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The Good O'donoghue

In an age so distant that the precise period is unknown, a chieftain
named O'Donoghue ruled over the country which surrounds the romantic
Lough Lean, now called the Lake of Killarney. Wisdom, beneficence, and
justice distinguished his reign, and the prosperity and happiness of his
subjects were their natural results. He is said to have been as renowned
for his warlike exploits as for his pacific virtues; and as a proof that
his domestic administration was not the less rigorous because it was
mild, a rocky island is pointed out to strangers, called "O'Donoghue's
Prison," in which this prince once confined his own son for some act of
disorder and disobedience.

His end--for it cannot correctly be called his death--was singular and
mysterious. At one of those splendid feasts for which his court was
celebrated, surrounded by the most distinguished of his subjects, he was
engaged in a prophetic relation of the events which were to happen in
ages yet to come. His auditors listened, now rapt in wonder, now fired
with indignation, burning with shame, or melted into sorrow, as he
faithfully detailed the heroism, the injuries, the crimes, and the
miseries of their descendants. In the midst of his predictions he rose
slowly from his seat, advanced with a solemn, measured, and majestic
tread to the shore of the lake, and walked forward composedly upon its
unyielding surface. When he had nearly reached the centre he paused for
a moment, then, turning slowly round, looked toward his friends, and
waving his arms to them with the cheerful air of one taking a short
farewell, disappeared from their view.

The memory of the good O'Donoghue has been cherished by successive
generations with affectionate reverence; and it is believed that at
sunrise, on every May-day morning, the anniversary of his departure, he
revisits his ancient domains: a favoured few only are in general
permitted to see him, and this distinction is always an omen of good
fortune to the beholders; when it is granted to many it is a sure token
of an abundant harvest--a blessing, the want of which during this
prince's reign was never felt by his people.

Some years have elapsed since the last appearance of O'Donoghue. The
April of that year had been remarkably wild and stormy; but on
May-morning the fury of the elements had altogether subsided. The air
was hushed and still; and the sky, which was reflected in the serene
lake, resembled a beautiful but deceitful countenance, whose smiles,
after the most tempestuous emotions, tempt the stranger to believe that
it belongs to a soul which no passion has ever ruffled.

The first beams of the rising sun were just gilding the lofty summit of
Glenaa, when the waters near the eastern shore of the lake became
suddenly and violently agitated, though all the rest of its surface lay
smooth and still as a tomb of polished marble, the next morning a
foaming wave darted forward, and, like a proud high-crested war-horse,
exulting in his strength, rushed across the lake toward Toomies
mountain. Behind this wave appeared a stately warrior fully armed,
mounted upon a milk-white steed; his snowy plume waved gracefully from a
helmet of polished steel, and at his back fluttered a light blue scarf.
The horse, apparently exulting in his noble burden, sprung after the
wave along the water, which bore him up like firm earth, while showers
of spray that glittered brightly in the morning sun were dashed up at
every bound.

The warrior was O'Donoghue; he was followed by numberless youths and
maidens, who moved lightly and unconstrained over the watery plain, as
the moonlight fairies glide through the fields of air; they were linked
together by garlands of delicious spring flowers, and they timed their
movements to strains of enchanting melody. When O'Donoghue had nearly
reached the western side of the lake, he suddenly turned his steed, and
directed his course along the wood-fringed shore of Glenaa, preceded by
the huge wave that curled and foamed up as high as the horse's neck,
whose fiery nostrils snorted above it. The long train of attendants
followed with playful deviations the track of their leader, and moved on
with unabated fleetness to their celestial music, till gradually, as
they entered the narrow strait between Glenaa and Dinis, they became
involved in the mists which still partially floated over the lake, and
faded from the view of the wondering beholders: but the sound of their
music still fell upon the ear, and echo, catching up the harmonious
strains, fondly repeated and prolonged them in soft and softer tones,
till the last faint repetition died away, and the hearers awoke as from
a dream of bliss.

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