Irish Stew!: A Nuala Anne McGrail Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview


And what a stew it is. Here are some of the ingredients: Our heroine, Nuala Anne McGrail, in her guise as international singing star, accompanied by her spear-carrying husband, Dermot Coyne, is off to a major music festival in Milan, where they meet Seamus Costelloe, a Chicago Irish macher, and his family. Seamus is no better than he should be, and in fact the suspicion is that he's very bad indeed, but softhearted Nuala sees the sign of death on him-she hasn't lost her ability to see into the future-and decides...
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Irish Stew!: A Nuala Anne McGrail Novel

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Overview


And what a stew it is. Here are some of the ingredients: Our heroine, Nuala Anne McGrail, in her guise as international singing star, accompanied by her spear-carrying husband, Dermot Coyne, is off to a major music festival in Milan, where they meet Seamus Costelloe, a Chicago Irish macher, and his family. Seamus is no better than he should be, and in fact the suspicion is that he's very bad indeed, but softhearted Nuala sees the sign of death on him-she hasn't lost her ability to see into the future-and decides to do something about it. She also sees something good in him. Which leads to a few hair-raising conflicts with some of Chicago's more desperate characters.

Nuala and Dermot's new baby is premature, and dark clouds hover over their sublimely happy marriage. Meanwhile, Dermot is trying to solve the mystery of Chicago's Haymarket riot, which isn't easy since it happened over a hundred years ago.

Only bestselling author Andrew M. Greeley, with his knowledge of Ireland and Chicago's unsavory politics, plus his uncanny ability to combine two stories-one in the present and one in the past-and his talent for building mystery and suspense to an almost unbearable degree, could have written this truly tantalizing novel.

At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429912273
  • Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
  • Publication date: 4/1/2007
  • Series: Nuala Anne McGrail Novels , #7
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 176,346
  • File size: 7 MB

Meet the Author


Priest, sociologist, author and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley built an international assemblage of devout fans over a career spanning five decades. His books include the Bishop Blackie Ryan novels, including The Archbishop in Andalusia, the Nuala Anne McGrail novels, including Irish Tweed, and The Cardinal Virtues. He was the author of over 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction, and his writing has been translated into 12 languages.

Father Greeley was a Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. In addition to scholarly studies and popular fiction, for many years he penned a weekly column appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers. He was also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, America and Commonweal, and was interviewed regularly on national radio and television. He authored hundreds of articles on sociological topics, ranging from school desegregation to elder sex to politics and the environment.

Throughout his priesthood, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to evolving concerns of Catholics everywhere. His clear writing style, consistent themes and celebrity stature made him a leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!

In 1986, Father Greeley established a $1 million Catholic Inner-City School Fund, providing scholarships and financial support to schools in the Chicago Archdiocese with a minority student body of more than 50 percent. In 1984, he contributed a $1 million endowment to establish a chair in Roman Catholic Studies at the University of Chicago. He also funded an annual lecture series, “The Church in Society,” at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois, from which he received his S.T.L. in 1954.

Father Greeley received many honors and awards, including honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland at Galway, the University of Arizona and Bard College. A Chicago native, he earned his M.A. in 1961 and his Ph.D. in 1962 from the University of Chicago.

Father Greeley was a penetrating student of popular culture, deeply engaged with the world around him, and a lifelong Chicago sports fan, cheering for the Bulls, Bears and the Cubs. Born in 1928, he died in May 2013 at the age of 85.

