Story for the Day: Tuatha and Paudrig -- Part 2
The sweets of remembrance, the soothing sensations of being at last reunited with his brothers and triumphing in their company as he had been used to do, were soon all done away: Paudrig had recovered his spear and was in the midst of maneuvering over the ditch to make his way across the hedgerow, and the commander’s attention claimed, all the conjurations of his exulted youth were thus put by, his remembrances falling into the somnolence of subconsciousness, to be summoned and cherished at a later hour, when night should fall over the borders of Frewyn, and when the altering hues of gloaming revive the wistful reverie of the many evenings he spent with his brothers, watching the golden light of afternoon succumb to clouds tinged with crimson hues, to skies surrendering in violent murrey, to the scintillation of silver flickering stars. A hem, a sigh, and Tearlaidh recollected himself, resigning himself to the consolation that the child, in being taken to the church, would be give the opportunity of a family to rival his own. In a sorrowful accent, he therefore said, “Lad thenks he’s comin’ with meh tae the mountains.”
“Are ye gonnae taek hem?”
Tearlaidh made him no answer; he only inclined his head and looked grave, sorry to be forced to part with a child so deserving of his particular attention.
“Nae harm done,” was Ronneidh’s kind assurance. “Give him another ten year, and he’ll be right for taekin’,” but there was no saying how ten years --or even two or three or four years-- would change a child, how life in an orphanage might alter his prospects. He might decide that the hardened life of a hunter was one he ought not to lead, might suppose himself mistaken in thinking that trapping boars and chasing bears was his true vocation and decide to squander his spirits as a goat farmer. Even worse was the notion of his being adopted before he should be old enough to join the forces, but the commander must allow things to take their course. It hardly mattered now whether he were resolved on taking him to the church, for the compunction he felt in leaving the child behind, an event which he was certain would change the child’s view of him. He must rather despise him after being abandoned as everyone else in the world had done, but Tearlaidh hardly had time to mend these wounded feelings before Paudrig climbed over the hedge and scampered back to his feet, standing beside him and staring up with a twig protruding from his helm and a broad and toothless smile.
“Ah did battle with the ferocious beast,” he declared, holding his spear high.
“Aye, lad,” said Tearlaidh, all pride and partiality. “Where are ‘em horns ye were after?”
“Almost got ‘em.”
“Aye, but Ah let her win.”
“Sure ye did, lad,” said Ronneigh laughingly.
“But Ah’ll no’ let her win next time. Next time, Ah’ll have mah knife and Ah’ll cut ‘em horns aff her.”
He made a wild gesture and a slicing motion toward Tuatha, but disenchanted and displeased, the freemartin gave him little recognition beyond a flick of her tail. Her forbearance with his raucous games had all but done, and she, having high hopes of never seeing the child again, was only wanting to be gone from the village as soon as possible, to make the long journey to town, where she would find patches of heather and honeysuckle along the way to make her forget all the ill-usage she was compelled to suffer for the sake of obliging a child whom she would have certainly charged had Ronneigh not been holding her reins.
“Well,” Paudrig sniffed, stamping his foot and looking up at the commander, “Ahm readae.”
“Tha’s spirit, lad,” said Ronneigh, with a triumphant gesture. He shared a conscious look with Tearlaidh, and then gathering the reins he said, “Well, tha’s me aff tae finish mah workday.” He extended his hand to Paudrig. “Ah’ll be seein’ ye, lad,” shaking his small hand very hardily, and releasing it and extending his hand toward Tearlaidh, he added, “Mho Bheannacht, Tearlaidh NaCreel, Brennan na sileidhte.”
“An thu,” Tearlaidh’s voice rumbled. He returned the gesture with all the dignity of a commander who gloried in his position of presiding over Frewyn’s borders, by taking Ronneigh’s hand, drawing him close, and giving him a few stout pats on the back with all the reverence and fondness of a brother.
“Come down from the mountain some time,” said Ronneigh, and in a tone inaudible to Paudrig, he added, “Now ye got a reason for it.”
A look of serious meaning, and Ronneigh was off, undulating the reins and directing Tuatha toward the road leading east, with Paudrig shouting after her, “Next time, ye beastie, Ah’ll taek yur horns for mah wall- the both ‘er ‘em!” which occasioned a moo of some length from the freemartin, who was only glad to be gone.