now for something romantic.. a short story  

plz_u_plz 57M
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8/22/2006 7:09 pm
now for something romantic.. a short story

Her Highlander
by plz_u_plz

Part One

No one can ever be sure of what the day may bring. Whether one be born to the highest or the lowest estate, the turns life will never be completely predictable. If anything is a certainty for me, then that truism is just so. Born to a wealthy merchant in London, at a young age I was married off to a man of means. A Lord in fact, though such was not as glamorous as one might think. It wasn't that I did without. Nay, my material needs were well met. But in those days the young had no recourse when their parents made contracts for marriage based on finance alone. For this cause so many young women were married off to significantly older men. Not older men in whom some heat of their fiery youth still existed, but rather old men in whom the very hearth stones of their hearts were now mostly cold. I was well into my own 18th year when my father, supposedly concerned about my future, and no doubt his own, announced that an arrangement had been made. I was to marry Lord Wilten of Rosternberry. Proud and powerful, the 61-year-old Lord was to be my own Martin, as he demanded I call him.

I suppose I should not complain, but for a girl of 18, the thought of giving up on love and romance for the sake of a marriage without emotion was a harsh thing. Now 31, for me it was quite cold indeed, for spent he was. Or perhaps ever was he thus, for icy cold and alone was the marriage bed. Warmth only came to it perhaps once or twice in the year, more of perfunctory duties, perhaps on his as well as my part. I remember well the fiery expectation that came from intimate embraces in my youth. And how, at his clumsy and insensitive touch, what I so desperately desired to fan into a fevered pitch of passion only drained away into the ache of a longing void. As I grew older the anticipation of passion disappeared completely. Over time I stopped wondering at all what I might be missing. I had no idea what could be and should be between a man and woman. Time, oh, and it had passed without. Indeed my hair, once dark as a new born foal now ran cords of silver, and the lithe slender body of a maiden had hence rounded and filled out a bit. A bit only, and not for any child being born. That there had I would not have been so alone at least. I did long for a child with all my being, a small person in whom to pour my love and attention. But the barrenness was not mine, but rather, that of the master of that coldly cruel empty marriage-bed.

His interests were from the start more about the news of his investments and his duties in Parliament. Those duties took him away from the manor for considerable amounts of time. Yet even while home he gave little heed to me. My purpose was like other women so married, to organize the occasional social event at the manor, and perhaps attend the events hosted by others. Always though to be but a bauble shining on the arm of my lord, and always placed back on the shelf otherwise with little to no attention of a personal nature. Whenever I would try to garner just a morsel of his time he would dismiss me with, "now Margaret, you know that I am a busy man. Do you not have something too which you must attend?" And so it was day in and out and though none could ever tell I came to hate being the Lady of the Manor. That I had a mind capable of reason was never acknowledged. Of the great many taboos one was most certainly even contemplating political matters, or most any other of any importance for that matter.

Most people in that age, though conventional mores would persuade otherwise, were wont to have affairs. And they did so quite commonly as, whether man or woman, having a paramour was actually quite the norm. At least so was said by those few friends of mine who saw my loneliness. Yet, I was not myself given to such things. And so while my compatriots quenched their needs in the arms of those to whom they were not married, I found my own ways to contentment. Thus I took to riding across the moorlands on my noble steed. A fine specimen of his species, he was nearly pure white except for the touch of gray at his mane, and he stood a full 14 hands. Perhaps for most ladies he would have been intimidating. However, at first seeing him I saw not only the majesty in his carriage, but also the gentleness of his nature. And so it was that this wonderful beast whom I called Pegasus after the Greek tale, became my closest friend.

The estate ran for many miles and encompassed wood and glen. Be sure that Pegasus and I explored each and every spot. My favorite place was a secluded meadow quite some way from the manor house. Here it was, under the bright sun, by a melancholy stream that I lost my own downhearted feelings. It was I believe the tiny music of the bubbling water, which managed, at least for a time, to wick away my loneliness. It was there, in early September, that I first espied him. Or shall I say, while on my way to my favorite place, that we became intrigued by each other. He too was riding, up upon the ridge that overlooked my well-worn trail. I was at first a bit alarmed, as strangers on the lands of the estate were not common. Also, from a distance, I could tell from his mode of dress that he was a Scot. Yet, here I was on what was, for all intents and purposes, my own land. So in a moment the sense of fear gave way to a sense of adventure.

