Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

not so grand a promontory as Brandon hill, or one which breasts the Atlantic with a sea precipice so steep and lofty. The shifting sands on the adjacent shore of Smerwick-harbour evince the recent inroads of the ocean, which threatens, at no distant period, to insulate Sybilhead and the Three Sisters: the stormy Blasquets, far out in the south-western offing, are trophies at once of former conquest and of stern resistance between the struggling elements; and the sandy flats of the Magherees seem to be protected from total immer:ion only by the mighty bulwark of St. Brendan's mountain.

How many strange old places, and how many scenes of strange events, do we find in that stripe of land which we are describing! Some of the names we hare mentioned are full of historic import. From the summit of Brandon-bill we behold objects which might indeed illustrate a large portion of Irish history. The mariner saint of the sixth century, whose name the mountain bears, sailed often from under its shadow on bis ocean wanderings; and from this mountain he took his last bearing on that voyage in which he succeeded in reaching the transatlantic shores, nearly a thousand years before Columbus re-discovered them. Cloghanes, or stone-roofed cyclopean houses, the residences of primitive saints, small oratories and churches of the six h and seventh century architecture, and some medieval castles, are strewn over the neighbouring districts. Smerwick-harbour, with its Dunanoir, has a doleful tale to tell about the fate of the chivalrous Geraldines and their unhappy Spanish and Italian allies ; and in our own times the name of Dingle is painfully associated with efforts to use the sufferings of a faminestricken people in the work of soul-traffic. Thus is the locality one of singnlar interest to the antiquary, to the lover of the grand and picturesque in nature, and, if you will, to the student of human nature.

Low-lying, at the foot of a ridge of heathy mountains, and about a mile from the eastern shore of Smerwick-harbour, stand the ruins of Kilmalkedar Church, or “Kiel,” as the name is pronounced in an abridged form in the neighbourhood. The style of these ruins is peculiar, the architecture belonging to a period anterior to the introduction of the Gothic. In the ancient churchyard adjoining there are some head-stones inscribed with the mysterious ogham characters. The name of the church is derived from one of the immediate holy disciples of St. Brendan, and, altogether, the place has an air of extreme antiquity. Close by there is a holy well, and in the immediate vicinity of the church are a few farm houses of the humblest class; but, potwithstanding the presence of these habitations, the place is excecdingly sad and solitary.

Near the aforesaid holy well, several years ag3, a pair of rustic lovers, on whose behalf we desire to enlist the reader's interest, often had the bappiness of a casual meeting. Oona Moriarty was a widow's daughter of the vicinity. Her mother was miserably poor, the whole subsistence of the family, which consisted of herself, her daughter and a son, being derived from a small plot of bad land which that son, a boy too young fur the laborious

task imposed on him, cultivated with difficulty. But Oona, though so poor, was handsome. She grew up like a lovely flower blooming in a wilderness. Her large dark eyes, regular features, and graceful figure would have been considered beautiful even among the most refined classes; while maidenly modesty and an excellent though untanght understanding, were qualities which she possessed in a still higher degree than even beauty, Her favored lover, Ned Hurley, was as poor as herself. He was a young labourer whose residence was chiefly at Dingle, some four miles distant, but he contrived often, of a summer evening, to hover about the old well of Kilmalkedar, where by some good fortune, he never failed to catch a glimpse of the sweet Oona Moriarty, and if the opportunity were favorable, to have a little conversation with her. Ned was somewhat wild and unsteady in his habits, much more so indeed than Ouna' suspected, and as he felt that he would hardly be approved of as her suitor, he never introduced himself at her mother's cabin; so that their meetings partook of a clandestine character; although this was perhaps in a great measure owing to the natural solitude of the place. The maiden merely abstained from mentioning them to her mother, without seeking specially to conceal them from her.

