Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Silver Darlings

Caithness author Neil Gunn wrote of the Grey Hen’s Well in The Silver Darlings.

Chapter III  Catrine Goes Into A Strange Country 

In the course of time, wearied, she came to a well near the roadside. In these great primeval moors, there was no human habitation, and she stood for a moment looking around, the desolation touched her with a strange feeling that was not quite fear, as if the brown were the brown of some fox-beast that would not harm her but still was invisibly there. Yet, like the fox, she was a little hidden away herself from all she had been before, and in this lonely weariness she lay down in the heather. From being wide awake she passed in a moment into a sound sleep.
The sky was now milky blue and the sun warm. The tiny buds on the heather were pink-tipped. The water trickled from the well through a tongue of green grass, and a wild flower here and there drooped suddenly under the weight of a noisy bumble bee excited by the honey scent that was already stealing over the heath.

Chapter XX Finn Goes to Helmsdale

‘Doesn’t the world feel young today?’ asked Finn in his pleasant voice.
She did not answer for a minute; then she said, “It seems to me very old and wrinkled.  It’s we who are young.”
Finn checked his laugh in a marveling astonishment.
“You have the wisdom of an old woman!”
She glanced at him quickly, smiling. “Come on, we’ll go.”
In no time Barbara was as interested in the world as a young butterfly. She was attracted by the smallest thing, as if the journey were a thrilling adventure. Often they walked in silence. At the Grey Hen’s Well, Barbara drunk twice. “Once for Aunty Catrine and once for myself,” she murmured, wiping the water from her nose.
“Why that?” he asked, astonished.
“This is where your mother rested,” she said, “long, long ago, when for the first time she crossed the Ord and entered into a strange land.”
He smiled at her legendary tone, but he saw, too, that there was something behind it and, whatever it was, all in a moment it touched his heart. So he got down and drank – hesitated – and drank a second time.

Gunn, Neil M. The Silver Darlings pgs 50-51 & 440-441, Faber & Faber, London. Edition 1999

                                                      ...she lay down in the heather.

                                              The tiny buds of the heather were pink-tipped.

                                                                 A tongue of green grass,...

... and a wild flower here and there...

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