Now a lady does not ride like a man. Being prim and proper I, of course, was sitting sidesaddle as demanded by the English style. Wearing a full dress and corset, it was, after all, the only way a lady could ride. But I was undaunted as I bore down, clasping the saddle with my legs and the reins with both hands. I had, I must confess, flashed the stranger a smile as I did so. And so it was no surprise when he took up the challenge of the pursuit. What great fun it was, the chase I mean, and it only ended once I had come again to my beloved place beside the stream.

I was completely out of breath when we stopped. I had not even time to compose myself when I saw below me a tall and ruggedly handsome man whose countenance shone like the very sun. He looked up at me and I down at him, and I was so drawn in an instant. My breath caught beneath my still heaving bosom, and voice had left me. Up he reached his hand, and I, so bewildered, could hardly fathom with thought his purpose. Then it struck me, and with a smile I accepted his chivalrous offer of help, and dismounted.
"Madeen va shiv. Is me-sha aHamish. Kimmer aha shiv?", or so it sounded, is how he greeted me with a bass voice which intoned his native Gaelic in a formal manner. Then catching himself he restated, "Good morning. I am Seamas. How are you?" Such a rich voice, and with such an intoxicating heavy Gaelic accent that I could but smile. He apologized, explaining that he had temporarily forgotten that the people in my part of the country spoke another language. His hazel eyes flashed and sparked as he too looked at me.

Eyes searching eyes, souls expanding, depth touching depth, I knew I was safe. At least physically, I was safe. I was already mesmerized by his very presence, my awareness of him so much like the feel of the air when lightening flashes close by. Oh how from the start I desired to comb my fingers through his silver streaked dark brown hair. But I did not. But there was more stirring within me, things I had not felt in such a long time. He said he was traveling the English countryside, journeying far from home, because he simply wanted to see what had
lain to the south. "I never imagined a scene so beautiful as this", he said confidently, and nearly whispering in conclusion, "or you." I held my blush in check, for fear of embarrassing him as he had obviously not meant for me to hear his last comment. I was quite flattered, ever the more so because of the obvious honesty of his whisper. We went on for hours, each lost in the company of their new friend. I spent much longer there that day than normal. I did so enjoy the conversation, and the way his attention hung on my every word. It was only with much regret that I admitted that I had to make my leave. But before I left I asked him if I would see him again. He said that he felt sure it was destined to be so. And so I left our first meeting and every meeting after that feeling complete jubilation. Though, it was often such as that there were some weeks between his visits. At first each visit was a wondrous surprise, but later, I could anticipate his return, like the feel of warmer breezes hailing the return of spring.

Part Two

It was just as I started to again feel the spring overtake the winter that I came to overhear a most wretched and frightening tale. Martin, my husband, was home from London. Some of his friends were also there with him. I had of course been dismissed as they had their own "manly" things to chat about. But overhearing them speak of an uprising amongst the Scots of course piqued my interest, and concern. I had not heard of such an uprising, but that was not an amazing thing as women were completely kept away from politics. But what I had heard chilled me to the bone. It was November of 1745, and what was to be the last of the Jacobite rebellions was in full bloom. The "Jacobite Rebellions", were so called after the Latin of James, the unseated Scottish king of the two countries, England and Scotland, in their union. Some joined
the uprising to throw off the harsh shackles that had been set to the Scottish people. Others joined it simply because the Treaty of Union promised that for the loss of Scottish independence a Scot would always sit on the throne. Too the later, as the German Hanoverians were not Scots, the union was null and void. The uprisings were to reseat the heir of James to the throne, Prince Charles, or as his own people called him, the Bonnie Prince Charlie. Regardless, the men here spoke of the growing number of Jacobite victories. They also spoke sure of how things would turn in the spring and how the English armies would destroy every Scot, to the last man, woman and child. Oh how my heart did ache as tears streamed down my face.

