In the days that followed, Marsmain rode about the estate, a scowl on his face that made the workers tremble. Ballinmore lay comatose in the care of the dour, stout woman who had nursed him, after a fashion, before and visited by the sinister Dr. Swartz. Caroline could have escaped from her prison, but made no attempt to cajole the deaf mute who was manifestly against letting her go. Not that she wished punishment on the lovely young lady who had smiled at her when they first met, rather that she desired her company for her own sake and for the invalid's. She had always begged scraps at the kitchen door; now she begged with a fierce assiduity refusing to go till she had some share of the best: a slice of game put aside for the butler, the daintiest jellies. The creature appeared to be madder than ever, always on the prowl, looking and listening, though she could not hear; sensing the atmosphere, taking everything in. Communicating the intelligence she gathered as best she could. William understood a great deal, and Caroline set herself to learn the unspoken language.
Ninny managed to filch an occasional
newspaper on the pretence that she needed it to wrap the precious food; along
with the establishment papers that found their way to the kitchen, there were
also subversive news-sheets procured from outside sources. The two in the tower
had time to peruse them all and every day they learnt something new, if
somewhat out of date. They read of the rebellion in Wexford. Within a few
months this rising of the United Irishmen was to cost 30,000 lives and destroy
the “Brotherhood of Affection”. The Houses of Parliament in College Green in
all their newly refurbished splendour would soon close forever; Grattan's dream of independence would be swept away in the
Caroline learnt the words of “The Rising of the Moon” and fitted them to the tune she had heard Hughy whistle. So much heartened and improved in health was the invalid that he helped Caroline with her reading and sometimes joined in her songs. She taught him a little Gaelic and some of the French songs she had picked up. They discussed the Earl of Kingston’s trial, a much featured ceremonial, it seemed, when the peers of the realm assembled to see proper and fitting justice done to one of their own rank ..... a farce that entertained fashionable Dublin more than any theatrical performance. The verdict was a foregone conclusion.
When at last Nick chose to look in on the prisoners, Caroline was ready for him. Seeing no sign of remorse or repentance on his countenance, she refused to treat with him. When he tried to lay hands on her, she screamed. The girl was plainly crazy. That night, he brought Dr. Swartz to see her, but she refused to let him approach. Again she began the strange scream she had picked up, from Maureen. It maddened Nick. He strode forward as though to strike her, but Swartz seized him by the arm.
“Hold!” he cried. “Add no more to your guilt, Marsmain, or even I may not be able to clear your account. Young woman, cease crying and speak to me. What is it you want? Speak.”
“I want simple justice, that is all.”
“You mean you want your freedom?”
“And his,” she replied, indicating William.
“That cannot be, Caroline,” Nick said haughtily, “not the freedom you wish for him ..... freedom to usurp my heritage ..... to claim to be what he is not. She is mad, Dr. Swartz ..... cannot you see that?”
The doctor remained silent for a few minutes; then he turned to Nick.
“Poor thing,” he said, “there is little I can do. May I suggest that she be provided with some comforts ..... bedding ..... toilet articles ..... whatever she needs or asks for within reason, of course.”
“Let me have my harp,” she said quietly.
Marsmain complied with that request. He brought the harp at once. She smiled enchantingly at Dr. Swartz.
“A woman can always be coaxed,” he said to Nick as they walked away.
The coaxing began immediately. Blankets and pillows were provided, linens and a change of clothing, brushes for her hair, fresh water to wash. Marsmain fetched everything himself, handing the articles to Ninny without comment. He even brought a nosegay of flowers. Life was better for the prisoners. The harp was a great source of pleasure. They had roughened their throats trying to sing in the dusty atmosphere. Now they had music for dancing. Perhaps the shade of Lady Adeline danced. Certainly the deaf old woman sensed the rhythm and, lifting her skirts tried an occasional few steps. Capering in and out among the lumber, she looked so comical that, for the first time, Caroline heard William laugh aloud.
In the sunny world outside, June
strung out a pageant of frivolity, of tragedy and death. Far away, in Wexford,
a month-long struggle dragged to its fierce conclusion at Vinegar Hill. On June
21st the rebel encampment of 20,000 men, armed mainly with pikes, was
surrounded by Government troops,
But Vinegar Hill settled nothing.
Guerrilla war could go on forever.
“How glad I am that I returned to
Caroline did not see the letters that arrived for her ..... not till later. Gwendaline missed her during that June, wondered why she did not reply. Perhaps she did not receive the mail. Perhaps the replies were lost. There was so much unrest one could not be sure of anything. At the very outset of the rising the mail coaches had been selected as targets, signalling action. The plan miscarried that time, but another time, perhaps. Who knew?