torstai 21. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Twenty: The Last Story

Glennari station was as full of people as it had been three months before. Ethel hold tightly Tom’s hand, and he didn’t draw himself away. Somehow that little, plumpy, brown hand in his was comforting.

“The train’s coming”, said Aunt Maggie. ”Now, do you have everything — your ticket? The money?”

“I do”, said Tom. Angus MacDonald had stayed free-willingly home, because there was no room for all of them and Tom’s luggage in the carriage, and the situation was now just like the one when Tom had come and the women of Five Cherry Trees had been waiting for him — but now the birch leaves were of gold and blood.

“God bless you, dear”, whispered Laura and embraced him suddenly. “Tell my loves to your mother — and tell her I’ve never met a nicer boy!”

“Don’t forget us”,  said Aunt Maggie at her turn.

”I like you”, whispered Louisa. “Almost as much as I like Geordie.”

“Oh, how I hate farewells!” bursted Myra.

”Come back so-o-on”, sobbed Ethel.

Then Tom climbed into the train, sat by a window and swinged his hand; the train whistled and began to move. After a moment it had disappeared behind the bend.

It was miracle that the way from Glennari to Lochdhu was not flooded with all the tears the girls shed. At last Aunt Maggie turned on the front seat and said angrily, 

“If you won’t stop we’ll turn back and take you to the doctor! He isn’t dead, just gone back home!”

“I don’t think there’s much difference”, gasped Myra behind her handkerchief. ”Oh, Aunty, it’s so sweet to cry — when you cry you cannot remember the thing you’re crying for.”

That night Louisa went to the shop and waited till her father had done his work. Then they walked together over to Five Cherry Trees hand in hand.

“Douglas told me you’ve become a wonderful teller”, said Angus MacDonald, looking down to the brown curlies which were tied back to a thick plait. ”Wouldn’t you tell me a story? When I’ve put my feet on my fathers’ soil again I feel very clannish. But a happy story, please, with many marriages, because I’m afraid your tears are about to come in every minute!”

Louisa laughed.

“Not anymore”, she said, “I’m almost over it. But parting is awful, as you know. Well, I shall tell you a story about Ranald MacDonald, who was out in the ‘Fifteen.

“Ranald was only twenty when the rising broke out. He was the only son of his parents, so they wouldn’t like to let him go out, but he wanted and said, ‘I’ll be ashamed rest of my life if I won’t rise my sword for the Stuart king!’ So he did. He was a very brave and gallant soldier, and when the rebels were in camp in Preston, a young English girl fell in love with him.

“One night, when Ranald was guarding the camp, the girl tiptoed to him and told him about her feelings. And because she was a very bonnie one, Ranald took her into his arms, and she didn’t leave until in the morning.

“The rebellion went on as unluckily as we know. Ranald hid himself on moors and glens for months, and his mother took food for him.

“The same time the English girl had a baby. Her parents were furious and wanted to know whose it was, and the girl told them. Then she wrote to Ranald, because she knew where he lived.

“All her family laughed and said, ‘Poor gal, that cateran has forget you as soon as you got out of his eyes. Why don’t you marry the tinker who’d been looking at you?’ But the girl didn’t want to marry the tinker, because he was a cruel, ugly man.

“The letter took much time to enter Ranald’s home. But it did arrive in the same time than Ranald came home, too. It was autumn of 1716, and he felt safe enough to stop the hiding.

“He read the letter, remembered the girl, and his heart warmed. He took one of his father’s horses and rode a long, long way to the south, all the way to Preston. There he searched the girl’s home.

“She was alone, and almost fainted when Ranald stepped in. ‘Oh, you came!’ she exclaimed. ‘Of course I came’, Ranald said, kissed her and then asked, ‘Where’s the baby?’ The girl took him to the cradle, where the little boy was sleeping. ‘You will now marry me, won’t you’, she asked worrying. ‘Why do you think I came here for, then?’ Ranald said smiling and kissed her again over the cradle.”

They had entered the gate of Five Cherry Trees. Myra and Ethel came running from the Wood, Laura swinged her hand from kitchen’s window, and Aunt Maggie just came from Clover the cow. Sun shone, the warm, poignant sun of the last of August. Angus smiled to Louisa and thought that Maggie would have almost fainted, too, if she had heard the story which was told with such an innocent voice — but Douglas would enjoy it, Louisa should be asked to tell it to him some day.

“What happened to Ranald and the girl?” the Captain asked and opened the gate.

Louisa beamed a smile.

“What does happen in all the good stories?” she asked. “They lived happily ever after!”


“Kirsikoiden” tarina päättyy tähän. Kiitos, että olit mukana, toivottavasti pidit siitä!

keskiviikko 20. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Nineteen: Tom Leaves

The day was rainy, and not only outside of Five Cherry Trees. Ethel sat on the umbrella-rack and sobbed behind her handkerchief, Myra hit the keyboards of the old piano as if it had been her worst enemy, and Louisa, who helped her mother in packing, swallowed her tears.

“Well, he’s not leaving forever”, said Maggie and tried to sound brisk. “Maybe he comes back next summer.”

“But next summer can never be like this one!” And Louisa sat on Tom’s trunk and took her handkerchief, too.

“I hope so. Tom’s a good lad, but when he’s around we have far too much happenings, if you ask me. Just remember that adventure of the mouse — though it wasn’t his fault — or how he turned dirty water on Muriel Henderson. No, I must say I need some rest now.”

Laura smiled.

“You must prepare for your wedding, dear Maggie”,  she said.

“There’s not much preparing in them.” Aunty blushed. ”I mean, we won’t have many guests.”

“Why?” asked Louisa within her tears. “I’d love to have a great wedding!”

“Nonsense, child. When you’re forty you will think as I do. Where’s Tom, anyway?”

“He went to the village — I think the boys have arranged something for him. And Angus went to the Ferguson place. Oh, I hardly can believe we are like a real family again!” Laura sighed happily.

“It feels almost like a sin to waste time in sleeping”, said Louisa. “I’d like to be awake the whole winter just to be with Daddy!”

“Put these shoes to the trunk and stop that nonsense”,  said Aunt Maggie gently.

The boys in the village had really arranged a farewell party for Tom. It was set in Kerr’s barn, and every boy had taken something for eat. They spent the whole afternoon there, Tom was late from dinner, and did not want any meal.

That evening went very fast, and when Ethel looked to the clock and thought it was seven, it was half past eight.

“Well, time to go to to sleep”, said Captain MacDonald. ”I’ll come with you and tell you about the Chinese when you’re in bed.”

“About real Chinese with slanting eyes?” Myra wanted to know.

“You’ve never heard about realler Chinese.”

”I’d like to speak with you, Tom”, Laura said, when the girls left comforted for their bedrooms. ”If you don’t feel horrible to be left without a story about Chinese.”

“Oh, no”,  said Tom. “Have I done something?”

“You indeed have.” Laura stepped nearer, put her hands on his shoulders and turned him before the old, dim looking-glass of the parlour. “What do you see?”

Tom looked his picture. A firm, sun-burned, shaggy-haired boy looked back; a boy with springy body and hard muscles, round, rosy cheeks and laughing black eyes — nothing was left of the little weak creature who had once stepped into this parlour.

“Well?” said Laura.

Tom turned around and gave her a bear hug.

“Thank you”,  he murmured. “I’ve never had a summer like this!”

I’m glad of it. And maybe you can come next summer, too.”

“I beg mother till she lets me come. Oh, and maybe she can come along, and father — but of course it’d be too expensive for you.” Tom had already learned to count pennies.

“Nonsense, dear.” Laura kissed his black curlies.

“Well, well!” Angus MacDonald came down the stairs. ”What I see! You are a charmer, young man; girls will cry themselves into sleep, and now my wife is here embracing you!”

Tom laughed, and the Captain patted his shoulder.

“You’d become a fine sailor lad”, he said.

“Don’t put ideas like that into his head!” commanded Laura. “I don’t think Cristen would ever let him leave for sea!”

“Aren’t those women too sensitive? But I must say you’ve become a man during this summer. I never saw you when you came, but I’ve seen a photograph of you — and if somebody had put the photograph and you side by side and told it’s the same lad l’d said he’s the biggest lier ever born.”

At that moment Aunt Maggie came from the kitchen, where she had been making supper dishes.

“You must go to bed, too, lad”,  she said. ”Or you won’t get out of bed tomorrow early enough. Hurry up!”

Tom left. When he entered his room, which looked very empty when his books and other things were all packed in the trunks, he found gifts of the girls on his bed.

Louisa had given a little paperback notebook filled with stories about the MacDonald family ghosts, Myra bought five honeysticks, and little Ethel sewed slippers —very clumsy, very grey slippers, but made of warm and soft material.

“I think I’ll die tomorrow”, muttered Tom and wiped off a tear .

tiistai 19. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Eighteen: The Captain Comes Home

“Well, didn’t I tell you”, said Mrs Macaulay satisfiedly to Louisa at the shop on a good-smelling, rain-fresh day. “Now your Aunty’s engaged and goes to Glasgow — my, you must have a great economic help from her becoming husband!”

“Aunty’s not going anywhere”, said Louisa calmly and put five bottles of lemonade to her willow basket.

“Not going? Don’t you lie to me, lass.”

“I don’t lie. Ferguson stays here, they’ll live in the old Ferguson place.”

“Here!” cried Mrs Macaulay. ”You don’t mean that. Isn’t he a fine businessman — how he can leave his work in Glasgow?”

“He won’t leave it, but he can do it from here.”

“Have anybody heard of that kind of nonsense before! And why you are buying those lemonade bottles?”

“That is my own business.” Louisa turned on her heels and stepped out.

”Proud as a queen!” hissed Muriel Henderson, who was waiting for her turn.

That night was very solemn at Five Cherry Trees. The veranda was decorated with colourful paper lanterns and flower garlands, and the most finest china was set on the table. It wasn’t raining, but evening was cloudy and dim and full of birches’ smell.

“Oh, isn’t that wonderful!” whispered little Ethel, because she was too excited to speak aloud.

Louisa nodded and straightened tenderly the blue silk rosette on sister’s head. Everybody had their best clothes on, and Aunt Maggie looked so pretty and young in her marble-coloured dress that Douglas Ferguson could not take his eyes off from her.

“Why we can’t have engagement parties every day?” asked Myra, when Laura gave everybody a glassfull of red lemonade.

“Because you’d tear your best dress”, said Tom, laughing. He tried to be glad, though the end of August was haunting in his mind with separating from the MacDonalds.

