Episode 11: Sirens (Literary technique: Fuga per canonem (fugue or polyphony by rule: weaving of various voices and motifs in counterpoint to one another). Art: Music. Time: 38 40 pm. Place: Ormond Hotel



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Gerty is being courted by the “boy who had the bicycle,” Reggie Wylie, who lives on Londonbridge Rd, an east-west thoroughfare in Irishtown, 400 yards northwest of Tritonville Ave, where Gerty lives with her father. As the boys play, they notice a nearby “gentleman,” and Gerty begins to fantasize about him.
Gerty wished to goodness they would take their squalling baby home out of

that and not get on her nerves, no hour to be out, and the little brats

of twins. She gazed out towards the distant sea. It was like the paintings

that man used to do on the pavement with all the coloured chalks and such

a pity too leaving them there to be all blotted out, the evening and the

clouds coming out and the Bailey light on Howth and to hear the music like

that and the perfume of those incense they burned in the church like a

kind of waft. And while she gazed her heart went pitapat. Yes, it was her

he was looking at, and there was meaning in his look. His eyes burned into

her as though they would search her through and through, read her very

soul. Wonderful eyes they were, superbly expressive, but could you trust

them? People were so queer. She could see at once by his dark eyes and his

pale intellectual face that he was a foreigner, the image of the photo she

had of Martin Harvey, the matinee idol, only for the moustache which she

preferred because she wasn't stagestruck like Winny Rippingham that

wanted they two to always dress the same on account of a play but she

could not see whether he had an aquiline nose or a slightly RETROUSSE from

where he was sitting. He was in deep mourning, she could see that, and the

story of a haunting sorrow was written on his face. She would have given

worlds to know what it was. He was looking up so intently, so still, and

he saw her kick the ball and perhaps he could see the bright steel buckles

of her shoes if she swung them like that thoughtfully with the toes down.

She was glad that something told her to put on the transparent stockings

thinking Reggy Wylie might be out but that was far away. Here was that of

which she had so often dreamed. It was he who mattered and there was joy

on her face because she wanted him because she felt instinctively that he

was like no-one else. The very heart of the girlwoman went out to him, her

dreamhusband, because she knew on the instant it was him. If he had

suffered, more sinned against than sinning, or even, even, if he had been

himself a sinner, a wicked man, she cared not. Even if he was a protestant

or methodist she could convert him easily if he truly loved her. There

were wounds that wanted healing with heartbalm. She was a womanly woman

not like other flighty girls unfeminine he had known, those cyclists

showing off what they hadn't got and she just yearned to know all, to

forgive all if she could make him fall in love with her, make him forget

the memory of the past. Then mayhap he would embrace her gently, like a

real man, crushing her soft body to him, and love her, his ownest girlie,

for herself alone.
Refuge of sinners. Comfortress of the afflicted. ORA PRO NOBIS. Well

has it been said that whosoever prays to her with faith and constancy can

never be lost or cast away: and fitly is she too a haven of refuge for the

afflicted because of the seven dolours which transpierced her own heart.

Gerty could picture the whole scene in the church, the stained glass

windows lighted up, the candles, the flowers and the blue banners of the

blessed Virgin's sodality and Father Conroy was helping Canon O'Hanlon at

the altar, carrying things in and out with his eyes cast down. He looked

almost a saint and his confessionbox was so quiet and clean and dark and

his hands were just like white wax and if ever she became a Dominican nun

in their white habit perhaps he might come to the convent for the novena

of Saint Dominic. He told her that time when she told him about that in

confession, crimsoning up to the roots of her hair for fear he could see,

not to be troubled because that was only the voice of nature and we were

all subject to nature's laws, he said, in this life and that that was no

sin because that came from the nature of woman instituted by God, he said,

and that Our Blessed Lady herself said to the archangel Gabriel be it done

unto me according to Thy Word. He was so kind and holy and often and often

she thought and thought could she work a ruched teacosy with embroidered

floral design for him as a present or a clock but they had a clock she

noticed on the mantelpiece white and gold with a canarybird that came out

of a little house to tell the time the day she went there about the

flowers for the forty hours' adoration because it was hard to know what

sort of a present to give or perhaps an album of illuminated views of

Dublin or some place.
The exasperating little brats of twins began to quarrel again and Jacky

