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Authors: Katie Flynn

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‘Oh aye?’ Georgie said, interested. ‘What’s wrong wi’ her sister, then?’

‘Well, I ain’t sure, but. . .’ And Jack proceeded to tell Georgie his fears.

Georgie listened seriously, then whistled. ‘An’ you don’t want your Rose mixin’ wi’ a gal what’s no better’n she should be?’ he asked at length. ‘Nor you don’t want your Lil gettin’ any thicker wi’ her older sister. But do Lil know what’s goin’ on, Jack? She don’t strike me as the sort o’ woman to put up wi’ behaviour like that.’

‘I don’t think she knows, an’ I don’t much fancy tellin’ her, ’cos I can’t prove a bleedin’ thing,’ Jack admitted. ‘But I seen Mona wi’ another bloke earlier, Georgie. Not a young feller, an old one. I’ll have to tell Lil, I can see that.’

‘You should,’ Georgie said at once. ‘She’ll likely thank you once she’s over the shock of it. And you’ll feel better in yourself once it’s out in the open. No good bottlin’ things up, Jack. That’s not your style. You tell Lil. You’ll feel better for it.’

‘You sound like a quack recommendin’ a cure,’ Jack said with a grin, then leaned over and smote
Georgie’s shoulder. ‘Thanks, wack, I know you’re right an’ I’ll do it this very evenin’. An’ now we’d best get goin’ or we’ll lose the five minutes we’ve gained.’

‘Ricky, if you splash me once more I’ll bleedin’
drown
you,’ Rose said threateningly, as Ricky dug in the oars and sent water cascading into her lap. ‘This is me best dress an’ you’ll shrink it till it’s only big enough for a doll. Let me row, will you?’

‘Women can’t row, nor gals,’ Ricky said breathlessly, clinging grimly to his oars and digging them deeper into the water. ‘’Sides, I were featherin’, like they do in that there boat race they holds in London. You’re
meant
to skim the water, so’s a feather o’ foam comes up. I jest digged a bit too deep, that’s all.’

‘Let me have a go,’ Rose repeated. ‘My mam paid for the boat, so I should have a go. Come on, swap over, will ye?’

‘Your mam paid so’s I could gi’ you a nice ride,’ Ricky insisted, rather red in the face and very wet himself but clinging grimly to his male rights. ‘Besides, if you muck about an’ try to change places very likely we’ll both git soaked . . . an’ gals can’t swim.’

‘I can,’ Rose said. ‘On me front an’ on me back. So there. Oh, come on, Ricky, or the feller’ll be bawlin’ “Come in number twenty”, an’ it’ll be too late for me to ’ave a go.’

‘We-ell, we’d best go in to the side then, if we’re goin’ to swap,’ Ricky said, abruptly caving in. ‘It’s time I had a good laugh, any road, an’ you tryin’ to row is bound to be a laugh. What’s more, I could do wi’ me tea, couldn’t you? It’s hungry work, rowin’ a big lump like you all round the boatin’ lake.’

‘You cheeky bugger,’ gasped Rose, rising wrathfully
from her seat and completely forgetting that they were in a boat. ‘I’ll gi’ you a thick ear for that, Ricky Elliott. I can’t think why I asked me mam if you could come along wi’ us, because you’re rude an’ horrible.’

‘Well, awright, you aren’t a big lump on
land
, I give you that,’ Ricky said, shipping his oars and accidentally hitting Rose on the ankle with one of them. ‘But you feel a big lump in the boat. . . oh, oh, don’t, Rosie! Why d’you have to git such a cob on, an’ keep
hittin
’ all the time? That’s typical of a girl. Look, you’ll regret it if you turn the bleedin’ boat over, I’ll mek sure o’ that!’

As soon as the boat got near enough to the bank Rose had risen to her feet and clumped her companion hard across the head with the flat of her hand. Since he was still seated and encumbered by the oars, she was able to get in several more telling blows before Ricky pulled himself together and swung an oar threateningly at her legs. It found its mark and Rosie shrieked and snatched at it. She was tugging hard when Ricky very unsportingly let go. With nothing to pull against Rose tipped immediately backwards and plunged, oar and all, into the water.

‘Oh Gawd, I knew it ’ud happen,’ Ricky said and knelt in the bows to pull her out. The boat, which was round and tippery, promptly upended and both children found themselves struggling in the warm and shallow water.

‘Look what you done, Ricky, me best dress is ruined!’ Rose shrieked, regaining the surface and staggering to her feet. ‘It’s all mud under there . . . Ricky, I said I were goin’ to drown you an’ I meant it. Hold still for a second ...’

