Penelope's Irish Experiences
But where we ’ll be whin we git there it’s never a know I ’ll know.’ ”
WE had planned to go direct from Dublin to Valencia Island, where there is not, I am told, “ one dhry step ’twixt your fut an’ the States ; ” but we thought it too tiring a journey for Benella, and arranged for a little visit to Cork first. We nearly missed the train owing to the late arrival of Salemina at the Kingsbridge station. She had been buying malted milk, Mellin’s Food, an alcohol lamp, a tin cup, and getting all the doctor’s prescriptions renewed.
We intended, too, to go second or third class now and then, in order to study the humors of the natives, but of course we went “ first ” on this occasion on account of Benella. I told her that we could not follow British usage and call her by her surname. Dusenberry was too long and too — well, too extraordinary for daily use abroad.
“ P’r’aps it is,” she assented meekly ; “ and still, Mis’ Beresford, when a man’s name is Dusenberry, you can’t hardly blame him for wanting his child to be called by it, can you ? ”
This was incontrovertible, and I asked her middle name. It was Frances, and that was too like Francesca.
“You don’t like the sound o’ Benella ? ” she inquired. “ I’ve always set great store by my name, it is so unlikely. My father’s name was Benjamin and my mother’s Ella, and mine is made from both of ’em ; but you can call me any kind of a name you please, after what you’ve done for me,” and she closed her eyes patiently.
Call me Lalage or Doris,
Only, only call me thine,”
I thought, in a poetic parenthesis.
Benella looks frail and yet hardy. She has an unusual and perhaps unnecessary amount of imagination for her station, some native common sense, but limited experience ; she is somewhat vague and inconsistent in her theories of life, but I am sure there is vitality, and energy too, in her composition, although it has been temporarily drowned in the Atlantic Ocean. If she were a clock, I should think that some experimenter had taken out her original works, and substituted others to see how they would run. The clock has a New England case and strikes with a New England tone, but the works do not match it altogether. Of course I know that one does not ordinarily engage a lady’s maid because of these piquant peculiarities ; but in our case the circumstances were extraordinary. I have explained them fully to Himself in my letters, and Francesca too has written pages of illuminating detail to Ronald Macdonald.
The similarity in the minds of men must sometimes come across them with a shock, unless indeed it appeals to their sense of humor. Himself in America, and the Rev. Mr. Macdonald in the north of Scotland, both answered, in course of time, that a lady’s maid should be engaged because she is a lady’s maid, and for no other reason.
Was ever anything duller than this, more conventional, more commonplace or didactic, less imaginative ? Himself added, “You are a romantic idiot, and I love you more than tongue can tell.” Francesca did not say what Ronald added ; probably a part of this same sentence (owing to the aforesaid similarity of men’s minds), reserving the rest for the frank intimacy of the connubial state.
Copyright, 1900, by KATE DOUGLAS RIGGS.
Everything looked beautiful in the uncertain glory of the April day. The thistledown clouds opened now and then to shake out a delicate, brilliant little shower, then ceased in a trice, and the sun smiled through the light veil of rain, turning every falling drop to a jewel. It was as if the fairies were busy at aerial watering pots, without any more serious purpose than to amuse themselves and make the earth beautiful; and we realized that Irish rain is as warm as an Irish welcome, and soft as an Irish smile.
Everything was bursting into new life, everything but the primroses, and their glory was departing. The yellow carpet seemed as bright as ever on the sunny hedgerow banks and on the fringe of the woods, but when we plucked some at a wayside station we saw that they were just past their golden prime. We found great clumps of pale delicately scented bog violets in a damp marshy spot, and brought them in to Salemina, who was not in her usual spirits; in fact, seemed distinctly anxious.
She was enchanted with the changeful charm of the landscape, and found Mrs. Delany’s Memoirs a book after her own heart, but ever and anon her eyes rested on Benella’s pale face. Nothing could have been more doggedly conscientious and assiduous than our attentions to the Derelict. She had beef juice at Kildare, malted milk at Ballybrophy, tea at Dundrum ; nevertheless, as we approached Limerick Junction we were obliged to hold a consultation. Salemina wished to alight from the train at the next station, take a three or four hours’ rest, then jog on to any comfortable place for the night, and to Cork in the morning.
“ I shall feel much more comfortable,” she said, “ if you go on and amuse yourselves as you like, leaving Benella to me for a day, or even for two or three days. I can’t help feeling that the chief fault, or at least the chief responsibility, is mine. If I had n’t been born in Salem, or had n’t had the word painted on my trunk in such red letters, she would n’t have fainted on it, and I need n’t have saved her life. It is too late to turn back now; it is saved, or partly saved, and I must persevere in saving it, at least until I find that it’s not worth saving.”
“ Poor darling,” said Francesca sympathizingly. “ I ’ll look in Murray and find a nice interesting place. You can put Benella to bed in the Southern Hotel at Limerick Junction, and perhaps you can then drive within sight of the Round Tower of Cashel. Then you can take up the afternoon train and go to — let me see — how would you like Buttevant ? (Boutez en avant, you know, the ‘ Push forward ’ motto of the Barrymores.) It’s delightful, Penelope,” she continued ; “ we’d better get off, too. It is a garrison town, and there is a military hotel. Then in the vicinity is Kilcolman, where Spenser wrote the Faerie Queene : so there is the beginning of your literary pilgrimage the very first day, without any plotting or planning. The little river Aubeg, which flows by Kilcolman Castle, Spenser called the Mulla, and referred to it as ‘ Mulla mine, whose waves I whilom taught to weep.’ That, by the way, is no more than our Jane Grieve could have done for the rivers of Scotland. What do you say ? ”
I thought most favorably of Buttevant, but on prudently inquiring the guard’s opinion, he said it was not a comfortable place for an invalid lady, and that Mallow was much more the thing. At Limerick Junction, then, we all alighted, and in the ten minutes’ wait saw Benella escorted up the hotel stairway by a sympathetic head waiter.
