no bereaved person could possibly lose his way, and as a matter of fact no one of them ever does. This special journey of his to America has been made necessary because, first, his cousin’s widow has been defrauded of a large sum by her man of business ; and second, his college chum and dearest friend has just died in Chicago after appointing him executor of his estate and guardian of his only child. The wording of the will is, “as a sacred charge and with full power.” Incidentally, as it were, one of his junior partners has been ordered a long sea voyage, and another has to go somewhere for mud baths. The junior partners were my idea, and were suggested solely that their senior might be left more or less free from business care, but it was impossible that Willie should have selected sound, robust partners — his tastes do not incline him in the direction of selfish ease ; accordingly he chose two delightful, estimable, frail gentlemen who needed comfortable incomes in conjunction with light duties.
I am railing at my husband for all this, but I love him for it just the same, and it shows why the table is laid for three.
“ Salemina,” I said, extending my slipper toe to the glowing peat, which by extraordinary effort we had had brought up from the hotel kitchen, as a bit of local color, “it is ridiculous that we three women should be in Ireland together; it’s the sort of thing that happens in a book, and of which we say that it could never occur in real life. Three persons do not spend successive seasons in England, Scotland, and Ireland unless they are writing an Itinerary of the British Isles. The situation is possible certainly, but it is n’t simple, or natural, or probable. We are behaving precisely like characters in fiction, who, having been popular in the first volume, are exploited again and again until their popularity wanes. We are like the Trotty books or the Elsie Dinsmore series. England was our first volume, Scotland our second, and here we are, if you please, about to live a third volume in Ireland. We fall in love, we marry and are given in marriage, we promote and take part in international alliances, but when the curtain goes up again our accumulations, acquisitions — whatever you choose to call them — have disappeared. We are not to the superficial eye the spinsterphilanthropist, the bride to be, the wife of a year; we are the same old Salemina, Francesca, and Penelope. It is so dramatic that my husband should be called to America; as a woman I miss him and need him ; as a character I am much better single. I don’t suppose publishers like married heroines any more than managers like married leading ladies. Then how entirely proper it is that Ronald Macdonald cannot leave his new parish in the Highlands. The one, my husband, belongs to the first volume; Francesca’s lover to the second; and good gracious, Salemina, don’t you see the inference ? ”
“ I may be dull,” she replied, “ but I confess I do not.”
“We are three.”
“ Who is three ? ”
“ That is not good English, but I repeat with different emphasis we are three. I fell in love in England, Francesca fell in love in Scotland ” — And here I paused, watching the blush mount rosily to Salemina’s gray hair; pink is very becoming to gray, and that, we always say, accounts more satisfactorily for Salemina’s frequent blushes than her modesty, which is about of the usual sort.
“ Your argument is interesting and even ingenious,” she replied, “ but I fail to see my responsibility. If you persist in thinking of me as a character in fiction I shall rebel. I am not the stuff of which heroines are made. Besides, I would never appear in anything so cheap and obvious as a series, and the threevolume novel is as much out of fashion as the Rollo books.”
“ But we are unconscious heroines, you understand,” I went on. “While we were experiencing our experiences we did not notice them, but they have attained by degrees a sufficient bulk so that they are visible to the naked eye. We can look back now and perceive the path we have traveled.”
“ It is n’t retrospect I object to, but anticipation,” she retorted ; “not history, but prophecy. It is one thing to gaze sentimentally at the road you have traveled, quite another to conjure up impossible pictures of the future.”
Salemina calls herself a trifle over forty, but I am not certain of her age, and think perhaps that she is not certain herself. She has good reason to forget it, and so have we. Of course she could consult the Bible family record daily, but if she consulted her looking-glass afterward the one impression would always nullify the other. Her hair is silvered, it is true, but that is so clearly a trick of Nature that it makes her look younger rather than older.
Francesca came into the room just here. I said a moment ago that she was the same old Francesca, but I was wrong. She is softening, sweetening, expanding ; in a word, blooming. Not only this, but Ronald Macdonald’s likeness has been stamped upon her in some magical way, so that, although she has not lost her own personality, she seems to have added a reflection of his. In the glimpses of herself, her views, feelings, opinions, convictions, which she gives us in a kind of solution, as it were, there are always traces of Ronald Macdonald ; or, to be more poetical, he seems to have bent over the crystal pool, and his image is reflected there.
You remember in New England they allude to a bride as “ she that was ” a so and so. In my private interviews with Salemina I now habitually allude to Francesca as “she that was a Monroe;” it is so significant of her present state of absorption. Several times this week I have been obliged to inquire, “ Was I, by any chance, as absent-minded and dull in Pettybaw as Francesca is under the same circumstances in Dublin?”
“ Duller if anything.”
These candid replies being uttered in cheerful unison I changed the subject, but could not resist telling them both casually that the building of the Royal Dublin Society was in Kildare Street, just three minutes’ walk from MacCrossan’s, and that I had noticed it was for the promotion of Husbandry and other useful arts and sciences.
We ’re Paddies, and no more.”
Our mutual relations have changed little, notwithstanding that betrothals and marriages have intervened, and in spite of the fact that Salemina has grown a year younger ; a mysterious feat that she accomplishes on each anniversary of her birth.
It is many months since we traveled together in Scotland, but on entering this very room in Dublin, the other day, we proceeded to show our several individualities as usual, — I going to the window to see the view, Francesca consulting the placard on the door for hours of table d’hôte, and Salemina walking to the grate and lifting the ugly little paper screen to say, “ There is a fire laid; how nice ! ” As the matron I have been promoted to a nominal charge of the traveling arrangements. Therefore, while the others drive or sail, read or write, I am buried in Murray’s Handbook, or immersed in maps. When I sleep, my dreams are spotted, starred, notched, and lined with hieroglyphics, circles, horizontal dashes, long lines, and black dots,
signifying hotels, coach and rail routes, and tramways.
