On Distant Shores – Episode 06

Harriet MacDougall gazed over the dusk-cloaked hills of Prince Edward Island, her home for nearly 20 years. From the porch of the farmhouse she shared with her husband Allan and their three children, she could see the fields, ready for planting, stretching straight to the harbour. A road made of the island’s distinctive reddish dirt twisted through them, disappearing into the hills at the horizon. Smiling, Harriet sat back in her rocking chair and let the cares of the day slip from her weary shoulders.

She heard the creak of the farmhouse door and the squeak of Allan’s boots on the weathered porch floor. After a moment he settled into the rocking chair next to her.

Harriet smiled, her gaze moving lovingly over her husband. Although there were creases at the corners of his eyes, and a deep groove from his nose to mouth, his hair was still thick and dark – albeit peppered with a bit of grey – and his shoulders were wide and strong.

Twenty years ago Allan had left their native Scotland to make his fortune on Prince Edward Island, along with the rest of his family. His parents, Sandy and Betty, were now dead, as was his brother, Archie, drowned when the mail packet from the mainland sank. At the time Harriet had believed Allan to be on the packet as well, and for over a year she’d lived in grief, believing her beloved to be dead. Then, in surely a meeting ordained by Providence, Allan had found her in the Red River Valley out west, hiding in a shack after the massacre at Seven Oaks. He brought her back to PEI, and they’d made their lives here.

The door of the farmhouse opened again, and Maggie, came out on to the porch. Harriet gazed at her sixteen-year-old daughter with a mixture of fondness and concern. Maggie was growing restless with island life. Harriet saw it in the way she never settled at a chore. She heard it in Maggie’s comments about the dullness of living here, when her aunt and uncle commanded the best of Boston society. And while Harriet knew her daughter enough to know she hadn’t a care for society, she feared Maggie longed to see more of the world than she’d ever get the opportunity to.

“The mail came today,” Maggie said unnecessarily, for Allan himself had travelled to Charlottetown to fetch it.

There had been a letter from Margaret, as well as one from Harriet’s brother, Ian, in Boston. They’d read both letters out at the dinner table, so all the family could be acquainted with everyone’s news. Frowning, Harriet wondered just what Maggie might be getting to.

“Everyone’s well,” Allan remarked, drawing long on his pipe. “We have much to be grateful for.”

“Indeed so,” Harriet murmured. She waited for Maggie to speak, for she could see her daughter’s dark brows had drawn together, and her cheeks were flushed with what could only be defiance.

“Aunt Margaret asked if we might visit one day,” Maggie began, and Harriet gave Allan a quick, searching look. Her husband was frowning, for Harriet knew he didn’t like to travel. The ship journey to Boston was not overly taxing, but it took away from the work on the farm, and the time needed to do it.

“Margaret could come here,” Allan said mildly. “She’s been here only the once, I think, since we settled.”

“Why would she come here?” Maggie asked scornfully. “There’s nothing to see!”

“Maggie, hush,” Harriet admonished, but Allan, ever steady, refused to rise to his daughter’s words.

“Sure enough there are some who think this island is one of Canada’s greatest jewels,” he replied mildly. “I think Margaret would do well to leave the city behind for a bit.”

“Well, I think I should visit,” Maggie said, and now Harriet heard belligerence. She glanced at Allan who, while still affable, was shaking his head.

“Not this year, I’m afraid, Maggie. It’s planting season and I haven’t made arrangements.”

“You don’t have to go,” Maggie said. “I could go by myself.”

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.