Near Athy, Kildare, 2pm, The Lock keeper

Only a small wind stirred the reeds on the banks of the canal. All around the great bogs of the midlands lands stretched, dark and sombre, until the eye reached the blue line of hills far in the distance. Kate sat on the bank just by the lock with the black and white collie, Ned. They were waiting for the Guinness barge to arrive. Kate was under strict instructions not to move from her post until she had opened the lock for it to go through. It was her father's job to do this, and the reason why they had a home in the white cottage at the edge of the canal. But today her father had needed to spend the day out on the bog - it was a breezy, bright day, perfect for stacking the turf to dry. Kate didn't mind; opening the lock was heavy work, but she was a strong girl, and she liked to have a chat and a joke with the bargemen as they went through. Kate knew them all, and every one of the strong, placid horse who pulled their barges. Turf going one way, into Dublin; Guinness going the other, out from James' Gate. Kate had never been to Dublin, and she thought she would like to see it one day. But her real dream was to join her older sister Annie in America.

If only Annie would send the 2 needed to get her over; she had promised she would, before she left them. Annie had had it hard when she went over at first, but in her letters she sounded as if she was doing well now. Now Kate had finished National School she was more than ready to go too. She had been told by the teacher that if she went for a scholarship to the nuns in Athy she might get it, for she was a smart girl, but she was needed by her mother. Anyway, her father said, what was the point in educating a girl, when they would only go and get married? So any money there was to spare was put forward to pay for Jim's education, in the hopes he would make it to the seminary in Maynooth next year. Having a son a priest would be the fulfillment of both her parents' wildest dreams.

A motor car went sputtering by on the road and Kate stood up to watch it. She had seen the Gordon Bennet race pass by last year and had fallen in love with the idea of such speed. Her little brother had started to take notes of the registration of all the cars that passed. Her father had told them since the beginning of the year that every car now had to be registered. That fellow was surely going faster than the speed limit of twenty miles an hour, thought Kate. Perhaps one day she would arrive back home in just such a car, having made her fortune in America.

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