The Streets of New York

Amanda Tanguay
Jul 10 · 15 min read

That night, the women stayed up for hours. Rosie asked about the newspaper clipping she had found, and Kate explained that all three sisters were responsible for the success of The Sullivan Sisters. Hanorah, being the eldest of the three, was the business manager and costume designer.

In fact, Hanorah met Rosie’s father, Connor McMurray, while shopping at a fabric store in the garment district. He was an artist who excelled at drawing the most fashionable designs of the times, and she was a talented dressmaker, so together they began designing costumes for the vaudeville act. Their creativity made them a perfect match and their working relationship soon turned romantic. When Hanorah had Rosie, she chose to focus on a career in dressmaking rather than one in entertainment. And although they were sad to lose their sister when she moved to Chicago, her sisters knew it was the right decision for the McMurray family.

Rosie felt right at home with her aunts, as if she’d known them all her life. At the end of the long evening filled with New York City stories, Rosie took a quick and soothing bath in their porcelain tub. Then it was off to bed, where an exhausted Rosie fell asleep the instant her head landed on her pillow.

The next morning, Rosie was awakened by the tiny patch of warm sun streaming through her window with the brick view. She rolled over to escape the light, but soon after, the cat began purring into her ear.

“Yes, Ireland, I’m up,” Rosie croaked, rolling out of bed. She could hear her aunts were already up and bustling about the sitting room, probably making a delicious breakfast. Rosie stepped out of her nightdress and found her under-things. Getting dressed every morning was a chore, what with the many layers a young lady was expected to wear. First came the camisole, then the pantalette, corset, knickers, bustle pad and, lastly, the petticoat; all of which were made of pure white cotton and trimmed in lace. Among her wardrobe she found a long pink skirt with white trim, and a high-necked white blouse with matching pink ribbons on the shoulders. Tucking the blouse into the skirt, she fastened around her waist an ivory-colored belt. She then sat to put on her white stockings and white kid boots. Rosie completed the outfit with a beautifully brocaded ivory jacket.

She studied herself in the dresser mirror before leaving; it was nice to see clean clothes after traveling three days in the same outfit. She surmised that in her outfit she looked like a very prim and proper city girl, and she’d fit right in to her new surroundings! Although they were not very well off, her father and mother were very clever when it came to dressmaking and could cheaply replicate the most fashionable designs of the time. Rosie treasured each outfit she owned, because they had been made with love and care. Each dress made for Rosie was marked at the left cuff with an embroidered rose, a special token from her mother. It was like a reminder of her parent’s love for Rosie, for it was always there with her.

“Good morning, dear aunts, I’m ready for a day in New York City!” Rosie announced as she entered the main room.

Kate, who was washing dishes, pointed to the small oak table. “Good morning, Rosie! I have breakfast for you right here.” Her impressive breakfast included biscuits, eggs, slices of bacon, and a glass of milk. Rosie’s empty stomach, and her desire to explore New York City, prompted her to finish the delicious meal as quickly as possible.

“So, what are we going to do today? Visit Manhattan? See Central Park?” Rosie dabbed at her mouth with a napkin. Before Kate had a chance to answer, Brigid entered the sitting room from her bedroom, dressed in a fashionable robe. Rosie stood to greet her aunt with a kiss, but Brigid backed away suddenly.

“Don’t get too close, dear Rosie, I’m not feeling perfectly well this morning. We were going to take you on a whirlwind tour of New York City, but instead, I think Kate will just have to take you to the market.” Brigid’s voice was hoarse and she had deep circles under her eyes from lack of sleep.

Rosie instantly felt anxious and concerned for her aunt’s well being. “I’m sorry I kept you up late, Brigid. I feel like I am to blame for your sudden illness. Maybe we should stay to take care of you?” Brigid’s pale face reminded Rosie of her mother’s pale face when she was first starting to get sick.

“Don’t fret about me, I will be fine, but you and Kate should still go out. Besides, we need a few things from the market,” Brigid insisted, and then suddenly began to cough. Rosie and Kate exchanged worried glances.

“Kate can stay here and take care of you while I go to the market. I can explore the city on my own for a little while,” Rosie suggested.

Kate dried her hands on her apron. “Is that really a good idea, Rosie? I don’t want you getting lost on your first day here. I can accompany you to the market and we will-” Brigid’s hard, persistent cough interrupted her sister.

Rosie nodded her head decisively. “It is a very good idea because we need things at the market and I am also eager to explore the city. Just point me in the right direction and I won’t get lost. I am seventeen years old, you know.” Rosie smiled, knowing her argument was a good one.

