Far From The Island – Episode 12

“When do I get to meet this man of yours, then?” Fiona asked Ella as they sat down to their customary Saturday afternoon tea at Miss Cranston’s Tea Room in Argyle Street.

The first time Ella had brought her here, Fiona had felt completely overwhelmed by the quiet elegance of the surroundings and patrons alike. Now, however, thanks to Ella’s careful supervision of her wardrobe, which included two new skirts with deep ruffles, several blouses with the requisite leg-o-mutton sleeves, and even a smart, tight little jacket, Fiona felt quite at home. She’d been shocked at the notion of two ladies taking tea in public without a male escort, but at Miss Cranston’s the ladies had their own salon, and no-one batted an eyelid.

Ella helped herself to a fruit scone, and frowned over the choice of two jams, opting eventually for raspberry.

“John is very busy. I hardly see him myself these days. Aren’t you going to have a scone, Fiona?”

Fiona shook her head.

“They just don’t taste the same when they’re not made on a griddle,” she said, though she wished she’d bitten her tongue when she realised how homesick the words must have sounded.

“You’re missing Heronsay,” Ella said.

“It’s to be expected, I suppose.” Fiona took a sip of tea. “Don’t get me wrong, Ella, I am not regretting coming to Glasgow, and I’m so grateful for all you’ve done.”


Fiona laughed.

“Och, it’s daft really. I miss the moors. And the beach. And the smell of the sea. And being able to walk without always watching where I go in case I bump into someone. I miss being able to cross a road without thinking I’m going to die before I reach the other side! I had a letter from Morag the other day, too. Reading between the lines, I think Canada’s not quite the brave new world she’d hoped for. Or maybe it’s just too new. She’s only been there for a couple of months, after all.”

“And you’ve been in Glasgow less than that,” Ella said, topping up the teapot from the hot water jug and casting her eyes over the tiered cake plates once more. It never failed to amaze Fiona how much her slender cousin could eat. “How are things at the Cunninghams’? Victoria told me that Roddy’s been causing ructions. Something to do with horseless carriages. I hope that’s all he’s been causing ructions about.”

Fiona had been rather more frank with Ella than Francis on the subject of Roderick Cunningham.

“He just won’t take no for an answer, Ella. He’s all hands and smiles, and I simply can’t abide him,” she said with a shudder.

“You’re going to have to say something to Mrs C.”

Fiona shook her head firmly.

“I can’t. You know what she’s like she won’t believe me.”

“More likely she’ll say it’s your fault,” Ella said dryly.

“Goodness, you’re right. I never thought of that.”

“You’ll just have to keep out of his way, then.”

“Easier said than done.”

Fiona added a splash of milk to her cup. “You’ve done it again. I asked you about your Mr Harrison, and you’ve changed the subject. Is there something wrong?”

“No. Not at all. I don’t think so . . .” Ella began to cut her slice of Dundee cake into slivers before pushing her plate to one side without eating a crumb.

If Ella wasn’t eating her favourite cake, there was something very wrong.

Fiona leaned closer to her cousin.

“He hasn’t been improper, has he?” she whispered.

Ella laughed.

“Goodness, no! John is the soul of propriety. And he’s not jilted me either, before you ask. Quite the contrary, in fact.”

“Ella! He’s proposed?”

“Not yet, but he has hinted he will, if he gets this new position he’s applied for. It’s a boys’ school, very progressive, and it comes with accommodation for married teachers.”

“That’s wonderful,” Fiona said, but Ella’s grey eyes looked mournful. “Isn’t it?”

“The thing is, Fi, I’d have to go and live there. It’s in the countryside, the nearest town is Callander and you’d hardly call that a town.”

“I don’t understand.”

“What would I do? Who would I teach? What about all my plans for my own school for girls?” Ella burst out. “When he told me about the job, he just took it for granted that I would be delighted. He never even thought about me said not one word about my career,” she said hotly. “And it’s not as if he doesn’t know what I want, because it’s just the same as what he wants. To teach, and to be allowed to teach properly. He knows

that. We’ve talked often enough of having a place of our own, for boys and girls, a place that children want to go to learn. We’ve talked about it and planned it and oh, I know it wasn’t ever going to happen straight away,

but . . .” She broke off, dashing a hand to her eyes, blinking rapidly. “I’m sorry, Fi.”

“Ella, did you say any of this to John?” Fiona asked quietly.

“I couldn’t.”

“Whyever not?”

“He was so excited about his own prospects.”

“But, Ella, if you’re thinking about marrying him . . .”

“Of course I am. I love him dearly.”

Fiona bit her lip. From the first time that Ella had mentioned John Harrison, she’d had a bad feeling. Ella was so enthusiastic about her plans, she didn’t see how radical it was to assume she could have a career as well as a husband and a family. Ella tended to get carried away, and Fiona suspected that John Harrison had assumed much of what she said was flights of fancy rather than real ambition.

“You and John need to do a bit of straight talking, Ella,” she told her cousin firmly. “I’m sorry, but it sounds to me as if he has no idea that you’re serious about teaching after you’re wed.”

“That’s silly. I’ve made it absolutely clear to him,” Ella declared.

“You can’t have, Ella, but you need to. And before you do that,” Fiona said gently, “I think you have to be absolutely sure of what you’re risking.”

“What do you mean?” Ella frowned.

“You know what I mean. What John wants from his wife and what you want as John’s wife might not be the same thing at all. I’m sorry, but . . .”

Ella pushed back her chair and picked up her gloves.

“There’s no need to be sorry, because you’re wrong. I just know you are.”


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