It is difficult to tell the story of Irish folk intimately and convincingly, the bare truths concerning their splendid recklessness, their unproductive ardor, their loyalty and creative memories, sounding to another race like a pack of lies.
When, therefore, I recall “The Singing Woman,” Katrine; her beauty, her fearlessness, her loyalty, her voice of gold—it seems as if only one lost to caution and heedless of consequence would undertake her history expecting it to be believed. But there is this advantage: the newspapers, recording much of her early life, are still extant, her Paris work discussed by Josef’s pupils to this day, and her divine forgetfulness the night she was to sing at the Metropolitan a known thing to people of two continents; but unrecorded of her, till now, is that, for love, like brave, mad Antony, she threw a world away.
It is impossible to tell the tale of Katrine without narrating side by side the story of Dermott McDermott; and here trouble begins, for Ireland would never allow anything written concerning him that was not flattering, and the Irish people, especially in the regions of Kildare and Athlone, have combined to make a saint of him. A saint of Dermott McDermott! Heaven save the mark!
But of Frank Ravenel’s life I can speak with truth and authority. I had the story from his own lips under the pines and the stars of North Carolina, fishing the Way-Home River, or sitting together on the Chestnut Ridge, where Katrine and he first met. This was before he became—before Katrine made him—the great man he is to-day.
* * * * *
And two things linger with me—the first a conversation between Dermott and Katrine at the Countess de Nemours’.
“Tell me,” said Katrine: “do you think any woman ever married the man who was kindest to her?”
“It’s unrecorded if it ever occurred,” Dermott answered.
* * * * *
And a second, the truth of which is less open to dispute.
“Nora,” Katrine asked, “could you ever have loved any but Dennis-your first love?”
“No,” answered Nora. “To an Irishwoman the drame comes but the wance.”
UNDER THE SOUTHERN PINES
Ravenel Plantation occupies a singular rise of wooded land in North Carolina, between Way-Home River, Loon Mountain, and the Silver Fork. The road which leads from Charlotte toward the south branches by the Haunted Hollow, the right fork going to Carlisle and the left following the rushing waters of the Way-Home River to the very gate-posts of Ravenel Plantation, through which the noisy water runs.
Ravenel Mansion, which stands a good three miles from the north gate of the plantation, is approached by a driveway of stately pines. The main part is built of gray stone, like a fort, with mullioned windows, the yellow glass of early colonial times still in the upper panes. But the show-places of the plantation are the south wing (added by Francis Ravenel the fourth), and the great south gateway, bearing the carved inscription: “Guests are Welcome.”