Light A Penny Candle

Light A Penny Candle by Maeve Binchy

Book: Light A Penny Candle by Maeve Binchy Read Free Book Online
Authors: Maeve Binchy
Aisling to know what she was praying for – were answered. Violet wrote to say that it was quite impossible. She did envy everyone in Ireland eating butter and cream and meat. She thought that it sounded like a kind of paradise. There was little gratitude for the invitation, but much on how everyone in Kilgarret was faring better than those in London. Eileen showed the letter to Sean.
    ‘You can’t say she isn’t making much of us now. She says it sounds like heaven here compared to what they have to endure.’
    ‘Well, you can write back and tell her that Ireland doesn’t have to endure all that because Ireland didn’t go on like the British Empire, shadow-boxing and fighting other European people instead of minding its own business.’ Eileen had no intention of telling her anything of the sort. She went back to the letter. It sounded more interested in Elizabeth than any of the previous notes and scribbles had been.
    I suppose she’s much taller now. They do grow between ten and eleven. A woman beside me at work asked me if I had children, and when I said I had a daughter of eleven she couldn’t believe me. I told her I hadn’t married until I was twenty-eight and she couldn’t believe that either, but she said I didn’t look like anyone who had children. Suddenly, right in the middle of work, I felt very lonely and I started to cry. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately – it’s war nerves, people say. They tell me to take these nerve tonics – everyone takes them – but they’re worse than useless. I think of Elizabeth a lot these nights. I’m glad she’s well and out of reach of the blitz. But sometimes, when I’ve had a long day, I wonder whether there was any point to all we learned at school. It means nothing now. There’s no point in being able to run a gracious home with nothing to run it on. And all that history. They never told us that wars just went on and on. …
    Maureen’s letters arrived every week. Sometimes they had blots on them, and the lines were crooked, but neither Sean nor Eileen seemed to mind a bit, and read them out cheerfully to everyone. Una Moriarty, who was eleven months younger than Norah, was doing very well, but Norah was being homesick and silly. They had been given a late pass and they all went to the pictures in O’Connell Street, but it was the one night when the projector broke down and there was half an hour’s delay, so they’d had to go home without knowing the end of the picture. There was an awful lot of bed-making. The way the beds are made at home is all wrong, they have no corners. Staff Sister Margaret is like a devil but Sister Tutor is very beautiful and glides around, seeming not to walk like other people. They’d all be home on the bus the day before Christmas Eve. Maureen was looking forward to sleeping on and on and on. Doctor Lynch went on one of his batters the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. It had nothing to do with the event, in fact he didn’t even hear of it until five days later when he was discovered by the Guarda in a sailors’ public house in Cork, slumped over a table. This time the return home was less dignified and discreet than on previous occasions. This time, Doctor Lynch was handed unceremoniously to a Guarda van going to Dublin, and then to another on its way to County Wicklow. The family had been told to expect him. The Guarda left him in the square. Their custody of him had been entirely informal; they had abuse from him all the way to Kilgarret. … He was now sobering, but in deadly need of another drink. He ranted that he had their numbers and they would all be demoted for this. Unshaven, without his coat – which had been abandoned somewhere on his joyous journey south to Cork – his eyes narrowed at the sight of the O’Connor house. That was the bloody family which had dared to insult his position by refusing to let their red-haired brat play with Berna. Tears of self-pity came into his eyes. That thick,

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