The sun shone from a clear sky. Theodosia had had everything her way; even the weather obliged. Never having made much impression on the social scene till now, she had determined her wedding would be an occasion to be remembered; and so it was, in its way. Dawson Street was completely blocked with handsome equipages. St. Anne’s, the church for fashionable weddings, was bright with flowers, warm with organ music. Guests, arriving in a flurry of feathers and silks and laces, in well-cut frocks and colourful stocks, in braided uniforms and bottomed wigs and modern brutus cuts, streamed in to fill every available seat. A motley of the uninvited gathered to throng the streets. The best dressed bride of the year looked almost beautiful. The two bridesmaids, in expensive but simple silk dresses were undoubtedly so, for Gwen and Caroline could never be reduced to plainness.

The wedding breakfast was a cascade of champagne and glittering small-talk. In the whirl of colour and grandeur, the central figures moved through the ceremonial rituals like two pasteboard figures. Nobody really cared. It was a fashionable occasion; that was what mattered. Good wishes rang out like hymns of praise to the deity love, or convenience, who had so blessed the chosen people.

The ceremony and the assembly over, the bride and groom toasted on their way, fashionable Dublin found itself in a merry mood and with the remnant of an evening that must not be wasted. A rash of impromptu parties broke out in the precincts of the rich and leisured. In Merrion Square the lights and music, the wining and dancing and dallying continued well into the small hours. A sedate party of contemporaries supped with the Breretons. A much larger and more frenetic assembly gathered at the town house of Lord Moreton, for Morrey was always prepared to throw a party and welcome guests at any hour so long as they were amusing. It was to this party that the two beautiful bridesmaids gravitated.

Relieved of their duties at last, the sisters were in the mood for frivolity. Lovely in their new silk dresses, they were soon the centre of attention. When Nick Marsmain arrived, they were surrounded by admirers. From the drawing-room doorway he stood watching the competition for Caroline's attention. He had never seen her look so lovely, so animated. Was it the flattery, or the champagne, or just the enchantment of the wedding? What a beautiful bride .....

So it was that in the bewitchment of that night, her head full of wedding bells, her heart full of romance, that Caroline pledged her troth to the knight errant with the scar. Fate, it seemed, had decreed it so and why should she resist a fate that offered her so splendid a lover, so splendid a future as “my lady”. In truth, she would wear silks and laces forever and reign mistress of a mansion. She, Caroline, who was now virtually homeless.

The assembly concurred with her choice. When the betrothal was announced the couple were smothered in congratulations and good wishes. A few young swains sighed inwardly, but, for most, the prospect of another fashionable wedding was worth a well-wish. Trust Marsmain to spring a surprise!

On the morrow the sisters drove out in St. Stephen's Green. It was a rare occasion to show off. Caroline shone in beauty. Gwendaline insisted that she wear the new habit that had just been delivered, a parting perquisite coaxed from Mr Brereton along with the silk dresses.

“Gad, how unfortunate!” Nick Marsmain exclaimed when the order came to report to his command in the south of England. “If only we were married, my darling girl. But I shall come back soon, and then ..... oh, my beloved, I can hardly wait.”

“Don't be alarmed, my pet,” Gwendaline reassured her sister, “England is but a short voyage away. Nick will be back soon.”

“I am thinking about the war with France.”

“Oh, Nick will come through with flying colours. The risk in open battle will be less than it is here where every clump of furze bristles with horrid pikes.”

For the time being the problem of where to live was solved. On no account would Gwendaline consent to either of them returning to Uncle Horace at Philipstown. Caroline's betrothal placed them in new light. It was an honour to have them remain as guests at No ... Merrion Square for as long as they liked. Mr Brereton liked to have Gwendaline in the house for she brought the only laughter into his life with her droll anecdotes of the Dublin social scene. Lady Brereton took possession of Caroline, seeing in her the daughter Theodosia had never been with her skill on the harp to charm the gloom and her warm readiness to accompany her on errands of mercy to the institutionalised poor. Though it was painful learning to her, Caroline was very willing to know something of the life of the capital’s less publicised citizens. Sometimes she talked to Morrey of the human tragedies glimpsed in mean streets or within the poor-houses and orphanages. He was a sympathetic listener, being a generous patron of worthy causes himself.

