If I thought Scotland was incredible, I had never seen Ireland, and in truth, I hadn't. I came to Ireland thinking that Scotland was the greatest place on Earth, but I was mistaken. As soon as I saw Ireland, I was breathtaken. My world atlas was right: Ireland really was the greenest place on the planet. From the bow of the boat, I hung onto a pole and was fascinated by what I was seeing. Three weeks after leaving beautiful Scotland, here I was seeing gorgeous Ireland. I could see the rocky cliffs were topped with grass ever so green and the beaches were ever so pretty as the blue ocean washed onto the shores. The boat docked, and I nearly ran off of it and onto the dock. I was so fascinated by this new world that I was seeing before me!
Galway was beautiful! I made my way to the tops of the cliffs, where I found yet another inn, and took a lift down to the village center, where I could explore the culture of Ireland. I found some traditional Irish garb, which consisted of many colorful petticoats such as red and green and blue and yellow… There were also stockings with stripes of many colors, and I chose to buy one petticoat in every color, along with the matching corset-like vest that went over a billowing puffy-sleeved white shirt.
When I was informed of the beauty of a place in the center of Ireland called Tara, I was more than eager to see it, so four days after I arrived in Galway, I made my way to the village of Adamstowne, which clearly was an Anglicized village. I found a very friendly Irish family to take me in called the O'Learys, and they were at first hesitant until they saw me so fascinated with Irish culture and clothes, and that I had basically fled England. It was evident that the Irish experienced harsh troubles with the English, and I wished no troubles to come between me and the O'Leary clan.
I was grateful to see things lighten up between us quickly, and I learned all of their names. The father of the clan was James O'Leary, and he married a very sweet redheaded woman named Maureen. Maureen was the nicest to me from the beginning, but at first, I saw that it was forced. I was more than happy to be assimilated into her Irish family rather than return to my English one, so I believe that that made her happy to take me in. They had six children: the eldest, Marianne, was fourteen, and then twelve-year-old James, nine-year-old Jenny, seven-year-old Tommy, four-year-old Andrew and nine-month-old Álainn (which may seem like it is pronounced as 'Elaine', but it is really pronounced as 'aw-lin'. I was told that it was the Irish Gaelic word for 'beautiful').
I arrived in Galway late in November of 1858, so it was quite chilly. By this point, I was nineteen years old, as my birthday came early in November. It was already early December when I arrived in Adamstowne, and I spent my first Christmas away from England. I enjoyed spending Christmas with the O'Leary clan. We put glowing candles in every window, so the Christ could find his way to our home, according to Maureen. The children all received gifts, including little Álainn, and they presented us with pieces of jewelry that they had made for us.
On New Years' Eve of 1858, I was informed that, as I were a dark-haired person, I ought to go to everyone's doors and greet them. It was supposedly good luck, but I did not see it being good luck for me. I complied anyhow, still loving the aspect of the unique Irish culture. I saw nothing dirty nor swine-like among these people, and the English books that discussed the horrors of the Irish were all wrong. Catholic or not, I find the Irish to be a wonderful and kind people, so unlike the typical Englishmen one might find in England.
"'Tis the English who wronged us," said Maureen. "We done nothin' te them! 'Twas them that took over our sweet green lands centuries ago!"
"Goodness, I wouldn't have even thought! They tell us that the Irish had done so many wrongs, but I see now that it is truly the English that wronged your people," I said to her.
"'Tis yer people now, too, aroon. Yer one o' us now," said Maureen, and that made me smile. The feeling of finally belonging to a family brought bliss into my life, and I almost forgot my true mother completely. I felt that Maureen was my mother now, and I prided myself on that feeling.
Even though I was happy with a family, I had come to realize that I was truly not happy to be without my dear Edward Rosemont. I missed him to bits, and a part of me wishes to return to England to be with him. However, he probably was not even in England at all. He might have still been in Scotland, or even Ireland, if he followed me. A part of me was hoping he was still following me, but at the same time, I wished to hide from him forever. My heart was still shattered, and I wondered if he had married Miss Ingrid Shea yet. Perhaps that was what he was doing in Dunkeld. He must have gone to show off his new wedding band to show that he was married to rich and beautiful woman, and to show me what a plain disappointment I would have been to him.
I came to Ireland to forget him, and I nearly did when I met a sweet man named Conneacht O'Brien. He was handsome and kind and ever-so-sweet, however, he was off limits. It wasn't because he was married, but it was because he was a priest, and of course, priests do not marry. I was hoping for a chance to marry Conneacht O'Brien, so that Edward Rosemont would leave my mind forever, but I knew that even if I did remarry, he would never leave my heart nor my soul.
