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An Irish Idyl

An Irish Idyl image
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From the London Belgravia. We had been out all night watching the herring-fishers, but as soon as the work was over, and the faint glimmering of dawn appeared in the east, we turned our boat's bow towards the shore and pulled swiftly homewards. There lay the group of curraghs still upon the scène of their labor, loaded with phosphorescent flah and dripping nets, and manned with crews of shivering, weary men. The sea, which during the night had been throbbing convulsively, was calm and bright as a polished mirror, while the gaunt grey cliffs were faintly shadowed forth by the lustrous light of the moon. Wearied with the night's labor, I lay listlessly in the stern of the boat, listening drearningly to the measured splash, splash of the oars, and drinking in the beauty of the scène around me - the placid sea, the black outline of the hills and cliffs, and silently sleeping village of Storport. Presently, however, my ears detected another sound, which came faintly across the water and mingled softly with the monotonous splashing of the oars and the weary washing of the sea. "Isit a mermaid singing?" I asked, sleeply. "The village maidens are all dreaming of their lovers at this hour, but the Midian Maras sing of theirs. Oh, yes, it must be a mermaid, for hark! the sound is issuing from the shore yonder, and surely no human Demg possessea a voice ñau so oeauuful!" To my questions no one voucnsaled areply.'so I lay still half sleepily and listened to the plaintive wailing of the voice, which every moment grew stronger. It came across the water like the low sweet sound ot an iEolian harp touched by the summer breeze, and as the boat glided swiftly on, bringing it ever nearer, the whole scène around seemed suddenly to brighten as if from the touch of a niagical hand. Above me sailed the moon, scatteriner nale vitreous light around hér, and touching with lier cool, white hand the mellow thatched cabins, lying so secluded on the hill, tlie long stretch of shiinmering sand, and fringe of foam upon the shmgle, the peaks of the hills silheuetted against the pale gray sky. A white owl passing across the boat and almost brusliing my cheek with its wing aroused me at length from my torpor. The sound of the voice had ceased. Above my head a flock of seagulls screamed, and as they sailed away I heard the whistle of the curlew; little puflins were floating thick asbe es around us, while rock doves flew swiftly from the caverns ; and beyond again the cormorants blackened the weed-covered rocks. The splash of our oars had for a moment created a commotion; presently all calined down again, and again I heard the plaintive wailing of the mermaid's voice, The voice, more musical than ever, was at length so distinct as to bring with it the words of the song: My Owen Bawn's hair is of a thread gold spun; Of gold ia the shadow, of light in 1he sun; All carled in a coolun the bright tresses are, They make his head radient with beams like a star! My Owen Bawn's mantle is broad and is wide, Towrapmeup safe from the storm by his side; And l'd rather face Bnow-drift and winter wind there, Than be among daisies and sunshine elsewhere. My Owen Bawn Con is abold fisherman, He spears the strong salmón in midst of the Bann, And, rocked in the tempest on stormy Lough Neagh, Draws up the trout through the barsting of spray . The voice suddenly ceasesed, and as it did so, I saw that the singer was a young girl who, with her hands clasped behind her, and her face turned to the moonlit sky, walked slowly along the sliore. Suddenly she paused, and while the sea kissed her bare feet, and the moon laid tremulous hands upon her head, began to sing again : I have called my love bnt he still sleep on, And his Ups are as cold as clay ! 1 have kissed them o'er and o'er again- I have pressed his cheek with my burning brow, And l've watched o'er him all the day; Is it then true that no more thoul't smile On Moina? Art thou then lost to thy Moina? 1 once had a lamb my love gave me, As the mountain snow 'twas white; Oh, how I loved it nobody knows! I decked it eaoh morn with the myrtle-rose, With "forget-me-not" at night. My lover they slew, and they tore my lamb From Moina. They pierced the heart's core of poor Moina! As the last words feil from her tremulous lips, and the echoes of the sweet voice faded far away across the sea. the boat gliding gently on ran her bow into the sand, and I, leaping out, came suddenly face to face with the loveliest visión I have ever beheld. "Is it a mermaid?" I asked myself again, for surely I thought no human being could be half so lovely. I saw a palé, madonna-like face, set in a wreath of golden hatr, on which the moonlightbrightened and darkened iike the shadows on a wind-swept sea. Large lustrous eyes which gazed earnestly seaward, then filled with a strange, wandering f ar-off look as they turned to my face. A young girl ciad in a peasant's dresa with her bare feet washed reverently by the sighing sea ; her half parted lips kissed by the breeze which travelled slowly slioreward ; her cheeks and neck were palé as alabaster so were the little hands which were still clasped half nervouslybehindher; and as she stood, with her eyes wandering restlessly flrst to my face, then to the dim line of the horizon, the moon, brightening with sudden splendor, wrapt her from head to foot in a mantle of slnnimering snow. For a moment she stood gazing with a far-away look into my face then with a sigh she turneo away, and with her face still turned oceanward, her hands still clasped behind her, wandered slowly along the moonlit sands. As she went, fading like a spirit among the shadows, I heard again the low, sweet sound of the plaintive