When he awoke next morning, it took him a few moments to recall what had happened. Then he rose, removed the bandage, and dressed. The windows of the room looked on a large garden, with green lawns, rose-walks, and beds of brilliant flowers. The dome of some great building showed in the distance against a summer sky. There was the hum of a stirring humanity; the gathering of a concourse. From the many roofs and spires, he saw that he was in a large city.
He turned from the window on hearing a knock at the door. MacFirbis came in. Had the Herr Professor passed a good night, he asked in German; was he well? And the Professor, declining to speak his own language, answered in Irish that he had slept soundly and felt in good health.
“You have hidden from me, Sai (Professor) Schlieman,,” MacFirbis said in a gratified tone, “that I have for my guest the famous Archaeologist whose discoveries in Crete, and on the site of Sagalassus, and in Asia Minor, have excited the interest of the world. I am delighted that a fortunate chance should have brought you to my house.”
The Professor hastened to deny the deeds accredited to him and proclaim his own identity.
“It is my work on the Milan Glosses and ancient Celtic scripts,” he said with emphasis, “that have given me what claim I have to renown.”
But MacFirbis brushed the explanation aside. “You have the modesty of the truly great,” he replied, “and would place the pastime of your moments of relaxation before your great and lasting deeds.”
Schliemann looked offended. “My notes on the Milan Glosses have attracted some attention,” he remarked shortly.
“It is, I am confident, my loss that I have not seen them. By the Milan, you probably refer to the Glosses on the manuscripts brought back from that city in the reign of Niall II.”
“Those I mean are still in Milan.”
“I have not heard of them. But your honoured name is indeed familiar to me, and your books on archaeology are now in my library. It was my friend, Ollamh MacAodha, who was here this morning, who told me what a distinguished guest my roof sheltered. He has gone to get you a place on the balcony of the House of the Aire-desa of the city. The Aire-desa, as perhaps you know, has the same functions and duties as your Burgomaster, or the Lord Mayor of an English city. MacAodha will take you there, for I am unable to accompany you, as I should have wished, for, as Hereditary Historian of Connacht, I have to take my place in the procession with my four brethren of the First Order.”
Sorcha did not appear at breakfast, and MacFirbis was summoned away when they rose from the table. The Professor went to the library, having first asked a servant if the dog was there. It was in its kennel, the man had replied.
He found Sorcha standing near the case, from which the shutters had been removed. Her back was towards the Professor; she drew a glove slowly on her hand. A chain of gold leaves, exquisitely enamelled, with a jewelled medallion, hung round her neck. Her head was crossed by a thin gold band; her hair hung to her waist. She was robed in silk that shimmered with tints of sea-green, pale blue and pink. She turned as he approached, and greeted him with a few words of welcome and an enquiry for his health.
“Can you open those locks?” he asked, pointing to the case, when he had replied.
She looked at it with a sudden blue flash of anger from her eyes. “No! My father keeps the keys.”
“They are very valuable, very valuable and interesting.”
“They are hateful! I wish they had been lost centuries ago!”
“Lost! Ach little Vandal, or Dane! It was the Danes who used to fling your manuscripts into the lakes. Why do you speak so fiercely?”
There were tears in her eyes; and he understood. In spite of his pugnacity and severely practical mind, there was a sentimental vein in his nature.
“Yes, yes, I see,” he said, “the young soldier has angered your worthy father. But he may forgive him. It appears that his father thinks that yours has no right to these remarkable works.”
She smiled, a little dainty but cold smile. He had in fact, put a big blundering foot down on the flower of her love. Not yet might he, a stranger, speak of it to her, or offer tactless sympathy. With the roses in her cheeks deepened, she turned her face aside. A footman entered, and said her carriage had come.
The man placed a silk cloak over her shoulders, and she bowed to the Professor and left the room. He trod swiftly to the case as the door closed behind her. For some minutes his eyes moved over the two pages; then he felt for his notebook. The cover was crushed; the leaves soiled; but his last entry was still legible. “In the ruins of O’Neill’s castle,” he had written, “I have evidence of the death not alone of a dynasty, but of a nation.”
