IT chanced, amongst some of the pleasantest adventures of a tour through the West of Ireland, in 1825, that the house of Mr.------ of ----- received me as a guest. The owner of the mansion upheld the proverbial reputation of his country's hospitality, and his lady was of singularly winning manners, and possessed of much intelligence--an intelligence arising not merely from the cultivation resulting from careful education, but originating also from the attention which persons of good sense bestow upon the circumstances which come within the range of their observation.
Thus, Mrs.--, an accomplished Englishwoman, instead of sneering at the deficiencies which a poorer country than her own laboured under, was willing to be amused by observing the difference which exist, in the national character of the two people, in noticing the prevalence of certain customs, superstitions, etc. etc.; while the popular tales of the neighbourhood had for her a charm which enlivened a sojourn in a remote district that must otherwise have proved lonely.
To this pleasure was added that of admiration of the natural beauties with which she was surrounded; the noble chain of the Mayo mountains, linking with the majestic range of those of Joyce's country, formed no inconsiderable source of picturesque beauty and savage grandeur; and when careering over the waters of Lough Corrib that foamed at their feet, she never sighed for the grassy slopes of Hyde Park, nor that unruffled pond, the Serpentine river.
In the same boat which often bore so fair a charge have I explored the noble Lough Corrib to its remotest extremity, sailing over the depths of its dark waters, amidst solitude, whose echoes are seldom awakened but by the scream of the eagle.
From this lady I heard some characteristic stories and prevalent superstitions of the country. Many of these she had obtained from an old boatman, one of the crew that manned Mr.--'s boat; and often, as he sat at the helm, he delivered his "round, unvarnished tale"; and, by the way, in no very measured terms either, whenever his subject happened to touch upon the wrongs his country had sustained in her early wars against England, although his liege-lady was a native of the hostile land. Nevertheless, the old Corribean (the name somehow has a charmingly savage sound about it) was nothing loath to have his fling at "the invaders "--a term of reproach he always cut upon the English.
Thus skilled in legendary lore, Mrs. ----- proved an admirable guide to the "lions" of the neighbourhood; and it was previously to a projected visit to the Cave of Cong that she entered upon some anecdotes relating to the romantic spot, which led her to tell me that one legend had so particularly excited the fancy of a young lady, a friend of hers, that she wrought it into the form of a little tale, which, she added, had not been considered ill done. "But," said she, " 'tis true we were all friends who passed judgment, and only drawing-room critics: You shall therefore judge for yourself, and hearing it before you see the cave, will at least rather increase your interest in the visit." And forthwith drawing from a little cabinet a manuscript, she read to me the following tale--much increased in its effect by the sweet voice in which It was delivered.