Far From The Island – 32

“No!” But Euan’s cry was far too late as the men, crofters and fishermen, normally the most peaceful of souls, driven to despair, fighting for their livelihoods and the future of their families, launched themselves at the paid lackeys of the laird.

There was nothing he could do, but Euan felt horribly, terribly responsible.

“Call your men off!” he shouted at the factor, but either Morrison could not hear above the roars of the men, or simply ignored him. Frantic now, Euan turned towards the laird, whose horse was pawing nervously at the kale patch.

“Tell Morrison to call them off before blood is shed this day.”

He meant only to stop the fracas, but to his dismay Euan realised he’d drawn attention away from the factor to the man on the thoroughbred horse with the child in the saddle beside him.

He saw it unfold as if in slow motion. The small stone flying through the air and hitting the horse’s flanks. The rearing of the already skittish animal, startled rather than hurt. The laird’s attention diverted to the reins as he tried to stop his steed from bolting. And the fateful release of his hold on the boy, who went flying from the saddle, heading straight for the rough dry-stone wall.

Euan threw himself, diving through the air at the fair-haired child, catching him just before he hit the ground. He was vaguely aware of cries, changed in tone from aggression to concern. He was vaguely aware of the laird’s face, white with shock, as he struggled to control his mount.

Then he hit the ground, still clutching the boy, and the horse’s hoof hit his temple and Euan was aware of nothing other than an all-enveloping blackness.

*  *  *  *

“I now pronounce you man and wife. Francis, you may kiss your bride.”

Fiona dabbed frantically at her eyes with her handkerchief. It was not so much the kiss Francis and Emily exchanged as the look of tender love, the radiance of their expressions, which touched her heart. Surely, seeing the pair so patently glowing with happiness, Constance Cunningham could not fail to rejoice in their union. But peering down the aisles as the couple retired to sign the register, Fiona saw that her ex-employer’s expression was stony, and as the mother of the groom followed the newlyweds on her husband’s arm, she cast Fiona a furious look.

“I see you are not to be forgiven for your part in this,” Ella whispered, rolling her eyes.

Fiona pursed her lips.

“It doesn’t matter what she thinks of me, but I wish to goodness she’d accept the marriage for Francis’s sake. She will live to regret it if she does not.”

“But I thought – Francis looks so well. You are surely not worried that –”

“No, no, of course not. Only it’s . . .” Fiona took Ella’s arm as they made their way out of the church to wait in a quiet spot by the gate as the crowd of well-wishers kissed the bride and shook hands with the groom. “I see so many cases of consumption now that I have started nursing, and there is no cure. Even Matthew, who is the most eternal optimist, admits that his treatments can only prolong life.”

“I have to confess, Fi, I was surprised to hear that you’d chosen the Poor Law hospital to train in. I have heard that they are terrible places.”

“Terrible, and yet inspiring, Ella,” Fiona said earnestly. “I see such suffering borne so stoically. It takes so little to make such a difference to our patients. We cannot heal the worst cases, but we can make them comfortable, maintain their dignity. I see so many like my father every day, and it helps, just a little, knowing that what I learned easing his pain can help others, too.” She sniffed and conjured up a smile. “I know you think that it was Matthew who persuaded me to become a nurse, but truly, it was Dad’s experience that inspired me.”

Ella blinked furiously.

“He would be so proud of you, Fi.”

“Aye, maybe, but he’d be horrified to see me living in the big city, far from home.”

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”.