Within was a broad, low hall, from which opened four rooms of nearly equal size. There was little evidence that the castle had been inhabited during recent years, though there was an ancient woman care-taker who opened the great door for us, and then took up the Irish peasant’s wail for the last of the O’Haras. She never ceased her crooning except when she spoke to us, which was seldom; but she placed us at table in the state dining room, and served us with stewed kid, potatoes, and goat’s milk. The walls of the dining room were covered with ancient pictures of the O’Haras, but none so recent as a hundred years. We could well believe Sir Tom’s words, “the sod has known us for a thousand years,” when we looked upon the score of pictures, each of which stood for at least one generation.
The agent told us that our friend had never lived at the castle, but that he had visited the place as a child, and again just before leaving for America. A wall-enclosed lot about two hundred feet square was “the kindest sod in all the world to an O’Hara,” and here we placed our dear friend at rest with the “lucky ones” of his race. No one of the race ever deserved more “luck” than did our Sir Tom. The young clergyman who read the service assured us that he had found it; and our minds gave the same evidence, and our hearts said Amen, as we turned from his peaceful resting-place by the green waters of Sligo Bay.
Two days later we were comfortably lodged at The Hague, from which we intended to “do” the little kingdom of Holland by rail, by canal, or on foot, as we should elect.
THE BELGIAN FARMER
Leaving Holland with regret, we crossed the Schelde into Belgium, the cockpit of Europe. It is here that one sees what intensive farming is like. No fences to occupy space, no animals roaming at large, nothing but small strips of land tilled to the utmost, chiefly by hand. Little machinery is used, and much of the work is done after primitive fashions; but the land is productive, and it is worked to the top of its bent.
The peasant-farmer soils his cows, his sheep, his swine, in a way that is economical of space and food, if not of labor, and manages to make a living and to pay rent for his twenty-acre strip of land. His methods do not appeal to the American farmer, who wastes more grain and forage each year than would keep the Netherlander, his family, and his stock; but there is a lesson to be learned from this subdivision and careful cultivation of land. Belgian methods prove that Mother Earth can care for a great many children if she be properly husbanded, and that the sooner we recognize her capacity the better for us.
Abandoned farms are not known in Belgium and France, though the soil has been cultivated for a thousand years, and was originally no better than our New England farms, and not nearly so good as hundreds of those which are practically given over to “old fields” in Virginia.