Story for the Day: Maddie MacDaede
Parents, especially when wanting the best for their children, have no idea how much their habits and professions can ruin their relationship with their child. Many blessings to friends who had a mother like Maddie MacDaede.
The clamp packed and patted with mangolds, Boudicca had nothing to do but begin on the potato clamp. She began digging the next hole and matting it with straw, and once she was satisfied with the depth and width, she turned to barrel wherein sat hundreds of potatoes from the harvest, waiting to be eaten or reintroduced into the soil as time would serve. The sight of her mother entering the yard from the house and walking toward her moved her to pause and observe her stumbling steps. Her illness was beginning to claim her legs and hinder her mobility, and before her mother could trip over the newly made clamp, Boudicca went to assist her and bring her back into the house.
“You aren’t supposed to be standing,” said Boudicca, taking her mother’s arm.
The gentle reminder had hardly been heard, for the moment that Boudicca put her arm around her mother’s back to support her steps, Maddie pushed her away and declared, “I know your father asks you to care for the pigs, but do you have to smell like them?”
Boudicca made her no answer; she only helped her step over the threshold and lead her back toward her room.
“Why you feel the need to trod in the mud, I will never understand,” Maddie persisted, remarking the dried mud crumbling off her boots. “You are a lady, Boudicca. You should consider acting like one.”
“I am also the one responsible for ensuring that you don’t die of starvation before you die of your illness,” Boudicca archly rejoined. “Perhaps if I wore fine pelisses and flaunted my gifts about, I would attract a rich husband who could hire someone to make the clamps for us.”
Indignation surmounted her mother. Such insubordination to one who owed her everything—it was not to be borne, and as she pulled away and fell back upon the chair in her room, she slapped her daughter’s filthy hand and gave her a heated chuff. “What a horrid child you are,” she sibilated. “You ought to be grateful to me after everything I went through to secure your future. And here you are undoing everything I’ve done. I bred you to be a lady, not a foul-mouthed slattern.”
Boudicca was silent and solemn. She would not attack a weakened woman; she would only stare at the ground, tighten her fists, and wait for her remonstrances to be over.
“Ungrateful, miserable child,” her mother continued. “The best you can do for your mother and father is to marry above your means, and yet you refuse to consider any of the young men who came to call. After all I did to have them come down here to look at you, I thought you might have behaved better. If you continue on as you have done, you’ll die a poor old spinster, leaving your father and I destitute in our old age.”
It was more than Boudicca’s sense of right could allow, and though she knew it was wrong to disparage a dying woman, her sensibilities would permit her to be silent no longer. “Considering you shall not live to old age, I’m relieved of half my difficulties there.”
The remark had scathed Maddie’s heart. That a daughter whom she had reared with all the affection her motherly powers could supply should say such unpardonable things—she would suffer her candor no more. She told her daughter exactly what she thought of her ill-humour, and continued to harangue and disparage her even after she had left the room.
With all the bitter feelings that such unwarranted aspersions could give, Boudicca returned to her clamp to find her father standing over her work and assessing it with high gratification.
“That’ll hold the winter,” said he, patting the straw and soil with his palm. “You did well, darlin’.”
“My mother doesn’t think so,” she huffed. “All my ambition lies in having her not insult me for one day.”
Jaicobh raised a brow. “She say somethin’ to you?”
“She thought it advisable to remind me of my salubriousness after I had helped her to her room.”
A sigh of disappointment was all Jaicobh could offer here. “I’m sorry, darlin’. You best ignore what she says. She ain’t well and she don’t know what she’s sayin’. Fever’s got in and mulched her brain.”
Boudicca effected to laugh, but she only made a small simper and was silent once more.
Both were cherishing some rather untoward feelings, sensations of pain, confusion, disappointment, and regret that became neither one of their good natures. They stared at the clamp without seeing it, each of them furnished with cogitation which she knew not how to command.
“She’s angry with herself for wastin’ her time worryin’ about things that don’t make a bit of difference,” said Jaicobh, in a more serious hue. “Now she’s panickin’ ‘cause she’s worried what’s gonna be with you. I raised you as a farmer. That’s all I knew, darlin’. I’m happy you take to it as well as I did, but your mother wants somethin’ more for you than this.”
