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The Woman of Knockaloe: A Parable

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
Knockaloe is a large farm on the west of the Isle of Man, a little to the south of the fishing town of Peel. From the farmstead I can see the harbour and the breakwater, with the fishing boats moored within and the broad curve of the sea outside. There is a ridge of hills that separates the farm from the coast, which is rocky and precipitous. On the crest of the hills there is a square tower that is commonly called “Corrin’s Folly,” and at the foot of the tower there is a small graveyard surrounded by a stone wall. Too far inland to hear the roar of the sea except in winter, it is near enough to feel its salt breath in the summer. Not rich or leafy or luxuriant, but with a broad sunny bareness as of a place where a glacier has been and passed over, and with a deep peace, a glacial peace, always lying on it—such is Knockaloe. The farm-house lies in the valley, close under the shelter of the hills. It is a substantial building with large outhouses, and it is approached from the road by a long, straight, narrow lane that is bordered by short trees. The farmer is Robert Craine, a stalwart old man in a sleeve waistcoat. I seem to know him well. He has farmed Knockaloe all his life, following three or four generations of his family. But now he is a little past his best, and rarely goes far from home except on Sundays to one or other of the chapels round about, for he is a local preacher among the Wesleyans. “I’m not too good at the farming now,” he says, “but, man, I love to preach.” His wife is dead, and she is buried in the churchyard of Kirk Patrick, which lies near his gate at the turn of the road to the railway station. He has a son and a daughter. The son, another Robert, but commonly called Robbie, is a fine young fellow with clear flashing eyes, about six and twenty, as fresh as the heather on the mountains, and his father’s right-hand man. The daughter is named Mona, and she is a splendid girl of about twenty-three or four, distinctly good-looking, tall, full-bosomed, strong of limb, even muscular, with firm step and upright figure, big brown eyes and coal-black hair—a picture of grown-up health. Since her mother’s death she has become “the big woman” of the farm, managing everything and everybody, the farm-servants of both sexes, her brother and even her father.