She grabbed at him and the two of them grappled
furiously with each other for a moment, then Ricky pulled her to the bank and sat her down on it. ‘Your mam’s watchin’, Rosie,’ he said warningly. ‘’Sides, if anyone gets drownded it’ll be you, ’cos I’m a year older an’ a good bit stronger, so stop bein’ such a marred kid an’ get back into the boat an’ you can show me what you can do.’

Rose, dripping, climbed back into the boat, sat down and picked up the oars. ‘But Mam’s not lookin’ at us,’ she informed him. ‘If she’d seen the boat tip she’d ha’ shruck out; she’s probably sittin’ over there wi’ her eyes shut, havin’ a bit of a snooze. Come on then, gerrin!’

‘Well . . . awright, awright, fair’s fair,’ Ricky said, climbing back into the boat and lowering himself gingerly down in the thwarts, with an anxious eye on the oarswoman sitting grimly on the centre seat. ‘You have a go now, then . . . an’ we’ll see what we’ll see.’

Rose began to row and was making a reasonable job of it when she suddenly began to giggle. The giggle turned into a laugh and Rose leaned on her oars for a moment, then sighed deeply and began to row once more. ‘When Mam sees us she’s goin’ to go mad,’ she said conversationally. ‘You’re older’n me, so you’ll cop it worse, I dare say. What’ll we tell her?’

‘That we were changing places so that you could row an’ the boat tipped up. It’s as near the truth as meks no difference,’ Ricky said after a moment. ‘My, you do look like a drowned rat, gal! That frock’ll never be the same again, that I do know.’

‘It’ll wash,’ Rose said, suddenly cheerful. She looked up from her own mud-streaked skirt to examine her companion’s equally muddy and dishevelled state. ‘You ain’t no oil paintin’ yourself, I tell you. What’ll your mam say, then?’

‘Norra lot, so long as I’m dried out afore she sees me,’ Ricky said indifferently. ‘I puts all me clobber down for washin’ on a Sat’day night, it’ll just get washed, that’s all.’

‘Then we might as well row back to Mam, an’ get outside o’ that tea she promised us,’ Rose said. She began to row faster. ‘I’m rare hungry now – I could eat all them sarnies to meself, never mind sharin’.’

‘I know. It’s the rowin’. I’m so hungry me belly thinks me throat’s cut,’ Ricky said amiably. ‘You’re doin’ well, queen. I don’t know as I could row much faster meself.’

And on these amicable terms the two returned to Mrs Ryder and the sandwiches.

I wonder why that Mona wanted our Rosie along tomorrow, Lily asked herself as she unwrapped the sandwiches and helped herself to an iced bun. She meant to buy the children ices and a drink at the café later, when she got herself a nice hot cup of tea, but the sandwiches and little buns would keep the wolf from the door until then. And who is this young feller Daisy was so keen to tell me about? I’ve seen Mona with half a dozen different fellers, and truth to tell not all of them could be described as young by a long chalk. And what young woman wants a kid cousin along on a date? It’s got me in a rare puzzle, because Mona’s always had her own way and I don’t imagine she
wants
a kid like our Rosie along. Unless she’s really interested in this man, and . . . and hopes she’ll seem more respectable, like, if she turns up with her cousin.

The next question, however, was one she preferred not to ask herself, but she knew she must if Daisy was going to continue to pester her to let Rose go around
now and then with Mona. If Mona needed a young cousin to make her seem like any other respectable young woman then what was she hiding? Was it true what she, Lily, was beginning to suspect? That Mona was a member of the oldest profession in the world in her spare time?

The thought was a horrid one, but it would have to be faced. I can’t ask Daisy outright, Lily told herself, because that would be the final straw. She was already aware that the only way she retained Daisy’s affection was by the constant stream of small gifts and Daisy was the only member of her large family with whom she was still in touch. She had been so much younger than the others that they had scarcely seemed like brothers and sisters; only Daisy had still lived at home by the time Lily was old enough to go to school and Daisy had been carelessly kind to her then. Now, of course, it was different. Daisy was greedy and lazy, she knew that, and her sister sensed Jack’s disapproval and consequently made no secret of the fact that she was not particularly fond of him. But she wanted Lily to go round to her house and she would have liked to have been invited to Cornwall Street, too. And the reason she wanted a closer relationship, if the truth were known, was in order to show folk that she and Mona were a normal, respectable mother and daughter whose relatives exchanged visits frequently. Lily had realised some time ago that many neighbours and friends must have begun to wonder just why Mona wore such showy clothes and spent her evenings wandering around the city. They must have jangled amongst themselves and come to the obvious conclusion. And now, from what she could gather. Mona had met a really decent young man and she wanted him to see
her not as a flighty piece no better than she should be, but as a respectable young woman who took her little cousin along on a date and had to be home at a reasonably early hour.

