From behind them came the music of a small but efficient local band. Alec’s smoking room had, for the evening, become a well-stocked bar and, as the cars continued to arrive, soon became crammed and noisy. But this was New Year’s Eve when the world was celebrating and who knew better than the Irish how to celebrate.
In the distance, beyond the front gate, a bright light shone and this was soon joined by the roar of motor engines. As they drew nearer, a cold shiver went down the backs of both Meli and Alec. On the lonely roads of Ireland in the winter of 1920, that particular roar meant one thing: the Military, and more likely still the dreaded Black and Tans. As the lorries turned in at the main gate, Mary O’Toole felt the same shiver creep down her spine. This could not bode well for Merlin or its guests, for no one, no true Irishman, invited the Black and Tans inside their doors. To do so might bring disaster in reprisal.