General Fiction posted May 22, 2016 Chapters: -Prologue- 1... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Six generations of women go wherever fate leads them

A chapter in the book DAUGHTERS OF THE FOUR WINDS

Daughters of the Four Winds

by Annette Gulliver

There is a place
Across the sea
A place where my soul
Longs to be
As years go by
Memories grow dim
They are but whispers on the wind

The town of Dingle, in County Kerry on the rugged West Coast of Ireland, holds many secrets. 
Clare O’Connor, a young Irish girl, escapes the misery of the Potato Famine during the 19th Century when she leaves her home and family behind to marry the man she loves. 
As a result, six generations of women, four of whom were raised in a land vastly different from that of their forebears, follow their hearts where fate leads them, until the day when the ghosts of their past are revealed.

Clare Gowling                                 - born 1825       Ireland                   
Lavinia Brennan                             - born 1850       England                        
Kathleen Keegan                            - born 1871       Australia                            
Elizabeth Harris                              - born 1900       Australia                
Rosemary Davies                           - born 1918       Australia            
Madeleine McLachlan                   - born 1944      Australia                    

The relentless thud of windscreen wipers played a monotonous tune as they swept away the rivers of icy water streaming down the windscreen of the bus to Dingle. The narrow winding road through Conor Pass, high in the mountains on the west coast of Ireland, never failed to unnerve the driver, and the bad weather only made conditions worse. He stole a quick glance at his watch, relieved to see that he was still on schedule, despite the heavy downpour of rain that had plagued him all the way from Tralee.

Maddie McLachlan sat huddled in the last row of seats on the bus. She had dozed most of the way from Shannon Airport, and awoke to a low mumble of conversation from the other passengers. She stifled a yawn, and then wiped a clear spot on the misty window beside her. The heavy rain had eased, and as the skies began to clear she caught a glimpse of the sea shimmering in the distance. The scenery was beautiful, but as the bus drew nearer her destination, she became restless. The rush of adrenalin that had consumed her at the start of her journey, was  replaced by exhaustion, and she couldn’t wait to sleep in a comfortable bed.

Maddie found it hard to believe that she was finally in Ireland. Ten weeks had passed since the day she received a mysterious letter in the mail. It had turned her life upside down, forcing her to embark on a trail of paperwork and phone calls, as she rushed to obtain a passport, and an airline ticket to the other side of the world.

In an effort to familiarise herself with the country, she rummaged in her handbag for the travel brochure she’d collected at the airport. She spread its colourful pages on her lap, and felt a ripple of excitement run through her body as she read about the little town of Dingle, in County Kerry.  

The Dingle Peninsula was described as a rugged, but beautiful promontory, bound on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean. A popular tourist destination, it was said to be cloaked in history, with giant stone monoliths still standing like silent sentinels across the hills, a reminder of the country's pagan past.  A brief reference was given to the devastation caused by the great potato famine in the nineteenth century, but Maddie was more interested in the glossy photographs promoting the town of Dingle as a thriving hub of activity offering fine dining, good fishing and scenic nature walks. 

After reading the brochure from cover to cover, she put it away and took a photograph from an envelope. The smiling face of Eileen Patterson stared back at her. The woman was apparently a distant cousin, but Maddie had never heard of her until the day she received the letter. She studied the photograph.  As far as she could tell, there was no family resemblance at all. The woman had dark brown hair and eyes, a stark contrast to Maddie's pale blonde hair and deep blue eyes. But her curiosity was sparked when Eileen wrote that it was imperative they should meet in Ireland.

The countryside flashed by as the bus followed the road to the coast, but Maddie soon lost interest in the scenery. Her mind was consumed with what lay ahead, and for the hundredth time, she rehearsed the words she would say when she came face to face with her cousin. She took one more look at the photo, and then put it away. 

The driver’s voice suddenly boomed through the intercom, announcing their arrival in Dingle, and when the bus drew to a halt outside of a small pub by the harbour, Maddie eagerly joined the other departing passengers. The bus pulled away shortly after, and she was left standing on the pavement. Two old men were sitting on a nearby bench, so she gave them a friendly smile, but a slight nod of the head was their only response. There was no one else about, and as she gazed up and down the deserted road, she realised that she was entirely alone in a strange country.

