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Authors: Jenny Telfer Chaplin

Fortunes of the Heart (10 page)

Pearce nodded his head sagely.

“I have already said we will go, and go we shall. But we’ll
wait until there are no more leaks in the roof or until the weather improves.
Whichever is first.”

And there the matter had rested, with no amount of cajoling,
coaxing or ever tears of any avail in making Dadda change his mind.

By the time that the month of August was drawing to a close,
the sun was again shining from a cloudless blue sky. Not only that, but on the
22nd of August, the streets of Glasgow were ablaze with colour of a different
variety. From the topmost of every building, from each Civic office hung flags
and bunting. In short, Glasgow itself was decorated to the hilt. Further, it
was being said that not only had there been a flurry of repainting and an
additional ornate porch added to the Main Building of the Exhibition, but also the
statue of Robert Burns had been removed from the Grand Hall, there to make way
for an impressive, blue bedecked throne.

“Yes, it’s true, Isabella,” Daniel said. “The Queen herself
is coming to Glasgow – and this very day.”

Isabella clapped her hands in delight, and this action was
soon copied by Hannah, for whom movement and laughter of any kind was always a
delight.

Daniel ruffled Hannah’s coarse black hair affectionately as
he passed her go-chair. Then, looking up at Mammy, with head cocked on side, he
said in his quiet, thoughtful way: “Mammy. There’s far more flags and
excitement in the streets now for the Queen’s visit than there was for the
opening day itself when the Prince and Princess of Wales came. Why do you think
that should be?”

Kate raised her head from the pile of freshly ironed clothes
which she was about to hang up to air on the overhead wooden pulley. Glad of a
break from her over-warm task, she sank with a sigh into the nearest chair.

“You’re perfectly right, Daniel. People hereabouts are much
more impressed. at the prospect of this visit. Of course, many a one thought
she should have made an effort and opened it herself. But there’s another
reason ...”

Danny’s face posed the question and Kate went on: “Well, the
truth of the matter is this: Her Majesty has only once been in Glasgow, close
on forty years ago, if I understand it right. Seems she hated the grim, grey
skies, was appalled at the state of our slums, and said that she disliked the
City of Glasgow so much that she never wished to return.”

Daniel smiled.

“Seems like she’s changed her mind then; at least about
never coming back.”

Kate nodded.

“A woman’s privilege, Daniel. And if any woman knows about
privilege then it’s our beloved Queen Victoria. Mind you, I agree with her
about the state of Glasgow. Just wish that I could have taken one look, turned
my back on the grey, horrible place, and then dismissed it from mind. But then,
of course, I’m not a queen: not even the Queen of our close.”

Danny laughed, knowing instinctively that his own kind,
loving, gentle mother was much too backward at coming forward ever to aspire to
be that formidable matron who kept tramps, drunks, and wayward children at bay:
namely, the Queen of the Close.

She was, however, strong enough an authority in her own
household to chivvy her troops, lest they were too late for the grand parade
along
Sauchiehall
Street.

Rubbing her hands together in anticipation, Kate smiled at
her son and said: “Come on, Danny Boy. Let’s get a move on. Or it’ll be another
forty years before we see her Britannic Majesty and Queen Empress. You lift
Hannah’s go-chair down the stairs for me, and I’ll bring Jenny and Isabella –
not forgetting our pack of cut-bread and dripping. We can all wave our flags
and then eat our pieces in the park. Right, here we go.”

It was a tired but happy crew of children who returned later
that evening after a feast of flag-waving and cheering. And it later appeared
that no less a personage than the Queen herself had also had a good day.

For instead of just stopping-by on her way to her beloved
Balmoral
, as had been her stated intention, she visited
again privately two days later, when she showed ‘appropriate interest in the
Women’s and Indian Section.’

Better still, as far as the Kinnon family were concerned,
with the stamp of Royal approval now firmly adhering to the entire concept of
The Glasgow International Exhibition, Pearce decided the time had now come for
his own family, with the exception of Hannah, to make a cultural visit.