threw the ball out towards the sea and they both ran after it. Little

monkeys common as ditchwater. Someone ought to take them and give them

a good hiding for themselves to keep them in their places, the both of

them. And Cissy and Edy shouted after them to come back because they

were afraid the tide might come in on them and be drowned.
--Jacky! Tommy!
Not they! What a great notion they had! So Cissy said it was the very

last time she'd ever bring them out. She jumped up and called them and she

ran down the slope past him, tossing her hair behind her which had a good

enough colour if there had been more of it but with all the thingamerry

she was always rubbing into it she couldn't get it to grow long because it

wasn't natural so she could just go and throw her hat at it. She ran

with long gandery strides it was a wonder she didn't rip up her skirt at

the side that was too tight on her because there was a lot of the tomboy

about Cissy Caffrey and she was a forward piece whenever she thought

she had a good opportunity to show and just because she was a good runner

she ran like that so that he could see all the end of her petticoat

running and her skinny shanks up as far as possible. It would have

served her just right if she had tripped up over something accidentally

on purpose with her high crooked French heels on her to make her look

tall and got a fine tumble. TABLEAU! That would have been a very charming

expose for a gentleman like that to witness.
Queen of angels, queen of patriarchs, queen of prophets, of all saints,

they prayed, queen of the most holy rosary and then Father Conroy handed

the thurible to Canon O'Hanlon and he put in the incense and censed the

Blessed Sacrament and Cissy Caffrey caught the two twins and she was

itching to give them a ringing good clip on the ear but she didn't because

she thought he might be watching but she never made a bigger mistake in

all her life because Gerty could see without looking that he never

took his eyes off of her and then Canon O'Hanlon handed the thurible

back to Father Conroy and knelt down looking up at the Blessed Sacrament

and the choir began to sing the TANTUM ERGO and she just swung her foot

in and out in time as the music rose and fell to the TANTUMER GOSA

CRAMEN TUM. Three and eleven she paid for those stockings in Sparrow's

of George's street on the Tuesday, no the Monday before Easter and there

wasn't a brack on them and that was what he was looking at, transparent,

and not at her insignificant ones that had neither shape nor form

(the cheek of her!) because he had eyes in his head to see the difference

for himself.
Cissy came up along the strand with the two twins and their ball with

her hat anyhow on her to one side after her run and she did look a streel

tugging the two kids along with the flimsy blouse she bought only a

fortnight before like a rag on her back and a bit of her petticoat hanging

like a caricature. Gerty just took off her hat for a moment to settle her

hair and a prettier, a daintier head of nutbrown tresses was never seen on

a girl's shoulders--a radiant little vision, in sooth, almost maddening in

its sweetness. You would have to travel many a long mile before you found

a head of hair the like of that. She could almost see the swift answering

flash of admiration in his eyes that set her tingling in every nerve.

She put on her hat so that she could see from underneath the brim and

swung her buckled shoe faster for her breath caught as she caught the

expression in his eyes. He was eying her as a snake eyes its prey. Her

woman's instinct told her that she had raised the devil in him and at the

thought a burning scarlet swept from throat to brow till the lovely colour

of her face became a glorious rose.
Edy Boardman was noticing it too because she was squinting at Gerty,

half smiling, with her specs like an old maid, pretending to nurse the

baby. Irritable little gnat she was and always would be and that was why

no-one could get on with her poking her nose into what was no concern of

hers. And she said to Gerty:
--A penny for your thoughts.
--What? replied Gerty with a smile reinforced by the whitest of teeth.

I was only wondering was it late.
Because she wished to goodness they'd take the snottynosed twins and their

babby home to the mischief out of that so that was why she just gave a

gentle hint about its being late. And when Cissy came up Edy asked her the

time and Miss Cissy, as glib as you like, said it was half past kissing

time, time to kiss again. But Edy wanted to know because they were told to

be in early.
--Wait, said Cissy, I'll run ask my uncle Peter over there what's the time

by his conundrum.
So over she went and when he saw her coming she could see him take his

hand out of his pocket, getting nervous, and beginning to play with his

watchchain, looking up at the church. Passionate nature though he was

Gerty could see that he had enormous control over himself. One moment he

had been there, fascinated by a loveliness that made him gaze, and the

next moment it was the quiet gravefaced gentleman, selfcontrol expressed

in every line of his distinguishedlooking figure.
Cissy said to excuse her would he mind please telling her what was the

right time and Gerty could see him taking out his watch, listening to it

and looking up and clearing his throat and he said he was very sorry his

watch was stopped but he thought it must be after eight because the sun

was set. His voice had a cultured ring in it and though he spoke in

measured accents there was a suspicion of a quiver in the mellow tones.