One evening as the sun, about to descend into the ocean, beyond the most northern summit of the Three Sisters, was gilding with his rays the venerable gables of the old church, Oona, who had just filled her pail from the crystal waters of the holy well, was seated on a stone combing out her long black tresses, when her lover abruptly made his appearance, and seated himself on another of the naked rocks which are strewn about in profusion at that place.

After their first gre'tings, their conversation being of course in Irish, the only language that either of thein spoke, a short pause ensued, and Ned Hurley then observed, in a thoughtful manner :-“I am breaking my heart thinking, Oona, and I can't help thinking, that you dont care about me at all.”

“ Then how can you say that, Ned? And sure I never cared about any one in this world but yourself, except my poor mother and Tom; and I wish you would come to the house now, and let me tell them all about

[ocr errors]

it.”

“ If you care about m, then,” said Harley, only attending to the first part of her answer ; “why don't you keep your promise ? and you know 'tis long since you promised me that

you would be my wife.” The girl blushed deeply, and only made the sad rejoinder—"But where, a vick mo chree, will we go, or what will become of us if we get married ?

“As to that," said Hurley scratching his head, “I don't know indeed; but still I don't see any ckance that we will ever be one bit better off; and I am thinking of doing something terrible, Oona, if you only love

me.”

“Something terrible, a gra! and what is it you would do, Ned ?” inquired Oona with a smile.

“Nothing at all, I hope if I can help it," mut

[ocr errors]

tered her lover, “but,” he added sorrowfully, “ I'd sell for some worldly consideration; the word being derived my

soul to the Wicked One to get something for you, from the meat-soup which it has been usual to deal ont Ouna."

to them on fast-days, and which is at once a test of the “God forgive you, Ned, for saying such a bad thing sincerity of their conversion, and an instalment of the in this blessed place," was her reply.

creature comforts held out to them as a reward. The Another pause ensued, and Hurley observed, in a groups of cottages built for their exclusive accommodatone of apparent indifference—“What purty houses tion in the outlets of the town of Dingle are known as they have down there in the colony; were you ever in the “ colony;” and hence the horror expressed by Oona any of them ?”

at the mention of that place by her friend, Ned Harley, “What would bring me into one of them ? the Lord and the general expression of indignation with which between us and harm!” exclaimed the girl.

O'Leary's report was now received. “Musha, what harm is in it after all?" said Ned. “ There are some joining them,” he continued, " that I wish we had one of them, and the bit of land we have no right at all; for,” he added, looking siguificould get with it, for a while, until we could find some cantly towards Oona, “ I am told that a boy of the other way to live.”

Hurleys, who is well able to earn his own bread, and Oh, then, the Lord between us and harm, again has no body depending on him, I suppose, has tarned and again !" reiterated Oona, crossing herself. “I

souper after all.” never heard you talk that way before, and I hope I O'Leary spoke in the plural, as if Hurley were one never will again. If it be the will of God that we are of several who were acting in the manner he deto be married, something will happen in our favour, scribed, but this was only a figurative way of expressNed, and don't fear; but sooner than do what you say, ing himself, as it was his rival alone to whom he alluded. I would rather a thousand times be buried this mo- Oona blushed like scarlet at the news, and as the words ment in the bottom of the ocean."

were so pointedly addressed to herself, she should speak, These words were uttered with great energy, and and she therefore remarked that " some people are alanother pause ensued. Ned then rose to depart, and ways telling lies about other people ; and there is no appeared deeply afflicted.

believing balf of what we hear.' “I am only telling you, Oona," he said, “ that it is “And who is the boy himself ?" inquired the widow breaking my heart to go on in this way, and that I am Moriarty. ready to do anything in the world for your sake.”

“I have often seen him over in this side of the “ If you love me, then, don't do anything wrong, and country,” said O'Leary. don't talk the way you talked this evening; but as I “I saw him two or three times talking to Oona, here, was saying, you must come to my mother's house now. at the well,” said her brother laughing. 'Tis a long walk from Dingle, and a long walk back “ And who is he, Oona ?” asked her mother. again, and you must eat a few potatoes with us before "All I know about him is, that he is a decent, you go."

honest boy; and I don't believe a word that Owen Ned declined the invitation. He appeared gloomy O'Leary here says about him," said Oona, while the telland sorrowful. Oona's heart also was heavy; and in tale blushes mantled more deeply in her face. this unhappy state of mind they parted.

