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That seemed to strike him funny. "It's evident we're strangers. If you knew me better, you'd have no doubt of my opinions concerning the English Law we suffer. You'll never make it through the streets with that heavy booty, you know. You may as well leave it here and get home with you."
Callie drew herself up to her full five feet one inch, facing him brazenly. This was no time to back down. "I dragged it all the way here from the grocer's, didn't I? And at a full run, I might add. I'll make it home, all right, or die trying. I've a family to consider."
"A little thing like yourself with a family?" he questioned.
"Well, I do too! They're my own brothers and sisters."
"Come along, then. I'll walk with you. Just to be certain the grocer and his boy don't come back this way."
Callie hesitated and saw his logic. He was right. She wouldn't have to let him come all the way with her, just far enough to get out of this neighborhood. And if he tried anything with her, he'd be sorry. Her shoes were stout and their soles thick. He'd feel them where they'd hurt the most if he got any funny ideas in his head. "All right, I accept your offer. Seeing as how it means so much to you." He laughed again, and she scowled. Callie ignored him and picked up her basket, falling into step beside him.
They'd not gone a block when she was panting with effort. The basket must have weighted thirty pounds. Breaking the silence between them, he said, "If I tell you my name, will you let me help you carry your hard-earned goods?"
"I already know your name. It's Kenyon. Mr. Kenyon. However," she turned and dumped the basket unceremoniously into his arms, "I'd beobliged if you carried it a bit of the way, Mr. Kenyon."
"Byrch. Byrch Kenyon." He looked for recognition of his name but none was forthcoming.
"Any man willing to tell his name under these circumstances can't be all bad," Callie said. "Kenyon is a fine old Dublin handle. But Byrch! Why would anyone pin a moniker like that on a fine Christian lad? Hadn't your mother heard of good saintly names like Patrick or Sean?"
"And who says I'm a fine Christian lad?" This little piece of baggage had a mouth on her!
"You're Irish, aren't you? Or are you?" Callie turned and eyed his quizzically. "You speak with a fair lilt of the auld sod, but there's something else besides."
"I'm here in Dublin visiting friends," he answered smoothly.
"Here!" Callie drew up short, swaying her shoulder into his tall frame. "You're not English, are you?" she demanded. Not for anything would she associate with an Englishman.
"No. American. My father is Irish. I'm here in Dublin waiting passage back to Liverpool. Then I'm bound back to America."
"Well, at least I know you're not lying to me. No one in this world would admit to family and friends in Ireland during these hard times if it weren't so." And then she smiled, and Byrch Kenyon thought the fair sun of summer had lit the dark streets.
"If you won't tell me your name, at least tell me something about yourself," he said, hefting the basket onto his hip as though it were no heavier than a lady's handkerchief.
"That's all you'll get from me, Mr. Kenyon. Why don't you tell me about yourself instead? Then I can tell my mother all about you."
"So, you have a mother. Back there in the alley I thought you were responsible for your brothers and sisters all alone."
"I didn't mean to make you think that, but you never asked about my mother. Hey! Watch where you walk! You've spattered mud on my dress!"
They were under gaslight near the corner, and Byrch turned to look down at her. "You're a lovely child, Callie. Do you know that?"
She shrugged. "So I've been told. But listen here, you try any funny stuff, and you'll feel the toe of my boot crack your shins!"
Byrch smiled and made a courtly, mocking bow. She was a tough little scrapper, but he was beginning to suspect it was all a show. Probably she really was afraid he'd try something with her. As though his tastes ran to children! As though this little mite would stand a chance against him!
"Are you going to tell me what you do in America? We've only a little ways to go now." Callie deliberately softened her tone. Perhaps she shouldn't have said anything about him trying something. She was sensitive enough to know she'd hurt his feelings and upbraided his gallantry.
"I run a newspaper in New York City," Byrch told her, "and I'm trying to make my mark in politics there. So many Irish have come to America, and most of them have settled around New York. I intend to help them, to be their voice in government."
Callie stopped dead in her tracks and turned to face him. If he expected to see admiration in her eyes, he was mistaken. She had turned on him with a temper so fierce he felt as though an icy wind had blown him down.
"So, a voice of the people, is it? And what of the Irish here in Ireland, starvin' and sweatin' to earn a day's wages to buy bread for the table? The English know we're hungry for any kind of wage, and so it's not even a fair pay they offer us to slave in their mills and dig for their coal. To my mind, those Irish who left their country have no need of a voice in the land of milk and honey where the streets are paved with gold!"
"Times are hard for the Irish over there too, Callie. There's no milk and no honey and no gold for the Irishman. It isn't what it's cocked up to be, believe me. I'm doing what I know best and where I think I can help the most."
"Are you now?" Callie said hotly. "Don't be wasting your time and energy on me, Mr. Kenyon. Go back to your Irish in America and help them!"
She snatched the basket from his arms and ran off, leaving him standing there with an incredulous expression on his face. What had he said to make her take off like that? Then he realized they must have come close to where she lived, and it was the easiest and simplest way to rid herself of him. A smile broke on his face, and he laughed. "You're a fine girl, Callie. I hope we meet again."