The Professor reached Tlachtga about four in the afternoon, entering the park through the western gates. Groups of people walked about or rested under the trees, the greater part of the park being open to the public. The palace, built on a height, was visible along the whole length of the drive. It was a fine specimen of the Perpendicular, pinnacle, and richly decorated, bearing the mellowed air of three centuries. Entering by the north doorway, which led to the Visitors’ Hall, he was received by one of the officers of the household, who having welcomed him in the name of the Prince of Midhe, conducted him to a stair, where a second official led him to a gallery, whence he was passed into the hands of a steward of the palace, who showed him his bedroom.

He had not been alone ten minutes when a gentleman of the household entered. ‘The Princess was in her grotto, Tir-na-n-Og,’ he said, and invited Sai Schliemann to her presence.

‘Tir-na-n-Og,’ the Professor exclaimed. ‘I trust, sir, I shall not have to dive into a lake, or enter a magic door in the nearest mound, which, opened, will never let me out again.’

The gentleman laughed. ‘Oh, no,’ he replied, ‘the entrance is an easy one, and there is no magic in this Tir-na-n-Og.’

He led him to a gallery, and down a shallow flight of stairs to a vestibule, where, opening a door, they entered a garden, the upper end of which was crossed by a row of double, semi-circular arches, through which could be seen a second garden with terraces, streams, fountains, and statuary. Before a flower-clothed hill, rose a marble building which Schliemann found, on entering, was the ante-chamber of a hall tunnelled in the side of the hill. Its walls gleamed in the light of the electroliers, with circles and devices of pearls and amethysts taken from the rivers and rocks of the kingdom. Chairs and stools stood about, covered with gold and scarlet cloth; and on tables of different coloured marbles, lay books, pictures and writing material. The Princess was listening to a choir of harpists, six young girls clothed in green robes, whose music, blending with the echoes, produced the acoustic effect of a second and distant choir.

She greeted the Professor with warmth, and, leading him through the hall, pointed out the gems that studded the walls, and the beauty of the mosaics. She had had the hall made, she said, in the very hill where the goddess Brigit, the pagan patroness of learning, was said to have held her court. She also showed him a gold torque, hair-band and bronze cauldron that had been found in an ancient chamber in the hill, and asked him to give a lecture upon them as soon as he had had some refreshment.

‘The Prince and the guests at the palace are anxious to hear you,’ she said with a gracious yet commanding air, ‘and we shall be deeply interested in hearing you explain the points of resemblance in the archaic ornaments of Greece and Ireland.’

Schliemann’s brows knitted. ‘If your Royal Highness will allow me to defer this lecture till to-morrow, to prepare – to study, these interesting ornaments and this vessel,’ he replied, ‘it is possible I might have something to say. But—’

She interrupted him imperially, smiling. ‘But I prefer the spontaneous speech of a great man. Here is an attendant, Sidhe’ – she signed to a lilac-clad girl bearing a gold tray with wine and coffee to approach – ‘who will offer you some of the ale and food of Tir-na-n-Og.’

The Professor helped himself in silence, and the Princess changed the conversation. She told him that she was interested in the love affair of a young couple with whom he was acquainted. ‘I mean,’ she added, ‘young Geoffrey Keating and Sorcha Ni Firbis.’

‘They have eloped, your Royal Highness,’ he replied, ‘and the good Historian is in much trouble. By now they are married.’

‘Sorcha is here,’ the Princess answered.’ ‘I bade the Countess Clanrickard, to whose house she went, bring her to Tlachtga. The Countess was in the car when Sorcha left Tir-da-glas. The marriage will take place privately to-morrow. Sorcha tells me you have been her friend. I am very anxious to make peace between the Historian of Connacht and the Ollamh Keating, who are both gifted and learned men. Their dispute over the possession of the vellums, the Psalter of Tara and the Dromsneachta, is a ridiculous anachronism in the twentieth century. It will be a happy achievement to reconcile these two good and noble old men. And I take it as an omen of success that their children love each other.’

