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their learning ? Troth it's an admiration to me how much they know that's of no manner of use to them.”
“You forget, Con, that many go abroad, and their knowledge is of service to them then.”
“Ay, but more stay at home,” said Con. “Sure don't I know,” he continued, with a look of unqualified contempt, “they come and sign to me for a drink of water, as if God had given them no tongue to ask for it in their own sweet language. Shame on them !"
“Shame, indeed !” was uttered by Nora, earnestly but involuntarily. She had been an attentive listener during the foregoing conversation, but spoke now for the first time; and Con, turning towards her in delighted surprise, took off his hat with true native politeness, exclaiming, “The blessing of Heaven on you, lady! Ah! if there was more of your sort, it's a different people we'd be.”
One of the party begged O'Donnel to ask, "Was he not afraid some of those present would inform on him ?” He replied, “Not at all ; the real gentry would not be guilty of such meanness ;'' and added, that many a time they had fallen in with him, when he was busy enough; and sportsmen had taken shelter with him from a storm on the mountains, as Mr. O'Donnel himself had done; but he was never the worse for the like of them. He concluded by inviting his auditors, in his broken English, to enter the hut. All by turns peeped in, but the clouds of smoke were so dense, they could only see what Rosamund called “a huge pot like a cauldron," seated on a heap of burning turf; some nondescript vessels at one side, whose use could only be guessed at by the uninitiated ; and a boy, whose occupation was the constant replenishiug of the fire.
Con deeply lamented his labours were not far enough advanced to permit his visitors to judge of the proficiency he had attained in the art of distilling, and offered, if they only waited one hour, to give them "what a king might be proud to taste.” Time, however, would not permit ; so bidding him farewell, they parted with regret on both sides ; and, skirting the lakes, passed through a gorge, where they overtook their friend, who was carrying a basket of fine trout, the fruit of his piscatory toils.
They continued a winding course, having the mountain they were descending on their left, and spread out before them a country whose wildness was diversified by scattered hamlets and a few gentlemen's seats. A little river, or a lough, glistened now and then as the sun shone upon it, and the distance was bounded, as all views in this part of Donegal are, by rude, though not unpicturesque, mountains.
The day still kept beautifully fair and calm. The lizards were basking in the sunbeams, and more than one hare had been seen peeping out from its form amid the brushwood. No single sound was predominant over another; all were blended and softened in that one universal hum of Nature, so well known to those who have felt its influence, but so difficult to describe. Of our pedestrians there were a a few who could enjoy this barmony, and the party gradually separated into small groups of two or three.
Suddenly, through the deep stillness, a wail broke upon the air-S0 wild, so almost unearthly, that the startled listeners stood rooted to the spot in a kind of terror. Again and again it was repeated ; now it rose loud, shrill, and agonising; and then died away in a long wail of such deep and heartfelt anguish, that many of the party could not restrain their tears.
“It is the keen," whispered O'Donnel, in answer to Mrs. Montague's look of distress; and he pointed to a crowd of persons turning the base of the mountain, directly in the path they were themselves pursuing. Something they seemed to be carrying was covered with a white sheet, and the steps and attitudes of the bearers were those of men bending under a heavy burden. The scarlet cloak, and bright kerchief tied under the chin, are not yet wholly banished from the hills of Innishowen ; and, contrasting with the grey frieze coats of the men, they added much to the effect of the picture. Louder and louder sounded the keen, as the crowd came nearer; and now the voices of men and women could be heard blending together, and soon the very words were distinguishable; and at last the outline of a human figure was plainly discerned beneath the sheet which covered it. One, who seemed chief mourner, was an old woman, whose head was white with the snow of many winters ; her grief, though not noisy, was of the most poignant description, and thrilled to the very hearts of the excited listeners. Nora covered her face to hide her tears, and Mrs. Montague, who had never before witnessed such a depth of passionate sorrow, could not resist the infection, but wept in silent sympathy.
O'Donnel joined the mourners for a short distance, and, when he returned to his party, gave them a brief account of the meaning of the painful scene of which they had been the spectators.