Cissy said thanks and came back with her tongue out and said uncle said

his waterworks were out of order.
Then they sang the second verse of the TANTUM ERGO and Canon

O'Hanlon got up again and censed the Blessed Sacrament and knelt down and

he told Father Conroy that one of the candles was just going to set fire

to the flowers and Father Conroy got up and settled it all right and she

could see the gentleman winding his watch and listening to the works and

she swung her leg more in and out in time. It was getting darker but he

could see and he was looking all the time that he was winding the watch or

whatever he was doing to it and then he put it back and put his hands back

into his pockets. She felt a kind of a sensation rushing all over her and

she knew by the feel of her scalp and that irritation against her stays

that that thing must be coming on because the last time too was when she

clipped her hair on account of the moon. His dark eyes fixed themselves

on her again drinking in her every contour, literally worshipping at her

shrine. If ever there was undisguised admiration in a man's passionate

gaze it was there plain to be seen on that man's face. It is for you,

Gertrude MacDowell, and you know it.
Edy began to get ready to go and it was high time for her and Gerty

noticed that that little hint she gave had had the desired effect because

it was a long way along the strand to where there was the place to push up

the pushcar and Cissy took off the twins' caps and tidied their hair to

make herself attractive of course and Canon O'Hanlon stood up with his

cope poking up at his neck and Father Conroy handed him the card to read

off and he read out PANEM DE COELO PRAESTITISTI EIS and Edy and Cissy were

talking about the time all the time and asking her but Gerty could pay

them back in their own coin and she just answered with scathing politeness

when Edy asked her was she heartbroken about her best boy throwing her

over. Gerty winced sharply. A brief cold blaze shone from her eyes that

spoke volumes of scorn immeasurable. It hurt--O yes, it cut deep because

Edy had her own quiet way of saying things like that she knew would wound

like the confounded little cat she was. Gerty's lips parted swiftly to

frame the word but she fought back the sob that rose to her throat,

so slim, so flawless, so beautifully moulded it seemed one an artist

might have dreamed of. She had loved him better than he knew.

Lighthearted deceiver and fickle like all his sex he would never

understand what he had meant to her and for an instant there was

in the blue eyes a quick stinging of tears. Their eyes were

probing her mercilessly but with a brave effort she sparkled back in

sympathy as she glanced at her new conquest for them to see.
--O, responded Gerty, quick as lightning, laughing, and the proud head

flashed up. I can throw my cap at who I like because it's leap year.
Her words rang out crystalclear, more musical than the cooing of the

ringdove, but they cut the silence icily. There was that in her young

voice that told that she was not a one to be lightly trifled with.

As for Mr Reggy with his swank and his bit of money she could just

chuck him aside as if he was so much filth and never again would she

cast as much as a second thought on him and tear his silly postcard

into a dozen pieces. And if ever after he dared to presume she

could give him one look of measured scorn that would make him

shrivel up on the spot. Miss puny little Edy's countenance fell to

no slight extent and Gerty could see by her looking as black as

thunder that she was simply in a towering rage though she hid it, the

little kinnatt, because that shaft had struck home for her petty jealousy

and they both knew that she was something aloof, apart, in another sphere,

that she was not of them and never would be and there was somebody else

too that knew it and saw it so they could put that in their pipe

and smoke it.
Edy straightened up baby Boardman to get ready to go and Cissy

tucked in the ball and the spades and buckets and it was high time too

because the sandman was on his way for Master Boardman junior. And

Cissy told him too that billy winks was coming and that baby was to go

deedaw and baby looked just too ducky, laughing up out of his gleeful

eyes, and Cissy poked him like that out of fun in his wee fat tummy and

baby, without as much as by your leave, sent up his compliments to all

and sundry on to his brandnew dribbling bib.
--O my! Puddeny pie! protested Ciss. He has his bib destroyed.
The slight CONTRETEMPS claimed her attention but in two twos she set

that little matter to rights.
Gerty stifled a smothered exclamation and gave a nervous cough and