The mother thought it more prudent to await another It was some days after this interview between Oona opportunity for explanations from her daughter. Tom and young Hurley, when Owen O'Leary, the son of a Moriarty still laughed at his sister's embarrassment; and small farmer of the neighbourhood, paid a visit to the O'Leary, anxious to vindicate his own veracity in the house of the widow Moriarty. The family were con- matter, said: “Why, then, all I know about him is, gregated outside the cabin door, variously occupied, as that I saw him myself in the colony, and that I am told it was a genial evening at the close of the month of he is trying to get a house there from the minister, and August; and O'Leary proceeded to tell them whatever that he was half a dozen times at the preachings ; that new he had. He was an ardent admirer of the fair Oona, is all I know, and if you don't call that turning souper, and as such was highly acceptable to her mother, al- I don't know what it is !" though to the daughter he was an object of cold in- “I suppose many a one that is not a souper has ocdifference; and the principal item of intelligence which casion sometimes to go to the colony; and he had to relate was soon obvious enough.

know whether anything else about him be true or not?" Having exhausted the topics of the weather, and of said Oona, arguing in her lover's favour, like a true the manner in which the crops of oats and potatoes had so far thriven with the neighbours, he said; “I am “What is it to you what he does ? What business told there are people joining the soupers in Dingle still, have you to take his part ?” rejoined her mother, somein spite of all that Father O'Sullivan says about it every

what sharply. Sunday.”

The subject here dropped, and O'Leary socn after To some of our readers it may be necessary to explain took his leave. Tom also absented himself for some that the name of “soupers” is a term of opprobrium time, and the widow seized the opportunity to demand an applied originally in the south of Ireland to those un- explanation from her daughter of her meetings with bappy creatures who are known to change their religion young Hurley. She then forbid her to meet him any

you

dou't

woman.

more ; and Oona said, with great sincerity and honest pride, “You may be sure, mother, I will never speak to him if the story told about him be true ; but I must see him once, at least, to make sure whether it is or not.”

Another week elapsed and Oona on going, as was her wont, a little before sunset, to her lonely well, found her lover there before her. Her manner towards him was reserved, and on his side too the meeting seemed to produce some embarrassment. The following dialogue ensued.

“And so, Ned, you went to the colony after all?"

“Sure any one might go there, I suppose.”

“Ay, Ned; that is what I was saying myself, but what brought you there, Ned?”

" And who told you I was in it at all ?”
" I heard it; but what brought you there, tell

me?"

"Well

, I suppose if you heard I was in the colony, you heard what business I had there too." " I don't mind what I hear from

anyone

about

you, Ned; I'd rather hear what you tell me yourself; but what brought you among those bad people ?”

“Nothing at all, then."
6 You wouldn't tell a lie to me, Ned.”
Hurley was silent.

“O then, 'tis true after all that you turned—I wont say what! O wirra stru!

“ Tell me who said anything against me to you, and I'll have his life.” “ That is more of it. I thought you loved

me,

Ned Hurlev."

“ Didn't I tell you that I would sell my soul to the demon for you?”

“ And I suppose that that is the reason you turned souper! O God, have mercy on us !"

66 'Tis not true,” said Hurley, in a violent passion.

Oh, I am afraid it is too true, Ned; you went to the preachings, and you tried to get a house in the colony from the minister; 0, it is too true!"

Hurley hung down his head in silence.

“ Ned, I am ashamed of you. When I heard the story about

you,

I said it was a lie. 0, I wished it was a lie ; but my heart misgave me when I remembered the way in which you spoke to me here the last time; then I was afraid it might be true, and now I see it is. ( wirra stru! wirra stru !and poor Oona wept and hid her face in her lap.

