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Chapter One: The Auction
"You're not going to stay in bed all day, are you?" Georgina's mother asked.
"What else is there to do?" her daughter replied. "I'm here doing nothing while Meghan is out west enjoying the Equestrian School and both Michael and Andrew are earning some money with good summer jobs. All I can do is baby-sit and that's not always such a wonderful experience."
Dorothy Small knew what was happening. Georgina was in a funk because she felt left out and deprived of something.
"School is starting next week and then Meghan will be home shortly after. Can't you think of something to do?"
Georgina looked downhearted, and even resentful.
"No, I can't think of anything. I'm bored."
"Well then, why don't you come with your father and me to the auction? I don't think you've ever been to one. Auctions can be fun."
Georgina looked skeptical, but since it was the only thing going, it might be better than lying here feeling sorry for herself. She reluctantly agreed to go.
Her mother always went to auctions and usually her dad went too. He was away more than once a week each month because of his position with Magnatrox, but Dorothy didn't seem to mind. Before she was married she had a hectic life on the road and swore, that if or when she settled down, she'd stay in one place and raise a family where there was a small town atmosphere. She didn't like big cities, so she only worked on consignment and if it could be done from her home so much the better. Her earlier job was in antique appraising and it took her all over Canada and even outside the country, but travelling like that, soon lost its lustre, although she still enjoyed someinvolvement in the world of antiques and artifacts.
"Going twice! Going three times! The Irish Figurine in lot 35 is sold to the girl in the pink blouse!" the auctioneer in green suspenders yelled.
The auctioneer looked over the sparse crowd and wondered if it had been wise to hold the auction after all. This place was more than off the beaten track; it was so far back in the township that few people ever used the gravel roads. How could anyone outside the district understand how to get here and avoid being helplessly lost?
"Little girl, you've got a real treasure there. At six dollars it's nearly highway robbery. You're very lucky."
"Oh Georgina, it's beautiful!" her mother said with pleasure and amazement in her voice.
As Georgina held the porcelain figurine, she felt suddenly as if indeed it was more than a treasure; it almost seemed alive and talking to her. Her mind was playing tricks on her. She could almost feel the mist of an Irish bog shroud her and spirit her away. Was the figurine dancing in a jeweled glen? The figure of the girl in her flowing dress of dark green with its lace around her throat and along the bodice sparkled in the sun. How extraordinary.
"Will the saints preserve us? Folks, this is an auction sale and not a 25 cent garage sale. I've been an auctioneer for twenty years but never have I seen such low bids. Remember all these goods are from a hardworking family, people who worked their whole lives. Now it's time to settle up. Wilbert McBride is trying to start a new life and he needs a good nest egg. I'm not going to accept any further 25 cent or 50 cent bids."
"Mom, this is great. I wish you had told me that auctions are so much fun, and interesting."
Her mother smiled, knowingly; 'you can't force a horse to drink but only lead it to water'.
"I'm glad for you. When we get home I must look at that figurine more closely. It's not a reproduction. You should take it out to the car before you drop it.'
Georgina asked for the car keys and her father handed them to her.
"Hurry back; you're on a roll," he said with a laugh.
Georgina grinned. "If you see something I'd like you can spend up to $6.00; that's my upper limit."
When their daughter left with her acquisition her parents laughed. "I think the auction bug has bitten her, but I hope the garage sale bug isn't around," Jim Small said.
Dorothy looked at her husband with suspicion. "Oh, it's the garage sales where you really find treasures. This auction is something more. I feel sorry for that man they mentioned. People are keeping their hands in their pockets.
Georgina took her treasure out to the parking lot and passed an old man who was leaning up against the wall. She had seen him before, peeking into the auction hall.
The clouds that surrounded them were threatening rain and perhaps that was the reason few people were here.
"It's funny, right here we are in sunshine and all around us it looks like it might be raining," she said, trying to make conversation.
"Yep, the weather has been queer this summer. Those meteorologists haven't got one weekend predicted right. What are they paying them for?"
Georgina didn't have an answer. "Well even if it rains, I'm very happy. I just won a fabulous figurine."
The old man's eyes looked a little sad. Then he smiled. "Yes, I saw you bid. I guess if that figurine had to go to anyone it might as well go to you. I hope you look after it. It was one of my daughter's most prized possessions."
Georgina suddenly felt her day was ruined. Why did they put one of their daughter's most cherished things up for sale?
"Oh, I didn't know; I can give it back. She shouldn't be without it if it's important to her."
The man said quietly, "that's a very kind offer, but you won it fair and square; besides my daughter can't use it now."
He looked beaten down by life's demands and Georgina wondered if it had anything to do with his daughter.
"What is your daughter's name?" she asked. He looked up, perhaps drawn out of his thoughts by her question.
"Oh, we named her Caitlin, after her great-grandmother. Her hair was redder than the maple leaves in autumn and her eyes were so green that you could think they were made of jade.
I bought that figurine at an auction very much like this. We didn't have the cash in those days to buy things new, so we made do, and auctions were a good way to cheer up the house.
When Caitlin saw it she was so excited I thought she'd have an accident with all that jumping up and down. I doubt she was much older than you. It was a lot of foolery and my wife lectured me for being so wasteful with our money. But that figurine made my daughter bubble over with joy and there were many evenings I saw her staring at it and talking to it.
Perhaps it was alive to her because I think sometimes she seemed to have a two-way conversation with it. Looking back, that was probably the best investment I ever made. It's not often that a father can do something and have his daughter overjoyed. That was nearly 50 years ago. The auctioneer at the time said it was Irish and I hoped it would bring my girl luck."
She died in one of those epidemics that swept through this country after the Second World War. It broke my wife's heart and she wasn't alive for too long after Caitlin died. We had only one child. I've been alone working my farm ever since, but now it's time for a change. They say the retirement home is a good place.