“I am rather happy with this,” said Boudicca softly.
Jaicobh shrugged. “She don’t know that.” He placed a hand on her shoulder and said in a grave voice, “We gotta pity her, darlin’. Bein’ angry about what was or what wasn’t don’t matter anymore.”
A sudden wail breaking forth from the house drew Jaicobh away, and as he ran toward his wife with a “Comin’, Maddie,” Boudicca was left to consider her father’s counsel. Her mother was dying: this could not be refuted, and while Maddie could only cast aspersions and make her complaints, she had all the pity on her father’s side for having to watch the life drain from his wife’s face, and all the sorrowfulness on her side of saying nothing of what she felt and feeling more than she could say. A pang succeeded every desire to retaliate, but her mother was already receiving the penance for a life spent reproaching a dutiful daughter and disparaging a doting and kindly husband. She continued her work on the potato clamp, and as she cut out the peat with her slane, she had the soothing office of slicing the turf while fancying a life that did not involving being related to pigs every day.
The moans came from Maddie’s sickroom, and Jaicobh arrived to find her lying along the ground in tremulous agony. He lifted her into his arms and carefully transferred her languid form to the bed before sitting in the chair at her side and taking her tincture from the nightstand.
“Why is that child so obstinate?” Maddie rasped, trying to sit up.
“Because she ain’t a child, Maddie,” said Jaicobh gently, helping her to lie down again. “Bou’s a woman now, and she’s gotta go her own way.” He placed a hand on her brow and gave her a compassionate look, removing his hand only when he was certain of her lying still. With the tincture in one hand and his other on her chin, he placed a few drops of the medicine on her tongue and held her mouth closed until she swallowed.
“Her slatternly habits are your doing, Jaicobh,” she said, once he took his hand from her.
“Aye, I know it.”
“Why doesn’t she want to listen?”
“Bou’s a stubborn one, Maddie.”
“But she listens to you.”
“I don’t push her one way or the other.”
“Tell her to be sensible and settle for one of the young men who were generous enough to look at her.”
“She’d be after me if I did that, Maddie,” he chuffed.
Maddie humphed and looked away. “You’re just as obdurate as she is.”
“I hope so. She’s my girl.”
A few accusations of conspiracy followed: connivance against the nobility of Frewyn, the detriment of their family circle, designs on giving Boudicca all the wealth that Jaicobh was hiding followed in its regular train. Jaicobh heard, but he did not attend; he was too well employed with making Maddie’s poultice to make any formidable reply, but replies and remonstrances were useless now. He could only ease her agonies and prolong a very embittered life. He allowed her to finish the reel of the usual conjectures in silence, and when she had done, he held the poultice to her legs and rubbed her shins round.
His kindness had ruined her lamentations. She was in the midst of accusing him of favouring their daughter over herself when his wordless selflessness had oppressed her. His downcast eyes, thoughtful expression, and diligent treatment had sunk her into silence. He watched him for some minutes, half remorseful and half afraid that one day all those who cared for her would soon be gone. She must make her excuses as well she might; she did not mean to be affected and officious, but growing as she did in her mother’s house, she knew not how else to convey her true feelings.
“I only want what’s best for her,” said she, with a faltering voice.
Jaicobh stopped rubbing her shins and gazed at his wife, her features rapt in silent dread, her complexion pale, her hands trembling.“I know you do, Maddie,” he purred, with a good natured smile. He placed his hand against her cheek, and somberly did she clasp her fingers around his thumb.
“I’m sorry,” she murmured, the tears evincing at last.
He wiped the tributaries from her cheeks. “I know you are, Maddie,” he whispered.
A sudden horror came over her. Her eyes flared and her lips quivered as she struggled to speak. “Will you stay with me, Jaicobh, until it’s over?”
“Aye, I will,” was his sobering reply. “Until it’s over.”
She leaned her head against his hand, felt a wave of soothing somnolence overpower her, and fell swiftly into a dreamless sleep.