The dark clouds that had followed her all day finally cleared, but the strong, gusty wind chilled her to the bone. She hastily donned a warm jacket and gloves, then picked up her suitcase and crossed over to a taxi stand by the edge of the harbour. The two old men watched the stranger as she crossed the road. They whispered to one another and shook their heads. It was unusual to see visitors about at that time of the year. Most of the tourists were gone by the end of November, before the cold winds of winter arrived. The local citizens  tolerated the influx of visitors during the summer months, but welcomed the quieter times, when their town once more returned to its peaceful existence.

Maddie reached the taxi stand and sat down in the shelter of a small shed. She glanced at her watch, and wondered how long she would have to wait. It was late in the afternoon, and if a taxi didn’t arrive soon she would have to book into a hotel for the night. She took a long deep breath. It was such a relief to be out in the fresh air after almost twenty-four hours of travel.

It suddenly occurred to her that she might look as bad as she felt, so she opened her vanity case and studied her reflection in the mirror. The image that stared back at her made her shudder. The tell-tale signs of fatigue were written all over her face, and dark circles had formed under her eyes. She slammed the case shut, and yawned. The effects of jet lag were beginning to take a hold on her, and to make matters worse, a painful blister had formed on one of her heels. Her feet were swollen and painful, so she kicked off her shoes and settled back to gaze across the waters of Dingle Bay.

Boats of all shapes and sizes bobbed at their moorings as the wind ruffled the water in the sheltered harbour, and colourful little shops and cafes lined the foreshore. Maddie was happy to see the town was just as the brochure described, unlike some places she had visited in her travels. The throb of a fishing boat’s engine broke the silence, and she watched as the brightly painted vessel entered the harbour by the sea wall. The day's catch gleamed in crates lined along its deck, and as it passed amidst a flock of shrieking seagulls, she returned the wave of a friendly fisherman. The sound of a car horn distracted her, and she sighed with relief when a taxi pulled into the stand. She waited while the driver alighted from his vehicle. 

“Good afternoon to yer ,Ma’am.  And where can I take yer on such a fine day as this?” he asked, as he lifted her suitcase into the trunk of the car.

“I'm going to Four Winds Farm. Do you know where that is?” 

The driver took off his cap and scratched his balding head. “Four Winds Farm, ya say? Oh yeh, I know the place alright. It’s not too far from here,” he answered, as he helped her on board. He resumed his seat, and stole a quick glance at his passenger through the rear-view mirror. His curiosity was aroused by her unusual accent. ”If ya don’t mind me askin',” he continued, “are ya here on holiday?”

Maddie laughed. “No. I’m going home.”

The puzzled glance he gave her, appeared to give the impression he hadn't seen her anywhere before. “I see. Oh well, if that’s the case I’ll have ya there in no time,” he replied, as he started the engine and turned on the meter.

The taxi passed by a bakery on the strand, and the tantalising aroma of freshly baked bread made Maddie’s mouth water. She was hungry and anxious to sample some traditional Irish food. After crossing a small stone bridge they proceeded west along the coast road, and as the town disappeared behind the hills, the driver tried to engage her in polite small talk, but it fell on deaf ears. Maddie was too absorbed by the rugged scenery as the narrow road wound past the steep rocky cliffs and secluded sandy coves that dotted the shoreline.

After several miles the driver spoke to her again. “We’re almost there. That’s Four Winds Farm just up ahead,” he said, as he pointed to a house on top of a hill overlooking the sea.

Maddie's heart raced when the taxi came to a halt outside of a small stone cottage surrounded by pretty gardens. A thin whisp of smoke curled up from its chimney, and the smell of baking filled the air. She paid the driver and collected her luggage, then walked up the cobblestone path to the front door. She hesitated for a moment, then took a deep breath and rang the doorbell. Finally, with her cousin’s help, she would be able to put the ghosts of her past to rest.
To be continued ....


The use of 'ya' instead of 'you', and 'yer' instead of 'your', is intended as part of the area's Irish brogue.

This is the first post for my new book 'Daughters of the Four Winds'.
Any advice or suggestions are most welcome, thank you.
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