All this would have been done by Himself with the greatest ease in the world. In the humbler walks of Irish life the head of the house, if he is of the proper sort, is called Himself, and it is in the shadow of this stately title that my husband will appear in this chronicle.
I am quite sure I do not believe in the inferiority of woman, but I have a feeling that a man is a trifle superior in practical affairs. If I am in doubt, and there is no husband, brother, or cousin near, from whom to seek advice, I instinctively ask the butler or the coachman rather than a female friend ; also, when a female friend has consulted the Bradshaw in my behalf, I slip out and seek confirmation from the butcher’s boy or the milkman. Himself would have laid out all our journeying for us, and we should have gone placidly along in well-ordered paths. As it is, we are already pledged to do the most absurd and unusual things, and Ireland bids fair to be seen in the most topsyturvy, helter-skelter fashion imaginable.
Francesca’s propositions are especially nonsensical, being provocative of fruitless discussion, and adding absolutely nothing to the sum of human intelligence.
“ Why not start without any special route in view, and visit the towns with which we already have familiar associations ? ” she asked. “We should have all sorts of experiences by the way, and be free from the blighting influences of a definite purpose. Who that has ever traveled fails to call to mind certain images when the names of cities come up in general conversation ? If Bologna, Brussels, or Lima is mentioned, I think at once of sausages, sprouts, and beans, and it gives me a feeling of friendly intimacy. I remember Neufchâtel and Cheddar by their cheeses, Dorking and Cochin China by their hens, Whitby by its jet, or York by its hams, so that I am never wholly ignorant of places and their subtle associations.”
“ That method appeals strongly to the fancy,” said Salemina dryly. “ What subtle associations have you already established in Ireland ? ”
“ Let me see,” she responded thoughtfully ; “ the list is not a long one.
Limerick and Carrickmacross for lace, Shandon for the bells, Blarney and Donnybrook for the Stone and the Fair, Kilkenny for the cats, and Balbriggan for the stockings.”
“ You are sordid this morning,” reproved Salemina ; “ it would be better if you remembered Limerick by the famous siege, and Balbriggan as the place where King William encamped with his army after the battle of the Boyne.”
“ I’ve studied the song writers more than the histories and geographies,” I said, “ so I should like to go to Bray and look up the Vicar, then to Coleraine to see where Kitty broke the famous pitcher; or to Tara where the Harp that Once, or to Athlone where dwelt the Widow Malone, Ochone, and so on; just start with an armful of Tom Moore’s poems and Lover’s and Ferguson’s, and yes,” I added generously, “ some of the nice moderns, and visit the scenes they’ve written about.”
“ And be disappointed,” quoth Francesca cynically. “ Poets see everything by the light that never was on sea or shore; still I won’t deny that they help the blind, and I should rather like to know if there still are any Nora Creinas and Sweet Peggies and Pretty Girls Milking their Cows.”
“ I am very anxious to visit as many of the Round Towers as possible,” said Salemina. “ When I was a girl of seventeen I had a very dear friend, a young Irishman, who has since become a wellknown antiquary and archælogist. He was a student, and afterwards, I think, a professor here in Trinity College, but I have not heard from him for many years.”
“ Don’t look him up, darling,” pleaded Francesca. “ You are so much our superior now that we positively must protect you from all elevating influences.”
“ I won’t insist on the Round Towers,” smiled Salemina, “ and I think Penelope’s idea a delightful one ; we might add to it a sort of literary pilgrimage to the homes and haunts of Ireland’s famous writers.”
“ I did n’t know that she had any,” interrupted Francesca.
This is a favorite method of conversation with that spoiled young person ; it seems to appeal to her in three different ways: she likes to belittle herself, she likes to shock Salemina, and she likes to have information given her on the spot in some succinct, portable, convenient form.
“ Oh,” she continued apologetically, “of course there are Dean Swift and Thomas Moore and Charles Lever.”
“ And,” I added, “ certain minor authors named Goldsmith, Sterne, Steele, and Samuel Lover.”
“ And Bishop Berkeley, and Brinsley Sheridan, and Maria Edgeworth, and Father Prout,” continued Salemina, “ and certain great speech-makers like Burke and Grattan and Curran; and how delightful to visit all the places connected with Stella and Vanessa, and the spot where Spenser wrote the Faerie Queene.”
“ You will be telling me in a moment that Thomas Carlyle was born in Skereenarinka, and that Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet in Coolagarranoe,” replied Francesca, who had drawn the guidebook toward her and made good use of it. “ Let us do the literary pilgrimage, certainly, before we leave Ireland, but suppose we begin with something less intellectual. This is the most pugnacious map I ever gazed upon. All the names seem to begin or end with kill, bally, whack, shock, or knock ; no wonder the Irish make good soldiers! Suppose we start with a sanguinary trip to the Kill places, so that I can tell any timid Americans that I meet in traveling that I have been to Kilmacow and to Kilmacthomas, and am going to-morrow to Kilmore, and next day to Kilumaule.”
“ I think that must have been said before,” I objected.
“ It is so obvious that it’s not unlikely,” she rejoined ; “ then let us simply agree to go afterwards to see all the Bally places from Ballydehob on the south to Ballycastle or Ballymoney on the north, and from Ballynahinch or Ballywilliam on the east to Ballyvaughan or Ballybunnion on the west, and passing through, in transit,
Don’t they all sound jolly and grotesque ? ”
“ They do indeed,” we agreed, “ and the plan is quite worthy of you ; we can say no more.”
We had now developed so many more ideas than we could possibly use that the labor of deciding among them was the next thing to be done. Each of us stood out boldly for her own project, — even Francesca clinging, from sheer willfulness, to her worthless and absurd itineraries, — until, in order to bring the matter to any sort of decision, somebody suggested that we consult Benella ; which reminds me that you have not yet the pleasure of Benella’s acquaintance.
Your beauty haunts me like a fever dream.”
To perform the introduction properly I must go back a day or two. We had elected to cross to Dublin directly from Scotland, an easy night journey. Accordingly we embarked in a steamer called the Prince or the King of something or other, the name being many degrees more princely or kingly than the craft itself.
