Every family has its grievances. There is someone in the family circle who is disagreeable, disgruntled, or simply revolting, and being forced to spend the better part of a holiday in the company of such immense delights is as uncomfortable as it is undesirable. While Cabhrin Donnegal is not disagreeable or undesirable, trying to get him to visit is like pushing a cart sideways, and while no one likes to force him into paying his respects to the family, around the holidays his absence cannot but be felt:
who knew Cabhrin knew him as a first mate one of Frewyn’s premiere trade
vessel, one reputable for its fishing and conveyance services along the
northern and eastern coasts, supplying the kingdom with goods form the north,
and as some reports implied, of fending off several attacks from Livanese
pirates, which Cabhrin had himself never confirmed, probably for fear of
worrying his mother. Cabhrin’s place on the Bear was one that all who went to
sea knew well, and though not yet a captain even after many years under his own
captain’s tutelage, Cabhrin was talked of everywhere as being one of the best
sailors in the continents. It gratified Calleen to be able to boast of her son
as being skilled in his profession, as much as any of her other children could
be, but while Cabhrin was renowned at the ports from Sethshire to Kileen, his
reputation as a dutiful and attentive son was wanting. Adaoire was aware of
what Cabhrin’s shore leave meant, and while their mother might talk with
excitement of how excellent a son Cabhrin was, glorifying the Donnegal name on
the seas and working tirelessly toward his captaincy, Adaoire’s furrowed brow
and downcast eyes conveyed very different feelings. He could not share in his
mother’s enthusiasm being well acquainted with the minutiae of Cabhrin’s
situation. Never would Adaoire keep news from his mother-- he should never omit
anything from one of Breigh’s letters that would give her some semblance of
reprieve from her material agitations-- but Adaoire had half a mind to return
the letter with one of his own, castigating his brother for being so close to
home and purposely abstaining from a visit. Glad as he was that Breigh would be
spending the holiday with somebody, as the lonely master of the royal dairy was
compelled to work every holiday and often spent holidays amoungst piggins and
cheese rounds, but Adaoire could have wished Cabhrin at sea if he would not
come home; his visiting with Breigh would give only give the master dairyman
further excuse to stay in Glaoustre, and as Breigh was a most devoted
correspondent, he would tell his mother everything without regard for her more
secretive feelings. Every Donnegal was aware of the pain Cabhrin’s absence
caused their mother, though she effected to conceal her distress with glowing
professions, for while Cabhrin’s visit to his brother might appear as though he
were making a very particular visit, full of goodwill and solicitation, his
visits were a trick, meant to detract from the real reason Cabhrin preferred
Breigh’s conversancy to theirs. Cabhrin never came home, a notion which always
made Adaoire seethe with resentment; their mother might justify Cabhrin’s
personal deficiencies with contrived meritorious claims, but Adaoire and Aiden
saw his willful absence as an unforgivable slight. Reverence was owed their
mother for the love and attention she had lavished upon them as children: she
had done everything in her power to raise them with all the affection that an
adoring mother could furnish, and though it could not be denied that some of
her children had endured more trying time than others, Cabhrin was the last of
the children to have been fortunate enough to remember the love of a sensible
and conscious father. Mr Donnegal had been Cabhrin’s oracle: he had taught him
everything, from learning how to read to making a curraugh, from tying flies to
fishing--everything that a knowledgeable father could have granted a son who
would follow his every word had been offered, but Cabhrin’s joyous adolescence
had been stunted, cut down by the throes of illness and by his father’s want of
memory. Disease had robbed Cabhrin forever of a father and a friend, and Breigh,
how was so much like him in every particular, had been Cabhrin’s comfort: he
bore his countenance, spoke with the same voice, mirrored his mannerisms and
general quietness. Breigh was his ally in a house that was now divided between infection
and misery, but their father’s unconsciousness bore Breigh away, sending him to
Glaoustre for his apprenticeship at the royal dairy, that he might provide for
the family as Aiden and Adaoire had done, leaving Cabhrin with a house to look
after and children to help raise whilst their mother was forced to pander to
the needs of a dying man who could no longer remember her. Mr Donnegal
remembered none of his children when he roused from his two-year semi-conscious,
destroying the aspiration of his father being well again that Cabhrin had
dearly kept. His father and friend gone, Cabhrin was gone likewise, gone
anywhere that was not the farmhouse, the farm, or Tyfferim; gone anywhere that
would take him far away from all the dejection and anguish of losing a parent.
