Penelope's Irish Experiences
Kate Douglas Wiggin
Part 4 out of 4
having no fairies at all. There must have been a few in England in
Shakespeare's time, or he could never have written The Tempest or
the Midsummer Night's Dream; but where have they vanished?
As for us in America, I fear that we never have had any 'wee folk.'
The Indians had their woodland spirits, spirits of rocks, trees,
mountains, star and moon maidens; the negroes had their enchanted
animals and conjure men; but as for real wee folk, either they were
not indigenous to the soil or else we unconsciously drove them away.
Yet we had facilities to offer! The columbines, harebells, and
fringed gentians would have been just as cosy and secluded places to
live in as the Irish foxgloves, which are simply running over with
fairies. Perhaps they wouldn't have liked our cold winters; still
it must have been something more than climate, and I am afraid I
know the reason well--we are too sensible; and if there is anything
a fairy detests, it is common-sense. We are too rich, also; and a
second thing that a fairy abhors is the chink of dollars. Perhaps,
when I am again enjoying the advantages brought about by sound
money, commercial prosperity, and a magnificent system of public
education, I shall feel differently about it; but for the moment I
am just a bit embarrassed and crestfallen to belong to a nation
absolutely shunned by the fairies. If they had only settled among
us like other colonists, shaped us to their ends as far as they
could, and, when they couldn't, conformed themselves to ours, there
might have been, by this time, fairy trusts stretching out benign
arms all over the continent.
Of course it is an age of incredulity, but Salemina, Francesca, and
I have not come to Ireland to scoff, and whatever we do we shall not
go to the length of doubting the fairies; for, as Barney O'Mara
says, 'they stand to raison.'
Glen Ailna is a 'gentle' place near Carrig-a-fooka Inn--that is, one
beloved by the sheehogues; and though you may be never so much
interested, I may not tell you its exact whereabouts, since no one
can ever find it unless he is himself under the glamour. Perhaps
you might be a doubter, with no eyes for the 'dim kingdom'; perhaps
you might gaze for ever, and never be able to see a red-capped
fiddler, fiddling under a blossoming sloe bush. You might even see
him, and then indulge yourself in a fit of common-sense or doubt of
your own eyes, in which case the wee dancers would never flock to
the sound of the fiddle or gather on the fairy ring. This is the
reason that I shall never take you to Knockma, to Glen Ailna, or
especially to the hyacinth wood, which is a little plantation near
the ruin of a fort. Just why the fairies are so fond of an old rath
or lis I cannot imagine, for you would never suppose that
antiquaries, archaeologists, and wee folk would care for the same
I have no intention of interviewing the grander personages among the
Irish fairies, for they are known to be haughty, unapproachable, and
severe, as befits the descendants of the great Nature Gods and the
under-deities of flood and fell and angry sea. It is the lesser
folk, the gay, gracious, little men that I wish to meet; those who
pipe and dance on the fairy ring. The 'ring' is made, you know, by
the tiny feet that have tripped for ages and ages, flying, dancing,
circling, over the tender young grass. Rain cannot wash it away;
you may walk over it; you may even plough up the soil, and replant
it ever so many times; the next season the fairy ring shines in the
grass just the same. It seems strange that I am blind to it, when
an ignorant, dirty spalpeen who lives near the foot of Knockma has
seen it and heard the fairy music again and again. He took me to
the very place where, last Lammas Eve, he saw plainly--for there was
a beautiful, white moon overhead--the arch king and queen of the
fairies, who appear only on state occasions, together with a crowd
of dancers, and more than a dozen pipers piping melodious music.
Not only that, but (lucky little beggar!) he heard distinctly the
fulparnee and the folpornee, the rap-lay-hoota and the roolya-
boolya--noises indicative of the very jolliest and wildest and most
uncommon form of fairy conviviality. Failing a glimpse of these
midsummer revels, my next choice would be to see the Elf Horseman
galloping round the shores of the Fairy Lough in the cool of the
Stars come out and stars are hidin';
The wather whispers on the stones,
The flittherin' moths are free.
Onest before the mornin' light
The Horseman will come ridin'
Roun' an' roun' the Fairy Lough,
An' no one there to see.'
But there will be some one there, and that is the aforesaid Jamesy
Flanigan! Sometimes I think he is fibbing, but a glance at his
soft, dark, far-seeing eyes under their fringe of thick lashes
convinces me to the contrary. His field of vision is different from
mine, that is all, and he fears that if I accompany him to the
shores of the Fairy Lough the Horseman will not ride for him; so I
am even taunted with undue common-sense by a little Irish gossoon.
I tried to coax Benella to go with me to the hyacinth wood by
moonlight. Fairies detest a crowd, and I ought to have gone alone;
but, to tell the truth, I hardly dared, for they have a way of
kidnapping attractive ladies and keeping them for years in the dim
kingdom. I would not trust Himself at Glen Ailna for worlds, for
gentlemen are not exempt from danger. Connla of the Golden Hair was
lured away by a fairy maiden, and taken, in a 'gleaming, straight-
gliding, strong, crystal canoe,' to her domain in the hills; and
Oisin, you remember, was transported to the Land of the Ever
Youthful by the beautiful Niam. If one could only be sure of coming
back! but Oisin, for instance, was detained three hundred years, so
one might not be allowed to return, and still worse, one might not
wish to; three hundred years of youth would tempt--a woman! My
opinion, after reading the Elf Errant, is that one of us has been
there--Moira O'Neill. I should suspect her of being able to wear a
fairy cap herself, were it not for the human heart-throb in her
verses; but I am sure she has the glamour whenever she desires it,
and hears the fairy pipes at will.
Benella is of different stuff; she not only distrusts fairies, but,
like the Scotch Presbyterians, she fears that they are wicked.
"Still, you say they haven't got immortal souls to save, and I don't
suppose they're responsible for their actions," she allows; "but as
for traipsing up to those heathenish, haunted woods when all
Christian folks are in bed, I don't believe in it, and neither would
Mr. Beresford; but if you're set on it, I shall go with you!"
"You wouldn't be of the slightest use," I answered severely;
"indeed, you'd be worse than nobody. The fairies cannot endure
doubters; it makes them fold their wings over their heads and shrink
away into their flowercups. I should be mortified beyond words if a
fairy should meet me in your company."
Benella seemed hurt and a trifle resentful as she replied: "That
about doubters is just what Mrs. Kimberly used to say." (Mrs.
Kimberly is the Salem priestess, the originator of the 'science.')
"She couldn't talk a mite if there was doubters in the hall; and
it's so with spiritualists and clairvoyants, too--they're all of 'em
scare-cats. I guess likely that those that's so afraid of being
doubted has some good reason for it!"
Well, I never went to the hyacinth wood by moonlight, since so many
objections were raised, but I did go once at noonday, the very most
unlikely hour of all the twenty-four, and yet-
As I sat there beneath a gnarled thorn, weary and warm with my
climb, I looked into the heart of a bluebell forest growing under a
circle of gleaming silver birches, and suddenly I heard fairy music-
-at least it was not mortal--and many sounds were mingled in it:
the sighing of birches, the carol of a lark, the leap and laugh of a
silvery runnel tumbling down the hillside, the soft whir of
butterflies' wings, and a sweet little over or under tone, from the
over or under world, that I took to be the opening of a million
hyacinth buds in the sunshine. Then I heard the delicious sound of
a fairy laugh, and, looking under a swaying branch of meadowsweet, I
saw--yes, I really saw-
You must know that first a wee green door swung open in the stem of
the meadowsweet, and out of that land where you can buy joy for a
penny came a fairy in the usual red and green. I had the Elf Errant
in my lap, and I think that in itself made him feel more at home
with me, as well as the fact, perhaps, that for the moment I wasn't
a bit sensible and had no money about me. I was all ready with an
Irish salutation, for the purposes of further disarming his
aversion. I intended to say, as prettily as possible, though, alas!
I cannot manage the brogue, "And what way do I see you now?" or
"Good-mornin' to yer honour's honour!" But I was struck dumb by my
good fortune at seeing him at all. He looked at me once, and then,
flinging up his arms, he gave a weeny, weeny yawn! This was
disconcerting, for people almost never yawn in my company; and to
make it worse, he kept on yawning, until, for very sympathy, and not
at all in the way of revenge, I yawned too. Then the green door
swung open again, and a gay rabble of wide-awake fairies came
trooping out: and some of them kissed the hyacinth bells to open
them, and some of them flew to the thorn-tree, until every little
brancheen was white with flowers, where but a moment ago had been
tightly-closed buds. The yawning fairy slept meanwhile under the
swaying meadowsweet, and the butterflies fanned him with their soft
wings; but, alas! it could not have been the hour for dancing on the
fairy ring, nor the proper time for the fairy pipers, and long, long
as I looked I saw and heard nothing more than what I have told you.
Indeed, I presently lost even that, for a bee buzzed, a white petal
dropped from the thorn-tree on my face, there was a scraping of tiny
claws and the sound of two squirrels barking love to each other in
the high branches, and in that moment the glamour that was upon me
vanished in a twinkling.
"But I really did see the fairies!" I exclaimed triumphantly to
Benella the doubter, when I returned Carrig-a-fooka Inn, much too
late for luncheon.
"I want to know!" she exclaimed, in her New England vernacular. "I
guess by the looks o' your eyes they didn't turn out to be very
Part Fifth--Royal Meath.
Chapter XXVI. Ireland's gold.
'I sat upon the rustic seat-
The seat an aged bay-tree crowns-
And saw outspreading from our feet
The golden glory of the Downs.
The furze-crowned heights, the glorious glen,
The white-walled chapel glistening near,
The house of God, the homes of men,
The fragrant hay, the ripening ear.'
Denis Florence M'Carthy.
The Old Hall, Devorgilla,
Vale of the Boyne.
