- 14. Far From The Island – 14
- 15. Far From The Island – 15
- 16. Far From The Island – 16
- 17. Far From The Island – 17
- 18. Far From The Island – 18
- 19. Far From The Island – 19
- 20. Far From The Island – 20
Fiona was shocked.
“Ella! You can’t be serious.”
“You don’t understand. I love John and he loves me.”
“Then you should be able to talk to him,” Fiona persisted.
Ella shook her head.
“I need to prove myself first. Prove I can be a good wife. Prove that I can get along with all the boys at this new school of his. Prove that I can make him happy. A few months, that’s all I need to make myself indispensable, and then I’ll tell him the truth.”
“But, Ella, you’d be deceiving him. Besides, if you make yourself too indispensable, he’s hardly likely to let you go off and work elsewhere. What if he just doesn’t agree with you? It will be too late then, you’ll already have promised to love, honour and obey. And once you’re married there will be bairns to consider. Have you thought of that?”
Ella flushed and pouted.
“Of course I have. For goodness’ sake, Fi, in a minute or two we’re going to be in a new century. It will be nineteen hundred, not the Dark Ages. Just because we’re married doesn’t mean we have to have bairns straight away.”
Fiona stared at her cousin aghast, wondering how much of what she said was pure bluster. That Ella loved John Harrison she did not doubt. But if he truly loved her, she could not help thinking, then surely to goodness they could talk frankly. That Ella felt she could not – or would not – made Fiona worry more and more that Ella wasn’t anywhere near as sure of the man as she professed to be. But what could she say that would not cause a breach between them?
“I know what I’m doing, Fiona,” Ella said with a hint of sullenness.
“I hope so.”
“What are you ladies looking so glum about?” John Harrison interrupted when he returned, handing each of the girls a dainty glass of sherry and putting an end to the conversation.
As Ella slipped her hand into his arm and smiled up at him with a doting look on her face, Fiona eyed John’s tumbler of amber malt covetously, though she said nothing.
The clock on the mantelpiece struck the first chime of midnight, and everyone in the room broke into cheers. John Harrison gave Ella a chaste peck on the cheek, and politely shook Fiona’s hand, but others were not so reserved. As the last stroke of midnight sounded, strains of “Auld Lang Syne” could be heard from the street, Fiona was enveloped in a series of exuberant hugs and hand-shakings, a fiddle began to scrape, and the shindig began.
* * * *
Over in Kelvinside, where the Cunninghams were hosting their annual Hogmanay get-together, things were much more sedate. Constance Cunningham, in a new gown of lilac satin trimmed with grey lace, watched like a hawk as Annie the maid handed round a silver salver upon which were crystal glasses half filled with champagne.
Her husband, she noticed, was rather flushed. She suspected that he’d started the celebrations early, as usual. Making a mental note to check the level of the brandy decanter in his study in the morning, Constance beckoned her elder son over to her side.
“I rely upon you, Roddy, to make sure your father does not overdo things as he did last year,” she said, ignoring – or failing to notice – the smell of brandy on her favourite son’s breath.