On Distant Shores – Episode 21


“There is a list,” Isabel began, and Margaret leaned forward.

“Go on.”

Quickly Isabel told her of Mr Anderson’s list and both her ambition and difficulty to be named on it.

“You wish to marry a missionary?” Margaret asked, her tone incredulous. “Isabel, you might live in the worst sort of place!”

Isabel gazed at her sister-in-law levelly.

“I might.”

“And you would be willing to forsake the comforts of known society for such a thing?” Margaret pressed, sounding half-horrified, half-fascinated.

“Yes.” In truth, Isabel had not attempted to envision her life as a missionary’s wife too closely. Getting her name on that list was the extent of her ambition at this point.

“But if your father forbids it –”

“I seem to remember,” Isabel said quietly, “that you went against your own father’s wishes, once upon a time.”

Margaret flushed, a small smile playing about her mouth. Although it was before Isabel had even met her, she recalled the story of her brother Henry and Margaret’s courtship well enough. Margaret’s father had refused to allow Margaret to be tutored back in Scotland, and without his knowledge or approval she had sought her own education and engaged Henry as her tutor.

“So I did,” Margaret said slowly, “and I’ve never had any cause to regret it. But I’m afraid I don’t see what that has to do with your present situation.”

“I thought,” Isabel said, “you could talk to Father. He has always held you in high regard, and you can be very persuasive when you wish to be, Margaret.”

Margaret didn’t answer for several moments. Isabel clenched her hands in her lap, hiding her whitened knuckles in the fabric of her skirt. Her heart pounded, for she knew Margaret’s powers of persuasion were her last hope in being named on Mr Anderson’s list.

Finally Margaret looked up, her gaze terribly serious.

“Are you sure, truly sure, this is what you want, Isabel?”

“Yes.”

“Then I shall do it.” Margaret nodded decisively. “And we shall see you married yet, if I have anything to do with it!

* * * *

Dearest Margaret, I know full well this letter will not reach you for many months, when I have already, God willing, arrived in Canton. Yet still I write, for writing to you helps me to imagine you sitting in your favourite chair, reading my letter with a faint smile on your lips.

“Captain?”

Henry Moore looked up from the letter he’d been composing to see his first mate standing to attention in the doorway of his room.

“Yes, Mr Martin?”

“There’s some black cloud boiling on the horizon, sir. We need to make ready for a storm, I should think.”

Henry nodded briskly, suppressing the queasy churning in his stomach. He’d never been afraid of a storm before, but then he’d never had so much to lose. Although they’d rounded the dangerous Cape Horn several days ago, the southern Pacific was still a treacherous place for storms, and many a clipper had foundered or sunk when buffeted by the waves and wind.

“Thank you for informing me, Mr Martin. I shall be on deck shortly.”

The first mate nodded and left, clicking the door shut behind him. Henry put his letter to Margaret in a calfskin portfolio to finish later. Rising, he put on his coat and reached for his spyglass before ascending to the deck.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.