We have now lived in each of Ireland's four provinces, Leinster,
Munster, Ulster, and Connaught, but the confines of these provinces,
and their number, have changed several times since the beginning of
history. In A.D. 130 the Milesian monarchy was restored in the
person of Tuathal (Too'hal) the Legitimate. Over each of the Irish
provinces was a ri or king, and there was also over all Ireland an
Ard-ri or supreme monarch who lived at Tara up to the time of its
abandonment in the sixth century. Before Tuathal's day, the Ard-ri
had for his land allowance only a small tract around Tara, but
Tuathal cut off a portion from each of the four older provinces, at
the Great Stone of Divisions in the centre of Ireland, making the
fifth province of Royal Meath, which has since disappeared, but
which was much larger than the present two counties of Meath and
Westmeath. In this once famous, and now most lovely and fertile
spot, with the good republican's love of royalty and royal
institutions, we have settled ourselves; in the midst of verdant
plains watered by the Boyne and the Blackwater, here rippling over
shallows, there meandering in slow deep reaches between reedy banks.
The Old Hall, from which I write, is somewhere in the vale of the
Boyne, somewhere near Yellow Steeple, not so far from Treadagh, only
a few miles from Ballybilly (I hope to be forgiven this irreverence
to the glorious memory of his Majesty, William, Prince of Orange!),
and within driving distance of Killkienan, Croagh-Patrick, Domteagh,
and Tara Hill itself. If you know your Royal Meath, these
geographical suggestions will give you some idea of our location; if
not, take your map of Ireland, please (a thing nobody has near him),
and find the town of Tuam, where you left us a little time ago. You
will see a railway line from Tuam to Athenry, Athlone, and
Mullingar. Anybody can visit Mullingar--it is for the million; but
only the elect may go to Devorgilla. It is the captive of our bow
and spear; or, to change the figure, it is a violet by a mossy
stone, which we refuse to have plucked from its poetic solitude and
worn in the bosom or in the buttonhole of the tourist.
At Mullingar, then, we slip on enchanted garments which conceal us
from the casual eye, and disappear into what is, in midsummer, a
bower of beauty. There you will find, when you find us, Devorgilla,
lovely enough to be Tir-nan-og, that Land of the Ever Youthful well
know to the Celts of long ago. Here we have rested our weary bodies
and purified our travel-stained minds. Fresh from the poverty-
ridden hillsides of Connaught, these rich grazing-lands, comfortable
houses, magnificent demesnes and castles, are unspeakably grateful
to the eye and healing to the spirit. We have not forgotten, shall
never forget, our Connemara folk, nor yet Omadhaun Pat and dark
Timsy of Lisdara in the north; but it is good, for a change, to
breathe in this sense of general comfort, good cheer, and abundance.
Benella is radiant, for she is near enough to Trim to go there
occasionally to seek for traces of her ancestress, Mary Boyce; and
as for Salemina, this bit of country is a Mecca for antiquaries and
scholars, and we are fairly surrounded by towers, tumuli, and
cairns. "It's mostly ruins they do be wantin', these days," said a
wayside acquaintance. "I built a stone house for my donkey on the
knockaun beyant my cabin just, and bedad, there's a crowd round it
every Saturday callin' it the risidence of wan of the Danish kings!
An' they are diggin' at Tara now, ma'am, looking for the Ark of the
Covenant! They do be sayin' the prophet Jeremiah come over from
England and brought it wid him. Begorra, it's a lucky man he was to
get away wid it!"
Added to these advantages of position, we are within a few miles of
Rosnaree, Dr. La Touche's demesne, to which he comes home from
Dublin to-morrow, bringing with him our dear Mr. and Mrs. Colquhoun
of Ardnagreena. We have been here ourselves for ten days, and are
flattered to think that we have used the time as unconventionally as
we could well have done. We made a literary pilgrimage first, but
that is another story, and I will only say that we had a day in
Edgeworthstown and a drive through Goldsmith's country, where we saw
the Deserted Village, with its mill and brook, the 'church that tops
the neighbouring hill'; and even rested under
'The hawthorn bush with seats beneath the shade
For talking age and whispering lovers made.'
There are many parts of Ireland where one could not find a habitable
house to rent, but in this locality they are numerous enough to make
it possible to choose. We had driven over perhaps twenty square
miles of country, with the view of selecting the most delectable
spot that could be found, without going too far from Rosnaree. The
chief trouble was that we always desired every dwelling that we saw.
I tell you this with a view of lessening the shock when I confess
that, before we came to the Old Hall where we are now settled for a
month, and which was Salemina's choice, Francesca and I took two
different houses, and lived in them for seven days, each in solitary
splendour, like the Prince of Coolavin. It was not difficult to
agree upon the district, we were of one mind there: the moment that
we passed the town and drove along the flowery way that leads to
Devorgilla, we knew that it was the road of destiny.
The whitethorn is very late this year, and we found ourselves in the
full glory of it. It is beautiful in all its stages, from the time
when it first opens its buds, to the season when 'every spray is
white with may, and blooms the eglantine.' There is no hint of
green leaf visible then, and every tree is 'as white as snow of one
night.' This is the Gaelic comparison, and the first snow seems
especially white and dazzling, I suppose, when one sees it in the
morning where were green fields the night before. The sloe, which
is the blackthorn, comes still earlier and has fewer leaves. That
is the tree of the old English song:-
'From the white-blossomed sloe
My dear Chloe requested
A sprig her fair breast to adorn.
"No, by Heav'ns!" I exclaimed, "may I perish,
If ever I plant in that bosom a thorn!"'
And it is not only trees, but hedges and bushes and groves of
hawthorn, for a white thorn bush is seldom if ever cut down here,
lest a grieved and displeased fairy look up from the cloven trunk,
and no Irishman could bear to meet the reproach of her eyes. Do not
imagine, however, that we are all in white, like a bride: there is
the pink hawthorn, and there are pink and white horse-chestnuts
laden with flowers, yellow laburnums hanging over whitewashed farm-
buildings, lilacs, and, most wonderful of all, the blaze of the
yellow gorse. There will be a thorn hedge struggling with and
conquering a grey stone wall; then a golden gorse bush struggling
with and conquering the thorn; seeking the sun, it knows no
restraints, and creeping through the barriers of green and white and
grey, it fairly hurls its yellow splendours in great blazing patches
along the wayside. In dazzling glory, in richness of colour, there
is nothing in nature that we can compare with this loveliest and
commonest of all wayside weeds. The gleaming wealth of the Klondike
would make a poor showing beside a single Irish hedgerow; one would
think that Mother Earth had stored in her bosom all the sunniest
gleams of bygone summers, and was now giving them back to the sun
king from whom she borrowed them.
It was at twilight when we first swam this fragrant, golden sea--
twilight, and the birds were singing in every bush; the thrushes and
blackbirds in the blossoming cherry and chestnut-trees were so many
and so tuneful that the chorus was sweet and strong beyond anything
I ever heard. There had been a shower or two, of course; showers
that looked like shimmering curtains of silver gauze, and whether
they lifted or fell the birds went on singing.
"I did not believe such a thing possible but it is lovelier than
Pettybaw," said Francesca; and just here we came in sight of a pink
cottage cuddling on the breast of a hill. Pink the cottage was, as
if it had been hewed out of a coral branch or the heart of a salmon;
pink-washed were the stone walls and posts; pink even were the
chimneys; a green lattice over the front was the only leaf in the
bouquet. Wallflowers grew against the pink stone walls, and there
is no beautiful word in any beautiful language that can describe the
effect of that modest, rose-hued dwelling blushing against a
background of heather-brown hills covered solidly with golden gorse
bushes in full bloom. Himself and I have always agreed to spend our
anniversaries with Mrs. Bobby at Comfort Cottage, in England, or at
Bide-a-Wee, the 'wee, theekit hoosie' in the loaning at Pettybaw,
for our little love-story was begun in the one and carried on in the
other; but this, this, I thought instantly, must somehow be crowded
into the scheme of red-letter days. And now we suddenly discovered
something at once interesting and disconcerting--an American flag
floating from a tree in the background.
"The place is rented, then," said Francesca, "to some enterprising
American or some star-spangled Irishman who has succeeded in
discovering Devorgilla before us. I well understand how the shade
of Columbus must feel whenever Amerigo Vespucci's name is
We sent the driver off to await our pleasure, and held a
consultation by the wayside.
"I shall call at any rate," I announced; "any excuse will serve
which brings me nearer to that adorable dwelling. I intend to be
standing in that pink doorway, with that green lattice over my head,
when Himself arrives in Devorgilla. I intend to end my days within
those rosy walls, and to begin the process at the earliest possible
Salemina disapproved, of course. Her method is always to stand well
in the rear, trembling beforehand lest I should do something
unconventional; then, later on, when things romantic begin to
transpire, she says delightedly, "Wasn't that clever of us?"
"An American flag," I urged, "is a proclamation; indeed, it is, in a
sense, an invitation; besides it is my duty to salute it in a
"Patriotism, how many sins are practised in thy name!" said Salemina
satirically. "Can't you salute your flag from the high-road?"
"Not properly, Sally dear, nor satisfactorily. So you and Francesca
sit down, timidly and respectably, under the safe shadow of the
hedge, while I call upon the blooming family in the darling,
blooming house. I am an American artist, lured to their door alike
by devotion to my country's flag and love of the picturesque." And
so saying I ascended the path with some dignity and a false show of
The circumstances did not chance to be precisely what I had
expected. There was a nice girl tidying the kitchen, and I found no
difficulty in making friends with her. Her mother owned the
cottage, and rented it every season to a Belfast lady, who was
coming in a week to take possession, as usual. The American flag
had been floating in honour of her mother's brother, who had come
over from Milwaukee to make them a little visit, and had just left
that afternoon to sail from Liverpool. The rest of the family
lived, during the three summer months, in a smaller house down the
road; but she herself always stayed at the cottage, to 'mind' the
Belfast lady's children.
When I looked at the pink floor of the kitchen and the view from the
windows, I would have given anything in the world to outbid, yes,
even to obliterate the Belfast lady; but this, unfortunately, was
not only illegal and immoral, but it was impossible. So, calling
the mother in from the stables, I succeeded, after fifteen minutes'
persuasion, in getting permission to occupy the house for one week,
beginning with the next morning, and returned in triumph to my weary
constituents, who thought it an insane idea.
"Of course it is," I responded cheerfully; "that is why it is going
to be so altogether charming. Don't be envious; I will find
something mad for you to do, too. One of us is always submitting to
the will of the majority; now let us be as individually silly as we
like for a week, and then take a long farewell of freakishness and
freedom. Let the third volume die in lurid splendour, since there
is never to be a fourth."
