Northern Lights – Episode 14

Alec listened with unease to Maggie’s talk of bargains made with the press gang. He was to work on the lighthouse on the Bell Rock with Jeremiah Cuthbert, or they’d take him for a powder-monkey when they returned.

He glared at his sister.

“We had no peace o’ mind when our father faced danger at sea, Maggie, yet we put up wi’ the worry. So must you if I’m called to work upon the rock.”

“You’re a blacksmith, not a sailor,” she protested. “Why risk your life on the rock that drowned our father? Have ye no thought for your sisters left ashore, praying you’re kept safe?”

Maggie’s eyes seemed overbright. Alec had never seen her cry, not even in the darkest days. Till now the prospect of raising a lighthouse on the rock had seemed a romantic venture to the impressionable lad.

Now he faced the horror of working offshore under appalling conditions. Workers would experience hardship and danger, always at the mercy of the sea, snatching a few precious hours per shift when the shoal was exposed at low tide. Life ashore would be disrupted for months, even years.

Alec trembled. Nobody would blame him if he refused to set foot upon the rock where his father’s ship had foundered. But could he live with the knowledge of his own cowardice? That he had failed his father?

“If the smith’s called to work on the rock, I must go with him, Maggie.”

She sighed.

“Aye, well, you’re a fool, but a brave yin.”

He shivered.

“Not brave. Working on that rock will scare me witless. I’ll welcome your prayers when waves lap the top o’ my boots, Maggie.”

Alec turned to Lilias who had kept quiet, intrigued to see how he handled the situation.

“We’ve three votes for ye to bide, Grandmother. Is it enough?”

“Ye ken fine it’s not. It must be wholehearted.”

All eyes turned to Maggie. The two younger ones, Cathy Mary and Amy, huddled together by the fire, wide-eyed and solemn.

“Maybe you’re not keen to bide, Grandmother. You were sneaking out without so much as a fare ye well,” Maggie prevaricated.

“I was led tae believe the vote was already cast,” Lilias reminded her drily.

Maggie reddened.

“What was I tae think? Ye were snoring by the fire when I came in from the cold. It seemed ye were takin’ advantage o’ us. You never said you’d run for the smith and saved Alec.”

“You never asked.”

There was a long silence. Alec watched the two women, struck by how similar they were, the young one as stubborn as the old. Could these two ever live at peace?

“Two hens ruling the roost bring strife,” Maggie began.

“True.” Lilias nodded. “But not if there’s a pact for peace.”

“You and your pacts!”

“The last one worked fine,” Lilias reminded her, glancing significantly at the glowing fire. “I assure ye, lassie, this auld hen has no desire tae rule the roost.”

Maggie lowered her gaze.

“If ye had four votes, would ye bide?”

“I might.”

Maggie hesitated, then thrust an arm in the air.

“Ye have them, Grandmother, and I agree to a peace pact.”

Alec cheered and Lilias gave a tremulous smile of relief. The younger sisters hugged one another.

Maggie stood up. Her sense of fair play told her the occasion should be celebrated and fortunately, she had the means.

“We’ll drink a cup o’ tea to welcome our grandmother and seal the peace pact between us.”

Amy clapped her hands.

“Tea wi’ milk and honey, and our fortunes told in tea leaves, like Mama did?”

“Aye, lovie,” Maggie promised, swallowing the tears that threatened to choke her.


Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!