torstai 21. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Twenty: The Last Story

Glennari station was as full of people as it had been three months before. Ethel hold tightly Tom’s hand, and he didn’t draw himself away. Somehow that little, plumpy, brown hand in his was comforting.

“The train’s coming”, said Aunt Maggie. ”Now, do you have everything — your ticket? The money?”

“I do”, said Tom. Angus MacDonald had stayed free-willingly home, because there was no room for all of them and Tom’s luggage in the carriage, and the situation was now just like the one when Tom had come and the women of Five Cherry Trees had been waiting for him — but now the birch leaves were of gold and blood.

“God bless you, dear”, whispered Laura and embraced him suddenly. “Tell my loves to your mother — and tell her I’ve never met a nicer boy!”

“Don’t forget us”,  said Aunt Maggie at her turn.

”I like you”, whispered Louisa. “Almost as much as I like Geordie.”

“Oh, how I hate farewells!” bursted Myra.

”Come back so-o-on”, sobbed Ethel.

Then Tom climbed into the train, sat by a window and swinged his hand; the train whistled and began to move. After a moment it had disappeared behind the bend.

It was miracle that the way from Glennari to Lochdhu was not flooded with all the tears the girls shed. At last Aunt Maggie turned on the front seat and said angrily, 

“If you won’t stop we’ll turn back and take you to the doctor! He isn’t dead, just gone back home!”

“I don’t think there’s much difference”, gasped Myra behind her handkerchief. ”Oh, Aunty, it’s so sweet to cry — when you cry you cannot remember the thing you’re crying for.”

That night Louisa went to the shop and waited till her father had done his work. Then they walked together over to Five Cherry Trees hand in hand.

“Douglas told me you’ve become a wonderful teller”, said Angus MacDonald, looking down to the brown curlies which were tied back to a thick plait. ”Wouldn’t you tell me a story? When I’ve put my feet on my fathers’ soil again I feel very clannish. But a happy story, please, with many marriages, because I’m afraid your tears are about to come in every minute!”

Louisa laughed.

“Not anymore”, she said, “I’m almost over it. But parting is awful, as you know. Well, I shall tell you a story about Ranald MacDonald, who was out in the ‘Fifteen.

“Ranald was only twenty when the rising broke out. He was the only son of his parents, so they wouldn’t like to let him go out, but he wanted and said, ‘I’ll be ashamed rest of my life if I won’t rise my sword for the Stuart king!’ So he did. He was a very brave and gallant soldier, and when the rebels were in camp in Preston, a young English girl fell in love with him.

“One night, when Ranald was guarding the camp, the girl tiptoed to him and told him about her feelings. And because she was a very bonnie one, Ranald took her into his arms, and she didn’t leave until in the morning.

“The rebellion went on as unluckily as we know. Ranald hid himself on moors and glens for months, and his mother took food for him.

“The same time the English girl had a baby. Her parents were furious and wanted to know whose it was, and the girl told them. Then she wrote to Ranald, because she knew where he lived.

“All her family laughed and said, ‘Poor gal, that cateran has forget you as soon as you got out of his eyes. Why don’t you marry the tinker who’d been looking at you?’ But the girl didn’t want to marry the tinker, because he was a cruel, ugly man.

“The letter took much time to enter Ranald’s home. But it did arrive in the same time than Ranald came home, too. It was autumn of 1716, and he felt safe enough to stop the hiding.

“He read the letter, remembered the girl, and his heart warmed. He took one of his father’s horses and rode a long, long way to the south, all the way to Preston. There he searched the girl’s home.

“She was alone, and almost fainted when Ranald stepped in. ‘Oh, you came!’ she exclaimed. ‘Of course I came’, Ranald said, kissed her and then asked, ‘Where’s the baby?’ The girl took him to the cradle, where the little boy was sleeping. ‘You will now marry me, won’t you’, she asked worrying. ‘Why do you think I came here for, then?’ Ranald said smiling and kissed her again over the cradle.”

They had entered the gate of Five Cherry Trees. Myra and Ethel came running from the Wood, Laura swinged her hand from kitchen’s window, and Aunt Maggie just came from Clover the cow. Sun shone, the warm, poignant sun of the last of August. Angus smiled to Louisa and thought that Maggie would have almost fainted, too, if she had heard the story which was told with such an innocent voice — but Douglas would enjoy it, Louisa should be asked to tell it to him some day.

“What happened to Ranald and the girl?” the Captain asked and opened the gate.

Louisa beamed a smile.

“What does happen in all the good stories?” she asked. “They lived happily ever after!”


“Kirsikoiden” tarina päättyy tähän. Kiitos, että olit mukana, toivottavasti pidit siitä!

keskiviikko 20. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Nineteen: Tom Leaves

The day was rainy, and not only outside of Five Cherry Trees. Ethel sat on the umbrella-rack and sobbed behind her handkerchief, Myra hit the keyboards of the old piano as if it had been her worst enemy, and Louisa, who helped her mother in packing, swallowed her tears.

“Well, he’s not leaving forever”, said Maggie and tried to sound brisk. “Maybe he comes back next summer.”

“But next summer can never be like this one!” And Louisa sat on Tom’s trunk and took her handkerchief, too.