"There is still Wales," suggested Francesca.
"Too small, Fanny dear, and we could never pronounce the names.
Besides, what sort of adventures would be possible to three--I mean,
of course, two--persons tied down by marital responsibilities and
family cares? Is it the sunset or the reflection of the pink house
that is shining on your pink face, Salemina?"
"I am extremely warm," she replied haughtily.
"I don't wonder; sitting on the damp grass under a hedge is so
stimulating to the circulation!" observed 'young Miss Fan.'
Chapter XXVII. The three chatelaines of Devorgilla.
'Have you been at Devorgilla,
Have you seen, at Devorgilla,
Beauty's train trip o'er the plain,-
The lovely maids of Devorgilla?'
Adapted from Edward Lysaght.
The next morning the Old Hall dropped like a ripe rowan berry into
our very laps. The landlord of the Shamrock Inn directed us
thither, and within the hour it belonged to us for the rest of the
summer. Miss Peabody, inclined to be severe with me for my
desertion, took up her residence at once. It had never been rented
before; but Miss Llewellyn-Joyce, the owner, had suddenly determined
to visit her sister in London, and was glad to find appreciative and
careful tenants. She was taking her own maid with her, and thus
only one servant remained, to be rented with the premises, as is
frequently the Irish fashion. The Old Hall has not always been
managed thus economically, it is easy to see, and Miss Llewellyn-
Joyce speaks with the utmost candour of her poverty, as indeed the
ruined Irish gentry always do. I well remember taking tea with a
family in West Clare where in default of a spoon the old squire
stirred his cup with the poker, a proceeding apparently so usual
that he never thought of apologising for it as an oddity.
The Hall has a lodge, which is a sort of miniature Round Tower, at
the entrance gate, and we see nothing for it but to import a brass-
buttoned boy from the nearest metropolis, where we must also send
for a second maid.
"That'll do when you get him," objected Benella, "though boys need a
lot of overseeing; but as nobody can get in or come out o' that gate
without help, I shall have to go to the lodge every day now, and set
down there with my sewin' from four to six in the afternoon, or
whenever the callin' hours is. When I engaged with you, it wasn't
for any particular kind of work; it was to make myself useful. I've
been errand-boy and courier, golf-caddie and footman, beau, cook,
land agent, and mother to you all, and I guess I can be a lodge-
keeper as well as not."
Francesca had her choice of residing either with Salemina or with
me, during our week of separation, and drove in my company to
Rosaleen Cottage, to make up her mind. While she was standing at my
gate, engaged in reflection, she espied a small cabin not far away,
and walked toward it on a tour of investigation. It proved to have
three tiny rooms--a bedroom, sitting-room, and kitchen. The rent
was only two pounds a month, it is true, but it was in all respects
the most unattractive, poverty-stricken, undesirable dwelling I ever
saw. It was the small stove in the kitchen that kindled Francesca's
imagination, and she made up her mind instantly to become a
householder on her own account. I tried to dissuade her; but she is
as firm as the Rock of Cashel when once she has set her heart upon
"I shall be almost your next-door neighbour, Penelope," she coaxed,
"and of course you will give me Benella. She will sleep in the
sitting-room, and I will do the cooking. The landlady says there is
no trouble about food. 'What to ate?' she inquired, leaning out
sociably over the half-door. 'Sure it'll drive up to your very
doore just.' And here is the 'wee grass,' as she calls it, where
'yous can take your tay' under the Japanese umbrella left by the
last tenant. Think how unusual it will be for us to live in three
different houses for a week; and 'there's luck in odd numbers, says
Rory O'More.' We shall have the advantages of good society, too,
when we are living apart, for I foresee entertainment after
entertainment. We will give breakfasts, luncheons, teas, and
dinners to one another; and meanwhile I shall have learned all the
housewifely arts. Think, too, how much better you can paint with me
out of your way!"
"Does no thought of your eccentricity blight your young spirit,
"Why should it when I have simply shaped my course by yours?"
"But I am married, my child."
"And I'm 'going to be married, aha, Mamma!' as the song says; and
what about Salemina, you haven't scolded her?"
"She is living her very last days of single blessedness," I
rejoined; "she does not know it, but she is; and I want to give her
all the freedom possible. Very well, dear innocent, live in your
wee hut, then, if you can persuade Benella to stay with you; but I
think there would best be no public visiting between you and those
who live in Rosaleen Cottage and the Old Hall, as it might ruin
their social position."
Benella confessed that she had not the heart to refuse Francesca
anything. "She's too handsome," she said, "and too winnin'. I
s'pose she'll cook up some dreadful messes, but I'm willin' to eat
'em, to oblige her, and perhaps it'll save her husband a few spells
of dyspepsy at the start; though, as far as my experience goes,
ministers'll always eat anything that's set before 'em, and look
over their shoulders for more."
We had a heavenly week of silliness, and by dint of concealing our
real relations from the general public, I fancy we escaped harsh
criticism. There is a very large percentage of lunacy anyway in
Ireland, as well as great leniency of public opinion, and I fancy
there is scarcely a country on the map in which one could be more
foolish without being found out. Visit each other we did
constantly, and candour obliges me to state that, though each of us
secretly prided herself on the perfection of her cuisine, Miss
Monroe gave the most successful afternoon tea of all, on the 'wee
grass,' under the Japanese umbrella. How unexpectedly good were her
scones, her tea-cakes, and her cress sandwiches, and how pretty and
graceful and womanly she was, all flushed with pride at our envy and
approbation! I did a water-colour sketch of her and sent it to
Ronald, receiving in return a letter bubbling over with fond
admiration and gratitude. She seems always in tone with the season
and the landscape, does Francesca, and she arrives at it
unconsciously, too. She glances out of her window at the yellow
laburnum-tree when she is putting on her white frock, and it
suggests to her all her amber trinkets and her drooping hat with the
wreath of buttercups. When she came to my hawthorn luncheon at
Rosaleen Cottage she did not make the mistake of heaping pink on
pink, but wore a cotton gown of palest green, with a bunch of rosy
blossoms at her belt. I painted her just as she stood under the
hawthorn, with its fluttering petals and singing birds, calling the
picture Grainne Mael*: A Vision of Erinn, writing under it the
'The thrushes seen in bushes green are singing loud-
Bid sadness go and gladness glow,--give welcome proud!
The Rover comes, the Lover, whom you long bewail,
O'er sunny seas, with honey breeze, to Grainne Mael.'
* Pronounced Graunia Wael, the M being modified. It is one of the
endearing names given to Ireland in the Penal Times.
Benella, I fancy, never had so varied a week in her life, and she
was in her element. We were obliged to hire a side-car by the day,
as two of our residences were over a mile apart; and the driver of
that vehicle was the only person, I think, who had any suspicion of
our sanity. In the intervals of teaching Francesca cooking, and
eating the results while the cook herself prudently lunched or dined
with her friends, Benella 'spring-cleaned' the lodge at the Old
Hall, scrubbed the gateposts, mended stone walls, weeded garden
beds, made bags for the brooms and dusters and mattresses, burned
coffee and camphor and other ill-smelling things in all the rooms,
and devoted considerable time to superintending my little maid, that
I might not feel neglected. We were naturally obliged, meanwhile,
to wait upon ourselves and keep our frocks in order; but as long as
the Derelict was so busy and happy, and so devoted to the universal
good, it would have been churlish and ungrateful to complain.
On leaving the Wee Hut, as Francesca had, with ostentatious modesty,
named her residence, she paid her landlady two pounds, and was
discomfited when the exuberant and impetuous woman embraced her in a
paroxysm of weeping gratitude.
"I cannot understand, Penelope, why she was so disproportionately
grateful, for I only gave her five shillings over the two pounds
"Yes, dear," I responded drily; "but you remember that the rent was
for the month, and you paid her two pounds five shillings for the
All the rest of that day Francesca was angelic. She brought
footstools for Salemina, wound wool for her, insisted upon washing
my paint brushes, read aloud to us while we were working, and
offered to be the one to discharge Benella if the awful moment for
that surgical operation should ever come. Finally, just as we were
about to separate for the night, she said, with insinuating
sweetness, "You won't tell Ronald about my mistake with the rent-
money, will you, dearest and darlingest girls?"
We are now quite ready to join in all the gaieties that may ensue
when Rosnaree welcomes its master and his guests. Our page in
buttons at the lodge gives Benella full scope for her administrative
ability, which seems to have sprung into being since she entered our
service; at least, if I except that evidence of it which she
displayed in managing us when first we met. She calls our page 'the
Button Boy,' and makes his life a burden to him by taking him away
from his easy duties at the gate, covering his livery with baggy
overalls, and setting him to weed the garden. It can never, in the
nature of things, be made free from weeds during our brief term of
tenancy, but Benella cleverly keeps her slave at work on the beds
and the walks that are the most conspicuous to visitors. The Old
Hall used simply to be called 'Aunt David's house' by the Welsh
Joyces, and it was Aunt David herself who made the garden; she who
traced the lines of the flower-beds with the ivory tip of her
parasol; she who planned the quaint stone gateways and arbours and
hedge seats; she who devised the interminable stretches of paths,
the labyrinthine walks, the mazes, and the hidden flower-plots. You
walk on and on between high hedges, until, if you have not missed
your way, you presently find a little pansy or rose or lily garden.
It is quite the most unexpected and piquant method of laying out a
place I have ever seen; and the only difficulty about it is that any
gardener, unless he were possessed of unusual sense of direction,
would be continually astray in it. The Button Boy, obeying the laws
of human nature, is lost in two minutes, but requires two hours in
which to find himself. Benella suspects that he prefers this
wandering to and fro to the more monotonous task of weeding, and it
is no uncommon thing for her to pursue the recalcitrant page through
the mazes and labyrinths for an hour at a time, and perhaps lose
herself in the end. Salemina and I were sitting this morning in the
Peacock Walk, where two trees clipped into the shape of long-tailed
birds mount guard over the box hedge, and put their beaks together
to form an arch. In the dim distance we could see Benella 'bagging'
the Button Boy, and, after putting the trowel and rake in his
reluctant hands, tying the free end of a ball of string to his leg,
and sending him to find and weed the pansy garden. We laughed until
the echoes rang, to see him depart, dragging his lengthening chain,
or his Ariadne thread, behind him, while Benella grimly held the
ball, determined that no excuses or apologies should interfere with
his work on this occasion.