“I must have fallen at that moment,” he said aloud. He raised his head and stared sharply about him. The door opened as he stared, and MacFirbis entered, accompanied by a short alert looking man with humorous mouth and eyes. The man wore a dark green silk cloak, with a branch of bells embroidered in gold on the back. He was introduced as the Ollamh MacAodha.
“A hundred thousand welcomes to Ireland, Sai Schliemann,” he said warmly. “Your researches have been followed with deep interest in this country.”
“You have read my works?” Schliemann asked.
“Certainly. Your discoveries have thrown light on the early races of Crete and Asia Minor, and on some disputed points in Hellenic colonisation.”
“But I must inform you that I take no credit for these things. It is my Notes on the Milan Glosses and my Celtic studies.”
“Yes, true. I had heard you were giving your attention to excavations that would throw much light on the Galatians in their first colonies in Asia Minor. I am glad to tell you that I have got you a seat on the balcony of the House of the Aire-desa. And I shall be delighted to take you there in my car.”
MacFirbis left the room; the Professor pointed to the case. “You see those vellums – are they genuine survivals from Pagan Ireland?” he asked. “If I could examine them – a long and exhaustive examination – I should be able to decide whether they were the age claimed for them.”
“Oh, they are genuine. That is an undisputed fact. Their history can be traced through centuries. It is a pity that they should have made a breach between two learned families.”
“Between my host Duald MacFirbis and the Ollamh Keating?”
“Yes, the story is public property, and you may have heard it.”
“I only left Berlin last week, and am ignorant of the dispute.”
“Then I will tell you, but I advise you not to refer to it when speaking to the Historian, or the Ollamh Keating when you meet him. In the middle of the seventeenth century there was a learned priest named Geoffrey Keating, he travelled through Ireland to study the ancient books in the care of the hereditary keepers, and visited MacFirbis’s ancestor, the Hereditary Historian of Connacht, who gave him free access to his books. They formed a close friendship, and some years later in the turbulence of the civil war raised by O’Conor, Prince of Connacht, at the edict that freed the non-free clans, MacFirbis retired to Munster and sought refuge in Keating’s house. He died there, and the two vellums remained in the hands of the learned doctor, who, we may believe, meant to restore them to their owners, the MacFirbis family. It was not till his father was dead that the son of Duald MacFirbis discovered that the vellums were missing. He at once claimed them. Keating’s nephew, who had been admitted to the Order of Hereditary Historians, refused to restore them, declaring they had been given to his uncle. Appeals and threats proved useless, and even a private war; and it was not till one hundred and sixty years later that chance placed the books again in the hands of a MacFirbis. This was a mortal offence to the Keatings, who brought the matter before the Law Courts, and failing there, petitioned the king. But they were unsuccessful, and the books remain the property of the Hereditary Historians of Connacht.”
The two men presently left the house, and got into MacAodha’s car. The streets were crowded, and their progress was slow. From roofs and windows flags and banners waved, and garlands of flowers festooned the bright coloured cloths that draped the balconies. A great throng of people moved behind the lines of troops that guarded the route.
They got out of the car, and going up a wide semi-circle of steps, passed through marble columns to the Hall of the Aire-desa. A broad stair led them to a long gallery that ran the whole front of the building. Numbers of men in what appeared to be a national costume, and richly dressed women, stood about. Standing apart, his eyes on the stair, was a tall elderly gentleman of dignified appearance. His portly figure was hidden by a cloak similar to that worn by MacAodha, with the difference, that the gold branch and bells were repeated on the wide flowing sleeves. As soon as he saw MacAodha, he came forward with welcoming eyes.
“I have been watching for you,” he said. Then he turned to the Professor. “The famous Sai Schliemann?” he asked.
“Schliemann is my name,” the Professor answered.
