Girl Auction


Part 4

“That ugly incident put me ‘on the watch.’ It wasn’t his field, and nowhere near where he had any business to be. The only consolation was that no real harm was done: maybe it was, in fact, a timely early warning. A sign that trouble was coming – and maybe not many seasons away.

“Since then, he’s stared me out, whenever I met him on the lane, or anywhere. But I’ve made sure never to be on my own, away from the house. Not easy, betimes. I’d follow creamery cars into Dungratton, and follow them back, most times getting a lift in them. Good creamery boys, they never blackguarded me. “I also know Dacent’s been slingeing around outside the house some nights – I spotted him between the trees, against the back-glow of the moon, two nights on the run, the other week. I said nothing about it, not wanting to worry you. I never thought our Maker would let this happen to us, today of all days –All Souls Day! Let’s hope He Above, or our dear Mammy, haven’t forgotten about us altogether! Janie Mac: It’s a faint hope, B, but better than none…

“I’m older than you, Babsie – and I’m not a woman yet, not by any means. But I know what that Dacent’s after. Mammy told me a few things to watch out for, told me to pass the knowledge on to you, when you’d be leaving childhood behind. Which time the poor craythur knew she would never see… “Now’s not the time for that, any of that, though. Now’s the time for me to look ahead – for both of us. “Things have happened so fast tonight – trouble is surely upon us. I thought we’d have a good while to make preparations – a few months at least. Instead, it’s now down to hours and minutes. Lucky I made a few small plans… But not near enough …

“That dangerous talk about ‘marriage banns’ that we heard below in the kitchen tonight – that’s a poke with a sharp stick, for sure. If we do nothing, if we just wait, I’ll be dragged off to his place, and you’ll be left to God knows what kind of life.

“It’s no use me saying “no” to a marriage. You don’t know what happened down in Dungratton to that Lucy Watkins – when she refused a made-marriage. The priest and the doctor got her certified – and ‘committed’ – that’s what. An old and vicious trick, to get at her, and her few inherited acres

“After a year in the asylum, she sent out a message saying she’d marry the fellow who wanted her. They got her out quick enough then. {No longer – by some miracle – ‘insane.’}

“But the morning of her wedding day, her room was empty. She couldn’t go through with it. She was found below Dungratton Bridge. There was a note left on the parapet. But the lousers concerned in the rotten affair made sure the contents were never disclosed. Were they ashamed? Certainly not – they just wanted to dodge blame. “Another sin on the soul of that bad girl,” the saggarth raged off the pulpit, the next Sunday. And nobody there with the courage to break his face with a clatter. All the brave men’d fight the British – but they wouldn’t stand up for their own little girls. God’s curse on them, anyway – they were no better than that bloody oul fella roaring at them.

“You wouldn’t have heard about that, Babsie; there was no point in troubling your little life with it. But tonight you have a lot of growing up to do – and not much time to do it in.

“I want you to be brave like Granuaile – you remember that little picture I found in an old book? You loved seeing our great Pirate Queen laying down the law to English Queen Lizzie! That’s who you’ll have to be this night – ‘Babsie O’Malley!’ “Because I don’t know – I can’t guess – what danger lies before us, or what might befall us – even if we move fast and clever.

“But I know fine well what awaits us, if we don’t…”

“I have one other thing to mention, Babsie. Whatever father thinks, I’m certainly not waiting around to be mauled by the paws of that Paudhaun yoke downstairs. It’d be no use me going to the canon about it; he’d just laugh at me. Maybe give me a box in the mouth, or dish out what poor Lucy Walkins got – committed to an asylum, with the help of some lickspittle doctor. Not many bad medical lads, but the odd one… “Paudhaun’s mammy could fix up these creatures for any kind of blackguarding. A few trams of hay – maybe a bullock or two: that’d do the trick, easy. We have a no-good saggarth, not a bit like Simon Flynn’s decent old PP.

“There we were, Babsie, just a couple of hours ago – and we giggling about leprechauns, banshees – and other frightful monsters of the dark, like the horrid ‘Tub O’ Guts’. And then into the house walks a real live monster… “He’d put the old ‘Tub’ to shame! {The Tub O’ Guts being only a nocturnal local ghost, manifesting himself as a bucketul of snakey-gutsy-green intestinal ordure….} “This Dacent can do more harm than a dozen Tubs!

“Cripes, I didn’t see trouble coming, not this quick! I know I repeat myself, saying that, but it’s like someone shot me, the way I feel, with the speed of horrible events. I can’t get used to it, but it’s no use moaning about it now.

“This night is going to change our lives, Babs, for better, or worse…….

To be continued…

Ned E.



The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of The Kilkenny Observer.


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