He applied for an apprenticeship on a fishing vessel, and quitted Tyfferim when
he received it, leaving his brothers to care for the farm and leaving his
mother to care for a failing husband and several young children. Calleen never
faulted Cabhrin for leaving, though Aiden and Adaoire might, for she could not
blame him for doing what she had often considered doing herself: the liberation
that being freed of an ailing husband would give—but she had children to
consider. Fortunate was she that Jaicobh had come to look after them all, and
when he had gone once her husband had roused from his ill-fated rest, her
imprudence and happiness had brought Sheamas to the family, another child for
Cabhrin to help care for. Cabhrin, however, had been in no state to look after
another brother; he was not the
caregiver and nurturer that Calleen was, but he left the house in a bad way,
done at the worst time, and while his family needed the income that his wages
on a vessel would bring, they needed his presence more. Aiden and Adoire and
Breigh were already gone on their early apprenticeships, but Cabhrin must go,
however, out to sea, to learn his trade, to become a sailor, and to rediscover
Friday, December 19, 2014
Friday, December 12, 2014
“That was amazingly done,” said the commander, astonished. “I don’t believe I have ever seen Alasdair turn around half so fast in all my life. Vyrdin should be confounded at your powers of command.”
“Aye, well,” said Calleen, abashed and yet pleased, “I said what a mother would say, and I meant it. I don’t need help, but my Shea needs to know his family loves him and is here for him.”
“Poor Alasdair,” said Carrigh, sighing into a raised hand. “He will feel as though he’s neglected Sheamas and talk of nothing else at home.”
“That is rather the object of Tyfferim guilt. It is all certainly true, whatever is said, but it doesn’t make whatever it be any less distressing.”
“He will panic now,” Carrigh laughed.
“And so he should, girl,” said Calleen. “If it keeps him outta here, all the better.”
“Who gave Deal the tea to do?’ said Aiden, coming up behind Adaoire. “Was it you, Ma?”
“Aye, so it was.”
“Water’s out, and she was about to come back in here and boil it herself.”
“She stays out there, Aiden. I’ll put the kettle on again. Adaoire, don’t you let her come back in here.”
Calleen turned to the stove, mumbled something about having to solder an iron gate onto the kitchen door post, and began to refill the kettle. Pleasant as it was to have so much of her family around her, it was contemptible to have anyone standing idle in the kitchen without anything to furnish their hands, and as they were not helping her, as no one was, she implored that they all have tea. They must have at least one cup, and after Alasdair had been forced into compliance, no one would dare refuse her. Boudicca and Carrigh sat whilst Martje handed round cups, and only Aiden and Adaoire were permitted to find the tea sachets and brew anything.
While the tea was in preparation and thimbles of dried leaves going round, Dealanna returned from the sitting room, to ask for more boiled water, but when she observed her husband and her brother-in-law serving the those sitting at the corner of the table, there was nothing much for her to do but to acknowledge that she had been deceived, humph, and look grievously forlorn. It was unpardonable rudeness not to help an old woman with the management of her kitchen, and while others might allow for the feelings of the old woman, Dealeanna certainly could not. It was her kitchen now, she had relinquished it to her, but there was no getting Calleen to surrender, though Martje seemed to float in the background mightily at her ease. That she trusted her daughter and her sons to help but not herself—it was an insufferable slight, and she began, without Calleen’s permission, to direct management of the freshly boiled water and arrange about their teacups, and duty which had never augured must interest until now.
“Aye, I’ll let you pour it,” Calleen resigned. “There’s yer water, and you can do what you want with it.”
A short thanks was all that Dealeanna would express, and she went about servicing every cup as though it were the best blessing of life, taking care to hold the saucer and only add the milk after the leaves had steeped. She had her duties, and Martje and Calleen had theirs, and all seemed rectified at present, any wounded feelings had been done away, and all familial discordances had been suppressed, but after everything was safely out of the oven and cooling on the table, and everyone’s tea was nearly finished, Calleen came round to refill every cup. Dealeanna got up directly and was about to begin her entreaties when her husband, probably from the terror of hearing his mother’s remonstrances, interposed with, “Did you see the letter come from Breigh?”
