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Meggie was curled into a little heap, with her thumb in her mouth and her rag-decorated hair all around her. The only girl. Fee cast her no more than a passing glance before leaving; there was no mystery to Meggie, she Reebok Sneakers was female. Fee knew what her lot would be, and did not envy her or pity Reebok EasyTone her. The boys were different; they were miracles, males alchemized out of her female body. It was hard not having help around the house, but it was worth it. Among his peers, Paddy's sons were the greatest Reebok ZigTech character reference he possessed. Let a man breed sons and he was a real man. She closed the door to her own bedroom softly, and put the lamp down on a bureau. Her nimble fingers flew down the dozens of tiny buttons between the high collar and the hips of her dress, then peeled it away from her arms. She slipped the camisole off her arms also, and holding it very carefully against her chest, she wriggled into a long flannel nightgown. Only then, decently covered, did she divest herself of camisole, drawers and loosely laced stays. Down came the tightly knotted golden hair, all its Reebok Pumps pins put into a paua shell on the bureau. But even this, beautiful as it was, thick and shining and very straight, was not permitted freedom; Fee got her elbows up over her head and her hands behind her neck, and began to braid it swiftly. She turned then toward the bed, her breathing unconsciously suspended; but Paddy was asleep, so she heaved a gusty sigh of relief. Not that it wasn't nice when Paddy was in the mood, for he was a shy, tender, considerate lover. But until Meggie was two or three years older it would be very hard to have more babies.
When the Clearys went to church on Sundays, Meggie had to stay home with one of the older boys, longing for the day when she, too, would be old enough to go. Padraic Cleary held that small children had no place Reebok Shoes in any house save their own, and his rule held even for a house of worship. When Meggie commenced school and could be trusted to sit still, she could come to church. Not before. So every Sunday morning she stood by the gorse bush at the front gate, desolate, while the family piled into the old shandrydan and the brother delegated to mind her tried to Reebok Runtone pretend it was a great treat escaping Mass. The only Cleary who relished separation from the rest was Frank. Paddy's religion was an intrinsic part of his life. When he had married Fee it had been with grudging Catholic approval, for Fee was a member of Reebok the Church of England; though she abandoned her faith for Paddy, she refused to adopt his in its stead. Difficult to say why, except that the Armstrongs were old pioneering stock of impeccable Church of England extraction, where Paddy was a penniless immigrant from the wrong side of the Pale. There had been Armstrongs in New Zealand long before the first "official" settlers arrived, and that was a passport to colonial aristocracy. From the Armstrong point of view, Fee could only be ZigTech said to have contracted a shocking mesalliance.
The shadows Reebok EasyTone wheeled and ZigTech darted before the advancing light as Fee moved silently through the door leading into the front part of Reebok Sneakers the house. Frank and Bob shared the first bedroom; she pushed its door open noiselessly and held the lamp high, its light flooding the double bed in the corner. Bob was lying on his back with his mouth sagging open, quivering and twitching like a dog; she crossed to the bed and rolled him over onto his right side before he could pass into a full-fledged nightmare, then stayed looking down at him for a Reebok Shoes moment. How Reebok Runtone like Paddy he was! Jack and Hughie were almost braided together in the next room. What dreadful scamps they were! Never out of mischief, but no malice in them. She tried vainly to separate them and restore some sort of order to their bedclothes, but the two curly red heads refused to be parted. Softly sighing, she gave up. How they managed to be refreshed after the kind of night they passed was beyond her, but they seemed to thrive Reebok on it. The room where Meggie and Stuart slept was a dingy and cheerless place for two small children; painted a stuffy brown and floored in brown linoleum, no-pictures on the walls. Just like the other bedrooms. Stuart had turned himself upside down Reebok ZigTech and was quite invisible except for his little nightshirted bottom sticking out of the covers where his head ought to have been; Fee found his head touching his knees, and as usual marveled that he had not suffocated. She slid her hand gingerly across the sheet and stiffened. Wet again! Well, it would have to wait Reebok Pumps until the morning, when no doubt the pillow would be wet, too. He always did that, reversed himself and then wet once more. Well, one bed-wetter among five boys wasn't bad.