“ Tell me who is it that told you any stories about me, Oona, and I'll surely have his life before I go to bed ?”

" What matter who told me if it be true ; and why would you take any one's life, you unfortunate man ?”

Hurley had not a word to say.

“You brought disgrace upon yourself and me," resumed Oona, after a while, and I have promised my. mother that I would never see you again."

“O, don't say that, Oona, or I'll go mad. It was for

your sake I did it. I only wanted to get a house and some little means for yourself and myself from that cursed crew, and we would fling it back to them in a year or so, when we could do anything else for ourselves.

" And is that honest ? And do you think, Ned, that I would marry you with the curse of God on us both, and be disgraced and lost for ever and ever ? O no; I told you at this holy well before that I'd rather a thousand times be buried in the bottom of the ocean than do such a thing ; and now, Ned Hurley, God be with

you, and God convert you; there is no use in our meeting any more in this world !"

“0, for God's sake, don't leave me that way, Oona, or I'll surely go mad, and do something worse than ever I did. O stay with me Oona, for another minute, and I'll never come near you again, if you

wish." At this moment Oona's brother, who had witnessed the meeting from a distance, and hovered round lest any harm should come to his sister, having observed Hurley's loud and excited manner approached nearer, and conmenced whistling an air.

Oona was anxious to break off the interview ; she said she could not stop, and that after the way in which he had acted she should keep the promise she had made to her mother; and so, praying that God might change his heart from evil, she turned away ; but only for her brother's approach she might have tarried a moment longer and bave spoken some kind and encouragiug word before she left.

Hurley rose up gloomily, and walked slowly away. He was dark and wayward in his disposition, and was capable of feeling as much of the bad passion of pride as a person in a much higher position in society. He felt galled at Cona’s reproof; fancied that her manner towards him arose from a change in her affection ; and imagining that the best way in which he could be revenged on her was to do the very thing which she most disliked, returned the next day to the Dingle colony, associated henceforth with its inhabitants, learned some of their religious cant, and attended their place of worship; while all the time he loathed and despised them and their system. Thus he acted the part of a consummate hypocrite until all that was in any way good in his heart or disposition became sophisticated and corrupted.

Oona, who did not understand the actual worthlessness of her lover, or learn anything of his subsequent conduct, soon forgot and forgave in her heart the faults for which she had upbraided him. She blamed herself for her harshness towards him. Whatever he had done wrong she now thought how it was for her sake he had done it, and perhaps after all he had not gone so far as she had been told; and now who knows, she said to herself, what might happen bim, or into what misfortune her unkindness might hurry him. Thus she tormented herself with her own thoughts ; night and day she grieved and fretted; her visits to the holy well were at once sources of grief and melancholy consolation to her; her songs over her spinning-wheel became inexpressibly plaintive and heart-touching, and they were often interrupted by deep-drawn sighs, followed by long intervals of silent thoughtfulness ; she became pale and careworn; and yet all this while no one knew the secret of her affliction, or seemed to observe that she was rapidly wasting away with grief. Her mother was too dui, and too much engrossed in the cares of their humble household, to perceive any change in her daughter's health or state of mind ; and thus poor Oona was pining away without attracting the notice or sympathy of any friend,

Weeks passed away, and not a word of news reached her ears about Ned Hurley. She did not allow his name to escape her lips, and no one else thought of alluding to him. Weeks passed, and the stormy month of October set in. One night in particular it blew terrific gale from the south-west. First the wind came moaning through the old walls and along the hillside, rising and falling fitfully; and the sun at setting tinged the clouds for a while with garish yellow. The night was moonless and starless; black masses of clouds swept over the sky from the ocean; and the fitful gusts of the evening were changed into the sustained fury of a tempest. The storm raged as if the very mountains would rock upon their foundations; the distant roar of the Atlantic could be heard for miles into the country, and its spray, carried off by the storm until it mingled with the clouds, covered the surface of the land with salty crystals. It was one of those storms which can only be witnessed on our western coasts, when nothing seems safe from the tempest, and the horrible uproar of the elements appears to threaten nature with another chaos.

