28 September 2008

The Love of a Mother II (fin)

“...Know you my son, Eoin?”  When the girl nodded, Aoife’s ghost continued.  “I have seen him here, and I have seen the way my husband’s parents treat him.  My daughter sends for him even now, but you must do me one great favor.  Spread word among the townsfolk that my husband’s parents are cruel, mean people, and let them know that they are not fit to raise their grandson.  A time will come when he will need the support of the town to lift him out of that pit.”

“I will do so,” said Bridget with a little bow of her head.

Satisfied, Aoife’s ghost moved on to see her son.  

Eoin, still quite young, suffered regular beatings under the hand of his grandfather.  That particular evening, he was lying awake in bed, weeping over his bruises, when the ghost of his mother appeared.  He nearly cried out in fright and roused his grandparents when he saw her, but her greeting was gentle, and finally he fell into her loving embrace.

“Don’t cry, my brave boy,” said Aoife in a tender, sad voice.  “Your sister, Liadan, is sending for you as we speak, and I will return to you every night until you go to her.”

After that, Eoin was able to bear the hardships of living under his cruel grandparents’ roof with more patience.  In town, rumors were circulating about Daniel O’Flaherty’s parents’ sins, and when the letter arrived from Liadan in America, ill will was rising against Eoin’s harsh, unyielding caretakers.

Reading the letter, the grandparents were loathe to let go of their good-for-nothing grandson, whom they had treated as little more than a servant over the past year.  Perhaps they could act as if they had not received the letter at all.

Luckily for Eoin, the ghost of Aoife had anticipated this, being clever even in death.  When Eoin overheard his grandmother’s shrill, unpleasant voice talking about how they would deceive their grandson, he did as his dead mother bid him and found Bridget in town.  He told her of his grandparents’ latest wickedness, and she went straight to work.

Later that day, when Eoin was washing dishes from the midday meal, there came a knock on the door. 

“Get the door, boy,” Eoin’s grandfather ordered.  Drying his hands on his shirt, Eoin crossed the room and did as he was told.  As soon as he saw what waited outside, a grin broke like dawn across his young face, and he turned to his grandfather.  “Grandda, it’s for you,” Eoin told him and took a step away.  His grandfather grumbled and pulled himself out of his chair to meander over to the door. 

Eoin’s grandmother appeared from the hallway at that moment with an odd expression on her face.  “I hear a commotion outside, Seamus, what is—” She never finished her sentence.  The sight of at least half the townspeople gathered outside their front door had shocked her speechless.  Bridget had done well; she stood beside the mayor, who wore a very stern expression on his wizened, bearded face.

“Seamus and Agnes O’Flaherty, get out here so that we might address you in open air, under the sight of God,” the mayor commanded severely, and Eoin followed his grandparents outside.  “Today the mailman delivered you a letter from Liadan, your granddaughter, did he not?”  When the O’Flaherty’s began to protest, the mayor cut them off instead by addressing Eoin.  “Eoin, boy, come here.  Let me see your arms.”  The mayor examined the boy’s arms, then his back, and tutted unhappily.  “See this?”  He indicated to the others with him the bruises on Eoin’s body, and there were angry murmurs.  The O’Flaherty’s looked around nervously.

“Eoin falls a lot, clumsy boy…”  Seamus O’Flaherty’s explanation only made the crowd angrier, for Eoin had a sweet disposition like his mother and was well-liked among the townspeople.

“You have treated this boy with cruelty, but no longer.  We know Liadan O’Flaherty has asked for her brother to join her.  You will let Eoin go to her immediately, or suffer the judgment of the entire town.”  The mayor’s words left no room for argument, nor did the expression on the townspeople’s faces.  For the first time since his mother and sister had left, Eoin’s heart was filled to bursting with happiness.

No one saw the ghost of Aoife O’Flaherty after that, not even her children.  Some weeks later, Eoin was reunited with his sister in Chicago.  Liadan had bought a small flat in town since their mother’s death, and she welcomed her little brother into their new home whole-heartedly.  They lived together in happiness for several years, and even after the two of them separated and moved on to families of their own, they forever honored the memory of their mother, who cared for her children even after her death.

As for the remaining, wicked O’Flaherty’s of Ireland, they left town not long after their public disgrace.  No one there would associate with them, so they sold their land to the first bidder and left Kinsale, never to be seen again.

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