General Fiction posted August 14, 2016 Chapters:  ...3 4 -5- 6... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
With a baby on the way Clare and Matthew have to move

A chapter in the book DAUGHTERS OF THE FOUR WINDS

The Crofter's Cottage

by Annette Gulliver

Clare marries Matthew regardless of her father's opposition. Together they leave Ireland to start a new life in England.
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
It was an unusually warm day for spring and she couldn’t resist the urge to paddle in the shallow rock pools exposed by the low tide. She idly strolled farther along the shore, trying hard to ignore the noise of the pumps at the mine, and when a large rocky outcrop at the foot of a cliff offered comfort she sat down to rest, shading her eyes against the glare of the bright spring sunshine. The mine stood just ahead, straddled high on the gorse and heather clad cliffs above the sea, and she wondered if she would ever get used to life as a miner’s wife.
The hours passed by quickly as she gathered seashells and driftwood, but when the breeze grew stronger, and dark clouds began to roll in across the hills she turned for home. She quickened her pace on the way back. Matthew’s shift was to finish at midday, and it was time to prepare his lunch. Besides, she was hungry after foregoing breakfast that morning because of an unsettled stomach.
Chapter 5
Matthew was short of breath as his hands gripped the cold rusty rungs on the ladder leading up ‘to grass’. He was worried. He’d always thought himself an able-bodied man and so far, no one had ever beaten him running the ladders. But during the past few weeks he had to admit that he was not feeling his usual self, and the coughing bouts that sapped his energy were becoming more frequent.
After climbing through several levels of the mine shaft he emerged at the top of the ladder and ran through the pouring rain to the shelter of the moor-house. He changed from his wet clothes into a warm flannel shirt and overcoat, and after waiting a further ten minutes, he pulled his cap down over his ears and began the long trek back to the village. It was his last shift for the week, and he couldn’t wait to get home.
An hour later he reached the stable yard, where he removed his muddy boots, and washed his hands and face at the water pump. He was hungry, and the aroma of something cooking made his mouth water. He finished cleaning up and then hurried inside to the warmth of the kitchen and put his brawny arms about Clare's waist. "What’s for supper tonight?" 

Clare turned to face him, a broad smile spread across her face. "Oh, so yer hungry are ya?" She kissed his cheek.

Matthew was surprised by her response. "Yer in a good mood today. What's goin' on?"

Clare had managed to conceal her morning sickness from Matthew during the previous few weeks, but as her waistline had begun to thicken she thought it time to reveal her secret. "I paid a visit to the village doctor yesterday," she said, as she stirred a steaming pot of beef stew and dumplings.

Matthew’s heart skipped a beat. "What’s wrong? Yer not sick are ya?"

Clare stood on her tiptoes and kissed him. "No, I’m not sick," she replied, as she took his hands and gently placed them on her stomach.

Matthew raised an eyebrow at her. "What are ya doing?"

She couldn’t contain her excitement any longer. "Matthew! We’re gonna have a baby!"

"What? Are ya sure?"

"Of course I’m sure. We’re going to have our own little family by the end of autumn."

Matthew looked his wife up and down. "I can’t believe it," he whispered, as he wiped a tendril of hair from her forehead and took her into his arms.

Clare released herself from his grasp, and began to set the table. "Now, that’s enough of that. Your supper is ready."

After they had eaten, Matthew lit his pipe and sat by the fire. He couldn’t stop smiling, but as he gazed at the cramped conditions in which they lived, he frowned. There had to be something he could do about it.

Clare noticed the worried expression on his face. "What’s the matter?" she asked, as she wiped the dishes clean. "Ya look as if ya lost yer last penny."

"I was just thinkin’ about the baby comin’."

"But I thought ya’d be happy!"

"I am, but we’ll need more room now. I think I’ll go up to the Manor House in the mornin’."

"Why on earth would ya do that?"

"Well, old Mr Newton’s a fair man, and he knew me Da. I’m sure he’ll help us find a house now I’m gonna be a father."

Clare was surprised. "Really! Well, in that case the sooner you see him, the better. This is no place to bring up a child."
George Newton, the owner of the mine, had known the Gowling family for many years and was surprised when Matthew paid him a visit early on Sunday morning.

"Well, well," he said, as he allowed the butler to show the young man into the front parlour. "What can I do for you, young Gowling?"