We had intended, too, to make our own comparison of the bay of Dublin and the bay of Naples, because every traveler, from Charles Lever’s Jack Hinton down to Thackeray and Mr. Alfred Austin, has always made it a point of honor to do so. We were balked in our conscientious endeavor, because we arrived at the North Wall forty minutes earlier than the hour set by the steamship company. It is quite impossible for anything in Ireland to be done strictly on the minute, and in struggling not to be hopelessly behind time, a “ disthressful counthry ” will occasionally be ahead of it. We had been told that we should arrive in a drizzling rain, and that no one but Lady Dufferin had ever on approaching Ireland seen the “ sweet faces of the Wicklow mountains reflected in a smooth and silver sea.” The grumblers were right on this special occasion, although we have proved them false more than once since.
I was in a fever of fear that Ireland would not be as Irish as we wished it to be. It seemed probable that processions of prosperous aldermen, school directors, contractors, mayors, and ward politicians, returning to their native land to see how Herself was getting on, the crathur, might have deposited on the soil successive layers of Irish-American virtues, such as punctuality, thrift, and cleanliness, until they had quite obscured fair Erin’s peculiar and pathetic charm. We longed for the new Ireland as fervently as any of her own patriots, but we wished to see the old Ireland before it passed. There is plenty of it left (alas, the patriots would say), and Dublin was as dear and as dirty as when Lady Morgan first called it so long years ago. The boat was met by a crowd of ragged gossoons, most of them barefooted, some of them stockingless and in men’s shoes, and several of them with flowers in their unspeakable hats and caps. There were no cabs or jaunting cars because we had not been expected so early, and the jarveys were in attendance on the Holyhead steamer. It was while I was searching for a piece of lost luggage that I saw the stewardess assisting a young woman off the gang plank, and leading her toward a pile of wool bags on the dock. She sank helplessly on one of them, and leaned her head on another. As the night had been one calculated to disturb the physical equilibrium of a poor sailor, and the breakfast of a character to discourage the stoutest stomach, I gave her a careless thought of pity and speedily forgot her. Two trunks, a hold-all, a hatbox, — in which reposed, in solitary grandeur, Francesca’s picture hat, intended for the further undoing of the Irish gentry, — a guitar case, two bags, three umbrellas ; all were safe but Salemina’s large Vuitton trunk and my valise, which had been last seen at Edinburgh station. Salemina returned to the boat while Francesca and I wended our way among the heaps of luggage, followed by crowds of ragamuffins who offered to run for a car, run for a cab, run for a porter, carry our luggage up the street to the cab stand, carry our wraps, carry us, “ do any mortial thing for a penny, melady, an’ there is no cars here, melady, God bless me sowl, and that He be good to us all if I’m tellin’ you a word of a lie! ”
Entirely unused to this flow of conversation, we were obliged to stop every few seconds to recount our luggage and try to remember what we were looking for. We all met finally, and I rescued Salemina from the voluble thanks of an old woman to whom she had thoughtlessly given a threepenny bit. This mother of a “ long weak family ” was wishing that Salemina might live to “ ate the hin ” that scratched over her grave, and invoking many other uncommon and picturesque blessings, but we were obliged to ask her to desist and let us attend to our own business.
“ Will I clane the whole of thim off for you for a penny, your ladyship’s honor ma’am ? ” asked the oldest of the ragamuffins, and I gladly assented to the novel proposition. He did it, too, and there seemed to be no hurt feelings in the company.
Just then there was a rattle of cabs and side cars, and our self-constituted major-domo engaged two of them to await our pleasure. At the same moment our eyes lighted upon Salemina’s huge Vuitton, which had been dragged behind the pile of wool sacks. It was no wonder it had escaped our notice, for it was mostly covered by the person of the seasick maiden whom I had seen on the arm of the stewardess. She was seated on it, exhaustion in every line of her figure, her head upon my traveling bag, her feet dangling over the edge until they just touched the “ S. P., Salem, Mass., U. S. A.” painted in large red letters on the end. She was too ill to respond to our questions, but there was no mistaking her nationality. Her dress, hat, shoes, gloves, face, figure were American. We sent for the stewardess, who told us that she had arrived in Glasgow on the day previous, and had been very ill all the way coming from Boston.
“ Boston ! ” exclaimed Salemina. “ Do you say she is from Boston, poor thing ? ”
“ I did n’t know that a person living in Boston could ever, under any circumstances, be a ‘ poor thing,’ ” whispered Francesca to me.
“ She was not fit to be crossing last night, and the doctor on the American ship told her so, and advised her to stay in bed for three days before coming to Ireland; but it seems as if she were determined to get to her journey’s end.”
“ We must have our trunk,舡 I interposed. “ Can’t we move her carefully back to the wool sacks, and won’t you stay with her until her friends come ? ”
“ She has no friends in this country, ma’am. She’s just traveling for pleasure like.”
“ Good gracious ! what a position for her to be in,” said Salemina. “ Can’t you take her back to the steamer and put her to bed ? ”
“ I could ask the captain, certainly, miss, though of course it’s something we never do, and besides, we have to set the ship to rights and go back again this evening.”
“ Ask her what hotel she is going to, Salemina,” we suggested, “ and let us drop her there, and put her in charge of the housekeeper ; of course if it is only seasickness she will be all right in the morning.”
The girl’s eyes were closed, but she opened them languidly as Salemina chafed her cold hands, and asked her gently if we could not drive her to her hotel.
“ Is — this — your — baggage ? ” she whispered.
“ It is,” Salemina answered, somewhat puzzled.
“ Then don’t — leave me here, I am from Salem — myself,” whereupon without any more warning she promptly fainted away on the trunk.
The situation was becoming embarrassing. The assemblage grew larger, and a more interested and sympathetic audience I never saw. To an Irish crowd, always warm-hearted and kindly, willing to take any trouble for friend or stranger, and with a positive terror of loneliness, or separation from kith and kin, the helpless creature appealed in every way. One and another joined the group with a “ Holy Biddy ! what’s this at all ? ”
“ The saints presarve us, is it dyin’ she is ? ”
“ Look at the iligant duds she do be wearin’.”