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Read an Excerpt


1


WE STARTED having trouble again with our oldest child, Nelliecoyne, the day we brought her little sister home from the hospital. The difficulty, however, was not sibling rivalry with poor little Socra Marie. The problem was that Nellie heard an explosion that had occurred a hundred and fourteen years ago.
It was a lovely May day, the fourth day of May to be exact. Spring had decided that she would come to Chicago after all, against her better judgment. She had festooned our old (but rehabbed) block on Southport Avenue with delicate green lace, bright emerald lawns, and flower beds that much to their own surprise had burst into bloom.
"Isn't it a party for herself?" my wife said as I parked our ancient Benz in front of the house. "God timed spring this year just for our Socra Marie."
I knew better than to argue.
This ditsy celebration of new life (doubtless under the patronage of St. Brigid whose cross stood watch above the door of our home) matched the exuberance that the little girl's mother, Nuala Anne McGrail, and I felt. Against all odds we had brought this tiny girl child home where she belonged after one week short of three months in an NICU--Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Do you know how it feels to hold a six-hundred-gram neonate in your arms? Try a pound of butter that's breathing and is totally beautiful, even if she looked at the beginning like a rare species of monkey.
"She's tough one," Jane Foley the young resident in neonatology, whispered to me, as Nuala viewed her for the first time. "Some of them are pretty passive. This one is determined to live."
"The toughness is all on her mother's side."
"Little girls," the young woman said primly, "have a better survival rate than little boys."
"That's cause they're stronger and better," Nuala replied promptly, "just like their mothers."
Before they took Nuala down to the NICU, the resident had told us about our daughter's prospects. My wife was hurting from the agonies of birth and woozy from drugs.
"The baby is still alive, Mrs. Coyne…"
"Mrs. Coyne is my mother-in-law. I'm Nuala."
"Very well, Nuala…" the young woman said a bit primly, eager to go through her routine.
"And she's not 'the baby.' She's Socra Marie."
"Of course…It is very fortunate that she came at the twenty-fifth week. Her chances are so much better than if it had been the twenty-third week…"
"What did I do wrong?"
I started to worry. Nuala had endured a bad case of postpartum depression after our second child.
"You didn't do anything wrong, Mrs…ah, Nuala. Premature births usually just happen."
"I must have done something wrong."
"Stop being Irish, Nuala," I cut in. "Dr. Foley says it wasn't your fault. That should settle that."
My wife smiled faintly.
"You're right, Dermot Michael, as always."
"We're giving her increased oxygen now to help her breathing. That's why we had to take her away from you right after she was born."
Nuala nodded, though I knew she didn't understand.
"Not so long ago, we would have abandoned her as a miscarriage. Now there's ninety percent chance you'll be able to take her home."
Nuala nodded duly.
"However, we have to be candid with you. A little more than half of our premature babies have some problems in later life, sight, hearing, speech, brain disorders like cerebral palsy. Some of these problems can be easily corrected. Others are serious, lifelong problems. She seems healthy now. We can make no guarantees."
Nuala nodded again.
"We are forbidden by law to take her off life support. However, if you wish we will put a DNR on her chart; that means 'Do not resuscitate.' You would have to sign some papers for that."
Dr. Foley was about the same age as Nuala, probably had a kid or two of her own.
"Why would we want to do that?"
"I'm a Catholic like you are, Nuala. There is no obligation to extraordinary means. What we're doing now is certainly extraordinary. The Church is more tolerant than the government. It would permit you to request that we stop trying to keep her alive. The government won't let us do that. But it will let us follow your orders not to resuscitate her if, say, she stops breathing. Then she would be with God."
My wife frowned, puzzled by the prospect that Dr. Foley was offering her. "Why in the world would we ever do that?" Nuala asked.
"There is a chance that she won't have much of a life."
Nuala cocked her eye at me. I nodded.
"Och, sure, if God doesn't mind, won't we be after keeping her?"
Dr. Foley lowered her head, to hide tears no doubt.
"Why doesn't that choice surprise me!"