“I hope so. Tom’s a good lad, but when he’s around we have far too much happenings, if you ask me. Just remember that adventure of the mouse — though it wasn’t his fault — or how he turned dirty water on Muriel Henderson. No, I must say I need some rest now.”

Laura smiled.

“You must prepare for your wedding, dear Maggie”,  she said.

“There’s not much preparing in them.” Aunty blushed. ”I mean, we won’t have many guests.”

“Why?” asked Louisa within her tears. “I’d love to have a great wedding!”

“Nonsense, child. When you’re forty you will think as I do. Where’s Tom, anyway?”

“He went to the village — I think the boys have arranged something for him. And Angus went to the Ferguson place. Oh, I hardly can believe we are like a real family again!” Laura sighed happily.

“It feels almost like a sin to waste time in sleeping”, said Louisa. “I’d like to be awake the whole winter just to be with Daddy!”

“Put these shoes to the trunk and stop that nonsense”,  said Aunt Maggie gently.

The boys in the village had really arranged a farewell party for Tom. It was set in Kerr’s barn, and every boy had taken something for eat. They spent the whole afternoon there, Tom was late from dinner, and did not want any meal.

That evening went very fast, and when Ethel looked to the clock and thought it was seven, it was half past eight.

“Well, time to go to to sleep”, said Captain MacDonald. ”I’ll come with you and tell you about the Chinese when you’re in bed.”

“About real Chinese with slanting eyes?” Myra wanted to know.

“You’ve never heard about realler Chinese.”

”I’d like to speak with you, Tom”, Laura said, when the girls left comforted for their bedrooms. ”If you don’t feel horrible to be left without a story about Chinese.”

“Oh, no”,  said Tom. “Have I done something?”

“You indeed have.” Laura stepped nearer, put her hands on his shoulders and turned him before the old, dim looking-glass of the parlour. “What do you see?”

Tom looked his picture. A firm, sun-burned, shaggy-haired boy looked back; a boy with springy body and hard muscles, round, rosy cheeks and laughing black eyes — nothing was left of the little weak creature who had once stepped into this parlour.

“Well?” said Laura.

Tom turned around and gave her a bear hug.

“Thank you”,  he murmured. “I’ve never had a summer like this!”

I’m glad of it. And maybe you can come next summer, too.”

“I beg mother till she lets me come. Oh, and maybe she can come along, and father — but of course it’d be too expensive for you.” Tom had already learned to count pennies.

“Nonsense, dear.” Laura kissed his black curlies.

“Well, well!” Angus MacDonald came down the stairs. ”What I see! You are a charmer, young man; girls will cry themselves into sleep, and now my wife is here embracing you!”

Tom laughed, and the Captain patted his shoulder.

“You’d become a fine sailor lad”, he said.

“Don’t put ideas like that into his head!” commanded Laura. “I don’t think Cristen would ever let him leave for sea!”

“Aren’t those women too sensitive? But I must say you’ve become a man during this summer. I never saw you when you came, but I’ve seen a photograph of you — and if somebody had put the photograph and you side by side and told it’s the same lad l’d said he’s the biggest lier ever born.”

At that moment Aunt Maggie came from the kitchen, where she had been making supper dishes.

“You must go to bed, too, lad”,  she said. ”Or you won’t get out of bed tomorrow early enough. Hurry up!”

Tom left. When he entered his room, which looked very empty when his books and other things were all packed in the trunks, he found gifts of the girls on his bed.

Louisa had given a little paperback notebook filled with stories about the MacDonald family ghosts, Myra bought five honeysticks, and little Ethel sewed slippers —very clumsy, very grey slippers, but made of warm and soft material.

“I think I’ll die tomorrow”, muttered Tom and wiped off a tear .

tiistai 19. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Eighteen: The Captain Comes Home

“Well, didn’t I tell you”, said Mrs Macaulay satisfiedly to Louisa at the shop on a good-smelling, rain-fresh day. “Now your Aunty’s engaged and goes to Glasgow — my, you must have a great economic help from her becoming husband!”

“Aunty’s not going anywhere”, said Louisa calmly and put five bottles of lemonade to her willow basket.

“Not going? Don’t you lie to me, lass.”

“I don’t lie. Ferguson stays here, they’ll live in the old Ferguson place.”

“Here!” cried Mrs Macaulay. ”You don’t mean that. Isn’t he a fine businessman — how he can leave his work in Glasgow?”

“He won’t leave it, but he can do it from here.”

“Have anybody heard of that kind of nonsense before! And why you are buying those lemonade bottles?”

“That is my own business.” Louisa turned on her heels and stepped out.

”Proud as a queen!” hissed Muriel Henderson, who was waiting for her turn.

That night was very solemn at Five Cherry Trees. The veranda was decorated with colourful paper lanterns and flower garlands, and the most finest china was set on the table. It wasn’t raining, but evening was cloudy and dim and full of birches’ smell.

“Oh, isn’t that wonderful!” whispered little Ethel, because she was too excited to speak aloud.

Louisa nodded and straightened tenderly the blue silk rosette on sister’s head. Everybody had their best clothes on, and Aunt Maggie looked so pretty and young in her marble-coloured dress that Douglas Ferguson could not take his eyes off from her.