Calleen stopped, and her eyes instantly brightened. “Did you get a letter from him this afternoon, then? I didn’t see it. I didn’t know any had come. Did the Scoaliegh deliver it at this time of the day—and before a holiday? What’d it say? Is Breigh busy at the dairy, then?”
It was said with such agitation, with such maternal anxiety, that Adaoire felt wretched for having mentioned it. The glimmer of expectation, the agonizing misery of unfounded hopes, the yearning that her aspect recommended was sorrowful compunction for Adaoire’s heart. He deliberated over whether he should give her the letter from Cabhrin, tucked away in his back pocket, but he knew it should bring her more pain than pleasure to read its contents, and he therefore would curtail it for her, leaving out what was requisite for family peace on the holiday and relaying only what was necessary to brighten her spirits.
“Gives his best love and all,” said Adaoire, forcing a smile. “He says the dairy’s the busiest now than it ever was before.”
“Aye, that’s Breigh doin’ that,” Calleen proudly declared. “All that hard work he puts into that place. He sure deserves all the business.”
“Aye,” said Adaoire. There was a pause. Adaoire stared into his cup, hesitated and debated with himself, and then, as though the result of some silent conclusion, “Cabhrin is visitin’ with him for the holiday. His ship just docked in Glaoustre, and he had time for a few days visitin’ before goin’ aff again.”
Calleen looked all the exultation she felt. “Is he now?” she cried, with delirious joy. “Cabhrin’s there with him? Aye, I’m glad for it. Breigh shouldn’t be alone on the holiday, and Cabhrin shouldn’t be at sea for it.”
“Aye,” but it was said with a coolness so unlike Adaoire, in so severe accent, that his thoughts on his brother’s staying away could not but be recognized. Everyone either glanced charily at him or turned away, finding it easier to look elsewhere than it was to see Adaoire so wholly altered. Pleased as he was to see his mother was so sanguine upon hearing of her son’s shore leave, it brought a pain and agitation to Adaoire and Aiden that must be felt.
Enjoy the story? Help us create more stories by supporting our Patreon page!
Sunday, December 7, 2014
Tyfferim, a municipality of farmers and craftsmen, have powers of persuasion like no other subjects in the kingdom. Tyfferim guilt, a longstanding understood ability, always prevails when someone born and raised in Tyfferim is speaking to someone who wasn't, but never is Tyfferim guilt more prevalent when guests from out of town are visiting for the holidays. It is all well and good that guests should want to help their host prepare what needs to be done for the festivities, but be you king or beggar, may the Gods help you if you dare insist on helping an old farmer's wife manage her kitchen. An extra long story today, courtesy of our Patrons:
Aiden and Adaoire moved toward the kitchen, taking the scene by the hearth in their way. Sheamas had come and was sat down with the children, and they and Kai Linaa listened to Jaicobhtell his stories with childlike zeal, wanting to know what happened next, who would marry whom, and what villain would be trounced in the course of the story. Fables belonging to the holiday were the order of the day, and brandishing Kai Linaa’s hat, Jaicobh read to the children and performed every character part, Kai Linaa eagerly waiting for a female part to read her lines. The gasps and gapes of the children as every page was turned, the crepitation of the fire dancing about, the murmuration of the giants were all Jacob’s accompaniment, and as shouts rang out for the villain of the story to meet his demise, Adien and Adaoire moved to the kitchen, where their mother was delegating orders to Martje and trying to convince everybody else to leave the kitchen if they meant to offer any help at all.
“Out o’ my kitchen,” the good old woman demanded. “I know you girls mean well, but if yer not helpin’ me take somethin’ out o’ the oven or puttin’ somethin’ in it, you might as well go sit with Jaicobh and Shea and listen to the stories-- Maith Ailineighdaeth, boys,” she cooed, coming toward her eldest sons and kissing them with maternal solicitude. “Adaoire, yer girl’s rilin’ me, tryin’ to help me an’ all when sure I don’t need it. It’s good of you to want to help, Deal, and I know this kitchen ain’t mine anymore, but it sure is mine now, and yer runnin’ me ragged tryin’ to help what don’t need helpin’.”