 
 
 

Chapter
19

 

The day chosen by Pearce for the family cultural outing was
a fine sunny Saturday at the end of August. By dint of working additional
overtime, not only had he amassed an extra spot of money for the great event,
he had also gained the rare privilege of a free Saturday afternoon. As the
children and Kate herself bustled about getting ready, Pearce sat at the
kitchen table, his money spread out before him, as he counted it into
separately allocated bundles.

“Right. Now as to the cost of admission: it will be a
shilling for you, Kate, a shilling for me, and sixpence each for Isabella,
Jenny, and Daniel. I make that three and sixpence altogether.”

It was a statement rather than a question, but even so, Kate
shook her head.

“Not so, Pearce.”

Her husband pursed his lips in annoyance.

“Forgive me, Kate,” and this in a tone of voice which begged
for no forgiveness, neither brooked any meddling by a stupid, uneducated woman.

He cleared his throat and repeated: “Forgive me, Kate, but
if there’s one thing I do know about, it’s counting. After all, I am working
with figures, and large columns of them at that, every day of my life at the
Fruit Market.”

Kate nodded, but beyond that made no comment.

“So, my dear good woman, if I say that the total admission fee
comes to three and sixpence, then that is exactly right.”

Again Kate shook her head, if anything even more vigorously
than before.

“No, Pearce, I’m sorry, but isn’t the entrance fee higher on
a Saturday?”

At once enlightenment dawned on his face and happy, as
always, to be able to correct her, he said: “You are correct in one point,
Kate. Yes, it is more expensive one day a week, but fortunately for us, not on
a Saturday. For some reason best known only to our City Fathers, on the
Thursday of each week, the entry fee jumps to an astronomical half-crown.”

Kate looked suitably impressed with this nugget of
information. Even so, she again, and much to the interest of Daniel, said:
“Your total is still wrong, Pearce. You are forgetting another sixpence for Hannah.”

At once her husband’s face darkened, and he pounded a
clenched fist on the table with such force that his carefully constructed piles
of money disintegrated and scattered in disarray across the width of the
oil-cloth covered table. He half-rose to his feet.

“Kate, let me get this straight. Right from the word go, I
said that this family cultural and – I hope – highly educational, visit would
exclude Hannah. Quite apart from the needless extra expense, it would be of no
possible interest to one of her mentality.”

Kate sucked in her breath over her teeth then, without a
minute’s hesitation, she launched into the attack. “Pearce. You talk about a
family outing. I would remind you that Hannah is a member of this family and a
much-loved one at that. And let me tell you this; if Hannah is excluded from
the outing, then we all stay at home. Of course, you yourself are at perfect
freedom to attend alone in all your glory.”

Even as she spoke, Kate was conscious of three pairs of
young and somewhat anxious eyes fixed upon her face.

The thought went through her mind: I’ll hate to disappoint
the others. But if that’s what I have to do, then so be it. For we are not
setting foot beyond this door without Hannah. And I’ll hate worst of all to let
Danny down, especially after he spent some of his precious money at the
Exhibition on buying me a wee souvenir box of sweets. Still, the decision is
Pearce’s, not mine.

Later that same day and after a right Royal battle of wills,
the family set out en mass on the great adventure.

Once arrived at the Exhibition, they wandered around the
sights, stalls, and exotic smells of the wide Main Avenue, while from the Grand
Hall beyond could be heard the strains of the daily organ recital. Daniel was
particularly enamoured of the many splendid ship models from such famous
shipbuilders as Fairfield Co. Ltd, who built not only cargo ships, but also
ironclads, luxury liners, and even millionaires’ pleasure boats.

When it became obvious not only that the rest of the Kinnon
clan had had more than their fill of ship models but that Daniel wanted to
linger longer at this display, it was Pearce himself who came up with what
appeared to be an amicable and universally approved suggestion. Turning to his
son, he leant forward and, at his most majestic, said: “Listen, Daniel, this is
what we’ll do: you stay on here with Hannah; after all, it doesn’t much matter
to her what she sees. I’ll take Mammy and the other two girls over to the Van
Houten’s
Dutch House. I believe that they serve excellent
cocoa there at
tuppence
a cup. And wee Isabella will
enjoy having it served by the girls in their national dress.”