So really, I ought to go along with it and encourage Mona to take Rose to meet this feller, Lily thought uneasily, staring unseeingly across the bright, reflecting water of the huge lake. She’s me niece, after all, and I ought to want the best for her. And the best is a respectable marriage to a decent feller, so why am I hesitating?

The truth was, she knew that she did not have much faith in Mona’s apparent eagerness to get married. The girl was too young for settling down and if she had been spending as much as she appeared to have done on herself, she’d not take kindly to the restrictions of being a wife. The thought of sticking to one man instead of being the darling of a dozen might not appeal once the novelty wore off, either. So by and large, it seemed sensible to keep Rosie well clear of whatever imbroglio her sister and niece were cooking up.

Having made up her mind to this effect, Lily brought herself back to the present and stood up to stare across the lake. The children were out of sight, but the lake was large and hunger would bring them back to her soon enough. The man who hired out the boats was rowing off into the middle distance, shouting through his loud-hailer, and though Lily could not hear what number he was shouting and had in any case forgotten which boat the children had chosen, she guessed that they would be coming ashore any time now.

Accordingly, she walked down to the water’s edge to wait, deciding that she really ought to confide in
Jack about Mona. It wasn’t as if he ever saw her sister, or her niece so far as she could tell, and he would agree, she knew, that Rose and Mona were best apart. The trouble was that she didn’t want to set him against Daisy and the knowledge that Daisy was prepared to use Rose for her own ends would not exactly endear her sister to Jack.

She was still mulling over the problem when the boat came into view with Rose at the oars now, vigorously rowing. Lily watched them right up to the bank and exclaimed, ‘My Gawd, whatever have you two been doin’? You’re both drenched – and mud up to the eyebrows, what’s more! Come on, what’s happened?’

‘The boat tipped up,’ Rose said in a small voice. ‘I wanted to row and Ricky said we shouldn’t swap over, but we went right in close to the bank and stood up, and . . .’

‘Well, it’s a warm day, thank the Lord,’ Lily said resignedly. ‘Come on out of it an’ we’ll eat our food. I dare say by the time we finish you’ll be dry, if not clean!’

‘You are kind, Mam,’ Rose said gratefully, clambering out of the boat and actually wringing water out of her gingham skirt. ‘And it’s quite nice to be wet an’ cool on a hot day, ain’t it, Ricky?’

‘It ain’t bad,’ Ricky acknowledged. ‘Tell you what, Mrs Ryder, why don’t me an’ Rosie have a race to the ice-cream kiosk an’ back? We’ll dry off sooner if we run.’

‘Well, run wi’ a sandwich, then,’ Lily said. ‘Then run back an’ tek another. When you’ve dried off I’ll give you both a brush-down – not that I think it’ll do much good, but at least I can try.’

*

‘I like your mam,’ Ricky panted as they reached the ice-cream kiosk for the third time and turned to race back again. ‘There’s a lorra women would have nagged somethin’ rotten at the sight of us. An’ them butties is good – what’s in ‘em?’

‘Cheese an’ Mam’s home-made chutney,’ Rose said proudly. ‘Come on, I reckon one more run an’ we’ll be dry enough to stop runnin’ an’ start on the cake!’

Chapter Three

December 1927 Dublin

There was a blizzard blowing as Colm rounded the corner of Abbey Street and crossed the quay, heading for the Halfpenny Bridge. The wind was fairly howling and Colm realised that it was snow which was stinging his face now, not just rain. Just my bleedin’ luck, isn’t it, he thought to himself, that the longest delivery ride of the lot has to take place on a freezing December day when the weather decides to be the worst of the year so far. And just my luck that Mr Savage is too busy to take it himself, as he would normally have done, and the woman who wanted the biggest turkey in the shop and the enormous ham needed them, she said, for a pre-Christmas party and had to have them now, not in a day or so.

Unfortunately for Colm, the customer lived out at Clontarf, an area which Mr Savage usually covered himself on his way home in his pony cart, but with Herby off with the flu and everyone pushing in to give their Christmas orders, Colm’s employer had no choice but to send his boy. And Colm, who had not yet managed to get himself a full-time job, was pleased enough to be employed all over the pre-Christmas period, even if it did mean some extremely long bicycle rides.

But tonight he was worn out and cold, despite the thick serge coat which the mammy had bought him,
and the woollen scarf and gloves which she had knitted. It was a long way from Savage’s shop in York Street to St Lawrence Road, and not only were Colm’s legs aching, but his scarf and cap wouldn’t stay in place once the blizzard really got going, so his face was like a block of ice and his ears had long ago ceased to be able to feel anything at all. But they will when the warmth comes to them, Colm reminded himself grimly. He already had chilblains on his hands and feet, and could only shudder at the thought of them on his ears as well.

BOOK: Rose of Tralee
6.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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