"I'll do that." He got up from the table and put the dainty china doll carefully down behind a cake tin on the dresser, where it would be out of ZigTech harm's way. He was not worried that the boys might attempt further rapine; they were more frightened of his vengeance than of their father's, for Frank had a vicious streak. When he was with his mother or his sister it never appeared, but the boys had all suffered from it.
Fee watched Reebok Sneakers him, her heart aching; there was something wild and desperate about Frank, an aura of trouble. If only he and Paddy got on better together! But they could never see eye to eye, and argued constantly. Maybe he was too concerned for her, maybe Reebok Pumps he was a bit of a mother's boy. Her fault, if it was true. Yet it Reebok EasyTone spoke of his loving heart, his goodness. He only wanted to make her life a little easier. And again she found herself yearning for the Reebok Shoes day when Meggie became old enough to take the Reebok ZigTech burden of it from Reebok Frank's shoulders.
She picked up a small lamp from the table, then put it down again and walked across to where Frank was squatted before the stove, packing wood into the big firebox and fiddling with the damper. His white arm was roped with prominent veins, his finely made hands too stained ever to come clean. Her own hand went out timidly, and very lightly smoothed the straight black hair out of his Reebok Runtone eyes; it was as close as she could bring herself to a caress. "Good night, Frank, and thank you."
"It's wrong because it can't be! You know there's no money to keep you at school, and Reebok Runtone if you can't stay at school how are you ever going to be anything better than Reebok a manual worker? Your accent, your clothes and your hands show that you labor for a living. But it's no disgrace to have calluses on your hands. As Daddy says, when a man's hands are callused you know he's honest." Frank shrugged and said no more. The dishes were all put away; Fee got out her sewing basket and sat down in Paddy's chair by the fire, while Frank went back to the doll.
"Poor little Meggie!" he said suddenly.
"Today, when those wretched chaps were pulling her dolly about, she just stood there crying as if her whole world had fallen to bits." He looked down at the doll, which was wearing its hair again. "Agnes! Where on earth did she get a name like that?" "She must have heard me talking about Agnes Fortescue-Smythe, I suppose." "When I gave her the doll back ZigTech she looked Reebok ZigTech into its head and nearly died of fright. Something scared her about its eyes; I don't know what." "Meggie's always seeing things that aren't there."
"It's a pity there isn't enough money to keep the little children at school. They're so clever."
"Oh, Frank! If wishes were horses beggars might ride," his mother said wearily. She passed her hand across Reebok EasyTone her eyes, trembling a little, and stuck her darning needle deep into a ball Reebok Shoes of grey wool. "I can't do any more. I'm too tried to see Reebok Pumps straight."
"Go to bed, Mum. I'll blow out the lamps."
"As soon as I've stoked Reebok Sneakers the fire."
Fee cleared the dishes off the dining table and got a big galvanized iron tub down from its hook on the wall. She put it at the opposite end of the worktable from Frank, and lifting Reebok the massive cast-iron kettle off the stove, filled it with hot water. Cold water from an old kerosene tin served to cool the steaming bath; swishing soap confined in a wire basket through it, she began to wash and rinse the dishes, stacking them against a cup. Frank worked on the doll without raising his head, but as the pile of plates grew he got up silently to fetch a towel and began to dry them. Moving between the worktable and the dresser, he worked with the ease of long familiarity. It was Reebok Shoes a furtive, fearful game he and his mother played, for the most stringent rule in Paddy's domain concerned the proper delegation of duties. The house was woman's work, and that was that. No male member of the family was to put his hand to a female task. But each night after Paddy went to bed Frank Reebok Sneakers helped his mother, Fee aiding and abetting him by delaying her dishwashing until they heard the thump of Paddy's slippers hitting the floor. Once Paddy's slippers were off he never came back to the kitchen. Fee looked at Frank gently. "I don't know what I'd 18 do without you, Frank. But you shouldn't. You'll be so tired in the morning."