The next morning I rode as was my habit. As I drew my steed to a halt, I peered over and there he was. His face still shone as he looked at me, but I could sense a fatigue in him. I sat there for a moment longer and a flood of emotions and realizations swept over me. If there had been any doubt before, there was none now. I loved this man who was my friend and my confidante'. Before he could gather himself to his feet I leapt from my saddle and ran to him flinging myself in his arms sobbing. "I have heard awful news, I have heard there is an uprising", I declared. "My Lord says that the Scots are in rebellion and that while they are winning now, things will turn in the spring and all men of Scotland will be put to the blade", I continued. "Oh please", I begged, "tell me you aren't a part of this."

"Och, Och", he began, "Politics only separate those who would otherwise be one, let us not discuss such things", he said in a tone that was both begging and commanding.

"But I must, for I could not bear it", I resounded, tears again flowing in great torrents down my face.

"You could not bear what?", he asked, he eyes softening with a tenderness that leapt out at my heart and soul.

"I could not bear", I started again, then hesitated. I stood on a soaring precipice, daring not to step over the immeasurable brink, yet, compelled to do just that. So after pausing for a moment to compose myself, I looked deeply into his eyes, and in one breath said, "I could not bear to lose you. I love you with all my heart. Let us flee this place and go to the colonies where we can be together in peace. I fear you will die if we stay here."

I held my gaze steady, and it was broken only when he bent down to kiss me. His hands so very tenderly came to touch my face, and holding me steady, so very softly, like a feather's caress, his lips met mine so very sweetly. Gently, his mouth came close to mine, and I breathed in his breath and he mine. The cosmos was awhirl as I inhaled his presence. His lips moved from my lips to my brow, and then my cheek. He smothered me in the tenderness that flowed between us. He then broke from his ministrations, again looked deep into my eyes and said, "oh my leannan. Ha gule akam orsht, I love you. With all that I am or ever could be. I kinna promise ya tha I will na fight agin. All kings are alike, one is na better thin anuther. But the one I fight fuer is a fellow countryman. There is a loyalty that must be answered with honor. But know tha ma hairt beats for you alone. It has since I first saw you. Tha ell ne'er change; ever. But I kinna tairn ma bach on honor, and then make it the worse by flyin' away like a thief in the night with a stolen prize. Just always know tha I love you, where err I may be, I am there, loving you."

He again began tracing my face with his lips, and then kissed my neck. My defenses now completely gone my body reacted to his every touch. My breath began coming in gasps as he tasted my mouth, and my neck. His fingers gently entangled themselves in my hair as his hot breath moved across my ears. His fingers traced down my check, across my shoulder, down my back, and I felt my womb convulse. I began to ache with a hunger I had not felt in a long time. Lightening itself traced across my flesh, delivered by his fingers. His mouth echoed sweet tension as my breath began rasping in my heaving chest. My heart beat so hard I thought it would burst and an incredible heat overtook me. Flowing passion caused me to draw him near, crushing him into my bosom, whispering again my love and also now the ache of my longing. And there he took me, and I him, we together rocking, his rigid manhood clasped within my womanhood. Mine clasping, milking his, until we would both surrender to the heated passions ignited within us. Interlocked we rode the ebbing and flowing waves of love over and again until from sheer exhaustion we could go no more. And then still, as we lay in each others arms under the canopy of the sky, the arching trees the cathedral where our love fulfilled in one afternoon the years of want.

Part Three

Leaden was my heart upon our parting. The miracle of love and the heat of passion, so long withheld knew no more restraint. I would have followed by Seamas anywhere he would have taken me. But alas, he could not take me with him. And so we parted, deep into the evening, he going in his direction and I in mine. Twas the middle of March, and a bitter wind assailed my entire ride home. It was nearly a month later when the bitter winds of March would follow instead into the living of life in April.

In England all of the people, especially those who favored Hanovarian rule, were going from day to day with baited breath. The early string of victories on the part of the Jacobites were continuing. As so, no longer was there the sure conviction of victory over the forces of the Bonnie Prince. Ultimately though, it was to be this string of victories that would prove fatal to the cause of the Jacobites. This through the growing pride and over confidence of Charlie himself.