“God help anyone that's on the sea to-night!” said Oona, who sat so paralysed by the fury of the storm that she was unable to ply her wheel as usual.

Oh, wirra waher! sure nobody would be on the sea such a night as this," ejaculated her mother, shuddering

idea. “ If there is anyone on the sea they'll soon be under it, anyhow ; 'tis bardly one is safe on the land itself in this storm,” chimed in Tom.

They crowded more closely round the fire, trembling Jest the roof of their cabin should be swept away, as the creaking rasters seemed to threaten. To retire to rest was out of the question. No one could sleep in such a storm; and the few lighted embers on the hearth added to their sense of insecurity ; for if the roof fell in, the thatch would catch fire, and their all would be consumed in the flames. They could do nothing but pray the live long pight, and while the storm howled and threatened above and around them, they sat or knelt with panicstricken hearts, imploring from Heaven mercy for themselves and others.

Thus the dismal night wore away, and with the retuining morning the tempest subsided.

The sun rose red and angry looking ; the clouds were torn and jagged; the few gleams of sunshine which they permitted to appear were lurid; the wind was still high, and the storm was evidently only lulled for a while, and not blowu out.

Still it was a relief after the dreary night. Tom Moriarty went out to his work ; Oona returned to her spinning-wheel, and sang over it one of her most plaintire ditties; and her mother was engaged tidying the house. Just then, a little ragged girl entered at the open door, and, after standing for a while silent, with her back against the wall, at length said, as if cistrally, “Thert was a boat lost last night ont near Ballydavid.”

A cry of horror and pity escaped from the mother and daughter at the news.

“ They say 'twas a boat of the soupers," added the little girl after a while ; and the statement elicited a fresh exclamation of horror.

Another neighbour now stepped in, and observed that it was easy to know the d— was at his work last night

-a whole boat load of soupers was lost! The boat itself was on the rocks inside Ballydavid Head, and tiro of the bodies were washed in on the sands at the head of Smerwick harbour; but there were four or five others in the boat, and no one knew where their bodies were. It was quite plain at all events that none of them could have been saved.

Oona waited to hear no more, but wrapping an apron tightly about her head she glided out without speaking, and hastened towards the shore. A few other persons might be seen proceeding in the same direction, stroggling with the contrary blasts, and a small group of people were assembled below on the sands. At the place where these latter stood lay the bodies of two men stretched on the sand in the ghastly rigidity of death. No one seemed to know their names, and no one wished to touch them ; but all were aware that the lost boat belonged to “soupers," and the horror which the spectacle inspired was increased in the minds of most of them, by a fear for the fate of the unhappy men in the other world.

A young girl with her head tightly muffled in an apron was seen approaching the bodies, and looking closely into their features ; and as she gazed upon the face of one, she uttered a low shriek.

Tom Moriarty, who had come down to the shore, recognized his sister, but said nothing; and all that day a low, bitter wailing might be heard within the sacred old walls of Kilmalkedar, where the poor mourner sought to hide her grief among the graves.

Such was the sad denouement of the love of Oopa Moriarty and the unfortunate Ned Hurley. If we follow the fate of the former, however, a little longer, we shall find that in the lapse of years she became sensible of the grievous faults of her unhappy lover, and of the escape she had in not being united for life to such a

Owen O'Leary often visited her mother's cabin, and proved himself to be a sincere friend and a worthy fellow. Her brother, Tom, caught fever and died; her mother was sinking fast under the pressure of old age and poverty; and at length Oona Moriarty was induced to lend a favourable ear to the wooings of O'Leary, and ultimately to give him her band.

[ocr errors]

at the very

M. H.

man.

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]
« FöregåendeFortsätt »