Far From The Island – Episode 16

In Canada, the old year still had almost five hours to go. Morag Macleod huddled beside the wood fire while she nursed her tiny baby. Innes, named for Donald’s father, was a slow feeder. Morag worried that he wasn’t putting on weight quickly enough. She worried that she was still so completely exhausted, six weeks after the birth. She worried that Innes sensed how she had struggled, at first, to love him as she ought. She worried that she blamed the innocent bairn for the pain he’d caused her. The truth was, she worried about everything, and she had no-one to talk to about any of it.

“Everything seems all right and tight out there.” Morag’s husband Donald brought an icy blast of cold air into the kitchen. “It’s snowing again. There must be at least five or six feet of it now. They didn’t think to mention that when they told us all about the New World, did they? We’ll have the sheep in the barn munching their heads off for months if this keeps going.”

Donald kicked off his boots and shrugged himself out of the heavy sheepskin coat he’d acquired from the local general store. Local, that was, in Canadian terms. Ten miles, in Heronsay terms, was pretty much foreign territory. Below the coat he wore an old fisherman’s jumper that Morag had knitted for him back on the island, when he’d been a real fisherman. Rubbing his hands together, Donald sat down opposite her at the hearth.

“Is he feeding any better tonight?”

“A bit.”

“If you’re still worried about him, we could get that German midwife back again.”

“Oh, no, Donald! I don’t think she’ll ever forgive me for having the bairn without her,” Morag said with a shudder. Innes had arrived earlier than expected, and much more quickly. Donald had set out through the first snows to fetch the midwife, but she’d been attending another birth, and by the time they had arrived back at the homestead, Morag had delivered the bairn by herself. Traumatic simply did not cover how it felt.

She’d been absolutely terrified. Never in her life had she missed her mother and sisters more, but she’d put a brave face on, for Donald had looked so guilty and so terribly worried, and he had more than enough to worry about. She’d been putting a brave face on ever since it was the least she could do.

Innes had fallen asleep. He’d not taken nearly enough, and would waken hungry again in an hour or so. She was so tired, and so was poor Donald. Morag kissed her husband’s brow after she’d put Innes back down in the cradle his daddy had carved for him.

“It’s the new century already on Heronsay. I can’t quite believe it.”

Donald smiled.

“Aye, they’ll be forced to bide their time with the ceilidh, though, it being the Sabbath.”

“I doubt it will have stopped the usual crowd from taking a few nips down in the bothy,” Morag added.

Donald laughed, then yawned mightily.

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep my eyes open until midnight.”

“Thank goodness you said that. Would it be terrible of us to go to our beds?”

Donald got to his feet and began to rummage about in the steamer trunk which they used for storage. He emerged with a bottle in his hand.

“Some of old Dodd’s own brew. Why don’t we have a dram now, keep Heronsay time, and then we can go to our beds?”

“Oh, Donald, that’s a lovely idea.” Morag fetched two wooden cups, and Donald poured each of them a very modest tot. Dodd’s whisky was well-known to be lethal. “Shall we drink to our families on Heronsay?”

“Aye, but first I think we should drink to us. To our family, here in Ontario.”

“We’re going to be fine, Donald, aren’t we?”

“As long as we have each other, lass, and we both have that wee laddie there, we’ll be fine.” Donald raised his cup. “A good New Year to us.”

“And many may we see,” Morag replied.

“And to all on Heronsay.”

“And to Fiona in Glasgow.”

Donald threw back the dram in one, and put his arm around his wife.

“A new century, a new country, a new bairn. What more could we want?”

Morag could think of a hundred things, but she put them from her mind, feeling churlish. Donald was such a good man, and she loved him. He was right. As long as they had each other, they could do anything.

“Nothing at all,” she said, standing on her tiptoes to kiss him.


Used to make posts more anonymous, eg a criminal case where you don’t want to expose the actual journalist.