“Madame, there is another villager at the kitchen door begging for scraps. Shall I send her away? Cook says there are more arriving each day, each soul hungrier than the last. Perhaps we could send the village a few scraps from the table tonight?”
“Patrick, send her away. If we fed them all a portion of our fair table we would have naught left to entertain our important guests.”
“Very well, Madame. I will tell Cook to trouble you no further with this matter.” Patrick hid his disappointment under a mask of disdain.
“Thank you, dear Patrick." Lady Stewart dabbed her forehead with her lace hanky. “Oh how I wish those miserable creatures would stop plaguing us. This matter is rattling my nerves and is apt to make me swoon."
“We mustn’t have that Madame. Don’t you worry a mite - I’ll be taking care of this personally.”
Patrick left the drawing room directly. Leaving the opulence of the main manor house for the aromatic smells of the kitchen, his ears perked upon hearing a ruckus behind the kitchen door. Opening the door, he was shocked to see Cook, red faced and brandishing a wicked-looking butcher knife.
“I have naught to give to ya lass. Not a smidge am I allowed by the Mistress. She’d have my head if I dole out another crumb. You know if I could I would. I’ll be in the street on the marrow if I give it to ya. Now move on. Out with you or I swear by the saints I’ll use this knife! Scoot! Out! Go!”
Patrick spoke softly, "Put the knife down my dear. I’m sure this wee gal will not be bothering you any longer." He motioned with a nod for the waif to escape.
Patrick watched with morbid fascination as the woman in her tattered dress looked with longing at the feast simmering in Cook’s kettles. The fresh baked bread cooling on the benches made his mouth water. What was it doing to her? He watched tears gather in her pleading eyes, too large for her fragile face. A translucent hand held out, fell limp to her side. One more shattered soul being taken by the famine.
The sickly gal looked much like his brother’s wife. It couldn’t be...
The woman made her escape looking back only once, sunken eyes defeated and glazed with hunger. The whisper of humanity disappeared before he could speak.
Patrick knew in that moment how Cook felt. While he watched those living in opulence, feasting each day, feelings of guilt had only haunted him in his dreams. Now he knew he had to find a way to help his countrymen. But what could one man do?
"Patrick, my heart can’t take another poor soul comin’ in here starving and lookin’ at me as if I were God himself. Another piece of my heart breaks off when I send them away to their doom. Soon I’ll use this knife on myself, putting an end to my misery.”
He hurried to her, snatching the offending knife away from her throat, placing it in the washbasin with a ‘clatter’. He stood holding her calloused hand making soothing sounds as an idea took root. “By the Saints. It might work.”
“What are ya talking about Patrick?”
“What were you planning on doing with what’s left over from the feasting set for the ‘morrow?”
A smile began to form from the sad corners of her mouth. “Oh dear Paddy, do you think we could pull it off?”
“It would take some doing, and kissing the Blarney Stone to boot. If we got the others to work with us we could feed nearly ten families nearby with leavings from this sordid affair. People are starving while we all get fat. I’ll not stand for it another second!" He gaveled his fist on the table. "Let ‘em hang me for trying, I say!”
She took his hand pressing it to her cheek. “I’ve always loved that bold mind of yours dear man. Tell me your plan.”
He kissed her hand letting it go, “A wee bit o’ Robin Hood. Only this Robin will be delivering food to the poor. Make a stew from what’s leftover, and I’ll get the word out that help is on the way.” With that, he kissed her on the forehead and walked out into the night.
Cook did a little jig, wondering how many families she could feed. She smiled. Patrick’s bold courage was contagious.
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