Disclaimer: I own none of the characters or places all belong to Colleeen McCullough.
The italics are the authors own words used here with much love and appreciation.
Chapter 1: Drogheda.
After the shocks Australia had administered to them in bewildering rapidity, Drogheda homestead seemed like a touch of home, with it's gracious Georgian façade and it's budding wisteria vines, it's thousands of rosebuds
'Are we going to live here?' Meggie squeaked
'Not exactly,' the priest said quickly. 'The house you're going to live in is about a mile further on, down by the creek'.
Mary Carson was waiting to receive them in the vast drawing room and did not rise to greet her brother, but forced him to come to her as she sat in her wing chair.
'Well Paddy,' she said pleasantly enough, looking past him fixedly to where Father Ralph stood with Meggie in his arms, and her little arms locked tightly about his neck. Mary Carson got up ponderously without greeting Fee or the children.
'Let us hear Mass immediately,' she said. 'I'm sure Father de Bricassart is anxious to be on his way.'
'Not at all my dear Mary,' He laughed, his eyes gleaming, 'I'll say mass, and then I think we'd all enjoy a hot breakfast at your table, and then I've promised I'll show Meggie where she's going to live'.
'Meggie,' said Mary Carson
'Yes this is Meggie. Which rather begins the introductions at the tail doesn't it? Let me begin at the head, Mary, please. This is Fiona.'
Mary nodded curtly and paid scant attention as Father Ralph ran through the boys; she was too busy watching the priest and Maggie.
There was a sudden clatter of doors travelling through the thin walls and a murmur of disapproving voices. Mary looked towards the door her eyes suddenly contemplating a private amusement. The door burst open and a young woman came bounding into the room. All eyes in the turned to her and she faltered for a second at the size of the family and the obvious novelty she must have represented to them. She was clad in beige riding jodhpurs and a white, mannish shirt, her golden hair was pinned up behind her head so it was impossible to guess at its length. She recovered her composure quickly and walked up to Mary's side, the priest's eyes following her with unspoken questioning.
'You'd be late to your own funeral girl,' Mary remarked and turned back to her brother and his family who were still aghast by the latest surprise.
The girl held out her hand first to Paddy then to Fee while Father Ralph muttered a quick introduction. The nature of her appearance left them unprepared for the polite, crisp English accent with which she spoke.
'Rosina is my late husband's goddaughter, said Mary still musing, 'She often comes for a week or two in the holidays'.
'And overstays her welcome I fear,' the girl joked in return.
She turned her eyes to the row of reluctant boys, stood behind their parents, awed by the unfamiliar. She held her hand out to Bob, Jack and Hughie in turn, who each took it for a brief moment before releasing it and standing awkwardly, clutching their caps. Hughie raised his eyes slightly, unable to ignore her young figure. The boys had never really known another woman besides their mother and Meggie, and were certainly shocked to see one dressed as she was. Rosie smiled at their shyness. The priest, she knew, did not approve of her and would rather she kept her distance from the latest members of his flock, but of late they had become private enemies in an unspoken war, so she was not in the least perturbed by the reaction she received.
Frank had been stood behind the others, somewhat dethatched from this as he was everything else personal to the family. Her keen eyes spotted him before he had a chance blend completely into his surroundings. He looked up and saw her face clearly, open and pretty. A feeling of unreasoning desire and the awareness of his own appearance and station washed over him at once. It was only for a second he faltered and only a second longer that she continued to look at him, but it was long enough for Fee to notice.
As she drew back there was a heavy silence, everyone waiting for Mary to take control again, but Mary seemed as much intrigued by the girl's sudden apparition as they all were. Ralph decided she had had their attention for long enough, setting Meggie down he took her hand and lead her out of the room in the direction of the chapel. The rest of the Cleary's followed and Rosie allowed herself a moment more to stare at Frank's retreating back.
Mary stood up, the two women were about equal in height, and Mary once could have matched the young woman's looks. There was a strange respect which existed between them, if no real outward affection was ever shown. When Michael Carson died Mary had thought there would be no one to encroach on her total possession of Drogheda and her personal freedom from social obligations. So it had been quite a rude shock when she found a special bequest to Rosina in her husbands will, and instruction that she would always be welcome on Drogheda. But Rosie was not the same as normal children and as she grew it was apparent to Mary that she was no ordinary woman. She would not marry the first eligible man who proposed, sit around enjoying the outward trappings of life and never holding the control over it. Rosina wanted to be her own master; she wanted to be like Mary.
Now they shared this moment, conscious that the arrival of the Cleary's would alter their heavily guarded existence.
'And which one were you staring after my dear,' Mary enquired riley.
'Which were you?' Rosina countered.
The corners of Mary's mouth twitched slightly, she had guessed Rosina was aware of how she had been toying with Ralph and that bringing her brother here had been a controlled move in yet another personal battle. But she let the remark go. The girl was perceptive and she would do no more than look on in amusement, she didn't want the priest to inherit a single grain of Drogheda's soil.
As Mary made to follow and hear mass, the young woman walked back in the other direction. Her mother, Michael's sister had married an Englishman, and all traces of Catholicism had long been banished from her mind. Mary turned back at the door.
'You won't misbehave will you?'
Rosie shook her head and giggled, 'with some common Irish shearing boy?'