Detached from Salemina’s fostering care and prudent espionage, separated, above all, from the depressing Miss Dusenberry, we planned every conceivable folly in the way of guidebook expeditions. The exhilarating sense of being married, and therefore properly equipped to undertake any sort of excursion with perfect propriety, gave added zest to the affair in my eyes. Sleeping at Cork in an Imperial Hotel was far too usual a proceeding, — we scorned it. As the very apex of boldness and reckless defiance of common sense, we let our heavy luggage go on to the capital of Munster, and, taking our handbags, entered a railway carriage standing on a side track, and were speedily on our way, — we knew not whither, and cared less. We discovered all too soon that we were going to Waterford, the Star of the Suir, —
“ The gentle Shure, that making way By sweet Clonmell, adorns rich Waterford ; ”
and we were charmed at first sight with its quaint bridge spanning the silvery river. It was only five o’clock, and we walked about the fine old ninth-century town, called by the Cavaliers the Urbs Intacta, because it was the one place in Ireland which successfully resisted the all - conquering Cromwell. Francesca sent a telegram at once to
Came to Waterford instead Cork.
Strongbow landed here 1771, defeating
Danes and Irish. Youghal to-morrow,
pronounced Yawl. Address Green Park,
Miss Murphy’s. How’s Derelict ?
It was absurd, of course, but an absurdity that can be achieved at the cost of eighteen pence is well worth the money.
Nobody but a Baedeker or a Murray could write an account of our doings the next two days. Feeling that we might at any hour be recalled to Benella’s bedside, we took a childlike pleasure in crowding as much as possible into the time. This zeal was responsible for our leaving the Urbs Intacta, and pushing on to pass the night in something smaller and more idyllic.
I dissuaded Francesca from seeking a lodging in Ballybricken by informing her that it was the heart of the bacon industry, and the home of the best known body of pig-buyers in Ireland; but her mind was fixed upon Kills and Bailies. On asking our jarvey the meaning of Bally as a prefix, he answered reflectively : “ I don’t think there’s annything onderhanded in the manin’, melady; I think it means bally jist.”
The name of the place where we did go shall never be divulged, lest a curious public follow in our footsteps ; and if perchance it have not our youth, vigor, and appetite for adventure, it might die there in the principal hotel, unwept, unhonored, and unsung. The house is said to be three hundred and seventy-five years old, but we are convinced that this is a wicked understatement of its antiquity. It must have been built since the Deluge, else it would at least have had one general spring cleaning in the course of its existence. Cromwell had been there, too, and in the confusion of his departure they must have forgotten to sweep under the beds. We entered our rooms at ten in the evening, having dismissed our car, knowing well that there was no other place to stop the night. We gave the jarvey twice his fare to avoid altercation, “ but divil a penny less would he take,” although it was he who had recommended the place as a cosy hotel. “ It looks like a small little house, melady, but ’t is large inside, and it has a power o’ beds in it.” We each generously insisted on taking the dirtiest bedroom (they had both been last occupied by the Cromwellian soldiers, we agreed), but relinquished the idea, because the more we compared them, the more impossible it was to decide which was the dirtiest.
To lengthen our days,
Is to steal a few hours from the nisrht, my
dear ! ”
At midnight I heard a faint tap at my door, and Francesca walked in, her eyes wide and bright, her cheeks flushed, her long dark braid of hair hanging over her black traveling cloak. I laughed as I saw her, she looked so like Sir Patrick Spens in the ballad play at Pettybaw, — a memorable occasion when Ronald Macdonald caught her acting that tragic rôle in his ministerial gown, the very day that Himself came from Paris, to marry me in Pettybaw, dear little Pettybaw !
“ I came in to find out if your bed is as bad as mine, but I see you have not slept in it,” she whispered.
“ I was just coming in to see if yours could be any worse,” I replied. “ Do you mean to say that you have tried it, courageous girl ? I blew out my candle, and then, after an interval in which to forget, sat down on the outside as a preliminary; but the moon rose just then, and I could get no further.”
I had not unpacked my bag. I had simply slipped on my mackintosh, selected a wooden chair, and, putting a Cromwellian towel over it, seated myself shudderingly on it and put my feet on the rounds. Francesca followed my example, and we passed the night in reading Celtic romances to each other. We could see the faint outline of sweet Slievenamann from our windows, — the mountain of the fair women of Feimheann, celebrated as the hunting ground of the Finnian chiefs.
Followed the chase in Sliabh-na-mban-Feimheann,
With three thousand Finnian chiefs
Ere the sun looked out from his circle.”
In the Finnian legend, the great Finn McCool, when much puzzled in the choice of a wife, seated himself on its summit. At last he decided to make himself a prize in a competition of all the fair women in Ireland. They should start at the foot of the mountain, and the one who first reached the summit should be the great Finn’s bride. It was Grainne Oge, the Gallic Helen, and daughter of Cormac, the king of Ireland, who won the chieftain, “ being fleetest of foot and longest of wind.”
We almost forgot our discomforts in this enthralling story, and slept on each other’s nice clean shoulders a little, just before the dawn. And such a dawn! Such infinite softness of air, such dewdrenched verdure! It is a backward spring, they say, but to me the woods are even lovelier than in their summer wealth of foliage, when one can hardly distinguish the beauty of the single tree from that of its neighbors, since the colors are blended in one universal green. Now we see the feathery tassels of the beech bursting out of their brown husks, the russet hues of the young oak leaves, and the countless emerald gleams that “ break from the ruby-budded lime.” The greenest trees are the larch, the horse-chestnut, and the sycamore, three naturalized citizens who apparently still keep to their native fashions, and put out their foliage as they used to do in their own homes. The young alders and the hawthorn hedges are greening, but it will be a fortnight before we can realize the beauty of that snow-white bloom, with its bittersweet fragrance. The cuckoo-flower came this year before instead of after the bird, they tell us, showing that even Nature, in these days of anarchy and misrule, is capable of taking liberties with her own laws. The last few days of warmth and sunshine have hastened the birds, and as Francesca and I sat at our windows breathing in the sweetness and freshness of the morning, there was a concert of thrushes and blackbirds in the shrubberies. The little birds furnish the chorus or the undertone of song, the hedge sparrows, redbreasts, and chaffinches, but the meistersingers “ call the tune ” and lead the feathered orchestra with clear and certain notes. It is a golden time for the minstrels, for nestbuilding is finished, and the feeding of the young birds a good time yet in the future.
