Story of the Day: Sore Loser -- Part 2
And now, Alasdair being a sore loser in real time:
Alasdair was pacing the peristyle, waiting for the rest of the party to come away from the stables, where they were visiting with Roreigh and Dieas, who were sat with Moraig and the rest of the mares, tending to them and speaking to Jaicobh about the trade in Tyfferim, spying Alasdair’simpatient aspect from the corners of their eyes. They talked about the farms, about the first of the spring crop to go in, about loam and lime, and about Beryn’s taking Moraig around to every field in Southern and Eastern Tyfferim, to plough the furrows and turn the soil and visit with those elder farmers who could no longer keep their fields without some help.
“Me’n Moraig did Baba Connridh’s field the other day,” said Beryn. “That right, Moraig?”
Moraig snuffed and flicked her tail at him.
“Aye, I know you don’t like her, ‘cause she’s old and smells o’ cobwebs, but she gives you plenty o’ carrots after you do her fields. Don’t complain so much when you got a bucket o’ mangolds around yer muzzle.”
Moraig snurled and had no idea what Beryn was talking about.
“Baba did most of the hard work though,” Beryn continued. “She cleaned that whole field o’ stones all by herself the day before. Sure she’s hardy and stubborn, but I can’t imagine a woman at her age trudgin’ through such a large field with an apron full o’ rocks.”
“Oh, I can, ‘specially if it’s her,” Jaicobh laughed. “The winds of Fuinnog could come down and blow the whole house away, and Baba’d still be standin’ in the middle of the field, shakin’ her fist at the sky. She’ll do anythin’ with an apron full o’ rocks. That’s what keeps her hardy at her age. She picks ‘em up and saves ‘em for her neighbour’s children when they cross the fence without askin’.”
Beryn looked thoughtful. “How old is Baba anyhow?”
“Who knows,” Jaicobh shrugged. “A million probably. She and the Connridhs’ve been on that land since I was young. I remember her Ma, another one older than peat, a hundred goin’ on a thousand. She used to make charms for all the folk that’d come down the road from town. After aul’ man Connridh died, she never remarried, and Baba’s been fightin’ off the lads since she was young.”
“Can’t imagine she’s had any offers recently,” said Sheamas charily.
“Well, maybe from the spiders that congregate in her house.” Jaicobh winked. “You never know.”
“Get the feelin’ she’d take a suitor just to shoo him off with a few stones,” said Beryn.”She’s thrown enough of ‘em at Farmer MacClaidhin. She’s got good practice.”
There was a sigh here. “Aye, that lad,” Jaicobh lamented, passing his hand over his eyes and looking pained. “Decent fella, but can’t put two pats together to make a brownin’. Went over there the other day to see how Baba was gettin’ on, and his field was a right wreck.”
“Well, he had ten children,” said Beryn archly. “Made himself ten problems.”
“Aye, shoulda been puttin’ in the beans when he was sewin’ the seed somewheres else.” Jaicobh made a resigning gesture. “Come ten years time, he’ll have a few hands to help him out, but I don’t know how he’s gonna manage that whole farm with just him and his wife. Good woman, but I feel for her when I see the state o’ the place. Well, there’s responsibility and rationality, and one don’t have much to do with the other, not on that farm anyway. There’s managin’ a small farm and managin’ a large house, and you can’t have only one person tendin’ to either. Wouldn’t be bad if he had a few hands help him for the season, but he’s gotta do everythin’ himself. Lad’s just diggin’ a hole to fill it with slag. Might as well’ve left the backfill in it.”
“Guess that’s what happens when you love yer wife more’n the farm,” said Beryn, winking to his wife, who was dandling their child about.
“Love is a luxury for the poor,” said Boudicca, who was come away from the ladies to see what her father on about. “It is relatively inexpensive to begin with, but once the amusement is had, there is always the regret and expense of a child to deal with. Orphanages are full of regrets and the love no one will pay for.”
A few round the circle of conversation chuckled guiltily into their hands, others grinned and shook their heads, but Adaoire, who had been particularly silent throughout the whole of this speech said, “No one with a full farm to run should have more than two wee-uns.”
Aiden, who was standing a little farther off, demurred. “Ma had many more after us,” he reminded him.
“Aye, and look how they turned out.”
Lochan, who was standing beside Moraig and patting her hide, stopped and frowned at Adaoire, and Sheamas gave his brother a playful jab in the side.