Louisa had made a delicious supper with Laura — Aunt Maggie was not allowed to step into the kitchen. They ate new potatoes and cool sallad, beef roasted in cream, and soft, good-smelling pumpkin pie as a dessert.

When everybody couldn’t eat a bit anymore, Douglas made a speech. He thanked Laura for hospitality and Louisa for her story, and then described his becoming marriage with Maggie in such a fun way that the children almost dropped from their chairs with laughter.

Tom, as the man of the family, answered and suggested a toast for the engaged couple.

They had just drunk it, when Ethel suddenly cried,

“Somebody’s coming!”

Everybody turned to look to the road. Indeed, somebody was walking up it, a tall, firm man, as far as they could see in the thickening darkness of August.

Then Laura exclaimed, hopped, and rushed over the yard as a school-girl.

“It’s Daddy!” gasped Myra. ”Oh, it’s Daddy!”

It really was Angus MacDonald. When the girls entered him, he was pressing Laura against his breast and kissing her; and then the girls were pressed and kissed, till they were almost breathless. Then it was Maggie’s turn, and then Tom was introduced — but not kissed.

“Do you have a fest?” asked Angus, when he was taken to the veranda.

“You never guess!” said Ethel. “Oh, Daddy, you can never guess!”

“I think I do.” Angus lent his hand to Douglas, who had been waiting on the veranda. “Laura wrote me you’ve come back, and I’m sure I dropped just in middle of your engagement  party. Congratulations!”

“You never can know what adults have in their mind”, said Louisa to Tom afterwards.

“Best gift I could ever have get”, muttered Maggie and dried her tears to Douglas’s handkerchief. ”Louisa, get another plate for your Daddy from the kitchen — and a glass. Hurry up!”

“Nobody goes anywhere”, said Angus and sat down. ”I won’t let my girls run away just when I’ve seen them. Sit down, all of you. And here’s a place for you.” He drew Laura to his knee. “Now, tell me everything!”

He was told everything. And not until the clock in the hall hit ten times Laura noticed that the children were still awake.

“Time to go to sleep”, she said tenderly. ”You’ll meet Daddy tomorrow again.”

“When you must leave?” asked Myra while kissing her father. She was used to say good-bye almost same time as welcome.

“That’s the best, lassie. Caledonia must be repaired, and we can’t set sail until October — and that ts too late, because winter storms begin. So it’ll stay home until spring, over the whole winter.”

Captain MacDonald s family was quiet for a while, then Louisa whispered,

‘You mean that, Daddy?”

“Of course I do.”

Little Ethel sighed for delight.

“In that case I can go to to sleep now”, she said, kissed tenderly father’s cheek and tripped to the hall.

When the children had gone, Douglas and Maggie left for a walk, and so did Angus and Laura.

“Have you had hard time here, love?” asked Angus, when they sat down to the banks of the pond. ”I wish I could send more money.”

“Oh, no.” Laura leaned her head against his shoulder. I’ve worked and prayed — and the girls are already a great help.”

“That about Tom?”

“He’s a good lad. When Cristen wrote me of his arrival I thought he’d be a spoiled baby, but he really is a man. Oh, Angus, I’m afraid I will be the baby and cry when he leaves!”

“Woman’s tears are like pearls”, muttered Angus quietly and kissed Laura’s brown curlies. “How I’ve missed you!”

“So am I. And now you’ll be home the whole winter! It’s almost too good to be true.”

“Fairytales sometimes come true. I think I could have job at the shop — something quiet and peaceful makes me good after the journey.”

“Was it hard?”

“As usual. Now your pretty dress is getting wet — shall we go back? l’d be delighted to have now the supper which Maggie offered me hours ago.”

maanantai 18. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Seventeen: On a Rainy Day

“What’s going on here?” asked Laura. ”You are all like going to fly.”

“Nothing”, said Myra, who was standing by the dining-room window and looking out to the rain.

“Well, I wonder how you will act when something is going on.” Laura went to the kitchen, where Aunt Maggie was ironing girls’ aprons.

“He won’t come”,  said Tom. ”I told you he won’t come. And neither would I, if I had any sense in my head!”

“You’re so prosaic”, scolded Louisa. “If he really loves…”

“Loves!” repeated Tom scornfully. “There’s not a thing called love for forty-year-olds!”

“Of course there is. Oh, look — I see the motor car lamps! I see them! He’s coming!” Ethel jumped up and down around the dining-room. “Oh, Louisa, just like in some story — a prince coming to seek a princess!”

Louisa did not hear. She was already on the gate opening it. Her thick hair pasted up on her back and her just-washed muslin dress was soaking, but she smiled as happily as if sun had been shining.

“Get in, you crazy lass”,  said Douglas Ferguson. ”You’ll catch a death disease here! Is your — Aunty home?”

“Oh, yes, in the kitchen — what are you going to do — are you staying here?”

Douglas stepped to the veranda and petted Louisa’s wet hair.

“I am, dearie. Thing called telephone is great. My secretary said I’m a fool, and I thanked him from all my heart. A person in his full senses can never be happy. And now, out of my way, or I won’t ask you to be our bridesmaid.”

Douglas Ferguson went to the kitchen. Laura MacDonald came out of the kitchen. The children sat around the dining-room table and tried to look as if they were interested in the checkers board they had spread.

“Well, you rascals.” Laura looked at them and smiled. ”Now I know what’s going on, and I’m so happy I won’t punish you for keeping it from my eyes. It is time for Maggie to start thinking of herself instead of us.”

Half an hour went. Another half an hour went. Tom sighed and scratched the table-cloth. Louisa was trying to keep the checkers play on, but it was too hard, because she had to listen all the time the kitchen door. Myra kicked tablefoot. Ethel asked Laura if all the people needed that much time for proposing.

At last Laura rose.

“I’ve wasted half a day soon in this foolishness, though I should be finishing Mrs Weilson’s new dress”,  she said. “Call me when they are ready!” She went to her workroom.

When an hour and a quarter had gone, Tom slipped down from his chair and went to the door. Then he kneeled and looked through the keyhole.

“Thomas Callanger!” whispered Louisa. “Don’t you know you mustn’t do that!”

“Yes. But if I don’t, they’ll stay there all the day! O-o-o-o…”

“What’s that?” All the girls came around him.

“Well...” Tom rose. “Nothing special. My, Louisa MacDonald!”

“Shut up.” Louisa had now kneeled before the keyhole and looked through it.

The flat-iron had become cold long time ago. Aunt Maggie and Douglas Ferguson were sitting by the table and kissing each other.

“They’re kissing!” Louisa cried and then put her hand on her mouth.

“Get out of there”, said Douglas behind the door. ”I shall kiss my bride for these twenty years. But if you do really have serious inventions, you can come in and congratulate us!”

“Mommy!” Ethel rushed through the house. “Mommy! They’re engaged! Shall I be the godmother for their first baby?”

“Bless that child”, murmured Aunt Maggie and blushed like a young girl. ”And almost all the aprons unironed... Love takes too much time, if you ask me!”

Too much time or not, when the rain stopped in the evening, Aunt Maggie left for a walk with Douglas.

“So you really mean you’re staying here?” Maggie asked, when they walked the wet path through the Wood.

“I do. And when I’m now thinking of it I cannot understand how I could be as stupid as planning to go back!” Douglas kissed her cheek. “Twenty years, Maggie, and you seem to me even younger than then!”

“Nonsense”, said Maggie and smiled satisfied.

Douglas looked around the Wood.

“This has been quite a odd summer”,  he said. “That day, when I came and met you — it was wonderful. And then came that little creature Louisa with her flowers. Yes, Maggie-o-mine, without Louisa we wouldn’t be here. She just told me about your great-grandfather, and I knew what to do.”

“She’s a good girl.”

“More than good! She’s a miracle. Have you ever been as happy as now?”

Maggie looked at her fiance, and her dark eyes were young and bright.

“Never!” she whispered, put her arms around Douglas’s neck and kissed him like she had done twenty years ago — but now more happily, because there was nothing unsure in her future anymore, like in her younghood.

“But still — can I leave Laura and the girls”,  she asked, when they continued their walk. ”Laura cannot look after them when she’s working, and you know what kind of things can happen if they’re left alone.”

“They can come to our place, darling, so you can look after them there — and Louisa’s soon a woman. Don’t worry!”

Maggie did not worry, but leaned against her fiance’s arm and sighed happily. And Myra and Tom, who were hiding behind the great grey stone, winkled to each other.

sunnuntai 17. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Sixteen: The Spokesgirl

Dry July was followed by wet August. Rain poured down day after day, till the roads were just mud.

“Isn’t it wonderful to be alive in a day like that?” asked Ethel in a grey day, when she sat by a library window in the old Ferguson place. “I mean, just to sit inside and enjoy of living!”

Louisa, who lolled on a thick carpet before the fireplace, looked tenderly at her little sister, whose words were kind of contradictory, if one did not know what had happened just little time ago on the hay-field. Ethel had become well very quickly, but still everybody handled her as a very valuable piece of gold.

“It really is”, she said. “But… have you noticed how odd Aunty has become?”

“I have”, said Ethel and and slipped from the windowsill. “She’s so quiet, and I think she doesn’t sleep well. Once when I went to drink some water in the kitchen middle of night she sat there without doing anything — just sat and watched out. That is odd.”

“Come here”, whispered Louisa, “I don’t want Mr Ferguson hear, he’s in the dining-room repairing the old chest he found in the barn. I think it’s love businesses.”

“Love businesses?” repeated Ethel. “Do you think Aunty loves Mr Ferguson?”

“Of course she does. Last time when Mr Ferguson was over for tea Aunty gave him the juiciest piece of cake — and once when they came from the prayer-meeting they stood half an hour on the gate and just spoke.”

“But what’s wrong with Aunty then?” asked Ethel and knitted her brows. “Mr Ferguson likes her very much, too, I guess.”

“That’s Glasgow. Aunty doesn’t want to live there. And listen, I’ve thought, maybe he hasn’t spoken about love and that kind of stuff, and Aunty thinks he doesn’t care of her anymore — and he is leaving in the end of August. That’s why Aunty’s so odd.”

“But what could we do?” asked little Ethel. ”He is going back to Glasgow, and Aunty’s sad.”

“Maybe we could make him to stay here.”

“Oh, we cannot. I heard Mommy talking with Mrs Cunningham, and Mommy said that Mr Ferguson is a very important person in Glasgow — he barely could have his vacation this year. Oh, no, he can’t stay here.”

Louisa sighed. Yes, it seemed unpossible.