Adaoire gave his wife a complacent look and shrugged. “Told you Ma’d throw you out if you tried anythin’.”
“There’ll be no throwin’ in it,” said Calleen, “but you got young-uns to look after, and even though Jaicobh’s with ‘em, better to mind them than me. I love you like yer my own, girl, but out you go if yer not here for a gob and a gab.”
“Ma,” said Deal, in a plaintive voice, “you have too much to do for so many people—“
“Girl,” Calleen interposed, holding up a hand, “I know you mean well, but I raised eight young-uns and looked after an ailin’ man meself. I ain’t so old that I can’t prepare a dinner for the lot of you. When I’m too old to stand, that’s when I’ll ask for yer help. For now—“ she pointed a finger toward the sitting room-- “Out.”
Dealanna, however, would stay in the kitchen, folding her arms in defiance of the hale and hardy old woman shooing her out of it, and Boudicca and Carrigh, being two guests for the evening, stood together in the corner of the kitchen, the commander smiling to herself and shaking her head, and Carrigh trying desperately to get away with setting a few more places at table while Calleen’s attention was elsewhere.
“I’m the matron o’ this house, girl,” said Calleen, with firm kindness, “but yer leavin’ this kitchen or I’m havin’ Adaoire drag you out.”
Adaoire’s eyes darted about, and with an unassuming look, he began inching his way backward over the threshold.
“if yer goin’ yer takin’ yer girl with you,” Calleen insisted. “And don’t think I don’t see you at it, Majesty,” said Calleen, addressing Carrigh without looking at her.
The shame of having placed a spoon and rearranged a few forks assailed her, and Carrigh put her hands behind her back and seemed sorry for what she had done. and Carrigh anxiously returned one of the dessert forks to their holder, which she was secreting away toward the table before Mrs Donnegal had accused her.
“Sure yer the Queen, but I ain’t above whippin’ you with my dishcloth if I see anymore place settin’.”
“Be you master seamstress or Queen of Frewyn,” said Boudicca, “you shall never escape the stinging end of a mother’s dishcloth.”
“I’ve never met anyone so vehement about my not helping them,” Carrigh whispered, sidling the commander. “Pastaddams never complains, and my mother certainly never stopped me from helping her whenever I’m home.”
“But you are your mother’s daughter, Carrigh. Guests in a Tyfferim farmhouse are never allowed to help. It’s blasphemy to think so and an unconscionable slight to the matron of the house for her guests to do anything like set a table. If you dare offer to pick up the plates or wash the dishes, you will be tossed out and never allowed back again.”
Carrigh’s eyes blazed in a fever of terror, and Calleen looked all the conviction she felt on the subject.
“Aye, so,” said the old woman. “Her man knows what to do: sit down, enjoy the company, and wait for dinner.”
“He is a seasoned guest in Frewyn houses of every distinction, and he does just what he ought: he is grateful for the invitation, he wipes his feet when he enters, he eats everything his host will give him, and he helps only when asked.”
Carrigh seemed distressed, and said quietly, leaning toward the commander, “This goes against everything I was taught at home. Not offering to help means I would be considered a bad guest, and I wouldn’t dare argue with the host.”
“You do what polite society considers requisite, but we farmers are ruined for propriety. Helping is impertinence, bringing presents to the host of the evening is barbarous, and anything like civility shown at table means you must be squandering your time there. Bleezed shouting, indecorous musings, and high revel is how a farmer’s family operates at any celebration. Adaoire agrees with me.”
Carrigh turned to the vulgar farmer, whose lips were pursing with wry smiles. He gave a nod, said a self-satisfied, “That’s a holiday,” and quietly tried to bring his wife away from the kitchen.