It was arranged that they would all meet up later in the
Indian Street where it was felt there would be plenty with which to amuse even
Hannah, since many of the stallholders there sold all varieties of rich Indian
sweetmeats. Pearce was just turning away when suddenly he put a hand in his
pocket and, returning to his son’s side, held out a handful of coppers and two
silver
threepenny
bits.

“Here you are, Daniel. Treat Hannah and yourself to some
sweets. But not too many, we don’t want any upset stomachs. Right. We’ll be off
for that cocoa. We’ll meet up with you later. Good-bye for now.”

A bemused expression on his face, Daniel looked down in
wonder at the sum of money, far more than he had ever before received from his
father. He smiled. Oh. Yes. He would do Dadda’s bidding in getting a wee treat
for Hannah and himself. But in addition to the already mentioned sweets, he had
an additional treat in mind. It was one that he knew Hannah would love – even
though, for once, it had nothing whatever to do with eating.

It was an hour or so later when the family finally met up
again.

“Well, Daniel, I see from the way your jaws are going that
you found the sweet stall all right.”

Here, Pearce cast a fleeting glimpse at Hannah whose jaws
also were working overtime.

Pearce, in a rare good humour at the excellent way his two
girls and his wife, without the encumbrance of Hannah, had conducted themselves
at the Van
Houten
Dutch House, now detailed their
next move.

“We’ll have another half-hour or so in looking at the
working models: see how they make comfits; prepare sacks of Scott’s Midlothian
Oats; and if we’re lucky, we might even catch a glimpse of the Power Drop Biscuit
Machine. After that ... well, I’m going to treat us all to a High Tea. After
all, this is a real occasion in our lives.”

When, sometime later, it was time to choose which tea room
they would favour, again Pearce took charge. He refused absolutely, and
somewhat surprisingly, since he himself was now teetotal, to set foot into
Jenkins Temperance Refreshment Rooms.

But the reason became clear, to Kate at least, when on
closer examination, she saw that the restaurant was further billed as Working
Men’s Dining Rooms. The thought went through her mind: ‘Oh, dear me, no. That
would not be sufficiently grand for our high-born Pearce. And tucked in here
between the Dynamo Shed and the Machinery Court. ‘
Twould
never do.’

Some half-hour and footsore miles later, the family,
somewhat to their own surprise, found themselves ensconced in the genteel Royal
Bungalow, which itself occupied a prime position not only overlooking the
river, but also the bandstand and the beautifully illuminated Fairy Fountain.
In such an elegant setting, while Pearce seemed perfectly at home, Isabella and
Jenny did their best to cope with the stress of it all and when they spoke at
all, it was in the hushed tones normally reserved for the rare occasions when
Pearce took them to Mass at the High Anglican Church. Kate extended her little
finger, or
pinky
as Glaswegians called it, in what
she thought to be the formally correct mode of raising a cup to one’s lip in
polite society.

As Pearce looked round his family seated upright at the
snowy-white, linen-covered table with its heavy, silver cutlery, from the
self-satisfied smirk on his face it was clear to even the most casual observer
that he was congratulating himself on his well-behaved brood.

Jenny had been spooning up another helping of food for
Hannah. At that moment the unfortunate child moved, gagging on the food already
in her mouth. With a loud retching sound, which could be heard, much to the
disgust of the elegant ladies and their handsome escorts, all over the opulent
restaurant, Hannah vomited the mess far and wide. If ever there was a display
of projectile vomiting then this was it. Some of the spewed-forth vomit now
dripped from Isabella’s lovely golden ringlets, there were splashes of the
foul-smelling mess on Pearce’s best and only silk waistcoat. Even worse, a
well-upholstered and richly-dressed matron at the next table had been the
recipient of a goodly share of the vomit which had now come to rest on the
ledge of her well-endowed bosom. On all sides, there was much confusion and
pushing away of well-filled plates, as with expressions of disgust and much
wrinkling of patrician noses, the patrons decided that the meal had come to an
untimely finish.

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