When I was always painting, in those other days before I met Himself, one might think my eyes would have been even keener to see beauty than now, when my brushes are more seldom used ; but it is not so. There is something, deep hidden in my consciousness, that makes all loveliness lovelier, that helps me to interpret it in a different and in a larger sense. I have a feeling that I have been lifted out of the individual and given my true place in the general scheme of the universe, and, in some subtle way that I can hardly explain, I am more nearly related to all things good, beautiful, and true than I was when I was wholly an artist, and therefore less a woman. The bursting of the leaf buds brings me a tender thought of the one dear heart that gives me all its spring; and whenever I see the smile of a child, a generous look, the flash of sympathy in an eye, it makes me warm with swift remembrance of the one I love the best of all, just “ as a lamplight will set a linnet singing for the sun.”
Love is doing the same thing for Francesca; for the smaller feelings merge themselves in the larger ones, as little streams lose themselves in oceans. Whenever we talk quietly together of that strange, new, difficult life that she is going so bravely and so joyously to meet, I know by her expression that Ronald’s noble face, a little shy, a little proud, but altogether adoring, serves her for courage and for inspiration, and she feels that his hand is holding hers across the distance, in a clasp that promises strength.
At five o’clock we longed to ring for hot water, but did not dare. Even at six there was no sound of life in the cosy inn which we have named The Cromwell Arms (“ Mrs. Duddy, Manageress ; Comfort, Cleanliness, Courtesy ; Night Porter; Cycling Shed ”). From seven to half past we read pages and pages of delicious history and legend, and decided to go from Cappoquin to Youghal by steamer, if we could possibly reach the place of departure in time. At half past seven we pulled the bell energetically. Nothing happened, and we pulled again and again, discovering at last that the connection between the bell rope and the bell wire had long since disappeared, though it had been more than once established with bits of twine, fishing line, and shoe laces. Francesca then went across the hall to examine her methods of communication, and presently I heard a welcome tinkle, and another, and another, followed in due season by a cheerful voice saying, “ Don’t desthroy it intirely, ma’am ; I ’ll be coming direckly.” We ordered jugs of hot water, and were told that it would be some time before it could be had, as ladies were not in the habit of calling for it before nine in the morning, and as the damper of the kitchen range was out of order. Did we wish it in a little canteen with whiskey and a bit of lemon peel, or were we afther wantin’ it in a jug ? We replied promptly that it was not the hour for toddy, but the hour for baths, with us, and the decrepit and very sleepy night porter departed to wake the cook and build the fire ; advising me first, in a friendly way, to take the hearth brush that was “ kapin’ the windy up and rap on the wall if I needed annything more.” At eight o’clock we heard the porter’s shuffling step in the hall, followed by a howl and a polite objurgation. A strange dog had passed the night under Francesca’s bed, and the porter was giving him what he called " a good hand and fut downstairs.” He had put down the hot water for this operation, and on taking up the burden again we heard him exclaim : “ Arrah! look at that now! May the divil fly away with the excommunicated ould jug! ” It was past saving, the jug, and leaked so freely that one had to be exceedingly nimble to put to use any of the smoky water in it. “ Thim fools o’ turf do nothing but smoke on me,” apologized the venerable servitor, who then asked “ would we be pleased to order breakquist.” We were wise in our generation, and asked for nothing but bacon, eggs, and tea ; and after a smoky bath and a change of raiment we were seated at our repast in the coffee room, feeling wonderfully fresh and cheerful. By looking directly at each other most of the time, and making experimental journeys from plate to mouth, thus barring out any intimate knowledge of the tablecloth and the waiter’s shirt bosom, we managed to make a breakfast. Francesca is enough to give any one a good appetite. Ronald Macdonald will be a lucky fellow, I think, to begin his day by sitting opposite her; for her eyes shine like those of a child, and one’s gaze lingers fondly on the cool freshness of her cheek. Breakfast over and the bill settled, we speedily shook off as much of the dust of Mrs. Duddy’s hotel as could be shaken off, and departed on the most decrepit side car that ever rolled on two wheels.
“We had better not tell the full particulars of this journey to Salemina,” said Francesca prudently, as we rumbled along ; “ though, oddly enough, if you remember, whenever any one speaks disparagingly of Ireland, she always takes up cudgels in its behalf.”
“ Francesca, now that you are within three or four months of being married, can you manage to keep a secret?”
“Yes,” she whispered eagerly, squeezing my hand and inclining her shoulder cosily to mine. “ Yes, oh yes, and how it would raise my spirits after a sleepless night! ”
“ When Salemina was eighteen she had a romance, and the hero of it was the son of an Irish gentleman, an M. P., who was traveling in America, or living there for a few years, — I can’t remember which. He was nothing more than a lad, less than twenty-one years old, but he was very much in love with Salemina. How far her feelings were involved I never knew, but she felt that she could not promise to marry him. Her mother was an invalid, and her father a delightful, scholarly, autocratic, selfish old gentleman, who ruled his household with a rod of iron. Salemina coddled and nursed them both during all her young life; indeed, little as she realized it, she never had any separate existence or individuality until they both died, when she was thirty-one or two years old.”
“ And what became of the young Irishman ? Was he faithful to his first love, or did he marry ? ”
“ He married, many years afterward, and that was the time I first heard the story. His marriage took place in Dublin, on the very day, I believe, that Salemina’s father was buried; for Fate has the most relentless way of arranging these coincidences. I don’t remember his name, and I don’t know where he lives or what has become of him. I imagine the romance has been dead and buried in rose leaves for years. Salemina never has spoken of it to me, but it would account for her sentimental championship of Ireland.”
Is cal’ de Black-water.”