“Why we can’t have engagement parties every day?” asked Myra, when Laura gave everybody a glassfull of red lemonade.

“Because you’d tear your best dress”, said Tom, laughing. He tried to be glad, though the end of August was haunting in his mind with separating from the MacDonalds.

Louisa had made a delicious supper with Laura — Aunt Maggie was not allowed to step into the kitchen. They ate new potatoes and cool sallad, beef roasted in cream, and soft, good-smelling pumpkin pie as a dessert.

When everybody couldn’t eat a bit anymore, Douglas made a speech. He thanked Laura for hospitality and Louisa for her story, and then described his becoming marriage with Maggie in such a fun way that the children almost dropped from their chairs with laughter.

Tom, as the man of the family, answered and suggested a toast for the engaged couple.

They had just drunk it, when Ethel suddenly cried,

“Somebody’s coming!”

Everybody turned to look to the road. Indeed, somebody was walking up it, a tall, firm man, as far as they could see in the thickening darkness of August.

Then Laura exclaimed, hopped, and rushed over the yard as a school-girl.

“It’s Daddy!” gasped Myra. ”Oh, it’s Daddy!”

It really was Angus MacDonald. When the girls entered him, he was pressing Laura against his breast and kissing her; and then the girls were pressed and kissed, till they were almost breathless. Then it was Maggie’s turn, and then Tom was introduced — but not kissed.

“Do you have a fest?” asked Angus, when he was taken to the veranda.

“You never guess!” said Ethel. “Oh, Daddy, you can never guess!”

“I think I do.” Angus lent his hand to Douglas, who had been waiting on the veranda. “Laura wrote me you’ve come back, and I’m sure I dropped just in middle of your engagement  party. Congratulations!”

“You never can know what adults have in their mind”, said Louisa to Tom afterwards.

“Best gift I could ever have get”, muttered Maggie and dried her tears to Douglas’s handkerchief. ”Louisa, get another plate for your Daddy from the kitchen — and a glass. Hurry up!”

“Nobody goes anywhere”, said Angus and sat down. ”I won’t let my girls run away just when I’ve seen them. Sit down, all of you. And here’s a place for you.” He drew Laura to his knee. “Now, tell me everything!”

He was told everything. And not until the clock in the hall hit ten times Laura noticed that the children were still awake.

“Time to go to sleep”, she said tenderly. ”You’ll meet Daddy tomorrow again.”

“When you must leave?” asked Myra while kissing her father. She was used to say good-bye almost same time as welcome.

“That’s the best, lassie. Caledonia must be repaired, and we can’t set sail until October — and that ts too late, because winter storms begin. So it’ll stay home until spring, over the whole winter.”

Captain MacDonald s family was quiet for a while, then Louisa whispered,

‘You mean that, Daddy?”

“Of course I do.”

Little Ethel sighed for delight.

“In that case I can go to to sleep now”, she said, kissed tenderly father’s cheek and tripped to the hall.

When the children had gone, Douglas and Maggie left for a walk, and so did Angus and Laura.

“Have you had hard time here, love?” asked Angus, when they sat down to the banks of the pond. ”I wish I could send more money.”

“Oh, no.” Laura leaned her head against his shoulder. I’ve worked and prayed — and the girls are already a great help.”

“That about Tom?”

“He’s a good lad. When Cristen wrote me of his arrival I thought he’d be a spoiled baby, but he really is a man. Oh, Angus, I’m afraid I will be the baby and cry when he leaves!”

“Woman’s tears are like pearls”, muttered Angus quietly and kissed Laura’s brown curlies. “How I’ve missed you!”

“So am I. And now you’ll be home the whole winter! It’s almost too good to be true.”

“Fairytales sometimes come true. I think I could have job at the shop — something quiet and peaceful makes me good after the journey.”

“Was it hard?”

“As usual. Now your pretty dress is getting wet — shall we go back? l’d be delighted to have now the supper which Maggie offered me hours ago.”

maanantai 18. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Seventeen: On a Rainy Day

“What’s going on here?” asked Laura. ”You are all like going to fly.”

“Nothing”, said Myra, who was standing by the dining-room window and looking out to the rain.

“Well, I wonder how you will act when something is going on.” Laura went to the kitchen, where Aunt Maggie was ironing girls’ aprons.

“He won’t come”,  said Tom. ”I told you he won’t come. And neither would I, if I had any sense in my head!”

“You’re so prosaic”, scolded Louisa. “If he really loves…”

“Loves!” repeated Tom scornfully. “There’s not a thing called love for forty-year-olds!”

“Of course there is. Oh, look — I see the motor car lamps! I see them! He’s coming!” Ethel jumped up and down around the dining-room. “Oh, Louisa, just like in some story — a prince coming to seek a princess!”

Louisa did not hear. She was already on the gate opening it. Her thick hair pasted up on her back and her just-washed muslin dress was soaking, but she smiled as happily as if sun had been shining.

“Get in, you crazy lass”,  said Douglas Ferguson. ”You’ll catch a death disease here! Is your — Aunty home?”

“Oh, yes, in the kitchen — what are you going to do — are you staying here?”

Douglas stepped to the veranda and petted Louisa’s wet hair.

