Following last Thursday's post. an excerpt from my latest (unedited and unpublished) Marion Grace novel, THE GODMOTHER, the story of a dysfunctional family floundering in the aftermath of two World Wars in pre-Millennium Britain.
Sibyl's kleptomania continued right through the early years of the Depression, seldom actual money, there was too little of it around, but wares which wouldn’t be readily missed, although if she could avoid tram fares and ticket fees, she did not scruple. Sibyl presumed she was golden and could not be touched for her crimes: life had already exacted more than its due. If God was a just God, he would look the other way. She possessed such a single-minded conviction of her own integrity that she had no difficulty in recommending herself to employers and graduated to more distinguished retailers in Cole’s Lane and Temple Bar.
Years of poverty and toil had taken their toll on Bridie and, with Saul laid to rest, cousin Pen’s cottage in East Anglia was a boon. It would help to set up the children’s future. The boys were game for adventure and Sibyl said she couldn’t wait to get the stink of Dublin out of her hair. Bridie was taken aback by the particular vehemence of this remark, but put it down to one of the store girls having been preferred for promotion. Sibyl could not stand to be bested by anyone, let alone her peers.
The upshot was that just as Neville Chamberlain was signing a Peace Treaty with Hitler, Bridie and her children forsook their native soil and set sail for Liverpool. Sibyl had no regrets as Dun Laoghaire receded behind her. She was going where her Da had blazed a trail twenty years ago, even if it wasn’t to the rainbow’s end.
In time, she found congenial work in a draper’s shop. It was far from Dublin and the Catholic Church did not have much to say for itself in this backwood governed by Huguenot traditions. The days seemed to jog along quite merrily without the intrusion of a priest.
One Thursday evening, Ted and Marjorie Fleming who owned the shop, persuaded Sibyl to accompany them to a meeting of the local ‘Assemblies’. There was great excitement because a Pastor Shiner from Woolchester was coming to give a no-holds-barred testimony of his miraculous conversion from master villain to shepherd of Christ’s flock. His hair was fair, the eyebrows jutted like eaves over stern blue-lit windows during his impassioned oratory.
Sibyl was reminded of the Nazi rallies she had seen on the newsreel at the Tivoli. Was he a crank, the kind that hecklers baited in the Phoenix Park? When he banged on about Barabbas going scotfree while the crowd bayed for the blood of an innocent Christ, Pastor Shiner was leaning on a Bible-rest and fixing her with his stare. The eyes were boring into her and had the look of those purged with eyebright. She quaked and flushed crimson. How did he know? No one was privy to the real Sibyl who had her own religion. In a flash, the dread of Saul’s trespass came back, dormant for more than a decade and buried with him, or so she imagined, in St Audeon’s boneyard. The conflict churned afresh, rejuvenating a past stained with sepia secrets, awakening unnamed fears. Simultaneously, she had loathed and pitied him, but his devils were scotched once the earth devoured him. After all, he was not real kin like her Da who had committed the treason of rating an English King above his own family. Saul had come back from Flanders with a feverish brilliancy of gaze, not unlike the preacher’s now, spiked in the spirit by scenes of incommunicable horror, with strange murmurings of furrows sown with accursed seed and shelled souls doomed to roam outer darkness.
Bridie’s care had tamed that look, but there would be no lasting refuge for Saul, not after Passchendaele. And while his wife was taken up with replenishing the earth of its race of men, he despaired of nature’s ruthless prosecution of its own ends. He magnetised the lass’s eye and there was a hint of complicity between them. Hadn’t Bridie turned her back on both to birth the bud of new manhood?
Sibyl squirmed, at the same time quickening with a thrill of turgid curiosity. She was tempting him with green fruit, little knowing what she did, yet hooked on the sensation of power it gave her. For once, she had something, whatever it was, that Bridie did not.
Causes Rosy Cole Supports
World Vision, International Prison Outreach, Salvation Army, Emmaus Project, Poor Clares, DogsTrust, BUAV (against animal testing) WWT (Wildfowl &...