“ Call the docthor is it ? God give you sinse ! Sure the docthors is only a flock of omadhauns.”
“ Is it your daughter she is, ma’am? ” (This to Salemina.)
舠 She’s from Ameriky, the poor mischancy crathur.”
“Give her a toothful of whiskey, your ladyship. Sure it’s nayther bite nor sup she’s had the morn, and belike she’s as impty as a quarry-hole.”
When this last expression from the mother of the long weak family fell upon Salemina’s cultured ears she looked desperate.
We could not leave a fellow countrywoman, least of all could she forsake a fellow citizen, in such a hapless plight.
“ Take one cab with Francesca and the luggage, Penelope,” she whispered. “I will bring the girl with me, put her to bed, find her friends, and see that she starts on her journey safely ; it’s very awkward, but there’s nothing else to be done.”
So we departed in a chorus of popular approval.
“ Sure it’s you that have the good hearts! ”
“ May the heavens be your bed ! ”
“ May the journey thrive wid her, the crathur! ”
Francesca and I arrived first at the hotel where our rooms were already engaged, and there proved to be a comfortable little dressing, or maid’s, room just off Salemina’s.
Here the Derelict was presently ensconced, and there she lay, in a sort of profound exhaustion, all day, without once absolutely regaining her consciousness. Instead of visiting the National Gallery as I had intended, I went back to the dock to see if I could find the girl’s luggage, or get any further information from the stewardess before she left Dublin.
“ I ’ll send the doctor at once, but we must learn all possible particulars now,” I said maliciously to poor Salemina. “ It would be so awkward, you know, if you should be arrested for abduction.”
The doctor thought it was probably nothing more than the complete prostration that might follow eight days of seasickness, but the patient’s heart was certainly a little weak, and she needed the utmost quiet. His fee was a guinea for the first visit, and he would drop in again in the course of the afternoon to relieve our anxiety. We took turns in watching by her bedside, but the two unemployed ones lingered forlornly near, and had no heart for sight-seeing. Francesca did, however, purchase opera tickets for the evening, and secretly engaged the housemaid to act as head nurse in our absence.
As we were dining at seven, we heard a faint voice in the little room beyond. Salemina left her dinner and went in to find her charge slightly better. We had been able thus far only to take off her dress, shoes, and such garments as made her uncomfortable ; Salemina now managed to slip on a nightdress and put her under the bed covers, returning then to her cold mutton cutlet.
舠 She’s an extraordinary person,” she said, absently playing with her knife and fork. 舠 She did n’t ask me where she was, or show any interest in her surroundings ; perhaps she is still too weak. She said she was better, and when I had made her ready for bed she whispered, ‘ I ’ve got to say my prayers.’
舠 ‘ Say them by all means,’ I replied.
“ ‘ But I must get up and kneel down,’ she said.
“ I told her she must do nothing of the sort; that she was far too ill.
“ ‘ But I must,’ she urged. ‘ I never go to bed without saying my prayers on my knees.’
“ I forbade her doing it; she closed her eyes, and I came away. Is n’t she quaint ? ”
At this juncture we heard the thud of a soft falling body, and rushing in we found that the Derelict had crept out of bed on to her knees, and had probably not prayed more than two minutes before she fainted for the fifth or sixth time in twenty-four hours. Salemina was vexed, angel and philanthropist though she is. Francesca and I were so helpless with laughter that we could hardly lift the too conscientious maiden into bed. The situation may have been pathetic ; to the truly pious mind it would indeed have been indescribably touching, but for the moment the humorous side of it was too much for our self-control. Salemina, in rushing for stimulants and smelling salts, broke her only comfortable eyeglasses, and this accident, coupled with her other anxieties and responsibilities, caused her to shed tears, an occurrence so unprecedented that Francesca and I kissed and comforted her and tucked her up on the sofa. Then we sent for the doctor, gave our opera tickets to the head waiter and chambermaid, and settled down to a cheerful home evening, our first in Ireland.
“ If Himself were here, we should not be in this plight,” I sighed.
“ I don’t know how you can say that,” responded Salemina, with considerable spirit. “ You know perfectly well that if your husband had found a mother and seven children helpless and deserted on that dock, he would have brought them all to this hotel, and then tried to find the father and grandfather.”
“ And it’s not Salemina’s fault,” argued Francesca. “ She could n’t help the girl being born in Salem; not that I believe that she ever heard of the place before she saw it printed on Salemina’s trunk. I told you it was too big and red, dear, but you would n’t listen ! I am the strongest American of the party, but I confess that U. S. A. in letters five inches long is too much for my patriotism.”
“ It would not be if you ever had charge of the luggage,” retorted Salemina.
“ And whatever you do, Francesca,” I added beseechingly, “ don’t impugn the veracity of our Derelict. While I think of us as ministering angels I can endure anything, but if we are the dupes of an adventuress, there is nothing pretty about it. By the way, I have consulted the English manageress of this hotel, who was not particularly sympathetic. ' Perhaps you should n’t have assumed charge of her, madam,’ she said, ‘ but having done so, had n’t you better see if you can get her into a hospital ? ’ It is n’t a bad suggestion, and after a day or two we will consider it, or I will get a trained nurse to take full charge of her. I would be at any reasonable expense rather than have our pleasure interfered with any farther.”
It still seems so odd to make a proposition of this kind. In former times, Francesca was the Crœsus of the party, Salemina came second, and I last, with a most precarious income. Now I am the wealthy one, Francesca is reduced to the second place, and Salemina to the third ; but it makes no difference whatever, either in our relations, our arrangements, or, for that matter, in our expenditures.