And so it was that the 16th of that mournful April proved to be the fateful day. And I heard about it some two days after the fact, as usual, second hand. I heard as I quietly sat for my morning meal. Martin and one of his friends spoke gleefully about how Charlie had recklessly disregarded the opinions of his generals and met the English armies. Out numbered and on inferior ground they had bravely, but wholly without effect, met their doom as they were routed by English forces. They carried on to brag amongst themselves about how survivors were being rounded up and put to death on the spot. Even the families the dead left behind were not being spared. They were either too being put to death, or, put on ships bound for the colonies where they would work as indentured servants, slaves.

I was numb as I heard them speak. Coldness over took me and my breath was hard to find. There were moments when the room around me would begin to spin and the morning light begin to fade in my view. I was over come by fear and loosing all ladylike composure lost my meal as I flung myself out of the house toward the stables. I had to flee the house, I had to get to the spot where I prayed my love would be awaiting.

Pegasus was at the ready, the servant had since prepared him for my usual ride. And ride I did like the Furies of old. Onward through bramble and briar, making way in the shortest ways possible. Caring not for the tearing of my own flesh as I did so. Forward in an agonizing rip of time which seems to prolong my agonizing despair. Fear wracked every fiber of my being as on I rode. Then seeing from afar his form lying upon the ground, dread filled me ever so more deeply with every galloping stride. And as I drew up neigh to my love I knew that my worst fears were close to being true. If they were not already so. His plaid, tattered and coated with blood, was sure evidence as for why he did not move.

I pulled to a halt beside is ragged body and leapt from my mount. To his side I flew in the blinking of an eye. And once there I cast myself down at his side. Horrible were his wounds. Punctures and cuts perforated his flesh. So great had been his loss of blood that he lay there pale and gray, his lips purple. His breath only ever so slightly perceptible contained within it a rattle, and blood dried at his mouth confirmed that my love was being taken from me.
"NO!" I wailed in terror of loss, my breaking heart burning. How can it be that our emotions, extremes, rage and anger, and profound tender love, can be known at the same time, like strings plucked on a violin. But there I was, raging and loving, when his eyes fluttered. His voice once strong, like an autumn leaf to the ground fell on my ears as he struggled and managed only to say, "ha gule akam orsht" as he lifted his battered hand and placed it to my bosom. And then he was gone again, lost in an unconsciousness on the brink of plummeting into the hereafter.

It was then, hearing his words, that I knew I had to do what I could to save his life. My anger fueled my drive, my love the resolve that he would live if at all he could be spared. And that I would endure any personal cost to secure my love And so I found three fallen branches, and having lashed them together with strips from his own cloak, and attached my cloak to this tripod with the cords from my corset. I then used strips from my petticoats to secure the make shift travois to the horn of my saddle. And, rolling him onto the travois, we began the long journey back to the stables.

Once at the stables I again ministered to his wounds. He was alive but barely, but I knew that the longer I kept him alive the better the chances he would live. I employed the help of a the servant woman who cooked the meals. I had seen her several times concoct poultices and other remedies for those servants who had endured some injury or another at the manor. She and I labored deep into the night, cleaning his wounds and applying poultices, managing to warm him and to get him to drink water. Onward through the night we worked, and prayed, and loved. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, in that short time before the sun again stretched the fingers of its first rays across the sky, I, nearly myself collapsing from fatigue and utter despair, left my love in his hiding place in the stables.

Part Four

I awoke toward the middle of the morning at the sound of a sharp crack that resounded through the house and rattled the windows. My eyes started open I was bewildered in those moments before my mind came fully awake. Then as quickly as the sound had come so did my senses and I realized what i had heard. It was the shot of a musket. Upward I levitated and I propelled myself forward out of the bed, and as I exited my chambers I grabbed my cloak. Down the stairs I stumbled then made my way to the kitchen. The servants cleared from before me as I with all haste made through the kitchen entrance on my way to the stable. As I came to the front of the great stables I saw them. Martin standing there with a regiment of red clad soldiers, each having muskets. I watched in terror as I ran into their midst and saw with horror as they tossed my Seamas onto a wagon like a rag doll. My Seamas was dead, all the work done for him was for naught. He had been found, and in his wounded sleep shot. As the reality sunk in I collapsed hearing only the mocking sound of Martin's laughter.

