Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VII (36) | Start of Chapter

The environs of Cork had not lost any of their charms by the scourge, and Blarney seemed to have put on new beauties; her old castle and Blarney stone, now supported with two iron grasps, are still looking forth from the shrubbery and trees, which wildly surround it, for the good taste of the owner keeps the pruning knife confined to his enchanting gardens and walks, and allows nature here to frolic according to her own vagaries. The sycamore, oak, arbutus, elm, ash, holly, copper-beech, and ivy, were mingling and commingling, without any aristocratic airs of family descent or caste.

A stranger here would wonder what famine could have to do in these pleasant grounds; and while rambling among its moss-covered stones, wild flowers, and creeping ivy, its shady seats, alcoves, and grottos, we felt that an Italian gardener could scarcely make a spot more enchanting, even though an Italian sky should mingle its blandness.

The company, too, in such places, has much to do in heightening or diminishing the pleasure, and even beauty of such scenes. Mine was a happy lot this day. The young Beales, who were the party, with a London acquaintance, had a natural and cultivated relish for treats like these, and while we were taking our pic-nic in that grove of delights, gladly would I have forgotten the sorrows of the past and avoided a dread of the future, but could not; for notwithstanding Blarney pleasure grounds, we were in woe-stricken Ireland still, and we knew that desponding hearts and hungry stomachs were not far distant. A cheerful walk home led us through Blarney Lane, in the suburbs of Cork, where the neatness of the cottages, with a flower-pot in many a window, had an interest beyond what had been presented in any suburb of Ireland's large towns, since the famine. We took welcome liberties to look occasionally into one, and found all invariably tidy, and what was still more creditable, the women were busy at work. This said that Cork had still a living germ within her, that might and would be resuscitated; for if woman's hands are well employed, however unnoticed her little inventions and doings may be, they at last work out, and bring forth untold comforts, which are more valuable because diffused insensibly where most needed.

"The little foxes spoil the vines," and little things are the foundation of all great ones, and had Ireland, as well as the whole world beside, looked better to this, better effects would have been produced. Cork may boast as many efficient men, and active useful women, probably, as any town in Ireland. It has a Father Mathew and a William Martin, to urge by precept and example the importance and benefits of sobriety and industry; it has a Society of Friends, whose religion and discipline encourage no drones, and its intelligence has broken down that caste which so much exists in many parts of the country, and rendered the people of all classes more accessible than in any other city in Ireland. Fifteen weeks' stopping there heightened my admiration of the true hospitality and capabilities of the inhabitants; and those flowery hill-sides and rose-covered gateways and windows that hung over the Lee, will be held ever in the sweetest remembrance. "The little room," where one week of the pleasantest was spent, deserves an acknowledgment which I am not able to give. May that cottage and its inmates long be united as happily and sweetly as their industry and beauty so richly merit.