As she spoke, the choir played a few bars of music, and a party of men entered the marble ante-chamber. They carried fishing-rods, which they gave into the hands of attendants, and then – a tall, grey-haired man leading the way – they came into the grotto. Schliemann noticed the latter’s alert eye and humorous smile, and judged he was in the presence of the Prince of Midhe. Having kissed the princess’s hand and bowed to the ladies, the Prince declared himself and his retinue thirsty, and demanded a draught of the ale of Tir-na-n-Og. A crystal vase was filled with wine, and speedily emptied by the Prince, after which Schliemann was presented to him, and received some courteous words of welcome. Later on, the Professor learnt that he was interested in aviation, and had started a factory for aeroplanes on his property; and, also, that he brought his people into partnership in his various industrial enterprises in the province. Now, however, with his beaker re-filled, he seated himself on one of the scarlet seats, and appeared to resign himself to whatever might be the will of his wife; to the infliction of a lecture, in short, Schliemann guessed, on Greek and Irish art.

Among those who accompanied him, the Professor noticed a big, broad-shouldered man with a heavy white moustache, a broad furrowed brow, and cold penetrating eyes. As he took his stand, at the Princess’s direction, before a table on which had been placed the torque, band and cauldron, he heard her address this stranger in German. Schliemann’s interest was at once aroused.

‘A fellow-countryman,’ he thought. ‘I must have a word with him.’ He listened to the Princess.

‘Count an Arnheim,’ she said, ‘if taking the chair were allowed in Tir-na-n-Og I should ask you to do it. You tell me you have not met your distinguished compatriot. I am delighted that he should lecture in the presence of the ambassador of his country.’

The Professor’s eyes kindled. He was face to face at last with the ambassador from the Court of Berlin to that of Niall III. The door whence he could depart from the kingdom seemed to open at once. Slightly agitated by the thought, he stood still, gazing at the Count. Then suddenly recalling the fact that he was expected to lecture on a subject upon which he was not qualified to deal, he lowered his gaze. No position could be more unpleasant to him. Master in his own work, a man of profound learning, trained in a school of exact and deep thought, the popular and shallow lecture was abhorrent to his soul. With tightly closed lips and brooding eyes, he stared at the cauldron, indifferent to the silence that had fallen upon the Princess and her companions.

Then, all in a moment, his fixed stare changed, and a look of keen interest lightened his face. Taking his magnifying glass swiftly from his pocket, he turned the cauldron on its side, and going on one knee, peered under the rim. Presently getting to his feet, he folded his arms across his breast and looked at his audience with the composed and assured air that he wore when addressing his class in the University of Berlin. He had found, he said, two minute inscriptions on the ancient vessel, one in Ogham and one in letters which he had deciphered as ‘Gobniu[1] made this for the Daghda.’

This reading he would submit to other Celtic scholars, and while he was anxious to have the opinion of such men as Pederson and Kuno Meyer and Strachan and Zimmer, and, above all, de Narbonne, he believed the reading would be found correct. It was a very interesting discovery, considering where the vessel had been found, and the antiquity of the rites connected with the hill. Then comparing the form of the letters with those of the earliest glosses, he dealt with the subject profoundly, and passed on to describe the ancient cults of Ireland, the Chtonic gods, and their connection with the rest of Europe, bringing his lecture to an abrupt end as he saw the ambassador glance at his watch. For it was to him he had spoken, anxious that the lecture might establish his identity. The Princess had listened with marked attention, and the Prince, with the courteous air he showed to all men, even when bored. She approached the table when he ceased, and expressed her deep interest in his discovery. Commenting on the resemblance between the archaic gods of Greece and the gods of Ireland, she appeared to forget that the lecture had brought no new light on the pottery and metallic work of those countries.

After the Prince had looked at the inscription and thanked the Professor for his lecture, he returned to the garden with some of the gentlemen, where they busied themselves over trout and salmon flies. The Professor was then presented to the ambassador, who returned his bow in silence; and soon afterwards the Princess led the party with the grotto.

