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Sheltie Prattle

Sheltie Prattle an da Blue Lowe

(A Pantomime)

Eence dae wir a lass at dey caad Sheltie Prattle. Her faider an midder wis baith deed, an shui bed ithin a plaece caad Backaboot i da laand o Knap wi twa muckle trookers o sisters at hattered her an made her life a meesery.

Noo da sisters - ene wis caad Duiweel an da idder Persevere - wis prunkin dem up ta gaeng tae da Foy at Uppity Haa, an Sheltie Prattle wis rinnin aboot hentin claise an underclaise an hats an shuin an steys an hat-preens, for Duiweel an Persevere hed dat muckle claise at dey couldna mak up dir mind whit ta pit on. An da mair dey cled an laid aff o dem da waar-naitered dey got.

"I'm sorry, Duiweel" said Sheltie Prattle, efter shui wis stucken a preen ithin Duiweel's hoch an gotten a lunder aroond da lug.

"Do-well," said Duiweel, "Do-well is the right pornounciation."

"Yea, laekly dat," said Sheltie Prattle.

"And how many times am I told you to talk proper to Persevere and I so that we can make you out right?"

Up da laetest, whin Duiweel an Persevere wis tried aa dir claise on aboot a dizzen times an laid demsels by, Sheltie Prattle wan awa tae da keetchen. Here dae wir da laem ta wash, da fire ta big up, da floer ta mop, da table ta swab, an da tae ta mak; an dan dae wir da coll ta tak in, da lambs ta maet, da coo ta mylk...

Sheltie Prattle salistit apo a stuil.

"I wiss I could gaeng tae da Foy," shui said. "Bit I hae nae claise aless dis bits o plags at's buin shewed tagidder afore dey'r mair pirm treed as cloot."

Juist wi dat dae wir a oondoemious crack an a blue lowe, an a peerie man stuid apo da hertstaen, crexin an hostin, ithin a clood o reek an ess. Sheltie Prattle loopit til her feet.

"Whit da Ill Helt is du?" shui said, trivvlin for da tully.

"Amdee trowideilfaedur."

"Darth Vader?" said Sheltie Prattle. "Weel, du's ill aneoch laek, but du's ower peerie."

"Na, na," said da peerie man atween hosts, "I'm di Trowie Diel Faider. Mi name is Skyimpnafftak."

"Oh - weel, whit wye could du no a said dat i da first plaece?"

"Nivvirdoomynd," said da peerie man. "Aherdee spikkinaboot gjauntida foyatdahaa."

"Yea," said Sheltie Prattle, "Bit du sees, I wid need a hael froak."

"Lokkadirt," said da trowie man. "Chustdoowaer onniaaldting."

"Bit I canna gaeng among aa yun posh fock cled laek dis!"

Da peerie man lookit Sheltie Prattle up an doon.

"Ja, doosrytanjoch," he said. "Doosno fittabeseen. Daywidchust lachatdee. Dubetturnogjing." An he guid da sam wye at he wis come.

Noo dis got Sheltie Prattle's birse up. Shui tocht, "Whit wye sood I anse yun ill-trivven peerie mellishon? Why sood I no gaeng tae da Foy? Shuirly hit duisna maiter whit a body is cled ithin." Sae efter Duiweel an Persevere wis set oot for da Foy shui guid ahint dem, an turned up at da door wi her invite. An efter lookin at her as if shui wis oagit oot fae anaeth a rat's crang, an scrimin ower da wattermark o da invite anunder a magnifyin-gless, da doorman up da laetest luit her in.

Da haa wis braaly dark an mirdin wi fock; an as Sheltie Prattle wis trivvlin her wye kinda blaet-laek alang da waa, Duiweel an Persevere lichtit til her.

"Du peerie limmer," said Duiweel, "Whit da Muckle Deevil duis du tink du's doein here? Git oot afore du shaas wis up!"

An shui took Sheltie Prattle bi da scruif o da neck, daared her ta mak as muckle as a pleep, an wappit her oot o da door. An Sheltie Prattle set her doon apo da brigstaens an begood ta greet.

Noo young Robbie o da Haa - da Young Yarl, as dey caad him - wis dat fed up wi aa da pernyim lasses at da Foy at he wis gien furt bi himsel. An whin he saa Sheltie Prattle sittin greetin, he guid ower an - her no kaenin wha he wis - shui telt him da hael story.

"Yea weel," he said. "Juist come du wi me."

Sae da Young Yarl took Sheltie Prattle apo his airm in tae da haa, an da twa o dem danced da hael nicht - nae idder lass got a look in. For a while Sheltie Prattle nearly foryat at shui wis cled ithin aald plags - till hit cam time ta hae somethin ta aet, an, da wye at shui wis wi da Young Yarl, da idder lasses started ta come ower ta spaek.

"I didn't realise it was fancy dress," said ee craiter at wis buskit wi fedders laek a piltick-flee. "Really, Robert, you might have warned us."

"Such a charming imitation of peasant dress," said anidder ene. "It could almost be real. But of course, no real person looks like that nowadays."

"Still, it's charming to bring these old customs out of the mothballs for special occasions. It adds a little something to the proceedings - you know - a little soupçon de je ne sais quoi.."

"I duina kaen whit you'r spaekin aboot," Sheltie Prattle said. "I'm wearin dis becaese I hae naethin idder. Hit's you at haes da fancy dress."

"Oh, very good," said ene o da lasses, pittin on a bit o a keckle. "An actress as well, I see - you almost took us in there. Very effective role-play, I must say; very amusing indeed."

Bit Sheltie Prattle wisna listenin. Shui wis lookin doon at her aald shewed plags; an as shui lookit shui tocht aboot whit da peerie trowie man wis said - "Du's no fit ta be seen. Dey'll juist laach at dee. Du better no gaeng."