“If you promise to be careful, then I will stay and take care of Brigid.” Kate smiled at Rosie and handed her coughing sister a steaming mug of tea.

Rosie smiled back with excitement and jumped straight out of her chair. “I promise to be careful!”

“The market is right down the street at Grand and Broadway. Turn right when you leave the theater, walk about seven blocks, and then you’ll see it on your left hand side. Here is a list of some things we need.” Kate handed Rosie a list and a basket for the groceries.

“There’s something special we bought for you,” Brigid managed between sips of tea. “It’s not too fancy, but it will keep the sun out of your eyes!” She then fetched a beautiful hat from above the kitchen cabinets. Shaped like a gentleman’s boater, the hat was made of straw, with a wide ivory ribbon encircling the top. In the front were ribbons and fabric roses, which made for a beautiful adornment on the otherwise simple hat.

“Thank you for thinking of me, dear aunts, this is a beautiful hat! I will run straight to the market and I won’t be gone long; I want to hear more stories when I get back!” Rosie happily ran over to the large mirror. She found a few hairpins in a decorative bowl and pinned back some of her curls. She then fastened the hat on her head with a pearl hatpin. At the bottom of the basket, she found a few dollars in various coins. Smiling at her aunts, she opened the door to the main hallway. “See you soon!” Rosie waved goodbye and shut the door behind her. Brigid and Kate each made her feel loved in special ways. How lucky she was to have come to live with them!

Out on the sunny street, she carefully took in all the things she hadn’t seen the night before. Besides swarms of people, she saw stalls filled with merchants selling goods, musicians practicing their instruments on the sidewalk, and boys selling newspapers. She started down the street towards the market, excited to begin this new day in her new life.

Nearing the third block, Rosie came upon two young men playing a game of marbles on the sidewalk. The gutter was filled with water, so she was forced to stop and figure out a different way around the marble game.

“Oh, I’m sorry! Verne! Ned! Hold the game. This beautiful lady would like to get by.” A third young man now stood before her. He wore a faded green shirt under a black serge suit, with a matching black bowler hat. He was about Rosie’s height, with dark black hair and smart green eyes. The others on the sidewalk scrambled to clear the way, knocking their marbles out of position.

An aggie rolled to her feet, and Rosie bent down to pick up it up. “I’m sorry,” she said with remorse, “I didn’t mean to interrupt your game. I just need to get by to get to the market.” She handed the aggie to the young man in green.

“No trouble at all, miss,” said one of the other men, now standing. He removed his tan bowler hat and placed it over his chest, letting his sandy-colored hair blow freely in the breeze. “A gentleman always rises for a passing lady.” He was tall and lanky, dressed in a similar serge suit, but in tan.

Rosie smiled sweetly, “Thank you, that is kind. Well, pardon me, and have a nice day.”

As she began to pass, the other marble player stopped her by stepping in her path. His features were sharp and edgy under his wide bowler. He brought his empty hand up to her face and, magically conjuring a marble from her ear, presented it to her with a smile.

“That was quite a trick! Bravo, sir.” Rosie congratulated him with a polite smile and a tip of her hat, and she was on her way again.

“You can call me Verne.”

Rosie stopped and turned to face the player. He was shorter and skinnier than the other two. “Pleased to meet you, Verne. My name is Rosie.” The others now stepped forward, eager to be introduced as well.

“My name is Ned,” said the tall one with sandy hair, bowing for her with great majesty.

“And my name is Alphonso,” said the one with the green shirt, removing his hat. “Can we be of any service to you on this fine and beautiful day?” With black hair so long it nearly covered his dark green eyes, Alphonso had to shake it out his field of vision with each sentence. At last, he put his hat back on, which seemed to hold the unruly locks in place. “That basket looks awfully small for a trip to the market. Might you need our assistance in carrying a few things back to your place of residence?” He sounded very prim and proper, like an educated gentleman.

“No, thank you, I’m fine. There are very few things that I need today.” Rosie smiled pertly; she had to be cautious of strangers in an unfamiliar city.

“You have obviously never been to our market before!” Ned’s voice came deep and booming.

“You might need only a few things, but you’ll find plenty of stuff you’ll want,” said Alphonso. “Am I right, boys?” The others quickly nodded and gestured in agreement. He was clearly the leader of the trio. “Let us accompany you to the market. It would be our pleasure to escort you and help you carry your groceries.” Alphonso stuck his hand out for her to shake, which she did.

“You are correct, I have never been to the market here. Very well, then, I accept your offer,” she said, slightly amused by his politeness. Without asking, Verne took her basket. Alphonso gave Rosie his arm, which she took, and the quartet headed off down the sidewalk.