“I am, dearie. Thing called telephone is great. My secretary said I’m a fool, and I thanked him from all my heart. A person in his full senses can never be happy. And now, out of my way, or I won’t ask you to be our bridesmaid.”

Douglas Ferguson went to the kitchen. Laura MacDonald came out of the kitchen. The children sat around the dining-room table and tried to look as if they were interested in the checkers board they had spread.

“Well, you rascals.” Laura looked at them and smiled. ”Now I know what’s going on, and I’m so happy I won’t punish you for keeping it from my eyes. It is time for Maggie to start thinking of herself instead of us.”

Half an hour went. Another half an hour went. Tom sighed and scratched the table-cloth. Louisa was trying to keep the checkers play on, but it was too hard, because she had to listen all the time the kitchen door. Myra kicked tablefoot. Ethel asked Laura if all the people needed that much time for proposing.

At last Laura rose.

“I’ve wasted half a day soon in this foolishness, though I should be finishing Mrs Weilson’s new dress”,  she said. “Call me when they are ready!” She went to her workroom.

When an hour and a quarter had gone, Tom slipped down from his chair and went to the door. Then he kneeled and looked through the keyhole.

“Thomas Callanger!” whispered Louisa. “Don’t you know you mustn’t do that!”

“Yes. But if I don’t, they’ll stay there all the day! O-o-o-o…”

“What’s that?” All the girls came around him.

“Well...” Tom rose. “Nothing special. My, Louisa MacDonald!”

“Shut up.” Louisa had now kneeled before the keyhole and looked through it.

The flat-iron had become cold long time ago. Aunt Maggie and Douglas Ferguson were sitting by the table and kissing each other.

“They’re kissing!” Louisa cried and then put her hand on her mouth.

“Get out of there”, said Douglas behind the door. ”I shall kiss my bride for these twenty years. But if you do really have serious inventions, you can come in and congratulate us!”

“Mommy!” Ethel rushed through the house. “Mommy! They’re engaged! Shall I be the godmother for their first baby?”

“Bless that child”, murmured Aunt Maggie and blushed like a young girl. ”And almost all the aprons unironed... Love takes too much time, if you ask me!”

Too much time or not, when the rain stopped in the evening, Aunt Maggie left for a walk with Douglas.

“So you really mean you’re staying here?” Maggie asked, when they walked the wet path through the Wood.

“I do. And when I’m now thinking of it I cannot understand how I could be as stupid as planning to go back!” Douglas kissed her cheek. “Twenty years, Maggie, and you seem to me even younger than then!”

“Nonsense”, said Maggie and smiled satisfied.

Douglas looked around the Wood.

“This has been quite a odd summer”,  he said. “That day, when I came and met you — it was wonderful. And then came that little creature Louisa with her flowers. Yes, Maggie-o-mine, without Louisa we wouldn’t be here. She just told me about your great-grandfather, and I knew what to do.”

“She’s a good girl.”

“More than good! She’s a miracle. Have you ever been as happy as now?”

Maggie looked at her fiance, and her dark eyes were young and bright.

“Never!” she whispered, put her arms around Douglas’s neck and kissed him like she had done twenty years ago — but now more happily, because there was nothing unsure in her future anymore, like in her younghood.

“But still — can I leave Laura and the girls”,  she asked, when they continued their walk. ”Laura cannot look after them when she’s working, and you know what kind of things can happen if they’re left alone.”

“They can come to our place, darling, so you can look after them there — and Louisa’s soon a woman. Don’t worry!”

Maggie did not worry, but leaned against her fiance’s arm and sighed happily. And Myra and Tom, who were hiding behind the great grey stone, winkled to each other.

sunnuntai 17. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Sixteen: The Spokesgirl

Dry July was followed by wet August. Rain poured down day after day, till the roads were just mud.

“Isn’t it wonderful to be alive in a day like that?” asked Ethel in a grey day, when she sat by a library window in the old Ferguson place. “I mean, just to sit inside and enjoy of living!”

Louisa, who lolled on a thick carpet before the fireplace, looked tenderly at her little sister, whose words were kind of contradictory, if one did not know what had happened just little time ago on the hay-field. Ethel had become well very quickly, but still everybody handled her as a very valuable piece of gold.

“It really is”, she said. “But… have you noticed how odd Aunty has become?”

“I have”, said Ethel and and slipped from the windowsill. “She’s so quiet, and I think she doesn’t sleep well. Once when I went to drink some water in the kitchen middle of night she sat there without doing anything — just sat and watched out. That is odd.”

“Come here”, whispered Louisa, “I don’t want Mr Ferguson hear, he’s in the dining-room repairing the old chest he found in the barn. I think it’s love businesses.”

“Love businesses?” repeated Ethel. “Do you think Aunty loves Mr Ferguson?”

“Of course she does. Last time when Mr Ferguson was over for tea Aunty gave him the juiciest piece of cake — and once when they came from the prayer-meeting they stood half an hour on the gate and just spoke.”

“But what’s wrong with Aunty then?” asked Ethel and knitted her brows. “Mr Ferguson likes her very much, too, I guess.”

