This is one of my absolute favorite stories.
he wanted to surround himself with people of his race, the songs and stories
of his race, the sounds of Gaelic brogues and the lilt of Welsh and Cornish.
And he wanted to surround himself with his thoughts of her.. this mysterious
and and tantalizing person who had been dreamed into his life.
Rory McGuinness came in the door of Cedric's and Gitta's fine house and just
stood in the entry breathing in the smells and listening to the sounds of
the voices and the instruments. He closed his eyes and let himself be
immersed in it all. He opened his eyes and strode into the main room, to be
greeted as always by shouts of "Rory McGuinness!"
The sunlit smile shone in his face. He came over to the table, glancing
around, just in case. He told himself, "She is at Brewood. not here. Stop
looking for her." A man he knew well, MacConnell, a Scot with a bushy beard
and a smile as wide as the sea, called him over and cleared a space for him.
"And how are ye this day, laddie?" he greeted Rory.
Rory accepted the seat, smiled and nodded, took a cup from a female hand
that reached from behind him, turned quickly to see who it was, and gave the
girl a slightly disappointed smile as thanks. The girl sniffed, "Hmmmpf,"
but smiled back and patted his shoulder. Rory looked back to see MacConnell
grinning at him.
He thought the big Scot was about to say something, but just at that moment
someone with a high sweet tenor voice struck up "Mo Ghile Magh" and he and
the Scot joined in on the rousing but reverent chorus.
Rory kept stealing looks around the room, mostly toward the doorway to the
kitchen. He kept seeing MacConnell's delighted grin out of the corner of his
eye. He realized if he did not stop looking for Ceridwen the man would start
teasing him. He did his best to concentrate on the dancers when the tin
whistle played a spritely jig, to the small dark Welshman who sung a hymn,
and to the wild eyed Breton who told a tale of a sea serpent.
In a lull in the revelry, a woman sitting several places down the table from
Rory called out to him, "Och, McGuinness, was that ye I saw at the castle
practicing with a sword?"
Rory blushed. He took a sip of ale and nodded. "I want to hone me old
soldiering skills in case the Norsemen come."
After a short burst of laughter from the table, the woman inquired, "Ye were
a soldier? I dinnae know that. That explains the fine shape of your arms and
chest, lad." The woman's name was Maeve, like his aunt's, he recalled. "A
swordsman, were ye?"
Several Irish male voices called out all at once, "Gallowglass!" Rory
laughed and nodded, cocking an eyebrow and making a concessionary gesture to
the men who had rightly named his weapon. Those men looked and nodded to
each other, raising their cups in salute.
MacConnell said, "Did ye not notice that blush on the fellow's cheeks? I
swear, these red Irish.. they bleed at nothin'." The whole gathering
laughed.. except Rory, who wished the attention would shift to someone else.
He was about to engineer that himself when MacConnell spoke again. "Do ye
want to see him redder still? Like the breast of a robin?"
Several people called "Aye" and others hooted. They all looked at Rory who
was starting to redden again already.
MacConnell leaned to him and said, in a voice all could hear, "She's here,
Rory did not quite hear him at first. He grinned and looked at MacConnell,
then did a doubletake. "She? She's here? Who is here?"
He stared, his face growing the color of beets. The Scot whispered "Ceridwen
Rory gaped. "Here? In this house? Now?"
The whole room erupted in delighted laughter. The look on Rory's face was a
treasure to hold in one's memory for all time. The laughter went on as Rory
looked about, deep crimson, glancing from the faces around the table to
MacConnell and back again. MacConnell could not hear him when he tried to
ask, "Ye are not after teasin' me now, are ye?"
At this moment Ceridwen returned from her errand. She meant to sneak in the
door quickly and make for the kitchen, but as she stepped in a shout when
up, "There she is!" The room was full of cheering and laughter, but her
eyes, accustomed to the light outside, saw little but the forms of people
turning toward her. Suddenly she made out a tall familiar back at the table
and he also was turning to see who had entered.
Rory's heart was hammering in his chest. He turned slowly to look up at
whoever had come into the room. MacConnell elbowed him in the ribs hard.
He saw her. He breathed, "Och, Ceridwen lass," but he was drowned out by the
the commotion in the room. He started to pull his leg over to get up off the
bench. but his long legs got tangled up. He fell backwards off the bench and
onto his behind on the floor. His feet were still hooked over the edge of
The room erupted in more riotous laughter. Rory sat on the floor, his head
hanging down, feeling miserable. "Well, then, " he was thinking, "if she had
any regard for me ere that she has none now."
Ceridwen's eyes were now accustomed to the dimness of the room. She took in
the whole situation; it was worse than she had feared. Clearly their friends
had been tormenting Rory as they had been tormenting her earlier. But all
shyness she might have felt at seeing Rory again were banished under the
circumstances. She cast about for something to do with the packages she had
acquired on her errand and found a young girl to hand them to, with
instructions to take them to the kitchen.
She went to where Rory was and as she approached, he was unhooking his feet
from the bench and rising to his feet. "I'm sorry for these friends of ours,
Rory," she said to him when she was close enough for him to hear her over
the hubbub. And she gave him a sweet smile of commiseration.