If you want to fall head over ears in love with Ireland at the very first sight of her charms, take, as we did, the steamer from Cappoquin to Youghal, and float down the vale of the Blackwater. The shores of this Irish Rhine are so lovely that the sail on a sunny day is one of unequaled charm. Behind us the mountains ranged themselves in a mysterious melancholy background ; ahead the river wended its way southward in and out, in and out, through rocky cliffs and wellwooded shores.
The first tributary stream that we met was the little Finisk, on the higher banks of which is Affane House. The lands of Affane are said to have been given by one of the FitzGeralds to Sir Walter Raleigh for a breakfast, and it was here that he planted the first cherry tree in Ireland, bringing it from the Canary Islands to the Isle of Weeping.
Looking back just below here, we saw the tower and cloisters of Mount Melleray, the Trappist monastery. Very beautiful and very lonely looked “the little town of God,” in the shadows of the gloomy hills. We wished we had known the day before how near we were to it, for we could have claimed a night’s lodging at the ladies’ guest house, where all creeds, classes, and nationalities are received with a caed-mille-failte (hundred thousand welcomes), and where any offering for food or shelter is given only at the visitor’s pleasure. The Celtic proverb “ Melodious is the closed mouth ” might be written over the cloisters ; for it is a little village of silence, and only the monks who teach in the schools or who attend visitors are absolved from the vow.
Next came Dromana Castle, where the extraordinary old Countess of Desmond was born, — the wonderful old lady whose supposed one hundred and forty years so astonished posterity. She must have married Thomas, twelfth Earl of Desmond, after 1505, as his first wife is known to have been alive in that year. Raleigh saw her in 1589, and she died in 1604 : so it would seem that she must have been at least one hundred and ten or one hundred and twelve when she met her untimely death, — a death brought about entirely by her own youthful impetuosity and her fondness for athletic sports. Robert Sydney, second Earl of Leicester, makes the following reference to her in his Table-Book, written when he was ambassador at Paris, about 1640 :
“ The old Countess of Desmond was a marryed woman in Edward IV time in England, and lived till towards the end of Queen Elizabeth, so she must needes be neare one hundred and forty yeares old. She had a new sett of teeth not long afore her death, and might have lived much longer had she not mett with a kinde of violent death ; for she would needes climbe a nut-tree to gather nuts ; so falling down she hurt her thigh, which brought a fever, and that fever brought death. This, my cousin Walter Fitzwilliam told me.”
It is true that the aforesaid Walter may have been a better raconteur than historian ; still, local tradition vigorously opposes any lessening of the number of the countess’s years, pinning its faith rather on one Hayman, who says that she presented herself at the English court at the age of one hundred and forty years, to petition for her jointure, which she lost by the attainder of the last earl; and it also prefers to have her fall from the historic cherry tree that Sir Walter planted, rather than from a casual nut tree.
Down the lovely river we went, lazily lying back in the sun, almost the only passengers on the little craft, as it was still far too early for tourists ; down past Villierstown, Cooneen Ferry, Strancally Castle, with its “ Murdering Hole ” made famous by the Lords of Desmond, through the Broads of Clashmore ; then past Temple Michael, an old castle of the Geraldines, which Cromwell battered down for “ dire insolence,” until we steamed slowly into the harbor of Youghal, — and, to use our driver’s expression, there is no more “ onderhanded manin’ ” in Youghal than the town of the Yew Wood, which is much prettier to the eye and sweeter to the ear.
Here we found a letter from Salemina, and expended another eighteen pence in telegraphing to her : —
PEABODY, Coolkilla House, near Mardyke Walk, Cork.
We are under Yew Tree at Myrtle Grove, where Raleigh and Spenser smoked, read manuscript Faerie Queene, and planted first potato. Delighted Benella better. Join you to-morrow. Don’t encourage archæologist.
We had a charming hour at Myrtle Grove House, an unpretentious gabled dwelling, for a time the residence of the ill-fated soldier captain, Sir Walter Raleigh. You remember, perhaps, that he was mayor of Youghal in 1588. After the suppression of the Geraldine rebellion, the vast estates of the Earl of Desmond and those of one hundred and forty of the leading gentlemen of Munster, his adherents, were confiscated, and proclamation was made all through England inviting gentlemen to “ undertake ” the plantation of this rich territory. Estates were offered at two or three pence an acre, and no rent was to be paid for the first five years. Many of these great “ undertakers,” as they were called, were English noblemen who never saw Ireland; but among them were Raleigh and Spenser, who received fortytwo thousand and twelve thousand acres respectively, and in consideration of a large share of the patronage of the crown “ undertook ” to carry the king’s business through Parliament.
Francesca was greatly pleased with this information, culled mostly from Joyce’s Child’s History of Ireland. The volume had been bought in Dublin by Salemina and presented to us as a piece of genial humor, but it became our daily companion.
It was in 1589 that the Shepherd of the Ocean, as Spenser calls him, sailed to England to superintend the publishing of the Faerie Queene : so from what I know of authors’ habits, it is probable that Spenser did read him the poem under the Yew Tree in Myrtle Grove garden. It seems long ago, does n’t it, when the Faerie Queene was a manuscript, tobacco just discovered, the potato a novelty, and the first Irish cherry tree just a wee thing newly transplanted from the Canary Islands? Were our own cherry trees already in America when Columbus discovered us, or did the Pilgrim Fathers bring over “ slips ” or “ grafts,” knowing that they would be needed for George Washington later on, so that he might furnish an untruthful world with a sublime sentiment ? We re-read Salemina’s letter under the Yew Tree: —
COOLKILLA HOUSE, CORK.
MY DEAREST GIRLS, — It seems years instead of days since we parted, and I miss the two madcaps more than I can say. In your absence my life is always so quiet, discreet, dignified, —and yes, I confess it, so monotonous ! I go to none but the best hotels, meet none but the best people, and my timidity and conservatism forever keep me in conventional paths. Dazzled and terrified as I still am when you precipitate adventures upon me, I always find afterwards that I have enjoyed them in spite of my fears. Life without you is like a stenographic report of a dull sermon ; with you it is by turns a dramatic story, a poem, and a romance. Sometimes it is a penny-dreadful, as when you deliberately leave your luggage on an express train going south, enter another standing upon a side track, and embark for an unknown destination. I watched you from an upper window of the Junction hotel, but could not leave Benella to argue with you. When your respective husband and lover have charge of you, you will not be allowed such pranks, I warrant you !
