GEORGE MACKAY BROWN
The Island of the Women
|In the mind of a
certain kind of man any weird or foolish notion can take root; and
this crofter, whether his wife was cold towards him (as some women are,
by nature, and cannot help it) or for some other reason, I do not know,
conceived the idea that his wife had for long been a lover of seals, and
that this young selkie was out of her womb. He had had a merry day
among the ale-booths of Kirkwall, and –
such things happen –
had kissed one or two lasses after his ox had been sold in the market
ring. (He confessed as much to me.) Altogether he had had a
successful day –
and now, to come home to this! He called her the filthiest names
he could put his tongue to. His wife ran from the hut, frightened.
The young seal was sleeping beside the fire. He killed it with a
cut its throat. The wife crept back, hoping that the rage would
have died in him. When she saw the seal covered in blood she took
it in her arms and wept heart-brokenly: a strange touching 'pičta'.
But her grief over the creature only made more vivid his suspicion.
He would do this and that terrible thing to her. And after he had
beaten her black-and-blue he would lock her in the cottage and set fire
to it: that was the worst threat he made to the stricken
uncomprehending girl. In fact what he did was to go to the island
priest and lay a charge of witchcraft against her.
The man told me with great
frankness the whole sequence of events, as they appeared to him. I
could see that, deep under the fantasies, he truly loved his wife; and
that intensified his anguish.
'The Island of the Women' in the book of the same name
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