Thatâ€™ll be the Killoran people leaving now; I can hear the pipes. Itâ€™s going to be a stifling hot day: look at the greyness out there.
The roads will be dusty, and the church will be smelling of varnish. Oh, leave my dress alone, Sionaid; why do you keep worrying me? Of course I must look my best when the bridal procession arrives, but I can’t – oh, all right! Do what you like with it.
I’m sorry, dear, I didn’t mean to be abrupt. Will that do now? Honestly, you’re as excited as if it was you that was going to be married.
You won’t see them from that window. They’ll be just passing the old mill now, making for the stepping stones. It’s Seumas Tailleur and Niall Dubh that are playing; I could tell their piping anywhere. I wonder if they never get tired of it, piping every bride to the church and never piping one for themselves at all. Do you remember the school book we used – I suppose you used it too – with the poem about the heifer coming to be sacrificed and people dancing along in front with pipes? And Miss MacMaster got so angry with Uilleam Iain Taillear because he didn’t know the English word ‘heifer’ and asked if it meant ‘bride’.
Well, what is there to do except look out the window? We’re all ready, aren’t we? Don’t fuss about me, please, Sionaid. Sit down; they won’t be here for twenty minutes yet.
Why shouldn’t I take it coolly? Getting excited won’t do any good. Nothing will do any good now. What’s that? No, no, surely I didn’t say that; you didn’t hear me properly, Sionaid. I said getting excited can’t help anyone.
Two years! Well, I suppose a lot depends on what happens in those two years. Two years ago – Never mind, I really don’t know what I was going to say.
Of course you’d be excited if it was you; it would be a funny thing if a nervous little creature like you didn’t get excited at your age. You’re only two years younger than me? Two years! Well, I suppose a lot depends on what happens in those two years. Two years ago – Never mind, I really don’t know what I was going to say. Look at that silly beast of a hen scratching out there in the dust; as if she’d get a worm today when the whole land’s cracking open with the heat and the dryness of everything.
The pipes sound much closer now, don’t they? That’s because they’ve come into the glen. They’ll take at least a quarter of an hour yet. Sit down, Sionaid, sit down, can’t you? You’d get on a person’s nerves fussing about like that; my hair’s all right. Here, have a cigarette. Don’t look so horrified; it’s not a crime for a girl to smoke, even in Colonsay. Just as you please, but don’t look at me as if I’d murdered somebody. No, I don’t think I ever did smoke inside the house before; but they can’t say or do much now, can they?
Well, if Lachlan doesn’t like it, he’ll just have to get used to disliking it. I don’t see anything callous or off-handed in that; it’s just common sense, isn’t it? There! It’s gone out now. Oh, confound the thing! Throw it on the fire, please, Sionaid, will you? Those beastly pipes! Can’t they play something cheerful? It’s like a dirge, melancholy, melancholy, as if these grey hills weren’t sad enough, and the crying of the gulls and all. And see, the leaves are getting brown already. Two years ago they were just bursting out all fresh and full of life when –
No, you can’t come in, Mother, not yet; Sionaid and I are busy. Yes, I know, we heard them long ago. We’ll be in plenty of time.
What did you say Sionaid? Sad? No, what makes you think I look sad? Of course I love Lachlan. Haven’t I been promised to him since I was eight years old and he was twenty-five?
Do you not remember that – the time he fished me out of Lochan Sgoltair, and I hung round his neck, blubbering and saying I’d marry him when I grew up? I was only a child, of course, and he was a big, good-natured fellow, just the same as he is now. But I worshipped him them because he was the champion of the island at every sport he tried; and he was fond of me – you know, in the awkward way that young fellows are fond of little girls. Everybody called me Lachlan’s little sweetheart and laughed at it. But Father and Mother kept on reminding Lachlan of it – half fun, whole earnest. Balnamorachan is a good match for any girl, especially a crofter’s daughter.
Oh, you needn’t shake your head, Sionaid: you know Father and Mother as well as I do. They know the value of money and comfort, even if they are religious.
They’ve done their duty by me. They thought they were doing the right thing when they kept me away from dances and company. From one year’s end to the other I hardly ever saw a young man except at church.
I’m not complaining, Sionaid. They’ve done their duty by me. They thought they were doing the right thing when they kept me away from dances and company. From one year’s end to the other I hardly ever saw a young man except at church. Well, you don’t expect young fellows to tramp three miles over the hills if they’re not sure of the welcome they’re going to get. But Balnamorachan’s welcome was always waiting for him: it’s a good farm for any girl to marry into.
Leave me alone Sionaid, leave me alone; for Heaven’s sake don’t you begin scolding at me. I didn’t say that it was only the farm and the money they were thinking about. The biggest and the richest farmer in all of Scotland wouldn’t have put a foot inside Father’s door if he hadn’t been a sober man and a Church man too.
There, there, dear! I beg your pardon; I know you didn’t mean to scold. It’s just – it’s just – oh, I hate waiting for things. I’ve time to smoke a cigarette before they come for me. You can’t hear the pipes now? No, they’ve stopped: They’ll be coming up the steep bit of the brae now. Niall will be all out of breath; he’s getting on – he’s a good bit older than Lachlan even.
Do you think I look pale? I’d hate to look pale with all those clattering tongues around me. I don’t care what they notice; good Heavens, isn’t it better to use make-up than go about like a ghost on my wedding day? Oh, they’ll talk about me in any case. Is there anybody they don’t talk about?