It was not till the Court circle formed again in the Lilac Room of Conversation (seomra immacallamae) that he had an opportunity of speaking to the ambassador. All the guests were expected to appear before the Princess there, but those who wished to play chess passed into a second chamber with the Prince. Music and intellectual conversation were the entertainment for those who remained; and it was well-known that young Princess Findebair of Ireland, and her brother the Righ-damna, seldom came to Tlachtga, which it was whispered they had said was the dullest place in the kingdom.

The ambassador was standing in the doorway between the two great rooms when the Professor walked up to him, and addressed him with his usual directness of manner. ‘Your Excellency, I have been anxious to meet you,’ he remarked.

The ambassador turned with an attentive air. ‘I must thank you, Herr Professor, for the pleasure your lecture gave me,’ he said in a strong resonant voice. ‘You appeared master of your subject, and it was gratifying at such a moment, in the presence of a literary princess like her Royal Highness, that a German could show so wide a knowledge of ancient Irish literature. I was all the more gratified as I thought your special field was archaeology.’

‘My real work is philology and comparative history,’ the Professor answered, ‘and I am considered an authority on Old and Middle Irish. Your Excellency, as a subject of the Kaiser, I am anxious to have a private interview with you.’

The ambassador smiled. ‘To ask, Herr Professor, that I beg your Government to force a firman from the Sultan for another exploration.’

‘No, not at all, your Excellency. I am taking notes on all I hear and see in this kingdom. If I might know what treaties exist between Germany and this country, it would be valuable information. There are also other and vital matters upon which I wish to speak.’

He received a keen glance that contained also a rebuke.

‘Come to my room at one to-night,’ the Count said shortly, and, turning abruptly, entered the second room.

He had scarcely departed when the Professor was summoned to join the circle round the Princess. She had that moment heard of the theft of the vellums from a gentleman who had seen an account of the affair in one of the evening papers.

‘Is it true, Sai Schliemann,’ she asked, ‘that these priceless works have been stolen from the Historian of Connacht?’

‘Yes, your Royal Highness, and under strange circumstances,’ he answered.

‘What a national loss!’, she exclaimed; ‘both books are original Pagan compilations.’

She questioned him further, listening with marked concern as he briefly gave an account of the theft. At her request, the Prince was brought from the chess-table to hear the story re-told; and, having shown sufficient interest in the matter to please his wife, he went back to his game. One of her gentlemen was directed to telephone to the Chief Detective Department in Baile-Átha-Cliath; and the interest of the Princess and her literary circle was further deepened when a reply was returned that the books had not been found and that Moss was still at large.

At twelve the Court circle broke up, the Prince retired to his own private apartments, and the gentlemen went to the smoking room. The Professor did not linger long with the smokers. Asking an attendant to direct him to that quarter of the palace where the ambassador was lodged, he was led to the threshold of a room where he was received by the Count’s secretary.

‘You will please follow me, Herr Schliemann,’ he said, and crossed the room to a door which he opened. ‘His Excellency will see you,’ he added and signed that he was to enter.

The Professor obeyed. The ambassador was seated before a writing-table, resting one strong-looking white hand on a blotting pad, he motioned him to a chair. Then a silence followed, as if the Count expected him to be the first to speak.

‘It appears, your Excellency,’ Schliemann began, ‘that Ireland is an independent and sovereign country.’

‘An obvious fact,’ replied the ambassador, ‘that is scarcely a necessary introduction to what you have to say.’

‘I wish to inform you that my identity has been mistaken. I am not the man these excellent people suppose me to be.’

‘So I had noted. You have probably found it a useful mistake, widening your opportunities for observation.’

‘I have been using it to the best advantage,’ replied the Professor, ‘and have taken a number of notes. Unfortunately I lost my notebook.’

‘You used a cipher, of course?’

‘No. I had not considered it necessary. The political condition of the country surprises me very much indeed. Does it not seem unusual to your Excellency?’

