Monday, February 13, 2012

A little bauble for your Valentine's Day


I think "The Quiet Man" may be my favorite John Wayne movie. If you like it, too, you may know that it was based on a short story by Irish writer Maurice Walsh. It went through at least two variations, one of which appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, and another which is available in this anthology.

This is the original version of "The Quiet Man." It's a gentler "Quiet Man," a lilting love story, and quite different from the movie (starting with the names):

"I want to see Ellen settled in a place of her own," said he.

Shawn's heart lifted into his throat and stayed there. But that steadfast face with the steadfast eyes gave no sign and, moreover, he could not say a word with his heart where it was.

"Your place is small," went on the big man, "but it is and no load of debt on it, as I hear. Not much of a dowry ever came to Knockanore, and not much of a dowry can I be giving with Ellen. Say 200 pounds at the end of harvest, if prices improve. What do you say, Shawn Kelvin?"

Shawn swallowed his heart, and his voice came slow and cool "What does Ellen say?"

I haven't asked her," said Big Liam. "but what would she say, blast it?"

"Whatever she says, she will say it herself, not you, Big Liam."

But what could Ellen say? She looked within her own heart and found it empty; she looked at the granite crag of her brother's face and contemplated herself a slowly withering spinster at his fire corner; she looked up at the swell of Knockanore Hill and saw the white cottage among the green small fields below the warm brown of the heather. Oh, but the sun would shine up there in the lengthening spring day and pleasant breezes blow in sultry summer; and finally she looked at Shawn Kelvin, that firmly built, small man with the clean face and the lustrous eyes below steadfast brow. She said a prayer to her God and sank head and shoulders in a resignation more pitiful than tears, more proud than the pride of chieftains. Romance? Well away!

Shawn was far from satisfied with resigned acceptance, but then was not the time to press for a warmer one. He knew the brother's wizened soul, guessed at the girl's clean one, and saw that she was doomed beyond hope to a fireside sordidly bought for her. Let it be his own fireside then. There were many worse ones - and God was good.

Ellen O'Grady married Shawn Kelvin. One small statement and it holds the risk of tragedy, the chance of happiness, the probability of mere endurance - choices wide as the world.

Don't worry. You still get a donnybrook out of it!

I couldn't decide whether to give it to you for St. Valentine's Day, or St Patrick's Day, or midway between the two. So here it is, a day early, and you can decide whether to curl up and read it with somebody tomorrow, or file it away for the day when everyone is Irish! Enjoy!

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