She sat at the small table her rag doll, Jemima, sitting before her listening intently to her tell a grand story of silkies and the magical leprechauns from across the seas. Her mother laughed and she looked up smiling. She thought again of how beautiful her mother was; her soft curls the colour of the warm fire, here eyes were the same colour as her green shawl making her hair seem brighter, but just then the shawl lay on the back of the chair as her mother peeled the vegetables to add to the meat and onion browning in the pot over the fire.
‘What what y’self. You and your talk of the wee folk. You’ve been listening too long to that rascal George and his nonsense talk.’ she returned in her sing song way of speaking, but her smiling face told Rhiannan that her mother wasn’t really cross at George.
‘Speak of the devil himself.’ She announced smiling as the door behind Rhiannan opened and their tall man entered.
‘Ah now if there’s not a sight to please a man’s eyes more.’ He said grinning. ‘The two most beautiful woman, in all God’s creation, by the warmth of the hearth on a blustery cold eve. Warms the cockles of a man’s soul.’
He dropped a hand to smooth Rhiannan’s head as he passed her to collect Rosemary in his arms. Rhiannan smiled watching them kiss in the glow of the fire. Usually there was a briefness to their kiss, but that evening the kiss seemed to go on and on for ages. And when he finally parted their lips George dropped his forehead to Rosemary’s shoulder and received her strokes on his long red locks. She didn’t see the concern darken her mother’s eyes and Rhiannan didn’t understand the worry that had come into her home with him, she just thought George happy to see them as he always was.
He moved from her mother and sat on his chair opposite the fire and with a comical growl of a bear leant over and grabbed Rhiannan’s arms to lift her off her chair, throwing her up to catch her around her waist and then pulling her through the air with a squeal to land safely onto his lap. In turn Rhiannan did the same to Jemima, who’d been left on the table, making her George chuckle.
‘Ah my wee lassie. Could a man be so blessed with a woman so beautiful the clouds weep at the sight of her and then to receive a wee replica of her, as beautiful as the mother herself?’
Rhiannan just smiled at his tone of happiness and love nestling contentedly in his protective arm.
Later with her belly full George carried Rhiannan to the small cot that was her bed. He cuddled her extra long, just smiling down at her, rocking as he held her, a tune humming in his throat, until her eyes closed with the gentleness of it and then softly kissing her closed eyes and the place between them at the top of her nose, he laid her in her cot, lingering by her, stroking her hair rubbing her shoulder and whispering softly the words to the song.
‘Hush hush time to be leaving, hush now dreams come a creeping
Dreams of faith and of freedom; so cry in your sleep bonny babe.’
‘What will you do?’ she heard her mother ask as George finally left her side, the draft in his wake slightly rousing her from the slumber she was blissfully drifting into.
‘I’ll have to follow. I can’t let the wee bastard get away with it.’
‘Those poor lads. What could twist a mind so badly?’
‘Hardship and having the reality of it thrust down a lad’s throat will turn many a man. Why do you think so many have left these shores in search of the better life?’
Rhiannan opened her eyes to watch the two people that were her world. In the golden glow of the fire and the candles on the table she could see George standing beside Rosemary sitting in her chair before the fire sewing, his hand dropped to her shoulder tracing the pattern of the green shawl.
‘Are you sure the master …’
‘The master knows naught of you and the lass. It will not be him to hound you. I will send money as often as I can, but you must be prepared if it cannae get through.’ He dropped to his knee beside Rosemary ‘Why won’t you come with me lass?’
‘Oh no George my darling, no.’ she freed a hand from her sewing to stroke his hair, darker red than her own, more the colour of thick syrup. ‘Twas bad enough crossing from my sweet Ireland to here; I lost my mother then and nearly three brothers. To cross the great seas for a year just to reach the devil land …’
‘It’s no so evil now that there are towns and roads and houses. I’d marry you lass; give you and the wee lassie the name I use by law.’
‘But George to be on the seas for a year; I could not survive. Just crossing the loch now makes my stomach churn mercilessly.’
‘The voyage is no so long now. And once you find your sea legs you will be fine.’
‘No George, the water fills me with dread. No I shall stay here. We shall manage until you return.’
He stood and strode to the fire to pound his fist on the mantle above in exasperation.
‘And then what lass?’ he ran his hand through his hair in exasperation. ‘What is there for me here? Constant reminders I’m the bastard son? I cannae be my own man I must be the servant of another? I may no have my father’s name but by god I have the fire of his linage in my blood. Once they were kings and you ask me to stay here and be another man’s lackey?’
‘I ask you to stay here and be my husband and father to our bairn.’ Her voice rose to match his.
They didn’t see Rhiannan half sit up, one fist knuckling the threatening sleep from her eyes trying to stay awake to hear and learn and understand what their talk was about. Was George going away? Was he taking her mother? Taking her? Where would they go?