About one week before a small boat, with a single fisherman, had left its snug little creek, and gone down the lough to pursue its usual course--for its master's avocation, at that season of the year, was fishing; and there was one spot where he thought he had always the greatest luck, where the finny tribe were most plentiful, and where he had the least difficulty in ensnaring them. Brian MacSweeny was the sixth and only remaining son of Maurian M'Laughlin (in Donegal, among the lower orders, the name of the husband is not taken by the wife-she keeps that of her father), born in much pain and suffering, after the death of her husband, who fell a victim to a fever then desolating the country like a pestilence. Two sons were also swept off by the same contagious disease, and four little infants were left, with their widowed mother, to struggle through the hard world as they best could. But Providence did not desert them; as Maurian many times said, “I never knew what it was to want a meal's meat for myself or the children, since God gave them to me. Glory be to His name !" To the best of her abilities, she brought them up in decency, honesty, and strict accordance with the rules of her religion. In chapel or fair, the whole barony-nay, the whole county—could not produce four such other young men as themselves. They were matchless in the athletic games of the peasantry; they were the best hurlers, the best wrestlers, the best dancers—but, above and far beyond all, they were the very best of sons. They managed their mother's farm with the greatest skill and prudeuce; and when the season for wrack-gathering approached, their boat was first to put to sea. No wonder the widow was proud of her goodly sons-perhaps she was too proud of themperhaps she began to think more of the gifts than the Giver. Be that as it may, they were each, by the mysterious decrees of Providence, taken from her in the flower of their manhood. One was drowned by the swamping of a neighbour's boat; another sunk beneath the ravages of small-pox ; a third died from hurts received while helping to extinguish a fire which had broken out on the premises of their landlord, and threatened his whole property with total destruction; the fourth, and last, perished, it could not be well told how_but it was supposed that, after fishing as much as he required, he had scaled the cliffs for pigeons eggs; and his foot slipping, or his hand losing its hold, he had been precipitated on the rocks beneath, and then suffocated by the waves before he had time to recover from the stunning effects of his fall.
Evening came, and night drew on, but still Brian Mac Sweeny did not return to gladden the heart or lighten the home of his mother. Who shall describe her agony when days passed without bringing tidings of the lost one, notwithstanding the exertions of the neighbours, whose sympathy was deeply excited and whose efforts to discover him were unceasing.
A week had gone by in fruitless endeavours, when this very morning his body had been found wedged in a crevice of rock, and partially hidden by wrack thrown up by the sea. His boat was anchored partly within the cave at whose mouth he was himself lying; in this the distressed finders placed his remains, after wrapping them in a cotamore or great coat, and taking the boat in tow, they reached, late at noon, the bay Brian had left so light-heartedly that unhappy morning when he bade his mother adieu for the last time, and which he was destined never again to look upon with his earthly eyes.
The news of the finding of the body soon reached the native hamlet of the deceased ; but the bereaved mother was last to hear of the event. It were vain to attempt a description of her state of mind when the tidings were broken to her. Dreadful as her former uncertainty had been, the truth was yet more terrible. Hope will not desert the heart while there is a shadow of probability to rest on; nay, it sometimes goes beyond that, and is the child of our very fears. There is no sky so dark but it can shine through it: be the lustre ever so feeble, it is there. In the world's wilderness it is the one flower that never wholly dies; it may droop or wither for a while, but always springs up again into being, more vigorous perbaps for its partial decay. It is only when the journey of life is nearly finished that the hopes of life begin to fade. So with Maurian M'Laughlin: as long as there was no tidings of her son, she hoped in fear ; but when she heard of his discovery, every feeling was swallowed up in the agony of grief. As far as this world was concerned, all desires were at an end; there was nothing further to wish for, nothing further to hope. With the calmness born of despair, she went to look upon the remains of her once goodly son, and with tearless eyes raised the keen which was immediately echoed by her sorrowing neighbours.
