Story for the Day: Fraternal Sentry - Part 3
Feidhlim sat in the dismal throes of ruined ambitions, his expression disconsolate, his heart irreconcilable: he had angered his father, had disappointed and disobeyed him, and what was worse than the father’s aggravation was the mortification he was made to suffer for rousing his father’s displeasure. He had come home to be sanguine and gratified by his sons, but his indulgence of their strident animation had been tried, and Feidhlim had thus destroyed all his father’s expectations of finding an dutiful son in himself. Feidhlim was always doting, looking after his father as something of a divine figure, but he was not always as attentive as his conscience commanded. Gaumhin gave him latitude on many points as long as he never incommoded his grandmother and looked after his younger brothers, but his father practiced no such lieniencey regardless of how well his sons behaved. He had shown himself as discourteous and insubordinate, indifferent to his father’s comforts and unmindful of his commands, disruptive and disgusting—he was a horrible child, a fulmination of adolescence, discourteous and disobedient, a malison, a grobian, an atrocity of a son who was unworthy of affection or attention, who ought to be left to welter in his own dejected sufferance, to sob out his woes of self-condemnation and wretched reflection. He sat with thighs against his chest, his elbows resting on his raised knees, his toes pressed against the wall and the balls of his feet pressed into the corner of the room, his chin resting languidly on his palms his countenance growing gradually more abysmal the more of an evil he considered himself. That his father had been moved enough to force him into obeisance, to make an example of him to those who would otherwise be guided by him—there was all his humiliation, and he lowered his head into his hands, wondering that anyone should like him at all when he was such a rebellious wretch, staring at the ground in painful recollection, his warm cheeks garnished with incessant tears, his quivering lips wreathed in a frown, his chest sunk under the ascendancy of his disgrace, his heart wracked with the vexation of his indiscretion. The demon of the family peace: it was an opprobrium that he had long deserved but had never much heart to own, and he watched his tears fall to the ground without being at any trouble to check them, thinking his father’s love a privilege never to be re-earned.
A few moments of self-loathing was all that Gaumhin could allow Feidhlim to endure. His miserable expression offended his fraternal sensibilities, and Gaumhin could not observe his brother’s grief without adopting some of the anguish upon himself. That they had been unruly, Gaumhin could not deny, but he would rather see the boys injured by their own robustiousness than see them frightened into submission by a father’s hand. He glanced over his shoulder and down the stairs to see the father still reading his book and the two boys whispering to one another as they dropped their Boghans quietly on the ground. To see Ossin and Irall playing together under the fearful apprehension that accompanied their father’s presence was every way tormenting, but to see Feidhlim, the champion of cheerfulness and good humor, wracked with compunction and self-condemnation, his wings of rapturous mirth clipped, and his shoulders low and his frame tremulous, was a prospect most excruciating. Pressed into a corner as Feidhlim was, crying bitterly into his hands, his sobs muffled by pursed lips and tightened throat, brought all Gaumhin’s own feelings of dejection and sorrowfulness back to him. So much had Feidhlim looked forward to his father’s return, to playing with him, to spending every hour of every day in unabated exultation, and here was the reward for his patience. It grieved Gaumhin to think that Feidhlim might feel his father’s reaction justified. There are other ways o’ gettin’ ‘em to settle doon, Gaumhin conceived, stepping quietly into the room. There’s nae need for layin’ a haun on ‘em. What kind o’ fathur onlae wants tae discipline his lads and maek no effort o’ playin’ with ‘em after bein’ away so long? Gaumhin sighed and shook his head. He could not—did not like this father; every feeling revolted when he considered his conduct, even from before the assault on Feidhlim. He had hoped that his reserved manner and distant affection was only from a desire not to spoil his children by overwhelming them with prosings of how much he had missed them, indulging them with profusions of his affection, but here all Gaumhin’s aspirations had been unfounded: he was a distant parent, negligent and unfeeling, one who had his office gratified by encouraging his sons’ respect through fear rather than teaching them the virtues of reverence through unbidden adoration. He had hoped for a father as loving as the boys’ description of him had promised, but he had only been disappointed. He thought of his own father, how he had been a watchful and loving parent regardless of the immense responsibility he had to every other child in the kingdom, and wished that Feidhlim, though a child himself, could benefit from such a vigilant and thoughtful God and pined that he had not been born to such paternal privilege. Borras’ treatment of himself had been a prime representation of how a father should treat his child, the same treatment that he endeavoured to give to his three brothers: the same forbearance, the same openness, the same sagacity, the same lightheartedness, but regardless of how excellent Borras was toward himself, or how heinous their father was toward them, as Gaumhin sadly and quietly observed, No fathur who loved his son would taek a haun tae hem. Half a sigh and half a glance at Feidhlim, and Gaumhin approached his brother’s corner by the window.
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