Excuse, however, would not work themselves on a mind bent on assisting, and Dealeanna, regardless of the entreaties from her husband to join the party by the fire, and despite the added supplication from Aiden for Dealeanna to keep Triskillien company, go she would not. There was a remedy to this, as Calleen well knew: she must give Dealeanna a something to do, something arbitrary that bore the air of importance if Dealeanna’s perseverance was to be subverted, and a kettle was soon taken from the stove and a tea trey was called for, a job which Dealeanna readily fell into, as she was being asked. She took the trey from the corner of the room, filled the large pot, and with the question of, “Would you ever be a darlin’ and give the guests some tea?” Dealanna went with ready concurrence, feeling herself the master of employment, doling teacups and carrying tea round the sitting room with smiling decision.
“You do realize that once she’s discovered how you’ve had her for a lark, she will be back in here to torment you again,” said Boudicca.
“She wanted a somethin’ to do, now she’s got it,” Calleen asserted, “and there’ll be no bellyachin’ in it. She’s got her job, and she’s helpin’.”
Calleen looked pleased and all the little injustices against a matron’s rights seemed smoothed over, but the moment that Calleen turned toward the oven to remove one of the pies, Alasdair entered the kitchen, all smiling joviality, waiting to show his willingness and wanting to do something to alleviate Calleen of some of the work before dinner. He marched in, with all his usual good humour and graciousness, expecting to be helpful, eager to be obliging, offering goodwill and cheerfulness to all, but when he approached the oven and said to their benefactor for the evening, “Calleen, is there anything I can do to he—“ he was interrupted by his wife, who covered his mouth with her hand and swiftly drew him to the side.
“Alasdair, we cannot ask to help,” said Carrigh, in an audible whisper.
Alasdair glanced about him and counted several pairs of eyes staring at him in disdainful anticipation. He shrank back behind his wife and said, catching her tone, “Why not?”
“House rules, sire.”
“I don’t mean to contradict you, Carrigh, but that cannot be right. Whenever I go to your mother’s, she always allows me to help. She might resist because I’m king and she doesn’t feel it’s right for me to do it, but I must do it and absolutely would do it to show her how grateful I am to be accepted in her house as a guest.”
“Don’t even think about it, Majesty,” said Calleen, placing the steak pie on the table. “Yer wife didn’t get any quarter and neither will you. I know yer a king and all, and I know yer a Brennin and yer blood’s been the blood of princes since the beginning of Frewyn, but I’m a Donnegal, been a farmer all my life, I enjoy my hard workin’ and won’t have no one take it from me.”
“Never trifle with an old woman’s sense of accomplishment, Alasdair,” said Boudicca. “She is a farmer second and an old woman first, the very worst combination in the world, the one meant for capaciousness and guilt-giving.”
“It is still rude not to help her,” Alasdair persisted. “There must be something that needs to be done.”
“Aye, havin’ a sit down and a cup o’ tea, Majesty,” said Calleen. “That’s what you and yer wife can do. Tris and the small one know what to do. They’re listenin’ to Jaicobh tell stories. You want to do somethin’? Sit with Shea and the young-uns and keep ‘em company.” Calleen made a momentary frown and grew serious. “He lost his girl, a girl what we all loved, taken from him and from us in the worst way. I got my man back and I got my family, I don’t need nothin’ else, but my son lost his girl and his boy lost a mother. Sit with ‘em and spend time with ‘em, and you can help me by bein’ with ‘em.”
Alasdair felt himself a brute for leaving Sheamas to sit by the fire with the children. How monstrous he had been not to consider Sheamas first, and though the good butcher would say nothing, that his mother said anything at all gave his heart a pang. He looked deplorable, said something about Tyfferim guilt, and returned to the sitting room, more impatient to entertain Sheamas with lively conversation than he was to help Calleen set tables and prepare dishes for dinner.
Enjoy the story? Help us create more stories by supporting our Patreon page!
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
It's often the ones who have least who give the most, for those who give what they have when they can know what it is to go without. While Jaicobh and Calleen both grew up with extreme privation, they live a better but humble life now, and while they are in a position to give to their children and grandchildren, receiving gifts in return is an emotional but not unwelcome practice.
Sheamas laughed and removed his hat. “Sorry, Da,” said he, in a considerate tone. “I didn’t think you’d get that sentimental over it.” He scratched his head. “It was just a small thing we found intown. The boys came over to the shop and saw it on the way back to the castle. They were looking for a gift for you and Ma, and they said that had to be it.”