All wearied and lone,
Sighing, ‘ I’m a poor stranger,
And far from my own.’ ”
The next morning dawned as lovely as if it had slipped out of Paradise, and as for freshness and emerald sheen the world from our windows was like a lettuce leaf just washed in dew. The windows of my bedroom looked out pleasantly on St. Stephen’s Green, commonly called Stephen’s Green, or, by citizens of the baser sort, Stephens’s Green. It is a good English mile in circumference, and many are the changes in it from the time it was first laid out, in 1670, to the present day, when it was made into a public park by Lord Ardilaun.
When the celebrated Mrs. Delany, then Mrs. Pendarves, first saw it, the centre was a swamp, where in winter a quantity of snipe congregated, and Harris in his History of Dublin alludes to the presence of snipe and swamp as an agreeable and uncommon circumstance not to be met with perhaps in any other great city in the world.
A double row of spreading lime trees bordered its four sides, one of which, known as Beaux Walk, was a favorite lounge for fashionable idlers. Here stood Bishop Clayton’s residence, a large building with a front like Devonshire House in Piccadilly, so writes Mrs. Delany. It was splendidly furnished, and the bishop lived in a style which proves that Irish prelates of the day were not all given to self-abnegation and mortification of the flesh.
A long line of vehicles, outside cars and cabs, some of them battered and shaky, others sufficiently well looking, was gathering on two sides of the green, for Dublin, you know, is “ the car-drivingest city in the world.” Francesca and I had our first experience yesterday in the intervals of nursing, driving to Dublin Castle, Trinity College, the Four Courts and Grafton Street (the Regent Street of Dublin). It is easy to tell the stranger, stiff, decorous, terrified, clutching the rail with one or both hands, but we took for our model a pretty Irish girl, who looked like nothing so much as a bird on a swaying bough. It is no longer called the “jaunting,” but the outside car, and there is another charming word lost to the world. There was formerly an inside car too, but it is almost unknown in Dublin, though still found in some of the smaller towns. An outside car has its wheels practically inside the body of the vehicle, but an inside car carries its wheels outside. This definition was given us by an Irish driver, but lucid definition is not perhaps an Irishman’s strong point. It is clearer to say that the passenger sits outside of the wheels on the one, inside on the other. There are seats for two persons over each of the two wheels, and a dickey for the driver in front, should he need to use it. Ordinarily he sits on one side, driving, while you perch on the other, and thus you jog along, each seeing your own side of the road, and discussing the topics of the day across the “ well,” as the covered-in centre of the car is called. There are those who do not agree with its champions who call it “ Cupid’s own conveyance; ” they find the seat too small for two, yet feel it a bit unsociable when the companion occupies the opposite side. To me a modern Dublin car with rubber tires and a good Irish horse is the jolliest conveyance in the universe ; there is a liveliness, an irresponsible gayety, in the spring and sway of it; an ease in the half-lounging position against the cushions, a unique charm in “ traveling edgeways ” with your feet planted on the step. You must not be afraid of a car if you want to enjoy it. Hold the rail if you must, at first, though it’s just as bad form as clinging to your horse’s mane while riding in the Row. Your driver will take all the chances that a crowded thoroughfare gives him ; he would scorn to leave more than an inch between your feet and a Guinness’ beer dray; he will shake your flounces and furbelows in the very windows of the passing trams, but he is beloved by the gods, and nothing ever happens to him.
The morning was enchanting, as I said, and, above all, the Derelict was better.
“ It’s a grand night’s slape I had wid her intirely,” said the housemaid ; “ an’ sure it’s not to-day she ’ll be dyin’ on you at all, at all; she’s had the white drink in the bowl twyst, and a grand cup o’ tay on the top o’ that.”
Salemina fortified herself with breakfast before she went in to an interview, which we all felt to be important and decisive. The time seemed endless to us, and endless were our suppositions.
“ Perhaps she has had morning prayers and fainted again.”
“ Perhaps she has turned out to be Salemina’s long-lost cousin.”
“Perhaps she is upbraiding Salemina for kidnaping her when she was insensible.”
“ Perhaps she is relating her life history ; if it is a sad one Salemina is adopting her legally at this moment.”
“ Perhaps she is one of Mr. Beresford’s wards, and has come over to complain of somebody’s ill treatment.”
Here Salemina entered, looking flushed and embarrassed. We thought it a bad sign that she could not meet our eyes without confusion, but I made room for her on the sofa, and Francesca drew her chair closer.
“ She is from Salem,” began the poor dear; “ she has never been out of Massachusetts in her life.”
“ Unfortunate girl! ” exclaimed Francesca, adding prudently, as she saw Salemina’s rising color, “ though of course if one has to reside in a single state, Massachusetts offers more compensations than any other.”
“ She knows every nook and corner in the place,” continued Salemina; “she has even seen the house where I was born, and her name is Benella Dusenberry.”
“ Impossible ! ” cried Francesca. “ Dusenberry is unlikely enough, but who ever heard of such a name as Benella ! It sounds like a flavoring extract.”
“ She came over to see the world, she says.”
“ Oh ! then she has money ? ”
“ No, or at least, yes, or at least she had enough when she left America to last for two or three months, or until she could earn something.”
“ Of course she left her little all in a chamois-skin bag under her pillow on the steamer,” suggested Francesca.
“That is precisely what she did,” Salemina replied, with a pale smile. “However, she was so ill in the steerage that she had to pay twenty-five or thirty dollars extra to go into the second cabin, and this naturally reduced the amount of her savings, though it makes no difference since she left them all behind her, save a few dollars in her purse. She says she is usually perfectly well, but that she was very tired when she started, that it was her first sea voyage, and the passage was unusually rough.”
“ Where is she going ? ”
“ I don’t know ; I mean, she does n’t know. Her maternal grandmother was born in Trim, near Tara, in Meath, but she does not think she has any relations over here. She is entirely alone in the world, and that gives her a certain sentiment in regard to Ireland, which she heard a great deal about when she was a child. The maternal grandmother must have gone to Salem at a very early age, as Benella herself savors only of New England soil.”
“ Has she any trade, or is she trained to do anything whatsoever?” asked Francesca.
