“Don’t you think our Mary is going to be very pretty? A little like the pictures of Our Lady, perhaps—don’t you think so, Daniel?”
Whereupon my father laughed rather derisively and answered:
“Pretty, is she? Like the Virgin, eh? Well, well!”
I was always fond of music, and my mother used to teach me to sing to a little upright piano which she was allowed to keep in her room, and on another day she said:
“Do you know our Mary has such a beautiful voice, dear? So sweet and pure that when I close my eyes I could almost think it is an angel singing.”
Whereupon my father laughed as before, and answered:
“A voice, has she? Like an angel’s, is it? What next, I wonder?”
My mother made most of my clothes. There was no need for her to do so, but in the absence of household duties I suppose it stimulated the tenderness which all mothers feel in covering the little limbs they love; and one day, having made a velvet frock for me, from a design in an old pattern book of coloured prints, which left the legs and neck and arms very bare, she said:
“Isn’t our Mary a little lady? But she will always look like a lady, whatever she is dressed in.”
And then my father laughed still more contemptuously and replied,
“Her grandmother weeded turnips in the fields though—ninepence a day dry days, and sixpence all weathers.”
My mother was deeply religious, never allowing a day to pass without kneeling on her prayer-stool before the image of the Virgin, and one day I heard her tell my father that when I was a little mite, scarcely able to speak, she found me kneeling in my cot with my doll perched up before me, moving my lips as if saying my prayers and looking up at the ceiling with a rapt expression.
“But she has always had such big, beautiful, religious eyes, and I shouldn’t wonder if she becomes a Nun some day!”
“A nun, eh? Maybe so. But I take no stock in the nun business anyway,” said my father.
Whereupon my mother’s lips moved as if she were saying “No, dearest,” but her dear, sweet pride was crushed and she could go no farther.
There was a whole colony on the ground floor of our house who, like my father, could not reconcile themselves to my existence, and the head of them was Aunt Bridget.
She had been married, soon after the marriage of my mother, to one Colonel MacLeod, a middle-aged officer on half-pay, a widower, a Belfast Irishman, and a tavern companion of my maternal grandfather. But the Colonel had died within a year, leaving Aunt Bridget with one child of her own, a girl, as well as a daughter of his wife by the former marriage. As this happened about the time of my birth, when it became obvious that my mother was to be an invalid, my father invited Aunt Bridget to come to his house as housekeeper, and she came, and brought her children with her.