‘You have come to that conclusion? Our Government, as you understand, is anxious to keep Ireland out of the Northern Alliance, and break up the recent treaty between Ireland and England which practically closes the two kingdoms to our exports.’

‘Then!’, exclaimed the Professor, ‘Ireland is still in the power of England?’

‘With her magnificent army and increasing navy, Ireland is a match for England should war break out between the two countries. But England does not forget that Ireland was once her tributary. It is the opinion of the highest personage in the German Empire that the visits of the King of England last spring, after his visit to Tara, to each of the Five Princes was a deep political move. These Princes are very haughty, with the pride of gods as regards their pedigree, and resent any slight shown to them. It is an anomaly that a small kingdom like Ireland, wealthy though she be, should have five Courts, as well as Tara. The country is not taxed to support them, each prince having immense wealth; but the situation is one that could be used to the injury of the central government and the monarchy of Ireland; and has possibilities that have not escaped the astute eye of the English king. And I am here to counteract the effects of his visit to Tlachtga.’

The ambassador paused suddenly as if conscious he had said too much. The Professor had listened to him with profound interest and wonder.

‘Why does your Excellency think the Courts of the Five Princes more anomalous,’ he said, ‘than the numerous ones in our Empire? The survival of these great regal families is most interesting, considering the great antiquity of their pedigree. In short, your Excellency, I am astonished at all I see and hear. The situation appears extraordinary, and I am anxious to ask you if it is possible for me to return to Berlin at any moment I desire?’

‘As you are aware, your department does not come under my control,’ the ambassador replied. ‘But I could, of course, allow you to return to Berlin for either urgent private reasons or for those connected with your mission. But the loss of your notebook is a serious matter, especially as you were imprudent enough not to use a cipher.’

‘It is an irreparable loss, indeed,’ said Schliemann. ‘Yet I hope to recover it. I dropped it into a dungeon in a ruin standing in the grounds of the Hereditary Historian of Connacht. On my return to Tir-da-glas, I intend to open a hole wide enough to admit of my person, so that I can descend and get the book.’

‘I am relieved to hear it is safe from the eyes of any Irishman. From your remarks this evening I judge you have some information to give. But though this Court, Herr Professor, is devoted to art and literature, it appeared to me that you were indiscreet in your address.’

‘Your Excellency is right. I have made a discovery that will be of deep interest to all Celtic scholars. But I must inform you that when I left Berlin a little over a week ago, Ireland was not recognised as an independent and sovereign kingdom by the Kaiser.’

‘The ambassador raised his heavy brows. ‘Are you sure of this?’, he asked in a tone of astonishment.

‘As sure as I sit here, your Excellency. It was the belief not alone of the Kaiser—’

The ambassador interrupted him; he rose to his feet. ‘Another Imperial whim,’ he exclaimed. ‘But, Herr Professor, I should have heard of this extraordinary act. It is war! I should be re-called. You were – you must have been misinformed.’

‘It is universally recognised,’ said Schliemann. ‘I was filled with astonishment on visiting the country to find a German ambassador here. The situation is extraordinary, deeply interesting, and I am profoundly anxious for an explanation.’

‘Which is not for you, Herr Professor,’ said the ambassador frowning. ‘You can retire; I will see you again.’

He rang a bell. ‘We must telegraph to Berlin,’ he said, as the secretary appeared. ‘There is extraordinary news. Cipher IV is to be used.’

He looked at Schliemann. ‘At eight to-morrow I will give you an audience.’

The Professor retired. At the door he paused and looked at the secretary, who had followed him.

‘You know who I am?’, he said with an eager emphasis in his voice. ‘I am not the archaeologist.’

‘We are aware of it, Herr Professor,’ the secretary replied.

‘Then,’ exclaimed Schliemann, ‘you know that I am—’

‘Professor Schliemann of the Foreign Secret Service,’ interrupted the secretary, lowering his voice, and he bowed the Professor out.

[1] The smith-god, or Vulcan in Irish mythology.