But when Douglas told the girls to come and have tea, she suddenly asked,

“What are you really doing in Glasgow?”

Ethel breathed for horror, but Douglas laughed.

“I’m the boss of my company”,  he said. ”I have bunches of paper on my table, and secretaries are running to and fro and asking questions all the time. Satisfied?”

“Have you ever thought you could stay right here in Lochdhu?” was the next question.

“Often, dearie. But I couldn’t — I have my work in Glasgow. And there’s nothing what I should stay here for.”

“Your childhood home?” suggested Ethel bravely.

Douglas looked at the blackened sailing.

“No, pet, that’s not enough. It’s all right in summer, but long winter nights here alone — no, I go back to Glasgow after three weeks.”

That night Louisa asked Five Cherry Trees children for consultation in the Orchard. Rain had stopped for a while, and they climbed to the cherry trees to avoind getting wet in the grass.

“What could we do for them?” asked Tom. ”I mean, we just cannot go and say, ‘Stay here and marry Aunty, or she’ll cry her eyes off for you!’.”

“I didn’t mean that”,  said Louisa. ”But we should give him a hint — say something that makes him to think.”

“Don’t you have any good story for it?” asked Myra. “Didn’t any of our ancestors be like Mr Ferguson?”

Louisa thought for a while.

“Maybe I have”,  she said.

“But if you’ve mistaken”, suggested Tom. “Maybe that’s something else. Stomach discomfort or stuff like that.”

“It can’t be”, Louisa said firmly. “Though in the novels people become pale and sigh and speak by themselves, when they are in love, and Aunty hasn’t, but still I’m sure that’s romance.”

“So, we must try the story”, said Ethel.

Next day Louisa splashed to the Ferguson place again with her large umbrella.

“I came to give back this book I borrowed”,  she said, when Douglas let her in.

“But dear child, you could have waited till there’s no rain!” he said.

“Oh, I thought you maybe would like to read it yourself.” Louisa hopped off from her wet boots. ”And I thought you’re lonely here all alone.

“You’re right in that, dearie. Come to the library, I’ve set fire into the fireplace, and we’ll have a very cosy and nice afternoon.”

Louisa curled up in a great armchair. When she looked Mr Ferguson, she noticed that he had changed, too. There was a shadow in his blue eyes. And two wooden boxes had been taken to the library.

“I must plan my leave”, said Douglas, following Louisa’s glance. “Summer’s gone fast, dearie. Too fast. I’m getting old.”

“Would you like to hear a story?”

Douglas laughed.

“Quick as usual! Go on, dearie. I adore your stories.”

“Once upon a time”, Louisa began, “or a hundred years ago, my great-grandfather Fergus was sitting in Five Cherry Trees parlour and smoking his pipe. He was thirty that time, and the most handsome man in the whole Lochdhu.

“On that very day he had had a lot of thinking. He was in love with a lady in Glennari — a fine lady, with curly blond hair and creamy skin — but Fergus didn’t dare to propose to her. Because, he had heard, the lady had said she could never live on countryside. She was born in Glennari, and, though it wasn’t a city, they had fancier houses and finer shops there.

“’I love her’,  thought Fergus. ‘But how could I ever ask her? She will never become mistress at Five Cherry Trees. It’s just torturing myself.’

“He thought of it, and more he thought, more sad he became. And at last he made his decision. He would not ask the lady to marry him. He would not even let her know about his love. No, but he should do something to forget. His old friend, called Keith MacLaren, a sea-captain, had often asked him to make a trip on Queen Anne, his ship. And now Fergus made up his mind to leave with Queen Anne. He packed his things, left the manor to his bailiffs — there were that kind of men like bailiffs that time in Five Cherry Trees — and travelled to Glasgow harbour. There Queen Anne was waiting, and he left.

“Fergus had never thought he would like sea-manlife as much as he did. At last Keith MacLaren hired him, and ten years they sailed together with Queen Anne. But Fergus could never forget the lady of Glennari. And finally, when Queen Anne was in Glasgow harbour again, he travelled to Glennari to meet the lady.”

Louisa quietened and looked to the fire, which made a fairy-like shadow to her face.

“What happened?” Douglas asked.

“The lady had loved him”, Louisa said, almost whispering, because the end of this story made her always cry. “Loved so much she thought she couldn’t live without him. She had said she wouldn’t live on countryside, because she didn’t want to be any farmer’s wife — she wanted only Fergus MacDonald. But Fergus never came. And the lady said ‘No’ to every other proposal of marriage, paled, became more and more slender, and at last... died, whispering, ‘If you only had come!’”

Silence fell in the little dark room. Tears of rain rolled down the windows, and the wind roared painfully around the old house.

“Fergus then stayed at land, married a girl from Lochdhu and had many children”, Louisa muttered. “But it’s said he never really loved his wife.”

Douglas crossed his arms behind his head.

“You wanted to tell me more than just a story”, he said.

“Oh, I didn’t...”

“Don’t lie to me, dearie. You came over only because you wanted to make me think, didn’t you?”

“Yes”, said Louisa.

“That’s better. Well, now we can discuss. You are going to tell me I shouldn’t leave Lochdhu?”

“Not that you shouldn’t”, said Louisa. “But.. I think... If you feel...” She began to stammer and quietened.

“Is your Aunty like the lady of Glennari?”

“I don’t think she would die of broken heart — you know, it’s not like her — but if you ask me she’s never been as happy as in this summer. She’s sewed two new dresses for herself!”

Douglas stared the eager little face with bright brown eyes and pink cheeks. Then he rose and went to the window.

“If I was able to do what I want to, not what I have to... I’ve told you I love your Aunty.”

“And she loves you, I’m sure of it! But your company is a ship — you’ve been sailing away twenty years, and now you’re setting sails again. Who knows if you ever come to the harbour again?”

“What could I do? My work...”

“Your work!” cried Louisa furiously and hopped up. “Do you think anything but your work? Haven’t you even noticed there’s a thing called telephone? There’s one in the shop, and you could have another here — you could call to Glasgow whenever needed!”

“It’s not that simple, dearie.”

“How stupid you adults are!” Louisa rushed to the kitchen and put her boots on. “I’ve done what I can, and if you really want to be unhappy the rest of your life, it’s not my business!” She took her wet coat and umbrella and was just going to step out, when Douglas took her arm.

“Calm down, dearie, don’t be such a fussy. Take off those wet things. I must think of it. I’ve been a bachelor for forty years, dearie, and it’s not so easy to change your way of living.”

“It is easy if you only love Aunty!” Louisa’s eyes were full of tears.

Douglas sighed, then he smiled.

“For heaven’s sake, dearie, what will come of that!”

lauantai 16. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Fiveteen: The Haymaking

That July was warm, dusty, and dry. Gardens and corn suffered, but hay was growing better than ever. Because the fields of Five Cherry Trees were all hired, the MacDonald family used to help Mr Kerr with his haymaking, and Mr Kerr then gave them enough hay for their Clover the cow and Donna the horse.

On a hot, cloudless day in the end of July Laura, Aunt Maggie, Louisa, Myra, Ethel, and Tom were walking through the Wood. They were going to the Kerr fields; Aunt Maggie had a basketful of food, Ethel carried a bottle of cold, cool water, and the others had hay-forks.

“I’ve never been making hay”,  said Tom. “That’s exciting.”

“Oh, there’s nothing exciting in it”, said Louisa, who would have liked to read a novel Mr Ferguson had lent her. ”Just working and carrying hay, till your arms are aching and your feet are full of haysticks.”

“Stop moaning, Louisa”, said Laura. ”You should have put your shoes on. There can be snakes on the field.”

“Oh, Mommy!” cried Myra. “There’s hot enough this way, with shoes it would be just awful! And I’ve never seen snakes on the Kerr fields.”

“But I heard Mr Ferguson is comin’, too”, Louisa said a little briskier. “That’s nice.”

“Who told you that?” asked Aunt Maggie.

“Geordie had told Tom, hadn’t he, Tom?”

“That’s right. He says he’s missed haymaking, so now he helps with the Kerrs.”

It was, like Louisa had said, a hard day. Sun was shining brighter than ever, and no clouds appeared to make the air cooler. But Mr Kerr was satisfied, because the hay seemed fine.

Douglas Ferguson had really come along. And though he had been living in a city twenty years, he was as strong and quick as anybody else.

Ethel was too small for real work. So she was left by the food-baskets and told to make tea ready by noon.

“And take care you won’t set the whole grfool on fire”, said Aunt Maggie, before she followed the others to the field.

Tea was ready just when the hungry and thirsty people came for it. Water bottle had been drank empty, so Tom and Geordie rushed to the pond with it. They found some interesting frogs and bird’s eggs on their way and did not come back until everybody had already eaten, but did not care of that little unfortune.

“What shall I do now?” asked Ethel, when Laura was binding a wide handkerchief over her hair and preparing to go back to work. “Couldn’t I help with the hay?”

“No, dearie, I think you would get too tired. Next year, maybe. Now, you can take the dishes to the pond and wash them there, and then come back and have a round with the water bottle. If anybody wants drinking you can take it over.”

Ethel shrugged her shoulders and collected the dishes to a basket.

The afternoon was long. Ethel ran to and fro with the bottle, because everybody was thirsty.

“Oh, I sweat so that I feel like a sponge!” sighed Myra. ”Clover and Donna should be grateful of that hay.”

Louisa did not say anything. Secretly she was happy, because Geordie was collecting hay just before her and sometimes smiled at her.

Almost all the hay had been taken into the barn, and Mr Kerr was just coming with the carriage for the last load, when Ethel suddenly fell down in one corner of the field with a cry.

“What’s going on there?” asked Douglas.

“Help!” Ethel exclaimed. ”Here was a snake, and it… it...” She sobbed so that could not say anything more.

But that was enough. Laura threw her hayfork away and ran over the field, and Aunt Maggie followed her.

Ethel sat on the grfool holding her bare foot. There was two tiny, red plots on her ankle.

“It bite me”, she gasped. ”I didn’t see it — oh Mommy, am I going to die now?”

“Nonsense, dear”,  muttered Laura. ”What kind of a snake it was?”

“I dunno, Mommy. I remember old Joe MacGregor died with a snakebite!”

“You won’t die”, Aunt Maggie said firmly, though she was not so sure. ”What shall we do?”

“I’ll get my motor car so we can drive her over to Glennari”, said Douglas Ferguson behind her. “She mustn’t move now, so the poison won’t spread.”