“ No, she hoped to take some position of ' trust.’ She is rather vague, but she speaks and appears like a nice conscientious person.”
“ Tell us the rest; conceal nothing,” I said sternly.
舠 She — she thinks that we have saved her life, and she feels that she belongs to us,” faltered Salemina.
“ Belongs to us ! ” we cried in a duet. “ Was there ever such a base reward given to virtue ; ever such an unwelcome expression of gratitude ! Belong to us, indeed ! We can’t have her; we won’t have her. Were you perfectly frank with her ? ”
“ I tried to be, but she almost insisted ; she has set her heart upon being our maid.”
“ Does she know how to be a maid ? ”
“No, but she is extremely teachable, she says.”
“I have my doubts,” remarked Francesca ; “ a liking for personal service is not a distinguishing characteristic of New Englanders ; they are not the stuff of which maids are made. If she were French or German or Senegambian, in fact anything but a Saleminian, we might use her; we have always said we needed some one.”
Salemina brightened. 舠 I thought myself it might be rather nice. Penelope had thought at one time of bringing a maid, and it would save us a great deal of trouble. The doctor thinks she could travel a short distance in a few days; perhaps it is a Providence in disguise.”
“ The disguise is perfect,” interpolated Francesca.
“You see, when the poor thing tottered along the wharf the stewardess laid her on the pile of wool sacks, and ran off to help another passenger. When she opened her eyes, she saw straight in front of her, in huge letters, ' Salem, Mass., U. S. A.’ It loomed before her despairing vision, I suppose, like a great ark of refuge, and seemed to her in her half-dazed condition not only a reminder, but almost a message from home. She had then no thought of ever seeing the owner ; she says she felt only that she should like to die quietly on anything marked ‘ Salem, Mass.’ Go in to see her presently, Penelope, and make up your own mind about her. See if you can persuade her to — to — well, to give us up. Try to get her out of the notion of being our maid. She is so firm ; I never saw so feeble a person who could be so firm ; and what in the world shall we do with her if she keeps on insisting, in her nervous state ? ”
“ My idea would be,” I suggested, “ to engage her provisionally, if we must, not because we want her, but because her heart is weak. I shall tell her that we do not feel like leaving her behind, and yet we ourselves cannot be detained in Dublin indefinitely ; that we will try the arrangement for a month, and that she can consider herself free to leave us at any time on a week’s notice.”
“ I approve of that,” agreed Francesca, “ because it makes it easier to dismiss her in case she turns out to be a Massachusetts Borgia. You remember, however, that we bore with the vapors and vagaries, the sighs and moans, of Jane Grieve in Pettybaw, all those weeks, and not one of us had the courage to throw off her yoke. Never shall I forget her at your wedding, Penelope ; the teardrop glistened in her eye as usual; I think it is glued there ! Ronald was sympathetic, because he fancied she was weeping for the loss of you, but on inquiry it transpired that she was thinking of a marriage in that ‘ won’erfu’ fine family in Glasgy,’ with whose charms she had made us all too familiar. She asked to be remembered when I began my own housekeeping, and I told her truthfully that she was not a person who could be forgotten ; I repressed my feeling that she is too tearful for a Highland village where it rains most of the year, also my conviction that Ronald’s parish would chasten me sufficiently without her aid.”
I did as Salemina wished, and had a conference with Miss Dusenberry. I hope I was quite clear in my stipulations as to the perfect freedom of the four contracting parties. I know I intended to be, and I was embarrassed to see Francesca and Salemina exchange glances next day when Benella said she would show us what a good sailor she could be on the return voyage to America, adding that she thought a person would be much less liable to seasickness when traveling in the first cabin.
No son of Erin will offer me harm —
For tho’ they love woman and golden store,
Sir Knight, they love honor and virtue more! ”
“This is an anniversary,” said Salemina, coming into the sitting room at breakfast time with a book under her arm. “ Having given up all hope of any one’s waking in this hotel, which, before nine in the morning, is precisely like the Sleeping Beauty’s castle, I dressed and determined to look up Brian Boru.”
“ From all that I can recall of him he was not a person to meet before breakfast,” yawned Francesca ; “ still I shall be glad of a little fresh light, for my mind is in a most chaotic state, induced by the intellectual preparation that you have made me undergo during the past month. I dreamed last night that I was conducting a mothers’ meeting in Ronald’s new parish, and the subject for discussion was the Small Livings Scheme, the object of which is to augment the stipends of the ministers of the Church of Scotland to a minimum of £200 per annum. I tried to keep the members to the point, but was distracted by the sudden appearance, in all corners of the church, of people who had n’t been ‘ asked to the party.’ There was Brian Boru, Tony Lumpkin, Finn McCool, Felicia Hemans, Ossian, Mrs. Delany, Sitric of the Silken Beard, St. Columba, Mickey Free, Strongbow, Maria Edgeworth, and the Venerable Bede. Imagine leading a mothers’ meeting with those people in the pews, — it was impossible ! St. Columbkille and the Venerable Bede seemed to know about parochial charges and livings and stipends and glebes, and Maria Edgeworth was rather helpful; but Brian and Sitric glared at each other and brandished their hymn books threateningly, while Ossian refused to sit in the same pew with Mickey Free, who behaved in an odious manner, and interrupted each of the speakers in turn. Incidentally a group of persons huddled together in a far corner rose out of the dim light, and flapping huge wings, flew over my head and out of the window above the altar. This I took to be the Flight of the Earls, and the terror of it awoke me. Whatever my parish duties may be in the future, at least they cannot be any more dreadful and disorderly than the dream.”
