It had been three months since their arrival and a hint their first child could be on the way Robbie on the beach below the cliff noticed a fisher boat approaching from around some giant rocks close to shore. He rushed to hide. If he’d been aware of this side of the island on fishing trips it was likely there were people he knew in that boat and he didn’t want to spoil this wonderful life he’d discovered with Colleen. The entrance to the steep path up the cliff was not easy to find and at high tide was completely cut off from the beach. The approach was from inside a cave and hard to see.
Colleen who’d been told not to attempt that climb in her condition wondered what the fuss was all about. She felt strong and well. But she was happy that both the old woman and her Robbie were showering all their concern on her and luxuriated in the feeling of being loved and taking the stern admonitions as concern for her which she decided to play along with. So, she watched her Robbie on the beach below with pride until she saw that boat suddenly appear from around giant rocks in the ocean. From her height she saw them before Robbie did and ducked down to watch through the leaves of wind-swept stunted trees on the edge of the cliff. She saw Robbie suddenly disappear and nodded with approval. One could never be too careful.
Hidden behind protecting rocks in the cave guarding the secret path upward Robbie waited for them to leave. The tide was beginning to turn, and he heard the boatmen discussing among themselves in loud voices. They were looking for high water marks before deciding if it were safe to pull the boat in and camp for the night. They inspected the cave and crossed it off their list of safe places returning to the beach further up. Robbie recognized the voices as men from his village. One of them mentioned he’d seen someone on the beach who looked like Angus son Robbie and the men laughed as they discussed the tumult as the absence of both were discovered. Probably went to the mainland one of them offered. Who’d come here he reasoned? Michael Senior had gone to village after village searching for Colleen and the men laughed as they recalled the frequent fights Michael and Angus had whenever they happened to meet in the village. They were always pushing and shoving each other accusing each of stealing their children.
When the noise of conversation lapsed while they prepared a fire to cook their meal for the evening Robbie crept up the path keeping a watchful eye on portions of the pathway that could be viewed from below. When he reached the top and was clear of the cliff Colleen ran to meet him and wrapped herself around him. She had a premonition of evil to come and wanted the reassurance of his strength to protect her.
However, nothing seemed to come from the visit of those fishermen and while they maintained a careful watch before using the pathway it appeared that with care they would remain safe.
Until one day after carefully looking out to sea Robbie decided to visit the beach to fossick for useful food and driftwood. He exited the cave and was part way toward his favourite spot among the rocks when a sudden blow to the head felled him to the beach and he blacked out. He came too out from shore in the bottom of a boat with his hands tied and stood up shakily. He bellowed out in his loudest voice and contemplated jumping from the boat but that would have been suicide. So, he wept loudly. Colleen lazing by the cliff edge waiting for her Robbie heard the wail of despair and her blood turned to ice. She peered through the leaves of those small trees to see her husband standing unsteadily in a boat full of men who were straining to see if there was anyone at the top of the cliff watching.
“Calm down laddie, Angus said if we were to see you as we thought we might have, we were to bring you back and he’d pay us handsomely. We need a little money, so you’re our catch for the day. It was just lucky we happened to stay the night and you came around the corner. How come you got down to the beach anyway, we’ve never found a pathway in all our visits here?”
Robbie sat sullenly in the boat refusing to engage them in conversation. The men laughed.
That evening they pulled into another cove Robbie remembered from fishing trips in his early teen years. He studied the lay of the land to see if there were any way up those cliffs.
“Don’t waste ya time laddie, we’ve explored this beach many times over the years and there’s no way up. Just relax, we’ll be home tomorrow evening and it will be a happy homecoming for all of us. Specially us!” The head fisherman made signs counting out money falling into his hands and gave a huge guffaw.
The next evening the head fisherman returned Robbie to his father Angus and waited with outstretched hands for the payoff. Angus eyed him coldly and went to find money from a hidden place inside the house then returned slamming the money into the man’s hands. He motioned Robbie inside and sat studying him.
“Why dija do this to us Robbie? This wicked girl cast a spell on ya did she?”
Robbie shook his head in resignation and spoke. “It was me who cast a spell on her Dar, she’s honest and pure and didn’t deserve the treatment she got from Michael. We did nothing wrong, it was a mistake. Young Michael thought he was protecting his sister from me that’s all. Nothing bad happened!”
“Well no doubt bad has happened now laddie, you two have committed sin against God and it will take years of penance for both of ya to clear your record in heaven! Anyways old Michael will try to kill you once he knows you’re back and deserted his girl. Where is she. We have to get her back and return her to her father you two not bein married.”
“We’re married and she’s expecting our child Dar.” Angus flashed anger and removed his belt thrashing his son whose hands were still tied together so he couldn’t protect himself.
Finally, he let the belt fall and started to cry. “Ye’ve compounded ya sin laddie, now Michael will certainly kill yer when he finds out!” He motioned to his wife who’d been watching silently, she untied her son and when Angus had gone outside wrapped Robbie in her arms.
“Angus is anxious for ya life laddie, don’t be blaming him too much for the whippin.”
Robbie rubbed circulation back into his wrists and felt the creeping pain come out from his whipping. “Why then bring me home to be killed Ma?” It was said without malice and his Ma broke into sobs having no answer to give.
Word spread around the village Robbie had been found and returned to Angus place so when old Michael found out he loaded his gun and headed for Angus place. He used the butt of the gun to beat on the door.
“Where’s ma daughter Angus, I swear if she’s been harmed or humiliated by yer criminal laddie I’ll kill yer both!”
Angus anticipating the confrontation and in hiding behind a shed crept up from behind poking the barrel of his gun into Michael’s back. “Gotya covered Michael leave the house now or I’ll kill ya and it will be self-defence seein ya have a gun in yer hand threatening ma family!”
Michael lowered the gun and turned slowly. “Give ma daughter and I’ll not be troblin ya again, otherwise there could be some bad accident happen to ya in the village sooner than ya think!”
Old Riley found Robbie but don’t know where Colleen is despite of the wippin I just give Robbie. Maybe she went mainland seein ya whipped her so bad yerself. Maybe notin to do with Robbie.”
Michael snorted. “I see Robbie in ta village and I know how to find out Angus. Ya better keep yer gun at ready from now on cos I’m not satisfied till ma daughter back in ma house.
Meanwhile Colleen had fled to her adopted Mother and wept uncontrollably. The old woman held her all night while she wept. She knew what it felt like to have husband taken from her and children gone never to be returned. Who knows why this had happened or what had happened to Robbie, but she’d stand by this girl and protect her with her life, unfortunately she couldn’t protect her from the hurt she was going through right now, only be there for her until the hurt subsided.
Colleen’s grief was so intense that two days later the newly formed life within her aborted and she went into weeks of depression while the old lady tended her every need and invented activities for her to try and keep her mind focused. It would take time. The wound would always be there, but the hurt would slowly dissipate. That she knew from experience. Helping this young woman was a cleansing of her own accumulated hurts over the years.
To be continued.
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