“Aye…” said Jaicobh fondly, feeling his sentiments against prevail him. “Well, if it had to be, then that’s how it is—but no more presents from here on,” pointing at his daughter. “I’m the one who’s supposed to be spoilin’ you, and,” glancing at Sheamas, “I got a lot o’ spoilin’ to make up for.”
“I think Sheamas and I can safely promise never to give you any present that isn’t cured meat,” said Boudicca.
Practical gifts, Jaicobh could always allow for, but before he could demand that his children absolutely promise never to give him anything again, Alasdair came forward and said, “Maith Ailneighdaeth, Jaicobh,” offering him a small wrapped parcel. “Thank you for having us. It was very kind of you to invite us, and we’re very glad to be here.”
The old farmer tried not to look terribly distressed and accepted the gift with a very good grace, insisting that he should be happy to open it later with the other gifts after dinner. “This is cheatin’ now,” Jaicobh said to his children. “How can I refuse anythin’ giving to me by the Majesty?”
“You can’t,” said Boudicca, with a broad grin. “Alasdair, all the family shall now give all presents meant for my father to you, and you may imprison him if he refuses.”
After seeing how reluctant Mr MacDaede was to accept anyone’s unbidden generosity, Alasdair agreed by saying an unassuming, “Fair enough,” and went to retrieve the other presents waiting in the cart. “Carrigh, darling,” calling to his wife, “do you have all the socks there?”
“The Majesty didn’t bring the whole castle with him, did he, darling?” said Jaicobh quietly to his daughter. “The carvin’ was more than enough.”
“The stone piece was from the children, father,” Boudicca replied, “but you have many other relatives now, all of whom will ignore your pleas for self-imposed moderation. You always wished for our families to be united, and this is your penance for such a wish.”
“Aye,” Jaicobh acknowledged, with a wistful aspect. “Well, I always thought of having at least you and Shea together. I always wanted the two o’ you to spend at least the holidays in one house-- and o’ course having Calleen and Shayne there too. I didn’t know if I would ever get it, havin’ all of you together like that. Thought five was the most family I’d ever have round a table, and then Shayne and Martje got married while I was gone, bringin’ the families closer together, and then me and Calleen—and havin’ Aiden and Adaoire and Lochan so close...” Jaicobh paused and looked mindful. “Aiden and Adaoire sure oughtta be like sons after what they did for us.”
“And you for them, Da,” said Sheamas.
“Well, all I did was ask for an early apprenticeship. They’re they ones what had to do the work. They're good boys,” nodding with mindful consideration, and then giving Sheamas a penetrating look, “you’re all good boys, you and Aiden and Adaoire and Lochan. Breigh is as responsible and hard working as you could ask, Cabhrin is a master sailor, and Shirse—Borras, you can hear him hawkin’ prices from the next town over. Aye, they're good boys. I know Calleen wishes they were around more, but what loving ma don't want her boys around all the time?”
“There are plenty of parents who cannot wait to rid of their children,” said Boudicca. She eyed her mate, who was glaring at a spider nestled in the corner of the farmhouse window, his hand wrapped firmly around the hilt of his sword, his eyes blazing in fierce indignation.
“Well,” Jaicobh chuckled, “some o’ you young-uns need a bit o’ time on yer own. Some o’ you gotta ripen up a bit.”
“Rautu should be a well-aged bitter stout by now,” said Alasdair, helping Carrigh take the presents out of the cart.
The commander could not help laughing. “He cannot hear you, Alasdair. He is far too busy wondering how he’s going to kill a certain spider without burning the house down.”
“The undu is outside,” Rautu observed. He looked skyward. “It will not survive long in your winter.”
“There, you see? He need only camp by the window and wait to watch the spider wither in wretched agony.”
“Probably one Calleen put outside the house,” said Jaicobh, or maybe one o’ those what was sent away by its parents.”
Here was a wink, and Sheamas and Boudicca laughed and affectionately pressed their shoulder against their father’s arm.
