The Wild Rose

The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly Read Free Book Online

Book: The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jennifer Donnelly
Tags: Romance, Historical, Historical Romance
said.
    “I must find a hackney cab. Mr. Finnegan, would you be so good as to stay with Jennie while I do?” the Reverend Wilcott asked.
    Seamie said that he would. “Let’s get you to a bench, Miss Wilcott,” he said.
    They passed under a streetlight on their way, and Seamie, glancing once again at Jennie’s face, let out a low whistle. He examined the puffed and blackened flesh in the lamplight and winced.
    “Is it very bad?” Jennie asked.
    “It is. It’s awful.”
    “Why, thank you,” Jennie said, laughing. “Thank you very much! Ever hear of something called tact?”
    Seamie laughed, too. He had seen something else when he’d looked at her just now—that she was very pretty, even with a black eye. A few seconds of awkward silence followed, and Seamie found he didn’t want their conversation to end. He quickly thought of something to say to make sure it didn’t.
    “Your father mentioned that he heads a church in the East End.”
    “Yes, that’s right. In Wapping. St. Nicholas’s. Are you familiar with the saint?”
    “No,” Seamie said, suddenly worried that she would give him some dull, proselytizing description of the saint and all his miraculous doings, and then admonish him to start attending church on Sundays, but again she surprised him.
    “He’s the patron saint of sailors, thieves, and prostitutes,” she said. “Which means he’s perfect for us, really, since we have plenty of all three in Wapping. You should see the High Street on a Saturday night.”
    Seamie laughed again. “Have you been in Wapping a long time?” he asked her.
    “We’ve been there for twenty-five years now. Well, my father has,” Jennie said. “Dad took over a poorly attended church and made it vital again. My mother opened a school for neighborhood children about twenty years ago. I took it over six years ago. One hundred percent of our children stay until they’re fourteen. And twenty percent of our graduates go on to a vocational school,” Jennie said. “Of course, we don’t do it alone,” she continued. “That the school is still open is due mostly to the generosity of your sister and brother-in-law, Mr. Finnegan. It is their school as much as mine. In fact, they just gave us money for ten more desks and a blackboard.”
    Seamie found that he was very interested in the work she was doing. He wanted to ask her more about it, but they’d reached the bench. Fiona and Katie moved over to make room for Jennie. Harriet, Max, and Maud, having finished their cigarettes, walked over to join them.
    “Were you just talking about your school, Jennie?” Fiona asked, opening her weary eyes.
    “I was,” Jennie replied. “In fact, I was just telling your brother about yours and Joe’s contributions.”
    Fiona smiling tiredly, pointed at a poster stuck to the side of an idling omnibus. “I was just thinking about the school myself. I see that one of your former students, little Josie Meadows, has done quite well for herself,” she said. “ ‘Princess Zema, Ancient Egypt’s Most Mysterious Enigma.’ Mysterious and an enigma. Top that if you can!”
    Jennie, looking at the poster now, too, sighed. “I suppose she has. If you call dancing around half-naked and carrying on with villains doing well.”
    “Villains?” Fiona echoed.
    “Half-naked?” Seamie said.
    “Princess Zema?” Harriet said. “Why do I know that name?”
    “Because it’s on every billboard, every telephone pole, and every bus in London,” Jennie said, shaking her head. “Josie Meadows, a girl I used to teach, is the lead.”
    “In Princess Zema, ” Fiona said. “Eighty exotic dancers, twenty peacocks, two panthers, and a python bring to life the story of an Egyptian princess, stolen from her palace bed on the eve of her wedding, sold into slavery by a false, fierce, and felonious pharaoh.”
    “Sounds fantastically fabulous,” Max joked.
    “My goodness, Fiona, how do you know all that? You haven’t seen it, have you?”

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