George listened patiently while Matthew explained his situation. "I see,” he said, as he clipped the top from a cigar and lit it. He leaned back in his leather chair to study his visitor. "Well, Matthew. Let me be the first to congratulate you, but I'm afraid I can't help you. There are no pit cottages available at the moment."   

Matthew  fiddled with the cap in his hand. "But we can’t stay at the blacksmith’s when the baby arrives, sir. It's filthy," 

The mine owner felt sorry for the lad. He knew life would be hard for the young family, and the Gowling men had always been loyal workers. "Matthew," he said, as he pulled a faded map from a drawer in a nearby desk. "I've got an idea. There’s an old abandoned crofter’s cottage a few miles west of the mine. It’s on my land, but has been empty for years. It needs some work to make it habitable, but I’m sure it would make a comfortable home."

He spread the map on the table. "There it is," he said, as he pointed to a spot on the outskirts of the village. "What do you think about that?"

Matthew stared at the map. It was about three miles from the mine, but he didn’t care, and gladly accepted the offer, despite the building being in need of repair. He shook Mr Newton’s hand. "I think that’s very good of ya, Mr Newton. I’ll take it."

George smiled and folded up the map."Well, that's settled. I’ll work out a fair rent, and you can move in any time you like."

Clare was delighted to hear the news when Matthew arrived back home. "A house! I can’t believe it! When can we move?" she asked, as she danced around the room.

Matthew was happy to see a smile on his wife’s face. "Stumpy is going to fix the roof this week, and we can move in right after that."
Clare’s life had changed dramatically in the five months since moving to the crofter’s cottage. Stumpy Thomas spent all of his spare time repairing the run down cottage, and it soon had a new roof and window shutters, as well as a working water pump. Matthew had done his fair share of work as well by clearing a patch of land to build a garden, and the few belongings they owned, along with a gift of basic furniture from Stumpy, soon turned the place into a comfortable home in which to raise a family. Clare no longer had time to feel homesick. Her days were full, as she cooked, cleaned, sewed and gardened. 

Autumn was drawing to a close, and with winter fast approaching, she was anxious to harvest the last of the summer crops. She put the few carrots and tomatoes into her basket, and then stood up to take one last look at the garden. The vegetable patch was now bare, but she was pleased to see that the roses Matthew had planted for her were still in full bloom. Daylight was fading, and as her husband was due home before dark, she gathered up her gardening tools and went back into the house.

The baby in her womb had been very active for the past few days, and the frequent backache she suffered was getting worse. She reached the cottage and was about to light the fire, when a sharp pain wracked through her body, followed by a gush, as her waters broke. “Oh no,” she gasped, as she clutched her swollen belly and staggered to her bed. “Ya can’t come yet!”

Matthew arrived home from the mine half an hour later to find his wife curled up in their bed. He heard her groan as he ran to her side. "Clare! What’s wrong?"

"The baby’s coming. Ya have to get Maggie."
Charles James Gowling came into the world early one morning in late November 1844. Maggie Ellis, the village midwife had been fussing about all night long, and when Matthew, who had spent the long hours waiting, huddled by the fire, heard a baby’s cry he rushed to Clare’s bedside.

"Gaw on, get yerself outside. I’m not done wi’ the lass yet!" the old midwife scolded.

Matthew waited for her to finish tending to Clare, and was relieved when she finally called to him. He cautiously approached his wife, and in the first light of dawn, gazed in wonder at the red-faced infant handed to him by the midwife. "There ya be," said Maggie, full of authority. "Just keep the little mite warm while I clean up ‘ere."

Clare looked up at her husband, and touched his arm. "We have a son. Isn’t he beautiful?"

The infant let out a piercing cry, and Clare reached out. "Here! Give him to me. He’s probably hungry."  

Matthew placed his son into his wife’s outstretched arms, and stared in awe when Clare put the babe to her breast to suckle. A lump formed in his throat, and when tears began to stream from his eyes, he hastily brushed them away. He’d never been so emotional in his life.
To be continued ....

Character List:
Sean and Meara O'Connell - Irish farmers in County Kerry, Ireland
Clare O'Connell - only daughter of Sean and Meara
Matthew Gowling - An Englishman from Cornwall
Father Moriarity - parish priest in Dingle Town, County Kerry
Stumpy Thomas - the village blacksmith in St Agnes, Cornwall, England
Charles Gowling - first born son of Matthew and Clare



'to grass' - a term used by the miners for the top of the ladder shafts
running the ladders - climbing through the levels of the mine to the surface
Wheal Coates - a tin mine on the coastline of Cornwall
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