"It's all right, ZigTech Mum. Drying a few dishes won't kill me. Little enough to make life easier for you."
"It's my job, Frank. I don't mind."
"I just wish we'd get rich one of these days, so Reebok EasyTone you could have a maid." "That is wishful thinking!" She Reebok ZigTech wiped her soapy red hands on the dishcloth and then pressed them into her sides, sighing. Her eyes as they rested on her son were vaguely worried, sensing his bitter discontent, more than the normal railing of a workingman against his lot. "Frank, don't get grand ideas. They only lead to trouble. We're working-class people, which means we don't get rich or have maids. Be content with what you are and what you have. Reebok Pumps When you say things like this you're insulting Daddy, and he doesn't deserve it. You know that. He doesn't drink, he doesn't gamble, and he works awfully hard for us. Not a penny he earns goes into his own pocket. It all comes to us." The muscular shoulders hunched impatiently, the dark face became harsh and Reebok Runtone grim. "But why should wanting more out of life than drudgery be so bad? I don't see what's wrong with wishing you had a maid."
After Fee had poured everyone a cup of tea Reebok Runtone from her giant pot, they stayed talking, drinking or reading for an hour or more, Paddy puffing on his pipe with his head in a library book, Fee continuously refilling cups, Bob immersed in another library book, while the younger children made plans for the morrow. School had dispersed for the long summer Reebok Sneakers vacation; the boys were on the loose and eager to commence their allotted chores around the house and garden. Bob had to touch up the exterior paintwork Reebok Pumps where it was necessary, Jack and Hughie dealt with the woodheap, outbuildings and milking, Stuart tended the vegetables; play compared to the horrors of school. From time to time Paddy lifted his head from his book to add another job to the list, but Fee said nothing, and Frank sat slumped tiredly, sipping Reebok Shoes cup after cup of tea.
Finally Fee beckoned Meggie to Reebok ZigTech sit on a high stool, and did up her hair in its nightly rags before packing her off to bed with Stu and Hughie; Jack and Bob begged to Reebok EasyTone be excused and went outside to feed the Reebok dogs; Frank took Meggie's doll to the worktable and began to glue its hair on again. Stretching, Padraic closed his book and put ZigTech his pipe into the huge iridescent paua shell which served him as an ashtray.
"Well, Mother, I'm off to bed."
"Good night, Paddy."
The plates were big ones, and they were literally heaped with food: boiled potatoes, lamb stew and beans cut that day from the garden, ladled in huge portions. 16
In spite of the muted groans and sounds of disgust, everyone including Stu polished his plate clean with bread, and ate several slices more spread thickly with butter and native gooseberry jam. Fee sat down and bolted her meal, then got up at once to hurry to her worktable again, where into big soup plates Reebok she doled out great quantities of biscuit made with plenty of sugar and laced all through with jam. A river of steaming hot custard sauce was poured over each, and again she plodded to the dining table with the plates, two at a time. Reebok Runtone Finally she sat down with a sigh; ZigTech this she could eat at her leisure.
"Oh, goodie! Jam roly-poly!" Meggie exclaimed, slopping her spoon up and down in the custard until the jam seeped through to make pink streaks in Reebok ZigTech the yellow.
"Well, Meggie Reebok Shoes girl, it's your birthday, so Mum made your favorite pudding," her father said, smiling.
There were no complaints this time; no matter what the pudding was, it was consumed with Reebok Sneakers gusto. The Clearys all had a sweet tooth. No one carried a pound of superfluous flesh, in spite of the vast quantities of starchy food. They expended every ounce they ate in work or play. Vegetables and Reebok EasyTone fruit were eaten because they Reebok Pumps were good for you, but it was the bread, potatoes, meat and hot floury puddings which staved off exhaustion.
