On Distant Shores – Episode 11

Harriet completed a stitch before answering. She knew her husband well enough to know she needed to handle this conversation with both gentleness and wisdom.

“How is it different?”

“She’s a lass, for one thing,” Allan answered. “I’ll warrant you wouldn’t have even thought of going to Red River on your own.”

“You know very well I didn’t,” Harriet replied with a smile. “I was the companion for Katherine Douglas, because both of us knew we couldn’t travel on our own.

“However,” she continued before Allan could interrupt, claiming his point proved, “Maggie isn’t proposing to travel to a savage, untamed land, and neither will she be alone. She’ll be a companion to her aunt and namesake, just as I was a companion to Katherine.” Harriet paused, letting Allan reluctantly digest and accept this, before finishing. “If you are concerned about her ship journey, I am sure we can arrange a chaperone. Someone from Charlottetown is likely to be making such a voyage.”

Allan scowled at her, but Harriet could tell it was more for show than anything else.

“For someone who’d like to see her settled in the stead next to ours, you’ve spent a fair amount of time considering how our Maggie can get herself to Boston,” he observed, a hint of sharpness in his tone.

“I want to see her happy,” Harriet said simply. “And I hope and pray that if she satisfies that urge for adventure that all young people have, she’ll return to us wanting to settle here of her own choice.” She spoke gently, knowing Allan would take her point. He could force Maggie to stay, but he couldn’t make her like it. In the end such a bending of her will would lead to discontent and resentment. Allan knew it well; his own father had been a stern taskmaster.

Allan was silent for a long moment, staring into the fire. The only sound was the settling of logs in the grate, and a few embers scattered across the worn hearth before graying into ash.

“I suppose there’s no harm in writing to her,” Allan finally said. “Margaret.”

Harriet resumed her sewing, completing several stitches before she spoke.

“I’ll compose a letter on the morrow.”

Allan nodded gruffly, his face still settled into a frown. Harriet knew how hard this was for him. He’d lost too many family members already; his brother Archie had died on the mail packet six years ago, and Rupert was far away, serving as a marshal in the western territories of the United States. With Margaret in Boston, Allan was the only MacDougall left on PEI.

He looked up, and Harriet was glad to see a small smile lighten his features.

“Maggie,” he called, “I know you are listening.”

Sheepishly Maggie peeked her head out of the back bedroom.

“Thank you, Da,” she said, and Harriet saw that her eyes sparkled like stars. Allan shook a finger at her even as he smiled.

“It’s just a letter, mind,” he warned. “That’s all.”

Maggie nodded quickly, but from the high flush on her cheeks Harriet knew she was imagining herself in Boston already.

* * * *

Ian Crombie was used to the bumpy rumble of the stagecoach from Boston to Hartford. He’d travelled it over a dozen times in the last few years in his continuing attempt to experiment with ether and its use as an anaesthetic. Usually he was filled with a blazing excitement as he made the journey, his optimism for a future of medical innovation and pain-free procedures buoying his soul. Today that was tempered by the cool distance he felt between him and his wife.

In the five years since he’d wed Caroline, they’d certainly argued. They both possessed passionate tempers, and Ian privately thought they both enjoyed, to a certain measure, the blazing rows that ended rather quickly with Caroline throwing herself into his arms. This time it was different, though. Caroline was different, and although she remained dutiful and attentive, Ian could feel the difference, as well as the distance between them.

On several occasions he’d caught Caroline gazing at him, her eyes shadowed with what he feared was disappointment. By refusing to use the inheritance Caroline had received from her uncle to fund his experiments with ether, Ian had disappointed – and worse, hurt – his wife. He saw it in her eyes, and he felt it in the silent chasm that had opened up between them.

Restlessly he shifted in the uncomfortable coach seat. Across the coach an elderly matron gave him a sternly disapproving look. A tabby rested in a covered basket at her feet, and it yowled as if agreeing with its mistress. Ian ducked his head in apology.

Alan Spink

I am a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. I enjoy working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, I also write fiction and enjoy watching football and movies in my spare time. My one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.