Benella has improved wonderfully in the last twenty-four hours, and I am trying to give her some training for her future duties. We can never forget our native land so long as we have her with us, for she is a perfect specimen of the Puritan spinster, though too young in years, perhaps, for determined celibacy. Do you know, we none of us mentioned wages in our conversations with her ? Fortunately, she seems more alive to the advantages of foreign travel than to the filling of her empty coffers. (By the way, I have written to the purser of the ship that she crossed in, to see if I can recover the sixty or seventy dollars she left behind her.)
I don’t think she will be able to dress hair, or anything of that sort, — save in the way of plain sewing, she is very unskillful with her hands; and she will be of no use as courier, she is so provincial and inexperienced. She has no head for business whatever, and cannot help Francesca with the accounts. She recites to herself again and again, “ Four farthings make one penny, twelve pence make one shilling, twenty shillings make one pound ; ” but when I give her a handful of money and ask her for six shillings and sixpence, five and three, one pound two, or two pound ten, she cannot manage the operation. She is docile, well mannered, grateful, and really likable, but her present philosophy of life is a thing of shreds and patches. She calls it “the science,” as if there were but one ; and she became a convert to its teachings this past winter, while living in the house of a woman lecturer in Salem. She attended to the door, ushered in the members of classes, kept the lecture room in order, and so forth, imbibing by the way various doctrines, or parts of doctrines, which she is not the sort of person to assimilate, but with which she is experimenting; holding, meantime, a grim intuition of their foolishness, or so it seems to me. “The science” made it easier for her to seek her ancestors in a foreign country with only a hundred dollars in her purse ; for the Salem priestess proclaims the glad tidings that all the wealth of the world is ours, if we will but assert our heirship.
Benella believed this more or less until a week’s seasickness undermined all her new convictions of every sort. When she woke in the little bedroom at MacCrossan’s, she says, her heart was cpiite at rest, for she knew that we were the kind of people one could rely on! I mustered courage to say, “ I hope so, and I hope also that we shall be able to rely upon you, Benella! ”
This idea was evidently quite new to her, but she accepted it, and I could see that she turned it over in her mind. You can imagine that this vague philosophy of a Salem woman scientist superimposed on a foundation of orthodoxy makes a curious combination, and one which will only be temporary.
We shall expect you to-morrow evening, and we shall be quite ready to go on to the Lakes of Killarney or wherever you wish. By the way, I met an old acquaintance the morning I arrived here. I went to see Queen’s College; and as I was walking under the archway which has carved upon it, “ Where Finbarr taught let Munster learn,” I saw two gentlemen. They looked like professors, and I asked if I might see the college. They said certainly, and offered to take my card in to some one who would do the honors properly. I passed it to one of them; we looked at each other, and recognition was mutual. He (Dr. La Touche) is giving a course of lectures here on Irish Antiquities. It has been a great privilege to see this city and its environs with so learned a man ; I wish you could have shared it.
Good-by for the moment, as I must see about Benella’s luncheon.
Yours affectionately, S. P.
Encloseth Corke with his divided floode.”
We had seen all that Youghal could offer to the tourist; we were yearning for Salemina; we wanted to hear Benella talk about “ the science ;” we were eager to inspect the archæologist, to see if he “ would do ” for Salemina instead of the canon, or even the minor canon, of the English Church, for whom we had always privately destined her. Accordingly we decided to go by an earlier train, and give our family a pleasant surprise. It was five o’clock in the afternoon when our car trundled across St. Patrick’s Bridge, past Father Mathew’s statue, and within view of the church and bells of Shandon, that sound so grand on the pleasant waters of the river Lee. Away to the west is the two-armed river. Along its banks rise hills, green and well wooded, with beautiful gardens and verdant pastures reaching to the very brink of the shining stream.
It was Saturday afternoon, and I never drove through a livelier, quainter, move easy-going town. The streets were full of people selling various things and plying various trades, and among them we saw many a girl pretty enough to recall Thackeray’s admiration of the Corkagian beauties of his day. There was one in particular, driving a donkey in a straw-colored governess cart, to whose graceful charm we succumbed on the instant. There was an exquisite deluderin’ wildness about her, a vivacity, a length of eyelash with a gleam of Irish gray eye, “ the grayest of all things blue, the bluest of all things gray,” that might well have inspired the English poet to write of her as he did of his own Irish wife; for Spenser, when he was not writing the Faerie Queene or smoking Raleigh’s fragrant weed, wooed and wedded a fair colleen of County Cork.
So fayre a creature in your town before ?
Her goodlie eyes, like sapphyres shining bright;
Her forehead, ivory white ;
Her lips like cherries, charming men to byte.”
Now we turned into the old Mardyke walk, a rus in urbe, an avenue a mile long lined with noble elm trees; forsaken now as a fashionable promenade for the Marina, but still beautiful and still beloved, though frequented chiefly by nursemaids and children. Such babies and such children, of all classes and conditions, — so jolly, smiling, dimpled, curly-headed; such joyous disregard of rags and dirt; such kindness one to the other in the little groups, where a child of ten would be giving an anxious eye to four or five brothers and sisters, and mothering a contented baby in arms as well.
Our driver, though very loquacious, was not quite intelligible. He pronounced the simple phrase “ St. Patrick Street ” in a way to astonish the traveler ; it would seem impossible to crowd as many h’s into three words, and to wrap each in flannel, as he succeeded in doing. He seemed pleased with our admiration of the babies, and said that Irish children did be very fat and strong and hearty ; that they were the very best soldiers the Queen had, God kape her! they could stand anny hardship and anny climate, for they were not brought up soft, like the English. He also said that, fine as all Irish children undoubtedly were, Cork produced the flower of them all, and the finest women and the finest men ; backing his opinion with a Homeric vaunt which Francesca took down on the spot : —
To bate ten more from Yorkshire :
And Munster agin creation.