Chapter XXVIII. Round towers and reflections.
'On Lough Neagh's banks, as the fisherman strays,
When the cool, calm eve's declining.
He sees the round towers of other days
Beneath the waters shining.'
A Dublin car-driver told me one day that he had just taken a picnic-
party to the borders of a lake, where they had had tea in a tramcar
which had been placed there for such purposes. Francesca and I were
amused at the idea, but did not think of it again until we drove
through the La Touche estate, on one of the first days after our
arrival at Devorgilla. We left Salemina at Rosnaree House with Aunt
La Touche and the children, and proceeded to explore the grounds,
with the view of deciding on certain improvements to be made when
the property passes, so to speak, into our hands.
Truth to say, nature has done more for it than we could have done;
and if it is a trifle overgrown and rough and rank, it could hardly
be more beautiful. At the very furthest confines of the demesne
there is a brook,--large enough, indeed, to be called a river here,
where they have no Mississippi to dwarf all other streams and serve
as an impossible standard of comparison. Tall trees droop over the
calm water, and on its margins grow spearwort, opening its big
yellow cups to the sunshine, meadow rue, purple and yellow
loosestrife, bog bean, and sweet flag. Here and there float upon
the surface the round leaves and delicate white blossoms of the
frogbit, together with lilies, pondweeds, and water starworts.
"What an idyllic place to sit and read, or sew, or have tea!"
"What a place for a tram tea-house!" I added. "Do you suppose we
could manage it as a surprise to Dr. La Touche, in return for all
"It would cost a pretty penny, I fear," said Francesca prudently,
"though it isn't as if it were going out of the family. Now that
there is no longer any need for you to sell pictures, I suppose you
could dash off one in an hour or two that would buy a tram; and papa
cabled me yesterday, you know, to draw on him freely. I used to
think, whenever he said that, that he would marry again within the
week; but I did him injustice. A tram tea-house by the river,--
wouldn't it be unique? Do let us see what we can do about it
through some of our Dublin acquaintances."
The plan proved unexpectedly easy to carry out, and not ruinously
extravagant, either; for our friend the American consul knew the
principal director in a tram company, and a dilapidated and
discarded car was sent to us in a few days. There were certain
moments--once when we saw that it had not been painted for twenty
years, once when the freight bill was handed us, and again when we
contracted for the removal of our gift from the station to the
river-bank--when we regretted the fertility of imagination that had
led us to these lengths; but when we finally saw the car by the
water-side, there was no room left for regret. Benella said that,
with the assistance of the Button Boy, she could paint it easily
herself; but we engaged an expert, who put on a coat of dark green
very speedily, and we consoled the Derelict with the suggestion that
she could cover the cushions, and make the interior cosy and pretty.
All this happened some little time ago. Dr. La Touche has been at
home for a fortnight, and we have had to use the greatest ingenuity
to keep people away from that particular spot, which, fortunately
for us, is a secluded one. All is ready now, however, and the
following cards of invitation have been issued:-
The honour of your presence
is requested at the
Opening of the New Tea Tram
On the River Bank, Rosnaree Demesne,
Wednesday, June 27th, at 4 p.m.
The ceremony will be performed by
H.R.H. Salemina Peabody.
The Bishop of Ossory in the Chair.
I have just learned that a certain William Beresford was Bishop of
Ossory once on a time, and I intend to personate this dignitary,
clad in Dr. La Touche's cap and gown. We spend this sunny morning
by the river-bank; Francesca hemming the last of the yellow window
curtains, and I making souvenir programmes for the great occasion.
Salemina had gone for the day with the Colquhouns and Dr. La Touche
to lunch with some people near Kavan and see Donaghmore Round Tower
and the moat.
"Is she in love with Dr. Gerald?" asked Francesca suddenly, looking
up from her work. "Was she ever in love with him? She must have
been, mustn't she? I cannot and will not entertain any other
"I don't know, my dear," I answered thoughtfully, pausing over an
initial letter I was illuminating; "but I can't imagine what we
shall do if we have to tear down our sweet little romance, bit by
bit, and leave the stupid couple sitting in the ruins. They enjoy
ruins far too well already, and it would be just like their
obstinacy to go on sitting in them."
"And they are so incredibly slow about it all," Francesca commented.
"It took me about two minutes, at Lady Baird's dinner, where I first
met Ronald, to decide that I would marry him as soon as possible.
When a month had gone by, and he hadn't asked me, I thought, like
Rosalind, that I'd as lief be wooed of a snail."
"I was not quite so expeditious as you," I confessed, "though I
believe Himself says that his feeling was instantaneous. I never
cared for anything but painting before I met him, so I never chanced
to suffer any of those pangs that lovelorn maidens are said to feel
when the beloved delays his avowals: perhaps that is the reason I
suffer so much now, vicariously."
"The lack of positive information makes one so impatient," Francesca
went on. "I am sure he is as fond of her as ever; but if she
refused him when he was young and handsome, with every prospect of a
brilliant career before him, perhaps he thinks he has even less
chance now. He was the first to forget their romance, and the one
to marry; his estates have been wasted by his father's legal
warfares, and he has been an unhappy and a disappointed man. Now he
has to beg her to heal his wounds, as it were, and to accept the
care and responsibility of his children."
"It is very easy to see that we are not the only ones who suspect
his sentiments," I said, smiling at my thoughts. "Mrs. Colquhoun
told me that she and Salemina stopped at one of the tenants' cabins,
the other day, to leave some small comforts that Dr. La Touche had
sent to a sick child. The woman thanked Salemina, and Mrs.
Colquhoun heard her say, 'When a man will stop, coming in the doore,
an' stoop down to give a sthroke and a scratch to the pig's back,
depend on it, ma'am, him that's so friendly with a poor fellow-
crathur will make ye a good husband.'
"I have given him every opportunity to confide in me," I continued,
after a pause, "but he accepts none of them; and yet I like him a
thousand times better now that I have seen him as the master of his
own house. He is so courtly, and, in these latter days, so genial
and sunny . . . Salemina's life would not at first be any too easy,
I fear; the aunt is very feeble, and the establishment is so
neglected. I went into Dr. Gerald's study the other day to see an
old print, and there was a buzz-buzz-zzzz when the butler pulled up
the blinds. 'Do you mind bees, ma'am?' he asked blandly. 'There's
been a swarm of them in one corner of the ceiling for manny years,
an' we don't like to disturb them.' . . . Benella said yesterday:
'Of course, when you three separate, I shall stay with the one that
needs me most; but if Miss Peabody SHOULD settle over here anywhere,
I'd like to take a scrubbing brush an' go through the castle, or
whatever she's going to live in, with soap and sand and ammonia, and
make it water-sweet before she sets foot in it.' . . . As for the
children, however, no one could regard them as a drawback, for they
are altogether charming; not well disciplined, of course, but
lovable to the last degree. Broona was planning her future life
when we were walking together yesterday. Jackeen is to be 'an
engineer, by the sea,' so it seems, and Broona is to be a farmer's
wife with a tiny red bill-book like Mrs. Colquhoun's. Her little
boys and girls will sell the milk, and when Jackeen has his
engineering holidays he will come and eat fresh butter and scones
and cream and jam at the farm, and when her children have their
holidays they will go and play on 'Jackeen's beach.' It is the
little people I rely upon chiefly, after all. I wish you could have
seen them cataract down the staircase to greet her this morning. I
notice that she tries to make me divert their attention when Dr.
Gerald is present; for it is a bit suggestive to a widower to see
his children pursue, hang about, and caress a lovely, unmarried
lady. Broona, especially, can hardly keep away from Salemina; and
she is such a fascinating midget, I should think anybody would be
glad to have her included in a marriage contract. 'You have a
weeny, weeny line between your eyebrows, just like my daddy's,' she
said to Salemina the other day. 'It's such a little one, perhaps I
can kiss it away; but daddy has too many, and they are cutted too
deep. Sometimes he whispers, 'Daddy is sad, Broona,' and then I
say, 'Play up, play up, and play the game!' and that makes him
"She is a darling," said Francesca, with the suspicion of a tear in
her eye. "'Were you ever in love, Miss Fancy?' she asked me once.
'I was; it was long, long ago before I belonged to daddy'; and
another time when I had been reading to her, she said 'I often think
that when I get into the kingdom of heaven the person I'll be
gladdest to see will be Marjorie Fleming.' Yes, the children are
sure to help; they always do in whatever circumstances they chance
to be placed. Did you notice Salemina with them at tea-time,
yesterday? It was such a charming scene. The heavy rain had kept
them in, and things had gone wrong in the nursery. Salemina had
glued the hair on Broona's dolly, and knit up a heart-breaking wound
in her side. Then she mended the legs of all the animals in the
Noah's ark, so that they stood firm, erect, and proud; and when, to
draw the children's eyes from the wet window-panes, she proposed a
story, it was pretty to see the grateful youngsters snuggle in her
lap and by her side."
"When does an artist ever fail to see pictures? I have loved
Salemina always, even when she used to part her hair in the middle
and wear spectacles; but that is the first time I ever wanted to
paint her, with the firelight shining on the soft, restful greys and
violets of her dress, and Broona in her arms. Of course, if a woman
is ever to be lovely at all, it will be when she is holding a child.
It is the oldest of all old pictures, and the most beautiful, I
believe, in a man's eyes.
"And do you notice that she and the doctor are beginning to speak
more freely of their past acquaintance?" I went on, looking up at
Francesca, who had dropped her work in her interest. "It is too
amusing! Every hour or two it is: 'Do you remember the day we went
to Bunker Hill?' or, 'Do you recall that charming Mrs. Andrews, with
whom we used to dine occasionally?' or, 'What has become of your
cousin Samuel?' and, 'Is your uncle Thomas yet living?' . . . The
other day, at tea, she asked, 'Do you still take three lumps, Dr. La
Touche? You had always a sweet tooth, I remember.' . . . Then they
ring the changes in this way: 'You were always fond of grey, Miss
Peabody.' 'You had a great fancy for Moore, in the old days, Miss
Peabody: have you outgrown him, or does the 'Anacreontic little
chap,' as Father Prout called him, still appeal to you?' . . . 'You
used to admire Boyle O'Reilly, Dr. La Touche. Would you like to see
some of his letters?' . . . 'Aren't these magnificent rhododendrons,
Dr. La Touche,--even though they are magenta, the colour you
specially dislike?' And so on. Did you chance to look at either of
them last evening, Francesca, when I sang 'Let Erin remember the
days of old'?"
