Read CHAPTER XIV.  FILION AND FIONA—­ALSO PATSY KERNAGHAN of Wild Youth, free online book, by Gilbert Parker, on ReadCentral.com.

Patsy Kernaghan was in his element in the garden with which Norah Doyle had decorated the brown bosom of the prairie.  It had verdant shrubs, green turf, thick fringes of flowers, and one solitary elmtree in the centre whose branches spread like a cedar of Lebanon.  In the moonlight Patsy had the telling of a wonderful story to such an audience as he had never had before in his life, and he had had them from Bundoran to Limerick, from Limerick to the foothills of the Rockies.

The séance of love and legend had been Patsy’s own idea.  At the supper-table spread by Norah Doyle, in spite of the protests of her visitors ­the Young Doctor, Louise and Patsy ­Nolan Doyle, who had a fine gift for playful talk, had tried to keep the situation free from melodrama.  Yet Patsy had observed that, in spite of all efforts, Louise’s eyes now and then filled with tears.  Also, he saw that her senses seemed alert for something outside their little circle.  It was as though she expected someone to arrive.  She was in that state which is not normal and yet not abnormal ­a kind of trance in which she did ordinary things in a natural way, yet mechanically, without full consciousness.

There was no one at the table who did not realize what, and for whom, she was waiting.  To her primitive spirit, now that she was in trouble because of him, it seemed inevitable that Orlando should come.  One thing was fixed in her mind:  she would never return to Tralee or to the man whose odious presence made her feel as though she was in a cage with an animal.

Jonas Billings had called him “The ancient one from the jungle,” and that was how at last he appeared to her.  His arms and breast were thick with hair; the hair on his face grew almost up to the eyes; the fingers of his splayed hands were blunt and broad; and his hair was like a nest for things of the jungle undergrowth.

Since she had been awakened, the memory of his hot breath in her face, of his clumsy fevered embraces was a torment to her; for always in contrast there were the fresh clean-shaven cheeks and chin of a young Berserker with honest, wondering blue eyes, the curly head of a child, and body and limbs like a young lean stag.

Orlando’s touch was never either clammy or fevered.  She could recall every time that he had touched her:  when her fingers and his met on the afternoon that Li Choo had thrown himself down the staircase with the priceless porcelain; also the evening of the night spent on the prairie when, after the accident, her hand had been linked into his arm; also when he had clasped her fingers at their meeting in the morning.  On each occasion she had felt a thrill like that of music ­persuasive, living vibrations passing to remote recesses of her being.

No nearer had she ever come to the man she loved, no nearer had he sought to come.  Once, the evening after the night spent on the prairie, when old Joel Mazarine had tried to make her pray and ask God’s forgiveness, and he had kissed her with the lips of hungry old age, she had suddenly sat up in bed, her heart beating hard, every nerve palpitating, because in imagination she had seen herself in Orlando’s arms, with his lips pressed to hers.

Poor neophyte in life’s mysteries, having served as a slave at false altars of which she did not even know the ritual, it was no wonder that, after all she had suffered, she could not now bring herself into tune with the commonplace intercourse of life.  Not that her friends utterly failed to lure her into it.  She might well have been the victim of hysterics, but she was only distrait, pensive and gently smiling, with the smile of a good heart.  Smiling with her had ever taken the place of conversation.  It was an apology for not speaking when she could not speak what she felt.

Once during the meal she seemed to start slightly, as though she heard a familiar sound, and for some minutes afterwards she seemed to be listening, as it were, for a knock at the door, which did not come.  Immediately after that, Patsy, happy in sitting down to table with “the quality” ­for such they were to him ­because he saw that Louise must be distracted, and because he had seen story-telling, many a time, draw people away from their troubles even more than music, said: 