So we went to the NICU. Nuala immediately went to the isolete where our daughter lay, tubes poking into her body, her eyes covered to protect her from the intense light that provided warmth, her ears covered with tiny earmuffs to protect them from the noise of the NICU. Clad only in a miniature diaper she was kicking her little feet and waving her little hands to protest the tubes
"Och, sure, Dermot Michael, isn't the little hellion here to stay? Can't you tell it by the way she looks at me and herself with fire in her eyes already?"
Socra Marie opened her eyes rarely in those very early days. However, we were assured by the nurses that she knew her mother's smell from the time in the womb. Probably knew mine too because I hung around so much.
"Can I talk to her?"
"Please do," Dr. Foley said. "The more she hears your voice, the better."
So my wife bent over the small one and spoke to her in tender and loving Irish.
"I don't suppose I could sing to her?"
"If you do it very softly, so as not to disturb the other children."
Socra Marie heard for the first time in her life--though surely not the last--the melody of the Connemara lullaby. She calmed down and stopped fidgeting. So did the children on either side of her. A kind of mystical grace permeated the NICU, for a moment moving us into an alternative world.
"You can sing louder, Nuala," Dr. Foley whispered. "All the children like it."
So we had a daily concert.
Nuala Anne was aware that it would be eight weeks at least before the
tiny one saw much of anything. However, having predicted her gender and her early arrival, my wife was not likely to be wrong. She almost never is.
She accurately predicts the gender of children, not only before they were born, but before they were conceived. Nuala Anne, you see, is fey. As is our first born, Nellie. The little bishop, who knows everything, "speculates" that it is a holdover from our Neanderthal ancestors who, since they could not talk very well, needed to communicate psychically. "A neo-Neanderthal vestige," he informs us.
"Is Socra Marie fey?" I asked.
"Isn't that a terrible thing to say about this poor little tyke? She's not fey at all, at all, dear little thing that she is, but she's full of life and will lead all of us a merry chase, won't you, dear little one?"
She wept as she did often these days.
Then she sang very softly some more snatches of the Connemara Cradle Song--in her native Irish, naturally.
"Socra," by the way, is pronounced Sorra. You won't have the right of it, however, unless you speak it like your sinuses are packed tight with Galway fog. My wife's name is pronounced Noolah, with same thick Galway mist oozing through the vowels and consonants.
The "dear little one" led us a merry chase through the first six weeks of her life, just barely surviving crisis after crisis, laser surgery on her eyes, several resuscitations, a couple of infections. However, survive she did with grim determination.
The first time Nuala nursed her, she devoured her mother's milk like she expected there to be a shortage, as if perhaps to say, "Well, it's about time!"
We spent much of our time at the hospital, "immersing" ourselves in the care of our new daughter at the suggestion of the staff in the NICU. At first that meant simply being there with her, so she could smell us and hear us.
"Isn't she beautiful, Dermot Michael?" Nuala said to me the day after the little girl was born, with very little warning.
Actually fifteen weeks early and weighing almost a pound, Socra Marie didn't look like much of anything, under the intense light which kept her warm and the Saran Wrap which kept her moist on an open bed with the blinkers over her eyes and the earmuffs over her ears and feeding and breathing tubes in her mouth and nose. Her dark brown and paper-thin skin was covered with cream (which, we were told, you could buy at the corner drugstore). She struggled violently against the tubes.
"The poor little thing," Nuala said, tears streaming down her cheeks. "There she was taking her ease inside of me and all of a sudden she's dumped in this strange place with all them aggravating things sticking inside her."
When Nuala is in her Irish country-girl mood a "thing" is always pronounced a "ding." She was very much in that modality after her little daughter was born. An African-American nurse asked if she were an immigrant. I told the truth and said that she was.
"Is all this too much for her, do you think?"
It was a perfectly legitimate question, so I withheld my amusement.
"Nuala Anne can cope," I replied. "She studied at Trinity College in Dublin."
"They have a fine medical school there," the nurse said, putting me in my place.
Eventually the staff figured out that the nice girl who sang to the babies and acted as a morale officer and chaplain for all the other mothers was the singer.
"Sure I do sing now and then," my wife admitted.
"Isn't her name Nuala Anne?" Dr. Foley asked me.
"Sometimes."