Rory looked up to see her expression and his own face cleared. He smiled the
shy smile of a young boy. "I am such a clumsy oaf. What ye must think o' me.
But och, lass, 'tis so good to see ye." His smile spread and his eyes were
hopeful. He struggled to right himself. He was able to stand and brush
himself off. Then as the room quieted to hear what he would say, he looked
at her. He cast about for the right thing to say, but could not think of
Behind him MacConnell quipped, "Cat got your tongue, Rory?" And Rory blushed
deeply again. He looked miserable.
"I'm also glad to see you, Rory. Will you be here a while?" Ceridwen
replied, ignoring MacConnell and everyone else in the room, and she added by
way of explanation, "I think if we ignore them they'll leave us alone soon
enough. But perhaps later, we could visit a little...that is, if you would
He stared at her uncertain, but then smiled sweetly, "Aye, that I would,
dear lass," then blushed again as he realized he had said "dear". He cast a
look at MacConnell and the crowd that made some titter and others feel
embarrassed for him. The man at MacConnell's right shushed the Scot as he
was about to say something. "Och, man, can ye nae leave the twa alone?"
Ceridwen had heard the "dear" and found it deeply gratifying. In fact, she
began not to care whether they were alone or not. She stepped closer to him
and laying her hand on his arm she said more softly, "I'll be in the kitchen
a bit, then, but I'll be back...or you can come find me there, anytime, if
you like." Smiling sweetly into his eyes, she turned and went to the
Rory's eyes followed Ceridwen as she made her way to the kitchen. Someone on
the far side of the table turned to a musician and said, "For God's sake,
man, some music!"
As the music started up on a light and energetic air, Rory managed to get
himself seated again, gave MacConnell a sharp look, then sat straight ahead
looking alternately at his cup of ale and up at the door of the kitchen. His
face was full of anxiety. He had been prepared not to find her here, had
been prepared for rejection but not for the uncertainty of her words that
they "could visit a little". He tried to counsel himself that he was no
farther along in his wooing of her than he had been before he saw her and
should just relax and let things happen. He was unable to follow his own
"Saints preserve us," he thought to himself. "I would be after sayin' I have
been too long away from wooin' if I had e'er wooed anyone in the first
place." He sat and fidgeted, wondering what to do.
As the jaunty reel came to an end, someone called to him, "Rory, dinnae be
sittin' there all anxious. Give us a song then!"
Rory shook his head. "Can ye not see I can barely get a word out in speech.
Then how am I to sing?"
"C'mon, ye know Shannon would in a similar situation."
McConnell quipped, "Shannon would ne'er be in this situation!" and got a
punch in the arm from his neighbor for his troubles.
Rory frowned but stood, more carefully this time. "Och, to get ye off me
He composed himself and thought a minute, then said to the musicians, "A
Lark in the Clear Air?" The musicians nodded happily, and the harpist
started in on the melody. Rory's voice was lifted in clear sweet tones as he
kept his eyes shut and sang.
Dear thoughts are in my mind
And my soul soars enchanted,
As I hear the sweet lark sing
In the clear air of the day.
For a tender beaming smile
To my hope has been granted,
And tomorrow she shall hear
All my fond heart would say.
I shall tell her all my love,
All my soul's adoration,
And I think she will hear
And will not say me nay.
It is this that gives my soul
All its joyous elation,
As I hear the sweet lark sing
In the clear air of the day.
Ceridwen heard his voice from the kitchen and could not resist to come stand
outside the kitchen door to hear him better.
Rory's eyes remained closed until the very last line. When he opened them he
found he looked straight at Ceridwen's face. He had not planned to but
repeated the second verse.
It is this that gives my soul
All its joyous elation,
As I hear the sweet lark sing
In the clear air of the day.
He kept his eyes on hers as the song died out.
Ceridwen was very moved by the sound of Rory's voice, as she had been at
Beltane when he sang "Aignish" for her. The lovely tones seemed to be
calling her to come close to him. She longed to believe that he had chosen
the song thinking of her; that truly he felt elation in the hope that she
would not say him nay...
Rory watched with wonder as he saw what passed over Ceridwen's face as she
felt this. Every syllable was reflected. His own heart swelled. He felt as
if he floated in a dream as he came over to where she stood. He came close
and leaned to speak into her ear. He whispered. "I must speak with ye. I
cannae bear to wait any longer." He pulled his head back to see her face.
His eyes were full of anxiety.
She searched his face and wondered what it was he wished to say to her,
"Shall we go out, then, to be alone? She looked around, "There's nowhere
here to speak alone, I'm afraid."
His smile was thin but genuine. "Aye, can we? Mayhap pass through the
"Yes. Let's avoid the front door at all cost."
Outside it was warm enough to go without cloaks, fortunate since neither had
thought about this. They stood in the dooryard of the kitchen and looked
about for something to cue them as to what to do next. "Shall we walk?" Rory
finally asked. looking at his own feet.
She nodded and smiled and took his offered arm.
