General Fiction posted July 10, 2016 Chapters: Prologue 1 -2- 3... 

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Clare defies her father and marries Matthew

A chapter in the book DAUGHTERS OF THE FOUR WINDS

The Wedding

by Annette Gulliver

With the threat of the potato famine sweeping across Ireland, Clare marries her English lover and plans to flee her homeland, regardless of her father's objection.
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

Matthew was surprised to see Clare pass him by. “Clare, wait for me!” he shouted, as he ran out from behind the boulder.

Clare spun around to see him hurrying towards her. “Matthew! Where were ya?"

Matthew took her by the hand and fell into step beside her. “I’ve been waiting for over an hour. What took ya so long?”  

“I went to see the Priest this afternoon, and he said we need me Da's blessing soon if we’re to marry before winter."

Matthew was not looking forward to meeting the formidable Sean O’Connell in person for the first time. “In that case we’d better hurry."

When they reached a fork in the road, Matthew stopped and pulled a letter from his vest pocket. “I got this from me friend in St Agnes today.”

Clare was curious. “What does it say?”

Matthew took a deep breath. “Clare, I hope ya’ll still want to marry me after this.”

Clare frowned. "What on earth are ya talking about?”

Matthew’s eyes were darkly serious. “Well, there’s plenty of work in the mines in Cornwall, but there's no empty pit cottages. We'll have to stay with me old mate, Stumpy the blacksmith, until we find somewhere to live."

Clare laughed as she took Matthew by the arm. “Oh. Is that all yer worried about? Ya know I don’t care where we live, as long as we’re together. Come on. If we hurry we’ll catch me Da before he gets too drunk."
 Chapter 2
Sean O’Connell stared at his daughter and the young man seated across the table from him. "What in the hell are ya babblin' on about?"

Clare sighed in exasperation. “Matthew and I want to get married, and we’d like ya to give us yer blessin’!”

Sean took a long swig from his flagon, and then slammed it down on the table. He glared at Matthew. “Oh. So ya want to marry me daughter and take her away from here, do ya?”

Matthew felt the heat rise to his cheeks, and a lump formed in his throat. “Yeh, Mr O’Connell,” he stammered. 

Sean studied the lad whom his only daughter had chosen to marry. There was no way he would give his blessing to such a marriage. He had no time for the English, and, just as he suspected, the lad was not of the Catholic faith. ”I’ll not have me daughter marry a tin miner! And ya’ll not be takin’ her away from home and family. Do ya hear me?” he shouted.

Meara threw a menacing glance at her husband, and then took Matthew’s hand in hers. “Matthew. I want ya to know that I have no objections to this marriage, and neither should Clare’s father. I don’t want to see me girl end up in the poor house.”

Sean ignored his wife’s comments. He fixed his daughter with a steely stare. “Ya’ll bring shame on this family if ya go against me wishes. I’m warning ya, Clare. If ya go ahead and marry this man, ya need never darken this doorstep again.” He rose from the table, and kicked the chair away. “And as far as I'm concerned, that’s the end of the matter.”

Meara held her breath as she watched her husband weave towards their bedroom. The man was intolerable. “Oh, Clare,” she whispered, “he doesn’t mean what he just said. It’s the drink talkin’. Ya do what yer heart tells ya, and I’ll deal with ya father.”

Clare brushed a tear from her cheek. “It’s all right, Ma, I don’t care what he says. I’m of age now and I don't need me Da's consent. I only wanted his blessin'."

Matthew couldn’t wait to leave. Sean O’Connell was worse than he’d imagined. He took Clare by the arm. “I think it’s time I went home,” he whispered, as he steered her towards the door. He glanced back at Meara, who stood in a corner wringing her hands. “Goodnight, Mrs O’Connell. And thanks for understandin'.”

They went outside into the darkness, but when Clare cuddled up close to Matthew's chest, she was surprised when he pushed her away. “What’s the matter?”

Matthew took a deep breath, and held her at arm’s length. “Are ya sure we’re doing the right thing? Do ya think ya old man meant what he said?"

Clare put a finger to his lips. “Hush! Don’t worry, everything will be all right.”

Matthew wasn’t so sure. He kissed her lightly on the cheek, and then turned and walked away. “Goodnight, Clare,” he called back over his shoulder. “I’ll see ya at market next week.”

Clare watched as Matthew's shadowy figure disappeared down the foggy road, then hurried back inside the cottage. The cold chilled her to the bone, so she tossed another block of peat on the dying fire. It was late, and she was tired, so she snuffed out the candle and crawled into her bed in the corner of the kitchen.

