Story for the Day: Failing Resolve
Nothing melts the hearts of stern commanders faster than an orphaned five-year-old who has more spirit than an entire regiment put together.
The bells at the church in the near distance rang out, surmounting the incessant thrum and intermittent mirth of the markets, a few moments of silent vexation had been rewarded by the answer that Tearlaidh had sought: the orphanage, with all the advantages of caretakers, kingdom support, superior education, and commodious housing, was just the place to suit the circumstance. The bell pealed again, the purl of which resonated and roused the commander’s mind, succumbing to the notion that to the church Paudrig must go. Aye, he’ll be safe there, he conceived, sensations of relief consoling his conscience, with all the Bruthurs and Sessters and wee-uns his oan age tae plae with and talk tae. Nae loneliness in an orphanage, an’ he’d be fed and sheltered, and while there, Paudrig should be close enough to the mountains that Tearlaidh could look in on him and see how well he was getting on, if his work should allow for visitations. There the child should be at liberty to learn and grow and entertain himself with all his fantastic adventures while maintaining his virtue, until adolescence grant him a deeper understanding of the rights and wrongs in the world. The church would be much the best place for him, and he began to consider why the child had not gone to the church before, why he had resorted to mischief in the markets rather than all the security that the orphanage could offer. Perhaps the pretense of walls, the sense of enclosure was daunting for a child who was accustomed to be outside for the chief of the day. Who knows where he slept—probably beneath an awning, or beside the bakery window to secure himself a place with the one or two other unfortunates who were forever looking for any stale scrap that might be giving away. Better for hem tae be at the church, was his firm resolution, and though he had grown in the wilds and slept under the aupices of cedars and spruces, he had a family to look after him. It would be torment indelible to part with the child, but part they must, for he must be sensible here, though their severance must be a torment not soon got over. The wound of parental affection must be borne if the child was to be cared for in a manner that would allow him to be nurtured as he should. A mind well-cultivated and person well-guarded was the greatest gift he could give a child who had been taught nothing but penance and privation. The bells finished their tintinabular song, the dissonance of which lingered and beckoned the commander to stand. “’Mon, lad,” he called to Paudrig, “Day’s gettin’ on.”
Paudrig was up in an instant, turning from the wild garlic and tree moss he had lately discovered, and hastening to the commander’s side as they walked from the field. “Where we goin’?” he asked, glancing back at the road leading to the mountains. “The mountains’re over there.”
“We’re after gettin’ ye shelter and food,” was all the commander was tolerably able to reply. The resolution had been made, but he could not tell him yet; he must harden himself to it, for though they had met only a few hours ago, there was a familiarity, a regard, an interest, a closeness and conversancy that the commander could not but acknowledge.
Paudrig, however, his imagination rampant and features alight, soon began forming conjectures as to where he was being led. Were they going to find supplies, or perhaps they were paying a visit to the cinnamon toffee cart just coming round from the square, or were they going to the woolseller, who was sitting outside her stall and carding the freshly sheared pelts just come in from the stockmen, or were they visiting the blacksmith, who was looming over his great anvil and hammering at a new piece. He noted, as he followed the commander, that they kept away from the village square and were heading toward a small lane that seemingly led into the nearby hills, his eye missing the church entirely, situated ahead of them, and his mind beginning to consider whither those hills might lead. “What’s over there?” pointing to the rambling knolls. “Ah see smoke risin’ from a chimely. Is tha’ where ye live? Are we goin’ back tae yur clan?”
The commander shook his head. “Mah clan’s long deid, lad. Ah’d have taeken ye tae ‘em if they still lived. Made our hoam ‘tween the mountain peaks, lookin’ after sheep and goats, eatin’ bolaig, and huntin’ wolves. Aye, Ah grew well in the hills. Ye’d have been all legs up there, runnin’ around and ruckusin’ after the sheep. Lived up there with mah burthers, hunters all o’ ‘em. That’s ‘em gone many a-year. The brigade’s all the clan Ah got left.”
“That’s me joinin’,” Paudrig asserted, with a rap of his spear on the ground. “Ah want tae be part o’ yur clan.”
Tearliadh’s heart was forcibly struck, though he effected to smile for the child’s sake.
“Ahm gonnae be a defender o’ the mountains, chasin’ the bears and spearin’ the boars.”
“An’ can ye fight the Galleisians, lad?”
“Aye! Ah got mah spear an’ mah helm tae protect meh.”
Lad’s murdurin’ meh, was Tearlaidh’s internal sigh. He stopped, and Paudrig stopped likewise, the former taking a moment to reassess his conviction of leaving him at the church, and the latter staring up at his mentor with eager looks.A hum of deliberation, and Tearlaidh’s good eye narrowed, and he searched and descried and found nothing to suggest that the child must go with him. He cursed his wretched gift, cursed it for working too well with others and not at all with the child. The Gods granted him insight as to whether he was to accept Sile’s early admission and as to Draeden’s and Bryeison’s fates, but here, in trying to decipher, there was nothing to suggest even what was to happen to the child should he give him over to the orphanage, for he had expected his prospect to change now that his situation should be altered, but there was nothing, no intimation as to whether what he was doing was right, no hint that it might e wrong. The expectant glow of grey eyes peering out from under the shadow of an overturned pot, sullied and coloured cheeks, a protruding bottom tooth, a determined pout, and an undernourished frame were all that could be distinguished, for had there been a sense of what should become of the child if he went or stayed, Tearlaidh would be better reconciled to his decision. A firm nod and a sniff from Paudrig, and Tearlaidh’s resolve was beginning to fail him.