“Yes.” She sighed again. “Do you mind if I sit a moment, Joseph? For the truth is I have lost my breath.” She settled on the love seat and closed her eyes. “Once when I was a child, my father bought a billy goat, with some idea of breeding. I was in the field with it one morning, paying it no mind, and it got its dander up. Butted me hard, he did, and sent me flying. I felt just that way when I stepped into that other room. As if something had butted me hard and sent me flying.”
“Nervous, are you?”
She opened her eyes and saw the understanding in Joseph’s. “I’m frightened to death. And damned if I’ll let himself know it. He’s so damned cocksure, isn’t he?”
“He’s confident, our Rogan. And with reason enough. He’s got an uncanny sense for buying the right piece, or patronizing the right artist.” A curious man, and one who enjoyed a good gossip, Joseph made himself comfortable beside her. He stretched out his legs, crossed them at the ankle in a posture inviting relaxation and confidence. “I noticed the two of you were butting heads, so to speak, when I interrupted.”
“We don’t seem to have a lot of common ground.” Maggie smiled a little. “He’s pushy, our Rogan.”
“True enough, but usually in such a subtle way one doesn’t know one’s been pushed.”
Maggie hissed through her teeth, “He hasn’t been subtle with me.”
“I noticed. Interesting. You know, Maggie, I don’t think I’d be giving away any corporate secrets if I told you Rogan was determined to sign you with Worldwide. I’ve worked for him for more than ten years, and never recall seeing him more focused on a single artist.”
“And I should be flattered.” She sighed and closed her eyes again. “I am, most of the time, when I’m not busy being infuriated with his bossy ways. Always prince to peasant.”
“He’s used to having things his way.”
“Well, he won’t be having me his way.” She opened her eyes and rose. “Will you show me the rest of the gallery?”
“I’d be happy to. And perhaps you’ll tell me the story of your life.”
Maggie cocked her head and studied him. A mischief maker, she thought, with his dreamy eyes and piratical demeaner. She’d always enjoyed a mischief-making friend. “All right, then,” she said, and linked her arm through his as they strolled through the next archway. “There once was a farmer who wanted to be a poet….”
There were just too damn many people in Dublin for Maggie’s taste. You could hardly take a step without bumping into someone. It was a pretty city, she couldn’t deny it, with its lovely bay and spearing steeples. She could admire the magnificence of its architecture, all the red brick and gray stone, the charm of its colorful storefronts.
She was told by her driver, Brian Duggin, that the early Dubliners had a sense of order and beauty as keen as their sense of profit. And so, she thought, the city suited Rogan even as he suited it.
She settled back in the quiet car to admire the dazzling front gardens and copper cupolas, the shady greens and the busy River Liffey, which split the city in two.
She felt her pulse quicken to the pace around her, respond to the crowds and the hurry. But the bustle excited her only briefly before it exhausted. The sheer number of people on O’Connell Street, where everyone seemed to be in a desperate rush to get somewhere else, made her yearn for the lazy, quiet roads of the west.
Still, she found the view from O’Connell Bridge spectacular, the ships moored at the quays, the majestic dome of the Four Courts glinting in the sun. Her driver seemed happy enough to obey her request simply to cruise, or to pull over and wait while she walked through parks and squares.
She stopped on Grafton Street among the smart shops and bought a pin for Brianna, a simple silver crescent with a curve of garnets. It would, Maggie thought as she tucked the box in her purse, suit her sister’s traditional taste.
For herself, she mooned briefly over a pair of earrings, long twists of gold and silver and copper, accented top and bottom with fire opals. She had no business spending good money on such frivolous baubles. No business at all, she reminded herself, when she had no real guarantee when she might sell another piece.
So, of course, she bought the earrings, and sent her budget to the devil.
To round off her day, she visited museums, wandered along the river and had tea in a tiny shop off FitzWilliam Square. She spent her last hour watching the sunlight and reflections from Half Penny Bridge and sketching in a pad she’d picked up in an art store.
It was after seven when she returned to Rogan’s house. He came out of the front parlor and stopped her before she’d reached the stairs.
“I’d begun to wonder if you’d had Duggin drive you all the way back to Clare.”
“I thought of it once or twice.” She pushed back her untidy hair. “It’s been years since I’ve visited Dublin.” She thought of the juggler she’d seen, and of course, of her father. “I’d forgotten how noisy it is.”
“I assume you haven’t eaten.”
“I haven’t, no.” If she didn’t count the biscuit she’d had with her tea.
“Dinner’s ordered for seven-thirty, but I can have it put back until eight if you’d like to join us for cocktails.”
“My grandmother. She’s anxious to meet you.”
“Oh.” Maggie’s mood plummeted. Someone else to meet, to talk to, to be with. “I wouldn’t want to hold you up.”
“It’s not a problem. If you’d like to change, we’ll be in the parlor.”
“Change for what?” Resigned, she tucked her sketchbook under her arm. “I’m afraid I left all my formal attire at home. But if my appearance embarrasses you, I can have a tray in my room.”
“Don’t put words in my mouth, Maggie.” Taking her firmly by the arm, Rogan steered her into the parlor. “Grandmother.” He addressed the woman sitting regally in the high back brocaded chair. “I’d like you to meet Margaret Mary Concannon. Maggie, Christine Sweeney.”
“An absolute delight.” Christine offered a fine-boned hand, accented with one gleaming sapphire. Matching ones dripped from her ears. “I take full credit for you being here, my dear, as I bought the first piece of your work that intrigued Rogan.”