Ned walked in front next to Verne, but he quickly turned to walk backwards. “Miss Rosie, you must be from out of town, if you haven’t seen our market before.”

Alphonso guided her past holes in the walkway. “I’m guessing you’re from Chicago, am I right? I can always spot a Chicago accent when I hear one.”

“Why yes, I am from Chicago. But I’m now living here with my aunts.” The horse drawn carriages and sounds of children playing reminded her of the streets back home in Chicago.

“Wonderful! Then we can show you around this beautiful city. Watch the puddle!” Alphonso warned, lifting her over, his large hands around her waist.

“Thank you, Alphonso.” Rosie was amused by the three young men. She didn’t have many friends back in Chicago, especially those of the opposite gender. And from the way Alphonso, Verne, and Ned were talking with her, she found she liked being the center of attention. She felt like a princess being escorted by three helpful cavaliers! Rosie started to blush with excitement. Her aunts would be glad to know she was already making friends after just one day in New York!

They arrived at the market, and the three young men eagerly helped Rosie find all her groceries. They told her stories and interesting tidbits about the city. Verne had disappeared for a while, returning with a gift of rock candy.

They were nearing the spot where Rosie had first met the trio, when suddenly a boy came running down the sidewalk, his head buried in a newspaper he was earnestly reading. He looked up at the last second, but that didn’t give him enough time to stop from bumping straight into Verne’s stomach and Rosie’s groceries.

“Watch it, kid, I’ve got important stuff here!” Verne snarled. The little boy clutched a stack of papers to his chest as he steadied himself from the impact.

“Yeah,” Ned laughed sarcastically, “and you don’t want to drop those important papers.”

“I’m sorry, guys!” The little boy looked quickly at Rosie, and then added fearfully, “I didn’t mean it.” The boy had curly blonde hair under a tan cap, and his plump angelic face reminded Rosie of a cherub from an old painting.

“Pay attention next time, kid!” Ned struck the boy’s papers, landing them flat in a dirty puddle in the gutter. Water splashed the boy’s britches and the inked headlines started to run. The newspaper title and the date, “June 1st, 1899,” became a smudge. The little boy pleaded as Verne grabbed his suspenders and pulled him toward the fence opposite the sidewalk.

“Verne, stop it!” Rosie yelled, instantly aware of Verne and Ned’s intentions. She put a hand on Alphonso’s shoulder. “Please, tell them to stop! This boy bumped into us accidentally and meant no harm.”

“Accident or no accident, Miss Rosie,” Ned grunted, lifting the wriggling boy in the air, “he’ll have to learn not to do that again.” With that, Ned hooked the boy’s suspenders over the fence, leaving him dangling above the ground.

“Besides, we’re not hurting him,” said Verne, “just having a little fun, that’s all.” Verne poked and taunted the boy who struggled desperately to be freed.

“Unless the definition has been changed, I don’t think this is ‘fun’ at all,” Rosie snapped with sarcasm as she pushed Alphonso out of the way and rushed to the little boy’s aid.

“You should listen to your girl, Alphonso. She’s got the right idea about this situation.” A tall young man was suddenly standing on the sidewalk in front of them, facing Verne and Ned with an angry look. He had a gray newsboy’s cap, worn backwards over dark brown hair.

“I am most certainly not his girl!” Rosie corrected the new stranger, a touch of anger in her voice. Using all her strength, she then managed to lift the boy up to release him from the fence. He held onto her, however, like a monkey. The small boy could be no more than nine years old.

“You don’t know what’s going on here, Rosie,” said Alphonso with a snarl. “Stay out of this.” He then stepped toward the newcomer. “Watch it, Liam. I’ve warned you before about crossing the line and fighting fights that aren’t yours.” The young man named Liam took a step closer, silently challenging Alphonso. Rosie could tell by the way his brown jacket fit, that he was more muscular and athletic than Alphonso. He wore brown pants and a brown vest over a white button shirt with a turned-down collar, just like the rest of the newsboys Rosie had seen on the street.

“Talk about crossing the line, Alphonso!” Rosie finally set the boy down and she bent her body to be at his level. “How much were those papers?”

“I don’t remember how many I had left, miss,” peeped the boy. Rosie could see he was very near to tears, his chin quivered slightly.

“Here,” said Rosie, handing the boy all her change.

“No, miss, you don’t have to do this!”

A shocked blush tinted the boy’s cheeks and Rosie squeezed his hand. “If they give you any more trouble, come and find me at Grand Theater. My name is Rosaleen Sullivan McMurray.” Rosie shot an angry glance at Liam for calling her ‘Alphonso’s girl,’ grabbed her basket out of Verne’s hand, and strode off down the street toward the theater.