“Did you remember the day it is, anny of you?  Shure, it’s St. Droid’s Day!  Aw, then, don’t you know who he was?  You don’t!  Well, well, there’s no tellin’ how ignorant the wurruld can be.  St. Droid ­aw, he was a good man that brought the two children of Chief Diarmid and Queen Moira together.  You didn’t know about them two?  You niver h’ard of Chief Diarmid and Queen Moira and their two lovely children?  Well, there it is, there’s no sayin’ how ignorant y’are if y’are not Irish.  Aw no, they wasn’t man and wife.  Diarmid was a widower and Moira was a widow.  Diarmid’s boy was Filion and Moira’s girl was Fiona, an’ the troubles of the two’d make a book for ivry day of the week, an’ two for Sunday.  An’ the way that St. Droid brought them two together Aw, come outside in the gardin where the moon’s to the full, an’ it’s warm enough for anny man or woman that’s got a warm heart, an’ I’ll tell you the story of Filion and Fiona.  You’ll not be forgettin’ the names of them now, will ye?  And while I’m tellin’ you, all the time you’ll be thinkin’ of St. Droid, for it’s his day.  It was nothin’ till him, St. Droid, that he lived in a cave, you understan’?  Wasn’t his face like the sun comin’ up over the lake at Ballinhoe in the month of June!  Well, it doesn’t matter if you’ve niver seen Ballinhoe ­you understan’ what I mean.  Well, then come out intil the gardin, darlins.  Shure, I’m achin’ to tell you the story ­as fine a love-story as iver was told to man and woman.”

So it was that Louise with eyes alight-for Patsy had a voice that could stir imagination in the dullest ­so it was that Louise and the others went out into the moonlit garden, the prairie around them like an endless waste of sea.  There they placed themselves in a half circle around Patsy, who sat upon a little bench, with his back to the big spreading elm-tree, which by some special gift had grown alone over the myriad years, defying storm and winter’s frost, until it seemed to have an honoured permanence, as stable as the prairie earth itself.

As they seated themselves, there was renewed in Louise the feeling she had at supper-time, when she had imagined ­or had her senses accurately divined? that Orlando was near, so sure had been the sensation that she had expected Orlando to enter the room where they sat.  Now it was on her again, and somehow she felt him there with her.  He was Filion and she was Fiona.

Since the day she had first seen Orlando, she had awakened to life’s realities.  There had grown in her an alertness and a delicate sense of things, which, though natural to one born with a soul that cared little for sordid things, was not common, except in Celtic circles where the unseen thing is more real than the seen; where gold and precious stones are only valued in so far as they can purchase freedom, dreams and desire.

Louise had not been thrilled without cause.  Orlando, the real material Orlando, had driven out to Nolan Doyle’s ranch, but having come, could not at first bring himself to enter.  Something in him kept saying that it was not fair to her; kept admonishing him to let things take their course; that now was not the time to see her; that it might place her in a false position.  Blameless though she was, she might be blamed by the world, if he and she, on the night that she fled from Joel Mazarine should meet, and, above all, meet alone ­and what was the good of meeting at all, if they did not meet alone!  What could two voiceless people say to each other, people who only spoke with their hearts and souls, when others were staring at them, watching every act, listening for every word.  His better sense kept telling him to go back to Slow Down Ranch.

But there she was inside Nolan Doyle’s house, and he had come deliberately to see her.

He stood outside in the garden near the great spreading elm-tree, torn by a sense of duty and a sense of desire; but the desire was to let her see by his presence that he would be a tower of strength to her, no matter what happened.  It was not the desire which had possessed him whom Patsy Kernaghan had called the keeper of the “zoolyogical” garden.

He had just made up his mind that courage was the right thing:  that he must see her in the presence of others for one minute, whatever the issue, when she came out with Patsy Kernaghan, the Young Doctor, and Norah and Nolan Doyle.  None saw him, and, as they seated themselves, he stepped noiselessly under the spreading branches of the elm-tree.  He would not speak to them yet; he would wait.  In the shade made by the drooping branches he could not be seen, yet he could hear and see all.

There was silence for a moment, and then Patsy began the tale of St. Droid ­“whoever he was,” as Patsy said to himself; for he was going to make up out of his head this story of St. Droid and St. Droid’s Day, and Queen Moira, Filion and Fiona.  It was a bold idea, but it gave Patsy the opportunity of his life.

His description of Black Brian, the rich, ruthless King, to whom Queen Moira gave her daughter Fiona, despite the girl’s bitter sorrow, was a masterpiece.  It was modelled on Joel Mazarine.  It was the behemoth transferred to Ireland, to the cromlechs and castles, to the causeways, the caves, and the stony hillsides; to the bogs and the quicksands and the Little Men; but it could not be recognized as a portrait, though everyone felt how wonderful it was that a legend of a thousand years should be so close to the life of Askatoon.

