- 30. Far From The Island – 30
- 31. Far From The Island – 31
- 32. Far From The Island – 32
- 33. Far From The Island – 33
- 34. Far From The Island – 34
- 35. Far From The Island – 35
- 36. Far From The Island – 36
“Do you miss Heronsay?” Ella asked her cousin. Fiona’s smile was wistful.
“My heart is still there, in many ways. I miss the sea air, and the sound of the waves crashing over the rocks on the bay. I miss the smell of the moor – you know, that heady mixture of peat and bracken and heather. And I miss the way everyone knows everyone, and I miss the excitement of watching the boats come in and wondering what sort of catch they have. But I’m not daft, I know that there are plenty other things I could not have if I’d stayed there.”
“Like Doctor Usher?”
“Like training as a nurse. Like having my independence and making my own way.”
“Have you given up on getting married then?”
“One day I want to have my own family. But not yet, I have other things to do first.”
“You still think I made a mistake marrying John, don’t you?” Ella said, crossing her arms defensively over her chest.
“No! Ella, you love John, and you’re happy with him, aren’t you? Things are working out at the school? I know we’ve barely had a chance to catch up, what with you being so far away and me being so busy, but – Ella, you are happy?”
“Have you spoken to John about your own teaching ambitions?”
“He’s just finding his feet. We’re still adjusting to each other. I haven’t found the right time yet,” Ella said, looking determinedly down at her feet.
“I didn’t mean to imply anything. I mean, our cases are different, aren’t they? You love John, and there was no reason to wait.”
“While you chose to put your needs first and not Matthew’s,” Ella said tartly.
“That’s not fair!” Fiona exclaimed indignantly. “Matthew and I – we’re not head over heels like you and John. We’re fond of each other, but it’s not the same situation.”
“No, I’m sorry, it’s not,” Ella said contritely. “Never mind me. I’ve been awful tired of late, and a bit edgy.”
“You’re not . . .”
“No! Goodness, no, I hope not . . .” Ella looked flustered. “Look, Francis is beckoning us over. Let’s go and offer our congratulations, then I must say hello to my Victoria before I catch my train.”
“I am due on shift directly. Just as well we could neither of us make the reception. Mind you, I think it would be arsenic and not sherry Mrs Cunningham would ply us with.” Fiona cast her cousin a sidelong glance. She knew Ella inside out, and she was holding something back.
Smiling broadly as they approached Francis and Emily, Fiona told herself there was nothing more to be said. Wasn’t life all about choices? Ella had made hers. All Fiona could do was hope she didn’t live to regret it.
* * * *
“Well? How is it looking out there?” Morag tried not to let the worry show on her face.
Donald shook his head wearily.
“Not good at all.” He pulled off his boots and sank on to the settle by the empty grate. Innes, who had only just started crawling, crowed with delight as his father picked him up from the floor, temporarily diverted by his son’s beaming face.
Morag smiled tenderly at the pair. After his rocky start in life, Innes had grown into a lusty wee boy who adored his dad and, just like Donald, was curious about everything. Or just like Donald used to be. These days, all her husband seemed to do was worry, and with good cause.
She poured him a glass of milk, and sat down opposite him.
“Can we save any of the crop?”
“I don’t know.” Donald sighed heavily. “The truth is, Morag, I don’t know enough about it. Until we came to Canada, we’d neither of us even seen an ear of corn, so what was I thinking, turning the whole of our land over to growing it . . .”
“It wasn’t just you, Donald. We decided together. ‘We should embrace our new country,’ we said, remember? ‘No point in growing a wee bit of oats and a wee bit of barley and kale like we did back on Heronsay. We’re in Canada now, we should be growing what all the other farmers grow,’ we said. Both of us.”
“Aye.” Donald tried to smile, but he could not meet his wife’s eyes. “Only we didn’t count on the worst drought in living memory.”
“It didn’t just affect us, though. All of our neighbours are in the same boat.”
Donald kissed the top of his son’s head and placed him back on to the floor of the farmhouse.
“They’ve the advantage of a few good years behind them to tide them over, Morag.”
But she and Donald had invested all of their savings to fund the buying of the farm. There was nothing left for a rainy day. A rainy day! That was rich, she thought bitterly. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.