The Courtship of Miss O'Mally
|"Lad, what be this bundle and box you're a totin' this mornin'?"
"Ah, Da, it is my sportin' garments and hat. The new trader Mister O'Mally has given me leave to pay court to his lovely daughter, Coleen, and it's to the laundry I'm takin' them. I must be fresh as a spring daisy for my first callin' on the red haired lass."
"Goin' a courtin' are ye then, boyo? Then take yer top hat to the hatter for a good brushin' as well. Don't be a trustin' a fine beaver to a launder all they understand is soap and water."
"Aye, Da," grinned Sean with a new spring to his step, "got to look me best for the fair lass."
Sean worked harder than ever, for now he had the great purpose in his life, and it was to win the hand of Coleen O'Mally. The following Saturday Sean appeared at the O'Mally home freshly washed and buffed. His boots polished to a high sheen. Evidently Mister O'Mally had informed his daughter that Sean would come a courting and his quick eye caught the movement of a curtain in her bedroom window. For when he knocked it was Coleen herself that soon answered his knock.
"May I help ye this mornin' lad?" She grinned coquettishly as she took in Sean's slim but muscular form with his doffed hat in the crook of his arm.
"Aye, Miss O'Mally. It is yourself I've come to see this fine mornin' as your father has given me leave to pay court to your lovely self."
Coleen flushed red to her hairline and her freckles stood out as she first hesitated then swung the door wide.
"Then do come in sir." Coleen in her best frock escorted Sean to the parlor, took his hat and hooked it on the hat tree, then seated him in an arm chair while she took a seat on a camel backed love seat. Almost on que Mrs. O'Mally entered.
"Why it's Sean O'Brian that's come. Would you care for tea this morning lad?"
"Ah, yes Mam that would be indeed fine." In the time it takes water to boil and tea to steep Mrs. O'Mally returned with a tea service, and poured for the three of them. This suited Sean for once in the door he knew little about the art of courting. A saucer and cup soon filled his work hardened hands and he felt more at ease with something to do.
Not so with the fair Coleen. Since arriving from Ireland young men had been coming by to pay court, and she had begun to learn the art of handling young suiters. Some were as backward as Sean here and some more ardent, but all but Sean were soft pampered boys of the wealthier families. She was quick to notice the windblown tan of his face and his weathered hands used to manual labor. He was dressed as well as any of the young dandies but there was no softness about him. He had the gleam of a driving ambition in his eyes and she for some reason was the current object of his attention. It was Mrs. O'mally who decided to ease the way for a better communication between the two.
"I understand you are a man of endeavor here about the town, Sean, what is it that you do?"
Sean dipped his head.
"Well, Mam, I work the docks loading and unloading the ships. A freight handler I am, but more. I watch for damaged or salvage goods that come off the boats. If it is of worth I bid on it and sometimes I win the bid. I've known all the merchants in town since I was a boy and can find a place to sell most anything. I have a route about the county at the inns and pubs and if it is drink, there is a ready market. Here of late I've been trading with Mr. O'Mally for first line ale and rye from Ireland. Seems I sell out quick every time I offer the goods I buy from him."
Mrs. O'Mally was well aware of Seans quick business sense, but drew him into conversation about his work for Coleen's sake. If a girl was to take a husband he must be no laggard.
"So, it's a trader you'll be then?"
"Oh, that and more, Mam. I've found that the territory of Alabama will soon be lettin' land. A man needs land with which to make a home for his family. All that I am doing now is to make enough to purchase a section of fertile land in the south where the summers are long and warm to make things grow. six hundred and forty acres of prime land, Mam, a mile by a mile can you imagine such a thing. With luck and hard work I'll have enough to buy my land in about six months if all goes well."
"Well, that is a fine goal indeed, but I must be about my work, so I'll leave you youngsters to get better acquainted." She gathered the tea set and left the parlor to the couple at least till Mister O'Mally came in for dinner.
"Where, might I ask is this Alabama you speak of Sean O'brian?" asked Coleen, her curiosity piqued.
"Why it's South of here and west over the mountains. One of the ships Captains come in from the port on the Alabama coast brought news of the selling of the land. They are wanting settlers to fill the new territory."
"So, it's land you're wanting then?"
"Aye, land for farming, and growing a family. Being a land holder gives a man stature. Though it be honest work. I don't wish to be a freight handler all my days."
"You're going to do this thing all by yourself?"
"If I have to, yes, but I'd rather have wife to build a new life and family with."
"And that is why you're here, then Sean O'Brian?"
It was Sean's turn to turn red.
"Why.....yes, Coleen O'Mally, but I hadn't thought of bringing the subject up just yet. I don't yet know if you'd be amenable to such a thing. I figured I'd have to do a bit more courtin' to see if you'd sort of get to liken me after a bit."
"Da will be in for dinner soon, so, why don't you stay to dinner yourself."
Sean relaxed. Things had moved so much faster than he'd intended, but she had not shoved him out the door, so...