Patsy had no knowledge of what the mother of Louise was like, but the likeness between her cruel, material, selfish spirit and Queen Moira, in the sacrifice of their offspring, provoked the admiration of the Young Doctor, whose philosophical mind had soon discovered that Patsy was making up the tale.

That did not matter.  Having got the thing started, Patsy gave reins to his imagination; and storm, terror, danger, and the capture of Fiona by Filion, from Black Brian’s castle in the hills, was told with primitive force and passion.  But the most wonderful part of the story described how a strange dwarfed Little Man came out of the hills in the East, across the land, to the Western fastness of Black Brian, and there slew that evil man, because of an ancient feud ­slew him in a situation of great indignity, and left him lying on the sands for the tide to wash him out to the deep and hungry sea.  Even here Patsy had his inspiration from real life; and yet he disguised it all so well that no one except the Young Doctor even imagined what he meant.

Under the tree Orlando listened with strained attention, absorbed and, at times, almost overcome.  His long sigh of relief was joined to the sighs of the others when Patsy finished.  The Young Doctor rose to go, and the others rose also.

“That’s a wonderful story, Patsy,” said the Young Doctor to him; and he added quizzically:  “You tell it so well because you’ve told it so often before, I suppose?”

“Aw, well, that’s it, I expect,” answered the Irishman coolly.

“I thought so,” responded the Young Doctor.  “Now, how many times do you think you’ve told that story before, Patsy?”

“About a hundred, I should think; or no ­I should think about two hundred times,” answered Patsy shamelessly.

“I thought so,” said the Young Doctor, but before turning to go into the house, he leaned and whispered in his ear:  “Patsy, you’re the most beautiful liar that ever come out of Ireland.”

“Aw, Doctor dear!” said Patsy softly.

They all moved towards the house, save Louise.  “Please, I want to stay behind a minute or two,” she said, as she held out a hand to the Young Doctor.  “Don’t wait for me.  I want to be alone a little while.”  Once more the Young Doctor felt the trembling appeal of her palm as on the first day they met, and he gripped her hand warmly.

“It will all come right.  Good-night, my dear,” he said cheerfully.  “Have a good sleep on it.”

Louise remained in the garden alone, the moon shining on her face lifted to the sky.  For a moment she stood so, wrapped in the peace of the night, but her body was almost panting from the thrill of the legend which Patsy Kernaghan had told.  As he had meant it to do, it gave her hope; although before her eyes was the picture that Patsy had drawn of Black Brian with his great sword beside him lying on the sands, waiting for the hungry sea to claim him.

Presently there stole through the warm air of the night the sound of her own name.  She did not start.  It seemed to her part of the dream in which she was.  Her hand went to her heart, however.

Again in Orlando’s voice came the word “Louise,” a little louder now.  She turned towards the tree, and there beside it stood Orlando.

For an instant there was a sense of unreality, of ghostliness, and then she gave a little cry of pain and joy.  As she ran towards him, with sudden impulse, his arms spread out and he caught her to his breast.

His lips swept her hair.  “Louise!  Louise!” he whispered passionately.  For an instant they stood so, and then he gently pressed her away from him.

“I had to come,” he said.  “I want you to know that whatever happens, you may depend on me.  When you call, I will come.  I must go now.  For your sake I must not stay.  I had to see you, I had to tell you what I had never told you.”

“You’ve always told me,” she murmured.

He stretched out his hand to clasp hers.  He did not dare to open his arms again.  The lips which he had never kissed were very near, and ah, so sweet!  She must not come to him now.

One swift clasp of the hand, and then he vaulted over the fence and was gone.  A few moments afterwards she heard the rumble of his wagon on the prairie ­he had tied up his horses some distance from the house.

As the Young Doctor drove homeward with Patsy Kernaghan, he also heard the rumble of the wagon not far in front of him.  Then he began to wonder why Louise had waited behind in the garden.  He put the thought away from him, however.  There was no deceit in Louise; he was sure of that.