In the days that followed, the lively, easy-going life at Moybranach, with its open doors, uncurtained windows, its interchange of light and darkness, settled about Caroline. This sheltered freedom was home; she had never been away except in a dream; the wild dreams and wilder realities were remote, yet not entirely forgotten. Yesterday and tomorrow hovered on the fringes of her consciousness. In the interim, she helped Martin with the horses, sang songs by the evening hearth. Once she timidly broached the subject of marriage.
“Fiddlesticks!” Rose exclaimed, “what makes you think a lord-to-be would want to marry you? So he told you he would, did he ..... told you he loved you ..... like as not said he'd die if you refused him? I can imagine the palaver. Well, I wouldn't doubt that he wants you. You're a handsome lass. Will he want you when he gets you, that's the question? Many's a poor girl has been led astray by just such a gallant coaxing gentleman. Wouldn't you be better to stick with your own sort ..... marry a man reared like yourself, but better off; I wouldn't wish poverty on you, I'd like to see you happy and prosperous. Take your time, girl, and think about it. I've a thought in my mind .....” Caroline wondered, soon she was to find out.
It was late afternoon of a clear March
Caroline paused, her hands on the
bridle of a half-broken colt.
In the days that followed they grew acquainted as they schooled horses or cantered side by side along green lanes, or galloped over open common. They challenged each other to race and to leap ditches; they showed off their skills, teased each other, sometimes bickered. Caroline had not known such equal companionship except in brief spells with Fergal. She had come to accept that men had other lives to live in which she could have no share. This easy companionship was beguiling; if only she could escape her dreams and submit to this kind of living how good life would be. But oh, how tame ..... after Dunalla ..... after the runaway journey to Fermoy ..... after the ball at Ballinmore ..... after Bantry.
Conn seemed so mild, so contented with his way of living, so absorbed in his work that she was surprised when he showed a glimpse of his inner thoughts. She mentioned Fergal and the very mention brought a light to his eye.
“Ay, he's your brother. Fighting for
“Why do you say that,
“I was up north this last trip. I
delivered horses to some of
“I have heard of quite other people
raiding and burning and scaring women and children in the south of Ireland
..... no farther away than
“Bah! They were not burning the houses of the poor. What do I care for fine houses and fine people!”
“Your own home is quite a fine house, Conn ..... and you aim to make money and build a finer one, no doubt.”
“It was in a cabin my mother was
raised. My roots are deep in the soil of
“You didn't go to
“I was of no mind then any more than the others about here. If there ever is another chance, I'll be there.”
“Would you fight and kill for
“I would fight and kill till the last redcoat was dead.”
His eyes lit with frenzy; his fierce expression frightened Caroline. She hardly knew what to say. When she spoke, it was very gently:
“You might be killed, Conn. I wouldn't like that.”
“You'd be sorry, Caroline?” he asked, touched by her sad look.
“I'd be very sorry, Conn. I hope it never comes to that. It would break your father's heart. It would break Aunt Rose's too. She talks a lot about the redcoats, and about fighting them; she'd be proud of you fighting for Ireland's freedom, but .....”
“She's all talk ..... away back in the past she is ..... the
chieftain's daughter! When was there a chieftain in
“Are you one of them,
“I'm not saying,” he said, turning his head away. “That's something no man ..... or woman ..... will get out of me.”
“You’re sworn, then?”
“I'm not saying, I told you. It's something you'll never find out. Still,” he went on more gently, “if I'd tell anyone, it would be you Caroline. I'd tell you anything ..... nearly.”
Caroline lay awake a long time that
night. She could just pick out the shape of Millicent Picton's
black box where it stood against the whitewashed wall in her plain room. Always
there were the black boxes ..... the
hidden things ..... the secrets that were tempting and