“I’ll catch your handbag”, said Aunt Maggie and patted Laura’s shoulder. ”And a neat dress for the girl… She mustn’t go to doctor in that old, thin one.”

Laura could not say anything. Ethel’s brown eyes were wide and frightened, and suddenly she buried her face to mother’s dress.

”Is — it — dangerous?” whispered Myra with a pale face.

“I don’t know. Possibly not, if we can go to doctor in time. Oh, Tom, you’re a good runner, go after Aunty and tell her to take Ethel’s stockings and shoes.”

Tom left, and Mrs Kerr came to Laura.

“Child cannot wear any stockings now”,  she said.

“No, but to another foot... She mustn’t go to doctor barefeet... Oh, dearie, does it hurt?”

“A little”,  said a tiny voice somewhere in Laura’s arms.

“Don’t cry”, said Geordie and kneeled by Ethel. ”You’ll have a drive in a motor car, think of it!”

“If I’m goin’ to die?” Ethel lifted her face.

“I’m sure you won’t”, said Louisa and bowed on Geordie’s side. ”And when you’re back home I’ll make sweets for you.”

“Oh.” Ethel wiped tears from her cheeks.

At that moment Tom and Aunt Maggie came back with the handbag and clothes, and Douglas stopped his motor car to the road by the field. Then he took a blanket from the car and came to the crowd.

“Here, pet, I’ll carry you in that”, he said. ”Who’s coming with her?”

“I won’t let you go alone”,  said Maggie to Laura. ”You are such a worrier. Could the children come to your place, Mrs Kerr? They can’t be alone at Five Cherry Trees.”

“Of course”, said Mrs Kerr motherly. “They can sleep in my guest-room.” Mrs Kerr was very proud of her guest-room.

So they left. Laura sat on the back seat with Ethel, and Aunt Maggie on the front one with Douglas.

“Don’t move the girl”, Douglas said, when Laura tried to change Ethel’s clothes. ”We’re all dirty and sweaty, but it’s more important to get into doctor’s in time than to be fancy at town.”

Laura sighed and put the dress back to the basket.

The way was dusty, Ethel coughed and complained. She was getting pale and her forehead was as hot as fire.

“Mommy... If I die, please give my blue silk ribbon to Myra, because I quarreled with her yesterday”, she murmured.

“I will”,  Laura said tenderly and kissed her. “Don’t speak, darling, just rest.”

“Do you think I get white clothes in heaven?”

“Good grief, lfoolie, don’t speak that way!” cried Aunt Maggie. “You’re not goin’ to die!”

“Be quiet”, Douglas whispered. ‘she must be calm. Here’s Glennari way, thank God.”

Glennari had own little hospital, and Douglas stopped his motor car before it. He told Maggie to go and ask the doctor while he took the fevery girl to his arms and carried her up the stairs to the cool and very clean hall.

“This way.” A nurse with a white apron and cap showed the way. “Doctor’s in. You can wait ouside.”

“l’m her mother. Can’t I go with her?” begged Laura. “Oh, please!”

“Let her come”, said the doctor, a middle-aged man with glfooles.

Aunt Maggie sat down to a bench by the door of the doctor’s room. Douglas walked to and fro before her.

“If I only had made them to put their shoes on”,  murmured Aunt Maggie and took her handkerchief. ”Oh, in that case...”

“Don’t be stupid”, said Douglas. ”It’s not your fault.”

“Oh, but it is! Laura said they should wear shoes, but the children said it would be too hot... And I agreed to them... Oh, God!” She put the handkerchief on her face.

Douglas sat by her.

“Don’t cry, Maggie-o-mine”, he said gently. ”You cannot help her a bit with your tears. Be brave, that’s what we all need. Maybe it wasn’t a poison snake at all.”

“You saw she had fever!”

“Well, sometimes one gets fever because of heath, you know. And anyhow, please, stop crying.” Douglas put his arm carefully around Maggie’s shoulders. ”You are a strong lfoolie, I know that.”

“If I could be!” Maggie loaned against him without understanding that. ”But now l’d like to run, only run, and forget all that awful. Little Ethel — oh, why I didn’t give her a honeystick when she asked!”

“She’s not dead, you little fool. Now, somebody comes.”

Maggie noticed Douglas’s arm around her and drew herself back, when doctor opened the door.

“There’s no danger”, he said, smiling. ”You got here in time. But it’s best you leave the girl here overnight — she’ll have a good rest. Tomorrow she’s okay.”

“Thank God!” muttered Aunt Maggie. “Oh, Laura!” She rose and pressed cordially her sister-in-law, who followed the doctor and wiped away tears — but now of relief.

Douglas did not say anything. He still felt Maggie’s soft shoulders under his arm and just smiled by himself.

perjantai 15. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Fourteen: Tom’s Letter

Five Cherry Trees, July 21th

“Dear Mother and Father,

“thank you for the long letter I got from you already a week ago. I am sorry I have not answered earlier, but I have had so much to do. However now I have nothing but time, because — well, I confess. I am commanded to stayin my room and not allowed to go out until tomorrow morning, unless the house would set on fire.

“Please, Mother, do not faint yet. I shall tell everything. Now there is silence in the house, because all that women folk is in the prayer-meeting. Laura said I should be allowed to go there, but Aunt Maggie said I am not a Presbyterian, so I can think of my sins very well in my room. I am glad of it. Usually I like the prayer-meetings, but tonight Amelie Welsh is going to lead the hymns, and when she sings it sounds like the windows would be broken just because of her scream.

“No, I have not done anything very serious. Or — I do not know. Adults sometimes think so oddly. (Sometimes even you, Mother and Father!)

“This week has been a special one. Last weekend we had our Sunday school picnic — I shall tell about it some other time — and every night from Monday there has been some programme in the church. On Monday we had an organ concert, on Tuesday a parson from Glasgow was speaking, and yesterday the choir sang. Tonight a parson from Nova Scotia is there — everybody has been like in fever, because they want to give him everything best.

“All the Sunday school pupils were asked to decorate the church, because the Canadian parson had said he would love to see flowers around him. Everybody was asked to pick up as much flowers as was possible. We had quite a nice time with the girls, when we collected flowers from the garden of Five Cherry Trees, and then we went to the orchard to have some forget-me-nots and wild roses.

“The church was full of children. Mrs Weilson, the wife of our parson, was there looking after ‘that nothing gets broken’, as she said. I like her, and I am a little sorry because she was so sad about what I did.

“I was putting garlands made of spruce branches and bluebells to the railing of the gallery with Geordie Kerr. Geordie was standing on the ladders outside the railing the and I tightening the garland from the gallery.

“At that very moment I saw Muriel Henderson coming down the aisle. Muriel is beautiful, some say, but I do not like her. She was my ‘lady’ during the picnic, and... Well, as I said, I shall tell it another time. Now Muriel had again a new dress, of bright blue silk and pink laces — her parents do have wealth, but not any sense of style.

“Anyway, she had armfull of white roses from her mother’s garden, and now she went to Mrs WeiIson and said with a sugary voice, ‘Oh, could I put these into some vase?’ Mrs WeiIson was delighted and said that she could put them into the garlands, because we needed some white colour among green and blue. And that is how Muriel came up to the gallery.

“She behaved herself for a while, putting roses into the garland, but then she began to bubble about all possible things on the earth — and, which was the worst, not a good word of Five Cherry Trees family! (I do not wonder. Maybe you do not understand all that, but you will, when I write another letter). Geordie is Louisa’s beau — or he thinks he is — so he got angry, and I got angry, because I’m a half-a-Scot and do not want anybody complain about my family.

“We tried to be gentlemen and said nothing. But Muriel spoke and spoke and spoke, like an ever-rolling gramophone, till our brains were aching. We tried to be quickly ready with the garlands, but it did not succeed, because Geordie had to go down in every little while to move the ladders.

“Bubbling, bubbling, bubbling!

“There was a vase on the railing. The bluebells had been there, and it was full of dirty, badsmelling water, because Esther MacGregor had to had pick her flowers up the night before — she had to help her mother today so she had not time.

“Rest of the garland was in Muriel’s arms. She put the roses into it and spoke, spoke, spoke. I took the vase and glanced at Geordie. He grinned. I lifted the vase and went behind Muriel.

“At the next moment a terrible shriek rushed through the church. All the people stopped their work, Rosie Brown dropped all her forget-me-nots, and Mrs Weilson hopped like a hare.

“Muriel flew to and fro on the gallery, trying to make something to that disgusting mess that was flooding along her back under that fancy silk creature. Her ’oh, oh, oh’ was so much like her mother’s, that Geordie almost dropped from the ladders with laughter.

“l would like to forget what happened next. Mrs WeiIson came up and saw what had happened. She was unhappy, the only thing that sticks my coinscidence. I was sent back to Five Cherry Trees, and Aunt Maggie made a good sermon before locking me in. Laura laughed, I saw it, and I know why — last Saturday night she was telling Mrs Henderson what she thinks about Muriel.

“So, that is my sin. I think I have been thinking that enough now, so I can write something nice between.

“I like Five Cherry Trees very much. Laura says I have become as firm as any lad in the village, and really I am not as weak and pale as I used to be. Though the house is full of women, these ones are quite nice — Aunt Maggie, too, who tries to bring us up. I am almost sorry I have only a good month left here, though I miss home, too. And hardly anybody calls me London boy nowadays!

“Now, I hear Laura’s steps on the stairs. I know her steps, they are like a young girl’s, light and happy. I stop before she comes in, I do not think she likes to see me writing a letter when I should be repenting.



torstai 14. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Thirteen: The Picnic

When the service was over at church in the next Sunday after the Andersons’ visit, were the children already waiting for Laura and Aunt Maggie on the churchyard.

“What are you doing here?” asked Laura. “Didn’t you have any Sunday school at all?”

“Oh, we did, but Miss Marshall said we could leave earlier, because — oh, Mommy, next Saturday we’ll have a Sunday school picnic!” cried Myra. ”Isn’t that brilliant? Every boy must ask a lady and the lady takes the picnic basket.”

“Well, who’s asking whom? asked Aunt Maggie.

“Geordie asked Louisa already”, said Ethel innocently. “That’s why Tom’s angry.”

“I’m not angry!” exclaimed Tom.

“Oh, yes, you are. But Louisa likes Geordie better than you”, said Myra.

“Shut up!” hissed Louisa. ”I don’t like anybody better, Geordie just asked first. Mommy, can I have some fried chicken for lunch? And new tomatoes and cream sauce?”

“Of course you can. What about the rest of you? Who are you going to ask, Tom?” asked Laura friendly.

