Excursion to Adelphia

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VII (26) | Start of Chapter

One interesting and last excursion ended my painful visit in this romantic desolate region. The company was made up of Mrs. Garvey, a cousin of hers of the same name, a widow who possessed land in these vales and mountains for four miles, and her two sons. The distance was eight miles, the road narrow, winding, rocky, and in some places entirely lost, excepting the foot-path of the shepherds. Our vehicle was a cart with a bed in it for the accommodation of the two ladies, who had never like me been jolted on this wise, and were now submitting to all this hardship for my amusement. With much fixing and re-fixing, ordering and re-ordering, bed, baskets of lunch, extra cloaks, and so on, all adjusted, we were "well under way" for these "Alps on Alps." We had not made more than two miles of this journey, when stones, brooks, and no road said "Ye can go no further." We did, by getting out and lifting the cart, and at length found ourselves in a flat vale with a pretty river flowing through it. Scattered here and there were the once comfortable cabins of the tenants of the last-named Mrs. G., now every cabin either deserted or suffering in silent hopelessness, and all the land lying waste.

The poor cabiners would meet us, and say to their landlady, "God bless ye, and once ye didn't see us so, but now we are all destrawed." "And how, Mary or Bridget, do you get on?—have you any meal?—and I am sorry that I couldn't send you any more," &c., were the salutations of this kind landlady, who had not received one pound of rent since the famine. I thanked her most gratefully for the favor she bestowed on me in keeping from my ears those heart-scathing words to the starving poor I had heard so much from landlords and relieving officers during the famine. "I could not upbraid them," she answered, "for until the famine, scarcely a pound of rent has been lost by them all; and my only sorrow is, that I can do nothing to keep them alive, and not lose them from the land."

Four miles took us to the foot of a pile of "Alps," at the bottom of which was sleeping a sweet lake, cradling in its bosom a little green shrubbery island, the habitation of wild fowl entirely. The precipitous rocky path made it impossible to use the cart, and our crushed clumsy feet were now put in requisition. Though our walk was a rugged one, yet we were not losers; for Ireland, above all other countries probably, should be visited in this way, having two superior advantages. First, there is so much of the romantic reality to be seen everywhere, both in antiquities and nature; and second, the courtesy of the peasants, which makes every rough place easy; and if they have not mi1k to offer you, the purest water that ever sparkled in fountain or well is springing up everywhere to refresh the traveler.

We had nature to-day in her full dress, and besides the pleasure of seeing that heartfelt welcome which was manifested toward the "blessed landlady," I contrasted it with a walk taken one sunny day with a rich landlord, a few months before, whose tenants were all "lazy dogs;" he had tried them twenty-five years and could make nothing out of them, and now they were starving they were all looking to him, &c. These tenants, when they saw us approaching, walked away without any recognition; or if in close contact, they gave a slight touch of the hat, with no welcome, nor "blessed landlord." "Your tenants, sir," I observed, "do not appear so hearty and courteous as is customary for the mountain peasants in many places." "I told you I could never make anything out of them, and intend clearing the whole land another year and get a better set." The landlady this day was pointing me from cabin to cabin, where lived an industrious man or tidy woman, and "I must lose them all." Proud mountain rose, in conical form upon mountain, as if by some volcano they had been shot up perpendicularly; streamlets were trickling from their sides, and the rich heath and sedge covered their surface. These lofty piles give pasturage to cattle, sheep, and goats, and we saw the faithful shepherd's dog leaping from rock to rock, gathering the flock to drive them to better forage, and the little shepherd-girl sitting upon a crag to watch the little charge; and under the mountain was nestled the cabin of the herder, who for twenty years, he told us, had guarded the flocks upon the tops and sides of these lofty mountains. By the wayside was a large fold, into which all the sheep are gathered when the different owners wish to ascertain if any are missing, or when any are wanted for use. The owner and not the shepherd sustains the loss, if the number be wanting. The sheep live and thrive upon these rich mountains, summer and winter.

The mountain-goat, so peculiarly adapted for climbing the crags, we saw here; his shaggy mane waving in the breeze, as he nibbled the sedge and heath upon the highest peaks. Our road was upon a fearfully precipitous side of a hill, hanging over the lake. We had reascended the cart, and were obliged again to leave it, and the chubby Mrs. Garvey, in doing so, like a sack of wool, made a summerset and rolled upon rough stones; her justifiable shrieks were echoed by our hearty O dears! for we expected to see her mangled arms, body and legs, making their fearful tumble into the lake below. When we saw her peep out from under her mutilated bonnet, and found that life was still in her, though she insisted that she was dead, quite dead! my uncourteous laughing powers had no alternative but to drop into a dead, grave silence, which was more uncourteous still; for united with that natural abstractedness into which my mind always drops when in the midst of nature's grand scenery, my appearance amounted to a state of sullenness. We hobbled down the hill, leading our unfortunate tumbler, right glad that she was not actually broken in pieces by the fall, though certainly she was not benefited by it for the day. We reached a little flat lawn by the side of the lake, took our "pic nic," and commenced new difficulties: a stream must be crossed—there was neither bridge nor stepping-stone, nor could the cart assist us. We wandered to and fro—at last, taking the clothing from our feet, we waded over slippery stones and gained the shore, not far from the Adelphi Lodge, its whereabouts we knew by the evergreens that adorned the mountains. We wound round a path which showed us on the right a conical heath mountain, lost in the skies; and no sooner had we passed that than one on the left, as though broken from its side, rose in view. Thus we proceeded, threading our way by the side of a pretty stream, till we saw the cottage, built by Lord Sligo, now in possession of the Plunkets, three brothers, who named it Adelphi.

A river winds round the domain, which connects the sea on the left with the lake on the right, a mountain of the grandest and boldest stands in front of the cottage, without a tree, presenting a most beautiful picture of light and shade; the sides being spotted with a yellow appearance mixed with the heath and sedge, reconciling the eye to the absence of the tree. At the back of the lodge stands another like mountain; forming, in unison, with everything around, a scenery distinct from any other in Ireland. It was once the resort of the gay, where resounded the bugle and hunter's horn: its lakes, its rivers, its mountains, gardens, cascades, and walks, now appear as if the struggling gardener was trimming here and there a festoon, and fastening a decaying plant anew to some supporting stalk, that he might keep alive a relic or two of its former loveliness; but alas! the beauty of Ireland is departing, her gay ones are becoming sad; the cruel sport of the hunter which once was the delight of the fashionable has ceased, and the timid hare may now trip and leap among the brakes and ferns, without starting at the bark of the fearful packhound in pursuit. The setting sun, as it warned us to depart, gave such an enchanting look to the dark mountains hanging over the lake and pretty river, that I could not but

"Cast a longing, lingering look behind."

There was a fearful eight miles in advance; the stream must be waded, the precipitous footpath hanging oyer the lake at nightfall was before us; but so completely abstracted had I become, that if no company had been there to have urged me forward, the moonlight, if not the morning, might have found me sitting, looking alternately at the mountains and lakes. We made our way through the defile, and reaching a little hamlet, a solitary man came to meet us, and welcomed me in true Irish style to his country, adding, "in a twelvemonth I hope to be in your country." A young son had gone two years before, and sent him back £19 for the voyage. "I am leaving," said he, "praise God, a good landlady, who can do no more for us, and we can do nothing for her." "This man," said Mrs. Garvey, "is one of my best tenants, and I am lost by parting with him, but cannot ask him to stop."