Story for the Day: Love Interrupted
There is no love so amusing as love interrupted. Breigh Donnegal, born third in the Donnegal family, is Master Dairyman at the famous Royal Glaoustre Dairy, and naturally when he is in town, everyone and their mother should like to pay their addresses to the king's servant. Addresses, however kindly meant, given at the wrong time can ruin a most magical moment.
A woman unmarried, living with a man she had no relation to or marriage with—it was most distressing to her, and while Breigh could not mind the king’s great condescension—nay, the condescension of the whole royal family-- she must mind it as someone who could barely speak to the High Brother without being wracked by timidity. She had never met anything like nobility in her life, had never been introduced to another’s parents as a potential wife to a most devoted son, and how she was expected to meet a family so large and so intimate while keeping her countenance was a trial not soon to be surmounted. She crumbled in the throes of mental anguish, disquieting notions of embarrassment and diffidence attacking her every way, but when they came to the small bridge at the end of the high street and the issuing crowds from the markets swarmed about her, forcing her to brush against Breigh, her apprehensions ceased: her cheek pressed against his chest as the throngs of market-goers passed by, the soft rataplan of his heart beat against her ear, and she glaced up to be met with the master dairyman’s subrisive aspect. Kings and families, meetings and associations were all lost under the glamour of Breigh’s attention, and when they stopped to allow a few old women to pass, Breigh placed his hand on her back and pushed her forward, holding her frail frame firmly against him.
“Don’t you worry, girl, about meetin’ anyone,” said he, in a low thrum. “They’ll like you ‘cause I like you, and shise shin.” He leaned down, his mouth lingering close to hers. “No other words need be had about it.”
They remained there, studying one another in silent admiration, their eyes surveying every feature, and as the crowds casscaded past and the brontide of indistinct voices emanated in fremescent squalls, they stood in quiet investigation, the rapture of their mutual recognition drowning out the raging din, dimming every colour, ever cry, every clamour. It was a wondrous pause, one that roused her sentiments and confirmed his, and while the last of the droves past away into the high street, all enduring voices were shut out and only the whisper of “Sure like you, girl…” remained. His head canted, her neck craned, lips were parted, breath was bated, mouths went eagerly in search of one another, but the impending congregation was frightened off by two old crones crambling by who would not pass into the high street without saying hello to the master dairyman, and Aibheann pulled away, her valour frightened off by the two women flocking and fluttering about her.
“Afternoon, Master Donnegal,” they chimed, beaming up at him.
Breigh made as polite a reply as he could. “’Noon, ladies,” said he, with a disappointed air. He glanced at Aibheann, who was nodding to the women and compelled to awkward smiles, and held her tight against his side.
“Fine day, if we say so,” said one lady.
“And we do,” said the other. “And how is the master keepin’?”
“Well enough,” Breigh replied, trying for a more amiable manner.
“Big day’s comin’ soon, don’t mind sayin’,” said one woman.
“Big year it is. Five hundred to the faire,” said the other.
“Aye, it is so. And yerselves? How’s the family?”
The two women chatted away, telling of their sons and grandsons and of their wives and of who was to be got a wife and which of them would be coming to visit for the faire, and Breigh was almost sorry for his civility toward those who had ruined his chance at first intimacy. He listened and made what courteous genuflections and gracious remarks as he could while the image of Aibheann being so close to him—and how lovely she looked—was fresh in his mind. He listened to the women brabble on about subjects he cared nothing for, while spying Aibheann from the corner of his eye, and though the two women asked what famous cheeses would be on display at the faire this year, he heard nothing while his attention was on the woman clinging to his side. His awareness was all for her, and he could no more attend the two interlopers than he could ignore his object. He became sensible of all her little nuances: the fingers curled round his hand, the cheek resting at his arm, the lashes browsing his skin, the calenture of her complexion crimsoned over warm against him, and he very much wanted to be home. He apologized to the ladies but he must go; he must take Aibheann home; it had been a long and terribly pleasant day, and the fatigue of too much pleasure was descending. There were cakes to be put in the larder and bread to be stored; they had been out far too long already and the cheese in the icing of the cakes would not keep if they were not got out of the sun tolerably soon. The women, of course, must understand him: the indicative looks passing between him and Aibheann as he explained in a hurried voice how they must be off told the whole, and though they would keep the master dairyman there a little longer that they might hear more about the faire, Breigh was moving to go, he was bowing his goodbyes, he was taking Aibheann by the hand, he was leading her off, and with the box from the bakery under one arm and Aibheann in the other, Breigh trundled through the remaining crowds, keeping Aibheann close to his side.
“Never come out and say what they wanna say,” said he, leading Aibheann down the ensuing lane. “Always gotta be a song and dance to it. Shouda just asked me if I’d proposed to you yet. That’s what they were after.” He shook his head. “Don’t mind ‘em,” Breigh purred, bringing her close to his side. “They’re just lookin’ for somethin’ to talk about.” He paused, and drawing her gaze, his lips wreathed in a conscious half smile. “Maybe we should tell ‘em yer meetin’ the king.”
He winked at her, and Aibheann’s heart leapt under so joyous a prospect. She had forgotten about kings and queens; her attention was now all for him, and as she was willingly led down the winding avenues, around the small cottages embracing the end of the lane, a profusion of sanguine spirits rushed on her, his becoming aspect and considerate character all her unwavering adulation.
They came to the house, and when they approached the small gate, Breigh stopped and prevented her going farther by holding her hand close at his side. “Wait here a minute,” said he, in a half-whisper.
She stood at his side and gazed up, amazed at his devoted expression.
He drew her close, his hand reaching under her arm and reining her from behind. “Sure like you, girl,” he repeated, hoping to recommence their suspended concession. “Like havin’ you with me. Like havin’ you home.”Home: the word had been used to be a dreadful penance to her. Under her stepmother’s reign, home had meant the governance and tyranny of an officious old crone, one who could have loved her as a daughter and despised her as an intruder. The wage she had earned, the reverence she had expressed, the affability she had treated one who had shown her nothing but littleness and cruelty was hardly worth the malice she had borne, but here was joyous vindication, for she had suffered all the tribulations of a most disagreeable woman and horrid home to be rewarded with tenderness and approbation. To be under Breigh’s auspices, to be welcomed into his house and introduced to all the secret workings of his heart was all her salvation, and as he leaned forward and toched his forehead to hers, the tips of their noses touching, she triumphed in knowing her interest requited, and where the word home was once accorded to something which offered only shame and degradation, it was now become a means of indebted delectation. She craned her neck once more, and her heart flourished with all the elation that her gratitude and partiality could warrant as Breigh pressed his lips against hers.