“I dunno.” Tom shrugged his shoulders, which had become much wider during the past weeks. “Mebbe I won’t go at all.”

“Of course you’ll go”, commanded Aunt Maggie. ”Ask Kitty Brown, for example.”

“I dunno”, Tom repeated and fell into silence.

“Miss Marshall said we must train our manners, that’s why every girl must have an invitation”, said Ethel. ”I hope so somebody asks me — I mean, that I don’t have to go with some of the little boys.”

“You are a little girl yourself”, reminded Laura. “And you have the whole week to plan the picnic.”

What a long week it was! Louisa would have liked to make the lunch ready in Monday morning, and could hardly believe her Aunty, who told her it could not be made before Saturday morning.

“Five days!” she cried in despair.

“Quickly come, quickly gone”, said Aunt Maggie.

But even longer was the week for the uninvitated Myra and Ethel and to Tom, who did not know whom to ask. He was angry, because Louisa had accepted Geordie’s invitation so eagerly. At last he made up his mind and asked Muriel Henderson, the beauty of the village. Indeed that did stick Louisa a little — Muriel was always proud and spoiled, but after being asked by the London boy she was unbearable.

“I guess I won’t be asked at all”, said little Ethel in Thursday evening, when they were spending the dim hour in Laura’s bedroom. Tom was not yet come from the village, where he had been all the day helping Geordie in the Kerr farm. 

“I hope you will be asked”, comforted Laura and thought Miss MarshalI’s idea maybe was not as good as the schoolmistress had thought. She remembered from her own childhood how awful it was not to have invitation somewhere where everybody else was going.

“But if nobody will ask us?” worried Myra. ”It’s a humiliation. You should have heard how Muriel Henderson boasted of Tom!”

“Muriel is a stupid little hen”, said Louisa.

“That wasn’t nice thing to say”, pointed Aunt Maggie.

“Muriel’s not nice either!”

“Now now. Why don’t you go together, Myra and Ethel?” asked Laura.

That would be an awful humiliation!” cried little Ethel. “Don’t you understand, Mommy!”

Mommy understood.

“Well, if you won’t be asked, we’ll arrange a picnic of our own on Sunday”, she said. “I’ll take you to Glennari after church and we’ll go to a restaurant arid eat chicken and cold potatoes and ice-cream”, promised Laura.

“You will, Mommy?” cried Ethel.

“Yes I will. Just you and Myra, not Louisa.”

Louisa sighed. As eagerly as she waited for the picnic, she was not quite sure if it was comparable with a restaurant and ice-cream.

“As if you couldn’t eat cold potatoes at home!” muttered Aunt Maggie. ”Well, time to go to sleep. Hurry up!”

When the Friday afternoon arrived, it was clear that nobody would ask the little girls for the picnic. Hardly any of the smaller boys were going — they could not think anything as awful as having a girl for company. Louisa made her lunch ready, and Ethel wept bitterly on the parlour coach.

Myra was brave until Saturday morning, but when Tom left for Muriel and Louisa sat by the dining-room window waiting for Geordie, she rushed to the garret and dried her tears to the curtains of the gable window.

When Louisa had left, Aunt Maggie went up to the garret and said Myra would have her eyes red of those dusty curtains. Then she asked if she would like to see her treasure box with Ethel.

Aunt Maggie’s treasure box was beloved by the MacDonald girls. It was a little wooden chest, full of memories and stories. There were Aunty’s first high-heeled shoes and silk stockings, an old memory book her friends had filled with wise, old-fashioned poems at school, interesting clippings of old newspapers, and photographs of people she could tell many stories of. Few letters, too, but Aunty never let the girls to look at them.

Myra and Ethel spent a joyful day reading the memory books and listening stories about the girls who had written the poems twenty-eight years ago. After all they forgot all the picnic and did not remember it until they heard Laura’s cry from downstairs.

“What’s going on there?” said Aunt Maggie. “We’ll go and see. Put the books back, you can look them some other time.”

Downstairs they went. And in the middle of the hall stood Louisa — a very wet, a very dirty, a very furious Louisa. Behind her was Tom, who tried severely not to laugh.

“For heaven’s sake!” gasped Laura, who had sat down to a footstool. ”For heaven’s sake, what you’ve made to yourself, Louisa MacDonald?”

“I’ve made nothing”, sobbed Louisa. ”It was Muriel Henderson, who…”

“Don’t blame Muriel”, interrupted Tom. ”If you hadn’t been that foolish...”

“I wasn’t foolish!”

“Quiet!” commanded Aunt Maggie with a tone Louisa called her ”colonel-voice”. ”Louisa, you tell first, then it’s Tom’s turn.”

“We were on the moor by the brook and played among the spruces”,  Louisa said. “Miss Marshall told us we could play as much as we liked till one o’clock, then we would have lunch. After the lunch we went to the brook and Miss Marshall told us many things about the fishes and the other animals that lived in it. And then Muriel said with her nose up that her uncle had all the books written about the animals. Miss Marshall said very politely that she wouldn’t believe anybody could have all of ‘em, and Muriel got angry, because we all laughed.

“I didn’t laugh louder than the others or say anything, but suddenly Muriel turned to me and said, ‘You manor-beggar don’t have to go to a zoo to see a monkey — you just have to look at the mirror.’ Geordie got furious and asked if Muriel wanted a spank, but Miss Marshall said ladies should never be spanked.

“We walked along the brook banks, and the boys dared each other to hop over the water. Geordie hopped, and Tom, and Don, and all of them wetted their shoes. Then Muriel took her lace hems and hopped, and didn’t touch the water at all.

“’Do that if you can’, she said to me, and then she hopped back, as the boys had done. ‘Go on, if you dare.’ And I just had to dare. Muriel is smaller and lighter than me, and besides, when I tried to jump, she pushed me. So I dropped just in the middle of the brook.

“Geordie rushed to help me up, and Miss Marshall scolded Muriel, but now my best muslin dress is ruine-e-e-d!”

And the story ended with bitter tears.

“Is that what happened?” asked Laura.

“Exactly.” Tom nodded. ”I’m innocent, I haven’t any idea what Muriel had in her mind, and besides she such a crybaby that...”

“Forget Muriel for a second”,  said Aunt Maggie. “Come to the kitchen, Louisa, you drop water to my just-washed floor. We’ll get those wet things off. And your dress is not ruined, I wash it right away and it’s dry and neat for church tomorrow. Go and get another dress for Louisa, Myra!”

“Well”,  said Laura and rose. ”I guess I must go to the Hendersons’ place. Muriel owns you an apologise, Louisa.”

Laura went upstairs, and when she came back after a while, Myra and Ethel and Tom just gasped.

Laura was thirty-five years old, but sometimes she looked as a young girl. Now she was angry, scarlet roses were burning on her soft cheeks, and she had worn her best creamy-coloured blouse with laces and frills. A fine hat with veil and silk flowers was on her auburn curly hair, and she was that beautiful and noble and dangerous that the children drew themselves away.

Nobody could have said that she was one of any “manor-beggars”.

“I don’t know when I’m back”,  said Laura and put on her gloves. “Obey your Aunty.” Then she smiled a little. ”But I promise I won’t leave until that spoiled pussy hears what I’ve got in my mind!”

“Well”, said Aunt Maggie, who just came from the kitchen. “You can be small and soft, Laurie, but you’ve got Highland strength in you, if you ask me!”

Laura went down to the village, and Aunt Maggie took Louisa’s lunch basket, and they had a good dinner with the leftovers of the cold chicken, red juicy tomatoes, potato sallad, white soft bread, cream sauce, and little cakes, covered with sugar.

“I didn’t even know food can be that delicious”,  said Tom at last, when he felt he could not swallow a piece more. “Muriel Henderson can spoil any meal by her existence.”

“Don’t be mean to your lady,” said Louisa, who still felst hurt — though brown cakes are good medicine for any aching feelings.

“Drink your milk”, said Aunt Maggie. ”Well, your mother’s comin’ up the way. I wonder what’s the result.”

When Laura stepped into the kitchen, ten eyes stared at her.

“Muriel will apoligise you in public tomorrow in Sunday school”, she said to Louisa. ”I must admit I’ve never felt that good. At last I could give Mrs Henderson a piece of my mind, what comes to her way of upbringing her children!”

“Laura”,  scolded Aunt Maggie. ”What did you say?”

“The truth, dearie.” Laura laughed. Her curlies were in a little disorder under the hat, but her brown eyes were shining. “She’ll never have anything sewed by me anymore, and I’m glad of it. Now, do you have any chicken left? I feel just like chicken now. Poor Muriel, I guess it’ll take long until she dares anybody to hop over a brook again!”

keskiviikko 13. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Twelve: The Teller

If Glennari Notes had not made a special number of “country fun” for that summer, Five Cherry Trees would have been saved from many troubles. But “things happen as God wants”, as Aunt Maggie said, and in a cloudy July afternoon a reporter from the Notes drove to Lochdhu. First he stopped by the shop, because the shops are places where all the important news are told. He asked some questions from the Lochdhu people who happened to be there, and found Mrs Cunningham a very speakable person. And it was Mrs Cunningham who first told about Louisa MacDonald.

“Oh, such a sweet lassie she is”, she said. “And clever — you should hear when she tells stories about her ancestors. Once in a Sunday school concert she told about her great-great-great-uncle Alec, who was a Catholic but turned to a Presbyterian, and all the audience cried like a crowd of babies.”

“Where does that little miracle live?” asked the reporter with a little sarcastic voice. Of course all the people in this tiny world admired a girl who could tell anything.

“Up in Five Cherry Trees.”

And that was how the reporter, called Williamson, came to the manor. He asked to meet Louisa, who was helping her Aunty in washing, and came to the parlour in her old dress and her thick plait half opened. But she looked so fresh and friendly and joyful that Mr Williamson thought there maybe was something in her. So he asked, if he could hear a story.

Louisa told a story. Her Aunty had just spoken about her great-grandmother, who used to help all the poor people in the area, and then got pneumonia from one of them and died, and now the girl repeated the story, but with the voice and airs that made Mr Williamson just stare.

“May I — may I write an article of you to the Notes?” he asked. “As I told you, we are planning a special number — a country maiden who’s got such a gift of telling would be just what we need!”

“Of course”, said Louisa, though she did not exactly know what was “an article”.

Next week the Notes came out, and there was a whole page filled with Louisa. The paper was read almost to rags at Five Cherry Trees, and Mrs Macaulay muttered that “now she must be coming and going with her nose up like some duchess!”

