Girl Auction


Part 8

At the bedroom door now, and looking down the gloomy stairs, Molly felt a small terror grip her, about the strange and dangerous situation she was in. All the nights in her young life had finished up with her waking in the morning in this little room, drowsy, and fairly happy. {And the words ‘fairly happy’ weren’t to be sneezed at in those hard days – most would settle for them.} She’d always welcomed the freshening sounds of springtime, the warm dawns of summer, the mellow sweeping apple-knocking-down friendly gales of autumn – even the bleak days of winter. Now, none of those times would ever come again in this, the house of her birth. She now looked back, and we must allow her this brief spell of fond reminiscence, this last look back down the road of memories – before she leaves the house, forever – the last glance rearwards at earlier, happier, times. In the last few minutes, before reaching for the door, her little life scudded across her mind, reminding her of the Mammy calling her for her breakfast, then the ramble across the fields, on the well-worn path, to ‘The Banshee’s Style’ leading out onto the lower lane, then on her happy way to school. But all that was over and gone now. Nothing much from that part of her life was hanging about, anymore. The Mammy gone forever, the dreadful ‘intended’ lurking n around the house and fields,, the father’s increasingly bizarre behaviour – and the realisation that if she was ‘sold down the road’ – her loved little sister, Babsie, would be all alone in this room. It couldn’t happen – couldn’t be allowed to. There was no alternative to running. And the ‘shee gee’ below in the kitchen earlier, had been a signal: ‘go now, tonight – or you’re done for.’

There was, of course, the grim reality that however bad this move was – it couldn’t be worse than not making it. The ‘Banns’ could be called on her at any tick of the clock, and then she’d be closely watched – both by the father, and Padhaun – who’d feel he had good enough reason to haunt the place permanently, and make sure his prize didn’t escape.

Paudhaun and her father must have had a suspicion of some kind, as this ‘Ransom’ date had been suddenly sprung on her. She’d had, over the last year, been hearing whispers around the parish that she was ‘bound for Paudhaun’s place.’ Not much interest, nor sympathy, had been expressed – or expected. This sort of scene was the norm, rather than the exception, for many girls in her station of life. She couldn’t, in those unequal days, have any hope of running their farm, as great physical strength was needed then, for ploughing and handling beasts. And she knew nothing of such things anyway, as they didn’t happen much on her ground – the father too busy drinking and gambling to bother with such niceties as work. He had ‘set’ the place, for as long as she could remember, and would pick up a few shillings here and there droving other farmer’s cattle to the various Fairs – then the only outlet for beasts of all kinds.

She remembered a few quiet chats with Bridie, Simon Flynn’s sister, after Mass. This straight forward girl {a bit like the Babsie!} – only older – had put her wise on a few very important points – one’s that Molly had no idea anybody else would be interested in – or have knowledge of. The two had been friends at school, and Simon’s name often cropped up – and it looked like Miss Flynn was also in the match-making business! Albeit in a very junior fashion. But Molly had just smiled to herself when ‘the brother’ was mentioned – quietly observing Miss F – who was carefully observing her! Such were the ways of young ladies, of the day. Probably still the same – but we clumsy men-creatures are mostly excluded from the female rituals. And proper order, too! Bridie knew that her brother would ‘travel’ one day – and a good girl was going to be put in his path – straight in front of him – if she could at all arrange it! No way did that ‘Babsie-like’ maiden would want anything as important as a potential sister-in-law left to chance. ‘Chance’, reckoned the cute Bridie, ‘might be a fine thing.’ But nowhere near as sweetly comforting as ‘a dead cert’… But , the old ‘ransom’ or ‘girl auction’ – which was basically what the dowry system was, back in the late 1800s early ‘90s. Molly wasn’t yet fifteen – but a girl could be dragged to the altar at twelve, under the British law then pertaining. I’ve yet to read about any brave saggarth putting his record or safety on the line for a child-girl in such a horrible situation. I don’t think I’ll be hearing about such a courageous fellow anytime soon… But earlier tonight the trap was prepared for her. Sadly – she was the bait… So, run they must….

“Right, Babsie, we go down now. If father wakes up, I’ll do the talking – you run back up to the room here, I’ll try and cod him you’re sick. Do a bit of bawling and hegging – that should come easy enough to you!” A bit of a scowl from ‘Little Miss Sweetie Chops” at that – the wilful small madam not happy to let it pass – but having to! Wasn’t the lazy MeeMee Pussens unknowingly waiting to be brought along? Babsie would seldom keep her saucy little trap shut – but daren’t chance an argument in the dire situation they were in – so, silently she followed big sis down the gloomy dark stairs. Her right hand slid along the bannisters, feeling her way. In her left hand she carried her dearly departed mother’s handbag – all they had to remind them that she’d once been there to love and protect them. Now they had to make their own way, and a dangerous way it was – and would continue to be, for some time. But, young as she was, Babsie had a good grip on reality. And that this was their only chance. The bag, reader, in case you missed the relevant chapter – was for MeeMee. They well knew the thirteen steps down to the kitchen – neither girl needed reminding of the third squeaky one from the bottom – that had to be carefully ‘stepped-over.’

Down now in the kitchen, where just the faintest flicker from the dying fire helped them negotiate the few chairs. MeeMee was lying there, her tail almost in the ashes, no doubt dreaming away about handy milk and slow mice. Not a geek out of her as Babsie lifted her up, and slid her into mammy’s bag, which Molly was holding open.

Moll now stabilised on her feet, – then the gun gently touched her shoulder ……….

To be continued….


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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