“ I don’t know which is more to blame, the seed that I sowed, or the soil on which it fell,” said Salemina, laughing heartily at Francesca’s whimsical nightmares; “ but as I said, this is an anniversary. The famous battle of Clontarf was fought here in Dublin on this very day eight hundred years ago, and Brian Boru routed the Danes in what was the last struggle between Christianity and heathenism. The greatest slaughter took place on the streets along which we drove yesterday, from Ballybough Bridge to the Four Courts. Brian Boru was king of Munster, you remember.” (Salemina always says this for courtesy’s sake.) “ Mailmora, the king of Leinster, had quarreled with him, and joined forces with the Danish leaders against him. Broder and Amlaff, two vikings from the Isle of Man, brought with them a ‘ fleet of two thousand Danmarkians and a thousand men covered with mail from head to foot,’ to meet the Irish, who always fought in tunics. Joyce says that Broder wore a coat of mail that no steel would bite, that he was both tall and strong, and that his black locks were so long that he tucked them under his belt, — there’s a portrait for your gallery, Penelope. Brian’s army was encamped on the Green of Aha-Clee, which is now Phœnix Park, and when he set fire to the Danish districts, the fierce Norsemen within the city could see a blazing, smoking pathway that reached from Dublin to Howth. The quarrel must have been all the more virulent in that Mailmora was Brian’s brother-in-law, and Brian’s daughter was the wife of Sitric of the Silken Beard, Danish king of Dublin.”
“ I refuse to remember their relationships or alliances,” said Francesca. “ They were always intermarrying with their foes in order to gain strength, but it generally seems to have made things worse rather than better ; still I don’t mind hearing what became of Brian after his victory; let us quite finish with him before the eggs come up. I suppose it will be eggs ? ”
“ Broder the Viking rushed upon him in his tent where he was praying, cleft his head from his body, and he is buried in Armagh Cathedral,” said Salemina, closing the book. “ Penelope, do ring again for breakfast, and just to keep us from realizing our hunger read Remember the Glories of Brian the Brave.”
We had brought letters of introduction to a dean, a bishop, and a Rt. Hon. Lord Justice, so there were a few delightful invitations when the morning post came up; not so many as there might have been, perhaps, had not the Irish capital been in a state of complete dementia over the presence of the greatest Queen in the world. Privately, I think that those nations in the habit of having queens at all should have four, like the queens in a pack of cards ; then they could manage to give all their colonies and dependencies a frequent sight of royalty, and prevent much excitement and heart-burning.
It was worth something to be one of the lunatic populace when the little lady in black, with her parasol bordered in silver shamrocks, drove along the gayly decorated streets, for the Irish, it seems to me, desire nothing better than to be loyal, if any persons to whom they can be loyal are presented to them.
“ Irish disaffection is, after all, but skin-deep,” said our friend the dean ; “ it is a cutaneous malady, produced by external irritants. Below the surface there is a deep spring of personal loyalty, which needs only a touch like that of the prophet’s wand to enable it to gush forth in healing floods.”
It was small use for the parliamentary misrepresentatives to advise treating Victoria of the Good Deeds with the courtesy due to a foreign sovereign visiting the country. Under the miles of flags she drove, red, white, and blue, tossing themselves in the sweet spring air, and up from the warm hearts of the surging masses of people, men and women alike, Crimean soldiers and old crones in rags, gentry and peasants, went a greeting I never before heard given to any sovereign, for it was a sigh of infinite content that trembled on the lips and then broke into a deep sob. The first cheers were faint and broken, and the emotion that quivered on every face and the tears that gleamed in a thousand eyes made it the most touching spectacle in the world. “Foreign sovereign, indeed ! ” She was the Queen of Ireland, and the nation of courtiers and hero worshipers was at her feet. There was the history of five hundred years in that greeting, and to me it spoke volumes.
Plenty of people there were in the crowd, too, who were heartily “ agin the government; ” but Daniel O’Connell is not the only Irishman who could combine a detestation of the Imperial Parliament with a passionate loyalty to the sovereign.
There was a woman near us who “ remimbered the last time Her Noble Highness come, thirty-nine years back, — glory be to God, thim was the times ! ” — and who kept ejaculating, “ She’s the best woman in the wurrld, bar none, and the most varchous faymale ! ” As her husband made no reply, she was obliged in her excitement to thump him with her umbrella and repeat, “ The most varchous faymale, do you hear ? ” At which he retorted, 舠 Have conduct, woman ; sure I’ve nothin’ agin it.”
“ Look at the size of her now,” she went on, “ sittin’ in that grand carriage, no bigger than me own Kitty, and always in the black, the darlin’. Look at her, a widdy woman, raring that large and heavy family of children ; and how well she’s married off her daughters (more luck to her!), though to be sure they must have been well fortuned! Who’s the iligant sojers in the silver stays, Thady? Is it the Life Guards you ’re callin’ thim ? They do be sayin’ she’s come over because she’s plazed with seein’ estated gintlemen lave iverything and go out and be shot by thim bloody Boers, bad scran to thim ! Sure if I had the sons, sorra a wan but I’d lave go ! ”
Here the band played Come back to Erin, and the scene was indescribable. Nothing could have induced me to witness it had I realized what it was to be, for I wept at Holyrood when I heard the plaintive strains of Bonnie Charlie’s now Awa floating up to the Gallery of Kings from the palace courtyard, and I did not wish Francesca to see me shedding national, political, and historical tears so soon again. Francesca herself is so ardent a republican that she weeps only for presidents and cabinet officers. For my part, although I am thoroughly loyal, I cannot become sufficiently attached to a president in four years to shed tears when I see him driving at the head of a procession.
Give yon me word, give you me word,
Every girl wid a turn o’ the head
Just like a bird, just like a bird;
And the lashes so thick round their beautiful eyes
Shinin’ to tell you it’s fair time o’ day wid them,
Back in me heart wid a kind of surprise,
I think how the Irish girls has the way wid them! ”
Mrs. Delany, writing from Dublin in 1731, says: “ As for the generality of people that I meet with here, they are much the same as in England — a mixture of good and bad. All that I have met with behave themselves very decently according to their rank ; now and then an oddity breaks out, but never so extraordinary but that I can match it in England. There is a heartiness among them that is more like Cornwall than any I have known, and great sociableness.”
