Setting: 19th century, Ireland. Please leave feedback.
|The rain had been falling in minuscule drops since just after dusk, and finally dissipated as dawn broke over the horizon leaving the hills blanketed in a dense fog. It had been a still, quiet night that left the nearby woods nothing to whisper about. The only sound disturbing the silence, a creek not far off crashing over stones, running its course. At the base of one of the grassy knolls stood a cabin covered in peat moss protecting its inhabitants from the cool, damp air outside. A wisp of smoke issued from the chimney; the remnants of a once thriving fire now breathing its last and dying out.
The cabin was not any more lavish inside than out, although much warmer. To the right lay young Connell, aloft in his cradle, slumbering peacefully. Positioned next to the cradle, the Kelley’s table, there sat a candle, a stone basin filled with water, and two books: the bible and the book of the Kelley line all the way through the ages to Adam. Dead center from the door, the fireplace built of ash-stained stone and shale, just to the left of it laid Séamus and Treasa affectionately in bed.
Séamus had been awake for the past ten minutes, holding his wife and recalling the discussion they had the night before. It was a discussion they had all too often any more. Treasa seemed convinced that America was the best place for the family, and who could blame her? With all of the wonderful stories of success of its inhabitants that appeared to flow continuously from the young nation, but to Séamus these stories seemed to be just that, stories. He had his own reasons for wanting to stay. First and foremost, as any man of Eire, Séamus wanted his land to pass to his son, just as his father had, just as his grandfather had. Secondly, he could not give in to the English; it had been their goal over the last two hundred years to rid Eire of the Eireann by whatever means necessary. His father had taught him to never show weakness to the invaders, and never to let them drive him away.
Séamus climbed gingerly from bed careful to not wake his wife, and made his way over to the table, pulling out a chair and sitting down. He dipped a cloth in the water-filled basin, and began to wash his face. Maybe Treasa was right about life being easier in America he thought, but at any rate the reasons for staying were more important than having an ‘easier life’. As Séamus began to wash his teeth with the cloth, he wondered if his son would ever have to make this kind of decision, he hoped Connell would make the right choice as he had. Séamus pulled his boots over his feet, got up from the table, and walked to the door, picking up his staff from the hard wooden floor on the way.
The clouds had started to part in the east, and the sun’s rays began to glow through the intense morning fog. Séamus’ boots made soft impressions on the damp grass as he made his way over to a large paddock built before his time. A light breeze began to blow providing a relief to the still intensely saturated air. Opening the door to the paddock and walking inside, he could see the flock had remained untouched through the night and all inhabitants could be accounted for. In the past he had had problems with wolves taking sheep from the flock during the night, both the four and two legged kind.
Opening the gate wide, Séamus began to herd the flock out in to the open, while gazing fondly at a set of twins only two days old bringing up the rear. Latching the gate securely he drove the herd, retracing the steps he had taken moments earlier, and rounding the cabin, now on his way to the ‘early-summer’ pasture. He knew it to be his favorite grazing land, in part because of its close proximity to the cabin, which often allowed him to eat lunch at home with Treasa and Connell at the cost of only a brief fifteen minute walk. As opposed to some of the winter pastures, many of which were more than an hour away.
Upon reaching the pasture Séamus set out to dispersing the flock, before taking a rest under a splendid old yew. Leaving plenty of time to contemplate and reflect, while keeping a watch over the herd. His thoughts wondered to and fro, not lingering on any one subject for very long, until Treasa again came to mind.
Séamus remembered when he first made his wife’s acquaintance. Her family had moved to Kildare from Monaghan in Ulster. He was sixteen and had gone to market with his father to sell some wool and laid eyes on Treasa for the first time, and he recalled being in awe of her beauty. Even now he recalled knowing that she had young men queuing up to court her and it was she who had chosen him, as to why he could only guess and be thankful that he was so lucky, for he loved her very deeply. Three years later they would be married, and two years further down the line Connell would be born.
Connell had been a joy to the family from the beginning. Séamus would never tire of recollecting the day of his birth and being told by the midwife after hours of anticipation “Mr. Kelley, God has given you a son...” Someone to pass on Séamus’ name to, someone to pass on his land to, someone to pass on his knowledge to, and someone to one day care for the family if anything should happen to him. Séamus often spent large amounts of his day pondering what kind of a man Connell would be when he got older and what wonderful things he would do in his lifetime. Today was no different, and after a while he began to doze and his thoughts became mingled with dreams as time passed and the morning elapsed, the flock doing their job in the mean time without disruption.
Séamus awoke from his stupor of semi conscious daydreaming around midday, with the rumbling of his stomach walls contracting from a now notable hunger. The sun now elevated in the sky, the morning had given way to a cool breezy day still somewhat overcast. A few of the herd’s number had begun to wander in search of the finest foliage while Séamus had been dozing; he quickly began rounding them up. He found the twins taking a nap near the outskirts of the field, not far from where their mother stood grazing. Rousing them, and grouping them with the rest of the flock he began the drive back to the paddock.
It was slower work getting the flock back, now on a full stomach, but still manageable in good time for some one with a goal, Séamus’ goal, to fill his aching stomach. He began salivating at just the thought of the mutton and spuds Treasa would have waiting for him at the table when he arrived. Séamus thought she was an excellent cook, even with the very modest supplies of food he was able to provide his family with. Making it over another hill, the cabin was finally visible in the distance. Connell would probably be playing in his cradle as usual right now; Séamus could not get enough of the looks of awe on his son’s face when he discovered something new. The cabin was only 200 yards away now, and he could-
A scream coming from inside the still distant cabin fell upon Séamus’s ears. His heart leapt into his throat, his breath caught in his chest and for a moment he was unable to move or think, the scream he knew to be his wife’s echoing inside of his skull. A second scream, and his limbs were suddenly brought back to life, a gulp brought his heart down back into his chest, and his legs were carrying him to the cabin faster than he had thought possible. His heart beating so hard he thought it would burst from his ribcage as so many terrible possibilities raced threw his mind. He was 100, 75, 50, now 20 yards from the cabin, the adrenalin running threw Séamus’ veins heightening all of his senses. The door to the cabin was standing wide open and sound of a struggle could now be heard from inside, as he reached the entrance at top speed, while time seemed to slow to a halt.
From his immediate vantage point Séamus could see Connell’s cradle over turned and Connell bawling on the floor next to it. The interior of the cabin was in shambles. Stepping inside and looking around the door, his breath again caught in his chest- smack! He saw the English soldier hit Treasa and her crumple to the floor in a heap; Séamus’ fear and anxiety was immediately replaced with hatred and anger, and was unable to stop himself from doing what he was about to do. Engulfed by his hatred and anger Séamus took up his staff in both hands and began to strike at the back of the mans skull, once, twice, 3 times, 5 times, losing count as the man collapsed to the floor dead, blood, tissue, and fragments of his skull on Séamus, his staff and the cabin floor.
Séamus sat down, his wife still unconscious, Connell still crying from the cabin floor. He knew the punishment for killing a soldier of the British Empire. He would hang from the gallows when they found out what he had done. And as he sat there Séamus knew what he would now have to do. Going to America was now their only option.
Authors Note: Chapter 2 is now available if you would like to read it. It can be found in my portfolio (Richard T. Clark ), or here: http://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1225511