Wi a skirl shui slippit her gless an ran fae da haa an doon da stairs an oot intae da dark. An da Young Yarl ran efter her, bit aa at he fan wis ene o her rivlins at shui wis tint as shui guid.

Da niest day da Young Yarl guid ta see his faider, da Aald Yarl o Uppity.

"I'm wantin ta fin da lass at I danced wi dastreen," he said. "Bit naebody can tell me whaar shui bides. Dae wir twa lasses dere at I tocht wis her sisters, bit dey widna hae it ta be."

Da Aald Yarl gae da Young Yarl a proag i da ribs wi his elbuck.

"Good idea," he said. "You can set her up in a bit of a flat ... give her a small allowance, she shouldn't be very demanding... or bring her over here as a scullery maid..."

"Na, na," said da Young Yarl. "I'm wantin ta mairy her - an gie her boany claise - an..."

Da Aald Yarl gae him ene o yun widderin looks.

"You're very naïf in the ways of the world," he said. "Girls like that are all right for a bit of a fling now and then, but they mustn't be taken seriously. They haven't got the capacity to cope with public life. And as for giving them decent clothes - well - it would spoil their charm - that particular quality of spontaneity and primitive simplicity which is most of their appeal. The fact is that coloured cloth can't hide lack of breeding. There would always be - behind the dye - a lack."

He lirkit his broo.

"And anyhow, where would the money come from?"

"Weel, If I can affoard ta pit her up ithin a flat, shuirly.."

Da Aald Yarl shook his haed.

"That's a different thing altogether," he said. "Of course you're entitled to spend a bit now and then on entertainment and leisure activities. But the Yarlhoodship can't be seen to be wasting money on anything which might challenge the accepted sociolinguisticultural equilibrium - particularly if it might be seen as diverting funds away from investment in the accumulation of public interest and the economic viability of Knap. The Elocuted Council of Retrospendathrifts would never allow it."

Da Aald Yarl hunksed his shooders.

"In any case, you know that in order to avoid accusations of parochialism and ensure your succession to Uppity, it is politic for you to marry one of the daughters of the Twaddle of Anglify. God knows there are enough of them - Obfuscate, Unsubstantiate, Patronise, Sanitise, Elocution, Affectation..."

He lirkit his broo again.

"Not that you couldn't have the other girl as well - as long, of course, as the arrangement was completely unofficial and she didn't have any legal standing or claim on anything. But how would you go about finding her?"

"Weel you see," said da Young Yarl, "I tocht at if I guid trowe da laand wi dis rivlin an saa if dae wir ony lasses at hit wid fit..."

"Boy," said da Aald Yarl, "Duina be a complete an ooter fuil. And another thing," he said as da Young Yarl wis laivin, "It's time you learnt to speak correctly so that people can understand what you're saying."

Hooever, da Young Yarl didna gie in sae aisy. On da whyde he pat oot ene o his servants wi da rivlin, ta gaeng trowe da laand o Knap hunsin for a lass at hit wid fit. An up da laetest da servant wan ta Backaboot. An da twa trookers o sisters guid oot ta try on da rivlin, bit ene o dem tried ta pit him on back side foremist, an da idder ene got ithin a witter wi da rivlin-strings.

"Ir dae nae idder lasses here?" da servant aksed. "Da fock at Lower Drittlaboot telt me dae wir tree."

"Well, there is another one," said Persevere. "But you don't want to see her."

"An whit caa you her? Da Young Yarl said at da lass at tint da rivlin hed twa sisters at caad her Sheltie Prattle."

"Oh no - we wouldn't call our sister a name like that! Her name is... is... it's Diglossia. But she has a lack. We call her Di-a-lack."

"Weel, I man see da lot," said da servant. "Hent her oot."

Noo Sheltie Prattle wis listenin fae ahint da door, an whin shui heard dis shui tocht, "Whit'll I dui? I canna gaeng oot ithin dis aald plags - look whit happened da last time."

Juist wi dat dae wir a oondoemious crack an a blue lowe, an da peerie trowie man appeared at her elbuck ithin a clood o reek an ess.

"Komduweeme," he said whin he wis whet hostin. "Allgitdee sutntawaer. Hurridooup!"

He laedit her intae Duiweel's room, balled oppen da wardrob an begood ta shuil oot claise, an shui pat dem apo her as dey cam an dan shui ran oot, pechin.

Da servant lookit at her.

"Yea," he said. "I see whit you mean. Naebody at didna hae a want wid cled dem laek yun. We needna budder tryin da rivlin on her."

An whin Sheltie Prattle lookit doon shui saa at ene o her feet wis ithin a white smuck an da idder ene ithin a black buit. Shui wis wearin a short kilt ower a lang petticot, an a laecey bloose ower a swaara gansie, an a Fair Isle tourie anunder a feddery hat.

"Na, na," shui said, "Dey caa me Sheltie Prattle richt aneoch..." Bit da servant juist smeigit an guid. An as Sheltie Prattle croudged while Duiweel laabered her for staelin her claise, shui wis shoer at shui could hear da Trowie Diel Faider, Skyimpnafftak, gaffin i da lum.

Sae da Young Yarl never fan Sheltie Prattle. An Duiweel an Persevere hattered her mair as ever, an afore very lang shui took ill, an dwined awa an deed. Her sisters buried her an tocht shui wis forgotten aboot. Bit somene shuirly mindit, for ee moarnin dae wir a staen at appeared abuin her greff. Hit said:

Sae, lack-a-day, deed Di-a-lack
(Or Sheltie Prattle) o hert-brack.
Shui micht a seen less sicker days
Hed somene gien her kirsen claise.

(First printed in the New Shetlander)