The gentleman took his hand and shook it warmly. “A thousand welcomes before you!” he said.
“It is the Ollamh Keating who greets you, Sai Schliemann,” MacAodha explained, “with whose Analytical Treatise on the Philosophies of the Nineteenth Century, you are, of course, well acquainted. I hear it is a textbook in your Universities.”
“A profound subject,” the Professor answered, “but my work has chiefly lain in the study of Comparative Philology, and—”
“In your marvellous excavations,” interrupted Keating. “We owe much to your spade.”
The Professor’s lips tightened. It was dawning on his intelligence that what he had accomplished was unknown to these people, who credited him with another man’s work. The question whether to acquiesce in the mistake suddenly became an important and even ominous one.
“I have met your son,” he said abruptly. “A fine young soldier with an historic name.”
Keating looked pleased. “I value your praise,” he replied, “Geoffrey has not mentioned that he had had the honour of meeting you, at which I am surprised.”
“His mind, my friend, was full of another matter. I met him—” A warning glance from MacAodha stopped the sentence. The Professor coughed.
MacAodha put his arm through the Professor’s as they went towards the balcony. “My dear friend,” he whispered, “be careful not to mention MacFirbis. It is a deadly feud.”
They took their places in the first row. The Professor leant his arms on the railing and looked down. The royal procession was already approaching. First came the trumpeters, men in rich liveries, riding black horses, who pealed loud notes on the great trumpets they carried. A column of cavalry followed, the men wearing yellow coats faced and braided with black; yellow and black plumes waved in their helmets. A detachment of foot marched behind, in moss green uniforms faced with tan, part, MacAodha said, of the regiment of Tir Eoghain. Then came a row of carriages, bearing men in handsome robes, the chief officials of the city, escorted by a body of mounted police in russet uniforms with buff belts. A troop of lancers in white uniforms with crimson facings followed; and immediately in their rear appeared a line of carriages, with men in brilliant-hued and magnificent dresses.
“These are the hereditary officers of the King’s household,” Keating remarked, “and are all of noble birth. That lord yonder is the Taisech Scuir, Master of the Horse. The lord in the carriage just passing is the Marshal of the Forces. He sits by the Door-keeper of Tara. That nobleman in dark blue and gold is the Keeper of the King’s Treasures and Chess. By his side is the Keeper of the King’s Hounds. Following is the Rechtaire, Superintendent of the Banquets. Every one of these lords represents some post in the royal household, inherited through generations from chief to chief. Some posts like that of Keeper of the Chess are very interesting survivals from an immense past. Most of the offices are honorary ones, conferring a special rank upon the person to whom they are attached. I would draw your attention to this horseman who brings up the rear of the officials. He is the Tren-fher, or Cath-milidh, the Strong Man of Battle, a figure attached to the retinue of the Kings of Ireland for so immense a period that not even our most learned heralds can tell at what date the post of Tren-fher was created. He wears, as you see, an apron of white leather over his velvet coat, with the Royal Arms embroidered on the breast.”
“Here come the King’s Guards,” exclaimed MacAodha, as the crowd began to cheer. “They are the tallest men in Europe. You remember, Sai Schliemann, that passage in Pausanias in which he speaks of the great height of the Celtic warriors who stormed Delphi three centuries before our era. But here are the King and Righ-damna.”
As he spoke every one on the balcony rose, and the Professor stood up. The crowd in the street shouted, “Health to thee, O Niall! Health and the blessing of God to thee, O King! A hundred thousand welcomes, Righ-damna!” The applause and volume of welcome drowned the music of the bands. Schliemann leant forward. The world he was in appeared real, solid, the scene no dream. The royal carriage passed slowly, drawn by eight black horses, with trappings of scarlet and gold, led by footmen in white and gold liveries.
