On Distant Shores – Episode 10

Isabel bit her lip.

“But I read about Betsey Stockton going to the Hawaiian islands . . .”

“Yes, yes, that is true.” He nodded, but the gesture was one of dismissal. “However, that was many years ago, and since then, based on unfortunate experiences, we have chosen only to allow married couples to embark on what surely is an arduous and painful journey.” He regarded her rather sternly, as if he suspected her of wanting to be a missionary out of boredom rather than zeal. And really, Isabel thought miserably, wasn’t that at least partially the truth?

“I see.” She placed her cup and saucer back on the table with a rather unsteady clatter. “I’m sorry to have wasted your time.”

“We do, however,” Anderson said gently, “maintain a list of missionary-minded young women who are educated, pious, and of good health, for marriage purposes.”

Isabel stared at him blankly.

“Marriage purposes?”

“Many young men who wish to enter the mission field are unmarried,” Anderson explained. “And they wish to find a suitable life partner to accompany them on missions. We maintain a list for such men, in order to aid them in seeking a wife. Perhaps you would like to include yourself? Naturally I would need a reference from your own minister.”

“Yes . . . I mean, naturally.” She could feel her face redden and she pleated her fingers together in her lap, nervous and unaccountably embarrassed. “Well, that is a rather different . . . I wasn’t expecting –”

“No, of course not,” Anderson said gently, clearly sensitive to her obvious embarrassment. “It is, perhaps, an alternative you might wish to consider if you are indeed serious about entering the mission field.”

Isabel forced herself to meet his compassionate and far too knowing gaze.

“Yes,” she said, lifting her chin even as her face flamed. “I suppose I might consider it.”

* * * *

The firelight cast flickering shadows over the hearth as Allan MacDougall stretched his stockinged feet towards its warmth. The children were settled in bed, and Harriet sat across from him in the rocking chair his mother had brought over from Scotland, her face placidly composed and her eyes on the pile of darning in her lap. Allan wasn’t fooled.

“I know what you’re thinking. You want me to say yes to Maggie.”

A smile curved Harriet’s mouth as she raised her eyes to Allan.

“Only if you think it wise.”

“If I think it wise!” He laughed and shook his head. “I’ve already given my opinion on the subject. But I warrant yours is different.”

“Not necessarily,” Harriet allowed. “If truth be told, I’d like to see Maggie settled with a husband of her own in the homestead next to ours.” She paused, knowing she needed to choose her words carefully. “But I know every child has to choose their own path, whether it takes her as far as Boston . . . or Red River.”

Allan frowned as he gazed into the fire. Harriet didn’t speak, knowing he needed to reflect on her words. Twenty years ago he had been in Maggie’s position, chafing against his father’s autocratic rule and longing to make more of his life. For several years Allan had been a fur trapper, paddling his canoe down the many rivers of Upper Canada, all the way to the Red River in Rupert’s Land. Harriet, by the hand of Providence, had been reunited with him there, and they had returned to the family homestead on PEI.

“It’s not the same,” Allan said at last, still frowning.

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 aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.