But Louisa did not do that, though, of course, she was glad about publicity — as far as she did not quite know what followed with it.

In a hot day all the children were lolling on the yard. Tom lay on his back, looking the few clouds that lazily staggered over the sky; Louisa wrote her diary to the hard-covered note-book; Ethel dressed her doll, and Myra was dreaming under a rose bush. Laura, who had not any work for the day, sat on the veranda, writing a letter to his husband, and Aunt Maggie just came from the ice cellar. Everything was quiet and peaceful, birds sang in the Wood and bees buzzled around the roses above Myra’s head.

Just into middle of that idyllic scene appeared a motor car.

It came with awful noise and smoke up the way, and it was Tom who noticed it first.

“Mr Ferguson — no, that isn’t his car. Who’s that?”

Laura lifted her eyes from the letter.

“I don’t know. Another motor car here in one summer! Angus won’t believe that when I tell him.”

The motor car arrived to the gate, and Ethel ran to open it. After that the car stopped in the middle of the silkiest grass, and a man and a woman came out of it.

“Is that Five Cherry Trees?” asked the man.

“Yes, sir”, said Tom.

“And where’s the little teller?”

“Who?” asked Myra, who had carefully crowled underneath the rose bush, because she did not want any beesticks.

“That little girl — what was her name — you remember, Addie”, said the man.

“Lizzie or Leonida or something”, said Addie.

“You mean Louisa?” said Tom. “That’s her.”

The woman called Addie turned to Louisa, kneeled before her, put her arms around her, kissed her face and gasped,

“Oh, dear, dear, little.. I read the article about you, and oh, I fell in love with you at once! You mustn’t stay here a day, dearie, your gifts will go to vain — you’ll become a writer, I know you will, and that’s why I’m here with my husband... I offer you a new home in Edinburgh, and I offer you all the possibilities to have a telling tour and become a celebrity!”

Louisa was so amazed that she could not say a word, but Laura could. She rushed down the steps.

“Excuse me, ma’am, I won’t rent my daughter. Would you introduce yourselves, please?”

The strange woman looked Laura from top to toe and sniffed.

“If you want. My name is Addie Anderson — that’s my husband Malcolm — and we got the Glennari Notes to Edinburgh and decided the teller-girl mustn’t waste anymore time in this godforsaken place. “

Now Louisa drew herself away.

“This not any godforsaken place”, she said and went to her mother, because this strange woman frightened her.

“Oh, dear, you don’t mean that! You know hundreds of stories, I read it in the paper, and when you come to the South with us and we introduce you to the right persons, you’ll be famous just like that! We’ll arrange a tour in the theatres, in the Lothian first and then maybe wider, and you tell your stories night after night, and I know the audience will fall in love with you and your Highland stories!” Mrs Anderson got up from her knees.

“I really don’t understand what you mean, madam”, said Aunt Maggie, who had taken ice to the kitchen and told Myra to go and put just-baked pie into it. Weird strangers or not, the pie was not worth wasting. ”Here you come, some unknown persons, and try to go away with the girl as if it was the most natural thing!”

“Well”, said Mrs Anderson, ”you know the girl has wonderful future, if…”

“…if she is torn from her home and shown in drafty theatres like a circus animal?” Aunt Maggie stood just before Mrs Anderson, and Laura felt suddenly safe. If anybody could arrange this mess, it was Maggie. “Do you really think we would be mad enough to let the girl go?”

“I think you think her best.”

“My best is here”, interrupted Louisa. “I don’t want to be famous. This is my home.”

“Oh, darling, so many children move from their homes.”

“Get out now”, snapped Aunt Maggie.

“Hear, you”, said now Mr Anderson, who had been quiet all the time. ”We came here because we wanted to give this little teller a chance to succeed. Are you really so selfish that you resist it?”

“Selfish! And what about your unselfishness? No doubt you are ready to give the girl the ticket money from her so-called tour!”

“Of course we should cover the expenses, but after that she would get her share…”

Suddenly Aunt Maggie, who had been standing between Louisa and Laura and the Andersons as a guardian angel, cried,

“Oh, Douglas, as a heaven’s gift!”

Douglas Ferguson had just stepped through the gate and now came to the crowd. He saw at once that something was wrong, and Aunt Maggie cleared the rest up.

“Well”,  said Douglas, “I think it really is best you to leave. You are right, anyone would pay for hearing Louisa’s stories, but the girl is twelve, goes to school, has all her family and friends here. There’s no reason to ruin her life with publicity because of your greed.”

“That’s none of your business”, sniffed Mrs Anderson. ”Who are you?”

Douglas bowed.

“Douglas Ferguson. You have probably heard of my company.”

“You are… the owner of ‘Ferguson Ltd’?” gasped Mr Anderson.

“That’s right.”

“I didn’t think there would be any civilized person here”,  muttered Mrs Anderson. “So pleased to meet you, Mr Ferguson! Well, maybe we leave now. But little darling, if you ever want to come South, contact us first!” She kissed Louisa’s forehead while her husband turned the motor car on. ”Good bye.”

“Good day”,  said Aunt Maggie icily. Laura was too upset to say anything, and Louisa took her handkerchief and wiped her forehead, as if there were a spot of dirt on it.

“All kind of fools are runnin’ free!” said Douglas Ferguson, when the motor car had banged and smoked away.

“Oh, they wouldn’t have left if you had not come”, sighed Laura. “Thank you!”

‘Would you have liked to go?” Douglas asked Louisa, when Aunt Maggie had hurried inside to make tea. ”I’ve heard of that Anderson couple — they’re rich and odd, but they really have nose for business.”

“No, for heaven’s sake! That woman was awful — ‘little darling’, as if I was a baby!”

“She had a fine dress”, said little Ethel wistfully. “But I hate her, because she wanted to take you away.”

“I won’t go away, ever”,  said Louisa. ”Or at least not until I get married.”

That night Douglas and Maggie walked together from the prayer-meeting and did not care about the curious glances of Lochdhu ladies.

“It was like a nightmare”,  said Maggie, who had been more shocked by the Andersons’ visit than she confessed to herself. ”As the one I used to see when Angus was first time overseas — I saw him in a foundering ship and could do nothing. Ugh!”

“The best thing in the nightmares is waking up. And I think that kind of happening won’t take place anymore. The Andersons are odd, as I said. But Louisa’s become famous, after all. And, really, she deserves it. The stories she has told me are marvellous. She says she learns them from you.”

“Aye, or from Laura. But we have not the gift of telling the way she does. She’s a good hand increasing details into those stories and narrating them so vividly it is like a real theatre piece with many actors. Now, here’s the gate. Thank you for seeing me.” Maggie gave her hand.

“Thanks for company — Maggie-o-mine. Haven’t you thought…”

“Good night!” Aunt Maggie opened the gate and was gone.

Douglas sighed while turning back to the village. Would she never agree? He had made up his mind — he would get engaged this summer. But it was hard to propose when Maggie did not let him speak!

tiistai 12. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Eleven: The Honeysticks

“Oh, please, Aunty!” begged Ethel, ”why don’t you gimme one?”

“Because it’s supper time soon. And, besides, eating sweets in the evening makes you fat.” Aunt Maggie put the meat into the oven. ”Now, get out of my way. Take the plates and do the table. Where are the others?”

“Louisa’s reading and Myra and Tom are playing on the garret. Please, Aunty!”

“Not a single honeystick tonight”, said Maggie very resolutely. ”I took them over from the shop only for special occasions, not for eating like bread and butter! If you won’t help me, it’s better to make yourself out of here. Hurry up!”

Ethel left sadly. She had felt like a honeystick so desperately that she could not resist the feeling. How cruel Aunty was! Her stomach cried for a sweet. With a sigh she went to the veranda and sat on the steps to wait for her mother. Laura had been the whole day at the backroom of the shop, because there was  the best sewing machine in village, and sometimes she could borrow it and make the seams very quickly. She would come soon, because it was supper time already.

The summer was turning to July. Evening was one of the Paradise-nights God sometimes lets us see; sky was pale blue, striped with white pieces of cloud, shy wind caressed Ethel’s curlies and slipped over the green, good-smelling grass, and the Wood whispered sweet, old secrets by itself. Ethel always felt it was a very wise wood; it knew something no human could ever know, something about the old times, the knights and maidens, love and hate, and the Morning of Life.

She gave a little joyful sigh instead. A honeystick or no honeystick, something in this evening made her very happy.

Laura was coming up the way. She walked very slowly; her back was aching after sitting the whole day by the machine, her fingers were full of needlesticks, and her eyes were very tired. But when Ethel came running through the gate with her pale brown hair flashing in the setting sun and a tender, childlish smile on her soft lips, mother felt no work in the world would make her exhausted as long as she had girls like that.

“Oh, Mommy, how I’ve been waiting! Come in, supper’s ready pretty soon, and before it I can get you a wet handkerchief if your head’s aching.” Ethel put her hand into mother’s. “I’ve tried to be good the all day. Tom made a wooden ship, and we all were looking when he put it into water. It was so fancy one, all the boys of village were looking at it, too, and Geordie was so proud because Tom’s his best friend. Isn’t it curious they’re such good chums nowadays, though they fought once! But Aunty says all friends fight sometimes, or if not, at last they quarrel. Is that true?”

“I guess it is, dear wee thing.” Laura caressed girl s hair. “I’m glad to hear you’ve had a nice day. And I heard something nice in the shop, too.”


“About you, dearie. Mrs Macguaire came in — she didn’t know I was in the backroom — and I heard her saying to Mrs Cameron, ‘That little Ethel of Five Cherry Trees is a wonderful one. I looked at her yesterday in the prayer-meeting, and there she sat, between Laura and Louisa, with clasped hands and serious eyes, like the little angels in the missionary books. And a bonnie one she is, too!’ That is what she said.”

Ethel blushed for delight.

“Oh, did she, Mommy? I’m so glad! I’ve often thought if I’m pretty — Louisa is, she’s got such a thick hair, and Myra,’cause there’s no prettier hair colour than auburn — but my hair is just highway-coloured and I’ve got no dimples at all. Oh, did she say, ‘a bonnie one’?”

“As true as I’m standing here”, mother assured solemnly. ”Hello, Maggie!”

“Come in, you two, supper’s at the table. Did you have a hard day, Laura? Ethel, stop bubbling and call for Louisa and Myra and Tom. And don’t forget to wash your hands!” Maggie put her hand on Laura’s armpit and walked in with her.

Next day little Amy MacGregor rushed over to Five Cherry Trees. There was a phone-call at the shop for Miss MacDonald!