‘Come with me lass.’ He implored dropping to his knee before the woman once more ‘We can have a home in the new country; we can live a healthy life. Our lass can grow strong and her brothers strong with her.’
‘Ah my darlin’ George.’
Rosemary sighed stepping to pass him as the man pulled her waist against him, so she tenderly stroked his hair. But if it was still in defiance or in surrender Rhiannan would never know as then he stood and was kissing her mother again, lifting her and carrying her to their big bed beside Rhiannan’s cot.
‘Sleep precious lass.’ Rhiannan looked up to the face of her beloved George as his big hand stroked her back to her pillow, his voice soft in a whisper still held the timbre of his love.
In the morning he was not there. Her mother would not get out of bed, her eyes swollen and red from crying like nothing Rhiannan had ever seen; silently and unquenched. Rhiannan did her best to make tea for her mother but the fire wouldn’t light. She ran outside to try and find George but there was no sign of him. Her mother found her later sitting on the stoop crying. The pair sat together and, huddled in her big green shawl, wept the tears Rhiannan did not understand that were for their broken hearts because George would not be returning.
Life didn’t change completely at first. Small things changed. Their belongings began to disappear, and the cow. And then the people began to not speak to them. Finally her mother started putting their things into bundles; two for herself and one for Rhiannan. Early the next morning she fed Rhiannan and doused the fire with the pail of water. Then as the chill began to creep into their home, they collected their bundles and walked from the house.
‘Where are we going ma?’ Rhiannan asked as they walked away from the village that Rhiannan had never left before, never thought there was anywhere away from the village to go to or come from. She just presumed everyone lived in the village.
‘To the sea shore. Now stop yer chatter and save yer energy for walking.’
Eventually with the sun setting they reached a village by the sea as the rain came down in torrents. Rhiannan thought the sea was falling on them as they huddled by a wall and waited for the rain to stop. Rhiannan remembered George’s last words “A woman so beautiful the clouds weep at the sight of her” and she felt tears fill her eyes for the loss of George. She was certain that had he still been with them they would never have needed to leave their home for this cold wet place.
A man came by them and stopped. He eyed up the pair of them and Rhiannan saw her mother eye the man back. He was older and fatter than George and no where near as tall. His hair that stuck out from his tamishanter on his head, and his bushy mutton chop whiskers was grey and white and he wore trousers not a kilt.
‘You’ll drown before you’ll wait out the rain.’ He told them ‘Best you come with me. I have a shack you can have.’
He led them through the sheets of water to a place that looked more like an out house. It had three walls and a fireplace. The gap one side of the stone fireplace was the entrance with a large oiled sheet to cover it; the gap, on the other, was half filled with mouldy damp split wood. Inside it had a small table and two chairs, a sofa against the far wall and a long wooden box in which to put their things.
Her mother stowed their bundles in the box and sat Rhiannan on it with Jemima still tightly held against the little girl’s chest by the cotton shawl wrapped about her cotton dress. Rhiannan watched her mother removed her wet shawl and hung it on a chair as the man lit a small fire in the hearth.
‘Best you take yer wet things off and dry them.’ the man suggested standing up and noting the shawl removed showing him the wet dress tight across the woman’s pert breasts.
‘How can I thank you?’ her mother asked, Rhiannan was eventually to come to recognise the sultry tone of her mother’s voice.
The man smiled and stepped to her. His hand covered her mother’s breast and her mother didn’t move. He dropped his hand and gathered her mother’s skirts up her leg. Still her mother didn’t move. Smiling the man guided her mother to the sofa. And then as she sat her mother helped him open his trousers.
Rhiannan sat motionless on the box huddled in her wet dress and watching as her mother lay back and allowed the man to cover her on the sofa. The sound of him grunting as he pushed his hips at his mother sounded like a pig snuffling in it’s trough and then it became more urgent as his movements became faster and finally with a cry like he’d hit his thumb with a hammer or something he arched and paused and then went limp. When he took another breath he stood smiling and stepped back. Rhiannan saw her mother’s thighs pink and flushed in her petticoat. The man was tucking something pink away in his trousers. And then as he passed Rhiannan on his way out he ruffled her hair and laughed.
The man came back every day. He brought her mother some food and a bottle of spirits and made her mother drink from it and then attend to his needs as he drank also. When he had gone her mother drained the bottle and fell asleep on the sofa. It wasn’t long before all her mother did was sleep and drink and attend to the man. The man began bringing other men who gave him money and then covered her mother before leaving and then the man covered her and left. Each time he left he would laugh, and ruffle Rhiannan’s hair if he could.
Soon the men came during the day also and Rhiannan learnt not to be visible in that tiny hut. Hiding under the table or behind the sofa she would see but not be seen. All of them had pink things that when taken out of their trousers stood stiff and red with shining red or purple tops and then after the men covered her mother their things would be soft and pink and limp and very much smaller.
