From Book 3 (Charles)
After almost three months of repetitive work and monk-like isolation in Scotland, we are returning to Ireland. I receive my pay at the dock in Glasgow and it looks substantial. Andy warns me not to spend it until I get home. Many of the lads lose it in the alehouses of Derry. I make up my mind that I may have a wee drink at the Cross, but the rest will be saved for my future. What is my future? I’ve decided that I am not going to America. I’ll marry Ellen, if she’ll have me, and find work on some farm in Donegal or Tyrone. I miss my home on the green grassy hills there, and I will never leave again.
When I arrive home, following a day of travelling from Derry on the steamboat, I am warmly greeted by Ma and Da and the rest of my family including young Brian, I mean Hugh. Da tells me that there is still some harvesting to be done in his field, and I should help my brothers tomorrow. Patrick tells me the good news that he and Jane will marry next year. After the harvest, the men in the family will build a cabin next to ours for Patrick and Jane.
Da asks about when I plan to go to America. I tell him that I am not going. He looks stunned and then disappointed. I tell him that I will look for work next spring. I feel as if I am being put out of my home. I tell him that.
“You are, are you? Well that’s exactly what is happening. Everyone in this family is welcome here, but the land is too small for yis. The sooner you get settled somewhere else, the better. The same goes for Danny.”
This is all too clear. First I have to talk to Ellen.
I see Ellen after Mass. She is walking home with her family. I run up to her. The family acts a bit surprised, but they welcome me back to the parish. I ask Ellen to walk with me. She looks to her mother and says to me,
“Fine! You can tell me about all your plans.”
We walk slowly behind the family until they are out of earshot.
“Ellen. I have made a grave mistake. I don’t want to go to America. I want to stay here with you.”
“She exclaims, “What!”
Her sisters turn around and stare. Her parents continue walking.
“Do you think that I have been waiting here for you to pick up where we left off. I am not your plaything.”
“I’m sorry for being so self-centred. I understand your feelings.”
Andy told me to say that. The lasses always fall for us trying to understand them.
I continue, “If you don’t care for me anymore, I will accept that. I just don’t see any future for me without you. Will you marry me?”
There! I’ve said it. There is no bigger commitment in life than asking a lass to marry. That should do it.
“Charley, you have been gone many months now. I guess that you have not heard that I’m to be married to Will Beaty next year. It is all settled. You can meet Will later at our house if you wish. I’ll not be marrying the likes of you.”
My thoughts are on stealing Ellen from Willie Beaty. Willie is too stout and has a face that looks like a frog’s. A wide mouth and a wide space between his front teeth, he has. I find it hard to believe that Ellen is going to marry him. Ellen may be a bit on the plump side, but I think she has a lovely figure. Her face gets more beautiful each day, as well. Although my nose is misshapen and I have a couple of teeth missing, I still consider myself more handsome than Willie. I can see myself and Ellen as a couple. I just can’t see the Frog Prince and Ellen together. It is a mismatch made in hell.
I’ll try to get Willie’s viewpoints on marriage with my Ellen. I drift on down to see him on his Da’s farm. His Da has a good size plot.
“Hello Willie,” say I.
“Hello Charley. Back from Scotland are y’ not?”
A Brilliant lad! Extremely observant!
“I am. How is it going with your marriage plans? Be living on your Da’s land, will you?”
“Aye. Da’s goin’ to give me a good size property to farm. We’ll be livin’ with the family in an extension of me parents’ cottage. We’ll be startin’ that in the spring.”
“Grand. You know that Ellen and I were courting a while ago. There’s no hard feelings between us, are there?”
“Ah no. I know that y’ have only the best wishes for us. Y’ll be invited to the wedding, I hope.”
“I don’t think that is a good idea. Ellen still has feelings for me, you know.”
“No. I didn’t know.”
I got in a good one there.
“Aye. We have had many intimate moments on our trips into County Tyrone. I guess that Ellen mentioned them to you.”