Wirrasthrue! ’t is a pity we are n’t a nation ! ”
“We must be very near Coolkilla House, by this time,” said Francesca. “ That is n’t Salemina sitting on that bench under the trees, is it ? There is a gentleman with her, and she never wears a wide hat, but it looks like her red umbrella. No, of course it is n’t, for whoever it is belongs to that maid with the two children. Penelope, it is borne in upon me that we shouldn’t have come here unannounced, three hours ahead of the time arranged. Perhaps, whenever we had chosen to come, it would have been too soon. Wouldn’t it be exciting to have to keep out of Salemina’s way, as she has always done for us ? I could n’t endure it; it would make me homesick for Ronald. Go slowly, driver, please.”
Nevertheless, as we drew nearer we saw that it was Salemina; or at least it was seven eighths of her, and one eighth of a new person with whom we were not acquainted. She rose to meet us with an exclamation of astonishment, and after a hasty and affectionate greeting presented Dr. La Touche. He said a few courteous words, and to our relief made no allusions to round towers, duns, raths, or other antiquities, and bade us adieu, saying that he should have the honor of waiting upon us that evening, with our permission.
A person in a neat black dress and little black bonnet with white lawn strings now brought up the two children to say good-by to Salemina. It was the Derelict, Benella Dusenberry, clothed in maid’s apparel, and looking, notwithstanding that disguise, like a New England schoolma’am. She was delighted to see us, scanned every detail of Francesca’s traveling costume with the frankest admiration, and would have allowed us to carry our wraps and umbrellas upstairs if she had not been reminded by Salemina. We had a cosy cup of tea together, and told our various adventures, but Salemina was not especially communicative about hers. Oddly enough, she had met the La Touche children at the hotel in Mallow. They were traveling with a very raw Irish nurse, who had no control over them whatever. They shrieked and kicked when taken to their rooms at night, until Salemina was obliged to speak to them, in order that Benella’s rest should not be disturbed.
“ I felt so sorry for them,” she said, — “ the dear little girl put to bed with tangled hair and unwashed face, the boy in a rumpled, untidy nightgown, the bedclothes in confusion. I did n’t know who they were nor where they came from, but while the nurse was getting her supper I made them comfortable, and Broona went to sleep with my strange hand in hers. Perhaps it was only the warm Irish heart, the easy friendliness of the Irish temperament, but I felt as if the poor little things must be neglected indeed, or they would not have clung to a woman whom they had never seen before.” (This is a mistake; anybody who has the opportunity always clings to Salemina.) “ The next morning they were up at daylight, romping in the hall, stamping, thumping, clattering, with a tin cart on wheels rattling behind them. I know it was not my affair, and I was guilty of unpardonable rudeness, but I called the nurse into my room and spoke to her severely. No, you needn’t smile ; I was severe. ' Will you kindly do your duty and keep the children quiet as they pass through the halls ? ’ I said. ' It is never too soon to teach them to obey the rules of a public place, and to be considerate of older people.’ She seemed awestruck ; but when she found her tongue she stammered,
' Sure, ma’am, I ’ve tould thim three times this day already that when their father comes he ’ll bate thim with a blackthorn stick ! ’
“ Naturally I was horrified. This, I thought, would explain everything: no mother, and an irritable, cruel father.
“ ' Will he really do such a thing ? ’ I asked, feeling as if I must know the truth.
“ ' Sure he will not, ma’am! ’ she answered cheerfully. ' He would n’t lift a feather to thim, not if they murdthered the whole counthryside, ma’am.’
“ Well, they traveled third class to Cork, and we came first, so we did not meet, and I did not ask their surnames; but it seems that they were being brought to their father, whom I met many years ago in America.”
As she did not volunteer any further information, we did not like to ask her where, how many years ago, or under what circumstances. “ Teasing ” of this sort does not appeal to the sophisticated at any time, but it seems unspeakably vulgar to touch on matters of sentiment with a woman of middle age. If she has memories, they are sure to be sad and sacred ones ; if she has not, that perhaps is still sadder. We agreed, however, when the evening was over, that Dr. La Touche was probably the love of her youth, — unless indeed he was simply an old friend, and the degree of Salemina’s attachment had been exaggerated ; something that is very likely to happen in the gossip of a New England town, where they always incline to underestimate the feeling of the man, and overrate that of the woman, in any love affair. “ I guess she’d take him if she could get him,” is the spoken or unspoken attitude of the public in rural or provincial New England.
The professor is grave, but very genial when he fully recalls the fact that he is in company, and has not, like the Trappist monks, taken vows of silence. Francesca behaved beautifully, on the whole, and made no embarrassing speeches, although she was in her gayest humor. Salemina blushed a little when the young sinner dragged into the conversation the remark that, undoubtedly, from the beginning of the sixth century to the end of the eighth Ireland was the university of Europe, just as Greece was in the late days of the Roman Republic, and asked our guest when Ireland ceased to be known as “ Insula sanctorum et doctorum,” the island of saints and scholars.
We had seen her go into Salemina’s bedroom, and knew perfectly well that she had consulted the Peabody notebook, lying open on the desk; but the professor looked as surprised as if he had heard a pretty paroquet quote Gibbon. I don’t like to see grave and reverend scholars stare at pretty paroquets, but I won’t belittle Salemina’s exquisite and peculiar charm by worrying over the matter. Of course Francesca’s heart is fixed upon Ronald Macdonald, but that fact has not altered the glance of her eyes. They no longer say, “ Would n’t you like to fall in love with me, if you dared ? ” but they still have a gleam that means, “ Don’t fall in love with me; it is no use ! ” And of the two, one is about as dangerous as the other, and each has something of “ Fan Fitzgerl’s divilment.”
Arched above for the attack,
Her eyes they dart such azure death on poor
admiring man ;
Masther Cupid, point your arrows,
From this out, agin the sparrows,
For you ’re bested at Love’s archery by young
Of course Himself never fell a prey to Francesca’s fascinations, but then he is not susceptible; you could send him off for a ten-mile drive in the moonlight with Venus herself, and not be in the least anxious.
