Abbildungen der Seite

ship to each other); she could not divest herself of the belief that there was a secret reason for it, that a something was to be gained, and she felt as a person will who knows that his neighbour is cheating him, and yet has no remedy, for he cannot point out any single cause for suspicion which would be satisfactory to a third person, though in his own mind there is a host, any one being amply sufficient to condemn.

Her manners, therefore, were tinged by the conflict of her thoughts ; there was now and then a sort of hesitation and restraint which said plainly, “I doubt your good intentions.” Rosamund saw this at once, but it only made her more determinedly bent upon going through the task she had imposed upon herself; and she seemed so earnest in her good nature, that Nora called herself at least twenty times that day the most ungrateful of human beings.

“Look here, Nora," said Mrs. Stevenson, “I bought these books the other day, and I give them to you now; or, if you let them stay till I read them, I shall send the parcel to Urrisbeg.'

"Oh, I am so much obliged to you,” replied Nora ; " keep them, of course, until you have them read, and I shall be very glad to see their dear faces afterwards."

“I'll not detain them long-you know I read quickly ; and I shall take care nothing happens to them.”

Nora repeated her thanks, but she had a misgiving on her mind concerning the books ever reaching her; for she remembered a certain accordion given her by Mrs. Stevenson, which, though she had actually had in her own possession, was yet sent for to Urrisbeg under some pretence, and never found its way back again. Several times Nora had dropped hints on the subject, but they were unnoticed ; and once she had the hardihood to intimate a desire for its restitution, but Mrs. Stevenson evaded the conversation so skilfully that she felt it was useless to say more. Nora was, of course, much disappointed at the time, and her vexation was afterwards increased considerably by seeing her own accordion in the hands of another, wealthy enough to have purchased a dozen for herself had she liked. No wonder Nora had her doubts about the books.

The weather was delightful. The “Donegal Summer" was just beginning. August had nearly verged into September, and the goldengrained valleys were deepening in beauty, and the dark crimson heath of the glorious mountains was growing darker, and the shadow of the first step of Autumn was falling upon the woods. This is the tourist's “palmy time,” and numerous are the pleasure-parties now enlivening the scene. On one side of Lough Swilly pic-nics are constantly forming from the ruins of that ancient temple of the Sun upon Greenan Hill, the era of whose foundation is lost in the mist of antiquity, to the romantic Bay of Mulroy, in the wilds of Fanet ; even the cliff of Ards, and Horn-Head, which last lifts its majestic brow full 829 feet above the ocean, are not free from the daring steps of the wonder-seeking multitude. On the other side the merry laugh rings through the ruins of Aileach. Delicate feet are climbing the rugged gap of Mamore; curious eyes are gazing into the holy-well of Malin ; and busy hands are seeking those beautiful pebbles found on the dangerous shelving beach, not far from the “Pillar of Malin,” the most northern point of Ireland.

Mrs. Stevenson determined to follow the general example, and planned an excursion to the Glenalla mountains ; a few friends were invited to accompany them, and full of the determination to enjoy themselves, the party embarked for the opposite coast. 'Twas a lovely day, with just enough of air to ripple the surface of the otherwise slumbering sea, and render the aid of oars unnecessary. Shoals of Medusæ were basking in the sun

“ Some in huge masses, some that you may bring

In the small compass of a lady's ring ;
Figured by hand divine-there's not a gem
Wrought by man's art to be compared to them ;
Soft, brilliant, tender, through the wave they glow."

Nora repeated to herself these lines as the boat glided through the living crowds, and she looked at their infinite variety of size, and the exquisite beauty displayed in the painting of the smaller kinds. Flocks of puffins, undismayed by the approach of the little bark, were diving and feeding their young. Here and there the wing of the seagull glanced like silver in the sunbeams, and as they drew near the opposite coast, whole clans of sea-birds and wild pigeons looked down upon them from their resting places on the ledges of the almost inaccessible cliffs ; or some, more timid than their neighbours, terrified by the shouts of the boatmen, flew for refuge, with loud cries, to the clefts of the precipices, or found a welcome shelter in some of the many caves approachable only by water, whose roofs are adorned with stalactites, and festooned in some places with plants which love coolness and shade. The sea in the vicinity of the caves was of an emerald green, and though of great depth, yet so clear, that the sandy bottom was plainly discernible, and a crab was now and then seen issuing from amid the delicate rose-pink leaves of the beautiful spotted Nitophyllum, and hurrying off upon some business which apparently required great dispatch; or else walking leisurely along as if meditating a visit to his neighbour.

