The town of Fermoy rose fresh and new among the woods by the Blackwater. It had a brisk, enterprising air. Only as recently as 1791 a Scottish merchant-entrepreneur had purchased the tiny village from its impoverished landlord, Lord Fermoy, and had embarked on an extensive development scheme which included the building of a livery stable, a hotel for travellers by the Dublin-Cork mail, a bank, a brewery mills, a market square and of course, houses. Central to his enterprise was the fine military barracks in the course of erection; he had persuaded the government to quarter troops there; the money he made from the garrison would fund his other schemes.

So Captain Gerard Seveny came to be stationed at Fermoy and the life of the garrison proved very tolerable to his young, beautiful, company-loving wife.

On this bright autumn morning, Captain Gerard Seveny rode out of Fermoy at the head of a small company. Though the ride was only a routine exercise, the Captain was alert to note anything unusual. These were uncertain times, rife with rumour, and Seveny was a serious officer intent on duty. The younger son of a knight, with no prospects beyond what he could make for himself, he was determined to prosper in his army career. He had defied both his parents and his own ambition in marrying the beautiful, accomplished, dowerless Lucunda O’Shaughnessy. This he did not regret; he loved Lucy for her own sweet sake and her beauty was his pride and spur.

The sight of the sea-green coach was a welcome surprise; few surprises leavened the monotony of his routine, the coach presented no obvious risk or challenge; it was purely out of curiosity that he signalled it to a halt; as a last excuse, he could search for arms.

Caroline alighted at once, and approached him.

“Captain Seveny, I have the honour of your acquaintance,” she said. “May I have the pleasure of a word with you?”

Seveny drew aside, out of earshot of his company.

“Who .....” he began.

“We met in rather different circumstances ..... and I was differently dressed. I was one of Lucy's bridesmaids.”

Dismounting at once Seveny grasped her hand, his face lighting with pleasure.

“Caroline!” he exclaimed, “what a surprise for Lucy. She will go wild with joy.”

“And you, Gerard?”

“I too am delighted. But why the extraordinary attire?”

“For safe travel in wild country,” she replied mischievously.

“Not wild country hereabouts. But I understand. You are very beautiful.”

With some instructions to his men, he detached himself from the company and acting as an outrider, led the coach into town. The curious looks which greeted their entry, somewhat embarrassed him. If there was anything he detested, it was to be eyed curiously. Lucy drew attention wherever they went, she enjoyed admiration, but seldom exceeded propriety in attracting it. This girl was as lovely as her sister, and obviously more wayward ..... another responsibility.

The comfortable house in Steeple Street had some pretensions to elegance; it was the best Seveny could afford and Lucy had made it into a charming home. At the sound of the wheels, she was at the window and immediately recognised the coach. Before a servant had time to answer, she was at the door. Caroline caught her first sight of her framed in the doorway, a delicate vision in pink muslin, agog on dainty slippered feet, her hair a coronet of fine gold in the morning light. Leaping from the coach, Caroline rushed up the steps to be gathered in a warm scented embrace that was pure welcome.

“Darling Caroline!” Lucy exclaimed, “how enchanting to see you again! How beautiful you have grown! But alas, whatever became of your lovely hair? And why so strangely dressed?”

“I'll explain when .....”

“Of course, but do come inside at once. Ah, how splendid that you have brought your maid. It is Maureen, if I am not mistaken. Come in, child. Another pair of hands will be most welcome in this establishment. Gerard's income does not run to many servants. Ah, here comes Annie, my own personal maid. She will take care of Maureen. Gerard will see to your coachman.”

With a swift glance, she took in Hugh Ro, massive, sun-bronzed, fiery-headed. His intelligent grey eyes and aloof, proud bearing were not lost on her.

“I say,” she said, breathlessly as she ushered Caroline into the hall, “what a noble savage ..... wherever did you find him?”

“Actually it was he who found me. Aunt Rose sent him to bring me home to Moybranach. We turned south instead.”

“Oh, I am so glad! Aunt Rose will be furious.”

“No doubt she will. I should leave her to fume, but, for the sake of others, I must write at once and explain.”

“Of course ..... shortly ..... when you have changed and breakfasted. Then we'll have simply all day to talk. Oh, I can't wait to ask questions?”

Seveny was anxious to get the coach out of sight. He directed Hugh Ro to the stable yard and, with a word to his own servant, wheeled around and rode out of town after his men. His mind was in a turmoil. Why had he, who hated whisperings behind hands, head noddings behind lace curtains, been so embarrassingly exposed? The only wild, rebellious thing he had done in all his solemn, dutiful life was to marry the beautiful Lucinda. Was he never to be free of the consequences: the unpredictable behaviour of her sister, Gwendaline, abrupt arrivals in ornate coaches with too spectacular coachmen, a startlingly beautiful young sister who travelled abroad in daylight in unseemly dress?

Then he remembered Lucy, and smiled resignedly. But Caroline had caught a glimpse of the frown on his face. It made her feel uneasy.

“Your marriage is going well, Lucy?” she asked obliquely. Lucinda's sweet, sensuous face took on an expression of brittle animation.

“Of course,” she replied. “As well as marriages usually go, Caroline ..... better than I expected, indeed; our union was not a story-book romance.”

“You looked lovely as a bride in love. Weren't you, Lucy?”

“I was happy ..... still am. Gerard and I suit each other. I think I understand expedience better than he, poor lamb. We both wanted freedom, I think.”