“That’s Glasgow. Aunty doesn’t want to live there. And listen, I’ve thought, maybe he hasn’t spoken about love and that kind of stuff, and Aunty thinks he doesn’t care of her anymore — and he is leaving in the end of August. That’s why Aunty’s so odd.”

“But what could we do?” asked little Ethel. ”He is going back to Glasgow, and Aunty’s sad.”

“Maybe we could make him to stay here.”

“Oh, we cannot. I heard Mommy talking with Mrs Cunningham, and Mommy said that Mr Ferguson is a very important person in Glasgow — he barely could have his vacation this year. Oh, no, he can’t stay here.”

Louisa sighed. Yes, it seemed unpossible.

But when Douglas told the girls to come and have tea, she suddenly asked,

“What are you really doing in Glasgow?”

Ethel breathed for horror, but Douglas laughed.

“I’m the boss of my company”,  he said. ”I have bunches of paper on my table, and secretaries are running to and fro and asking questions all the time. Satisfied?”

“Have you ever thought you could stay right here in Lochdhu?” was the next question.

“Often, dearie. But I couldn’t — I have my work in Glasgow. And there’s nothing what I should stay here for.”

“Your childhood home?” suggested Ethel bravely.

Douglas looked at the blackened sailing.

“No, pet, that’s not enough. It’s all right in summer, but long winter nights here alone — no, I go back to Glasgow after three weeks.”

That night Louisa asked Five Cherry Trees children for consultation in the Orchard. Rain had stopped for a while, and they climbed to the cherry trees to avoind getting wet in the grass.

“What could we do for them?” asked Tom. ”I mean, we just cannot go and say, ‘Stay here and marry Aunty, or she’ll cry her eyes off for you!’.”

“I didn’t mean that”,  said Louisa. ”But we should give him a hint — say something that makes him to think.”

“Don’t you have any good story for it?” asked Myra. “Didn’t any of our ancestors be like Mr Ferguson?”

Louisa thought for a while.

“Maybe I have”,  she said.

“But if you’ve mistaken”, suggested Tom. “Maybe that’s something else. Stomach discomfort or stuff like that.”

“It can’t be”, Louisa said firmly. “Though in the novels people become pale and sigh and speak by themselves, when they are in love, and Aunty hasn’t, but still I’m sure that’s romance.”

“So, we must try the story”, said Ethel.

Next day Louisa splashed to the Ferguson place again with her large umbrella.

“I came to give back this book I borrowed”,  she said, when Douglas let her in.

“But dear child, you could have waited till there’s no rain!” he said.

“Oh, I thought you maybe would like to read it yourself.” Louisa hopped off from her wet boots. ”And I thought you’re lonely here all alone.

“You’re right in that, dearie. Come to the library, I’ve set fire into the fireplace, and we’ll have a very cosy and nice afternoon.”

Louisa curled up in a great armchair. When she looked Mr Ferguson, she noticed that he had changed, too. There was a shadow in his blue eyes. And two wooden boxes had been taken to the library.

“I must plan my leave”, said Douglas, following Louisa’s glance. “Summer’s gone fast, dearie. Too fast. I’m getting old.”

“Would you like to hear a story?”

Douglas laughed.

“Quick as usual! Go on, dearie. I adore your stories.”

“Once upon a time”, Louisa began, “or a hundred years ago, my great-grandfather Fergus was sitting in Five Cherry Trees parlour and smoking his pipe. He was thirty that time, and the most handsome man in the whole Lochdhu.

“On that very day he had had a lot of thinking. He was in love with a lady in Glennari — a fine lady, with curly blond hair and creamy skin — but Fergus didn’t dare to propose to her. Because, he had heard, the lady had said she could never live on countryside. She was born in Glennari, and, though it wasn’t a city, they had fancier houses and finer shops there.

“’I love her’,  thought Fergus. ‘But how could I ever ask her? She will never become mistress at Five Cherry Trees. It’s just torturing myself.’

“He thought of it, and more he thought, more sad he became. And at last he made his decision. He would not ask the lady to marry him. He would not even let her know about his love. No, but he should do something to forget. His old friend, called Keith MacLaren, a sea-captain, had often asked him to make a trip on Queen Anne, his ship. And now Fergus made up his mind to leave with Queen Anne. He packed his things, left the manor to his bailiffs — there were that kind of men like bailiffs that time in Five Cherry Trees — and travelled to Glasgow harbour. There Queen Anne was waiting, and he left.

“Fergus had never thought he would like sea-manlife as much as he did. At last Keith MacLaren hired him, and ten years they sailed together with Queen Anne. But Fergus could never forget the lady of Glennari. And finally, when Queen Anne was in Glasgow harbour again, he travelled to Glennari to meet the lady.”

Louisa quietened and looked to the fire, which made a fairy-like shadow to her face.

“What happened?” Douglas asked.

“The lady had loved him”, Louisa said, almost whispering, because the end of this story made her always cry. “Loved so much she thought she couldn’t live without him. She had said she wouldn’t live on countryside, because she didn’t want to be any farmer’s wife — she wanted only Fergus MacDonald. But Fergus never came. And the lady said ‘No’ to every other proposal of marriage, paled, became more and more slender, and at last... died, whispering, ‘If you only had come!’”

Silence fell in the little dark room. Tears of rain rolled down the windows, and the wind roared painfully around the old house.

