Amongst Women

Amongst Women by John McGahern Read Free Book Online

Book: Amongst Women by John McGahern Read Free Book Online
Authors: John McGahern
distance at Mass but they had never met her. At the hill beyond the village he gave them money. ‘Go up to the front row and keep two chairs,’ he directed and then left them. Though the hall was almost empty they weren’t forward enough to go into the very front seats so they entered the seats three rows back, claiming two extra chairs with folded coats. They knew all the people entering the hall, and those that occupied seats close to them smiled and spoke to them. They felt nervous and compromised. They were even more uncomfortable when their father entered with Rose just as the full hall was waiting for the curtain to go up. With extreme slowness Moran walked Rose to the seats, The girls suffered agonies of exposure as they waited for them to reach their seats. Slowly and solemnly Moran introduced Rose to each member of the family in turn. The small group became more the centre of attention than the stage itself. Rose’s tact was never more evident. If she was nervous it remained hidden and in a few minutes she had put each of the sisters completely at ease, their shame and apprehension gone.
    The concert was amateur. A group of girls decked with medals danced. A blue-suited man sang. An old man played several airs on an accordion. The drama society put on a short comic sketch. As all the performers were either related to or known to the audience each act was greeted with loud and equal applause. At the interval Rose nodded and smiled to the people about her. Moran made no gesture, did not even look around him.
    At the end of the concert he took the four children back to Great Meadow. Rose sat in the front seat. At the house he invited Rose in but she refused with the excuse that it was too late. As she said goodnight to them in turn she managed by some technique of charm or pure personality to convey to each of them that they were important to her in their own light. They left her feeling completely enclosed in a warm glow of attention and to Moran’s repeated questions over the next days were able to say genuinely how much they liked her. In fact, the response was so uniform and repetitious that it started to irritate him before long.
    Rose wished that they could be married quickly but now that there was nothing in the way of it Moran grew cautious and evasive. She saw the way it was and moved differently. An invitation through Moran brought the three girls and the boy to her house for a long Sunday. As it came through Rose he encouraged it as much as he would have discouraged visits to any other neighbouring house.
    She showed them the small lake in its ring of reeds, took them to the first slopes of the mountain, rigged up a fishing rod for Michael and took him to the part of the lake she used to fish as a girl, and soon he was shouting out in glee as he missed the ravenous little perch or swung them out over his head on to the bank. Rose’s mother showed the girls the house and the fowl and farm animals, including a pet goat who wouldn’t let Rose milk her unless she sprayed herself with a perfume that the mother used. They were given a sumptuous tea and invited back any time they felt like coming. Within a few weeks they were regular visitors. As Moran encouraged them they could go without guilt. To leave the ever-present tension of Great Meadow was like shedding stiff, formal clothes or kicking off pinching shoes. Old Mrs Brady never took to Moran but she grew very fond of the children. Until she won their trust their manners were deferential, identical to the old- fashioned manners of her own youth. They were always eager to help or run messages and she enjoyed making tea and cakes for them. Rose, with the same tact as she had brought them to the house, was careful to absent herself from these occasions as much as possible. She sent them alone with sandwiches and drinks to where her brother worked in the fields and he too grew glad of their quiet company in the empty fields. In a few months Rose’s home

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