Dr. La Touche is gray for his years, tall and spare in frame, and there are many lines of anxiety or thought in his forehead, but a wonderful smile occasionally smooths them all out, and gives his face a rare though transient radiance. He looks to me as if he had loved too many books and too few people; as if he had tried vainly to fill his heart and life with antiquities, which of all things, perhaps, are the most bloodless, the least warming and nourishing when taken in excess or as a steady diet. Himself (God bless him! ) shall never have that patient look, if I can help it; but how it will appeal to Salemina ! There are women who are born to be petted and served, and there are those who seem born to serve others. Salemina’s first idea is always to make tangled things smooth (like little Broona’s curly hair) ; to bring sweet and discreet order out of chaos; to prune and graft and water and weed and tend things, until they blossom for very shame under her healing touch. Her mind is catholic, well ordered and broad, — always full of other people’s interests, never of her own ; and her heart always seems to me like some dim, sweet-scented guest chamber in an old New England mansion, cool and clean and quiet, and fragrant of lavender. It has been a lovely, generous life, lived for the most part in the shadow of other people’s wishes and plans and desires. I am an impatient person, I confess, and heaven seems so far away when certain things are in question : the righting of a child’s wrong, or the demolition of a barrier between two hearts ; above all, for certain surgical operations, more or less spiritual, such as removing scales from eyes that refuse to see, and stops from ears too dull to hear. Nobody shall have our Salemina unless he is worthy, but how I should like to see her life enriched and crowned ! How I should enjoy having her dear little overworn second fiddle taken from her by main force, and a beautiful first violin, or even the baton for leading an orchestra, put into her unselfish hands !
And so good-by and “ good luck to ye, Cork, and your pepper-box steeple,” for we leave you to-morrow !
You’d do righter to lave it alone.”
KNOCKARNEY HOUSE, LOUGH LEIN.
We are in the province of Munster, the kingdom of Kerry, the town of Ballyfuchsia, and the house of Mrs. Mullarkey. Knockarney House is not her name for it; I made it myself. Killarney is church of the sloe trees ; and as kill is church, the “ onderhanded manin’” of “ arney ” must be something about sloes; then, since knock means hill, Knockarney should be hill of the sloe trees.
I have not lost the memory of Jenny Geddes and Tam o’ the Cowgate, but Penelope O’Connor, daughter of the king of Connaught, is more frequently present in my dreams. I have by no means forgotten that there was a time when I was not Irish, but for the moment I am of the turf, turfy. Francesca is really as much in love with Ireland as I, only since she has in her heart a certain tender string pulling her all the while to the land of the heather, she naturally avoids comparisons. Salemina, too, endeavors to appear neutral, lest she should betray an inexplicable interest in Dr. La Touche’s country. Benella and I alone are really free to speak the brogue and carry our wild harps slung behind us, like Moore’s minstrel boy. Nothing but the ignorance of her national dishes keeps Benella from entire allegiance to this island ; but she thinks a people who have grown up without a knowledge of doughnuts, baked beaus, and blueberry pie must be lacking in moral foundations. There is nothing extraordinary in all this ; for the Irish, like the Celtic tribes everywhere, have always had a sort of fascinating power over people of other races settling among them, so that they become completely fused with the native population, and grow to be more Irish than the Irish themselves.
We stayed for a few days in the best hotel; it really was quite good, and not a bit Irish. There was a Swiss manager, an English housekeeper, a French head waiter, and a German office clerk. Even Salemina, who loves comforts, saw that we should not be getting what is known as the real thing, under these circumstances, and we came here to this — what shall I call Knockarney House ? It was built originally for a fishing lodge by a sporting gentleman, who brought parties of friends to stop for a week. On his death it passed somehow into Mrs. Mullarkey’s fair hands, and in a fatal moment she determined to open it occasionally to “ paying guests,” who might wish a quiet home far from the madding crowd of the summer tourist. This was exactly what we did want, and here we encamped, on the half-hearted advice of some Irish friends in the town, who knew nothing else more comfortable to recommend.
“With us, small, quiet, or out-of-theway places are never clean ; or if they are, then they are not Irish,” they said. “ You had better see Ireland from the tourist’s point of view for a few years yet, until we have learned the art of living ; but if you are determined to know the humors of the people, cast all thought of comfort behind you.”
So we did, and we afterward thought that this would be a good motto for Mrs. Mullarkey to carve over the door of Knockarney House. (My name for it is adopted more or less by the family, though Francesca persists in dating her letters to Ronald from “ The Rale Thing,” which it undoubtedly is.) We take almost all the rooms in the house, but there are a few other guests. Mrs. Waterford, an old lady of ninety-three, from Mullinavat, is here primarily for her health, and secondarily to dispose of threepenny shares in an antique necklace, which is to be raffled for the benefit of a Roman Catholic chapel. Then we have a fishing gentleman and his bride from Glasgow, and occasional bicyclers who come in for a dinner, a tea, or a lodging. These three comforts of a home are sometimes quite indistinguishable with us : the tea is frequently made up of fragments of dinner, and the beds are always sprinkled with crumbs. Their source is a mystery, unless they fall from the clothing of the chambermaids, who frequently drop hairpins and brooches and buttons between the sheets, and insert whisk brooms and scissors under the blankets.
We have two general servants, who are supposed to do all the work of the house, and who are as amiable and obliging and incapable as they well can be. Oonah generally waits upon the table, and Molly cooks, when she is not engaged with Peter in the vegetable garden or the stable. But whatever happens, Mrs. Mullarkey, as a descendant of one of the Irish kings, is to be looked upon only as an executive officer. Benella ostensibly oversees the care of our rooms, but she is comparatively helpless in such a kingdom of misrule. Why demand clean linen when there is none ; why seek for a towel at midday when it is never ironed until evening; how sweep when a broom is all inadequate to the task ? Salemina’s usual remark, on entering a humble hostelry anywhere, is : “ If the hall is as dirty as this, what must the kitchen be ! Order me two hard-boiled eggs, please ! ”
“ Use your ‘ science,’ Benella,” I say to that discouraged New England maiden, who has never looked at her philosophy from its practical or humorous side. “ If the universe is pure mind and there is no matter, then this dirt is not a real thing, after all. It seems, of course, as if it were thicker under the beds and bureaus than elsewhere, but I suppose our evil thoughts focus themselves there rather than in the centre of the room. Similarly, if the broom handle is broken, deny the dirt away, bring ‘ the science ’ down to these simple details of everyday life, and you will make converts by dozens.”