“You’re lucky, newsboys. If there wasn’t a lady present, you’d both be facedown in that puddle.” Alphonso had a threatening tone in his voice that Rosie did not find appealing. He and his friends were now chasing after her. “Miss Rosie! Wait! We’re sorry!” She picked up speed, not running, but not quite walking. She was angry with them, and in no mood for talking.
“Rosie,” said Alphonso, grabbing her wrist.

“Come on, we were just playing around,” pleaded Ned, stepping in front and blocking her path.

“Oh, is that right? Picking on a little boy who accidentally bumped into Verne? That’s not what I call playing. Out of my way, Ned.” Rosie used her basket to push past the boys, but Alphonso only tightened his grip on her wrist.

“Rosie, we’re sorry.” Verne now stepped in, removing his hat and placing it over his heart. “We’re never like this. It must be the change of temperature lately.”

“I’m not so sure,” Rosie scoffed at his ridiculousness.

With a tug on her wrist, Alphonso turned her back to face him. He gave her a bit of a pout, and his eyes grew dark with shame. Rosie could read people by looking into their eyes. Her mother always said they were the “windows to the soul.”

Alphonso looked, and sounded, serious. “I think it’s just the excitement of showing our beautiful, new friend our fine city. Let us take you out tomorrow. We’ll prove to you that we are perfect gentlemen, I promise.” He then lifted her gloved hand to his lips and kissed it softly. “Please, give us a second chance, sweet lady.”

Though her stomach was tight with anger, her heart melted at his sincerity. “Fine. I will give you all a second chance.” Rosie rolled her eyes in exasperation to show the young men she hadn’t completely forgiven them. But although she was angry, she was also deeply flattered by Alphonso’s kind words.

“Wonderful!” Ned’s tall lanky form began to dance a jig. “You can come to work with us tomorrow! It will be a lot of fun.”

“I hope that this ‘fun’ has a different meaning to you than the last time you said that,” said Rosie. “I hope to never see you act that way again.” Her warning was quite stern and she felt like a mother chastising her misbehaved children.

“We are perfect gentlemen,” Alphonso insisted again. Verne, Ned, and Alphonso bowed smartly. Alphonso kept his head raised slightly, his gaze meeting hers with a smile.

“I hope so,” said Rosie, allowing her new friends, the perfect gentlemen, to escort her home.


Before falling asleep later that evening, Rosie spent a few moments looking through the leather bound journal she had brought from Chicago. The journal was her most important possession because it contained sketches and illustrations of dress designs that her father had drawn. Flipping through page after page of fashionable young ladies in daywear and fancy evening gowns, Rosie was reminded of how talented her father was at drawing and how skillful her mother was at making his sketches become real. The two of them were a perfect pair; like pencil and paper, or needle and thread. A heart-warming sentiment spread over Rosie, a mix of sadness and happiness all at once. She missed her mother and father greatly and that feeling would never go away. Also, she was so grateful for all the time spent with them, and how much they absolutely loved her, and that feeling would never go away either.

Rosie flipped to the blank pages of the journal; there were many of those, and she suddenly felt a pang of remorse in her chest. She had spent plenty of days and nights watching her father work; she knew how to draw figures, to use shading to indicate depth, and to use heavy and light strokes to create movement on a flat piece of paper. Her father and mother encouraged her to sketch, so some of the illustrations in the journal were hers. Since they passed away, she could not muster the courage to draw a single figure in the journal. As much as she wanted to, she felt that by doing so would mar the memory of her parents and their work. She longed to draw the figure of a young woman and dress her in a fashionable gown. Once or twice she saw an image in her head and put a pencil to the paper, but she could not etch a single stroke.

With a soft sigh, Rosie closed the journal and placed it on the dresser beside her bed. “Maybe tomorrow I’ll draw.” She had unsuccessfully said that to herself many times in the last few weeks.


Chapters

A New Chapter
The Streets of New York
Newsboys
The Replacement
A Night at Grand Theater
Newsboy for a Day
A Smart and Stylish Girl
Fireworks
Lucky
A Day at The Breakers
More Fireworks
An Empty Heart
Life Imitating Art
Corps-a-corps
Unexpected News
All Questions, No Answers
An Evening to Remember
The Fox
Lessons
The Return

Wild Irish Rosie

A new life on the vaudeville stage brings love and adventure in this historical romance by Amanda Tanguay.

Amanda Tanguay

Written by

Director. Choreographer. Actor. Writer. Mom.

Wild Irish Rosie

A new life on the vaudeville stage brings love and adventure in this historical romance by Amanda Tanguay.

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