When other babies went home, Nuala Anne led the cheers. When some died, she led the weeping. Despite all the strain, she was remarkably patient with me.
"Wife," I said, "haven't I hinted now and again that you'd try the patience of a saint?"
"'Tis true, I would."
"'Tis not true. What is true is that you have the patience of a saint."
"Och, Dermot Michael," she said, resting her head on my shoulder, "'tis not true, but 'tis dead focking brill of you to say it."
So we were there every day all day, with only a few time-outs to return to our home to make sure that the troops were not too restless. They were, but what could we do?
'Tis essential for bonding, Dermot Michael, don't you see now?
What did I know? Nothing, except that if you were a child of Nuala Anne's you bonded, whether you liked the idea or not.
There was more than a little chaos at our house for those eight weeks. We had both a nanny and a housekeeper (Ethne and Danuta respectively) but my wife is the kind of Irishwoman who has to make sure the children are properly dressed and the house properly cleaned before either of these personages appears.
The kids were restless in the midst of the confusion, though the Mick was monumentally uninterested in his baby sister once we had assured him that she would not want to play with his Tonka trucks. Red-haired Nellie (nee Mary Anne) on the other hand was fiercely impatient with the delay in the arrival at home of her little sister. "Is she EVER going to come home?" she would demand several times each day.
Finally, after the first month, when we had progressed from touching her lightly to holding her in our arms, we brought Nellie, solemn and serious, to St. Joe's for her first inspection.
By this time, Socra Marie was living in the isolete as they call an incubator these days and, wrapped in several layers of blankets, breathing on her own. She also looked pretty much like a human baby with a lovely face and her mother's fair white skin.
"She's cute, Ma, but isn't she terrible small altogether?"
"You were small once too, me darlin' girl."
"Not that small, was I?"
"Well, not quite."
"We'll have to take real good care of her, so she'll grow up big and strong, won't we?"
Nellie was echoing her mother.
"We will…"
Nellie and Nuala sighed in unison.
Her little sister opened her eyes then and, as she usually did, surveyed her immediate environment with intense curiosity. She seemed satisfied with Nuala and myself. Then her eyes widened as she took in Nellie's bright red hair. She paused, and then closed her eyes.
"She likes my hair," Nellie informed us. "I think we can keep her!"
Socra Marie opened her eyes again and pondered her parents and then, satisfied, closed them and went back to sleep. We touched her and caressed her for a while and spoke softly to her.
"She likes me too," Nellie whispered. "We're going to be great friends."
"I'm sure she does," Nuala Anne assured her firstborn.
"Can I touch her?" Nellie asked the nurse who was hovering over us--sensing immediately who the authority figure in the group was.
"Very gently, my dear," said the nurse, somewhat dubiously.
So our elder daughter touched her little sister's neck and murmured softly, "I love you, Socra Marie. Please come home and live with us soon. I'll take good care of you."
Everyone in the room was suddenly in tears.
With most big sisters that would have meant that Nellie would be the boss. With this sweet, loving, and very strange little kid with the haunting Irish eyes, that was by no means certain.
Our two snow-white Irish wolfhounds, Fiona and her daughter Maeveen, who did not like extra disorder in their domain, of which they assumed they were the absolute rulers, were also upset by the frantic life of our family during those long months.
Two?
Yes, two. My wife had read somewhere that dogs need other dogs to play with. Wolfhounds' notion of playing is wrestling and pretending to fight with one another and rolling around on the floor with human kids. Though they are gentle and intelligent dogs, they are also very big. Their games occupy a lot of space.
Our child could both see and hear, but we were warned that there were other possible developmental risks, though the odds were better than nine out of ten that she would survive. Cerebral palsy, for example, was always a possibility, as were recurrent lung problems. Moreover, it would take perhaps two years before her development would catch up with that of term babies, though there was a wide variation in that projection. Preemies progressed at different rates, sometimes similar and sometimes different, from those of term children.
