On Distant Shores – Episode 44


“The point is, you should not like him at all. What would your mother, or your father for that matter, say to you having affection for an Irish immigrant fresh off the boat?”

“They’d be happy for me, I should think, if he were God-fearing and honest, which I know he is. They’re simple people, same as me. And the same as Seamus.”

“I can see by the way you’re talking this has gone much too far already. Has this young man taken liberties with you?”

“Liberties!” Maggie flushed a deep, dull red. “No, of course not! And I don’t feel about him that way, he’s just my friend.” Yet even as she said the words, Maggie knew they weren’t true. It had taken her aunt’s awful assumption to make her realise.

“What did you say to him?” she asked in a whisper.

“Never you mind.”

“Aunt Margaret, please! I’ve always conducted myself above reproach, and so has Seamus. But I must know why he won’t even look at me any longer.” Her voice, thick with tears, wavered, and Margaret sighed.

“Very well. I simply told him his future at the school was uncertain if he continued to befriend you.”

“How could you?”

“I am thinking of your own welfare, I promise you. Seamus Flanagan may remind you of simpler island ways, but he is a poor labourer with no chance of bettering himself. He’ll never own his own farm the way your father does.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because I am more experienced in the ways of this world than you are, young lady!” Margaret looked exasperated, which made Maggie only more furious.

“You don’t know anything,” she snapped. “Not anything at all!” From the quelling silence that followed she knew she’d gone too far.

“If you find me such poor company,” Margaret said quietly, “then perhaps you should consider returning to Prince Edward Island. It does not seem I am providing adequate entertainment or chaperonage for you.”

“No, Aunt Margaret . . .” Maggie bit her lip. “I’m sorry. Please don’t send me away.”

Margaret opened her mouth to answer but was stopped by the sound of the front door being flung open with enough force, it seemed, to take it off its hinges. Shocked, Margaret half-rose from her chair, only to have her face drain of colour when she heard a familiar voice ring out through the house.

“Margaret?”

It was Henry, home at last from China.

* * * *

They’d been travelling up the River Salween for nearly a week, the air hot and damp and thick with mosquitoes. If she’d thought India had been uncomfortable, Isabel acknowledged wryly, she’d had no idea about Burma.

Yet, despite the primitive conditions of the flat-bottomed barge that moved slowly through the yellow waters of the Salween, the endless humidity and the constant drone of insects, Isabel still felt an unquenchable excitement, a thirst for living she’d never experienced before. It was very different from the vague dread that had assailed her as she’d taken a similar journey up the Hooghly over three months ago now to meet her fiancé, George Jamison.

Jamison had died of dysentery before they’d even met, and now she was travelling up another river to meet another missionary. Another man – possibly, if God so willed – to marry.

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”.