Glasgow, Hogmanay 1899
Not long to go now. About fifteen minutes, if that clock is right,” Ella Ogilvie said excitedly. “I can’t believe it’s going to be a new century.”
Fiona Matheson looked around the crowded front room of the large tenement flat which Ella shared with three other young women.
“I can’t believe I’m at a party on a Sunday,” she said, pulling a face. “The Reverend MacLeod would have a fit if he could see us right now.”
“Och, away. Even on Heronsay, they’ll be celebrating.”
“Aye. Maybe they’ll have a toast to Father, down the bothy,” Fiona said.
Ella’s merry smile faded, and she gave her cousin a quick hug. Having Fiona here in Glasgow had been so wonderful, and these last few weeks she’d been almost her old self. It was easy to forget the tragedies that were behind her move from the island home she’d known all her life.
“It’s been a hard year for you, Fi.”
Fiona blinked away her tears.
“Father always loved the New Year. Five minutes to midnight and off he’d go out the back door so he could be our first foot. They’ll be holding the ceilidh tomorrow night, since today’s the Sabbath.”
Last year, Euan had been her partner for far more than his fair share of dances. Last year, her father had been strong enough to play the fiddle, and even to give her a birl around the floor. Seeing Ella looking at her with such concern, she managed a misty smile.
“I’m fine. New Year, new Fiona. And new Francis, too. You wouldn’t believe the difference in him.”
“You really think the new treatment’s working?”
“Oh, it’s far too early to say for certain. I think it’s as much to do with the new doctor, and having someone treat him as if he’s not chapping on death’s door. Even his mother has noticed a difference.” Fiona chuckled. “Poor Francis, when she came up to his rooms yesterday to tell him that he was well enough to attend their Hogmanay party, you should have seen his face!”
“You should have brought him here,” Ella said, surveying the crush with mock dismay. “We’ve not only got the entire close here, I think we’ve got all of Partick.”
“He wanted to come, but I wouldn’t let him. You know how things are with his mother. It wasn’t much of an olive branch, but it could be a start.”
“And what’s that lovely doctor of yours up to tonight? Why didn’t you bring him along?” Ella asked with a teasing smile.
“Goodness, Ella, Matthew – I mean Doctor Usher – he’s Francis’s doctor, nothing more,” Fiona said firmly.
“You’re blushing. Admit it, he is handsome.”
“He’s very kind.”
“And you like him?”
“He’s an excellent doctor. Francis likes him very much.” Fiona fanned her heated face. “Talking of handsome men, where’s yours?” she asked. Having met John Harrison several times now, she was still struggling to like him, but there was no doubting he was good looking. More importantly, Ella loved him, and Fiona was trying very hard to overcome her reservations about the man her beloved cousin was going to marry.
“He’s gone to fetch us a sherry for the bells.”
“Sherry! If I’m to be a heathen and party on the Sabbath, I’d far rather have some uisge beatha.”
“To be honest, so would I,” Ella said, making a face, “but John thinks whisky is a man’s drink.”
Fiona pursed her lips.
“Have you talked to him yet? About the future, I mean.”
Her cousin shrugged.
“You’re getting married in a few months, and he hasn’t a clue that you’re expecting to carry on working. You have to talk to him, Ella,” Fiona said earnestly.
Ella shook off her hand impatiently.
“I’ve decided it’s better to wait until after the wedding.”