Edy asked what and she was just going to tell her to catch it while it was

flying but she was ever ladylike in her deportment so she simply passed it

off with consummate tact by saying that that was the benediction because

just then the bell rang out from the steeple over the quiet seashore

because Canon O'Hanlon was up on the altar with the veil that Father

Conroy put round his shoulders giving the benediction with the Blessed

Sacrament in his hands.
How moving the scene there in the gathering twilight, the last glimpse of

Erin, the touching chime of those evening bells and at the same time a bat

flew forth from the ivied belfry through the dusk, hither, thither, with a

tiny lost cry. And she could see far away the lights of the lighthouses so

picturesque she would have loved to do with a box of paints because it was

easier than to make a man and soon the lamplighter would be going his

rounds past the presbyterian church grounds and along by shady

Tritonville avenue where the couples walked and lighting the lamp near her

window where Reggy Wylie used to turn his freewheel like she read in that

book THE LAMPLIGHTER by Miss Cummins, author of MABEL VAUGHAN and

other tales. For Gerty had her dreams that no-one knew of. She loved to

read poetry and when she got a keepsake from Bertha Supple of that lovely

confession album with the coralpink cover to write her thoughts in she

laid it in the drawer of her toilettable which, though it did not err

on the side of luxury, was scrupulously neat and clean. It was there

she kept her girlish treasure trove, the tortoiseshell combs, her

child of Mary badge, the whiterose scent, the eyebrowleine, her

alabaster pouncetbox and the ribbons to change when her things came

home from the wash and there were some beautiful thoughts written

in it in violet ink that she bought in Hely's of Dame Street for

she felt that she too could write poetry if she could only express

herself like that poem that appealed to her so deeply that she had

copied out of the newspaper she found one evening round the potherbs. ART

THOU REAL, MY IDEAL? it was called by Louis J Walsh, Magherafelt, and

after there was something about TWILIGHT, WILT THOU EVER? and ofttimes

the beauty of poetry, so sad in its transient loveliness, had misted

her eyes with silent tears for she felt that the years were slipping

by for her, one by one, and but for that one shortcoming she knew she

need fear no competition and that was an accident coming down Dalkey

hill and she always tried to conceal it. But it must end, she felt.

If she saw that magic lure in his eyes there would be no holding

back for her. Love laughs at locksmiths. She would make the great

sacrifice. Her every effort would be to share his thoughts. Dearer than

the whole world would she be to him and gild his days with happiness.

There was the allimportant question and she was dying to know was he a

married man or a widower who had lost his wife or some tragedy like the

nobleman with the foreign name from the land of song had to have her put

into a madhouse, cruel only to be kind. But even if--what then? Would it

make a very great difference? From everything in the least indelicate her

finebred nature instinctively recoiled. She loathed that sort of person,

the fallen women off the accommodation walk beside the Dodder that went

with the soldiers and coarse men with no respect for a girl's honour,

degrading the sex and being taken up to the police station. No, no: not

that. They would be just good friends like a big brother and sister

without all that other in spite of the conventions of Society with a big

ess. Perhaps it was an old flame he was in mourning for from the days

beyond recall. She thought she understood. She would try to understand

him because men were so different. The old love was waiting, waiting

with little white hands stretched out, with blue appealing eyes. Heart

of mine! She would follow, her dream of love, the dictates of her heart

that told her he was her all in all, the only man in all the world

for her for love was the master guide. Nothing else mattered. Come what

might she would be wild, untrammelled, free.
Canon O'Hanlon put the Blessed Sacrament back into the tabernacle

and genuflected and the choir sang LAUDATE DOMINUM OMNES GENTES and

then he locked the tabernacle door because the benediction was over and

Father Conroy handed him his hat to put on and crosscat Edy asked wasn't

she coming but Jacky Caffrey called out:
--O, look, Cissy!
And they all looked was it sheet lightning but Tommy saw it too over

the trees beside the church, blue and then green and purple.
--It's fireworks, Cissy Caffrey said.
And they all ran down the strand to see over the houses and the

church, helterskelter, Edy with the pushcar with baby Boardman in it and

Cissy holding Tommy and Jacky by the hand so they wouldn't fall running.
--Come on, Gerty, Cissy called. It's the bazaar fireworks.


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