“Folk who send their young-uns away don’t know how to appreciate bein’ a parent,” said Jaicobh. “Mas and Das got a few years with our babes before they’re all grown, and then we gotta make it seem like it don’t hurt when they leave. I’m glad the Gods took me before I had to watch you leave the house, darlin’,” turning to Boudicca, “My heart couldn’t take you leavin’.”
Boudicca would have said she should have never left her father’s house had necessity and retaliation not borne her away, and though she must own that leaving her family farm and joining the forces was her deliberate vocation, she said only, “You did have to die to get me gone.”
“Well, I’m here now, and so are you, and shise shin,” Jaicobh humphed. He put his arm around Sheamas’ shoulders. “I got all my children here with me,” said he, in a thoughtful hue, “A man couldn’t be happier.” He gave a tearful sigh, and then, feeling every feeling of sanguine misery reviving, he said, “’Mon in the house. Yer ma’s got the tea on,” ushering everyone in and moving inside himself, wiping any tears away with the back of his hand before any of his guests could descry him.
Shayne unhitched the mule and game to the door, and while Martje was bringing in all the dishes she carried with her from the capital to the house, Shayne exchanged pleasantries and hearty pats with his beloved friend. A few words in Frewyn were said, some offered for the benediction of the day, which ended in the observation of “It’s cold enough to break yer bhainne,” and Jaicobh laughed, bringing Shayne and the whole party further into the house.
Calleen was waiting in the main room with tea and warm blankets, sitting at the head of the small table, her hand over her eyes and the children gathered about her, all of them looking woefully concerned.
“Den Iimaa, why are you crying?” ask Soledhan.
“”Cause you wee-uns are murderin’ me,” she sobbed into her hand.
Dorrin did not quite understand this and looked bemused. “How, Great Aunt Cal?”
“”Cause my poor old heart can’t take how sweet y’are.” She leaned forward from her chair and gathered the children together. “Sure love you, lads,” she crooned, the tears cascading down her cheeks, forming tributaries in her deep wrines. “Here, sit there and have some warm milk and chocolate and I’ll dry my old eyes.” She sniffed and patted her eyes with a cloth, declaring, “You wee lads’ll be the end o’ me, sure,” but she stopped when Soledhan hopped off his chair and hastened toward her.
“You should have some chocolate too, Den Iimaa,” said Soledhan, tugging at her skirt. “You’ll feel better. Utaa feels better when he has some.”
Calleen simpered with all the good humou that could be requisite, her eyes crinkling with smile lines. “So he does, mho chri. Aye, I’ll have some with you lads then. Jaicobh,” she implored as her husband came into the main room, “did ye see the gift the wee-uns are after getting’ us?”
“Aye, I saw. Well, now we gotta do somethin’ about it. We oughtta give ‘em presents back in revenge.”
“But presents are a good thing,” said Dorrin. “How can you give presents for revenge?”
“Just you wait and see— what is it, mho chri?” said Jaicobh bending down as he felt Soledhan tugging on his leg.
“You need chocolate, Den Utaa,” Soledhan insisted. “You are crying. Have chocolate and you will feel better.”
Jaicobh’s heart could endure no more: the solicitous favour of his grandchildren had done for him, and though he would oppose and say he must help everyone into the house, the children’s pleading eyes convinced him that there was nothing more to do at present than take the warm chocolate being offered him, sit with them at the table, and remark the stone slat they had brought, lying where Calleen had left it face up on the table, standing as a testament to everything that Jaicobh and Calleen had gained in the last few months. Thirty years apart had yielded a devotion unwavering, and their reunion had brought children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, in-laws, and family friends, and he examined the slat, feeling it was the work of the Gods, the depiction betraying an ambition that he had long felt but never conveyed. They were together as a family, he was sitting in Calleen’s house, drinking chocolate with his grandchildren, and his hand grazed the carved stone, tracing the outlines of painted hoses and sanded skies, and he raised his cup to his lips to silence his sorrows, the tears welling in his eyes while he inhaled the mellifluous and soothing scent through his nose.
“Do you feel better, Den Utaa?” was all Soledhan’s concern.
“Aye…” said Jaicobh, his voice fraught with the misery of overpowering delight, “I’m feelin’ better.”