The boat anchored in one of the many bays indenting this coast, and the party having landed in safety, it was agreed that those who, like Mrs. Stevenson, preferred level ground, should stroll along the beach, or inspect the Fort at no great distance, while the rest climbed the mountain, and made acquaintance with a certain lake at its opposite side. Nora was one of the latter, and with a light heart and step she began the ascent. Much laughter was elicited by the stumbles of those not accustomed to the dry slippery grass, or the tall heather ; full many a slide was taken never intended by the climbers, and many a shout was given at the false step of a companion, from the very person whose turn was next to come. Nora was among the first to reach the summit, and throw herself amid the “brown braken;" but it was not merely to rest after the toilsome ascent, though even an experienced mountaineer might be pardoned for that, nor yet to laugh at her leisure over the mishaps of her less active or less fortunate friends, whose labour was but half over. She had a poet's heart and a poet's eye for the beauties of nature, and the magnificent panorama spread out before her

filled her with rapture. Like all who feel deeply, she felt in silence, and her senses became so enthralled by the enchantment of the scene she was surveying, that even had she not placed herself apart from the crowd, their noisy admiration would have possessed no power sufficient to disturb her.

Perhaps few of my readers ever heard of, and still fewer have visited, the country to which my tale introduces them ; but if there are any of the latter, they will acknowledge that the view upon which Nora gazed had every combination of beauty and grandeur the most fastidious eye could desire. Mountains of various shapes, some with their little loughs like cups of crystal, lying at their feet; old castles, some half hidden by the umbrageous woods, others standing out in bold relief on the bare crest of a lofty hill ; a distant city with its "towers and temples,” its ramparts and memorial pillars; whitewashed villages with their neat churches dotting the banks of two noble lakes, with their attendant rivers both emptying their waters into the ocean ; vessels passing in the distance, of all sizes, from the stately American merchantman to the taut little revenue cruiser, and boats of almost every description, from the gay pleasure bark, with its snowy sails and dancing penons, to the humble punt of the solitary fisher.

Until lately the county of Donegal has been a sort of “ terra incognita.” Even at the present day, the tourist passes through its principal towns and sees whatever is thought worthy of notice in their immediate vicinity ; but many a wild glen and rugged mountain-pass, many a holy well and ancient castle, whose time-worn battlements, clothed in ivy, and rich in historic recollections, are never seen-nay more, are never even heard of. It is with them, as with the quiet and lovely characters of the earth, who pursue their noiseless course unnoticed, because that course is noiseless. For among the great bulk of mankind but very few are gifted with just perceptions of the truly beautiful in animate or inanimate nature. Most persons are content to take things just as they find them; to jog on the same beaten path was trodden by those before them; to gaze upon the same scenes and converse with the same persons others have looked at and spoken to, without their ever dreaming that the mountain range at whose feet they are travelling may conceal a vale of exquisite loveliness, well worth the toil of reaching; or the cool exterior and everyday conversation of their companion hide streams of the richest thought, flowing from a mind which pours forth its treasures for those only who have the skill to seek, and the understanding to appreciate them.

But I confess I would not have it otherwise as regards the people of Donegal, for it is a question how far the influx of visitors would benefit them, or whether the introduction of new manners and customs, of, it may be, more enlightened ideas, could increase their happiness, or be a just equivalent for the loss of their present simplicity and honest worth.

One of the party, in possession of a fishing-rod, had hurried on to try his fortune at the lakes--the rest followed more leisurely. The geologist and the botanist might spend days in profitable examination and enjoyment of their tastes in this neighbourhood; but as neither were present, Nora and her companions crossed the level top of the mountain, and paused a while to look around them ere they attempted the almost perpendicular descent. Beneath them was a little amphitheatre of hills enclosing two tiny lakes, each something more than a quarter of a mile in circumference, and divided by a narrow tongue of land. Their margin was barely broad enough for three people to walk abreast; and fresh, and green, and beautiful it looked, notwithstanding the hot weather; and well it might, for, saving a couple of hours in the day, when the meridian sun glared down upon it, some part of it was always in shade.

“Look to the right !” cried one of the gentlemen, “there is a still in full work; if any person wishes to taste the real mountain-dew, he may have it in perfection now.”

All eyes were turned to the spot indicated, but no one could see anyting except a very faint grey smoke issuing apparently from a heap of weeds placed on a slant of the hill as if to be burned for manure.

“Is that a still ?” exclaimed Rosamund Brooks in amazement. “Why we passed many such fires to-day, and were they all burning on the same account ?"

“Oh no, they were not still fires," replied the first speaker, Mr. O'Donnel, to whom every spot of ground for miles around had been familiar from his childhood. "They were lighted by the herd-boys to roast their potatoes. But see, there is a man coming out of the hut.”