Yet those weeks in the hospital, in which days and nights blurred into a continuous stream and the times when we weren't there seemed unreal, when the blue lights and the spanking clean walls and corridors of the hospital were like another planet, in which we belonged and the rest of the world was only a fantasy, were like a long retreat in which wonder and surprise and above all life swirled around us like a choir of softly singing angels.
One night, I woke up from the chair in which I had been snoozing to see Nuala, her face alight with a supernatural glow, bending over Socra Marie, touching her lightly and gently moving her fingers back and forth over her little arm. For a moment, just a moment, the whole universe stood still and the love from that touch leaped out of the crib scene and enveloped me. The whole world stood still. I saw how everything fit together and how the three of us, the little holy family in the neonate room, were all part of it and that all things would be well, all manner of things would be well. As I slowly eased down from the mountain I had climbed, I told myself that this was the kind of moment of grace out of which poetry was born, indeed out of which poetry ought to be born.
"You are awake are you now, Dermot Michael, and yourself should be home getting a good night's sleep and walking the dogs and getting a good run in the morning."
"I am," I admitted. "…Nuala, do you think God loves us the way you love Socra Marie at this moment? Does he touch us the way you touch her?"
"Och, that's strange question, Dermot Michael, and yourself knowing that there's no point in being God unless you can do them kind of things and himself sending Jesus to tell us that, poor dear man."
Lofty praise for Jesus. Rarely was I referred to as a "poor dear man," the highest praise an Irishwoman can bestow on a member of the inferior gender.
In the confusion after Socra Marie's birth and Nuala's inability to understand why her baby was taken away from her so quickly, we forgot about Baptism. Later, she stirred out of a drugged sleep and murmured something to me about "our daughter."
"She's alive, Nuala dear. They're giving her oxygen to help her breathe. She'll be fine."
She nodded. "I know that, Dermot. Still we should baptize her just to be sure."
Neither of us believed in Limbo. We both figured that God wanted to save everyone and would find a way to do so, no matter what happened.
However, we also believed in "just to be sure."
I dashed down to the neonate room. A nurse stood guard over our little girl, who was struggling against the tubes in her mouth and nose.
"Baptism…" I stammered.
"No problem," the nurse said. "I poured water on her head and said the words as soon as she came in, not that God didn't love her anyway…Isn't she beautiful, Mr. McGrail?"
"She sure is!"
It was a story I resolved that I would tell many times to my second daughter as she grew up. Like her mother she would doubtless agree that I was Mr. McGrail.
"You shouldn't worry," a senior doctor later told us, "if she doesn't walk till she's two and doesn't talk much till she's three."
Nuala raised her eyes skeptically.
"When she does begin to talk, won't she talk up a storm just like her poor mother?"
"She might also have a hard time learning how to sit up and to crawl. You'll have to be patient with her, you know."
"Sure, won't she have to be patient with us!"
"You understand then, that you're taking a risk with this child?"
"Didn't we take a risk in bringing her into the world? And don't we all take risks in being born?"
"I understand and I admire your decisions. I merely want to make it clear that you may have to walk long miles with her."
"Aren't we Irish great walkers, Doctor?"
He sighed and looked at his pen.
"It wasn't all that many years ago that we made no effort to save children your little girl's size. We lacked the tools, the medication, the understanding. Some older men in the profession were very dubious about the progress we had made in neonatology. They said we saved children at tremendous cost only to cause many of them to live in pain and suffering for themselves and their family or to prolong hope when there were no grounds. Sometimes that is true even today, most of the time it is not. You're too young to remember the case of Patrick Kennedy, the President's third child. He died of a lung syndrome of the sort which your daughter faced. Now we have a medication that deals with the problem effectively in most cases, as it did in hers. The whole point"--he smiled self-consciously--"is to tell you that you are taking a gamble, a not unreasonable gamble, but a gamble nevertheless."
"Och, aren't we Irish the greatest gamblers in all the world, Doctor?"
We all laughed.
I favored the gamble at least as much as my wife did.
"Hasn't God been very good to us, Dermot Michael?" she said later as she rearranged the pink knitted blanket over Socra Marie and tilted the matching cap to a flattering angle.
