The tale of Thorny Rose continues...
...all of Tarneyknock had gathered there in a gleeful throng to greet Rose and John Shoney with smiles and cheers. "John Shoney's returned!" cried comely youths and fine-looking men with broad shoulders and flashing white teeth, while kindly young matrons—rosy-cheeked and dimpled babes on their hips or clinging to their skirts—beamed at John and Rose. Sweet-faced maidens, eyes sparkling and the colored ribbons in their curls lifting on the breeze, clapped their hands together, shouting, "Look! John Shoney's brought his Marsh Rose back for the feast!" Laughing children darted and dodged hither and yon chanting, “Here’s our John Shoney and his pretty Rosie,” a rhyme invented on the spot to please Rose’s fancy. Nowhere in all that cheering assembly was there any sign of age or infirmity, save for one old man, bent-backed and leaning on a stick. He held himself apart from the crowd, and he did not clap nor cheer, nor even smile. Rather, grim displeasure seemed carved deeply into every line of his hoary face. Rose tugged at John’s sleeve to ask about the old man but when she looked for him again, the troubled old greybeard had vanished, and she soon forgot him.
In less time than it took to say hello, how are you, Rose found herself at the head of a long line of trestle tables set end-to-end in the very heart of the square. The tables nearly groaned beneath the weight of roasted game set amidst baskets overflowing with ripe fruit and platters of stacked sweets and savories. In all things, John Shoney, the feasters, and the entertainers deferred to Rose’s pleasure, and from her seat beside John she presided over a lively fête, with countless courses and entertainments of tumblers, jugglers, and minstrels. A heady experience for a young girl, and Rose forgot herself, gulping down the goblets of treacley sweet mead set before her.
The drink made her head spin and she thought—unaccustomed to liquor as she was—that perhaps she shouldn't drink so much without eating any food. So, she accepted a haunch of roast with perfectly crisped skin and a tartlet filled with creamy cheese, spring onions, and herbs. The food and drink were delicious and though there were heaps and heaps of it, not one bit was too heavy or filling.
Too late did she remember the many admonishments against eating the food of faerie, a mouthful of a second creamy tartlet still on her tongue when she recalled that sage counsel. Rose wanted to spit out the food still in her mouth and sat in frozen fear a moment. What would put her in greater peril: to eat of glamoured food—who could say what she was really putting in her mouth—or to insult the faeries of Tarneyknock? Offending her hosts must surely be the more hazardous course, she thought. So she swallowed with difficulty, the food sticking in a throat gone suddenly dry.