voice which had come to me aeross the ocean but soon it grew fainter and fainter, imtil only the echoes were heard. I èurnpfl tn my lootmtn, wl" non stood waiting for me to depart. "Well, Shawn, is it a mermaid t" I asked smiling. He gravely shook his head. "No, yer honor ; 'tis only a poor coleen with a broken heart!" I turned and looked questioningly at him, but he was gazing at the spot whence the figure of the girl disappeared. "God Almighty risht the dead!" he said, reverently raising his hat ; "but him that brought such luck to Nora O'Connell deserved His curse, God knows!" This incident, coupled with the strange manner of my man, interested me, and I began to question him as to the story of the girl whose lovely face was still vividly bef ore me But for some reason or other he seemed to shun the subject, and so for a time I held my peace. But as soon as I found myself comfortably seated in the cozy parlor of the lodge, with a bright turf fire blazing bef ore me and a hot punch steaming on the table at my side, I summoned niv henchman to my presence. "Now, Shawn," I said, holding forth a steaming goblet that made his eyes sparkle like two stars, "close the door, draw your chair up to tlie fire, drink off this, and teil me the story of the lovely colleen that we saw to-night." "Would yer honor really like to hear?" "I would ; it will give me something to dream about, and prevent me from thinking too much of her beautiful face." Shawn smiled gravely. "Yer honor thinks her pretty ? Well, then, ye'll believe me when I teil ye that iL ye was to search the counthry at the present moment ye couldn't find a colleento match ÏTorah O'Connell. When she was bom the neighbors thought she must be a f airy child, she was so pretty, and small and white ; and wlien slie got oidor thcre wasn't a hoy in Storport but would lay down his life for her. Boys wid fortunes and boys widout fortunes triedto 8t_iinr_a3 hoBoiiin lirinnr'a nnrHrvn. I Wint myself in wid the rest, But it went the same wid us all: lïorah just smiled and said she didn't want to marry. But one day, two years ago now, come this serapht, that lazy shaughraun, Mile Doughty, (God rest his soul!) came over from Rallygally and going straight tó Norah, widout making up any match at all, asked hei to marry him." "Well?" T , "Well, yer honor, this time A oral brightened up, and though she knew well enough that Miles was a dirty blackguard widout a penny in tne world - though the oíd people said no, and there were plenty fortunes in Storport waitin' on her- she just went against every one of them and said alie must marry Miles. The old people pulled against her at flrst, but at last ïforah, with her smiles and pretty ways, won over Father Torn- who won over the old people, till at last they said that if Miles would go to the black pits of Pennsylvania and earn the money to buy a house and bit of land, he should marry her." He paused, and for a time ihere was silence. Shawn looked thoughtfully into the flre ; I lay back in mv easy chair and carelessly watched the smoke which curled from my cigar, and as I did so I seemed to hear agam the wild plaintive voice of the girl as I had heard it bef ore that night: "I have called my love, but he still sleeps on, And hia lips are as cold as olay." And as the words of the song passed through my mind, they seemed to teil me the sequel of the story. "Another case of disastrous true iove," I said, turning to Shawn, and when he looked puzzled I added, "he died and she is mourning him ?" "Yes, yer honor, he died ; but if that was all he did we could forgive him. Whatbroke the poor colleen's heart was that he shonld f orget her when he got to the strange land and marry another colleen at the time he should have married her. After that, it was but right that he should die." "Did he write and teil her he was married ï" "Write? Devil a bit, nor to teil he was dead neither. Here was the poor colleen watching anü wamng ror mm for two whole years and wondering what could keep lüm. But a few months ago Owen Macgrath, a boy who had gone away from the village ong ago on account of Norah ref using to marry him, came back again and told Norali that Miles was deM and askecl her to marry him. He had made lots of money and was ready to take a house and a'bit of land and to buy up cattle if she would but say the word to him." "Well ?" "Well, yer honor, Norah lirst shook her head and said that now Miles was dead 'twas as well for her to die too. At this Owen spoke out out and asked where was the use of grieving so since for many months before his death Miles had been a married man. Well, when Owen said this Norah never spoke a single word, but her teeth set and her lips and face went white and cold as clay, and ever since that day she has been so strange in her ways that some think she's not right at all, On moonlight nights she creeps out of the house and walks by the sea singing them strange old songs; then slip looks out as if expecting him to come to her- and right or wrong she'll nevei look at another man!" As Shawn flnished, the hall clock chimed five ; the last spark had f aded from my cigar, the turf feil low in the grate ; so 1 went to bed to think ove the story alone. During the three days which fol lowed this midnight adventure, Stor port was visited by a deluge of rain but on the fourth morning I looked from my window to flnd the earth baak ing insuminersunshine. The sky was a vault of throbbing blue, flecked here and there with waves of slimmer eloud, the stretches of sand grew golden in the sun rays, while the saturated hills were bright as if f rom the suiiling of the sky. The sight revivified me, and as soon as my breakfast was over I whistled up my dogs and strolled out into the air. How bright and beautiful everything looked af ter the heavy rain! Tlie ground was spongy