He started out the gate and down the street. His face was animatedly
displaying an inner conversation as he tried out different things to say. He
finally looked at her and said, "Ceridwen, I have done almost nothin' but
think of ye since Beltane. May I hope this pleases rather than distresses
thee?" He put his hand on her hand where it was tucked in his elbow. He
stroked the hand gently.
"Oh!" she replied, a little overwhelmed by the emotion she felt on hearing
this, and remembering that she had almost decided to avoid coming to town at
all, on the assumption that he was unlikely to be thinking of her. "I...it
does please me, Rory. I didn't expect that you would think of me at all."
He laughed shortly, looking both delighted and shy. "Dinnae think of ye at
all? Ye have not been far from me thoughts almost since we spoke of Shannon
here at your house. It has been a time of many changes for me, lass. A new
beginning." He cast his eyes down, searching for words. "When I saw how ye
looked while I was singin' just now, I began to.. to hope... that ye might
be willin' to be part of that new beginning." He cast an earnest look at her
face. "But know, lass, Ceridwen, that 'tis hope only. I should ne'er wish to
presume upon ye.. so dinnae.. feel.. ye must.. oh I dinnae know what to
say.. I dinnae know how to tell ye what I mean to say." He had gone from
looking happy to looking flustered at having the words elude him.
Ceridwen felt for his discomfort, and her own shyness vanished. "So, do you
mean to say that you are courting me, Rory McGuinness?" She looked into his
eyes questioningly, but also with affection and gentleness.
Rory stopped and turned to her, his eyes wide and his mouth agape.
"Courtin'?! Aye, I suppose that is what 'tis called... ''tis been so long
since I.. well, really, I have ne'er truly courted a lass.. so aye, will ye
permit me to court ye, Ceridwen? Will ye have me?"
"Nothing would make me happier, than to be courted by you," she said,
feeling a shiver of happiness as she said the words. Unable to restrain
herself she pulled herself closer to him. "As for having you, Rory, take
your time before you ask me that. I want to know you are sure."
She watched the play of emotions on the tall Irishman’s face. His eyes were
filled with wonder and happiness, but then he looked thoughtful. Then
“Aye, ye are right. ‘Twould not be fair to ye to rush things.. Me heart
tells me this is where it wants to live, in your own sweet self, but me mind
says to listen to such advice.”
He gazed at her, serious, earnest now. He took her hands in both of his and
lifted them to his lips and kissed the fingertips. He closed his eyes a
moment as if savoring their taste on his lips.
Then he looked at her candidly, “Ceridwen, dear one, I have no idea how to
court a lass. What do I do? I am afraid ye will find me of a mornin’ camped
at your doorstep, followin’ ye about like a puppy, then havin’ to be shooed
away when ye close up the house for the night.. I dinnae ken what is right,
what is fittin’.. Please be patient with me.”
Her eyes lit up in merriment, at the thought of him following her about like
a puppy and camping at her doorstep. "Ah, Rory, there is nothing to do but
be yourself. There is no thing that you could do that wouldn't make me love
you the more. If you followed me about I would have the happiness of seeing
you there every time I turned around. And if you were at my doorstep in the
morning, I would only ask you in and regret that you had spent the night in
Rory had frozen while she was talking. He stared at her clearly stupefied.
"Love me?" he finally croaked out. "Is that a manner of speech only?"
Now it was her turn to be very careful and serious. "Oh, no, Rory, it was
not a manner of speech. Yes, I am in love with you, if you must know. Now
that you know, you may break my heart or not. I am without defense..." and
she smiled her sweetest smile.
"Och, macushla," Rory sighed staring into her eyes with a dazed expression.
He seemed about to totter, then caught himself. "I dinnae need to go slow. I
love ye as well. I have ne'er been more certain in me life. 'Tis like I was
held on a shelf for ye to come along and find me, dust me off, and hold me
to your heart."
He put his hand on the hair above her ear, then outlined the edge of her ear
with his thumb very softly. "Ye are so beautiful," he sighed, casting
wondering eyes all over her face and hair. "May I kiss ye again?"
"I also have been waiting for you to find me, Rory McGuinness. As for the
kiss, you needn't ever ask again. My kisses are all yours for the taking..."
He lifted his face to the sky, his eyes closed and gave a little choked
laugh, said something in Gaelic in a joyful voice. Then he looked down into
her eyes. His own were full of unutterable happiness. He smiled tenderly.
Then he leaned his face to hers, his hands cupping her jawline, and kissed
her. He lingered, feeling her kiss back with a heat he had only guessed she
might hold. He took his hands from her face and wrapped his arms around her
and held her tight. He had never felt quite like this in all his 28 years.
When they looked into each other's eyes again, Rory was breathing heavily.
He looked hard at her. "Ceri, me darlin', marry me."
And Ceridwen answered, "Yes, I will do that Rory, I will marry you."
Rory gazed into her face with all the love in the world. "God be praised,"
he breathed. He wrapped Ceridwen in his arms and held her, cherishing her,
waiting with wonder to learn what it would mean to love this real woman
through a life full of joys and sorrows and sweet companionship.
Next: Rory's and Ceri's Handfasting
Before there was the novel, there were the stories...
by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at http://authorchristophermoss.vlogspot.com