I see them yonder. Look! Over Cnoc Bhan. They’ll be here in ten minute’s time. Then I’ll be finished with Dunmeanach for ever; there won’t even be a Morag MacKinnon any more.
Oh, do be quiet, Mother, I’m coming.
You’ll stay beside me, won’t you Sionaid? Promise me. No, I’m not nervous, why should I be nervous? Haven’t I known Lachlan Duff all my life? All my life Sionaid; isn’t it funny to marry someone you’ve known all your life, instead of beginning absolutely afresh? I’ve always meant to marry Lachlan. I don’t need to be nervous now.
Seventeen years older? That’s nothing. Yes, haven’t I told you already that I love him? What makes you ask a question like that? The whole island respects Lachlan Duff, so tall and handsome and brave, with his D.C.M. and all. And always so patient and dependable. It’s not his fault if he doesn’t smile much. A farmer’s life is more than smiles at any rate.
Of course I’m going to be brave. Don’t you see how calm I am? Wait till I wash my hands: they’ve been sweating.
Now I’m ready. Five minutes more! How still everything is! They’ll be hearing those bagpipes away over in Islay. I wish they’d stop; I wish they’d stop. There’s something untamed about them. Pick up my glove, will you Sionaid? And don’t, don’t go fidgetting about the room.
Derwent? No, you didn’t know him Sionaid. It was that Easter while you were with Aunt Kate in Edinburgh. Oh, well, I never needed to mention him, did I?
Lachlan will be at the church now, waiting for us. No, I didn’t sigh. It’s just a habit; Derwent used to laugh at it.
Derwent? No, you didn’t know him Sionaid. It was that Easter while you were with Aunt Kate in Edinburgh. Oh, well, I never needed to mention him, did I? He was only a month in Colonsay altogether.
Don’t stand staring at me, Sionaid. Over in Tobair Fuar he stayed, with the MacLarens. Sometimes he came this way, because he loved the cliffs and the cries of the wild sea birds. He loved the whole place.
No, he’s not coming back. He will never come back.
Derwent will never come back. Oh, God, God, Sionaid, Derwent will never come back. Yes, let me sit down. I’ll be all right in a moment. It’s all past and forgotten now – how he used to put his hands on my shoulders and laugh at my eyes because, he said, they were so grey and so grave; and he would laugh till I laughed too; then he would laugh more because my eyes weren’t grave any longer. And he would jump about, just like a child come out of school, and he’d run his hands through my hair or up my arms from fingers to armpits till I’d gladly have died only to have him keep on doing it.
And he was full of life all the time; I felt it whenever he came near me. When he put his arms round me, I forgot everything. Hold me, Sionaid, don’t let the tears stain my dress.
Love him? Yes, I loved him, Sionaid. I will always love Derwent. And my father, when he came on the two of us down Uamh na Thuile, raged and shouted and swore that Derwent was only making a loose woman of me. So we met no more in the daytime. But in the moonlight I slipped out. And now I will never see the full moon but I will think of the hills behind Dunmeanach and his brown eyes sparkling as if there was something behind them bursting to get out. Tell her to be patient, Sionaid; I don’t want to shout.
He went away. We knew that Father would never change his mind nor let me marry a Catholic and one who made a living by singing on a stage. Then there was Lachlan too, poor Lachlan who knew nothing.
Those pipes, Sionaid! They’re coming nearer; they’re coming for me. I must be ready when they come. I cannot let Lachlan down; he has always been so patient and trustful.
Yes, I saw him again. But I cannot tell you. You would think it horrible. And it was beautiful.
Beautiful, yes, it was beautiful. Perhaps you would understand, Sionaid; do you think you would?
You are young, and Donald is young. Everyone else on this island is old or thinks as the old think. I followed Derwent to the mainland; he sent for me. You remember how I stayed with you two nights in Edinburgh that Easter? I told my father and mother I was staying a fortnight.
I’m not ashamed. We stayed together. Yes, I mean lived together. We travelled together – to Scarborough and Hull and Nottingham and Norwich, then back to Scotland. I never knew till then that life could be joyful for a whole day at a time.
I think it was the madness of Spring that was in us, the way it gets into the lambs and the calves. I can hardly remember now the names of the places we stayed at nor what we did. But the days flew by like minutes, and it was scarcely night till it was morning again.
Leave me? How can you say it, Sionaid? Derwent would never have left me. We were to be married and let Father and Mother know afterwards. Poor Lachlan! It was for him I was sorry. Poor decent Lachlan! It would cut him to the bone to know I had lived in sin with a man.
Leave me alone, Mother; just one minute and I’ll be ready.
Look Sionaid, I’m not crying; why should you cry? He went out in his car one morning while I wrote the letter home that you were to post in Edinburgh. The letter was never posted.
Even his face was smashed, Sionaid – his face that was the purest and noblest and most joyous thing on this earth. His mother and his sister came. They looked at me as if I was dirt. And I came back alone to Colonsay.
Don’t cry, Sionaid. Crying does no good. Nothing does any good. And please don’t pity me. I’m glad to marry Lachlan Duff. He loves me, and it doesn’t really matter now who I marry.
Come Sionaid, come; the pipers are at the door. Dry your eyes. Here, use my powder. Throw it in the fire when you’ve finished; I won’t need it in Balnamorachan.
Good morning, all; you’ve brought the good weather with you.