(The knitted garments were given to the hospital by a group of elderly Jewish women who knitted them for the neonates. Nuala of course insisted on visiting them.)
"He has," I agreed.
"Hasn't he blessed us with three fine, healthy children and made the doctors smart enough to invent medicine to keep the third one alive and wouldn't poor Caroline Kennedy have a brother alive today if they had the same medicines forty years ago?"
"He has," I agreed again, wondering if the family death instinct would have extended to Patrick Kennedy if he had lived to maturity.
"So we should thank God for giving us a little challenge as well as a little girl?"
"We should…Nuala, my love, when you said you knew that Socra Marie would live, was that fey knowledge or mother knowledge?"
"Sure, Dermot, isn't that an eejit question? How can there be any difference?
Anyway, despite two occasions when we were told that Socra Marie would not last the night, we were finally bringing her home in triumph.
"'Tis a brilliant day altogether, isn't it, Dermot Michael, and ourselves with this wonderful little girl child right here on Southport Avenue?"
"It is a lovely day," I agreed as I helped herself up the stairs to the entrance of our home, on the second floor like all houses built in the good old days before Chicago had modestly hidden its swampy self under many tons of earth.
"Didn't I mean the day behind the day?"
I glanced at her radiantly happy face. I was never quite sure about her excursions into Irish mysticism, in which she claimed (pretended? actually experienced?) some immediate contact with the ultimate reality--the mountain behind the mountain, the lake behind the lake, the Dermot behind the Dermot. In the last case, I was informed, that the "Dermot behind Dermot" was someone "you might call God, if you were of such a mind."
I was not sure God would be flattered and said so. She laughed, and said, "Sure, he wouldn't mind at all, at all."
Did she really emerge from Plato's cave and walk in the world of the really real? Or was she speaking in metaphors, something that the Irish are genetically programmed to do?
When I asked her once she had sighed loudly (the West of Ireland sigh, which at first sounded like an acute asthma attack) and informed me that, sure, she didn't see the difference.
"Was that thunder, Dermot Michael?" she asked me as we reached the door of the house.
"I don't think so…Maybe some angelic Bodhran drum to celebrate the homecoming of Socra Marie!"
"Hush, Dermot love. Isn't it bad luck to be blaspheming when you're bringing a newborn into the house?"
The Irish, I am convinced, make up their superstitions about bad luck to fit the circumstances.
The door swung open before I could unlock it. There were cheers and shouts and music playing on the stereo--Nuala Anne singing the Connemara Cradle Song.
In addition to Ethne and Danuta, my mother and father (a nurse/doctor combination who understandably wanted to form a discreet diagnosis of their new granddaughter) Cindasue McCloud Murphy, a Coast Guard officer and wife of Peter Murphy, and her ten-month-old daughter Katiesue were there to proclaim the tiny heroine. The neonate of the hour ignored the noise and continued to sleep, even when the two massive white canines tentatively pushed their way into the crowd of admirers, tales wagging, to sniff this new human puppy. Obviously they approved: they curled up on the floor in front of Nuala Anne on the couch as a kind of protective honor guard.
The only one who was less than ecstatic about this triumphant homecoming was our blond middle child, who continued to play with his Tonka trucks, his diaper hanging askew over his rear end as it usually did.
"No one more narcissistic," I murmured to my wife next to me on the couch, "then a two-year-old boy."
"Lest it be a thirty-two-year-old boy!"
Nuala Anne made my life difficult by pointing out whenever possible that I was "way over thirty" while, at twenty-seven, she was "nowhere near thirty."
It was the generally held opinion (even by me) that the Mick was much like his father--big, good-looking, and generally useless. The comparison caused the thunderclouds to gather on Nuala's face and her lips to tighten.
"I'll not have anyone at all, at all saying things like that about my poor husband," she'd snap. Everyone would retreat from the comparison, afraid to ask how exactly I was different from my firstborn son.
Danuta produced a big cake, my mom offered a huge plate of cookies, and my dad began pouring the champagne. Socra Marie for her part slept on.
Her big sister stared at her intently.
"As the grandfather of this little miracle," my father began as he lifted a champagne flute, "I propose the first toast to Socra Marie Coyne, the small girl with indomitable will."
We all toasted the baby, who responded by continuing to sleep.
