Chapter twenty-five : 1914
‘It had been a gloriously warm spring and the flower scent and colour was overwhelming. Working in the garden had been all Frank Black had ever wanted, preferring the sound of the rake and the hoe to the noise and chatter of people trying to make conversation.
‘His eyes followed the horizon around. It was too beautiful for there to be a war, surely? He watched as another frigate joined the grey steel filling Belfast Lough. Warships of every size crowded thewater. The angular steel shapes of the ships and the gun emplacements he could see across on the southern shore were so different from the gardens, the plants that he tended, the natural rhythm and cycle of life, sustaining and comforting and reassuring. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed a movement. A small black and white cat was making its way carefully through the herbaceous border to an ash tree where several finches and wagtails were enjoying themselves. Frank’s deep voice became lighter as he called the cat over.
‘Cass, away from there!’
‘The cat lowered her body and looked at him before deciding to continue. Frank strode over and caught her.
‘No, ye don’t.’
‘The cat squirmed and wriggled to be let down, but then realised the uselessness of that and lay back, enjoying being placated. As he continued to stroke the thick fur of the cat, Frank’s mind drifted to the thought of joining up. He felt sure it would come to that in the end. It wasn’t just the pressure he sensed when he wandered down into the city and saw the recruitment hoardings; he knew also that the Hendersons were encouraging their younger staff to ‘do the right thing.’ Their view was replicated in the papers and in dinner party conversations. The war would not last long they all said. The older staff would be able to manage for that short time.
‘Frank didn’t want to go. His world was the garden at Garraiblagh. It wasn’t Ireland and it wasn’t Britain. He knew what it was like when he had to uproot a plant and place it somewhere else against its will. The plant never thrived. Frank felt his roots were so deeply embedded he could not imagine anything different.’