"No; I was thinking of something else. I don't know what there is
about your singing, Penny love, that always makes me think of the
past and dream of the future. Which verse do you mean?"
And, still painting, I hummed:-
"'On Lough Neagh's banks, as the fisherman strays,
When the cool, calm eve's declining,
He sees the round towers of other days
Beneath the waters shining.
. . . . . .
Thus shall memory oft, in dreams sublime,
Catch a glimpse of the days that are over,
And, sighing, look thro' the waves of Time,
For the long-faded glories they cover.'
"That is what our two dear middle-aged lovers are constantly doing
now,--looking at the round towers of other days, as they bend over
memory's crystal pool and see them reflected there. It is because
he fears that the glories are over and gone that Dr. Gerald is
troubled. Some day he will realise that he need not live on
reflections, and he will seek realities."
"I hope so," said Francesca philosophically, as she folded her work;
"but sometimes these people who go mooning about, and looking
through the waves of Time, tumble in and are drowned."
Chapter XXIX. Aunt David's garden.
'O wind, O mighty, melancholy wind,
Blow through me, blow!
Thou blowest forgotten things into my mind
From long ago.'
No one ever had a better opportunity than we, of breathing in, so
far as a stranger and a foreigner may, the old Celtic atmosphere,
and of reliving the misty years of legend before the dawn of
'Long, long ago, beyond the space
Of twice two hundred years,
In Erin old there lived a race
Taller than Roman spears.'
Mr. Colquhoun is one of the best Gaelic scholars in Ireland, and Dr.
Gerald, though not his equal in knowledge of the language, has 'the
full of a sack of stories' in his head. According to the Book of
Leinster, a professional story-teller was required to know seven
times fifty tales, and I believe the doctor could easily pass this
test. It is not easy to make a good translation from Irish to
English, for they tell us there are no two Aryan languages more
opposed to each other in spirit and idiom. We have heard little of
the marvellous old tongue until now, but we are reading it a bit
under the tutelage of these two inspiring masters, and I fancy it
has helped me as much in my understanding of Ireland as my tedious
and perplexing worriments over political problems.
After all, how can we know anything of a nation's present or future
without some attempt to revivify its past? Just as, without some
slender knowledge of its former culture, we must be for ever
ignorant of its inherited powers and aptitudes. The harp that once
through Tara's halls the soul of music shed, now indeed hangs mute
on Tara's walls, but for all that its echoes still reverberate in
the listening ear.
When we sit together by the river brink on sunny days, or on the
greensward under the yews in our old garden, we are always telling
ancient Celtic romances, and planning, even acting, new ones.
Francesca's mind and mine are poorly furnished with facts of any
sort; but when the kind scholars in our immediate neighbourhood
furnish necessary information and inspiration, we promptly turn it
into dramatic form, and serve it up before their wondering and
admiring gaze. It is ever our habit to 'make believe' with the
children; and just as we played ballads in Scotland and plotted
revels in the Glen at Rowardennan, so we instinctively fall into the
habit of thought and speech that surrounds us here.
This delights our grave and reverend signiors, and they give
themselves up to our whimsicalities with the most whole-hearted
zeal. It is days since we have spoken of one another by those names
which were given to us in baptism. Francesca is Finola the Festive.
Eveleen Colquhoun is Ethnea. I am the harper, Pearla the Melodious.
Miss Peabody is Sheela the Skilful Scribe, who keeps for posterity a
record of all our antics, in the Speckled Book of Salemina. Dr.
Gerald is Borba the Proud, the Ard-ri or overking. Mr. Colquhoun is
really called Dermod, but he would have been far too modest to
choose Dermot O'Dyna for his Celtic name, had we not insisted; for
this historic personage was not only noble-minded, generous, of
untarnished honour, and the bravest of the brave, but he was as
handsome as he was gallant, and so much the idol of the ladies that
he was sometimes called Dermat-na-man, or Dermot of the women.
Of course we have a corps of shanachies, or story-tellers, gleemen,
gossipreds, leeches, druids, gallowglasses, bards, ollaves,
urraghts, and brehons; but the children can always be shifted from
one role to another, and Benella and the Button Boy, although they
are quite unaware of the honours conferred upon them, are often
alluded to in our romances and theatrical productions.
Aunt David's garden is not a half bad substitute for the old Moy-
Mell, the plain of pleasure of the ancient Irish, when once you have
the key to its treasures. We have made a new and authoritative
survey of its geographical features and compiled a list of its
legendary landmarks, which, strangely enough, seem to have been
absolutely unknown to Miss Llewellyn-Joyce.
In the very centre is the Forradh, or Place of Meeting, and on it is
our own Lia Fail, Stone of Destiny. The one in Westminster Abbey,
carried away from Scotland by Edward I., is thought by many scholars
to be unauthentic, and we hope that ours may prove to have some
historical value. The only test of a Stone of Destiny, as I
understand it, is that it shall 'roar' when an Irish monarch is
inaugurated; and that our Lia Fail was silent when we celebrated
this impressive ceremony reflects less upon its own powers, perhaps,
than upon the pedigree of our chosen Ard-ri.
The arbour under the mountain ash is the Fairy Palace of the Quicken
Tree, and on its walls is suspended the Horn of Foreknowledge, which
if any one looks on it in the morning, fasting, he will know in a
moment all things that are to happen during that day.
The clump of willows is the Wood of the Many Sallows (a willow-tree
is familiarly known as a 'sally' in Ireland). Do you know Yeats's
song, put to a quaint old Irish air?
'Down by the sally gardens my love and I did meet,
She passed the sally gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree,
But I, being young and foolish, with her did not agree.'
The summer-house is the Greenan; that is, grianan, a bright, sunny
place. On the arm of a tree in the Greenan hangs something you
might (if you are dull) mistake for a plaited garland of rushes hung
with pierced pennies; but it really is our Chain of Silence, a
useful article of bygone ages, which the lord of a mansion shook
when he wished an attentive hearing, and which deserved a better
fate and a longer survival than it has met. Jackeen's Irish terrier
is Bran,--though he does not closely resemble the great Finn's
sweet-voiced, gracefully-shaped, long-snouted hound; the coracle
lying on the shore of the little lough--the coracle made of skin,
like the old Irish boats--is the Wave-Sweeper; and the faithful mare
that we hire by the day is, by your leave, Enbarr of the Flowing
Mane. No warrior was ever killed on the back of this famous steed,
for she was as swift as the clear, cold wind of spring, travelling
with equal ease and speed on land and sea, an' may the divil fly
away wid me if that same's not true.
We no longer find any difficulty in remembering all this
nomenclature, for we are 'under gesa' to use no other. When you are
put under gesa to reveal or to conceal, to defend or to avenge, it
is a sort of charm or spell; also an obligation of honour. Finola
is under gesa not to write to Alba more than six times a week and
twice on Sundays; Sheela is bound by the same charm to give us
muffins for afternoon tea; I am vowed to forget my husband when I am
relating romances, and allude to myself, for dramatic purposes, as a
maiden princess, or a maiden of enchanting and all-conquering
beauty. And if we fail to abide by all these laws of the modern
Dedannans of Devorgilla, which are written in the Speckled Book of
Salemina, we are to pay eric-fine. These fines are collected with
all possible solemnity, and the children delight in them to such an
extent that occasionally they break the law for the joy of the
penalty. If you have ever read the Fate of the Children of Turenn,
you remember that they were to pay to Luga the following eric-fine
for the slaying of their father, Kian: two steeds and a chariot,
seven pigs, a hound whelp, a cooking-spit, and three shouts on a
hill. This does not at first seem excessive, if Kian were a good
father, and sincerely mourned; but when Luga began to explain the
hidden snares that lay in the pathway, it is small wonder that the
sons of Turenn felt doubt of ever being able to pay it, and that
when, after surmounting all the previous obstacles, they at last
raised three feeble shouts on Midkena's Hill, they immediately gave
up the ghost.
The story told yesterday by Sheela the Scribe was the Magic Thread-
Clue, or the Pursuit of the Gilla Dacker, Benella and the Button Boy
being the chief characters; Finola's was the Voyage of the Children
of Corr the Swift-Footed (the Ard-ri's pseudonym for American
travellers); while mine, to be told to-morrow, is called the Quest
of the Fair Strangers, or the Fairy Quicken Tree of Devorgilla.
Chapter XXX. The Quest of the Fair Strangers, or
The Fairy Quicken-Tree of Devorgilla.*
'Before the King
The bards will sing.
And there recall the stories all
That give renown to Ireland.'
Eighteenth Century Song.
Englished by George Sigerson.
*It seems probable that this tale records a real incident which took
place in Aunt David's garden. Penelope has apparently listened with
such attention to the old Celtic romances as told by the Ard-ri and
Dermot O'Dyna that she has, consciously or unconsciously, reproduced
something of their atmosphere and phraseology. The delightful
surprise at the end must have been contrived by Salemina, when she,
in her character of Sheela the Scribe, gazed into the Horn of
Foreknowledge and learned the events that were to happen that day.--
Three maidens once dwelt in a castle in that part of the Isle of
Weeping known as the cantred of Devorgilla, Devorgilla of the Green
Hill Slopes; and they were baptized according to druidical rites as
Sheela the Scribe, Finola the Festive, and Pearla the Melodious,
though by the dwellers in that land they were called the Fair
Strangers, or the Children of Corr the Swift-Footed.
This cantred of Devorgilla they acquired by paying rent and tribute
to the Wise Woman of Wales, who granted them to fish in its crystal
streams and to hunt over the green-sided hills, to roam through the
woods of yew-trees and to pluck the flowers of every hue that were
laughing all over the plains.
