“It is sword and bullet, I think, that are needed here, before plough and harrow, to clear away some of the curse. Until a few more of these Irish lords are gone where the Desmonds are, there is no peace for Ireland.”

“Humph! not so far wrong, I fear. And yet—Irish lords? These very traitors are better English blood than we who hunt them down. When Yeo here slew the Desmond the other day, he no more let out a drop of Irish blood, than if he had slain the lord deputy himself.”

“His blood be on his own head,” said Yeo, “He looked as wild a savage as the worst of them, more shame to him; and the ancient here had nigh cut off his arm before he told us who he was: and then, your worship, having a price upon his head, and like to bleed to death too—”

“Enough, enough, good fellow,” said Raleigh. “Thou hast done what was given thee to do. Strange, Amyas, is it not? Noble Normans sunk into savages—Hibernis ipsis hiberniores! Is there some uncivilizing venom in the air?”

“Some venom, at least, which makes English men traitors. But the Irish themselves are well enough, if their tyrants would let them be. See now, what more faithful liegeman has her majesty than the Inchiquin, who, they say, is Prince of Themond, and should be king of all Ireland, if every man had his right?”

“Don’t talk of rights in the land of wrongs, man. But the Inchiquin knows well that the true Irish Esau has no worse enemy than his supplanter, the Norman Jacob. And yet, Amyas are even these men worse than we might be, if we had been bred up masters over the bodies and souls of men, in some remote land where law and order had never come? Look at this Desmond, brought up a savage among savages, a Papist among Papists, a despot among slaves; a thousand easy maidens deeming it honor to serve his pleasure, a thousand wild ruffians deeming it piety to fulfil his revenge: and let him that is without sin among us cast the first stone.”

“Ay,” went on Raleigh to himself, as the conversation dropped. “What hadst thou been, Raleigh, hadst thou been that Desmond whose lands thou now desirest? What wilt thou be when thou hast them? Will thy children sink downwards, as these noble barons sank? Will the genius of tyranny and falsehood find soil within thy heart to grow and ripen fruit? What guarantee hast thou for doing better here than those who went before thee? And yet, cannot I do justice and love mercy? Can I not establish plantations, build and sow, and make the desert valleys laugh with corn? Shall I not have my Spenser with me, to fill me with all noble thoughts, and raise my soul to his heroic pitch? Is not this true knight-errantry, to redeem to peace and use, and to the glory of that glorious queen whom God has given to me, a generous soil and a more generous race? Trustful and tenderhearted they are—none more; and if they be fickle and passionate, will not that very softness of temper, which makes them so easily led to evil, make them as easy to be led towards good? Yes—here, away from courts, among a people who should bless me as their benefactor and deliverer—what golden days might be mine! And yet—is this but another angel’s mask from that same cunning fiend ambition’s stage? And will my house be indeed the house of God, the foundations of which are loyalty, and its bulwarks righteousness, and not the house of fame, whose walls are of the soap-bubble, and its floor a sea of glass mingled with fire? I would be good and great—When will the day come when I shall be content to be good, and yet not great, like this same simple Leigh, toiling on by my side to do his duty, with no more thought for the morrow than the birds of God? Greatness? I have tasted that cup within the last twelve months; do I not know that it is sweet in the mouth, but bitter in the belly? Greatness? And was not Essex great, and John of Austria great, and Desmond great, whose race, but three short years ago, had stood for ages higher than I shall ever hope to climb—castles, and lands, and slaves by thousands, and five hundred gentlemen of his name, who had vowed to forswear God before they forswore him and well have they kept their vow! And now, dead in a turf-hovel, like a coney in a burrow! Leigh, what noise was that?”

“An Irish howl, I fancied: but it came from off the bog; it may be only a plover’s cry.”

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