The King sat erect, saluting frequently. He was a middle-aged man with a look of youth in his eyes. His face was shaven except for a long grey moustache, and he wore the uniform of a cavalry regiment. He seemed to the Professor more a man of action than a profound thinker; a prince not afraid of a hearty laugh, a Chief with his clan, more than a monarch separated by his lofty position from the crowd. “Yet he is a diplomat, too,” he thought, “by his broad brows.” Then he looked at the heir apparent, the Righ-damna. The young man had a haughtier air, a colder glance, and a rarer smile.
“Here is the Princess Findebair, the King’s only daughter,” said MacAodha, pointing to a carriage that came behind the Royal Guard. “The lady by her side is her aunt, the Princess of Midhe. Findebair of Ireland is the most beautiful Princess in Europe.”
She was a fair girl with dancing blue eyes, who smiled joyously on the crowd. Her aunt also smiled and bowed. The cheering as they passed was very loud.
“And who are these?” asked Schliemann as five carriages, each drawn by six white horses, approached.
“They are the Five Princes of Ireland,” Keating replied. “That red-haired man so magnificently robed is Cathar O’Domnaill, Prince of Tirconnell. Hear how the crowd cheer him. They remember Aodh Ruadh, his great ancestor, as well as his own merits. In the second carriage is the Prince of Midhe, whose wife is the King’s sister. That young man in the third carriage is Turlough O’Brien, Prince of Thomond, whom rumour says is in love with Princess Findebair. That soldierly figure in the fourth is MacMurrough, Prince of Laighen; that grey-haired man in the fifth is O’Conor, Prince of Connacht. And now, Sai Schliemann, follow the chiefs of the Sean-Ghalls, from which race I am myself sprung. There, in that carriage, is the Earl of Kildare, with his Countess, a lady of great beauty. That dark, heavy-faced man, is the Earl of Clanrickard, and behind him comes the Earl of Desmond, with his wife and daughter. The Countess was Keeper of the Queen’s Treasures to her late Majesty Queen Maire, who was, as you may remember, Princess Maire of Orleans, and her daughter is Lady-in-Waiting to the Princess. His Majesty has always made a point of honouring his Sean-Ghall subjects. Lord Talbot of Malahide sits in the fourth carriage, a nobleman who has a high post in the Government. The Earl of Ormond, also an important member of the Government, is in the fifth, and in these carriages are Preston, Viscount Gormanstown, Nugent, Baron of Delvin, and Fleming, Baron of Slane.”
“All these nobles, I perceive, keep their Norman titles,” said Schliemann.
“Yes, by command of Aodh II, in the seventeenth century, for there were a few of the Sean-Ghalls who wished to assume the ancient titles of the land. But King Aodh said that his Norman subjects were not less Irishmen and loyal subjects by keeping the titles their swords had won. And it is true that we Sean-Ghalls are proud of our descent, and do not forget it though loyal Irishmen.”
“Here is my friend, MacFirbis,” remarked the Professor, as a fresh line of carriages came into view. In each sat a man wearing a cloak, embroidered in gold, each cloak being of a different colour.
“They are the Five Hereditary Historians of the First Order,” answered MacAodha, “and each province, as you see, has its own colour. The figure in the primrose-hued cloak is the Hereditary Historian of Munster; he in the crimson is that of Laighean; the black cloak so magnificently blazoned and embroidered covers the shoulders of the Hereditary Historian of Uladh, and the green—” MacAodha paused, then deftly continued: “Here are their daughters. On high occasions one daughter, of each of the five, receives a command to be in the train of the Queen or the Princesses of the Royal House, and they have to wear their hair flowing and a necklace of a special design as their badge.”
“I recognise the fair daughter of MacFirbis among these maidens,” said Schliemann. “She is beautiful, and, in so far as I am able to judge, in no way resembles the modern female who seeks to be on a level with men. I am not surprised that young Keating has fallen in love with her.”
He was recalled the next moment to the indiscretion of his remark by a nudge from MacAodha. But the mischief was done, and glancing at Keating, he saw the look of amazement on the latter’s face change to one of blazing anger. For a moment he seemed about to speak, then remained silent till the last of the procession had passed.