Northern Lights – Episode 36

“Bring your grandfather into the hoose and my granddaughter will see you are fed afore ye journey on.”

The lass’s expression grew tragic.

“My grandfather died in Montrose last week. There iss only his dog and me.”

Lilias was shocked.

“Lord save us, lassie, where’s your ma and pa?”

“They died of fever when I was little. Ever since, I have lived with my good grandfather on the croft. The laird valued my grandfather’s carpentry skills and he was permitted to stay when other tenants were turned off the land.

“But when the old laird died his son wanted all tenants removed from grazing land. The factor came and burned our house down.”

“Ah, the wickedness!” Lilias murmured, distraught.

“My grandfather had a cousin in Montrose he had not seen for years. He remembered she was a kind woman, sure to take us in. But journeying over the mountain tracks was long and hard and he was old and frail.

“When we reached Montrose, neighbours told us his cousin left town a while ago to join her family across the sea.

“It – it was plain my grandfather was dying, but kind members of our clan cared for him to the end and gave him decent burial.

“They told me there would be work for me in Arbroath, so I came here with his dog. But there iss no work! Everywhere I go I am turned away, sometimes with cruel words and a slap.”

Lilias sighed.

“That’s the way wi’ the poor and penniless – move on fast lest ye become a burden tae the town. The world’s a heartless dwelling for the poverty stricken.”

She lay quiet a minute, one hand picking restlessly at the quilt, a measure of her indecision.

“What’s your name and age?”

“I am Fionah Creagh. From one year old I lived thirteen years with my grandfather, Iain Creagh. The name means a rocky place in Gaelic, and he – he was the rock on which our family was founded.”

She bit hard on a quivering lip to check her tears.

Lilias looked towards Maggie.

“While I’m lying useless ye need help wi’ the house. Ye canna turn tae your sisters for aid and the Highland lass is seeking work. Would ye consider taking her on?”

Startled, Maggie considered the suggestion. She could see the sense in it. She did need help with work in the lodgings and the weekly washing that took hours of toil.

She eyed the girl dubiously. She did not seem an attractive proposition in her present state, though wiry enough. Still, one could not deny her resilience.

Maggie made up her mind.

“If she’s willing to work, I’ll give her a trial.”

The girl lifted her chin.

“I am willing indeed, but only if the dog may stay.”

Lilias and Maggie eyed the grey-haired mongrel warily. The dog was making short work of demolishing the meaty bone with impressively strong white teeth. Another hungry mouth to feed.

Mind you, it might be a wise move to have a dog in this household of women surrounded by men, Lilias thought.

“The dog stays, if it’ll guard the door.”

The lass’s face lit up.

“Bodach will guard with bark and bite if I command. He iss a very clever dog.”

“Then we’re agreed.” Lilias yawned and, decision made, wearily closed her eyes.

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!