The long-prolific Hawkes (The Cannibal, 1950, etc., etc., etc.) last offered the tale of a French boy who (The Frog, 1996) swallowed a frog; this time, in a perfect brogue from first to last, an orphaned Irish girl tells how she becomes--but better hush there, since hers is a story that comes down to a single surprise at end. Thistle, however--real name Dervla O'Shannon--was left in a basket at the door of Saint Martha's home for foundlings, a great old pile of stone where, along with 30 or so others, she's raised (in maybe the best brief part of this brief little book) to the edge of puberty--around which time, on a group outing to Saint Clement's home for old soldiers, she meets a WW I veteran and ex-corporal named Teddy Stack (he's wearing his gas mask when Dervla first sets eyes on him), with whom--believe it or not--she falls madly in love. A symbolic embrace of history? A Joycean comment on the fate of Ireland? Whatever, much is in store for our Dervla--especially after Teddy gets kicked by the hoof of a jumping horse in a passing fox hunt, an injury that not only puts him into an amnesiac coma but also into the position (don't ask how) of the aged master of a grand, old, falling-down, gorgeously described manor house--the same half-abandoned house where Dervla (please, no questions) becomes first a scullery maid and then (disastrously) serving maid (she drops a whole roasted pig on the floor) before falling deathly ill, recovering in time to witness a second hunt, see a horse fall disastrously--and hear Teddy, its rider, suddenly knocked amnesia-free, re-declare his love to our Dervla before--but there's an end to it, for now. A bauble, really, and yet nevertheless--told in one long fine poetic unbroken Irish sigh--the bauble of a master indeed.