“I cannot discern a hut of any description,” replied Rosamund; “I see nothing but heather and weeds."

Mr. O'Donnel smiled as he said, “ If you are not afraid, let us descend and prove who is right; for unless I mistake, that man is an old acquaintance of mine, by name Con O'Dogherty, a knowing hand at making poteen. Many a droll story he has told me of his escapes from the Revenue. But unless you can speak Irish, you need not attempt a conversation with any idea of receiving pleasure or instruction (for he knows only a few of the commonest English words), though, could you talk to him in his own language, you would receive both; for Con possesses an inexhaustible fund of anecdote, and is full of the traditions of the country."

“ You make me quite impatient to see him nearer,” said Rosamund.

“ There's nothing striking in his appearance, I assure you ; indeed he is quite an ordinary looking man, and any person unacquainted with him would suppose him very dull, and quite different from the entertaining fellow he is in reality. But we are losing time; there's a long walk before us if we intend to skirt the mountain instead of returning by the way we came, so pray let us proceed. And, ladies, keep a good look out," "continued Mr. O'Donnel, smiling, "and take firm hold of the heather, for I am sorry to say that, from the nature of the ground, we of the rougher sex' can give very little assistance.”

“I declare,” exclaimed Rosamund, “I don't like the appearance of the mountain at all; it looks so steep, I'm quite afraid to venture down.”

“ It seems to me much as usual, so I shall make the attempt,” observed Miss Blenkinsop, who always liked to push herself forward, and who, with praiseworthy carefulness, had tucked up her dress preparatory to putting her resolutions into practice. Others followed her example, and at length all, with the exception of Rosamund, were on the move. She still stood irresolute, until O'Donnel, whose attention had been attracted elsewhere, called out

“ I know Miss Rosamund you don't require help; you ought to be as good a mountaineer as myself.”

“Does it not look very steep to-day?"

“ To me it appears much as usual ; I never see any difference except in wet weather." And Mr. O'Donnell offered his hand to Mrs. Montague, an English lady, who was paying her first visit to Ireland. She gladly accepted it, for having come from one of the fflattest counties of her native land, this sort of travelling was new to her. Rosamund Brooks could scarcely conceal her vexation. For a length of time she had been doing all in her power to flatter Mr. O'Donnell, who was a middle-aged man, of good property, into a regard for her; she had even begun to fancy herself successful, but this was the mere whisperings of vanity ; he had too much penetration to be deceived by the kindness of Mrs. Stevenson, and too much discrimination of character to be ignorant of Rosamund's unloveable one. Any familiarities he indulged in, were those of an old acquaintance, and every one but herself could see that all attempts in that quarter must end in a total failure.

Hiding her chagrin as well as she could, Rosamund followed the general example, and after great difficulty to some of the party, they reached the level ground at last. Con O'Dogherty (for it was he) approached to welcome them to his territories, and a warm greeting passed between him and Mr. O'Donnell, after which the latter said " I suppose, Con, you are doing a little business for yourself in the old trade ?”

"The very same, your honour,” he replied, with a broad grin. “Are you not afraid ?" asked one of the party.

Con's grins grew broader as he replied in imperfect English-"Sure fwhat would I be afraid of ?—the boys aren't on the mountain for nothin'." Then turning to O'Donnell, he continued in Irish-"A pretty fright I got a while ago from that gentleman who's fishing yonder."

“How was that ?" asked O'Donnell in the same language.

“Why, I came out of the house, and, chancing to look up at the hill, I saw a figure leaning on what I took for a gun, staring down at me. Sure enough I got a start. Thinking a guager was in it, I had just settled to throw the still into the lough, when he shouted, and waved his handkerchief. So I knew there was nothing to dread, and I waited quietly till he came down.”

“I wish he would speak so that we could understand him," exclaimed Miss Blenkinsop ; "he might as well be talking Chinese." Or Greek,” added Rosamund Brooks, who piqued herself upon

her knowledge of tongues ; "or German, or Italian."

Or, in fact, any language but your own,” said Mr. O'Donnel, laughingly. “Shall I tell him so ?” * Indeed you may, if

you like." Con looked a little indignant at first; but he said quietly, “Ask the lady what is the use of her French, and Spanish, and German to her now, in the heart of her own mountains, and in the middle of her own people? Would any of them bring her a cup of water on a hot

The two ladies only replied “Pshaw!" to this, and turned away, while Con looked after them with a droll expression of countenance.

“Ah, then! doesn't the quality give themselves great trouble with


« ZurückWeiter »