The story rambled on, the Lynotts plotting how they could be revenged on the Barretts, telling lamely but telling how the Lynotts, in the course of generations, came into their revenge. ‘A badly told story,’ said the priest, ‘with one good incident in it,’ and, instead of trying to remember how victory came to the Lynotts, Father Oli ver’s eyes strayed over the landscape, taking pleasure in the play of light along sides and crests of the hills.
The road followed the shore of the lake, sometimes turning inland to avoid a hill or a bit of bog, but returning back again to the shore, finding its way through the fields, if they could be called fields—a little grass and some hazel-bushes growing here and there between the rocks. Under a rocky headland, lying within embaying shores, was Church Island, some seven or eight acres, a handsome wooded island, the largest in the lake, with the ruins of a church hidden among the tall trees, only an arch of it remaining, but the paved path leading from the church to the hermit’s cell could be followed. The hermit who used this paved path fourteen hundred years ago was a poet; and Father Oliver knew that Marban loved ’the shieling that no one knew save his God, the ash-tree on the hither side, the hazel-bush beyond it, its lintel of honeysuckle, the wood shedding its mast upon fat swine;’ and on this sweet day he found it pleasanter to think of Ireland’s hermits than of Ireland’s savage chieftains always at war, striving against each other along the shores of this lake, and from island to island.
His thoughts lingered in the seventh and eighth centuries, when the arts were fostered in monasteries—the arts of gold-work and illuminated missals—’Ireland’s halcyon days,’ he said; a deep peace brooded, and under the guidance of the monks Ireland was the centre of learning when England was in barbarism. The first renaissance was the Irish, centuries before a gleam showed in Italy or in France. But in the middle of the eighth century the Danes arrived to pillage the country, and no sooner were they driven out than the English came to continue the work of destruction, and never since has it ceased.’ Father Oliver fell to thinking if God were reserving the bright destiny for Ireland which he withheld a thousand years ago, and looked out for the abbey that Roderick, King of Connaught, built in the twelfth century.
It stood on a knoll, and in the distance, almost hidden in bulrushes, was the last arm of the lake. ‘How admirable! how admirable!’ he said. Kilronan Abbey seemed to bid him remember the things that he could never forget; and, touched by the beauty of the legended ruins, his doubts return ed to him regarding the right of the present to lay hands on these great wrecks of Ireland’s past. He was no longer sure that he did not side with the Archbishop, who was against the restoration—for entirely insufficient reasons, it was true. ‘Put a roof,’ Father Oliver said, ’on the abbey,