One morning as they ate their porridge Rhiannan had made, she dared ask her mother about them.
‘Ma, what are those pink things the men have between their legs?’
‘It’s their dicks and don’t you be looking at them!’
Rosemary’s tone was harsh and she cuffed Rhiannan across the back of her head for emphasis ignoring the tears that sprung into her darling daughter’s eyes.
‘Filthy evil things that they are.’ Her mother swore then laughed and took the bottle to the sofa. ‘Don’t you harbour no ideas about them mind or you’ll be out on your ear!’ She yelled and guzzled at the contents of the bottle.
Still smarting from the blow but crying for another reason Rhiannan ran from the hut. She ran down the lane to the seashore and stood ankle deep in the waves and screamed with the gulls.
‘I hate her! I hate her! Why? Why? Why did she hit me? Why did he leave us?’ and then she dropped to her knees in the water and allowed the tears to flow, her small fists pounding the wet sand splashing in the water as it lapped about her.
‘Hey hey hey wee lassie, ye no need to fash sae bad.’
Brown bony hands with fingertips calloused from fishing caught hold of her shoulders and drew her from the waves.
‘Come with me and we’ll settle ye spirits.’
He walked her up the beach to a small cove where his hut stood, a boat pulled up on the sand and a net stretched out on the rocks.
‘A wee lassie like yeself ha’e no need to fash.’
He sat her on a small rock and handed her a tin mug with water in it.
‘Drink it up.’
‘Thank ye sir.’ She replied and he looked surprised that she had manners.
‘You’re the bairn of the red haired Irish woman on the hill aye?’
‘Dare say ye no had a decent meal in days, aye?’
‘Aye, just parritch sir.’
‘Well see here, if ye learn to knot my net and mend it I’ll send ye hame with a fish for yer supper aye?’
‘Oh thank you sir.’
The fisherman then showed her the way he wanted her to mend his net.
‘Best you take your dress off now mind, it will get caught up in the net and dirty from the fish guts.’
Rhiannan was not sure but he sat on his chair up on the porch of his hut and so she removed her dress and laid it behind her out of the way as she worked on the net draped over the rocks to dry.
Her mother had a new man when Rhiannan came home with her fish. He was loud and talked, if he wasn’t grunting with the efforts of his administrations. Rhiannan hid in her corner quietly playing with Jemima and waited for the man to finish. When he had he slapped her mother’s bared buttocks and stood up. He then turned towards Rhiannan before his kilt had dropped down over his not completely softened dick. For some reason Rhiannan unconsciously looked up and found herself staring at it. The movement caught his eye and he smiled a gluttonous smile.
‘My, and I waisted my money on the old slut.’
‘Get out!’ Rosemary hissed but Rhiannan was not sure who to.
Rhiannan stumbled back against the damp wood heap as her mother launched herself onto the man and hit him, wanting him out of the hut and away from Rhiannan. ‘Get out and stay away from my lass.’
‘I’ll pay you double to have that bud.’ He offered taking a drink of the whiskey bottle and not even flinching at the woman’s pathetic slaps.
Rosemary screamed at him and scratched at his face.
‘You bitch!’ he hissed and slapped her back sending her reeling to the floor.
He then fell on her pushing her petticoat and slapping at her fighting clawing hands.
‘I’ll have you again for free for that. You should show me such spirit more often you slut.’
Rhiannan was horrified, more because her mother was screaming than that the man was covering her again.
‘But I’ll have this entrance this time.’
He fought Rosemary onto her stomach and then grabbed her hair and hissed in her ear as he strained to hold her steady and push with his hips making her scream.
‘And then mother dearest,’ he kept hissing as he strained with each thrust of his hips against her ‘I shall take your daughter’s prise.’
‘Get out, Rhiannan, get out!’ Her mother screamed between cries of pain, her eyes watering with shame. ‘Run! Hide! Run!’
Rhiannan grabbed Jemima and the green shawl and fled.
For my NaNoWriMo challenge
One Part of a three part novel.
A spin off from my Daintree Daughter’s Book
Beware: this is a realistic Adult book & not a pretty tale like my poetry
It tells of the fight to become free and happy, with the leading characters first facing the trials of the ugly side of life, and the shackles of their pasts dragging at them as they carve their own standard of living. But in the mid 1800s it was normal for the children of the poor to see the activities of their parents – good & bad; generally they weren’t sheltered … that came in soon after when everyone wanted to live like the well to do did & hide or ignore the brutality of the ugly side of life.
Remember in Australia, Corporal Punishment was only outlawed 35 years ago! Child abuse is still being fought & wives could not testify against their husbands for anything including marital rape until recent times also.
So all that aside I hope you can enjoy the story! ☼
To tie this in with it’s sister Victorian Volumes I have changed the Volume Title to “Voyagers”
Hopefully I can update the edits in here soon!