The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder, Chapter 33

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Chapter 33

January 1911

When Terry was about two months old, Casey began to chafe against her isolation. With the greenhouse, she always had plenty to do at Dunallon, and she had no intention of trying to get back into the Horticultural Society. But she and Penny had been used to frequent outings around Belfast, to the markets for window shopping, or over to Susan Cummings’ house to let the children play together. Susan still welcomed her, but now William had to drive them over and pick them up. Casey wanted to walk again.

Tom gave it some thought when she asked him about it. “It’s been several months and you’ve two small children to care for, now. Sloan is ever suspicious of you, but I know he’s had nothing to complain about for a long time.”

He was quiet for a few minutes, staring into the library fire. Casey shifted next to him, restless. “Am I supposed to spend my entire life restricted like this?” she asked him. “It’s like house arrest, but without the judge and jury.”

He took her hand, shaking his head. “No. Uncle Will told Sloan that your mistakes were mostly due to being American. He told him that you have a hard time understanding the disagreements between the factions, and that you just misjudged what could be done. I don’t believe Sloan is convinced, but I think you have enough leeway to get back out there, take your walks, shop, visit friends. Just please, stay away from Catholic churches?” He smiled to take the sting from his words and she put herself in his arms, hugging him gently.

“I will never take the children anywhere it might be dangerous. And I’m never going out alone, again.”

So she and Penny began a daily routine of a late morning walk, with Terry in her pram and Jamie traipsing along with them. Sometimes they walked to town for shopping, sometimes they walked through the university or the Botanic Garden, although Casey avoided the Palm House. She had stared at it for several minutes their first day out, while Jamie begged to see it. She turned to Penny.

“I can’t,” she said, swallowing hard. “I want to go, but I can’t.”

Penny placed a comforting hand on Casey’s arm. “It’s all right, Mistress. You’ll get back there someday, I’m sure of it.”

Casey nodded, her lips in a thin, tight line. “Yes. Someday. I’ll insist on it.”

***

Casey had noticed a beautiful red tablecloth in the window at Robinson’s, so on their next walk, she and Penny went shopping. They bundled Jamie in his coat and wrapped Terry snuggly in her soft wool cap and sweater, lovingly knitted by her grandmother. They would shop, walk around a bit, and if the children were behaving, have lunch before coming home.

The day was cold and bright, with a breeze that carried the ever-present coal smoke and odors out to sea. They walked along a line of small stores, stopping to admire a miniature tea set in the window of one. Penny was talking about a set she and her sisters had shared as children, when Casey noticed an odd movement from the corner of her eye. She turned, just as a brick sailed through the air in front of the pram, crashing into the window like a bullet, bringing an immediate screech from Terry.

They all screamed as the glass shattered around them. Casey covered the pram with her body, yelling at Penny to get Jamie out of there. Glass fell all over her, and above Terry’s screams she heard other yells, and possibly gunshots. Don’t run with the pram. The incongruent thought was calm and clear in her mind. It tips over so easily.

Her shaking arms reached into the pram and picked up the baby and blankets. Holding her daughter tightly to her chest, she turned and ran, seeing Penny, with Jamie in her arms, disappearing around a corner. “Keep going!” she shouted as she caught up with them and they all ran, children screaming, both women determined and intent. Casey had never in her life heard an infant cry like Terry was crying–a screeching, piercing scream–and her heart pounded with fear that her daughter was hurt. She didn’t dare stop to find out.

“Yah! Run, ye Papist-loving cowards!” The yell came from behind them and a rock accompanied the words, missing them by a few inches before hitting the ground ahead of them. They turned at the next street, instinctively heading toward Dunallon. There was no riot on this street, at least not yet, but the sounds from the next block could be heard, and people were taking cover.

“Here! Come in here!” A hand grabbed Penny and pulled her inside the shop they were passing. Penny screamed and tried to pull away, but Casey crowded behind her, pushing her inside.

“Go! I have to see… I have to check…,” breathless and terrified, Casey held her screeching daughter at arm’s length, letting glass fall away from the blankets and cap. She looked frantically for a place to lay her, but the shopkeeper reached over and snatched the baby, placing her on the shop counter, one hand holding her in place, the other placed firmly on Casey’s chest, holding her back.

“You’re covered in glass, ma’am. Let me undress her and we’ll see if she’s all right.” Without waiting, she turned to a young girl standing in shocked silence at the end of the counter. “Molly, take the lad and make sure he’s not hurt. Mind the glass.”

Jamie objected mightily as the girl reached for him, but Penny and Casey both ordered him to obey. Penny knelt next to him as the girl undressed him. A steady trembling shook Casey as she stood, unable to go to either of her children, her eyes moving from one to the other, looking for blood. She watched as glass, mostly as shards, but some as large as a few inches, tumbled from their wraps. Clothing began to join the coat and blankets on the floor and gradually they all realized there was no more glass. Both children had several small cuts and scratches, but there was no gush of blood.

