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.Case leaned over the table and peered down at her.“We rely on our neighbor’s goodwill to get by, and pissing them off by refusing to allow one of them to take your daughter out to town is a sure way of stopping help we badly need.“Therefore I am taking this precious bottle over to the Brady’s as an offering, to patch up the relations with them you have made a mess of by your refusal to let their son take your daughter out.And you don’t order me about either, woman.I’m not a slave, or your husband.Maybe you look on those two things as one and the same, but if you ever order me about like that again I’ll turn round and walk out of here and not come back.You understand? I have no obligation to you or your family; I’m here purely because I wish it.America is a hell of a vast place and I could go anywhere I choose to settle down.I’ll stay here only as long as I feel welcome.Without me or your neighbors help you’d be in serious trouble.And you’ve succeeded in pissing us all off.This isn’t Ireland, Mrs.McGuire; it’s America, and things are different here.People have more freedom in their choices.They have more land, more opportunities.”Case straightened and stamped out of the kitchen, leaving a stunned Mary sat on her own at the table.Case caught sight of a pair of wide-eyed faces peering through the banister rails, but he pretended he didn’t see them as he stormed out of the house, bottle in hand.Maybe Patrick and Elizabeth might comfort their mother; he guessed it was a long time since they’d heard a man shout like that to their mother.“Case!”He stopped and looked up to the open window of Ann’s room.She was leaning out, biting her lip.“Don’t worry, Miss Ann, I didn’t touch her.”“Are ye going to the Brady farm? To see Sean?”“I am, Miss Ann.I won’t be back for a while.I think you and your ma ought to patch things up; she’ll be needing someone to talk to I’m thinking.Arguing won’t be of any use right now.”“Wait! I’m coming down!”Before Case could tell her not to, she had vanished and moments later came running out of the house, her long skirt flapping in the breeze.Case stood blocking her route and shook his head, a look of disapproval on his face.“I don’t think you coming is a good idea.Your ma hasn’t given you permission to come and that’ll just make her madder than before.Besides, Sean won’t be the only one I’ll be seeing; this whiskey is for the family.A sort of offering, if you like.I don’t think you’ll be comfortable with two or three guys knocking this stuff down.”“It’s our family whiskey, for a special occasion!”“Which is now.Your mother insulted the Bradys and they won’t forget that.Refusing to trust their son with her daughter isn’t the best neighborly policy.I’m hoping I can patch things up.You have got to do the same with your Ma.Coming with me would be entirely the wrong thing.”Ann huffed and stood with her arms crossed.“I’m not big enough to help, is that it?”“Not in this matter Miss Ann.It’d also make it look like either one of us can’t go anywhere without an escort, adding to the insult.Mmm?”Ann made a disgusted noise.“Well, I’m not really interested in Sean Brady anyway!”Case frowned and stared at Ann.“Well why all this fuss then, for heaven’s sake?”Ann scuffed the toe of her shoe in the ground.“Well, the thing is that I wanted to make ye jealous by asking another out; I was thinking maybe ye’d want me after all.”Case slapped a palm into his forehead.“Oh great bouncing balls of Jupiter! All this because you still want me as your husband?”Ann nodded, her face downcast.Case sighed, put the bottle down and took her by the shoulders.“Look at me Ann.Look at my face, my arms.You’ve seen my body.It’s covered in scars.It’s the body of a soldier.War is coming and I will go fight because it’s what I do.I’m not going to stay here farming for long, only till Patrick is old enough to take over from me.And you’ll need your neighbors to help, and that means the Bradys and the others.Don’t play with Sean’s feelings by trying to make me jealous.”“Is that all ye can say? Don’t you feel anything for me at all?”“Miss Ann, we’re not for each other.Get that into your head.Look for a husband from the Bradys or O’Driscolls or whoever.Forget me; you’re wasting your time.Now go see your mother before I march you in there myself!”Ann shook herself away from him violently.“Ye don’t mean that! I know ye don’t! Why do ye do this to me?”Case picked up the bottle.His heart ached fiercely, but he knew he had to do something to kill this situation.“You’re imagining things Miss Ann.I don’t feel anything of that sort for you.Yes you’re a pretty girl but you’re not for me, and I’m not for you.Go chase some young buck who’ll appreciate it.Now get indoors, you silly love struck woman.” Without waiting for a reply Case turned round and began trudging off, leaving a weeping Ann alone in the track.Ann watched him walk away, then turned and fled to the house, sobbing her heart out.Case walked, his teeth gritted, tears of his own falling too, but he wouldn’t let anyone see his heart was hurt too.By the time he got to the Brady’s it was nearly dark and he was welcomed in.The bottle was particularly appreciated and Case was taken into the back room by Brady senior who called Sean and his brother Eamonn in to help test the quality of the whiskey.Ma Brady left a few freshly made cakes on the table and withdrew, knowing the men wouldn’t want to be disturbed.Eamonn was two years older than Sean and was tall, dark haired and had very broad shoulders [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]