Story for the Day: Fraternal Sentry - Part 1
T.H. White said it best when he said, "It is so fatally easy to make young children believe that they are horrible," one of my favourite quotes from The Witch and the Wood. It is frightfully easy, and while parents may think that a punishment has little lasting effect on their children, even a cruel word from a parent they love is the end of the world for a child.
Gaumhin MacLachlann, one of the Captains of the Royal Guard in Diras, first understood this when he was fourteen. He came from an orphanage in TussNaTuillin to help a large family in Eastern Westren, and the manner in which the father treated the children in that house was something which he was unprepared to witness:
Fraternal Sentry - Part 1
Just how much the family were in need of Gaumhin and all that his jovial spirits, high good humour, and forbearing character could warrant was made apparent the very next day, for when the children came home early from church to enjoy their afternoon, spent in solitary games in various corners of the house and intermittently across the entire front room in ardent races, an instance occurred that dissipated all Gaumhin’s juster ambitions of being supernumerary to the family and destroyed any aspiration of the father’s stay being an improvement to their set.
As the skies threatened rain all the morning, the children had been prevailed upon to stay within doors while at school, the cagedness on a warm day despite the rain expatiating the boys’ need for activity, and though they had hastened home under the auspices of a foreboding sky and a sudden lumming when they had got to the door, this short race home was hardly enough exercise for three such animated and vivacious boys. Their minds were all alive with frolic, their tempers playful and mischievous but there was to be no revelry at home while their father was by. They hushed one another, crossing the threshold of the house in subdued mirth, and said their hellos to their grandmother and father, the former who was in the kitchen humming happily away as she began to prepare dinner with Gaumhin to assist her, and the latter who was sitting beside the coal furnace reading under the amber glow of the dying light, whilst setting themselves up with a game of boghans in one corner and a game of draughts in another. Draughts soon proved to be too dispiriting for them, and rapt in a subdued revelry though they were, they must change to a more active game to extinguish their inclination for more exhilaration recreation. Boghans it was to be, and they had not been playing for ten minutes before their restlessness began to assail them: hands fidgeted, legs shifted about, and before Blinne could declare herself winner of the round, Feidhlim, against his better judgement, took his brothers’ Boghans and began running about with them, racing about the front room with all the celerity that his liveliness unchained could produce.
Up leaped Ossin and Irall, hastening after their brother, crying out and protesting that each was on the point of winning, and regardless of his imminent loss, his brother should not have captured their Boghans only to fly with them. He should lose fairly, as Irall was about to do, but these remonstrances where only answered with Feidhlim’s hopping about and waving their Boghans at them in mocking disdain, inviting them to take them from him if they could. Their pieces would be reclaimed, and with an alacrity that betrayed their fierce determination to salvage what had been taken, Ossin and Irall chased their brother all over the house, thumping and thundering around the front room, ignoring their father’s calm assertions for Feidhlim to return his brothers’ pieces and tranquilize their games.
Blinne knew that such strident gaiety would yield a result most unfavourable; she saw the looks of grim displeasure that followed Feidhlim’s disobedience and the brothers’ continued clatter, and though she tried once or twice to echo her father’s wishes and have the Boghan’s pieces returned that everyone might sit down together again, her small voice was of no consequence here: the three riotous boys drowned out their sister’s entreaty with their hearty guffaws and caroming calls, and the more Ossin and Irall chased Feidhlim about, the more ardent their cries became, their tonitruous steps and laughing reboation resounding throughout the small house. While Blinne and her father could not but hear the resonating din, her grandmother was unawake to everything that was occurring beyond her prospect of a few pots and pans, for she had been used to hear such a ceaseless tumult of noise from her grandsons, but while she could remain indifferent and go about her work, Gaumhin, knowing how well their father was the enemy of such unsilver sounds, could not but begin to feel as apprehensive of their revelry as Blinne could be.
He sliced the carrots for the coddle that Ms MacLachlann was preparing and looked down at his work, his consciousness ever reminding him that he was not to interfere with the father’s ideas of family management while he was at home, his awareness ever mindful of the boys’ increasing volume, apprehending that his efforts would be required in smoothing away any lasting disagreements before bedtime. While he half smiled to himself, thinking that the boys would forever have their playful natures despite their age or situation, a sensation of grave foreboding began to prevail him, a hollow and sickening feeling settling in his stomach and making him uneasy: the father’s sudden silence distressed him, though he knew not why, and while the boys’ expatiating sounds would have otherwise gladdened his heart and begged him to join them, their exuberant gaeties began to plague rather than pleased him. A moment’s vexation seized him, and he left his work momentarily to stand near the threshold, minding Peig at his feet, peering around the wall in time to observe their father laying his book aside and standing from his chair, walking toward the boys with a slow and heavy step. His heart beat quick as he watched the gradual approach, dreading what he knew must happen but that his mind would renounce. He took one step over the threshold when his own propriety and respectfulness toward the man who allowed him to stay under his roof called him back again, though it cost him some feelings of anguish not to intrude. He saw with what horror Feidhlim was seized when his father took hold of him and felt all the terrible misery and shocking disgust at what followed: a hand was raised Feidhlim was turned about, and the moment that the child’s eyes caught the meaning of his father’s heated looks, the hand came down, Feidhlim gasped and winced in preparation, the side of his face was struck, and all blithesomeness and carousing instantly ceased. The boghans fell to the ground, Blinne’s stood aghast with hands clasped over her mouth, Ossin and Irall were silent from consternation, Ms MacLachlann continued humming to herself in the far corner of the kitchen, Peigi giggled and held to Gaumhin’s ankle, and Gaumhin sunk back into the shadow of the threshold, his features rapt in alarm, his fingertips pressing into his palms, his throat tightening to conceal the remonstrance he so desperately wished to give.