With the eleventh bell from the church ringing clearly through the quiet snow laden hills, Eoin, Seonaid and Fearchar emerged into the dark night with lanterns to guide their chilled steps. The snow crunched under their feet. They could faintly hear yelling and raucous music reverberating up the hill from the village. Merrymaking was just beginning. The boys would be seeking their bannocks at the doors.
They arrived at the Daleroch estate to find the yard in front of the building filled with joyous festivities. The snow had been stamped down into a icy muck. Some of the men had broken out their pipes and drums. A few of the younger women danced with the men in circles around a bonfire that was beginning to smolder outside. There were the remains of mutton that had been roasted that day over an open fire. The Daleroch’s had started the festivities earlier than tradition. Yet, no one was inside the house. They were waiting for the first-footer.
The clan let up a cheer when Mrs. Daleroch noticed their presence and called out a greeting to them. Grannd came up to them and Eoin was only too glad to hide behind his mask, for he couldn’t restrain his grimace of disgust at the man. Grannd took Eoin’s hand and shook it heartily. “To the Doctor!” he cheered, the clan following his lead. “For saving my son’s life and restoring his health, I’d like to bid you enter our door and bless our house with good luck!” the man smiled happily. Eoin sucked in his breath. He had not expected to be the man to be put in the house first. That right would have surely gone to Grannd’s son. Eoin nodded, trying for enthusiasm behind his mask.
Daleroch pulled him to the door-stone and set Eoin’s hand on the elaborate iron handle. Eoin took his grand time of show, letting the clan think that he appreciated his roll. He opened the door and walked in to the cheer of the people. Inside, the house was freshly cleaned and lit with candles in many corners, causing the room to flick with shadows. He spotted another meal already laid out, his bottles of port set next to the meat. Grannd Daleroch followed him into the house. Eoin moved to the stairwell, out of the way of the incoming flood of people escaping from the plummeting cold of the winter night. The house bloomed under the press of bodies and music.
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