Sean and Emily exchanged surprised looks. There before them stood their longtime friend Heather and a most unlikely prospect for her hand, Shannon O'Neill. Yet Heather had just announced that she and Shannon were planning to post the bans as soon as the priest was returned from his visits to his country parishes.
Sean stammered a bit, then grinned from ear to ear. He grasped the Irishman's hand and congratulated him, then leaned to kiss Heather's cheek. Emily kissed them both and smiled warmly. "May ye e'er be happy and in love, as are Sean and I."
Shannon was beaming, casting looks of great happiness at the little solemn woman he was about to marry.
The first opportunity they each had, Sean and Emily got their friends off to themselves, Sean with Shannon and Emily with Heather. Sean took Shannon to the hearth and proffered him a mug of ale. Emily had herded Heather out to the well to help her draw water.
"Shannon, are ye sure? I told ye she is not your type of woman," Sean queried.
Shannon smiled, "Not my type of woman for what? Faith, I love her, Sean. I am that in love with her."
Emily for her part pressed Heather for details of the courtship. "Heather, I know not how to ask this.. ye have always been careful of your virtue…" Heather cut her off deftly, "And still am, Emily. If ye are fishing for something scandalous, ye are in the wrong pool. When he asked me to marry him I told him I shouldnae let him bed me until I was his wife, good an proper. He agreed right quickly enough."
Emily's eyes were wide. "Really? He must love ye then. And I thought he was the last fellow ye'd e'er match up with."
Heather cast down her eyes, a little irritably. "Aye, I know. But he has done so much work on my cottage and shown himself to be a good and stable man. Methinks I have done much to tame him."
Emily raised one eyebrow at the use of the word "tame" but said nothing about that. "I see. And he is a pretty man, in his way."
Heather just smiled.
Later Sean and Emily compared notes as Shannon escorted Heather to her cottage. "Sean, there was one thing the lass said that worries me. She said she thinks she has tamed him…" Sean's eyes grew round. "Tamed, eh? Och, I do not think that is so. He is in love, no doubt there, but he told me they would leave for Lawrencium soon as they are wed. If Heather will not go, I do not know how tamed he will turn out to be."
Emily nodded sadly. "They are both such dear people, it shall be sad if they break each others' hearts. She will not leave her cottage, not without much persuasion."
"But the man is no crofter. He cannot make his way in the world without his trade, and his trade is his real love. I do not think that any woman can take the Muse's place in his heart." He reached over to where Emily stood near the hearth and took her hand. "So tamed, eh? Like ye have tamed me, lass?" She giggled and they came together in a kiss.
The bans for Shannon and Heather's marriage were posted a week later and the wait to be married began. Shannon kept his hands to himself with difficulty but Heather gave him no encouragement to do otherwise so he stuck to his promise. His ardor for her fought with a nagging panic that he was almost able to suppress. A confirmed bachelor, he found himself now about to tie his life with a woman's with all the promises and commitments that implied. He thought more than once of running away, but always his thoughts came back to Heather and what life would be like without her.
They had had numerous uncomfortable little discussions of their plans for the future. He would talk of journeys they would take together and of the comforts of the court in Lawrencium where she would be welcomed heartily by the King and Queen and all the court. She listened with a little smile on her face but said nothing more.
The morning of their wedding day, Shannon wandered aimlessly about the little village of Connery, not being allowed to see Heather who was getting prepared for the nuptials by Emily and other friends with Sean on watch to be sent for things as they were found to be missing and to keep Shannon out. The Irishman strolled without purpose and found himself in the tiny church. The priest was there, Father Hamish, preparing for the wedding.
"Ah, the bridegroom! What are ye doing here, my son? Afraid ye will forget to show up on time?" He brightened when he saw what Shannon was carrying. "Ah, be that a wee nip ye are offering me in honor of the day's events?"
Shannon looked at what he had absently picked up and was carrying around with him. "Jesus, Mary and Joseph, where did that come from? Must be force o' habit. " It was a good sized flagon of wine. "Sure and why not? Ye have me life in ye'r hands, so why not grease that palm with a little hellfire?"
The two retired to the rectory where they finished off the flagon and one the priest had to share as well.
When the bridal party arrived at the church, it was unmistakable that Shannon and the priest were both drunk. Heather's face darkened as she saw a tipsy smile on her intended's face, and she almost turned and left. Emily and Sean coaxed her to overlook the sign of nothing more than normal nervousness in a bridegroom.
"And what is the priest's excuse then, " she had snapped back bitterly.
The wedding turned into base comedy as the priest lost his place in the ceremony and toasted Shannon every time he had occasion to drink wine from the small altar. Heather seethed silently. But for a' that, they were right and truly married. Or so Shannon and everyone else assumed.
The wedding feast that Sean and Emily gave for their friends just magnified the problem. Heather sat grimly with Emily the entire evening. Shannon, with access to more drink, just got drunker. He was the life of his own party, naturally, singing and carrying on, and occasionally stealing an illicit kiss from one of the women in attendance.
When they were carried off to Heather's cottage with lewd and suggestive remarks and ribald songs, Shannon and Heather were set down at her door. He did his best to carry her over the doorstep, nearly dropping her as he swayed. The feasters called out a hilarious "Sleep well," and went off singing more ribald songs.
Heather went to her simple bed and lifted a blanket. "Take this and sleep in the byre."
Shannon looked aghast, "But Heather, we are married now."
Heather shot a furious glance at him. "Are we then? I shouldnae think ye would know as drunk as ye are." She pushed him towards the door.
He looked at her, ashamed. "Och, Heather, ye are right. I am so sorry. I will sleep in the byre and ne'er let this happen again. We have all our lives to make love." He took the blanket and stumbled out into the dark.
Next: Shannon Meets heather, Part 5 - Consummation
Before there was the novel, there were the stories...
by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at http://authorchristophermoss.vlogspot.com