Mrs. Delany, friend of duchesses and queens, gives most amusing and most charming descriptions of the society in the Ireland of her day, descriptions which are confirmed by contemporary writers. The ladies, who scarcely ever appeared on foot in the streets, were famous for their grace in dancing, as the men were for their skill in swimming. The hospitality of the upper classes was profuse, and by no means lacking in brilliancy or in grace. The humorous and satirical poetry found in the fugitive literature of the period shows conclusively that there were plenty of bright spirits and keen wits at the banquets, routs, and balls. The curse of absenteeism was little felt in Dublin where the Parliament secured the presence of most of the aristocracy and of much of the talent of the country, and during the residence of the viceroy there was the influence of the court to contribute to the sparkling character of Dublin society.
How they managed to sparkle when discussing some of the heavy dinner menus of the time I cannot think. Here is one of the Dean of Down’s bills of fare: —
Boyled leg of mutton
Roast loin of veal
Creamed apple tart
Fricassée of eggs
No dessert to be had.
Although there is no mention of beverages we may be sure that this array of viands was not eaten dry, but was washed down with a plentiful variety of wines and liquors.
The hosts that numbered among their dinner guests Sheridan or Lysaght or Mangan, Lever, Steele, or Sterne, Curran or Lover, Father Prout or Dean Swift, had as great a feast of wit and repartee as one will be apt soon to hear again ; although it must have been Lever or Lover who furnished the cream of Irish humor, and Father Prout and Swift the curds.
If you are fortunate enough to be bidden to the right houses in Ireland today, you will have as much good talk as you are likely to hear in any other city in this degenerate age, which has mostly forgotten how to converse in learning to chat; and any one who goes to the Spring Show at Ball’s Bridge, or to the Punchestown or Leopardstown races, or to the Dublin horse show, will have to confess that the Irishwomen can dispute the palm with any nation. Their charm is made up of beautiful eyes and lashes, lustre of hair, poise of head, shapeliness of form, vivacity and coquetry; and there is a matchless grace in the way they wear the “ whatever,” be it the chiffons of the fashionable dame, or the shawl of the country colleen, who can draw the two corners of that faded article of apparel shyly over her lips and look out from under it with a pair of luminous gray eyes in a manner that is fairly “ disthractin’.”
Yesterday was a red-letter day, for I dined in the evening at Dublin Castle, and Francesca was bidden to the Throne Room dance that followed the dinner. It was a brilliant scene when the assembled guests awaited their host and hostess, the shaded lights bringing out the satins and velvets, pearls and diamonds, uniforms, orders, and medals. Suddenly the hum of voices ceased, a line was formed, and we bent low as their Excellencies, preceded by the state steward and followed by the comptroller of the household, passed through the rooms to St. Patrick’s Hall. As my escort was a certain brilliant lord justice, and as the wittiest dean in Leinster was my other neighbor, I almost forgot to eat, in my pleasure and excitement. I told the dean that we had chosen Scottish ancestors before going to our first great dinner in Edinburgh, feeling that we should be more in sympathy with the festivities and more acceptable to our hostess, but that I had forgotten to provide myself for this occasion, my first function in Dublin ; whereupon the good dean promptly remembered that there was a Penelope O’Connor, daughter of the King of Connaught. I could not quite give up Tam o’ the Cowgate (Thomas Hamilton) or Jenny Geddes of fauld-stule fame, also a Hamilton, but I added the King of Connaught to the list of my chosen forbears with much delight, in spite of the polite protests of the Rev. Father O’Hogan who sat opposite, and who remarked that
To ancestry flies,
But woman’s bright story
Is told in her eyes.
While the monarch but traces
Through mortal his line,
Beauty born of the Graces
Ranks next to divine.”
I asked the Reverend Father if he were descended from Galloping O’Hogan, who helped Patrick Sarsfield to spike the guns of the Williamites at Limerick.
“ By me sowl, ma’am, it’s not discinded at all I am ; I am one o’ the common sort, jist,” he answered, broadening his brogue to make me smile. A delightful man he was, exactly such an one as might have sprung full grown from a Lever novel; one who could talk equally well with his flock about pigs or penances, purgatory or potatoes, and quote Tom Moore and Lover when occasion demanded.
Story after story fell from his genial lips, and at last he said apologetically, “ One more, and I have done,” when a pretty woman, sitting near him, interpolated slyly, ‘ We might say to you, your reverence, what the old woman said to the eloquent priest who finished his sermon with ‘ One word, and I have done.’ ”
“An’ what is that, ma’am?” asked Father O’Hogan.
“ Och! me darlin’ pracher, may ye niver be done ! ”
We all agreed that we should like to reconstruct the scene for a moment and look at a drawing-room of two hundred years ago, when the Lady Lieutenant after the minuets at eleven o’clock went to her basset table, while her pages attended behind her chair, and when on ball nights the ladies scrambled for sweetmeats on the dancing-floor. As to their probable toilettes one could not give purer pleasure than by quoting Mrs. Delany’s description of one of them : —
“ The Duchess’s dress was of white satin embroidered, the bottom of the petticoat, brown hills covered with all sorts of weeds, and every breadth had an old stump of a tree, that ran up almost to the top of the petticoat, broken and ragged, and worked with brown chenille, round which twined nasturtiums, ivy, honeysuckles, periwinkles, and all sorts of running flowers, which spread and covered the petticoat. . . . The robings and facings were little green banks covered with all sorts of weeds, and the sleeves and the rest of the gown loose twining branches of the same sort as those on the petticoat. Many of the leaves were finished with gold, and part of the stumps of the trees looked like the gilding of the sun. I never saw a piece of work so prettily fancied.”
She adds a few other details for the instruction of her sister Anne : —
“ Heads are variously adorned ; pompons with some accompaniment of feathers, ribbons, or flowers ; lappets in all sorts of curli-murlis ; long hoods are worn close under the chin ; the earrings go round the neck (!), and tie with bows and ends behind. Night - gowns are worn without hoops.”
Kate Douglas Wiggin.
(To be continued.)