Near Castlebar, Mayo, 12noon, The Landlord

William rode in under the stone arch and Tom the stable-hand took his horse's reins as he dismounted. He nodded his thanks and made his way into the house, where he was aware his wife would look askance at his muddy boots - not to mention that fact that his long trip out would have delayed lunch. Well, he had needed to do a last tour of the estate while it was still his, before the sale of his ancestors' lands was completed.

The family had held land here in Mayo since the seventeenth century. It had really only come home to him when he saw the deeds laid out on his solicitors' table, waiting for his signature, that a whole part of history and way of life was being signed away. It was true that he would have the house and a few acres, and his son would inherit the title. But he was well aware that without the excuse of the estate to manage, his wife and daughters would make sure that the family would spend most of the year in London, or at least Dublin. Apart from a few weeks hunting and perhaps a summer visit, the house, once a centre of activity, would be shut up.

He sighed as his eye caught the Address from the tenants, thanking his grandfather for assistance granted during the days of the Famine in the 1840s. His grandfather had assisted many of the unfortunates to start a new life in America, and his father had imbued in him a sense that the family had an obligation to look after those who farmed their lands. But what could he have done other than sell? For the last thirty years there had been nothing but trouble with the tenants; refusal to pay the rents, agitation, general lawlessness.

This last Act at least meant that he would get a reasonable price for the land and that he could go to the Horse Show in Dublin this year without worrying about the pile of debts that would greet him on his return. His banker had given him some very sound advice on how to invest the money and in the end he still had the house, the lovely Georgian mansion that held all the memories of his family for generations past. He was still part of Ireland, and proud of it.

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