“No. Can’t say that she did. Intimate moment, do y’ say?”
“Aye. It would not be kind of me to talk any more about that. Anyway, I’ll be seeing you around. Good luck to you.”
I don’t know where this will lead. If Ellen learns of this conversation she will be angry with me. I don’t know how Willie will bring this up, but I hope that it goes in my favour.
“What in the name of God did you say to Will?” Ellen yells at me in front of my cottage.
“Ah, nothing much. I just mentioned that you and I were lovers at one time. I wished him luck with his marriage.”
“Will looks at me in a different way now. He says that he understands my past indiscretions. What indiscretions?”
“I didn’t say anything about indiscretions. It could be that Will is a suspicious and jealous man. He probably thinks that you and Mary are somewhat alike.”
“Holy hell, man! Mary and I are not alike. I don’t know what went on between you and him, but I refuse to let you talk to him again.”
“We are not married, not yet anyway. You can’t tell me who I can or can’t talk to.”
She walks away muttering to herself. I think that I got in a couple more good points there. I’ll bring her some flowers tomorrow to calm her down.
The flowers from Ma’s garden that I left at her cottage door with a note written by Brian are found at my door later. I guess she didn’t like them. Thank God for Brian, I mean Hugh, writing the note. Maybe I can get her family to support me in my quest to marry Ellen. I hope that there is someone in her family who can read and has read my note.
I try to enlist some support from Paddy Carlin.
“Paddy. I must get Ellen to love me again. Would you and Gracie help? Could you put in a good word for me? Tell her how much I love her.”
“Ya must be mad. According to Grace, Ellen hates ya.”
“All Grace has to do is tell Ellen that I’ll never marry anyone else because I’m lovesick for her. A good word is all I ask.”
“I still think that y’re mad, but I’ll do it.”
Another month has gone by. I think of other devious ways to win her over and for her to see the light. I try another approach. I will ask her sister Mary about my chances. This will be awkward, but I have to do it.
I stop at the Bradley’s and ask to see Mary. I know that all the Bradley lasses are there. It is time for them to card and spin yarn from the new wool. Mrs. Bradley doesn’t glare at me this time. I almost detect a smile. Mary comes to the door and asks me what I want. I ask her to come out and have a few words with me. Mary looks at me like I’m mad, but she comes outside and walks a distance away from the door. This is awkward.
“How is it going there, Mary?”
“Grand, Charley. Is this what you’re after, to check on my well being?”
“Mary, you know that I am in love with your sister Ellen. I just can’t understand why she is marrying Willie and not me. Ellen is making a big mistake. Do you know why she is rejecting me and going through with the wedding?”
“Charley, we love you and would like you to be a part of the family, but Ellen was hurt when you said you were leaving. I personally dislike Will. He has a good future at his Da’s farm, but there is something about him that disgusts me. I’m not sure what that is. Maybe it’s the way he looks at me sometimes, like he fancies me. I wish that you had a chance with Ellen, but I think that she will not step out of her commitment at this point in the courtship. She never mentions you, so I think Will is going to be my new brother-in-law.”
A brilliant idea comes into my head. Maybe Willie fancies Mary more than Ellen. If I could somehow get Mary to seduce him, Ellen would change her plans. Ach! How in the hell could I ask Mary to seduce him. For all I know, she has decided to act like she is a virgin again.
“Thanks, Mary. If you would, will you tell Ellen that I still love her? I’ll not give up even after she makes her vows with Willie the Frog in front of the priest.”
Mary laughs. “Sure and I will. And Charley, when Ellen and Will marry, remember that I’m still available. Mind yourself now, won’t you?”
Paddy visits me later this day. I tell him that I’m still trying to break up Ellen’s marriage plans. He says,
“I know a way to stop the marriage.”
After all the trouble I’ve put myself through, I think that it is unlikely that stupid Paddy knows how to break up Will and Ellen, but I ask him how. He tells me, and it is brilliant. Good old Paddy.
Copyright © 2011 by Thomas Gallen