“Never was a story more or less true, Than this of Joliette and her Killigrew.”
There is strong evidence that, even in those very early years following the founding families settling on this island, relations between the various clans were not always cordial. Having said this, I am not talking about enmities on a par with those famously expressed by the Hatfields against the McCoys, the Pazzi against the Medici or the Campbells against the MacDonalds, where the body-counts were distressingly high. The occasional fallings-out on Hopeless were, more often than not, minor squabbles concerning ownership of various items of flotsam or jetsam, usually followed by the injured parties muttering under their breath, stamping their feet and making fists in their pockets. It is fair to say that the Jones and Frog families tried to maintain, at least, a veneer of civility with their neighbors but the Chevins and O’Stoats were destined to clash from the outset.
I have no idea how well any of the founding families knew each other prior to landing on Hopeless but I cannot imagine how the Chevins and O’Stoats were even able to tolerate being on the same boat that brought them here, if, indeed they were. They were chalk and cheese (not that you’re likely to find either very often on Hopeless). The Chevins, in those days were known to be tightly-buttoned, disapproving and fundamentalist in all of their beliefs, whereas the O’Stoats were as wild as their name suggests. They were rumoured to have descended from a long and noble line of witches, necromancers and heaven knows who else, which will surprise no one familiar with the history of Hopeless. Despite this, however, these disparate factions managed to maintain, at least for a while, a semblance of amiability. Then love got in the way and ruined everything.
Killigrew O’Stoat and Joliette Chevin were, as Shakespeare would have said, star-cross’d lovers. Their first meeting was far from auspicious, however. Killigrew was beachcombing at the time, with his cousin, Sophia. Night was drawing in and Sophia was becoming increasingly nervous.
“It’s time we were getting home, Killy,” said Sophia. “It’s dangerous out here when it gets dark.”
Not wishing to leave immediately, Killigrew pointed to where a faint gleam was emanating from a nearby building.
“But Soph’ – what’s that light from yonder broken window?”
“It’s probably one of the Chevins squeezing gnii to extract the oil,” replied Sophia. “They always glow a bit just before they die. The gnii, that is. Not the Chevins.”
You must remember that these events occurred a before the gnii oil distillery was constructed. There was nothing, at the time, robust enough to process the large, oceanic gnii. Experiments in extracting oil from the small but plentiful island gnii (gniis vulgaris) were primitive, not to say brutal, requiring something of a hands-on approach As neither Killigrew nor Sophia had witnessed the far from pleasant spectacle of gnii being manually squeezed for their oil, the two, perversely, decided to get a closer look. They were thwarted, however when a girl’s face peered out through the cracked glass. She did not look happy.
“Clear off” she yelled
Sophia and Killigrew were so surprised at her unpleasant attitude that they stood rooted to the spot. The window flew open and the girl looked unaccountably angry.
“ This is Chevin property,” she shouted. “Now go away!” (This last directive may not have been the exact term she used).
It was then that her eyes met Killigrew’s and her anger melted, like snow on the water.
“We should leave, you know what the Chevins can be like,” said Sophia, anxiously but Killigrew did not hear her. It was if an invisible thread was drawing him towards the girl at the window. It was love at first sight for both.
“I’m Joliette,” she said dreamily.
“And I’m Killigrew,” he answered, “but you can call me Killy.”
Joliette raised her eyebrows in disapproval.
“Killy? You have to be joking. Although a skunk cabbage by any other name would smell as vile, I’ll stick to Killigrew.”
And stick to Killigrew she did. The two became inseparable. Despite family differences, the elders of the both the Chevin and O’Stoat families gave every appearance of being surprisingly sanguine about the blossoming romance, even when the pair announced that they wished to marry – but others objected. Joliette’s three older brothers decided that enough was enough and that they did not want an O’Stoat heathen as a brother-in-law.
It was a moonless night when they fell upon Killigrew, beating him to within an inch of his life. Not satisfied with this, the Chevin brothers dragged his bruised and broken body to the shore for the ocean – or worse – to dispose of; they were intent on finishing their sister’s paramour once and for all. It was late when the three slunk home in silence, each deep in his own thoughts.
In the days and weeks that followed it appeared to all that Killigrew O’Stoat had simply disappeared from the face of the earth – or, at least, from the island of Hopeless, Maine. His family sent out search parties but to no avail. Distraught though they were, their grief was as nothing compared to that of Joliette. To make matters worse, soon after his disappearance she found that she was expecting his child. Filled with shame, her family at once ensured that Joliette’s movements were confined to their own property and kept her pregnancy a secret. When the child – a daughter, whom they named Ophelia – was eventually born she was passed off as being ‘a lovely surprise from God’ for Joliette’s mother. A surprise indeed, for the older Chevins were generally considered to be well past participating in what many coyly described as ‘that sort of thing’ and were subsequently viewed as being dangerously racy by some of their more straightlaced neighbours.
Joliette never recovered from Killigrew’s sudden disappearance. She took to wandering the headland, a mad look in her eye, searching for her lost lover. On many an occasion she could be heard lamenting,
“Killigrew, Killigrew, where the hell are you, Killigrew?”
Eventually, she wandered out once too often and was never seen again.
Ophelia Chevin was eight years old when she discovered she had the gift of ‘The Sight’. Such an ability was unheard of in the Chevin family – it was more of an O’Stoat trait – and she was urged to mention it to no one. Being an obedient child, Ophelia made the promise and kept it. The truth was not revealed until years after her death, when her journals were found, as related in the tale ‘The Eggless Norseman of Creepy Hollow’.
Only a handful of the Chevins knew the facts of the matter and the family blamed Killigrew and by extension, all of the O’Stoats, for Joliette’s demise, claiming that he had bewitched her. The O’Stoats, though unaware of the truth, suspected that the Chevins were behind Killigrew’s disappearance. Hatred grew like weeds and nothing has since been right between the two families.
These should, perhaps, have been the last words concerning the tragedy of Killigrew and Joliette… but the decidedly weird island of Hopeless, Maine had other plans.
To be continued…
By Martin Pearson-art by Tom and Nimue Brown