“Fergus then stayed at land, married a girl from Lochdhu and had many children”, Louisa muttered. “But it’s said he never really loved his wife.”

Douglas crossed his arms behind his head.

“You wanted to tell me more than just a story”, he said.

“Oh, I didn’t...”

“Don’t lie to me, dearie. You came over only because you wanted to make me think, didn’t you?”

“Yes”, said Louisa.

“That’s better. Well, now we can discuss. You are going to tell me I shouldn’t leave Lochdhu?”

“Not that you shouldn’t”, said Louisa. “But.. I think... If you feel...” She began to stammer and quietened.

“Is your Aunty like the lady of Glennari?”

“I don’t think she would die of broken heart — you know, it’s not like her — but if you ask me she’s never been as happy as in this summer. She’s sewed two new dresses for herself!”

Douglas stared the eager little face with bright brown eyes and pink cheeks. Then he rose and went to the window.

“If I was able to do what I want to, not what I have to... I’ve told you I love your Aunty.”

“And she loves you, I’m sure of it! But your company is a ship — you’ve been sailing away twenty years, and now you’re setting sails again. Who knows if you ever come to the harbour again?”

“What could I do? My work...”

“Your work!” cried Louisa furiously and hopped up. “Do you think anything but your work? Haven’t you even noticed there’s a thing called telephone? There’s one in the shop, and you could have another here — you could call to Glasgow whenever needed!”

“It’s not that simple, dearie.”

“How stupid you adults are!” Louisa rushed to the kitchen and put her boots on. “I’ve done what I can, and if you really want to be unhappy the rest of your life, it’s not my business!” She took her wet coat and umbrella and was just going to step out, when Douglas took her arm.

“Calm down, dearie, don’t be such a fussy. Take off those wet things. I must think of it. I’ve been a bachelor for forty years, dearie, and it’s not so easy to change your way of living.”

“It is easy if you only love Aunty!” Louisa’s eyes were full of tears.

Douglas sighed, then he smiled.

“For heaven’s sake, dearie, what will come of that!”

lauantai 16. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Fiveteen: The Haymaking

That July was warm, dusty, and dry. Gardens and corn suffered, but hay was growing better than ever. Because the fields of Five Cherry Trees were all hired, the MacDonald family used to help Mr Kerr with his haymaking, and Mr Kerr then gave them enough hay for their Clover the cow and Donna the horse.

On a hot, cloudless day in the end of July Laura, Aunt Maggie, Louisa, Myra, Ethel, and Tom were walking through the Wood. They were going to the Kerr fields; Aunt Maggie had a basketful of food, Ethel carried a bottle of cold, cool water, and the others had hay-forks.

“I’ve never been making hay”,  said Tom. “That’s exciting.”

“Oh, there’s nothing exciting in it”, said Louisa, who would have liked to read a novel Mr Ferguson had lent her. ”Just working and carrying hay, till your arms are aching and your feet are full of haysticks.”

“Stop moaning, Louisa”, said Laura. ”You should have put your shoes on. There can be snakes on the field.”

“Oh, Mommy!” cried Myra. “There’s hot enough this way, with shoes it would be just awful! And I’ve never seen snakes on the Kerr fields.”

“But I heard Mr Ferguson is comin’, too”, Louisa said a little briskier. “That’s nice.”

“Who told you that?” asked Aunt Maggie.

“Geordie had told Tom, hadn’t he, Tom?”

“That’s right. He says he’s missed haymaking, so now he helps with the Kerrs.”

It was, like Louisa had said, a hard day. Sun was shining brighter than ever, and no clouds appeared to make the air cooler. But Mr Kerr was satisfied, because the hay seemed fine.

Douglas Ferguson had really come along. And though he had been living in a city twenty years, he was as strong and quick as anybody else.

Ethel was too small for real work. So she was left by the food-baskets and told to make tea ready by noon.

“And take care you won’t set the whole grfool on fire”, said Aunt Maggie, before she followed the others to the field.

Tea was ready just when the hungry and thirsty people came for it. Water bottle had been drank empty, so Tom and Geordie rushed to the pond with it. They found some interesting frogs and bird’s eggs on their way and did not come back until everybody had already eaten, but did not care of that little unfortune.

“What shall I do now?” asked Ethel, when Laura was binding a wide handkerchief over her hair and preparing to go back to work. “Couldn’t I help with the hay?”

“No, dearie, I think you would get too tired. Next year, maybe. Now, you can take the dishes to the pond and wash them there, and then come back and have a round with the water bottle. If anybody wants drinking you can take it over.”

Ethel shrugged her shoulders and collected the dishes to a basket.

The afternoon was long. Ethel ran to and fro with the bottle, because everybody was thirsty.

“Oh, I sweat so that I feel like a sponge!” sighed Myra. ”Clover and Donna should be grateful of that hay.”

Louisa did not say anything. Secretly she was happy, because Geordie was collecting hay just before her and sometimes smiled at her.

Almost all the hay had been taken into the barn, and Mr Kerr was just coming with the carriage for the last load, when Ethel suddenly fell down in one corner of the field with a cry.

“What’s going on there?” asked Douglas.

“Help!” Ethel exclaimed. ”Here was a snake, and it… it...” She sobbed so that could not say anything more.

