Story for #ValentinesDay: The Bangstraw and the Whistle -- Part 2
Happy Brigid's Day! To honour the Frewyn holiday, which ushers in the coming of spring, we gave a new novella to all our patrons! And now, the second part of a piece featured in the novella, the Bangstraw and the Whistle:
Cabhrin’s whistle was in his hand at last, once he had hardened himself toward accepting it; Breigh’s reception of his gifts assisted Cabhrin in accepting his own, and the more Cabhrin haddistinguished and lauded the instrument, the more he reveled in it, the more indebted he felt. It was a privilege even to hold such an finely crafted instrument, with its elegant design and sleek form, and that it should be his, the overpowering notion of his being allowed to keep it, to play it whenever he chose, to cherish it as a family remembrancer, even to leave it as an heirloom for his nephews in future, was all his happy vexation. He turned the mouthpiece up, twisted it about to investigate for breaks or leaks in the seal, and when he set it to rights, he held the mouthpiece to his lips, and exhaled, his breath reviving the instrument, conjuring attenuated and hirrent notes, the nascent sounds animating the lifeless, the respiration producing multisonous trill in answer to what his fingertips commanded. His fingers fluttered, the twitter and chuttering of shortened notes rang out in vibrant fritinancy, and after treading the scales, he broke out in a tune, his head and shoulders swaying to the rhythm, keeping jig time while his fingers flew about the chamber, his quick changes producing mellifluous notes all in clamourous and harmonious agreement. His foot tapped out measure signature, and his hands followed what his memory would replicate, reiterating melodies and recounting refrains, moving continuously from one tune to another, his breath seamless, his movement constant. He stopped suddenly, to look at the whistle and adjusted the mouthpiece, and then, as though never having ceased, he continued playing, picking up from the very note he left off. The jig was soon finished, and Cabhrin, trilling out his last note with a long exhalation and wavering finger over the chamber, was highly gratified, admiring his gift with such pleasance, such approbation, that no one could doubt his esteem.
“It’s a great piece altogether,” said Cabhrin, in a blithesome tenor. “Such a clear sound. My other whistle has more storm to it. On some tunes, sounds like she’s tryin’ to put the wind in the sails. This one--” marveling at the silver whistle, “Chune, this one sounds like Westren mountain lark, chirpin’ in the trees.”
“Aye, it’s a beautiful sound,” said Breigh. “Will you play another, Cabh?”
“He’ll play another,” said Jaicobh, leaning back his chair and reaching to the corner of the room, where sat his bangstraw waiting to be played. He laid the instrument on his lap, his left hand caressing the neck while his right plucked the strings. A few awkward notes rang out in a dissonant pitch, and he set to work on retuning, twisting the tuning screws with one hand whilst plucking on the same string continuously with the other. “Here, you start a set since yer practiced,” said Jaicobh, turning the last string.”
“What should I play?” Cabhrin asked, alternately wiping his palms with his thighs.
“Anythin’ as long as it stays in the same key.” Jaicobh strummed the bangstraw, and it gave a metallic and reverberating thrum. “I’m no good at key or rhythm changes. The Majesty plays ‘em all, switchin’ from jigs to reels to some of those impossible tunes he likes playin’ just to show us how terrible we are.”
“Jaicobh,” said Calleen, with playful reproach, “you know the Majesty loves playin’. Sure, his grandda the Good Majesty taught him everythin’ about music, and he’s played since he was a wee-un.”
“Aye. We old folk who learn later in life can’t stand up to practiced folk like him.” Here was a wink at his wife, and Jaicobh plucked out the first few notes of the impending set. “’Mon, Cabhrin-bai, let’s have it, then. I’ll follow you.”
Cabhrin charily began, starting with a slow jig and keeping only to the melody, and then moving faster, his fingers floating along the chamber, the rhythm quickening, his feet tapping with more alacrity, and Jaicobh began to play. He plucked out the tune, letting Cabhrin take a counter melody, the purl of the strings resonating in contrast to the light and skipping sounds of Cabhrin’s playing. He followed well, playing the harmony when Cabhrin took the main, and after a tune was played three times in succession, he did well to follow Cabhrin’s lead, looking at his hands for which note to play next, and beginning to play triplets on tunes he knew best.
They played together for some time, entertaining the party as well as regaling themselves, deliciating in every musical variation, calling out which tune was next to be played, ruining notes and screening errors with alterations, and changing pace and key accordingly, but while Jaicobh and Cabhrin were lavishing one another with an equal and blissful composition, and Breigh was gratulating in the sounds with joyous interest, Calleen watched the performance with a palpitating heart. Her vexation increased as the music endured, but it was a joyous distress on her side, her mind in a thrill of exhilaration over seeing her son and her husband play together. She palpated her chest with her hand, endeavouring to quiet her nerves, but her happiness was too great, the gaiety which their music produced too joyous, her rapture numbing, their felicity a triumph, the blithesomeness of the house entire besieging. Music had worked Cabhrin’s cure: it was a something to draw him out, a something to connect them, a something to attach Cabhrin to Jaicobh, if not as a father then as a friend and confidante. She had been anxious to see them make a better acquaintance, and where she had feared that Cabhrin should never wish to know Jaicobh intimately, here was confirmation of all her ambitions: they had allied over music, rallying in one another and uniting over fipples and frets, and the faster and more unified they played, the more Calleen struggled to compose herself. She was in an ecstasy to see them together, honouring the convergence more than she was esteeming the harmony of their music. Cabhrin might yet harbour feelings of uneasiness toward Jaicobh, but his countenance when he played betrayed no ill will toward the old farmer: each was as cheerful and as amiable as their music allowed, and they played to the enjoyment of one another and to the tearful but blithesome agitation of Calleen.