Penelope's Irish Experiences by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Part Fifth--Royal Meath.
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.' Oliver Goldsmith.
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 mother.
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 consciousness.
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 red-brown grasses.
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 Emerald Isle.
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 Rosaleen, good-bye!