The youngest girl in particular was a lovely creature, slender and graceful, with quantities of cloudy hair, wonderful dark violet eyes and a wavy, wistful Irish mouth. Romney painted her, moved by her beauty at a time when he had almost given up painting. A gentle melancholy hung about Sarah. She had had a twin sister, who died when she was eight, and was buried under a tree on the lawn. Twins are bound together by wonderful and almost mysterious sympathies, and Sarah had spent many an hour gazing from a window at the tree under which she and her little sister used to play together, and under which one of them was now buried.
Mr. Curran was now a determined loyalist. He was ambitious and hard. Although he must have known that the son of Dr. Emmet was not likely to be anything but a patriot, he never inquired into his principles, and long afterwards pretended that they came as a great surprise to him. Moreover, he thought that the young man came to the house to see him, a form of hallucination to which fathers of pretty girls seem particularly liable.
And all the time, under his nose, which was long, but apparently uninquiring, there was burning a living flame of romance. Robert Emmet and Sarah were in love. They had found in each other the perfect companion and helpmate. Robert poured out all his plans and hopes for his country to Sarah, who, like all generous natures at that time in Ireland, was easily convinced that in patriotism, as opposed to loyalism, lay the only hope of relief for Ireland. The state of their affections had, of course, to be hidden from Mr. Curran, for a time, at least ; but it is fairly certain that the brothers and sisters of Sarah, and at least one mutual friend, knew all about it. At any rate, until after July, Mr. Curran must not be told, for in July was to come the critical moment of young Emmet's career.
Young, possessed of means, talents, and many friends, the "Newgate Calendar ' remarks that " he might easily have established his own independence, but that sober business had no attractions for him." He was, indeed, dedicated to another service than that of sober business. He had gathered round him many of his own ways of thinking. He had spent his patrimony on weapons, and in a house in Patrick Street, Dublin, was to be found a well-furnished arsenal. He had made all his plans for a rebellion against the English Government, when an explosion in a Patrick Street house threatened to expose him.
He escaped attention, however, and immediately resumed his plans. It is significant of the state in which Ireland was that all over the country there were bodies of men who agreed to rise at the same moment on a given day and strike a blow for freedom. In Dublin, at various points, large bodies of men were to advance at once upon the Castle.
It was a well-concerted plan, and might easily have succeeded, but in every particular it miscarried. Indeed, the way in which it fizzled out all over Ireland was so extraordinary that there seems a good foundation for believing the many rumours to the effect that the Government knew all about it long before, and were literally giving Emmet rope enough to hang himself. At any rate, on July 25, Emmet found himself not being borne on towards the Castle by a resistless tide of insurgents, but surrounded by only eighteen adherents, and for the rest a wretched mob only intent on violence and plunder.
He saw in a moment that his hopes were broken. A rocket was to give the signal to bands of patriots at various points on the outskirts of Dublin. Emmet would not let it be fired, thus saving perhaps hundreds of lives. But the outstanding tragedy of the evening, which was one long tragedy, was the murder of Lord Kilwarden, the one beloved judge in Ireland. He was piked by a man who fancied he had a personal grievance against him. His death was laid at Emmet's door, and a howl of execration went up all over Ireland.
The story of Sarah Curran and Robert Emmet is one of the saddest romances of the last century, a story in which are fused all the emotions of the human mind, pitiful in some ways, noble in others
From the original picture by Romney, in the possession of the Hon. Gerald Ponsonby
Emmet fled to Wicklow, where he remained in hiding. He might now easily have escaped to America, and he sent a letter by Anne Devlin, the servant in the house where he lodged, asking Sarah if she would go with him. He asked too much. She was one of those loving, clinging souls who cannot uproot themselves quickly. She answered that she could not leave her father, and urged Emmet to leave the country at once.
He was now hopeless. He was a marked man, with nothing but the gallows to look forward to if he were caught. The death of Lord Kilwarden, who was Mr. Curran's closest friend, made it even more utterly out of the question that he should ever marry
Sarah Curran in an ordinary manner. Her refusal to leave Ireland with him was the last blow, but he swore that at least he would not go until he had seen her again; and with that purpose he moved to a house half way between Dublin and Rathfarnham. There he lay in hiding, waiting for an opportunity of seeing Sarah.
In the Curran household, meanwhile, there reigned the calm before the storm. Mr. Curran was in Dublin, so his family was spared hearing his remarks on Emmet's abortive rising. Sarah, believing Emmet to be on his way to America, was at once happy and sad - happy to think of his escape, and sad at her own loss. She must have wondered whether she had done right in refusing to go with him, for even the strength of family affection, as it was dictated by the sentiment of 1803, could hardly have blinded her altogether to the fact that she had made herself and her lover miserable for the sake of a stern and unresponsive man.