March came up quickly, and so marked five months that I had been in Ireland. I loved Ireland and found it to be absolutely beautiful, especially the gorgeous green hills of Tara. Everything was more than green; it was emerald. Each blade of grass was an individual emerald that sparkled beneath the Irish sun. I loved to sit among the sea of emeralds and breathe in the fresh air. All around me was the scent of nature. I could smell the breeze, the grass wafting through it, and I could feel the warm sunshine upon my face. I pulled out my drawing pad and sketched the view I had of the emerald green hills and titled it, 'Ireland's Gold'.
A few days before the Irish holiday of St. Patrick's Day, I went for a walk with Maureen and young Álainn, who was now a little over a year old. She walked along what was called a boreen, which was, I assumed, the Gaelic word for 'dirt path', and I followed along on a great stone wall that went up to Maureen's knees. We walked in silence, I enjoying the breeze fingering my dark hair and causing my three petticoats to dance (in Ireland in the late 1850's, it was traditional for one to wear those many colored petticoats that I had informed you of earlier in the chapter, reader. On this day, I had worn a yellow one, a blue one and a red one in that order). Maureen seemed disinterested in the walk, but I did not ask her about what she seemed to be stressing over.
"Hester, deary," she asked me. I looked down at her, prompting her to ask what it was she wanted to ask me. "Do ye not 'ave a mother, then?"
"I do have one. As far as I know, she is still living," I told Maureen.
"Where is she? Still in the land o' the Anglos?"
"Indeed she is."
"Does she know where ye are?"
"Most likely not."
"Why, though? How could she possibly be all right with ye leavin' 'er like tha'? Aren't ye worried fer her heart?"
"I would, had she had a single care for mine."
"Oh, deary, don't say that… Every máthair, whether she be wealthy or poor, loves 'er iníon more than 'erself!" For you, reader, the term 'máthair' (pronounced 'ma-heer') was Irish Gaelic for 'mother' and 'iníon' (pronounced 'in-yeen') was Irish Gaelic for 'daughter'. There apparently had been a difference between Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic, but being an Englishwoman, I had not possessed the ability to tell it.
"The only thing she cared about that related to me was the money she had to spend to make sure I remained alive and well."
"Deary, do not condone yer máthair to such harsh words. She 'as 'er own way of sayin' she loves ye."
"Unless you count words such as, "I am ashamed to have you for a daughter" as a way of telling me she loves me, then I am afraid you are misinformed."
"Oh, dear… What about a father?"
"He died in a train accident when I was only a child."
"Any other family members?"
"None that I know of. My grandparents on both sides of my family are deceased, and I have heard no word of an aunt or uncle on my father's side. My mother had no siblings."
"So ye are alone, then?"
"I am indeed. I haven't another relative in the world that knows nor cares of my existence."
"Ye 'ave the Lord, and the He is all ye need."
"I am frightened to say, dear Maureen, that I fear God is no longer on my side. I've been so devoted to Him throughout my life, and I've been nothing but good. At least, I thought I had been nothing but good… I've lost so many I cared about, and have been exposed to so much neglect. I see no point in loving He who torments me like a cat does a mouse."
"Oh, bless yer dear heart… May ye have many happy days in your future, while ye can." I knew she feared that I would find myself in the fiery hands of Satan, but I knew that I did not belong to Satan. God had put me out on a limp to see how I could fare for myself, and I believed that I was impressing Him. Maureen walked on in silence for perhaps ten minutes, and then she broke the silence: "I saw a man lookin' at ye."
"A man, deary. He looked not Irish, nor 'ad I seen such a man before in me days on God's Earth."
"A man, you say… What did he look like?"
"Perhaps 'e 'ad brown hair… 'is eyes looked light, like almost blue as the sky, but maybe more like the sky durin' a summer storm." I stopped, knowing exactly whom she was describing. It was Edward Rosemont. It was then that I concluded that he indeed was following me, for how could he possibly end up in the same place as I twice? I never stayed in the larger towns or cities for long, if at all, and gravitated towards the more rural ones that I hadn't even heard of in the world atlas book that I had read as a child. How, then, was he managing to find me? And why was he following me?
"You said he was looking at me?"
"Yes, 'e was! It was like 'e knew who ye were!"
"Maureen, I must go…"
"Oh, but why? Don't ye like it here in ol' Ireland?"
"Oh, yes! I love it here! But I have to leave as soon as possible." Terrified, I packed my trunk. If Edward Rosemont was following, the reason couldn't be good. He broke of his engagement to me to marry the wealthy and beautiful Miss Ingrid Shea, so why was he pursuing me? It surely couldn't be because he loved me, for if he did, he would not have called off his engagement to me in favor of Miss Ingrid Shea. I cried the night I left the home of the O'Leary clan, for I had come to love them dearly. They were the family that I had never had, and now, due to Edward Rosemont, I was forced to leave. I got into a carriage to a town called Trim, then took a train to Dublin.
"Where are ye lookin' te go, Miss?" said the ticket agent of the shipyard when I approached.
"Which is the quickest way out of here?" I asked him.
"Barcelona, m'dear. You speak any Spanish?"
"No, but I'll learn happily. One ticket to Barcelona, please."