Nellie Moore*

Chapter 25

Ice House

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Captain Petterson and the crew of the Caesar were sorry to see their good cook sign off, but wished Ragazzo well in his new life.

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For the next few days Ragazzo went round to see his old friends and acquaintances, scattered by the destruction of Hungerford Market; to see Battista Bolla and Peter in the chocolate shop in Holborn Hill and to talk to Luke Corazza and the other men who worked now in the ice business.

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On Saturday, the Gattis held a great family party in the gallery behind the restaurant, in honour of the new Luigi Derighetti. Agostino had been commissioned to fit Ragazzo out in a new suit, and when he arrived at the restaurant the whole family was there to welcome him - Signore Giuseppe and Giovanni with their families and Carlo and Maria with the girls. Little Agostina had practised her "Welcome Cousin Luigi" and the other girls, Clara and Nina hung about him. Rosa made sure she sat beside him.

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The table was loaded with food. Maria, who now had a big house with servants, had, nevertheless, made the ravioli with her own hands. There were toasts and speeches of welcome and a promise from Carlo that he would take Luigi to the Ticino to meet his Derighetti relations. The signora teasingly suggested that perhaps Luigi might find there a nice Ticino girl as a wife. Ragazzo was delighted, warmed and rather overwhelmed by all this attention and he found it very strange to sit in a chair and have others to wait on him.

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In the evening, Agostino, Stephano and Cousin Giuseppe took Ragazzo across the river to Signor Gatti's new Music Hall. The entertainment was in full swing when they arrived, the stage brilliantly lit, the darkened auditorium, with its shaded lights, dotted with tables and chairs, where the audience sat, eating and drinking. There was a juggling act followed by a very popular comedian, who had the audience roaring with laughter. Finally he sang an old song, all the audience joined in and the curtain fell.
"Come now, that's the interval," said Giuseppe, "Let's get something to drink."
The bar at the back of the auditorium was crowded and noisy and it took time for Giuseppe to order the stout, which Ragazzo had never drunk before. They were standing sipping their drinks when the lights faded and the Chairman of the Music Hall banged his gavel on the table, announcing the next act.
"And now ladies and gentlemen, for one of our newest choristers, our Irish nightingale, singing one of those lilting songs from the land of ole Ireland. Ladies and gentlemen, pray silence for the lively, lovely, luscious, Miss Nellie Moore!"
The curtains swung back and there was a pretty girl in a green dress and bonnet.

"I wish I was on yonder hill,
Tis there I'd sit and cry my fill,
Till every tear would turn a mill,
Is go detu, ma vournin slan."

There was noise in the bar, chatter and the clink of glasses. Ragazzo stepped forward to listen to the song. There was something about the girl which was familiar - the auburn curls, the fresh complexion. Where had he seen her before?

"I'll dye my petticoat, I'll dye it red
And round the world I'll beg my bread...."

"Who is she?" Ragazzo whispered as Agostino joined him.
"Who is she, this Nellie Moore?"
"That's not her real name. That's Carrie Pye - you remember her?"
That was it. It was Carrie!
"She came to work here as a barmaid, when the Hall opened and begged Uncle Carlo to give her a chance."

"I wish, I wish, I wish in vain,
I wish I had my heart again ....."

Carrie sang on, her voice gathering strength in the lilting melody. The noise at the bar abated and the rest of the audience fell silent caught by the sadness of the song.

"But now my love has gone to France,
To try his fortune to advance.
If he ever comes back
Tis but a chance.
Is go detu, ma vournin slan."

A moment's hush and the audience burst into applause. Carrie curtsied, bowed and the curtain came down.
"She is a real nightingale," said Giuseppe, clapping vigorously.
"You'll see her soon. She'll be up here, serving in the bar."

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And so she was. She had changed her dress, but there was rouge on her cheeks and her green eyes were very deep and large.
"Carrie." She turned and looked at him.
"Ragazzo?" He smiled at her.
"I heard you were back." Then she said shyly, "How smart you look!"
He wanted to say, you look beautiful. Instead he said, "The song was lovely." She bobbed him a curtsey. "Thank you, Signor Derighetti."
"Don't call me that;" he said quickly, "I'm still Ragazzo." She smiled back at him.
"Carrie, when can we meet?"
A group of men called from the other end of the bar, "Here Carrie, love, we need a drink down here. Service, Carrie."
"I have to go," said Carrie, picking up a tray of glasses. "But I'm here every evening except Sundays."

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It was late when the young men came out of the Hall. Giuseppe proposed taking a cab, but Ragazzo, tired by the events of the day and the heat and smoke of the Hall, decided to walk. He set off to Hungerford Bridge, forgetting that the little bridge he knew, had gone and the way across was now a footpath along the new railway track.

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Halfway across he stopped and leaning on the rail, he looked over the river. The last few days, so warm and welcoming, had, in some ways, confused and troubled him. Luigi Derighetti - the name ran round his head. He had always longed for a family, now at last he was part of one, but who was Luigi Derighetti and where did he belong? In London or in the Ticino? He heard a train come puff-puffing out of the station. It began to gather speed. Suddenly there was a deafening noise and he was enveloped in a cloud of smoke. There were sparks flying everywhere and he felt them burn on his cheek and hands. When the smoke cleared, he looked up to the gaunt ruins of Hungerford Hall. He knew then that London was where he belonged. In spite of his new name, he was still Ragazzo. And he always would be.

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Whatever Signor Carlo said, he was going to be a confectioner - perhaps even a famous one. He hoped he would be a credit to the family. Tomorrow he would start again in the kitchens, learning his trade, and on his first evening off, he would come over the bridge ............. to see Carrie.

The End