Rory O'Malley was picked out in an Irish orphanage by the parents of a 12-year-old boy who looked just like him, with red hair and freckles. When we first meet Rory, he is escaping from the house because he finds it creepy to be living out the memories and expectations of still-grieving parents.
He explains to an evidently inebriated man he meets and helps on the road to Dublin that "they wanted me to be their dead boy." He explains also to the man, Lionel Usher, that he has no relatives. Usher observes: "You have too few [relatives] and I have too many. Have some of mine." In the end, Usher is discovered by relatives and he brings Rory home with him, claiming him as a nephew. But in the morning Usher doesn't remember his offer, and Rory moves on.
At left is a drawing of Rory in the middle of Dublin. He walks by Nelson's Pillar, which was then (about 1950; the Pillar was destroyed in 1966) in the center of O'Connell Street. From there he is advised to get food in the market on Moore Street. At the market he comes across two girls in gypsy dress selling paper flowers. The younger one, Rory's age, is accused by a baker of stealing a cake. Rory notices a yellow stray dog eating the cake and he points it out to the baker, earning the gratitude of the girls, who disappear. Attention is then focused on the dog, who would have been taken in by the police if Rory didn't claim it as his own and pay for the cake. Rory and Sandy are picked up by a boy with a wagon delivering potatoes. Sandy leads Rory to the place where the gypsies (also known in Ireland as tinkers or travelers) had made their camp. Sandy is welcomed by the other dogs because he belonged to the flower girls. Rory is welcomed because the flower girls had explained the story of Rory's successfully defending them. Zena, the younger flower girl, and Rory become very attached to each other. Rory learns to speak Romany, the language of the gypsies, and learns much from them about their customs and about their way of life and beliefs. Rory in turn tells stories from his life and in time is given the high compliment of being called "Penengro" - the Romany word for story-teller.
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