Maggie hurried down to the village. It was one of her old classmates, who was married and lived in Glennari with her family. She now asked if Maggie could come for a visit and take some of her nieces along. Maggie promised to come, because Laura had a day off, and decided to have Louisa with her.

So they left with the carriage. The last glimpse of it had hardly disappeared behind the roadbend, when it was Kitty Brown’s turn to come up the way. Her mother needed her dress repaired, and because it was her best one, made of creamy silk, she did not dare to do the repairs herself but asked Laura. And because she needed the dress absolutely tomorrow, she asked Laura to come at once.

“You must be good here alone”, said Laura when she took her sewing basket. “Don’t touch the oven, there’s cold meat and tomatoes in the cupboard, you can eat them if you’re hungry. Tom, look after the girls. And here”, she took a little box from the uppest shelf in kitchen, “you may take one honeystick for each, because I must leave you though I promised to stay at home. Good bye!”

“Bye!” The children waved on the veranda till Laura could not see them anymore. Then Myra took a Sunday school paper she had got last Sunday for good knowledge in the Psalms and hopped over the yard to the Wood. A sweet and a Sunday school paper were the best mix!

“What shall we do?” asked Ethel.

“I dunno what you’re goin’ to do, but I’ll take my ship and go to the pond. Are you coming along?”

“I don’t think so.” Ethel knew the other boys were coming, too, and she was a little shy with them. “I’ll stay at home.”

“All right. But behave yourself, because I should take care of you!”

Ethel laughed. When Tom had disappeared, she made dishes, tidied her own room and the dollhouse father had made for her, and made some needlings. But she felt quite lonely. Of course, she could have gone down to the village to see Mommy and play with the Brown twins, but she did not feel like that anyway. So she stepped downstairs and went to the kitchen.

The box with the honeysticks was still on the table.

Ethel had already eaten her stick, but she did want more.

“Mommy didn’t say we mustn’t eat them”, she thought. ”Aunty forbad, but...” She took a stick and put its top to her mouth. What a taste! She sat by the table and ate the whole honeystick, then another, another... until the box was empty. She had eaten five sweet, sugary, thick honeystick in half an hour.

Ethel felt rather guilty. But maybe one reason for that was that her stomach was not quite itself. It mourned and made her feel sick.

She stood up, but the sick feeling got even worse.

“l must go to bed”, she thought. “If I can go to bed, I soon feel better.”

She staggered through the dining-room and the hall, almost crowled up the stairs, and, at last, had the divine feeling to lie down on her soft bed.

“Five honeysticks — oh! — cannot make me ill”, she thought.”I’ve eaten dozens of ‘em and no one ever made me — oh! — ill! Though”, she admitted”, I’ve never eaten five ones in that short time. Oh!”

It was a long, long afternoon for the little Ethel. When Tom came home at the dinner-time, he took some meat and tomatoes from the cupboard and ate them quickly — they were going to arrance a race with the other boys — and did not notice the empty box. But when Myra had read her paper and ran in, she missed Ethel.

“Maybe she’s in the village with the girls”, she thought then, put a piece of meat on a piece of bread and went to her room — though it was forbidden to take any food upstairs.

Behind Ethel’s door she suddenly heard her tired moan and opened the door.

“Good grief, Ettie, what you’ve done!”

Poor Ethel still lay on the bed at the position she had once fallen to. She had thrown up — the smell was awful and Myra did not feel hungry for a while.

“I — ate — all the honeysticks”, the guilty stammered.”If I’m goin’ to die — oooh! — I hope God will forgive me. I’m sure He will — ooooh — because I’ve been praying the whole afternoon, but — oooooh!”

“You’ve done what? Eaten the honeysticks? Well, isn’t that nice! And ruined the carpet, too. Now, get up and go to the bathroom. Didn’t you understand to go there in the first place!” Myra rolled the carpet and swinged it down the window to be washed. ”Hurry up!”

She was so much like Aunt Maggie that Ethel obeyed with pale face and tears in the eyes.

“You’re not goin’ to die”, Myra informed while helping her sister to get her dress off. ”But anybody gets sick of eating that many honeysticks. Ugh! Now, wash yourself, I’m going to try if I could make something of your clothes. And I’ll give you some castor oil, too.”

“No! Oh, no, dear Myra!”

“Castor oil is just what you need. Aunty always gives it to us when we have ache in stomach.” Myra went down and soon came back with a bottle. “This will make good to you. And keep you off sweets!”

It was a hard lesson to learn. But when Tom, Laura, Maggie, and Louisa all came back in turn, Ethel was almost well, and with tears she swore she would never, ever eat any honeysticks, or at least not in a couple of weeks. And she did not.

“Well, there’s a bit of nurse in you”, Aunt Maggie told Myra that night. ”I couldn’t have done it better, if you ask me!”

maanantai 11. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Ten: The Gossips

“Well, young man, have you had driving enough?”

“Yes, sir”, said Tom.”I tried to be careful — Laura told me not to touch anything.”

Douglas Ferguson laughed.

“It doesn’t get broken that easily. Now, come into the kitchen, so we can have tea. Your Aunty is going to drag Louisa to the table, too.”

Tom laughed, too. When he remembered Louisa s happy face he understood the words.

Douglas had invited Louisa over to arrange his library with him, and told her to ask her Aunty along, too. And then Tom, attracted by the motor car, wanted to follow them. Louisa had been putting the books in order the whole afternoon, Aunt Maggie had arranged the kitchen, though Mr Ferguson had had cleaners before he moved in, and Tom had sat in the motor car imagining himself to drive around the world.

Now they all sat around the table. Aunt Maggie had made tea, and Douglas had taken crackers, white bread, and jelly from the kitchen cupboard.

“You should have a housekeeper”, told Aunt Maggie. ”A bachelor living alone is always starving.”

“I’m not starving, though l’d like to have a — housekeeper”, said Douglas, meaning.

“Nonsense”, muttered Aunt Maggie and glanced at Louisa, who tried not to smiled behind her piece of bread. “Tom, I hope the motor car isn’t broken.”

“Of course it isn’t”, said Tom. “May I have another cracker?”

“As many as you wish. Have you already eaten, Louisa?”

“Oh yes, thank you. May I excuse?”

“Go on”, said Aunt Maggie. “She’s so fond of books, read all at Five Cherry Trees. New books are for her like fresh air...”

“…for me”, continued Douglas and smiled. “That’s a good hobby. The girl is welcome any time to read here.”

“You are so kind to her. Well, Tom, your tummy’s full?”

“Aye”, said Tom, who was happily forgetting more and more of his carefully taught King’s English, the longer he stayed in Lochdhu. “May I go and look at your pictures?”

“Of course”, said Douglas, and Tom went to see his collection of drawings of ships and trains.”He’s a fine boy. Yesterday I saw him chastising a lad who had teased a kitten.”

“You should have seen him a couple of weeks ago”, said Aunt Maggie. ”He was as white and weak and slender as a little girl. And now just look that tanned face!”

“Well”, said Douglas, “who wouldn’t flourish in your care, Maggie-o-mine.”

“Oh, don’t be stupid”, snapped Aunt Maggie. “More tea?”

Next day the church’s sewing circle came to Five Cherry Trees.

“I think I stay upstairs”, said Ethel.”If you once go to the parlour they never let you leave. ‘Oh, dear, you must sing to us!’ or ‘Darling, show me what a pretty thing you are sewing’. It’s best to stay away altogether.”

“Me, too”, said Myra.”I don’t want to be laughed at. They remember far too well my walk in Mommy’s petticoat.”

“Luckily Geordie asked me over”, Tom gave a sigh of relief. ”We’re going to play the new game his aunt gave to him. Shall you come along, Louisa? Geordie asked if you came.”

“No, I have to help Aunty in the kitchen.” Louisa gave a sigh, too, but of despair. ”You know how those madams eat and talk and sew and eat again. Aunty’s made hundreds of sandwiches, but I’m afraid they’re just a snack for them. And I must serve tea, too. You lucky ducks!”

Of course the others were sorry for Louisa, but still they were quite reliefed when “the madams” arrived and patted and caressed and smoothed Louisa and cried ”How nice!” to everything, because one must be polite.

“Take this teapot to the parlour”, told Aunt Maggie and gave it to Louisa in the kitchen. ”And for heaven’s sake don’t let a drop on the ladies!”

Louisa was as careful as possible and did not let a drop on anybody. But she had still time to hear many gossips.

“Well, it’s summertime and romance-time”, said Mrs MacGregor, meaning, as to start the conversation. “I heard Audrey Johnson shall get engaged — to Neil Anderson.”

“For heaven’s sake, I thought she can’t bear him!” cried Mrs Kerr. “Well well, who never understands young people! Last Easter Audrey told me she doesn’t ever speak to Neil after the episode in the old cottage — you know.”

Louisa was about to ask what was “the episode in the old cottage”, but ladies’ glances told her it was best not to ask.

“And romances right here in Five Cherry Trees, too”, Mrs Macaulay said. ”Or how is it, Laura? Douglas Ferguson is back.”

“I cannot prevent that”, Laura said calmly.

“He’s seen plenty often with Maggie”, continued Mrs Welsh. ”And yesterday she was in the old Ferguson place.”

“What!” cried the ladies.

“Louisa was asked to help him with the books, and Tom and Maggie made company to her”, Laura said, but not as calmly as before.

“Of course.” Mrs Welsh smiled a little. “Still, I didn’t think a woman in Maggie’s age would be so fond of a man. Old salt and so on.”

“Douglas was her beau twenty years ago”, said Mrs Cunningham. “Is there anything bad if they are still good friends? I think it is very sweet.”

Louisa could have hugged Cunningham.

Very good friends, you’d like to say? Nonsense, I smell there’s something else.” Mrs Welsh nodded resolutely.

“You really should smell it with that nose”, said Mrs Macguaire and laughed. “Stop that nonsense now. It’s Maggie’s business, not ours.”

“I really should give her a piece of good advice”, said Mrs Macaulay. ”A city man like Douglas Ferguson would never care of any country oldmaid. He’s just wanting some fun for his holiday, that’s what. And the children are just a good excuse to run about the Ferguson place. God knows what will come of this! In old times women were well-behaving, but if a woman in her forties begins to chase men, I must say…”

“Aunty’s not chasing anybody!” cried Louisa.

“My!” Mrs Macaulay stared at her. ”Well well, young lady, maybe you know it best.”

“I bet she knows.” Aunt Maggie stood on the treshold. ”If you have nothing else to speak about but my visits in my old chum’s home, I’m afraid you’re really getting old.”