When I came too I was numb from the shock of it. The shock of finding my love so close to death blurred my senses, but now having him found and shot like an animal was more than I could take. Thus it was that Martin's words were not even heard as he often laughed in vindictive glee. Cruelly he laughed at his most propitious find and at me for having delivered my love into his hands. And doubly the pleasure for Martin I suppose. It was after all a Scot, and his wife's paramour, to whom he had delivered his own terrible ideas of justice.

Within weeks the sickness of severe grief gave over to sickness of another sort, sicknesses that came in the morning. And so it was that the my belly began to grow with the life within it. One love gone, and love of another sort to take his place, the love of a mother for her child. And that child, not the progeny of Martin, but of the Scot whom Martin did hate and I love. And I don't think that Martin even noticed, or cared to. And so my life went on. Isn't it the way of it, that man's justice is followed more surely by the justice of nature. Justice, the double edged sword, swift and true. A mans life taken without justice whose essence shall be carried on through acts of love. But all the more so is justice sure, and so it was that within a quarter of a year Martin himself followed my beloved Highlander into the great unknown of death. A victim of consumption, he coughed and gagged himself into the next world. Though, I wonder now at what truly consumed him, the pneumonia or his own hatred. Martin's death left me a widow to a man without heir. Baleful it would be to soon be the target of a throng of men like Martin. Many would be the callous and calculating who would soon seek me out for asset alone and not for love such as I have known. But alas I cared not for these assets or those who would lie and cheat and enter my life and bed to acquire them. And so I devised to sell the estate and to leave.

It took longer than I thought it would to sell off the assets of the estate. Weeks and months wound away. And I pregnant, working through a factor, put up with business dealings and with the wolves that were sure did indeed come. They weren't drawn by me as a person, nor put off by my being heavy with child. They sought only an easy acquisition of wealth. But, having been sold once into the bonds of financial security at the loss of personal emotional need, I would not even hear their voices. Eventually, I gave birth to a healthy boy who gazed upon the world with the eyes that came from his father. And some months after that the manor house and final assets finally sold. And then after securing our
wealth in a bank in London, my son Charlie and I did make sail for America.

Part Five

The journey by sea is one where days drag into weeks. Those weeks are filled with boredom mostly. The only music is that of the staccato rhythm of the wind in the sails reinforcing the melody of the crashing waves and the harmony of the creaking timbers. To be sure it was a time of boredom mostly. Until, that is, I began to take note of an old woman who had surely taken note of me. I was surprised to find her on board this ship actually. While it was common knowledge that the government had began enforcing a pogrom of clearing the Highlands of Gaelic peoples. Those were nearly always sent on far inferior ships, "coffin ships" as they were called by the poor unfortunates upon them. This because of the large numbers of people who never made it to their destination; so many, who being denied proper burial were simply discarded at sea. But alas would they have fared any better if they had reached port? They were after all being sent as indentured servants, veritable slaves.

But here were some of those poor peoples who had been wrenched form their homes. Taken in the dead of night and while their homes burned behind them were sent into servitude. Having run out of room on the coffin ships the government was also now sending them over to the colonies in the holds of other ships. In the holds, the dank, dark, rat infested interiors from whence there was no escape and little opportunity to see daylight. I remember the first time I saw her, clinging boldly to pride as she weathered the elements. She was standing there, looking toward me as though she expected me, a knowing smile upon her face. It was as though she knew me, and had been waiting for me. It was so discomforting I asked the ship's parson about her. "Nay, ne'er mind her. That is old Sorcha, she's daft you know. The few traveling with her say she has "eolas", the sight. A bunch of savage gibberish you know. Those savages are a stubborn people, barelt Christian and still smelling with the ways of the Papists, and the Druids before them. Don't let her put you ill at ease, and if she gets out of line at all, or touches you in any way just let the captain or I know and she'll be cast over." The cruelty which I had seen at the hands of Martin was not his alone it seemed. It was a cruelty that was common it seemed, and likewise it seemed that such was to accompany me to the colonies. And it was a harshness that inspired my own compassion for these people.

