page 1 of 3
This chapter begins with a flashback to another summer twelve years earlier in Brooklyn, when Francie's parents, Johnny Nolan and then Katie Rommely first meet. Katie works with her best friend, Hildy O'Dair in the Castle Braid factory, and Hildy dates a boy named Johnny Nolan. One night, Johnny finds a boy for Katie, so that the four of them can go out together. Katie didn't like him much, but is taken by Johnny when she sees Johnny dance. When he gives her a courtesy dance, she decides that looking at him and listening to him are worth slaving her entire life. This may have been a mistake, but she wants no one else. Kate and Johnny marry New Year's day, 1901, after knowing each other not even four months.
Thomas Rommely, Katie's hateful father, will never forgive Katie for marrying. As the Rommely's were from Austria, he only speaks German; the girls' mother refuses to let them speak anything but English at home, to avoid his cruelty. Mary Rommely, Katie's mother, is a saint, a devout Catholic who believes in all things supernatural. She can not read or write, and believes her husband when he tells her he is the devil. Her daughters and Francie all inherited her soft, soothing voice.
Sissy, Thomas and Mary's first child, did not go to school since Mary realized too late that education was free in America. A "highly sexed" girl, Sissy married very young to a fireman named Jim, whom Sissy always called John. When she delivered four dead babies, Sissy believed it was Jim's fault and eventually married another man (who she also calls John) without getting divorced. Sissy delivered four more dead babies before leaving the second John, going to work at the rubber factory, and having a succession of lovers. Her love for children grew stronger with every dead baby she delivered. Finally she married a third John who works at the magazine company.
Eliza, Mary and Thomas's second daughter, neither pretty nor fiery, joined a nunnery, taking the name Sister Ursula, and growing facial hair.
Evy, the third, married Willie Flittman young, and had three children. She tried hard to be refined, and wished her children to be musical like their father. She made her daughter quit studying the fiddle, when the teacher required her to take off her shoes and stockings at the lessons. Evy could mimic people very well, especially her husband.
Whereas the last chapter details the personal histories of the "strong" Rommely women, this one addresses the "weak" and "talented" Nolan men. Ruthie and Mickey Nolan came to the United States from Ireland, and had four boys—Andy, Georgie, Frankie, and Johnny, who are all well-dressed, singing waiters, who all die before they turn thirty-five. Only Johnny leaves children. Andy has consumption and never marries his fiancée, Francie Melaney, before dying on a fine pillow his brothers buy him as a luxury. The three remaining boys vow to take care of their mother, but six months later, Johnny marries Katie. The pillow is then given to Katie as a wedding present, and is used when anyone gets sick. Frankie dies in a freak drunken accident, and Georgie dies at twenty-eight.
Take a Study Break!