She had to hold her son. She had to nurse her baby. Casey began removing her hat and cloak, glass scraping her flesh before the shop girl grabbed her hands. “Nay, ma’am. Slowly. Ye must do it slowly.”

“Mum!” Jamie tried to move to her and Penny grabbed his arm. The shopkeeper picked up the naked baby, cradling her and covering her with her shawl, as she knelt by Jamie. He stopped and stared at the woman, his eyes wide, sobs suddenly quiet.

“Mum’s b’eeding,” he told her quite clearly. “Make it stop.”

She patted his head, gently bouncing the screaming baby. “Aye, lad. We’ll do that. Ye stay out of the way of the glass, though. Ye hear me?”

He nodded and stayed where he was. Casey’s heart melted. He was so brave and good. Just like his father.

Now that she knew the children were unhurt, her eyes went to Penny. Her maid was also removing her hat and coat, moving slowly and dropping the clothing on the floor. There was no blood apparent, and Casey remembered Jamie’s words. Her glance went to the shopkeeper, who was standing in front of her, now. She handed the still crying baby to the girl, who moved back to let the woman proceed with undressing Casey. “Where am I bleeding?” Casey asked. She seemed unable to feel her own body, so intense was her desire to get to her children.

“Your neck and back,” the woman replied, quickly undoing the buttons on Casey’s blouse and removing it. “’Tis not bad, I don’t think. I want to make sure we get all the glass away before stopping it.”

Casey nodded and tried to help, forcing her shaking fingers to undo buttons and peel away clothing. For a moment, the oddness of undressing in a public store unnerved her, but the feeling disappeared as quickly as it came. The girl had gone to the door, checked the street, then locked it, pulling down a shade.

“The street’s still quiet,” she said, bouncing Terry, whose crying was reducing to whimpers, punctuated by an occasional wail that broke her mother’s heart.

Once down to her camisole and outer petticoat, the shopkeeper seemed satisfied that Casey was glass-free. “Give her the baby, Molly,” she instructed, “and bring me some water and clean towels. I want to check on her maid. I don’t see any blood, but we want to make sure.”

Relief flooded Casey as she took Terry. The baby began searching for a breast, her cry growing urgent again. Casey was led to a chair and commanded to sit. She held a hand out to Jamie. “Let the girl pick you up, sweetie and bring you here.” Molly picked him up and settled him on Casey’s lap. She held him with her free arm, trying to cover him a bit. He had to be cold, dressed in just his underwear and shirt. The shopkeeper retrieved a sweater from her stock and slipped it over his head. It was large for him and covered him completely. He pulled it tight around his feet, and snuggled against his mother, patting the baby’s leg gently. Terry nursed fiercely, occasionally stopping to emit a heart-rending cry, as if she suddenly remembered what had happened to her. She went right back to nursing, though.

The shopkeeper gave Penny a chair and wrapped a blanket around her, and another around Casey, which she pulled forward to cover the children, too. Casey smiled up into the concerned face. “You’re an angel from heaven, ma’am. What is your name?”

The face crinkled into a small smile. “I’m Mrs. Hogan. Mr. Hogan and I own this store and Molly’s our daughter. Mr. Hogan just stepped out to oversee a delivery. He’ll be back, soon.”

Casey searched her eyes. “Not near the rioting, is he?”

“Nay. He went ‘ta other way,” was the calm reply and Casey let it drop.

Mrs. Hogan began poking at Casey’s neck, pulling the blanket down a bit. “It’s clotting, some. I’ll have to wash it, though. We don’t want any small shards of glass stuck in there.”

Casey nodded, noticing that her blouse, crumpled on the floor, was covered in blood. She had bled a lot. “How long is it?”

“An inch or so. Your hat and coat protected you in that way. It’s deep, though, ma’am. Probably was a large piece.” Mrs. Hogan moved the blanket farther down and lifted Casey’s camisole. “Your back is pretty badly scratched, too. Some of those pieces went right through your coat.”

She could feel it, now that things were calming down, but she kept her arms around her children and sat straight, eyes closed, as Mrs. Hogan thoroughly washed the deep cut and staunched the bleeding. She was not entirely successful in this last part and set Molly to holding a towel tightly against it while she worked on sweeping up all the glass and checking the street for any signs of rioting.

Mr. Hogan returned while this was going on, upset at first about the door being locked, but shocked at the sight of the women and children wrapped in blankets, with glass everywhere. He said he’d heard the rioting, but that it was already stopped, the perpetuators driven off the street and scattered.