But that was enough. Laura threw her hayfork away and ran over the field, and Aunt Maggie followed her.

Ethel sat on the grfool holding her bare foot. There was two tiny, red plots on her ankle.

“It bite me”, she gasped. ”I didn’t see it — oh Mommy, am I going to die now?”

“Nonsense, dear”,  muttered Laura. ”What kind of a snake it was?”

“I dunno, Mommy. I remember old Joe MacGregor died with a snakebite!”

“You won’t die”, Aunt Maggie said firmly, though she was not so sure. ”What shall we do?”

“I’ll get my motor car so we can drive her over to Glennari”, said Douglas Ferguson behind her. “She mustn’t move now, so the poison won’t spread.”

“I’ll catch your handbag”, said Aunt Maggie and patted Laura’s shoulder. ”And a neat dress for the girl… She mustn’t go to doctor in that old, thin one.”

Laura could not say anything. Ethel’s brown eyes were wide and frightened, and suddenly she buried her face to mother’s dress.

”Is — it — dangerous?” whispered Myra with a pale face.

“I don’t know. Possibly not, if we can go to doctor in time. Oh, Tom, you’re a good runner, go after Aunty and tell her to take Ethel’s stockings and shoes.”

Tom left, and Mrs Kerr came to Laura.

“Child cannot wear any stockings now”,  she said.

“No, but to another foot... She mustn’t go to doctor barefeet... Oh, dearie, does it hurt?”

“A little”,  said a tiny voice somewhere in Laura’s arms.

“Don’t cry”, said Geordie and kneeled by Ethel. ”You’ll have a drive in a motor car, think of it!”

“If I’m goin’ to die?” Ethel lifted her face.

“I’m sure you won’t”, said Louisa and bowed on Geordie’s side. ”And when you’re back home I’ll make sweets for you.”

“Oh.” Ethel wiped tears from her cheeks.

At that moment Tom and Aunt Maggie came back with the handbag and clothes, and Douglas stopped his motor car to the road by the field. Then he took a blanket from the car and came to the crowd.

“Here, pet, I’ll carry you in that”, he said. ”Who’s coming with her?”

“I won’t let you go alone”,  said Maggie to Laura. ”You are such a worrier. Could the children come to your place, Mrs Kerr? They can’t be alone at Five Cherry Trees.”

“Of course”, said Mrs Kerr motherly. “They can sleep in my guest-room.” Mrs Kerr was very proud of her guest-room.

So they left. Laura sat on the back seat with Ethel, and Aunt Maggie on the front one with Douglas.

“Don’t move the girl”, Douglas said, when Laura tried to change Ethel’s clothes. ”We’re all dirty and sweaty, but it’s more important to get into doctor’s in time than to be fancy at town.”

Laura sighed and put the dress back to the basket.

The way was dusty, Ethel coughed and complained. She was getting pale and her forehead was as hot as fire.

“Mommy... If I die, please give my blue silk ribbon to Myra, because I quarreled with her yesterday”, she murmured.

“I will”,  Laura said tenderly and kissed her. “Don’t speak, darling, just rest.”

“Do you think I get white clothes in heaven?”

“Good grief, lfoolie, don’t speak that way!” cried Aunt Maggie. “You’re not goin’ to die!”

“Be quiet”, Douglas whispered. ‘she must be calm. Here’s Glennari way, thank God.”

Glennari had own little hospital, and Douglas stopped his motor car before it. He told Maggie to go and ask the doctor while he took the fevery girl to his arms and carried her up the stairs to the cool and very clean hall.

“This way.” A nurse with a white apron and cap showed the way. “Doctor’s in. You can wait ouside.”

“l’m her mother. Can’t I go with her?” begged Laura. “Oh, please!”

“Let her come”, said the doctor, a middle-aged man with glfooles.

Aunt Maggie sat down to a bench by the door of the doctor’s room. Douglas walked to and fro before her.

“If I only had made them to put their shoes on”,  murmured Aunt Maggie and took her handkerchief. ”Oh, in that case...”

“Don’t be stupid”, said Douglas. ”It’s not your fault.”

“Oh, but it is! Laura said they should wear shoes, but the children said it would be too hot... And I agreed to them... Oh, God!” She put the handkerchief on her face.

Douglas sat by her.

“Don’t cry, Maggie-o-mine”, he said gently. ”You cannot help her a bit with your tears. Be brave, that’s what we all need. Maybe it wasn’t a poison snake at all.”

“You saw she had fever!”

“Well, sometimes one gets fever because of heath, you know. And anyhow, please, stop crying.” Douglas put his arm carefully around Maggie’s shoulders. ”You are a strong lfoolie, I know that.”

“If I could be!” Maggie loaned against him without understanding that. ”But now l’d like to run, only run, and forget all that awful. Little Ethel — oh, why I didn’t give her a honeystick when she asked!”

“She’s not dead, you little fool. Now, somebody comes.”

Maggie noticed Douglas’s arm around her and drew herself back, when doctor opened the door.

“There’s no danger”, he said, smiling. ”You got here in time. But it’s best you leave the girl here overnight — she’ll have a good rest. Tomorrow she’s okay.”