Nora and her companions completed their descent of the mountain while listening to this short but painful history; and, as it for the purpose of adding to its interest, ever and anon the mournful lament was borne towards them by the mountain breeze, gradually softening in the distance in a manner indescribably touching. They were met on the way by one of the boatmen sent in search of them by Mrs. Stevenson, who began to wonder at their lengthened absence. This induced them to quicken their steps, and they soon reached the appointed rendezvous where their expectant and somewhat impatient friends were awaiting them. A cloth was already on the green sward, and a tempting array of viands was displayed. They were a merry party, notwithstanding the melancholy scene of which so many of them had lately been the spectators. Perhaps among them all there was only Mrs. Montague, Nora, and O'Donnel, upon whom it made any really serious impression, so bardly do we to our ownselves realize the sorrows of others.
The shadows of the tall mountains were lengthening as the party set sail homewards. The cool breeze of evening had arisen, and the little bark danced lightly over the rippled waters of Lough Swilly. Bright shone the evening star above the brown brow of Raghten, and as time proceeded, numberless silvery compeers, attendants on
“ That orbed maiden, with white fire laden,
Whom mortals call the moon,"
broke through the fleecy clouds, too thin to hide them, and looked down with their myriads of gleaming eyes upon the fair and beautiful scene beneath them. It was an evening such as poets love to picture, when the soul drinks in the glories of earth and sky, and nerer feels satisfied with gazing ; when, if the longing after eternal loveliness was never before felt, it may now for the first time seize hold on us and teach us that the yearning for immortality is inherent in man's nature. Without
accident the boat anchored in its own snug creek at Liscarrol, and its still merry crew—merry in spite of all the fatigues of the day-repaired to Mrs. Stevenson's to partake of supper ere they parted for the night.
THOUGHTS ON FISHING AND FISHERY LAWS.
On the morning of the first of last March we took down our rod from the pegs on which it was resting since last September. There had been a hard frost during the night, and the thermometer stood at 28° outside the bedroom window ; it was, moreover, blowing a fierce gale from the east. Our better-half insisted on our being muffled with a thick greatcoat, and with many injunctions not to catch cold, we sallied forth to the river.
The water was rather too high for angling, but as clear as a spring well. The gaffer had managed to get a few killoughs,* and we knew from experience that, with clear water and a hard easterly, nothing better could be done than to spin a natural bait, and after fishing for about two hours, a heavy fish was hooked, but in a few minutes he snapped off the spinning-tackle and some inches of old gut. Reader, if you ever go fishing, let nothing induce you to trust to an old castingline. Either purchase or make a new line, and throw all the last year's ones into the fire. They may appear strong enough, and the gut may look only a little brown, but let nothing tempt you to use them ; you would not, I am sure, for a dozen lines, feel the annoyance of losing one fish through carelessness.
It was too bad, after braving the cold, to lose our fish; but having made a vow respecting old gut, we put up another line, and began fishing with renewed vigour. However, it was no go, and about twelve o'clock it commenced snowing, and at the same time blowing a perfect storm, so that we were obliged, from sheer cold, to give up fishing and run home.
After drinking a glass of cherry-brandy, which was by no means unnecessary, we sat down by a comfortable fire, and in a little time, as was natural, our thoughts reverted to fish and fishing. As there was a good deal of speculation about a new Fishery Bill, we revolved in our mind the alterations which, from many years of experience, we considered should be made in the old Fishery Laws.
Lord Derby, in his ministerial statement, when speaking of a Reform Bill, said that it was impossible to please all parties ; but how much more difficult is it to frame a Fishery Bill that will satisfy the fishery owner and the angler ? All that can be done is to pass such a measure as in the opinion of all fair, honest, and intelligent men will tend to make the salmon increase instead of decrease.
Doubtless almost every one who takes a real interest in the improvement of our fisheries knows that, by one of the provisions of the present law, the Commissioners of Fisheries, when the necessary funds are placed at their disposal, are obliged to sanction the construction of passes over mill-weirs for the migration of salmon and trout. There are some rivers in Ireland in which, a few years ago, salmon were almost exterminated; but by the construction of fish-passes over mill-weirs, the
* Loach lobitis barbatula.