Thus were they circumstanced: Their palace of abode was never
without three shouts in it,--the shout of the maidens brewing tea,
the shout of the guests drinking it, and the shout of the assembled
multitude playing at their games. The same house was never without
three measures,--a measure of magic malt for raising the spirits, a
measure of Attic salt for the seasoning of tales, and a measure of
poppy leaves to induce sleep when the tales were dull.
And the manner of their lives was this: In the cool of the morning
they gathered nuts and arbutus apples and scarlet quicken berries to
take back with them to Tir-thar-toinn, the Country beyond the Wave;
for this was the land of their birth. When the sun was high in the
east they went forth to the chase; sometimes it was to hunt the Ard-
ri, and at others it was in pursuit of Dermot of the Bright Face.
Then, after resting awhile on their couches of soft rushes, they
would perform champion feats, or play on their harps, or fish in
their clear-flowing streams that were swimming with salmon.
The manner of their fishing was this: to cut a long, straight
sallow-tree rod, and having fastened a hook and one of Finola's
hairs upon it, to put a quicken-tree berry upon the hook, and stand
on the brink of the swift-flowing river, whence they drew out the
shining-skinned, silver-sided salmon. These they would straightway
broil over a little fire of birch boughs; and they needed with them
no other food but the magical loaf made by Toma, one of their house-
servants. The witch hag that dwelt on that hillside of Rosnaree
called Fan-na-carpat, or the Slope of the Chariots, had cast a
druidical spell over Toma, by which she was able to knead a loaf
that would last twenty days and twenty nights, and one mouthful of
which would satisfy hunger for that length of time.**
Not far from the mayden castle was a certain royal palace, with a
glittering roof, and the name of the palace was Rosnaree. And upon
the level green in front of the regal abode, or in the banqueting-
halls, might always be seen noble companies of knights and ladies
bright,--some feasting, some playing at the chess, some giving ear
to the music of their own harps, some continually shaking the Chain
of Silence, and some listening to the poems and tales of heroes of
the olden time that were told by the king's bards and shanachies.
Now all went happily with the Fair Strangers until the crimson
berries were ripening on the quicken-tree near the Fairy Palace.
For the berries possessed secret virtues known only to a man of the
Dedannans, and learned from him by Sheela the Scribe, who put him
under gesa not to reveal the charm to any one else. Whosoever ate
of the honey-sweet, scarlet-glowing fruit felt a cheerful flow of
spirits, as if he had tasted wine or mead, and whosoever ate a
sufficient number of them was almost certain to grow younger. These
things were written in the Speckled Book of Salemina, but in
druidical ink, undecipherable to all eyes but those of the Scribe
So, wishing that none should possess the secret but themselves, the
Fair Strangers set the Gilla Dacker+ to watch the fruit (putting him
first under gesa to eat none of the berries himself, since he was
already too cheerful and too young to be of much service); and thus,
in their absence, the magical tree was never left alone.
+Could be freely translated as the Slothful Button Boy.
Nevertheless, when Finola the Festive went forth to the chase one
day, she found a quicken berry glowing like a ruby in the highroad,
and Sheela plucked a second from under a gnarled thorn on the Slope
of the Chariots, and Pearla discovered a third in the curiously-
compounded, swiftly-satisfying loaf of Toma. Then the Fair
Strangers became very angry, and sent out their trusty fleet-footed
couriers to scour the land for the invaders; for they knew that none
of the Dedannans would take the berries, being under gesa not to do
so. But the couriers returned, and though they were men able to
trace the trail of a fox through nine glens and nine rivers, they
could discover no proof of the presence of a foreign foe in the
mayden cantred of Devorgilla.
Then the hearts of the Fair Strangers were filled with grief and
gall, for they distrusted the couriers, and having consulted the
Ard-ri, they set forth themselves to find and conquer the invader;
for the king told them that there was one other quicken-tree, more
beautiful and more magical than that growing by the Fairy Palace,
and that it was set in another part of the bright-blooming, sweet-
scented old garden,--namely, in the heart of the labyrinthine maze
of the Wise Woman of Wales; but as no one of them, neither the Gilla
Dacker nor those who pursued him, had ever, even with the aid of the
Magic Thread-Clue, reached the heart of the maze, there was no
knowledge among them of the second quicken-tree. The king also told
Sheela the Scribe, secretly, that one of his knights had found a
money-piece and a breviary in the forest of Rosnaree; and the silver
was unlike any ever used in the country of the Dedannans, and the
breviary could belong only to a pious Gael known as Loskenn of the
Now Sheela the Scribe, having fasted from midnight until dawn, gazed
upon the Horn of Foreknowledge, and read there that it was wiser for
her to remain on guard at the Fairy Palace, while her sisters
explored the secret fastnesses of the labyrinth.
When Finola was apparelled to set forth upon her quest, Pearla
thought her the loveliest maiden upon the ridge of the world, and
wondered whether she meant to conquer the invader by force of arms
or by the power of beauty.
The rose and the lily were fighting together in her face, and one
could not tell which of them got the victory. Her arms and hands
were like the lime, her mouth was as red as a ripe strawberry, her
foot as small and as light as another one's hand, her form smooth
and slender, and her hair falling down from her head under combs of
gold.++ One could not look at her without being 'all over in love
with her,' as Oisin said at his first meeting with Niam of the
Golden Hair. And as for Pearla, the rose on her cheeks was
heightened by her rage against the invader, the delicate blossom of
the sloe was not whiter than her neck, and her glossy chestnut
ringlets fell to her waist.
++Description of the Princess in Guleesh na Guss Dhu.
Then the Gilla Dacker unleashed Bran, the keen-scented terrier
hound, and put a pearl-embroidered pillion on Enbarr of the Flowing
Mane, and the two dauntless maidens leaped upon her back, each
bearing a broad shield and a long polished, death-dealing spear.
When Enbarr had been given a free rein she set out for the
labyrinth, trailing the Magic Thread-Clue behind her, cleaving the
air with long, active strides; and if you know what the speed of a
swallow is, flying across a mountain-side, or the dry wind of a
March day sweeping over the plains, then you can understand nothing
of the swiftness of this steed of the flowing mane, acquired by the
day by the maydens of Devorgilla.
Many were the dangers that beset the path of these two noble
champions on their quest for the Fairy Quicken Tree. Here they met
an enormous white stoat, but this was slain by the intrepid Bran,
and they buried its bleeding corse and raised a cairn over it, with
the name 'Stoat' graven on it in Ogam; there a druidical fairy mist
sprang up in their path to hide the way, but they pierced it with a
note of their far-reaching, clarion-toned voices,--an art learned in
their native land beyond the wave.
Now the dog Bran, being unhungered, and refusing to eat of Toma's
loaf, as all did who were ignorant of its druidical purpose, fell
upon the Magic Thread-Clue and tore it in twain. This so greatly
affrighted the champions that they sounded the Dord-Fian slowly and
plaintively, hoping that the war-cry might bring Sheela to their
rescue. This availing nothing, Finola was forced to slay Bran with
her straight-sided, silver-shining spear; but this she felt he would
not mind if he could know that he would share the splendid fate of
the stoat, and speedily have a cairn raised over him, with the word
'Bran' graven upon it in Ogam,--since this is the consolation
offered by the victorious living to all dead Celtic heroes; and if
it be a poor substitute for life, it is at least better than
It was now many hours after noon, and though to the Fair Strangers
it seemed they had travelled more than forty or a hundred miles,
they were apparently no nearer than ever to the heart of the
labyrinth: and this from the first had been the pestiferous
peculiarity of that malignantly meandering maze. So they
dismounted, and tied Enbarr to the branch of a tree, while they
refreshed themselves with a mouthful of Toma's loaf; and Finola now
put her thumb under her 'tooth of knowledge,' for she wished new
guidance and inspiration, and, being more than common modest, she
said: "Inasmuch as we are fairer than all the other maydens in this
labyrinth, why, since we cannot find the heart of the maze, do we
not entice the invaders from their hiding-place by the quicken-tree;
and when we see from what direction they advance, fall upon and slay
them; and after raising the usual cairn to their memory, and carving
their names over it in the customary Ogam, run to the enchanted tree
and gather all the berries that are left? For this is the hour when
Sheela brews the tea, and the knights and the ladies quaff it from
our golden cups; and truly I am weary of this quest, and far rather
would I be there than here."
So Pearla the Melodious took her timpan,*+ and chanted a Gaelic song
that she had learned in the country of the Dedannans; and presently
a round-polished, red-gleaming quicken berry dropped into her lap,
and another into Finola's, and, looking up, they saw nought save
only a cloud of quicken berries falling through the air one after
the other. And this caused them to wonder, for it seemed like unto
a snare set for them; but Pearla said, "There is nought remaining
for us but to meet the danger."
"It is well," replied Finola, shaking down the mantle of her ebon
locks, and setting the golden combs more firmly in them; "only, if I
perish, I prithee let there be no cairns or Ogams. Let me fall, as
a beauty should, face upward; and if it be but a swoon, and the
invader be a handsome prince, see that he wakens me in his own good
"To arms, then!" cried Pearla, and, taking up their spears and
shields, the Fair Strangers dashed blindly in the direction whence
the berries fell.
"To arms indeed, but to yours or ours?" called two voices from the
heart of the labyrinth; and there, in an instant, the two brave
champions, Finola and Pearla, found the Fairy Tree hanging thick
with scarlet berries, and under its branches, fit fruit indeed to
raise the spirits or bring eternal youth, were, in the language of
the Dedannans, Loskenn of the Bare Knees and the Bishop of Ossory,--
known to the Children of Corr the Swift-Footed as Ronald Macdonald
And the hours ran on; and Sheela the Scribe brewed and brewed and
brewed and brewed the tea at her table in the Peacock Walk, and the
knights and ladies quaffed it from the golden cups belonging to the
Wise Woman of Wales; but Finola the Festive and Pearla the Melodious
lingered in the labyrinth with Loskenn of the Bare Knees and the
Bishop of Ossory. And they said to one another, "Surely, if it were
so great a task to find the heart of this maze, we should be mad to
stir from the spot, lest we lose it again."
And Pearla murmured, "That plan were wise indeed, save that the
place seemeth all too small for so many."
Then Finola drew herself up proudly, and replied, "It is no smaller
for one than for another; but come, Loskenn, let us see if haply we
can lose ourselves in some path of our own finding."