to the tread ; the dew still lay heavily upon the heather and long grass ; but the sun seemed to be sucking up the moisture f rom the bog. Everybody seemed to be out that day ; and niost people were busy. üld men drove heavily laden donkeys along the muddyroad; young girls carried their creéis of turf across the bog ; and by the roadside, close to where I stood, the turf nutter were busy. I stood for a while watoHing them at lietr worK, and wSen I turned to go T aw for the Hrst time that I had not jeen alone. Not many yards from me tood a figure watching the turf cut;ers, too. A young man dressed like a groesque figure for a pantomime; with ïigh boots, feit hat cocked rakishly ver one eye, and a vest composed of 11 the colors of the rainbow. His big jrown fingers were profusely bedecked with brass and steel rings, a massive brass chain swung from his waistcoat, ind an equally showy pin adorned the carf at his throat. When the turf-cut;ers, pausing suddenly in their work, gazed at him with wonder in their eyes, he gave a peculiar smile and asked with a strong Yankee accent if hey could teil him where one Norah O'Connell lived ;he was a stranger here and brought her news from the States ! In a moment a dozen fingers were outstretched to point him on, and the stranger, again smiling strangely to himself, swaggered away. I stood for a time and watched him go, then I too sauntered on. I turned off from the road, crossed the bog, and made direct for the sea-shore. I had been walking there for some quarter of an hour, when suddenly a huge shadow was flung across my path, and looking up I again beheld the stranger. His hat was pushed back now, and I saw for the flrst time that his face was handsome. His cheeks were bronzed and weauier-Deaïen, but his features were flnely formed, and on his head clustered a macs of curling chestnut hair. He was flushed as if with excitement ; he cast me a hurried glance and disappeared. Five minutes after, as I still stood wondering at the strange behavior of the man, my ears were greeted with a shriek which pierced my very heart. i Kunning in the direction whence the sound proceeded, I reached the top of a neighboring sand-hill,and gazing into the valley below me I again beheld tlie straiigor. . This time his head was bare - his arms were outstretched, and he held upon his breast the half-fainting forrnoi a ïovcij Firi w, T .Viüj laat hpViPlrl in the moonliV Whilo i stood hesitating as to the utility of descending, I saw the girl gently withdraw from his arms, then clasping her hands around his neck, feil sobbing on his breast. "Well, Shawn, what's the news ?" I asked that night when Shawn rushed excitedly into my room. For a time he could teil me nothing, but by dint of a few well applied questions I soon extracted from him the whole story. It amounted to this : that working for two yeara like a galley-slave in the black pits of Pennsylvania, with ing but the thought oí Norahtoheip him on, Miles Doughty found himself with enough money to warrant his coming home ; that he was about to return to Storport, when unfortunately, the day before his intended departure, a shaft in the coal-pit feil upon him and he was left for dead; that for many montha he lay ill, but as soon ashewas fit to travel he started for ome. Arrived at Storport, he was as;onished to find that no one knew him nd he was about to pass himself off as a f riend of his own, when the news f his reported death and Norah's sorow so shocked him thathe determined o make himself known at once. "And God help the villain that told her he was married," concluded Shawn, for he swears he'll kill him as soon as Norah- God bless her!- comes out O' he fever that she's in to-night." Just three months after that night I found myself sitting in the hut where Noráh O'Connell dwelt. The cabin was illuminated so brightlv that it looked like a spot of iïre upon the bog. The rooms in the house were crowded, and without dark figures gathered as thick as bees in swarming time. Miles Doughty, ciad rather less gaudily than when I iirst beheld him, moved amidst the throng with bottle and glass, pausing now and again to look affectionately at Norah, who, decorated with bridal flowers, was daucing with one of the straw men who had come to do honor at her marriage feast. When the dance was ended she came over and stood beside me. "Norah," I whispered, "do you remember that night when I heard you singing songs upon the sands 'i" lier tace nasneu Dngnuy upun me, ;hen it grew grave- then her eyes jlled with tears. "My dear," I added. "I never meaiit to pain ou. I only want you to sing a sequel to those songs to-night!" She laughed liglitly, then she spoke rapidly in Iiish, and merrily sang the well-known lines - "Oh the marriage, the marriage, With love and me bouchal ior me. The ladies that ride in a carriage Might envy my marriage to me." Then she was laughingly carried off to join in another dance. I joined in the f un till midnight,then, though the merriment was still at its height, I quietly left the house and hastened home. As I left the cabin I stumbled across a figure which was hiding behind a turf-stack. By the light of my burning turf I recogmzed the features of Owen Macgrath. He slunk away when he saw me, and never since that night has he been seen in Storport. Some time ago the Paris Figaro off ered a "puzzle prize" to the man who should discover the best means of utilizing a large fortune. Among the competitors was a gentleman who said that if he carne into a "thumping" legacy, he should act thus : He would purchase a thousand pates de f oi gras, a thousand peaches, &c, &c. (enumerating all the good things of earth). These he would beat all together into a rich paste, wherewith he would endeavor to fatten Sarah Bernhardt. The prize was not adjudged him.


Old News
Michigan Argus