Under our educational régime, the “ metaphysical ” veneer, badly applied in the first place, and wholly unsuited to the foundation material, is slowly disappearing, and Benella is gradually returning to her normal self. Perhaps nothing has been more useful to her development than the confusion of Knockarney House.
Our windows are supported on decrepit tennis rackets and worn-out hearth brushes; the blinds refuse to go up or down ; the chairs have weak backs or legs ; the door knobs are disassociated from their handles. As for our food, we have coffee made, I should think, of brown beans and licorice, with bacon and eggs, for breakfast; a bit of sloppy chicken, or fish and potato, with custard pudding or stewed rhubarb, for dinner; and a cold supper of — oh! anything that occurs to Molly at the last moment. Nothing ever occurs either to Molly or Oonah at any previous moment, and in that they are merely conforming to the universal habit. Last week, when we were starting for Valencia Island, the Ballyfuchsia station master was absent at a funeral ; meantime the engine had “ gone cold on the engineer,” and the train could not leave till twelve minutes after the usual time. We thought we must have consulted a wrong time-table, and asked confirmation of a man who seemed to have some connection with the railway. Goaded by his ignorance, I exclaimed, “ Is it possible you don’t know the time the trains are going ? ” " Begorra, how should I ? ” he answered. “ Faix, the thrains don’t always be knowin’ themselves ! ”
The starting of the daily " Mail Express ” from Ballyfuchsia is a time of great excitement and confusion, which on some occasions increases to positive panic. The station master, armed with a large dinner bell, stands on the platform, wearing an expression of anxiety ludicrously unsuited to the situation. The supreme moment had really arrived some time before, but he is waiting for Farmer Brodigan with his daughter Kathleen, and the Widdy Sullivan, and a few other local worthies who are a “ thrifle late on him.” Finally they come down the hill, and he paces up and down the station ringing the bell and uttering the warning cry, “ This thrain never shtops ! This thrain never shtops ! This thrain never shtops ! ” — giving one the idea that eternity, instead of Killarney, must be the final destination of the passengers. The clock in the Ballyfuchsia telegraph and post office ceases to go for twenty-four hours at a time, and nobody heeds it, while the postman always has a few moments’ leisure to lay down his knapsack of letters and pitch quoits with the Royal Irish Constabulary. However, punctuality is perhaps an individual virtue more than an exclusively national one. I am not sure that we Americans would not be more agreeable if we spent a month in Ireland every year, and perhaps Ireland would profit from a month in America.
At the Brodigans’ (Mr. Brodigan is a large farmer, and our nearest neighbor) all the clocks are from ten to twenty minutes fast or slow ; and what a peaceful place it is ! The family does n’t care when it has its dinner, and, mirabile dictu, the cook does n’t care either !
“ If you have no exact time to depend upon, how do you catch trains ? ” I asked Mr. Brodigan.
“ Sure that’s not an every-day matter, and why be foostherin’ over it ? But we do, four toimes out o’ five, ma’am ! ” “ How do you like it that fifth time when you miss it ? ”
“ Sure it’s no more throuble to you to miss it the wan time than to hurry five times! A clock is an overrated piece of furniture, to my mind, Mrs. Beresford, ma’am. A man can ate whin he’s hungry, go to bed when he’s sleepy, and get up when he’s slept long enough; for faith and it’s thim clocks he has inside of himself that don’t need anny winding! ”
“ What if you had a business appointment with a man in the town, and missed the train ? ” I persevered.
“ Trains, like misfortunes, never come singly, ma’am. Wherever there’s a station the trains do be dhroppin’ in now and again, and what’s the differ which of thim you take ? ”
“ The man who is waiting for you at the other end of the line may not agree with you,” I suggested.
“ Sure, a man can always amuse himself in a town, ma’am. If it’s your own business you ’re coming on, he knows you ’ll find him ; and if it’s his business, then begorva let him find you ! ” Which quite reminded me of what the Irish elf said to the English elf in Moira O’Neill’s fairy story : " A waste of time ? Why, you’ve come to a country where there’s no such thing as a waste of time. We have no value for time here. There’s lashings of it, more than anybody knows what to do with.”
I suppose there is somewhere a golden mean between this complete oblivion of time and our feverish American hurry. There is a “ tedious haste ” in all peoples who make wheels and pistons and engines, and live within sound of their everlasting buzz and whir and revolution and there is ever a disposition to pause, rest, and consider on the part of that man whose daily tasks are done in serene collaboration with dew and rain and sun. One cannot hurry Mother Nature very much, after all, and one falls into a peaceful habit of mind who has much to do with her. The mottoes of the two nations are as well rendered in the vernacular as by any formal or stilted phrases. In Ireland the spoken or unspoken slogan is, “ Take it asy ; ” in America, " Keep up with the procession ; ” and between them lie all the thousand differences of race, climate, temperament, religion, and government.
I don’t suppose there is a nation on the earth better developed on what might be called the train-catching side than we of the Big Country, and it is well for us that there is born every now and again among us a dreamer who is (blessedly) oblivious of time-tables and market reports ; he has been thinking of the rustling of the corn, not of its price. It is he, if we do not hurry him out of his dream, who will sound the ideal note in our hurly - burly and bustle of affairs. He will never discover a town site, but he will create new worlds for us to live in, and in the course of a century the coming Matthew Arnold will not be minded to call us “ an unimaginative and uninteresting people.”
Kate Douglas Wiggin.
(To be continued.)