And this they did; and the content of them that departed was no
greater than the content of them that were left behind, and the sun
hid himself for very shame because the brightness of their joy was
so much more dazzling than the glory of his own face. And nothing
more is told of what befell them till they reached the threshold of
the Old Hall; and it was not the sun, but the moon, that shone upon
their meeting with Sheela the Scribe.
Chapter XXXI. Good-bye, dark Rosaleen.
'When the poor exiles, every pleasure past,
Hung round the bowers, and fondly looked their last,
And took a long farewell, and wished in vain
For seats like these beyond the western main,
And shuddering still to face the distant deep,
Returned and wept, and still returned to weep.'
It is almost over, our Irish holiday, so full of delicious, fruitful
experiences; of pleasures we have made and shared, and of other
people's miseries and hardships we could not relieve. Almost over!
Soon we shall be in Dublin, and then on to London to meet
Francesca's father; soon be deciding whether she will be married at
the house of their friend the American ambassador, or in her own
country, where she has really had no home since the death of her
The ceremony over, Mr. Monroe will start again for Cairo or
Constantinople, Stockholm or St. Petersburg; for he is of late years
a determined wanderer, whose fatherly affection is chiefly shown in
liberal allowances, in pride of his daughter's beauty and many
conquests, in conscientious letter-writing, and in frequent calls
upon her between his long journeys. It is because of these paternal
predilections that we are so glad Francesca's heart has resisted all
the shot and shell directed against it from the batteries of a dozen
gay worldlings and yielded so quietly and so completely to Ronald
Macdonald's loyal and tender affection.
At tea-time day before yesterday, Salemina suggested that Francesca
and I find the heart of Aunt David's labyrinth, the which she had
discovered in a less than ten minutes' search that morning, leaving
her Gaelic primer behind her that we might bring it back as a proof
of our success. You have heard in Pearla's Celtic fairy tale the
outcome of this little expedition, and now know that Ronald
Macdonald and Himself planned the joyful surprise for us, and by
means of Salemina's aid carried it out triumphantly.
Ronald crossing to Ireland from Glasgow, and Himself from Liverpool,
had met in Dublin, and travelled post-haste to the Shamrock Inn in
Devorgilla, where they communicated with Salemina and begged her
assistance in their plot.
I was looking forward to my husband's arrival within a week, but
Ronald had said not a word of his intended visit; so that Salemina
was properly nervous lest some one of us should collapse out of
sheer joy at the unexpected meeting.
I have been both quietly and wildly happy many times in my life, but
I think yesterday was the most perfect day in all my chain of years.
Not that in this long separation I have been dull, or sad, or
lonely. How could I be? Dull, with two dear, bright, sunny letters
every week, letters throbbing with manly tenderness, letters
breathing the sure, steadfast, protecting care that a strong man
gives to the woman he has chosen. Sad, with my heart brimming over
with sweet memories and sweeter prophecies, and all its tiny
crevices so filled with love that discontent can find no entrance
there! Lonely, when the vision of the beloved is so poignantly real
in absence that his bodily presence adds only a final touch to joy!
Dull, or sad, when in these soft days of spring and early summer I
have harboured a new feeling of companionship and oneness with
Nature, a fresh joy in all her bounteous resource and plenitude of
life, a renewed sense of kinship with her mysterious awakenings!
The heavenly greenness and promise of the outer world seem but a
reflection of the hopes and dreams that irradiate my own inner
My art, dearly as I loved it, dearly as I love it still, never gave
me these strange, unspeakable joys with their delicate margin of
pain. Where are my ambitions, my visions of lonely triumphs, my
imperative need of self-expression, my ennobling glimpses of the
unattainable, my companionship with the shadows in which an artist's
life is so rich? Are they vanished altogether? I think not; only
changed in the twinkling of an eye, merged in something higher
still, carried over, linked on, transformed, transmuted, by Love the
alchemist, who, not content with joys already bestowed, whispers
secret promises of raptures yet to come.
The green isle looked its fairest for our wanderers. Just as a
woman adorns herself with all her jewels when she wishes to startle
or enthrall, wishes to make a lover of a friend, so Devorgilla
arrayed herself to conquer these two pairs of fresh eyes, and
command their instant allegiance.
It was a tender, silvery day, fair, mild, pensive, with light
shadows and a capricious sun. There had been a storm of rain the
night before, and it was as if Nature had repented of her wildness,
and sought forgiveness by all sorts of winsome arts, insinuating
invitations, soft caresses, and melting coquetries of demeanour.
Broona and Jackeen had lunched with us at the Old Hall, and,
inebriated by broiled chicken, green peas, and a half holiday,
flitted like fireflies through Aunt David's garden, showing all its
treasures to the two new friends, already in high favour.
Benella, it is unnecessary to say, had confided her entire past life
to Himself after a few hours' acquaintance, while both he and
Ronald, concealing in the most craven manner their original
objections to the part she proposed to play in our triangular
alliance, thanked her, with tears in their eyes, for her devotion to
their sovereign ladies.
We had tea in the Italian garden at Rosnaree, and Dr. Gerald, arm in
arm with Himself, walked between its formal flower borders, along
its paths of golden gravel, and among its spirelike cypresses and
fountains, where balustrades and statues, yellowed and stained with
age (stains which Benella longs to scrub away), make the brilliant
turf even greener by contrast.
Tea was to have been followed in due course by dinner, but we all
agreed that nothing should induce us to go indoors on such a
beautiful evening; so baskets were packed, and we went in rowboats
to a picnic supper on Illanroe, a wee island in Lough Beg.
I can close my eyes to-day and see the picture--the lonely little
lake, as blue in the sunshine as the sky above it, but in the
twilight first brown and cool, then flushed with the sunset. The
distant hills, the rocks, the heather, wore tints I never saw them
wear before. The singing wavelets 'spilled their crowns of white
upon the beach' across the lake, and the wild-flowers in the clear
shallows near us grew so close to the brink that they threw their
delicate reflections in the water, looking up at us again framed in
By and by the moon rose out of the pearl-greys and ambers in the
east, bevies of black rooks flew homeward, and stillness settled
over the face of the brown lake. Darkness shut us out from
Devorgilla; and though we could still see the glimmer of the village
lights, it seemed as if we were in a little world of our own.
It was useless for Salemina to deny herself to the children, for was
she not going to leave them on the morrow? She sat under the shadow
of a thorn bush, and the two mites, tired with play, cuddled
themselves by her side, unreproved. She looked tenderly, delectably
feminine. The moon shone full upon her face; but there are no ugly
lines to hide, for there are no parched and arid places in her
nature. Dews of sympathy, sweet spring floods of love and
compassion, have kept all fresh, serene, and young.
We had been gay, but silence fell upon us as it had fallen upon the
lake. There would be only a day or two in Dublin, whither Dr.
Gerald was going with us, that he might have the last word and hand-
clasp before we sailed away from Irish shores; and so near was the
parting that we were all, in our hearts, bidding farewell to the
Good-bye, Silk of the Kine! I was saying to myself, calling the
friendly spot by one of the endearing names given her by her lovers
in the sad old days. Good-bye, Little Black Rose, growing on the
stern Atlantic shore! Good-bye, Rose of the World, with your jewels
of emerald and amethyst, the green of your fields and the misty
purple of your hills! Good-bye, Shan Van Vocht, Poor Little Old
Woman! We are going back, Himself and I, to the Oilean Ur, as you
used to call our new island--going back to the hurly-burly of
affairs, to prosperity and opportunity; but we shall not forget the
lovely Lady of Sorrows looking out to the west with the pain of a
thousand years in her ever youthful eyes. Good-bye, my Dark
Chapter XXXII. 'As the sunflower turns.'
'No, the heart that has truly loved never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close,
As the sunflower turns on her god, when he sets,
The same look which she turned when he rose.'
Here we all are at O'Carolan's Hotel in Dublin--all but the
Colquhouns, who bade us adieu at the station, and the dear children,
whose tears are probably dried by now, although they flowed freely
enough at parting. Broona flung her arms tempestuously around
Salemina's neck, exclaiming between her sobs, "Good-bye, my
thousand, thousand blessings!"--an expression so Irish that we
laughed and cried in one breath at the sound of it.
Here we are in the midst of life once more, though to be sure it is
Irish life, which moves less dizzily than our own. We ourselves
feel thoroughly at home, nor are we wholly forgotten by the public;
for on beckoning to a driver on the cab-stand to approach with his
side-car, he responded with alacrity, calling to his neighbour,
"Here's me sixpenny darlin' again!" and I recognised him immediately
as a man who had once remonstrated with me eloquently on the subject
of a fee, making such a fire of Hibernian jokes over my sixpence
that I heartily wished it had been a half-sovereign.
Cables and telegrams are arriving every hour, and a rich American
lady writes to Salemina, asking her if she can purchase the Book of
Kells for her, as she wishes to give it to a favourite nephew who is
a bibliomaniac. I am begging the shocked Miss Peabody to explain
that the volume in question is not for sale, and to ask at the same
time if her correspondent wishes to purchase the Lakes of Killarney
or the Giant's Causeway in its stead. Francesca, in a whirl of
excitement, is buying cobweb linens, harp brooches, creamy poplins
with golden shamrocks woven into their lustrous surfaces; and as for
laces, we spend hours in the shops, when our respective squires wish
us to show them the sights of Dublin.
Benella is in her element, nursing Salemina, who sprained her ankle
just as we were leaving Devorgilla. At the last moment our side-
cars were so crowded with passengers and packages that she accepted
a seat in Dr. Gerald's carriage, and drove to the station with him.
She had a few last farewells to say in the village, and a few modest
remembrances to leave with some of the poor old women; and I
afterward learned that the drive was not without its embarrassments.
The butcher's wife said fervently, "May you long be spared to each
other!" The old weaver exclaimed, "'Twould be an ojus pity to spoil
two houses wid ye!" While the woman who sells apples at the station
capped all by wishing the couple "a long life and a happy death
together." No wonder poor Salemina slipped and twisted her ankle as
she alighted from the carriage! Though walking without help is
still an impossibility, twenty-four hours of rubbing and bathing and
bandaging have made it possible for her to limp discreetly, and we
all went to St. Patrick's Cathedral together this morning.
