Story for the Day: Labour Day
There is no Labour Day in Frewyn. I think the farmers in Tyferrim should die if there were.
Frewyn’s harvest holiday was soon approaching, and after having been over the accounts of produce and general consumption as part of the day’s session in court, Alasdair contrived to give all of Frewyn’s farmers and yeomanry a day of rest on the one day that should be the most vexatious to them. Though the harvest was ever a source of merriment and delight to all those who celebrated it, reveling in the feasts and music and the festivities of the day, they gave great unease to the kingdom’s field workers; theirs was a day of exertion, spent collecting and scheduling shipments, but the most distressing feature of the day was to invite Frewyn’s citizens to their farms and allow them to pluck and pick as they would. They were always compensated accordingly for everything taken, but a pulled stalk that required replanting and the trampled rows that needed retilling and resowing were much to give them stress. Here was more work to be done when there was already work enough, and Alasdair felt it unjust that they should feel so slighted on a holiday that was meant to glorify the field, not denigrate it. A holiday therefore must be made, but before making it a mandatory object, Alasdair thought it advisable to consult the commander. His plan was drawn, proclamation issued, and he charged her to bring word of his designs to her father and brothers to descry their notions of it. He knew he should fail in Jaicobh’s quarter, as the legendary landlord of Tyferrim could not be persuaded to delight in a day off for his life, but where Aiden and Adaoire could be coaxed to spend the day in the Seadh Maith tavern, perhaps two farmers had powers where a king did not.
“You realize this shall go horridly,” said the commander, rolling the proclamation for conveyance.
Alasdair sighed, knowing that her supposition was right, and begged her to entreat her father and brothers regardless that his conscience would be clear for having at least made the offer.
She smirked, said something of those who are hardworking not minding more work but the lack of it, and set out for Tyferrim before midday. She came to the Donnegal farmstead to find Aiden and Adaoire sitting down at table for their small repose with her father by. He had finished turning the soil on the MacDaede farmstead the evening previous and decided to assist the twins with their many fields with the hopes of finishing all four corners of the land in one day. She said her hellos, gave her embraces, and was entreated by Triskillien and Dealenna to join them for their meal. With her mate hunting until evening, she was tolerably safe to take some of the spiced pork and buttered toast for herself without fear of it being snatched away the next moment. She had little doubt of being watched by his gull, however, and to secure her wantonness in his absence, she faced the window while she ate to make certain that the gull would hear all of her pleasant hums. Her conduct was mocked but all at the table were assured that her enjoyment was dully felt: no ravening giants, no sons, no animals to guilt her with their pleading eyes. Her meal was all hers, and she was all complacence and exultation.
When tea was proposed, during which the commander unfurled Alasdair’s unsigned proclamation and placed it on the table. “Have you ever heard of a Labour Day?” she asked, leaning back in her chair with the happiness of a full stomach to furnish her.
Adaoire remarked the document, shrugged and scratched his head. “Isn’t that every day?
“One would think as such, but supposedly it is a day on which all labourers take holiday.”
“Then why not call it No Labour Day?” said Aiden, confounded by the want of logic in the title.
“An excellent question.”
“Well, it’s true, ain’t it? If we ain’t gonna work, why call it a Labour Day? I ain’t educated like the king and all, but that doesn’t sound right to me.”
“I believe Alasdair meant it to mean a day on which everyone else excepting farmers work.”
“A day that farmers don’t work?” exclaimed Jaicobh. “I never heard of this day, darlin’. Is this a Galleisian holiday? I didn’t think they were as lazy as folk from Marridon.”
She laughed and found it difficult to disagree with any of their claims. “Alasdair is contriving to turn the Harvest into a day of rest for you.”
The three farmers made suspicious glares at one another.
“Harvest is the busiest day of the year, kin,” said Aiden gently. “I don’t wanna seem ungrateful to the majesty, but if we don’t do the harvest, no one else’ll do it for us.”
“I think he means to have apprentices and the Royal Guard oversee the event. I tried to tell him that farmers are as protective of their lands as Haanta are of their mates, but he seemed to think you could be persuaded.”
“Maybe a day after the Harvest would be better?” said Adaoire. “Then the Seadh Maith won’t be closed durin’ the day.”
The commander and her father exchanged a knowing glance and shook their heads.
With Alasdair’s plan denied and her assumptions proven true, the commander returned to Diras to give Alasdair word of their decision. He bore the counsel with all the good humour his dejected sentiments would allow, and then grumbled, “It wouldn’t kill your father to take one day to rest.”
“No,” she said with a sagacious smirk, “but it might kill everyone else if they cannot have their holiday as they should like.”
Although he knew the scheme should dissolve, Alasdair was still sensible of Frewyn’s farmer’s being overworked. He felt he must do something in their favour: a few more apprentices and hired hands might be got, less people might be allowed to participate in the harvest, but anything he proposed to himself he knew should be denied. “Well,” he said mournfully, crumpling the proclamation, “I did try.”
“You did, and I commend you for doing so.” She laughed at his disconsolate expression and patted him fondly on the back. “And my father does rest, Alasdair, I assure you. He takes his holidays very seriously: he must sleep until sunrise, he must eat more than is good for him, he must visit the family and nap in his chair before the fire, and then he must survey the farmland to make certain it hasn’t burned to the ground in the two seconds he spent looking away from it.”
“Are all farmers like this?”
She smiled. “No, but every farmer in my family is.”
Alasdair must concede to this, and though he would make a Labour Day for the yeomanry and farmers of Frewyn, to make it a mandatory respite he could see should be futile. He resigned himself to the consolation of knowing that the offer was made, and should they wish to take what he had tendered, they were more than welcome to do so.