One afternoon near Christmas I heard Brother Dempsey discussing the holidays with another of the Brothers. I kept my eyes on the book and pretended to be deeply involved in A Tale of Two Cities but my ears were intent all the same.
They were speaking in low tones and I could only catch some words.
‘Whatever you say’.
‘No use in making two bites of the cherry, eh ?’
‘What do you say then?’
‘Well, you ought to know best’.
‘Very good. Let’s let them off today’.
Outwardly I looked calm and collected: inwardly I was trembling with excitement and joy. I whispered the good news to the boy next to me. Soon the whole school had it: the BBC could not have transmitted it as quickly.
Our suspense was ended at last. We were free!
Cheering wildly, an avalanche of boys crashed down the stairs and into the street.
Disengaging myself from the merry rout I gazed longingly at the mechanical toys in Joe Irwin’s window and then at the iced cakes, pink and white, at the sugar-topped buns and the glistening currant loaves in McCann’s shop window.
I can still remember the frost on the sleepers of the railtrack as I traversed Dublin Bridge. It glinted in the pale, wintry sunlight. I shuddered with cold but what odds?
I trembled too at a great and wondrous rapture. Standing on that dreary, prosaic railway platform I was in tune with the infinite. Before me was all the magic of Christmas: its spiritual peace and all the full splendour of my youth.
Gone beyond recall are those days … gone!
… back to start of this? …