“How I longed to escape Aunt Millicent, especially after Gwen went to companion Theodosia Brereton. You must know how she wants to arrange other people's lives. Lah, I'd have been married to any title on earth with a man of any age or shape attached if she had had her way. You should have seen the creatures! And the creature Gerard's family would have had him marry ..... or her money to make up for his being a younger son with no prospects. Why, my dear, we were perfectly matched. We needed each other. We are happy in our way. You shall see.”

The little bedroom into which Lucy showed her overlooked the stable yard and the fields, trees and hills beyond. In itself strictly functional, yet Lucy had transformed its stark simplicity with her own skill, making it a bower of pale pastels, soft rugs, satin drapes and dressing perquisites. In this frothy, fragile illusion, Caroline looked and felt out of place as a savage queen. Lucy noticed her dismay.

“Oh darling,” she giggled, hugging her again, “please don't look so mournful. Of course it's different from Dunalla. This is a young lady's room and that is what you shall be from now on. But where are your things?”

Caroline shook her head. She had nothing but the clothes she wore and the small bundle containing her blue silk dress and slippers ..... and the sealskin. She unwrapped the blue dress for Lucy's inspection.

“Oh dear child,” Lucy said playfully, “how dreadfully we have neglected you. But, as it happens, I have just received some dresses from Dublin by the mail coach. There is a green velvet ..... a little too long for me ..... it would look divine on you ..... make your eyes look green. Let's try it on.”

She rushed off to fetch the dress. Green velvet! Caroline was a little girl again, sitting on a table, swinging her legs, delighting in her new French dress, her silver buckles, the sensuous luxury of delicate fabrics. The frame of wood-stiff tall women had gone ..... their argument. Only Lucy, cooing like a dove:

“Perfect! Absolutely perfect! How beautiful you look. Why, you will be the toast of Fermoy, I declare ..... the envy of all the dumpling wives and daughters. How proud I shall be of my little sister!”

“My hair .....”

“Annie will work wonders. She was lady's maid to a very great lady ..... a great beauty in her time. You'll be surprised.”

“She is old, then?”

“No, quite youngish still, but very competent. She will teach Maureen all she needs to know. But darling, you must be hungry. I'll arrange for a light meal and then you can rest. And while you rest, I'll see if we cannot improvise a little entertainment for this evening. I want to show you off to the townsfolk. And to the ladies of the garrison. Unfortunately there is little talent here. Some garrisons stage quite professional entertainments. Ours is small yet of course. The local worthies include a few who can sing or recite. I play the pianoforte fairly well. Do you sing, or play anything?”

“I play the Irish harp. Father used to like my music.”

Lucinda clapped her hands.

“Splendid! That will be a graceful introduction. I think a woman seated at the harp is most beguiling. You have such lovely, slender hands too. I can see those fingers caressing the strings, and the men falling completely under your spell. How envious the Potts girls will be, and Miss Emmaline Baglet, and the doctor's ambitious wife! But you'll win them too, never fear.”

“Have you ever any real musicians to entertain?”

“Sometimes a strolling minstrel arrives in town; we had a blind harper a few weeks ago. A trio of pipers was brought over from Kerry on one occasion and we have had a string quartette from Cork on a few occasions. We seldom get really good singers with new songs.”

“Hugh Ro sings beautifully. He composes some of his songs.”

“Your noble savage. Do you think he would oblige tonight?”

“I'm not sure. His songs might not suit polite company. They are mostly in the Irish or set to Irish airs.”

“But, how delightfully quaint! There is quite an interest in such old stuff now. I told you about the blind harper and the Kerry pipers. They were much appreciated. Irish things have grown quite fashionable since they are no longer outlawed.”

Caroline was a little perturbed by the thought that Hugh Ro might be made a quaint exhibit for the merchants of Fermoy. She frowned in perplexity.

“I think Hugh Ro will be leaving. He must bring back the horses or Aunt Rose will raise the hue and cry. If he should be suspected of theft .....”

“We must prevent that. I'll have a word with our local magistrate ..... and I'll write to Aunt Rose at once. Perhaps we could keep the horses, if Uncle Drynan is willing to sell, and Gerard able to buy. I doubt the latter; my husband always pleads poverty to my wilder schemes.”

Caroline threw her arms about her sister.

“You really are wonderfully kind, Lucy. Poor Hugh Ro will be glad to have his responsibility taken from him. He took a great risk for my sake. I'd rather he had not to face Aunt Rose. Even yet she might decide to take the law on him, and I not there to explain. You're an old wise married woman; she will heed what you say.”

“It seems to me,” Lucinda said quizzically, “that you are half in love with this savage. Romantic, I grant you. But how improper. You must meet some eligible men. Once married, you will be less under surveillance.”

Caroline laughed, patting Lucinda's cheek.

“You seem to think I have met nobody. Well I have. I have met, at least one very eligible man.”

“You're in love, then?”

“Maybe. I cannot be sure. There are so many ways of loving.”

“You really are a remarkable civilized girl. I am to have an easier task than I might have hoped. Why, you are launched already, if I read you aright; nothing to learn but a few airs and graces.”

“Accomplishments ..... or tricks of the trade?”

“Both ..... little things, like how to disseminate. It doesn't do to be quite as frank as you are. Of course, there are practical things ..... like dancing.”

“I danced at your wedding, Lucy. I danced ..... but I could do with some lessons.”

“I shall engage a dancing master immediately. And I think I can give you a few lessons in poise myself. Then, with your looks and Annie's help, you will ready for any occasion ..... even the ball at Ballinmore Castle.”