By chance one day, she found herself alone in the drawing-room of Moreton's house. The piano stood invitingly open ..... a splendid instrument of fine tone always kept in tune for the musical evenings when he entertained visiting professionals. She ran her fingers over the keys, fascinated by the sound. Then she began picking out snatches of the old airs she knew so well.

She was playing Carraig Donn, a popular air at the time, when Moreton entered the room unobserved. He stood in the doorway listening to her as she fingered out the air and sang softly to herself. Then he joined in. Quite an accomplished musician himself, he was struck by the sensitivity of her ear and touch.

“Do not start, Caroline, my dear,” he said. “You sing charmingly. I think you could learn to play the piano. I shall arrange for you to have lessons.”

Presently a music master was engaged and Caroline, to her delight, found some afternoons filled with music rather than trivial chatter or dreary rounds of ineffectual charity. She devoted herself with great zeal and made rapid progress. Soon her performance was good enough for her to accompany herself in some of her favourite songs and her song at the piano became a welcome addition to many a hostess’s programme of entertainment. Her skill at the harp was discovered. Moreton hired a teacher of that instrument ..... and a singing master.

The popular music of the time included songs from the repertoire of the much admired Madam Mara and these Caroline added to her miscellany of Irish and French pieces. Gwendaline, always alert to future opportunities, coaxed Richard Daly to attend one or two of Caroline's music sessions. He was impressed. If things had fallen out differently ..... Gwendaline watched his reaction. Well, if this improbable marriage fell through, she thought, perhaps there might be a career for her sister to fall back on; it was a thought for times of war and uncertainty.

It happened at Crow Street. A performance was well under way when the leading female singer broke down and was left, temporarily, speechless. The entertainment could not be abandoned; to do so would invite ugly scenes. Madam was, ostensibly, only having a fit of the vapours. In desperation, the manager cast round for some artist who could keep the audience in temper ..... preferably someone with enough talent to stimulate Madam's envy and thus speed her recovery. Caroline, as she often was, was seated in Lord Moreton’s box. When approached she was startled, but responsive to the challenge. Moreton saw no harm in it. Before the audience quite grasped the situation, she was on stage.

For a few moments she stood, smiling and regal in a shimmering blue gown, her bandeaued hair a crown of shining bronze. A burst of applause from the young bucks in the circle triggered off a tumultuous welcome. She had only to do well, and this she determined to do. She began with one of Mara's popular songs. The hackneyed air took on a new appeal; though her singing lacked professional finesse, her voice was young and pure and clear. The audience, led by the admiring bucks, tapped its feet and joined in the chorus with gusto. The applause that followed was sufficient to cure Madam of her indisposition. But Daly wanted the cure to be complete. An Irish harp was brought on stage, and a low stool for the player.

Caroline seated herself, now completely in her element. As she began fingering the strings, the applause died. With this hushed, critical audience at her fingertips, she launched into the haunting cadences of the Coolin. She sang the words in the Gaelic. So fashionable Dublin was introduced to the culture on which it so long had turned its back. In a vague way, she knew she was taking a great risk with the music she loved. Any slip on her part might raise a mocking laugh, throw the whole performance into dispraisal. That must not happen. She sang and played as she had scarcely ever done before, wooing the listeners with the beauty of the music, the spectators all her own. The theatre resounded with encores. She gave them Carrair Donn and Slievenamon. Then despite all pleas, she bowed off the stage.

Next day, and for a few days, she was the talk of the city. That same talk stung Nick Marsmain's ears as he disembarked from the cross-channel ferry at Kingstown. It stung the ear of Lady Brereton who disapproved heartily of the exhibition Caroline had made of herself. It was time for the girl to be going ..... time she were wed and safely immured in that castle in the west far from the vanities and temptations of Dublin. Caroline felt the chill draught of her disapproval. She flung herself into Nick Marsmain's arms, glad that her knight, though a little angry, had come to rescue her. Touched by the warmth of her welcome, he forgot his annoyance. Drat it, had not he come to make her his wife? When again would the opportunity arise? When again would he find her so needing and wanting him?