“Too bad they didn’t catch any of ’em,” he grumbled, on his way to his office in the back of the store. He glanced at Casey. “Would you like me to call someone for ye, ma’am?”

It would have been more practical to call Mrs. Pennyworth to arrange for clothing and a ride, but Casey dismissed that idea. She wanted Tom. Mr. Hogan took the information and disappeared in the back.

Mrs. Hogan provided tea for them all, with plenty of honey and milk for Jamie, who was finally coaxed off his mother’s lap and allowed to sit on the now clear floor and sip his tea. Molly got the bleeding to stop enough to tie a loose bandage around Casey’s neck. Mrs. Hogan suggested Casey see a doctor. “Might need to sew it up, Mrs.”

Once the bandage was on, Casey leaned back in the chair in relief and closed her eyes, rocking Terry gently in movements that were comforting to her, as well. After a minute, she glanced at Penny, who was sitting in her chair and watching Jamie with a tender smile. Her face was pale, every freckle standing out in bold relief, her eyes tired. Casey stood and knelt beside her, hugging her tight.

“My wonderful Penny. You never even thought about it. You just saved Jamie’s life. I don’t know what I would do without you.”

Penny returned the hug, careful of the bandage and the baby. “Ah, mistress. I wouldn’t leave him. I love him, too, you know.” She touched Terry lightly. “And your wee one, too. I couldn’t love my own any more than them.”

Casey gave her another squeeze and returned to her chair. Jamie climbed into Penny’s lap and fell asleep.

After several minutes of silence, the door opened with a bang and rush of wind, as a dark nor’easter blew into the store, in the form of Tom. He filled the space with sudden energy and purpose. Casey gasped to see him, his face angry and terrible, but his presence the essence of comfort. She stood quickly, struggling to hold onto the baby and the blanket, but it didn’t matter, because he grabbed her, taking the baby in one arm, and holding Casey to him with the other. He buried his face in her hair with a sob.

“He said you were all right,” Tom told her, his voice breaking. “Are you? Are all of you all right?” She nodded into his chest and his arm tightened. He pulled away long enough to gaze at his daughter, his face darkening when he saw the cuts. Jamie tugged at his leg. Casey took Terry while Tom lifted the boy and inspected the cuts on his face.

“Are ye okay, lad?” he asked softly. Jamie nodded, then abruptly began talking. He spoke quickly, his words tumbling over each other, as he described in the mostly incomprehensible babble of a two-year old, every detail of the event, complete with dramatic hand gestures and sound effects.

“Window CRASH…, g’ass hurt…, ran FAST…, baby cry HARD…, lady take c’othes off…, g’ass ALL OVER…, Mum b’ed and b’ed…, I had tea.” He stopped talking and stared at his father, who stared back in silent shock. Jamie slipped his arms around his father’s neck and buried his face in the comforting shoulder.

Casey wiped away a tear with the corner of her blanket and smiled slightly at Tom as he held his son, looking as if he might cry himself. “That about sums it up,” she said weakly.

He reached to squeeze her hand. “He said you were bleeding. Where?”

She gestured vaguely. “My neck.”

Penny spoke up. “She covered the pram with her body. Nearly all the glass fell on her.”

The tears in Tom’s eyes gave way and he pulled Casey into another gentle hug. Casey reached over and pulled Penny into the embrace, too, telling Tom, “She got Jamie out of there. She kept him safe.”

“They were all lucky.” This statement came from Mr. Hogan, who was standing behind his counter, his wife and daughter in the doorway behind him. Tom and the women looked over, releasing each other in slight embarrassment. “Good thing it’s winter,” Mr. Hogan continued. “Their coats and hats protected them from most of the glass.”

The moment dissolved into introductions and thanks. In the middle of that, William and Mrs. Pennyworth arrived, with clothing for everyone. They began the confusing task of dressing and showing off cuts and scratches, along with explanations, when Casey suddenly mentioned, “I left the pram on the street.”

Tom caressed her shoulder. “We can replace the pram.”

“Yes,” she agreed. “But maybe it’s not damaged. And the tablecloth we bought was in it.”

William volunteered to go look while they finished dressing. Mr. Hogan went with him. Mrs. Hogan handed Tom two large packages, brown paper and newsprint wrapped around the bundles.

“These are the clothes they were all wearing. Ye may not be able to get all the shards out, and the lady’s blouse is ruined, but I thought ye might want to try.”

The men returned, quiet and disturbed, as the others were climbing into the cars. Mr. Hogan shook Tom’s hand, said he hoped they’d all be fine, and went into his store. William paused next to Tom. “The pram was set afire, sir,” he said quietly, but Casey heard him. “’Tis odd, it is. There’s not much damage to the street. The shopkeepers along there said the riot ended quickly. But they burned the pram.”

They were a quiet group as they returned to Dunallon.

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