It was in the second week of the journey, nine days out of port, when she first spoke to me. I had been deep in thought as a product of boredom when somber thoughts came to me. Thoughts of my love, that which we had shared, and how he had met his end overtook me in cascades of melancholy and soft bitter sobs. I did not hear her come up behind me, and I came to know of her presence only when she ever so lightly placed her hand on my shoulder. I looked up at her then, tears streaming down my face. The face that peered back down at me, weathered and lined with years and tears of her own smiled back. Then she spoke.
"Wa plagues your heart lass? Tis better you know to share grief than to bear it alone", her words were filled with compassion and understanding, as though she already knew the ailments of my heart.

"He is gone, and I go into a new land without any understanding or knowledge of what I'll find", I answered.

"Och! Nah on your life lassie. You've na seen the last of your Seamas", she began. Then in an almost whisper she continued, "Aye he is gone for naw. Ba we all come back you know. An we follow the path of our blood when we do!" Then she stepped back and looked at me with single minded intensity, her eyes almost glazing over. I was taken completely aback when she again spoke, "och! Aye indeed you'll see your Seamas again! Ba nah like befuer, no not ah all. But when you and he joined you became one. Your love is true, and so it cannot be but that you'll love again. Do you understand?"

I could not fathom how she would know either his name or the intensity of the love we had shared. During the final days of the journey she and I became close, like a mother was she to me. I found out that most of the people traveling with her were from one village. They, like so many others, had been taken in the night from the land of their fathers. They, like me, were going forth into the unknown. And so it was close for me to find an affinity with these people. And so, based on that affinity, one night while dining at the captains table, I made a case for me to purchase these people before we reached port. It was highly irregular, and the captain hoped to profit at the sale of these people. But reminding him of my own straights, being a recent widow and single mother alone, in need of help, he agreed. I am sure that no small part of it was his fear, as unfounded as it was, that I, the widow of a Lord might have connections back in London, connections which could do him harm. The price was high, but well within my means. He even agreed to let Sorcha accompany me and she stayed in my cabin. The other less fortunate ones he insisted had to stay in the hold till we reached port.


Of the 108 souls whose servitude I purchased, only 97 made it to port. Regardless, I had to pay for all 108. That was amongst the terms. But the whole of us who remained purchased wagons and other necessary materials and set out for the edge of the frontier, where Virginia and Carolina sits close to the Cumberland Gap. It was there that we established on of the finest tobacco plantations in Carolina.

One the plantation land the people established their village, in the safety of lands owned by me in my infant sons name. We had an agreement amongst us, we shared the profits of the harvest, and the people lived here as they once lived there. My Seamas had been a chieftain of his clan, and here, in a similar manner, his son was the head of this family of people who had come together. A family forged of war and destitution, but a kindred nonetheless.

I remember old Sorcha often. She lived nearly a decade in this new land before she crossed over into the hereafter. I remember her as she lay on her death bed. With great love she looked up at me and imparted her final wisdom.

"Oh lassie, don't fret for me. Death in this world is only birth into the next", she began. With love beaming from her eyes she continued, "You remember how I told you long ago that you would see your Seamas again? Tis true, and I can see it now that the veil is so thin. I see you and he together, riding through these mountains on a horse made of steel, a horse that rolls along on two wheels." The rattle of death grew in her chest, but she went on between gasping breaths. "And like Seamas, you'll see me again lass. Tis' love that binds folk together you know." Her pain started to show in her eyes, and she nearly fainted for it, but she made one final request, "now it will be a while, and it won't be in this life lassie. But you just remember old Sorcha, you remember, and if you tell stories about me I'll still be here, and remember to set my plate at the Samhain feast." It was at that point that she began going under. And I was there with her till the end, holding her hand at the time of her passing.

Those were many years ago. Now I am an old woman myself. I hear the cold winds blow outside, and know that soon the blue faced hag of winter shall make claim on me. But there is no worry about that time. In fact, in a way, I look forward to it. I never married again because how could any love compare to what one has known when they have met their one true love? And I did with my Seamas, we having shared a lifetime of true love in that brief time we shared together. And so there are no regrets for having waited till I can rejoin him on the Lords golden shore. And I know it sounds lunatic, but there has always come a peace from Sorcha's words that he and I shall be together again in this world. An iron horse with two wheels, how silly an old woman's prattle I know. But tis something I shall myself petition the Lord Himself for when I see Him. True love deserves to run its full course, a whole lifes worth, after all, and we shall find each other.

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