“Oh my darling Caroline!” he said, holding her close, “how I have longed for you. I declare, I can wait no longer to wed you. There is no time to arrange an elaborate wedding, but if you love me as I love you, a simple ceremony will suffice. Say that it will, my darling ..... say that you love me enough.”

There it was, the old magic, and what was she to say? Given the circumstance, what girl of seventeen would hesitate? Caroline had never been one to hesitate. There was nothing half-hearted about her response. Nick Marsmain left No ... Merrion Square smiling like a cat from the cream.

In two days he was back again. He had been to Philipstown. Horace Picton had been completely bowled over by his charm. Indeed it was a great honour that so fine a gentleman, so gallant an officer, so handsome a man should beg his niece's hand in marriage. Wonder of wonders that the wild child should have captivated one of the greatest nobles in the country; well, well, it was amazing what beauty could do, wasn't it. His prissy wife agreed. What a splendid connection! How triumphantly she would talk of her niece, Lady Ballinmore! After all the fears, the trials and the anxieties, what a bonus of sheer bliss! Of course the marriage must take place in the little church where Lucy's had been solemnised, of course the darling girl could come and stay, and be wed from their home. That dreadful Rose O'Shaughnessy Drynan would have no part in it.

There was no time for elaborate preparations. Caroline would be married in a simple blue silk dress. Gwendaline would act as bridesmaid. There was not even time to bring Lucinda from Fermoy. The coup d'etat of September 4th had established a new, politically relentless Directory in France. A vast new invasionary force was assembling at the Channel ports, its commander-in-chief Napoleon Bonaparte. Officers of His Majesty's armies were required to be prepared. Colonel Arthur Nicholas Marsmain had a limited time in which to settle his personal affairs.

Although she had always dreamed vaguely of an elegant wedding, Caroline now felt herself carried away on a tide of heroic excitement. As she travelled through the golden September land to Philipstown she was happy to be free of the fussing and fitting that had preceded Theodosia's wedding. Drifting along the smooth waters of the Grand Canal to what seemed an inevitable destiny, she was filled with that unmatched elation that carries every war bride on its own impetus ..... that crazy, romantic, devil-may-care excitement that seems, at the time, like the greatest love ever to sweep a girl off her feet. She saw herself as unique: the maiden going to meet her gallant lover on his splendid horse. So happily, her mind filled with the vision of the handsome officer of Huzzars who would take her hand and vow to love and cherish her forever. She had no inkling of nature's wily method by which, in going to meet danger and death, men desired to perpetuate themselves and women eagerly complied.

“I declare, I believe you are really, truly in love, Caroline,” Gwendaline said more than once, “and how beautiful you look!”

Instead of the plum coloured habit, she wore ultramarine, and a hat in melusine trimmed with plumes that shaded from silvery green to deep jade, every shade echoing the changing colours of her eyes. She was no longer the shabby beauty from the country. Like a queen in her own right she rose to the occasion. To match her sister's new flamboyance, Gwendaline had brought out her own fine fig of champagne velvet and a matching hat trimmed with rich red plumes. As they drove through the park, the little carriage drew every eye.

“It seems everyone is in town,” Gwendaline remarked. “Our fine feathers are not lost. Ah, here comes the escort!”

Flanked on one side by the handsome Colonel of Dragoons in full uniform and riding a black stallion, on the other by the Lord Moreton in elegant pale grey morning dress riding a glossy bay, the O'Shaughnessy sisters extended their lap honour for several circles of the park ..... admired and envied, well- and ill-wished, but a picture to be remembered in whatever frame.

“Hold your head higher, Caroline,” Gwendaline said softly, “remember mother danced in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.”

“And father was a chieftain,” Caroline remembered, but said nothing, for that was of another place, another time.

At the entrance to the Green, Arabella de Rosas halted her small carriage to stare, then turned and drove away unnoticed for all her colourful array.

In the pretty house in Steeple Street, when Lucinda received a full account of the triumphal drive, she tickled her baby's toes and sighed a little wistful sigh.