Tonight or Else

Tonight or Else

M. King

Price: $2.25


The myths, songs, and legends of old Cornwall give Jamie Tregellis no comfort, but the words of one ballad come back to haunt him. A year after his lover, Will, left him for the sea, the impossible seems to happen. Could Will really have returned from the waves? 

PUBLISHED BY: Alpheratz Press
ISBN: 978-1-907623-35-6
CATEGORIES: ManLove, Fantasy, Historical, Paranormal
KEYWORDS: gay, alpheratz press, m. king, lavengra, tonight or else, cornwall, cornish, english, historical, sailor, sea, ocean, paranormal, imp, sprite, love, m/m

EBOOKS BY Alpheratz Press


COPYRIGHT M. King/2010

Jamie lowered his head and set to his work, shoveling the soiled straw and fighting the sting behind his eyes. Perhaps it truly was easier to believe Will dead than believe him a rogue. He just prayed to God he’d be proven wrong. He carried on until the job was done, the stalls clean, and the horses fed, watered, and groomed. All the while, the sea nudged at the land and gulls wheeled above the cliffs.

Come evening, business in The Lamb picked up. Jamie’s master, Saul Garras—a big man with irony gray curls and a beard like a small hedge—ran a lively house. Jamie, in the midst of bringing another cask up from the cellar, caught his breath at the sound of a rousing verse from The Ballad of Sweet William. No, never a song, joke, nor tale across the Lizard he’d not heard and, of all of them, Jamie hated that one the most.

Sweet William, so the tale went, was a farm laborer who fell in love with Nancy, the farmer’s daughter. When her father forbade the match, William ran away to sea, but swore he’d return for Nancy. She waited, sitting every day at the top of the cliff, wearing out her eyes to watch for his ship, until all but she thought he’d forgotten her. She began to waste away until, one moonlit night, a boat drew into the bay and a voice came whispering under fair Nancy’s door. And the men sang:

“Sleep’st thou, sweetheart, in the pale moonlight?

“You must come unto me, this very night.

“Tonight, tonight, tha’ must come unto me

“Else be not my bride, fairest Nancy.”

The song ran on, followed the girl as she scrambled down to the shore, fell into the arms of her lover and vanished into the night. So the story went, Nancy’s father had woken to find her gone, and to the news that William’s ship had been lost, with all hands drowned.

Jamie leaned against the cool wall of the cellar, the cask resting at his feet and a sob trying to break from his chest. He fought it, fists clenched and teeth gritted, until silent tears wet his cheeks and fury at his own stupidity welled up in him harder than any sorrow might ever have done. Just a maudlin drunkard’s song, yet it filled his head with such pain, and his heart…sweet Jesus! As if any could know the hurt of it. To have loved—for love he had, God help him—and lost, but to never be able to tell. And of all of it, that a stupid song could be the thing to break his soul apart anew.

“For he’s gone for a sailor, and still she do wait,

“Poor little Nancy, she sits by the gate….”

Jamie kicked savagely at the cask of ale, sent it flying down the stone steps to split on the cellar floor. He stared at the rapidly pooling spillage, horror drying the salt tracks on his skin. He dove for the cask, righting the barrel and trying in vain to save some of the beer, even before Saul’s bulky shape darkened the top of the stair.

“What in the Devil’s name are you a-doin’ of down there, boy?” He squinted at Jamie, wet-kneed in the spilled ale, and swore. “Tha’ useless apperd! I should turn ’ee to doors. Tha’s not hurt?”

“No, master. I’m sorry. I…slipped.”

Saul grunted. “Aye. Well, clean it up and fetch us a fresh cask. We’m got a pack of graddling oafs up here as want their beer. And you’ll be payin’ for that, mark you, lad.”

“’S, master.”

Jamie bowed his head, the swab rag that Saul threw down to him landing a foot or so away, a damp and noisome plop on the stones. He took it and set to mopping up the spilled ale. Upstairs, the men sang on.



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