We had been in the quiet churchyard, where a soft, misty rain was
falling on the yellow acacias and the pink hawthorns. We had stood
under the willow-tree in the deanery garden--the tree that marks the
site of the house from which Dean Swift watched the movements of the
torches in the cathedral at the midnight burial of Stella. They are
lying side by side at the foot of a column in the south side of the
nave, and a brass plate in the pavement announces:-
'Here lies Mrs. Hester Johnson, better known to the world by the
name of Stella, under which she is celebrated in the writings of Dr.
Jonathan Swift, Dean of this Cathedral.'
Poor Stella, at rest for a century and a half beside the man who
caused her such pangs of love and grief--who does not mourn her?
The nave of the cathedral was dim, and empty of all sightseers save
our own group. There was a caretaker who went about in sloppy
rubber shoes, scrubbing marbles and polishing brasses, and behind a
high screen or temporary partition some one was playing softly on an
We stood in a quiet circle by Stella's resting-place, and Dr.
Gerald, who never forgets anything, apparently, was reminding us of
Thackeray's gracious and pathetic tribute:-
'Fair and tender creature, pure and affectionate heart! Boots it to
you now that the whole world loves you and deplores you? Scarce any
man ever thought of your grave that did not cast a flower of pity on
it, and write over it a sweet epitaph. Gentle lady! so lovely, so
loving, so unhappy. You have had countless champions, millions of
manly hearts mourning for you. From generation to generation we
take up the fond tradition of your beauty; we watch and follow your
story, your bright morning love and purity, your constancy, your
grief, your sweet martyrdom. We know your legend by heart. You are
one of the saints of English story.'
As Dr. Gerald's voice died away, the strains of 'Love's Young Dream'
floated out from the distant end of the building.
"The organist must be practising for a wedding," said Francesca,
very much alive to anything of that sort.
"'Oh, there's nothing half so sweet in life,'"
she hummed. "Isn't it charming?"
"You ought to know," Dr. Gerald answered, looking at her
affectionately, though somewhat too sadly for my taste; "but an old
fellow like me must take refuge in the days of 'milder, calmer
beam,' of which the poet speaks."
Ronald and Himself, guide-books in hand, walked away to talk about
the 'Burial of Sir John Moore,' and look for Wolfe's tablet, and I
stole behind the great screen which had been thrown up while repairs
of some sort were being made or a new organ built. A young man was
evidently taking a lesson, for the old organist was sitting on the
bench beside him, pulling out the stops, and indicating the time
with his hand. There was to be a wedding--that was certain; for
'Love's Young Dream' was taken off the music rack at that moment,
while 'Believe me, if all those endearing young charms' was put in
its place, and the melody came singing out to us on the vox humana
'Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will,
And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
Would entwine itself verdantly still.'
Francesca joined me just then, and a tear was in her eye. "Penny
dear, when all is said, 'Believe me' is the dearer song of the two.
Anybody can sing, feel, live, the first, which is but a youthful
dream, after all; but the other has in it the proved fidelity of the
years. The first song belongs to me, I know, and it is all I am fit
for now; but I want to grow toward and deserve the second."
"You are right; but while Love's Young Dream is yours and Ronald's,
dear, take all the joy that it holds for you. The other song is for
Salemina and Dr. Gerald, and I only hope they are realising it at
this moment--secretive, provoking creatures that they are!"
The old organist left his pupil just then, and disappeared through a
little door in the rear.
"Have you the Wedding March there?" I asked the pupil who had been
practising the love-songs.
"Oh yes, madam, though I am afraid I cannot do it justice," he
replied modestly. "Are you interested in organ music?"
"I am very much interested in yours, and I am still more interested
in a romance that has been dragging its weary length along for
twenty years, and is trying to bring itself to a crisis just on the
other side of that screen. You can help me precipitate it, if you
Well, he was young and he was an Irishman, which is equivalent to
being a born lover,and he had been brought up on Tommy Moore and
music--all of which I had known from the moment I saw him, else I
should not have made the proposition. I peeped from behind the
screen. Ronald and Himself were walking toward us; Salemina and
Dr. Gerald were sitting together in one of the front pews. I
beckoned to my husband.
"Will you and Ronald go quietly out one of the side doors," I asked,
"take your own car, and go back to the hotel, allowing us to follow
you a little later?"
It takes more than one year of marriage for even the cleverest
Benedict to uproot those weeds of stupidity, denseness, and non-
comprehension that seem to grow so riotously in the mental garden of
the bachelor; so, said Himself, "We came all together; why shouldn't
we go home all together?" (So like a man! Always reasoning from
analogy; always, so to speak, 'lugging in' logic!)
"Desperate situations demand desperate remedies," I replied
mysteriously, though I hope patiently. "If you go home at once
without any questions, you will be virtuous, and it is more than
likely that you will also be happy; and if you are not, somebody
else will be."
Having seen the backs of our two cavaliers disappearing meekly into
the rain, I stationed Francesca at a point of vantage, and went out
to my victims in the front pew.
"The others went on ahead," I explained, with elaborate
carelessness--"they wanted to drive by Dublin Castle; and we are
going to follow as we like. For my part, I am tired, and you are
looking pale, Salemina; I am sure your ankle is painful. Help her,
Dr. Gerald, please; she is so proud and self-reliant that she won't
even lean on any one's arm, if she can avoid it. Take her down the
middle aisle, for I've sent your car to that door' (this was the
last of a series of happy thoughts on my part). "I'll go and tell
Francesca, who is flirting with the organist. She has an
appointment at the tailor's; so I will drop her there, and join you
at the hotel in a few minutes."
The refractory pair of innocent, middle-aged lovers started, arm in
arm, on what I ardently hoped would be an eventful walk together.
It was from, instead of toward the altar, to be sure, but I was
certain it would finally lead them to it, notwithstanding the
unusual method of approach. I gave Francesca the signal, and then,
disappearing behind the screen, I held her hand in a palpitation of
nervous apprehension that I had scarcely felt when Himself first
asked me to be his.
The young organist, blushing to the roots of his hair, trembling
with responsibility, smiling at the humour of the thing, pulled out
all the stops, and the Wedding March pealed through the cathedral,
the splendid joy and swing and triumph of it echoing through the
vaulted aisles in a way that positively incited one to bigamy.
"We may regard the matter as settled now," whispered Francesca
comfortably. "Anybody would ask anybody else to marry him, whether
he was in love with her or not. If it weren't so beautiful and so
touching, wouldn't it be amusing? Isn't the organist a darling, and
doesn't he enter into the spirit of it? See him shaking with
sympathetic laughter, and yet he never lets a smile creep into the
music; it is all earnestness and majesty. May I peep now and see
how they are getting on?"
"Certainly not! What are you thinking of, Francesca? Our only
justification in this whole matter is that we are absolutely serious
about it. We shall say good-bye to the organist, wring his hand
gratefully, and steal with him through the little door. Then in a
half-hour we shall know the worst or the best; and we must remember
to send him cards and a marked copy of the newspaper containing the
Salemina told me all about it that night, but she never suspected
the interference of any deus ex machina save that of the traditional
God of Love, who, it seems to me, has not kept up with the
requirements of the age in all respects, and leaves a good deal for
us women to do nowadays.
"Would that you had come up this aisle to meet me, Salemina, and
that you were walking down again as my wife!" This was what Dr.
Gerald had surprised her by saying, when the wedding music had
finally entered into his soul, driving away for the moment his doubt
and fear and self-distrust; and I can well believe that the
hopelessness of his tone stirred her tender heart to its very
"What did you answer?" I asked breathlessly, on the impulse of the
We were talking by the light of a single candle. Salemina turned
her head a little aside, but there was a look on her face that
repaid me for all my labour and anxiety, a look in which her forty
years melted away and became as twenty, a look that was the outward
and visible expression of the inward and spiritual youth that has
always been hers; then she replied simply-
"I told him what is true: that my life had been one long coming to
meet him, and that I was quite ready to walk with him to the end of
. . . . . .
I left her to her thoughts, which I well knew were more precious
than my words, and went across the hall, where Benella was packing
Francesca's last purchases. Ordinarily one of us manages to
superintend such operations, as the Derelict's principal aim is to
make two garments go where only one went before. Nature in her
wildest moments never abhorred a vacuum in her dominion as Miss
Dusenberry resents it in a trunk.
"Benella," I said, in that mysterious whisper which one uses for
such communications, "Dr. La Touche has asked Miss Peabody to marry
him, and she has consented."
"It was full time!" the Derelict responded, with a deep sigh of
relief, "but better late than never! Men folks are so queer, I
don't hardly know how a merciful Providence ever came to invent 'em!
Either they're so bold they'd propose to the Queen o' Sheba without
mindin' it a mite, or else they're such scare-cats you 'bout have to
ask 'em yourself, and then lug 'em to the minister's afterwards--
there don't seem to be no halfway with 'em. Well, I'm glad you're
all settled; it must be nice to have folks!"
It was a pathetic little phrase, and I fancied I detected a tear in
her usually cheerful and decided voice. Acting on the suspicion, I
said hurriedly, "You have already had a share of Miss Monroe's
'folks' and mine offered you, and now Miss Peabody will be sure to
add hers to the number. Your only difficulty will be to attend to
them all impartially, and keep them from quarrelling as to which
shall have you next."
She brightened visibly. "Yes," she assented, without any
superfluous modesty,--squeezing as she spoke a pair of bronze
slippers into the crown of Francesca's favourite hat--"yes, that
part'll be hard on all of us; but I want you to know that I belong
to you this winter, any way; Miss Peabody can get along without me
better'n you can."
Her glance was freighted with a kind of evasive, half-embarrassed
affection; shy, unobtrusive, respectful it was, but altogether
friendly and helpful.
That the relations between us have ever quite been those of mistress
and maid, I cannot affirm. We have tried to persuade ourselves that
they were at least an imitation of the proper thing, just to
maintain our self-respect while travelling in a country of
monarchical institutions, but we have always tacitly understood the
real situation and accepted its piquant incongruities.
So when I met Benella Dusenberry's wistful, sympathetic eye, my
republican head, reckless of British conventions, found the maternal
hollow in her spinster shoulder as I said, "Dear old Derelict! it
was a good day for us when you drifted into our harbour!"
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