EASTER MONDAY, 1916
A skirmish,' Bella Beaver declared with more certitude than she felt. "That's all it is.' ' They said it was a rising,' her daughter, Babsie, shot back. 'Isn't that what they called it, Starry?'
Babsie had been stepping out with Starry Murphy for a couple of months. His given name was Patrick but a doting aunt had likened him to a celestial gift, being the only boy in a clutch of girls, and the name had stuck. He was one of them, a Catholic, an RC, but though she disapproved, Mrs Beaver had held her tongue. "That's exactly so,' Starry said.
A dapper boy, he reminded Mrs Beaver of her dead husband. Something about his dark tossed hair, his jaunty manner. Her Nick as a young man, that is. Before he'd been tainted, before she'd been destroyed . . . but no, she would not dwell on sorry history for it was a wound to her.
Starry had been on duty at Jacobs for the holiday weekend to keep the ovens ticking over and Babsie had gone to meet him when he came off shift. 'He was on the fitter's floor,' Babsie began for she was in the habit of speaking for Starry even when he was present, 'when he and the other lads heard this ragged bunch galloping up the stairs, taking them two at a time, all business. They marched right into the "King's Own" room without a how do you do, full of bluff and declaration and, I swear to God, waving guns they were. Isn't that so, Starry?'
When Mr Bonar, the overseer, approached the belligerent band to sort the matter out, he was pushed roughly aside.
In the name of the Irish Republic . . . one of them announced unscrolling a parchment and reading from it.
'The Irish Republic, whatever that is when it's at home,' Babsie said. 'Starry thought it all some kind of a caper or a crowd of travelling players putting on a free theatrical. Then the tricked-up soldiers rounded everyone up, bar Mr Bonar and the watchman, and herded them out on to the street saying there'd be no more baking biscuits in Jacobs this fine day.'
A crowd had gathered. Women mostly, howling like Revolution furies at the pretend soldiers.
'Youse boyos should go off to France and fight, instead of turning guns on your own,' one of them hollered waving her fist as a couple of them appeared on the roof of Jacobs and ran up a strange flag of green, white and gold. And then a shot rang out.
And that decided us,' Babsie said, speaking again for Starry.
On their way home they passed the General Post Office. All shuttered up and sandbags built up at the entrance, and the selfsame declaration pasted on the doors with stamps.
"The Post Office no longer belongs to us,' Babsie reported. 'It s the headquarters of the New Ireland.'
"The New Ireland,' Mrs Beaver repeated wonderingly. Then she retreated to her original position. 'It's a skirmish, that's all.'
They lived through the rest of the day and the day following by report alone — or the hiss of rumour, though it was a principle of Mrs Beaver's to discourage idle gossip. The Germans were coming, Mrs Clarke said, whole battalions of them to prop up the rebels. The length and breadth of Sackville Street was destroyed. And further afield, too, according to Sadie Kinch, second next door. Chancellor's, the opticians, gone, she said, Court Photographers a pile of smoking rubble and Pickford's all but demolished, its windows all blown in.
And the looting!' said Sadie. 'My husband saw it for himself. Doxies parading about in fur coats from Marnane's and ropes of pearls filched from Hopkins and Hopkins.'