As she lay in the darkness, her mind was filled with conflict. To go against her father’s wishes would bring disgrace upon her family, but Matthew would make a fine husband, and she loved him so much. Her father’s disapproval had done nothing to discourage her. In fact, it made her even more determined to marry the man she loved. There was no way she was going to let Matthew return to England without her.

Meara lay wide awake in bed beside her snoring husband. She knew that Clare would go against Sean’s wishes, and feared the worst. She whispered a silent prayer and crossed herself, then rolled onto her side, away from the stench of Sean’s drink sodden breath.
The lively sound of a fiddle fought to be heard above the clamour of conversation in O’Flaherty’s Pub. Father Moriarty was not a regular patron and sought to find some privacy away from prying eyes. He ordered a drink, and was relieved to find a bench in a secluded corner. He took a sip from his tankard of dark ale, savouring the taste as he ran his tongue around the thick cream that clung to his top lip. The opportunity for him to indulge in such a fashion seldom arose, but on this occasion he felt his visit to O'Flaherty's to be part of God's work. The parish priest had known Clare O’Connell since she was a child, and after his meeting with her the previous week, he decided to seek out her father at the man’s favourite pub.

To the casual observer, the priest was a devout follower of the Catholic church and its rigid laws, but underneath his sombre façade lurked a compassionate and somewhat romantic soul. He was of the opinion that the marriage between Clare and Matthew could be sanctioned if the young man were to attend religious instruction, thus enabling the couple to be of the one faith on their wedding day. He had no desire to see Clare made homeless, and agreed with Meara that the girl would be far better off if she left Ireland before the famine worsened. He drained his tankard and checked the time on his pocket watch. It was getting late. He shook his head in frustration, and was just about to leave when he heard the unmistakable voice of Sean O’Connell at the bar.

“Sean, my good man,” he shouted.  “Come join me. I’d like to have a little chat with you.”

Sean joined the priest and sat down beside him. He’d never liked Father Moriarty from the day the man had arrived fresh from Dublin with his fancy ways and big ideas. He didn't like anyone who tried to change the ways of the people in his village. He gulped down his drink, and thrust his thumbs under his braces. “I know what ya want, and there’s nothin’ ya can say that will change me mind, Father!”

“But Sean,” pleaded Father Moriarty, “surely we can come to some arrangement that would suit everyone?”

Sean stared into the priest’s face. “Just leave me be, Father. I’ll not hear another word about it!” he replied, as he put on his cap and strode out of the pub.
A chilly November day greeted Clare on her wedding day. Surely an omen, she thought, as she noticed the dark clouds on the horizon. She trembled as Meara braided her long blonde hair with ribbons, and when she had finished dressing, she glanced in the faded mirror. Her mother’s wedding gown fitted her perfectly, and the posy of violets and daisies from the nearby fields was beautiful.

The time to leave for the Church had arrived, and as she walked through the front door for the last time, she hesitated. “Ma, do ya think me Da will change his mind?”

Meara put a motherly arm about her daughter. There was no point in giving the girl false hope. Sean O’Connell would never back down. “Let’s just wait and see.”

It was only a short drive to the parish church, and as Clare alighted from the decorated pony trap, on the arm of her Uncle George, she turned and looked back up the road.

Uncle George, uncomfortable in the role he had been forced to take in the absence of his stubborn brother-in-law, patted her hand and frowned. “What's wrong, darlin'?”

Clare glanced about her and took a deep breath. It seemed to her that the whole village was assembled outside the church, keen for a glimpse of the girl who had chosen to forsake her family and homeland. “It’s all right Uncle George. I’m ready now.”

The organist struck up a chord, and as she hesitantly walked towards the altar, Clare noticed a few familiar faces seated in the pews, but there was no sign of her father. Her bottom lip quivered with disappointment. She had clung to the hope that he would change his mind and relent at the last moment.

Matthew watched as Clare walked towards him. He had never seen her look more radiant, and when she reached his side he gave her a reassuring smile. Father Moriarty glanced up to heaven and picked up his Bible, happy in the knowledge that he had brought two young lovers together in the eyes of God. 

The absence of Sean O’Connell at his daughter’s wedding was noted by the village gossips. He had chosen to spend the day at the pub, and, true to his word, let it be known to one and all that he had disowned his only daughter.
To be continued ...

Character List:
Sean and Meara O'Connell - Irish farmers in County Kerry
Clare O'Connell - only daughter of Sean and Meara
Matthew Gowling - An Englishman from Cornwall
Father Moriarity - parish priest in Dingle Town


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