"I'll talk to her other grandparents over in Carraroe tonight," Dad went on, "and tell them they'll have to come over soon so they can be as proud of her as her American grandmother and I are."
"And her great-grandmother too," Nuala whispered in my ear.
Nuala claimed a special relationship with Nell Pat Malone, even though my grandmother had died before I had met Nuala.
"Wasn't she the one who brought us together?"
I wouldn't have put it--or anything else--past Ma, as I had always called Nell Pat.
"Bernie and Jackie are coming," Nellie announced confidently, and strode toward the door to admit these favorites, French musicians who played Celtic music, into the house.
"I didn't hear the bell just now," Cindasue said to me with a puzzled frown. "Does that thar' chile have hearing like to a mountain polecat?"
"Heard them on the steps, I suppose."
We had become so accustomed Nellie's anticipations that we hardly noticed them.
"Dear little Mary Anne," her preschool teacher, a woman of no more than twenty-three summers, had said. "is so sensitive and thoughtful. If one of the children is unhappy she notices it and immediately consoles the child. She leads by sensitivity and sympathy, normally pretty rare in a four-year-old."
"Maybe she's manipulating them, isn't she?" Nuala said grimly, unwilling, like so many of our kind, to believe praise of our children (and equally willing to be irate in the absence of praise).
"Oh, no, Mrs. Coyne," The teacher, unaware of the game, replied, "Mary Anne is simply adorable."
"Hmf," she muttered proudly to me as we walked across Southport, "the little brat has fooled them altogether."
"At least they haven't noticed she's fey."
"Aren't they afraid to?"
"What does Nellie think of it?"
"Why should she be any different, poor little thing, than I was at that age? She thinks everyone is that way."
Marie-Bernadette and Jacques-Yves joined the admiring throng at our house the day we brought Socra Marie home.
"Chérie," my wife asked, "did you notice any thunder when you were coming over?"
"Mais non, was not the day très beau?"
"Don't worry, Ma," Nellie piped up. "It was only some men setting off a bomb down at the Haymarket."
No one else seemed to notice this outrageous claim. I slipped away into our library and took down a book of Chicago history. It was as I feared. The Haymarket riot was a hundred and fourteen years ago. To the day.
My wife had heard the noise. Her daughter knew all about it.
I shivered.
Back in the parlor, Socra Marie had opened her eyes, reducing the room to silence. She did not cry out in protest against the crowd and the noise they made. Rather she carefully and thoughtfully (or so it seemed to me) surveyed the room. First of all she found her mother, who was holding her in her arms, then her eyes discovered Nellie's red hair, of which she seemed to approve, then she detected the Daddy shape, though she didn't know the word. I rated a quick glance. Then, she saw the two huge dogs. She closed her eyes as if she couldn't believe that this new world in which she had been plunged without prior consultation could possibly contain such creatures. Then she opened them again, as if reconsidering Fiona and Maeveen. Then, satisfied, she closed her eyes and went back to sleep.
"Well, she didn't reject us anyway," my wife said, kissing her daughter's forehead. "She knows she's home."
"Can I hold her, Mommy, just for a minute? I won't drop her."
"It's good crack, Nellie. Just keep the blankets around her. She likes being warm."
"I know."
Nellie held her little sister with enraptured awe, as though she were something sacred. Everyone in the room, except her mother and father, held their breath. Then carefully she gave the baby back to her mother.
"Brilliant altogether," she informed us.
("Good crack," by the way, is an Irish phrase which has nothing to do with narcotics but means something like "great fun.")
Later on that day, after everyone had gone home and all the children were in bed, Socra Marie in a bassinet right next to our bed, I had occasion to shiver again.
"Didn't Ethne tell me that someone took a shot at that gobshite Seamus Costelloe last night."
"Just as you predicted?"
"'Tis true"--she sighed--"Dermot love. 'Tis true. The mark of death is on him."
"Did they kill him?"
"They did not. Not this time. He's in hospital…"
That's when I shivered again. Without warning we were swept up in two mysteries. If my wife were to have her way we would have to solve them both. Naturally, she would have her way.
And ourselves with an adorable and fragile little girl in the house, a beautiful gamble.
As if to reassure me, both Fiona and Maeveen ambled into our room and snuggled up next to the bassinet.

Copyright © 2002 by Andrew M. Greeley Enterprises, Ltd.
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