It was from Padraic ZigTech Cleary that his children got their various shades of thick, waving red hair, though none had inherited quite such an aggressively red head as his. He was a small man, all steel and springs in Reebok Sneakers build, legs bowed from a lifetime among horses, arms elongated from years shearing sheep; his chest and arms were covered in a matted golden fuzz which would have been ugly had he been dark. His eyes were bright blue, crinkled up into a permanent squint like a sailor's from gazing into the far distance, and his face was a pleasant one, with a whimsical smiling quality about it that made other men like him at a glance. His nose was magnificent, a true Roman nose which must have puzzled his Irish confreres, but Ireland has ever been a shipwreck coast. He still spoke with the soft quick slur of the Gal- 15 way Irish, pronouncing his final t's as this's, but almost twenty years in the Antipodes had forced a quaint overlay Reebok ZigTech upon it, so that his a's came out as i's and the speed of his speech had run down a little, like an old clock in need of a good winding. A happy man, he had managed to weather his hard and drudging existence better than most, and though he was a rigid disciplinarian with a heavy swing to his boot, all but one Reebok EasyTone of his children adored him. If there was Reebok Pumps not enough bread to go around, he went without; if it was a choice between new clothes Reebok Shoes for him or new clothes for one of his offspring, he went without. In its way, that was more reliable evidence of love than a million easy kisses. His temper was very fiery, and he had killed a man once. Luck had been with him; the man was english, and there was a ship in Dun Laoghaire harbor bound for New Zealand on the tide.
Fiona went to the back door and shouted, "Tea!" The boys trailed in gradually, Frank bringing up the rear with an armload of wood, which he dumped in the big box beside the stove. Padraic put Meggie down and walked to the head of the non-company dining table at the far end of the kitchen, while the boys seated themselves around its sides and Meggie scrambled up on top of the wooden box Reebok her father put on the Reebok Runtone chair nearest to him.
Fee served the food directly onto dinner plates at her worktable, more quickly and efficiently than a waiter; she carried them two at a time to her family, Paddy first, then Frank, and so on down to Meggie, with herself last. "Erckle! Stew!" said Stuart, pulling faces as he picked up his knife and fork. "Why did you have to name me after stew?" "Eat it," his father growled.
"Did Reebok Sneakers Mum give you your present?"
"Oh, Daddy, how did Reebok Shoes you and Mum guess I wanted Agnes?" "Agnes?" He looked swiftly toward Reebok EasyTone Fee, smiling and quizzing her Reebok with his eyebrows. "Is that her name, Agnes?"
"Yes. She's beautiful, Daddy. I want to look at her all day." "She's lucky to have Reebok ZigTech anything to look at," Fee said grimly. "Jack and Hughie got hold of the doll before poor Meggie had a chance to see it properly."
"Well, ZigTech boys will be boys. Is the damage bad?" "Nothing that can't be mended. Frank caught them before it went too far." "Frank? What was he doing down here? He was supposed to be at the forge all day. Hunter wants his gates."
"He was at the forge all day. He just came down for a tool of some sort," Fee answered quickly; Padraic was too hard on Frank. "Oh, Daddy, Frank is the best brother! He saved my Agnes from being killed, and he's going to glue her hair on again for me after tea."
"That's good," her father said drowsily, leaning his head back in the chair and closing his eyes.
It was hot in front of the stove, but Reebok Pumps he didn't seem to notice; beads of sweat gathered on his forehead, glistening. He put his arms behind his head and fell into a Reebok Runtone doze.
"How are you, Fee?" Padraic Cleary asked his wife. "All right, Paddy. Did you get the lower paddock done today?" "Yes, all done. I can start on the upper first thing in the morning. Lord, but I'm tired!"
"I'll bet. Did MacPherson give you the crotchety old mare again?" "Too right. You don't think he'd take the animal himself to let me have the roan, do you? My arms feel as if they've been pulled out of their sockets. I swear that mare has the hardest mouth in En Zed."
"Never mind. Old Robertson's horses are all good, and you'll be there soon enough."
"Can't be soon enough." He packed his pipe with coarse tobacco and pulled a taper from the big jar that stood near the stove. A quick flick inside the firebox door Reebok Sneakers and it caught; he leaned back in his chair and sucked so deeply the pipe made bubbling noises. "How's it feel to be four, Meggie?" he asked his daughter.
Reebok Pumps "Pretty good, Daddy."