“Thank God!” muttered Aunt Maggie. “Oh, Laura!” She rose and pressed cordially her sister-in-law, who followed the doctor and wiped away tears — but now of relief.

Douglas did not say anything. He still felt Maggie’s soft shoulders under his arm and just smiled by himself.

perjantai 15. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Fourteen: Tom’s Letter

Five Cherry Trees, July 21th

“Dear Mother and Father,

“thank you for the long letter I got from you already a week ago. I am sorry I have not answered earlier, but I have had so much to do. However now I have nothing but time, because — well, I confess. I am commanded to stayin my room and not allowed to go out until tomorrow morning, unless the house would set on fire.

“Please, Mother, do not faint yet. I shall tell everything. Now there is silence in the house, because all that women folk is in the prayer-meeting. Laura said I should be allowed to go there, but Aunt Maggie said I am not a Presbyterian, so I can think of my sins very well in my room. I am glad of it. Usually I like the prayer-meetings, but tonight Amelie Welsh is going to lead the hymns, and when she sings it sounds like the windows would be broken just because of her scream.

“No, I have not done anything very serious. Or — I do not know. Adults sometimes think so oddly. (Sometimes even you, Mother and Father!)

“This week has been a special one. Last weekend we had our Sunday school picnic — I shall tell about it some other time — and every night from Monday there has been some programme in the church. On Monday we had an organ concert, on Tuesday a parson from Glasgow was speaking, and yesterday the choir sang. Tonight a parson from Nova Scotia is there — everybody has been like in fever, because they want to give him everything best.

“All the Sunday school pupils were asked to decorate the church, because the Canadian parson had said he would love to see flowers around him. Everybody was asked to pick up as much flowers as was possible. We had quite a nice time with the girls, when we collected flowers from the garden of Five Cherry Trees, and then we went to the orchard to have some forget-me-nots and wild roses.

“The church was full of children. Mrs Weilson, the wife of our parson, was there looking after ‘that nothing gets broken’, as she said. I like her, and I am a little sorry because she was so sad about what I did.

“I was putting garlands made of spruce branches and bluebells to the railing of the gallery with Geordie Kerr. Geordie was standing on the ladders outside the railing the and I tightening the garland from the gallery.

“At that very moment I saw Muriel Henderson coming down the aisle. Muriel is beautiful, some say, but I do not like her. She was my ‘lady’ during the picnic, and... Well, as I said, I shall tell it another time. Now Muriel had again a new dress, of bright blue silk and pink laces — her parents do have wealth, but not any sense of style.

“Anyway, she had armfull of white roses from her mother’s garden, and now she went to Mrs WeiIson and said with a sugary voice, ‘Oh, could I put these into some vase?’ Mrs WeiIson was delighted and said that she could put them into the garlands, because we needed some white colour among green and blue. And that is how Muriel came up to the gallery.

“She behaved herself for a while, putting roses into the garland, but then she began to bubble about all possible things on the earth — and, which was the worst, not a good word of Five Cherry Trees family! (I do not wonder. Maybe you do not understand all that, but you will, when I write another letter). Geordie is Louisa’s beau — or he thinks he is — so he got angry, and I got angry, because I’m a half-a-Scot and do not want anybody complain about my family.

“We tried to be gentlemen and said nothing. But Muriel spoke and spoke and spoke, like an ever-rolling gramophone, till our brains were aching. We tried to be quickly ready with the garlands, but it did not succeed, because Geordie had to go down in every little while to move the ladders.

“Bubbling, bubbling, bubbling!

“There was a vase on the railing. The bluebells had been there, and it was full of dirty, badsmelling water, because Esther MacGregor had to had pick her flowers up the night before — she had to help her mother today so she had not time.

“Rest of the garland was in Muriel’s arms. She put the roses into it and spoke, spoke, spoke. I took the vase and glanced at Geordie. He grinned. I lifted the vase and went behind Muriel.

“At the next moment a terrible shriek rushed through the church. All the people stopped their work, Rosie Brown dropped all her forget-me-nots, and Mrs Weilson hopped like a hare.

“Muriel flew to and fro on the gallery, trying to make something to that disgusting mess that was flooding along her back under that fancy silk creature. Her ’oh, oh, oh’ was so much like her mother’s, that Geordie almost dropped from the ladders with laughter.

“l would like to forget what happened next. Mrs WeiIson came up and saw what had happened. She was unhappy, the only thing that sticks my coinscidence. I was sent back to Five Cherry Trees, and Aunt Maggie made a good sermon before locking me in. Laura laughed, I saw it, and I know why — last Saturday night she was telling Mrs Henderson what she thinks about Muriel.

“So, that is my sin. I think I have been thinking that enough now, so I can write something nice between.

“I like Five Cherry Trees very much. Laura says I have become as firm as any lad in the village, and really I am not as weak and pale as I used to be. Though the house is full of women, these ones are quite nice — Aunt Maggie, too, who tries to bring us up. I am almost sorry I have only a good month left here, though I miss home, too. And hardly anybody calls me London boy nowadays!

“Now, I hear Laura’s steps on the stairs. I know her steps, they are like a young girl’s, light and happy. I stop before she comes in, I do not think she likes to see me writing a letter when I should be repenting.