On Distant Shores – Episode 38

“Of course, that is the most obvious,” Clara agreed. “But there is, perhaps, another?” Her voice rose in query but Isabel had no ready answer.

“Another?” she repeated blankly.

“Indeed,” Clara answered, and the briskness of her voice made Isabel turn around and gaze at her in bewilderment. “It is true you can no longer marry Mr Jamison. But is there any reason why you could not, perhaps, marry another man?”

Isabel stared at her in shock. She did not know how to answer. On one hand it seemed both cold-hearted and desperate to so quickly consider exchanging one fiancé for another; on the other, returning to Boston was surely worse.

“I have not considered such a thing,” she said at last. “I confess, I came to marry Mr Jamison and no other.”

“Of course,” Clara murmured.

“Is there another missionary in need of a wife?” Isabel ventured to ask.

“Not precisely. There is a man, a widower, who works for the East India Company, but unlike many of his colleagues he is sympathetic to our cause.”

“A widower,” Isabel repeated.

“Yes, with four young children. Dear ones, very well-behaved, of course, but they miss their mama. She died in childbirth, poor woman, and the youngest is only a few months old.”

“I see,” Isabel said faintly, for she did see indeed. To marry a man who simply wanted a housekeeper and governess! It was not what she’d ever expected, or wanted.

“Do think on it, my dear,” Clara said quietly. “You would be doing such a noble service in offering yourself thus.”

Which made her sound like some kind of sacrifice. Was this why she’d come to India? For this unknown man and his family?

Miserably Isabel nodded, her throat too tight to speak, her thoughts whirling through her head in a confused and unhappy jumble.

* * * *

Margaret raised her gaze from the maths lesson she was correcting, to let it fall on her niece Maggie and the oldest pupil of the First School, Seamus Flanagan. Maggie was helping Seamus with the new primer he’d started, her head bent rather close to his.

Margaret was fair enough to know she held a rather unreasonable disregard for the strapping Mr Flanagan. He was eighteen years old, two years older than Maggie, and his knees did not even fit under the desk he’d been given. Several weeks ago Maggie had suggested that Seamus not sit behind a desk like any other pupil, but rather in a chair much like the one Margaret now sat in, behind the mahogany desk, inlaid with hand-tooled leather, that Henry had given her as a gift when she’d founded the First School seven years ago now.

Before Margaret could tell Maggie that if Seamus Flanagan intended to remain a pupil of the school, then he needed to act like a pupil in all particulars, the man himself – for indeed he was a man – kindly but firmly refused.

“I’m all right, Maggie,” he’d said quietly, earning Margaret’s grudging respect even as his words, so gruffly given, caused a flare of alarm. Seamus Flanagan was addressing her niece by her Christian name, and doing so in a way that suggested he’d done it before.

If only she hadn’t stayed away from the school a few weeks ago, when her daughter had been ill. If she’d been more diligent, more vigilant, she surely wouldn’t be in the predicament she now found herself –desperately afraid that her impressionable young niece was developing a tendresse for the handsome and wholly inappropriate Seamus Flanagan.

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 tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.