By shifting furniture and borrowing crystal and embroidered linens from their relatives, the MacEvillys had tried to turn Cashel House from a hotel into a home for the de Gaulles, and their efforts must have succeeded. Almost immediately the general wanted to know where the children were—the MacEvillys have two boys—and when he learned the oldest, 2�-year-old Frankie, had been sent to his grandmother's, de Gaulle insisted the boy be brought back. The youngster soon got his hands into things. Among the specialties MacEvilly likes to prepare is an intricately carved melon with a pyramid of wedges. Completing two of these artistic arrangements, he put them in the icebox to chill. When he took the melon out to serve to the de Gaulles at lunch, MacEvilly discovered his son had eaten the cherries that decorated the top and extracted one melon wedge from each plate. The dish was quickly shuffled—and served.
In the mornings de Gaulle would sit on a high bluff in the garden looking out to the sea. Heather and gorse were at his back, and it was a fine place for contemplation. Farther down in the garden, thrushes and cuckoos call, and beyond is the Secret Garden, which is walled and said to have fairies in it.
While the general read and wrote, his wife looked for tweeds in the nearby town of Clifden. She is a fussy shopper, usually returning three or four times before making her purchases, but the townspeople seldom recognized her. Soon after 9 o'clock one morning she turned up at the Connemara Marble Shop in the village of Recess. Paddy Joyce never opens his shop at the appointed hour, and with considerable grumbling he was awakened to unlock the store for his first customer, a matronly French lady of no particular distinction. Madame de Gaulle made her purchases and departed. While she was putting them away in her room at the hotel, Mrs. MacEvilly received a telephone call downstairs. It was Paddy, now awake to the business possibilities of the day. "Congratulations for having General and Madame de Gaulle," he said. "This is the Connemara Marble Shop. We'd like the de Gaulles to know that we'd be happy to be of service at any hour of the day or night."
"But she has just been to see you," Mrs. MacEvilly said. Paddy Joyce groaned.
It was the custom of the de Gaulles to walk for three or four miles each afternoon, striding the beaches with blackthorn sticks in hand. By then the reporters had departed, a statesman three weeks out of office being one-ninth as interesting as a statesman just resigned. De Gaulle's aide-de-camp was able to go trout fishing. At dinner de Gaulle would admire the new centerpiece of flowers (it was changed after every meal) or Madame de Gaulle would marvel at the tablecloth's hemstitching. And afterward, before a turf fire, the couple would drink infusion—a French brew that is a kind of tea—and listen, at times, to French news broadcasts on the wireless: "Ce soir, Monsieur Pompidou a dit...."
The summer evenings are long in Connemara, and it was in these twilight hours that the MacEvillys went out in their secondhand car to look for freshly caught fish for the de Gaulles. The two pointer dogs would jump into the back seat. ("We keep them because a lot of our English guests are frigid," Mrs. MacEvilly explains. "But they will always pet a dog, and then someone else will, and the two people will begin to talk. It breaks the ice.")
The MacEvillys would try several piers and most would be deserted, the black boats of the native fishermen upturned on the rocks and the lobster pots lying unused among the kelp. There is a bounty of seafood in Connemara waters—mussels, scallops, mackerel, shrimp, sole, trout, salmon, lobster—but fish is regarded as a penitential meal by Irish Catholics, who still must eat it on Friday. So MacEvilly would stop to ask people on the road, "Seen any fishermen?" It is an unusual phenomenon of this area that miles from any visible home or other structure one will suddenly come upon such groups of people. The explanation is simple enough: there are few telephones and this is their mode of social conversation. Some of the people speak only Gaelic. Old storytellers can still be found. But many of the young people have left, emigrating to England. The parish priest wishes tourists would come, bringing business, "so that our young might stay at home."
"I wonder if de Gaulle's visit will do much good," Dermot MacEvilly said not long ago. "The Heron Cove got all the publicity; it has become the most famous hotel in Ireland. If the tourists go there thinking it's our best hotel, they'll never try the rest of us."
It would indeed be a sad irony if Connemara did not get some portion of the tourist bonanza, for de Gaulle liked it best. When he left on the eve of Michael O'Toole's wedding, he told the MacEvillys, "I will be lonely for this place."
On the move again, the general headed south, returning to Kerry. There are some people in Ireland who say de Gaulle was lured back to that more populated region because businessmen in the county were afraid they would lose face and tourist dollars if it appeared the general had not been pleased with his stay there. Others say it is a debasing argument not worthy of dispute. What is indisputable, as every Irish tourist is now informed, is that through the final fortnight of his vacation de Gaulle stayed in Dairy Cottage, a house on the 6,500-acre Kenmare Estate overlooking the lakes of Killarney. And this time he had picked himself a spot with some grandeur of its own.