BY NED EGAN
Now, we must grow older and wiser –and quickly! We must be strong – we must be as brave as your favourite heroine, Granuaile. That — or we’re done for.
“I felt like doing more than cursing, down there in the dark kitchen. I did slide a few glances at the corner holding the .410 shotgun. Three quick steps and I’d have had it in my hands! Father leans it up in the corner handy enough – as you know – but he never ejects the cartridges – too idle. So it always stands there, loaded. I often inspect it. I even did so this morn. “I check it every single day, B, just lately; I don’t really know why I do, but we’re growing up, Babsie, and a long way’s from help. And since Simon Flynn showed me how to fire it, I regard it as my ‘little friend.’ Odd thing to say for a young girl, all right – but odd times are upon us, for sure…
“I promised Mammy before she left us that I’d look after you, and I’ll do that. If some tramp of a fellow makes a dangerous move on either of us, he’ll pay dearly for his mistake, if I can help it.
“B – the thought really did fly through my mind down there to grab the gun. Father was half-drunk – and I could easily beat the other shoneen to it. I felt I could shoot the louser, there and then. Believe me, I considered it. But the consequences for you when I’d be taken away stopped me.
“I honestly think if it was just me, I’d have done it. So that’s another reason for making a move. Getting locked up for blowing a hole in the Dacent would be fun. But only for a minute!
“The trouble with our father is that there’s no telling with him, in anything. Like how nice he’d be to us the very odd time – then kick us around the floor. And how he’d pet poor old Barker – then slam his head with the butt of the gun, if that innocent doggy couldn’t find some silly dounced pheasant, or partridge.. “I don’t want father’s odd minutes of ‘niceness’ anymore, Babsie – it’s too hard to come back from – when he’d show the other side, which is most of the time – so he can shove his false niceness up his backside.” “Mollers! Language, for cripes sake! You’re getting worse than that posh rip, Amelia Ponting, who rides with the Hunt across our fields, so you are!”
“Take it easy, Babsie – I’m up to my oxters in trouble – I have to do the right thing, and I’m not certain how to do it. Just put up with me, will you, B? I’m only a few seconds away from total panic, this last hour or two. You’ll make it easier if you do as I say straightaway this night, Babs – you will – won’t you?” “Yes, Molly – don’t mind me, I’m very afraid, guessing what you’re thinking, what might happen. But I know you’re stronger than poor Mammy was, God rest her; I can only remember bits of her ways. “I’ll pull in with you in everything, I promise. But what about Mee-Mee? I can’t leave her! She’ll die without us, will my little puss! Father hates cats, you know that – all he’d give her is the boot. She’d starve in a week, with her back legs the way they are, half-crippled, and she lolloping along like a duck! She couldn’t catch a butterfly in a swarm of them! And she’s done for if we run away and leave her.” “Mother o’God Babsie, but aren’t you the terror! You’ve cottoned on quick – with your ‘running away!’ talk! You haven’t an idea where we’re going – but the idle Mee Mee has to scrag along! “Still, I knew you’d want to bring the bl- well, the cat, up – so along she’ll have to come, I suppose. She’ll just have to take her chance as well as the two of us. “But if it comes down to a case of ‘us or her’ – well, we’ll cross that bridge – if we come to it. But no doubt you get the idea of how things would go…”
“I know it’s hard to leave everything we know, Babsie – but I’ve had to think along those lines these several months, and say nothing to you about it. It wasn’t that I was trying to deceive you, but if himself below got suspicious, there’d be holy murder. And then we’d be well locked in.
“You’d be the one he’d go for, figuring out he could frighten any little secret you might have out of you. He’s a big man, Babs – you’re only a small girl – you couldn’t be blamed if he got the better of you, knocked the information out of you.
“So, I figured that if you didn’t know you couldn’t say – and wouldn’t have to tell lies. The ‘lies’ would be a dead giveaway anyway, B – you’re useless at them!”
At this, they both – tough as their station and situation was – had a little giggle – as it was very true.
If ever Babsie ‘acquired’ something belonging to Molly – as little sisters oft-times do – one question was all that was ever needed to bring a crimson blush to the tiny chops of the wee ‘criminal!’ “There it is, then, Babs. And we’ll have to bring MeeMee the puss along, as you asked. She’s yours – so keep a watch on her. You’d better use that handbag belonging to mammy – she loves to get in there, and fall asleep – so it might keep her quiet. Hopefully so; for her sake, as well as ours. “But that’s it – no more livestock! Old Barker wouldn’t leave father, anyway – he loves that man in spite of all the kicks he gets – and he’d die without the hunting. And the lovely old eejit would give us away in a flash – he’d roar at any sound at all!”
A shuffling of feet, and the sound of a door opening, told the girls that their visitor creature – who definitely had ‘something of the night’ about him – was getting ready to shamble off home. A few stims of candle-light now glimmed out onto the frost-rimey cobblestones, and they heard the door shut quietly. Then the sinister figure crabbed its way across the darkening yard. The moon now lying low on its back behind the trees meant that there was barely enough light to follow him by, to watch him slink away from the house, to see the back of him, to be rid of his feral dangerous stink.
Molly gave a shiver as she watched his shape disappearing, fading into the moon-dark of the lane – and ne’er a wobble of light from his jamjar lantern. He’d obviously quenched it after coming out the door. The reason? Not known.
Suddenly trembling, she caught a handful of the hanging curtain to steady herself, feeling shattered by the night’s events – feeling full responsibility for the drastic moves she was going to have to make, on this, the most important night in both of their young lives…..
To be continued….
The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of The Kilkenny Observer.