“We are quite sensitive, ain’t we? There’s no reason to get so furious.”

“I’m not furious.” Aunt Maggie stepped in. “But you are childlish, just like school girls bubbling and giggling about ‘beaux’ and that kind of stuff. In your place l’d be ashamed!”

“That’s right”, said Mrs Cunningham. “I’m glad parson’s wife’s not here. In that case we’d have a real sermon next Sunday. The eight commandment, my dear ladies. Sit down now, Maggie, and take your needlework. I bet those gossipers won’t disturb you anymore.”

The ladies sat in amazement, till Mrs Macguaire burst into laughter.

“Oh, what fools we were! Forgive me, Maggie, if you ever can. In your place l’d kiss Douglas Ferguson right to his mouth before the shop house, that’s what l’d do!”

“But, Diana!” gasped Mrs Welsh.

“That would be the very right thing for you.” Diana Macguaire continued her needling.

Louisa had disappeared with her teapot. What an awful, awful mess!

Next day in the old Ferguson place she sat on the ladders of the library room, with couple of novels on her arms, in so deep thoughts that she did not even notice Douglas entering the room.

“Day-dreaming, aren’t you?” Douglas smiled. ”You’ve been quiet today.”

“I’ve got much to think of.”

“Can I help you?”

“I don’t know.” Louisa put Waverley into the shelf. “May I ask you something?”

“Anything, dearie.”

“Are you — are you — are you meeting my Aunty in serious inventions?”

Douglas stared at her.

“Excuse me?”

“Those old ducks are bubbling and giggling” — Louisa felt this saying of her Aunty very describing — “about your ‘romance’ with my Aunty. Please, could you tell me is it true?”

Mr Ferguson thought for a while.

“I guess you mean the respectable ladies of Lochdhu with that ‘old ducks’?”

“They’re not a bit respectable!”

“Quiet, lassie, after all they are. Well, a straight question deserves a straight answer. You are old enough to understand. I like your Aunty much, very, very much. Indeed I could say I love her.”

Louisa had an enormous breath.

“I guess it was she who drew me back to Lochdhu. We used to be lovers long time ago, and I proposed to her.”

“I know. Aunty told me.”

“I’m glad of it. So you can see why I came here for the summer. Usually I’ve gone to the seashore — or to England — or Paris — or Berlin. But now, I just felt how she was calling me. I found her old photograph when I planned my holiday, and the old love — well, you know what happens when dry paper meets fire. So I’m here, and gossips are rolling, and if your Aunty has any sense in her bonnie head, she won’t even speak to me from here on, because I’ve ruined her reputation.” Douglas gave an embarrassed laugh.

Louisa sat quietly for a while. Then she put the books to the ladders and climbed down.

“Aunt Maggie is the best Aunty in the whole world”, she swore. ”And I like you, after all. But Aunty doesn’t want to live in Glasgow.”

“I know it, dearie, I do know it. Now, we shall speak about something else before I drown in my old romantic memories. Let’s see — you’ve put all the S books in order.”

Louisa began to speak about the books, too. But on her way home she thought hardy about this old romance.

“I think it would be very beautiful to have a beau who would miss me after twenty years”, she then sighed by herself.

sunnuntai 10. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Nine: The Petticoat

The garret was the next best place of the children of Five Cherry Trees after the orchard. It was a large, low room, full of chests and trunks, wooden boxes and cupboards with old clothes, toys, books, and portraits of their “family ghosts”. Old arms Angus MacDonald had wisely shut into a locked chest under the gable window and told the children never touch them, but they could play with all the other things.

In a sunny afternoon Myra was sitting on the gable chest and looking over the Wood and moors. Ethel had toothache and Louisa was amusing her with some stories, but Myra did not feel like story now. Instead, she felt like lady. But there was nobody to play a lady with — Annie Welsh had went over to Glennari, Tom was fishing at the pond with Geordie, mother and Aunt Maggie made bread. Myra sighed. She felt very lonely.

“Well, maybe I can play by myself”, she then thought and slipped down the chest. “I can wear the most beautiful clothes now and imagine I’m a queen.”

She went to an old cupboard, owned by her great-grandmother hundred years ago, opened the door and had a long breath of the dusty, thrilling smell of the old clothes.

“What shall I wear — this green silk dress? No, I had it last time when we played theatre. What about that?” She took a cream-coloured blouse and wine-red skirt. “No, that’s far too long for me. Oh, what’s that?” The girl suddenly bowed to catch something on the floor of the cupboard. “Oh! Oh! Oh!” she gasped.

The cloth was an old silk petticoat, the one Laura MacDonald had worn on her own wedding day, under the silk dress which was called “the prettiest one ever seen this village”. Myra did not know that, but she took the petticoat and looked it with airs of enjoyment. The white silk had yellowed a little, but three rows of lace and two blue ribbons in the hem were as fancy as fifteen years ago. Myra hopped into the petticoat. It was till her armpit, but clashed and shone so that she did not care about that.

“What a dress for a queen! she thought and rushed to get some blouse. The cream-coloured would not do — no, but here was and old curtain, as white and thin as a veil. She wrapped it loosely around her body and stepped before an old, tall looking-glass to look her reflection. “Oh, if I ever become rich I’ll get a dress just like that!” She turned around again and again. “I know. I’ll go for a walk — if I take my straw hat nobody knows me, but wonders who is that fine lady!”

She ran down the stairs holding the hems of the petticoat, caught her beloved hat and put it on her head.

“If I only could have a chignon — and maybe I can. I know Louisa has some pins Mommy gave her for school play last spring. Louisa’s in Ethel’s room, but I’m sure she won’t mind if I borrow them.”

After a quarter an hour Myra was standing before Louisa’s little mirror. She had tighened her beautiful auburn hair to the top of her head and now put the hat on that chignon.

“What a pretty one I am!” she thought. “Now I’ll go.”

She went out and walked through the yard. If Laura or Aunt Maggie had glimpsed out the kitchen window they had surely stopped her, but both of them were too busy in baking, and Myra could go down the way with her nose up, holding her hems.

“For heaven’s sake, Myra MacDonald! Have you got out of your mind? Does your mother really let you go out in that kind of a costume?”

It was Mrs Macaulay. Myra stopped, courtseyed and said, imitating English way of speaking she had once heard in a play in Glennari,

“My dear woman, I must admit I have never been called some ‘Myra’. I am lady Jane-Marie de la Barrie.”

“Lady Ludicrous, I say! And don’t you be unpolite to me. ‘My dear woman’, indeed!” Mrs Macaulay hurried forwards and had a delicious tale to tell the people she met.

But “lady Jane-Marie” began to feel that maybe her little walk was not so good idea after all. She remembered what mother had told them after the Robin Hood scandal.

“But I’m not going to visit any house, so nobody can say I’m going to steal”, she said stricly to her coinscidence. “Now, there’s Kerr’s place. I hope Mrs Kerr won’t see me, she’s such an ‘oh-my-dear-what’s-going-on’.”

Mrs Kerr did not see Myra, and she continued her way, when some little girls came along the lane.

“Myra MacDonald, is that you?” cried Esther MacGregor. “My, you’re fancy. Where’s that skirt from?”

“I found it”, Myra admitted and did not try to play any lady anymore. “Do you think it’s fancy?”

“It really is”, said Rosie Brown. “Did your mother let you come out in it? If I had one, I’d stay inside and wouldn’t dare even move.”

“Of course she let me come out”, Myra said, thinking that nobody had not tried to prevent her, so this was not exactly lieing.

“We are going to play in the Wood”, told Kitty Brown, Rosie’s twin sister. “Shall you come along?”

“Sure. I had nobody to play with at home, that’s why I came out.”

The girls ran through the village. Myra had some troubles with her skirt, but she tried hardy to follow her friends and did not even see wondering glances the people they passed gave her.

It was a wonderful afternoon. The girls played hide and seek, made a little house of grass and branches, and climbed to the trees.

“Shouldn’t you get your fine things off?” asked Esther. “I mean, your Mommy’s angry if you tear that dress.”

“Oh, it doesn’t matter”, Myra said proudly. “I don’t let it bother me.” She took her hems on another hand and put another on the lowest branch.

By the middle of the old birch her straw hat dropped d0wn.

“Do you have a chignon?” cried Kitty from another birch.

“Sure.” Myra was gasping for climbing — the curtain on her shoulders did bother her. “Open hair wouldn’t suit with that kind of a dress.”

“Be careful”, urged Rosie down on the ground. She had hurt her foot couple of days before, so she did not climb. “Please, Myra — your dress has stuck in something!”

It had really been stuck. Myra bowed to tear it off a branch, and her wide hems flowed down to her feet. She tried to catch them, but could not hold herself up anymore — with a awful cry she dropped down as a ripe apple.

“Myra!” cried Rosie. “Oh, Myra!”

Esther and Kitty got down faster they ever had. Myra sat on the ground and shook her head.

“I am all right, I guess”, she muttered. “But oh — oh!”

She had dropped just on her hat, and besides the branches had torn her fancy petticoat into two pieces.

“What your Mommy will say!” whispered Kitty.

“I — think it’s — best to go home.” Myra stood up and took her spoiled hat. It was the worst thing and almost made her cry. But she would not cry before the girls, never.

Aunt Maggie was sitting on veranda and knitting a stocking when Myra came. All the bread was made and cooling on kitchen table, and Laura had went upstairs to see Ethel. When the little rugged feature opened the gate, Aunt Maggie put her knitting on her arms.

“Well, well, lady de la Barrie”, she said.

Myra stopped and stared.

“Come hear, your wicked, stupid girl.” Aunty’s voice was angry. “Mrs Macaulay was over — and heaven only knows where else she’d been after that! Besides Mrs Welsh dropped in and told me that you had rushed through the whole Lochdhu with those ridiculous things — good grief, lass, come here! What have you made to yourself?”

“I dropped down from a tree”, Myra whispered.

“Really — and tore your Mommy’s petticoat, I see! Where did you find it?”

“In great-grandmother’s cupboard on the garret.” Myra began to cry. “Oh, Aunty, don’t be angry to me!”

“l’d like to spank you. Well, a nice piece of rubbish you’ve made of that, if you ask me! This was a pride of your Mommy, hear me?”

“It was in the cupboard!”

“Surely it was, and maybe she thought you would have some fun of it, but for heaven’s sake, she didn’t mean you to show it to the whole world and ruin it!”

“Lochdhu isn’t the whole world!”

“Don’t you be nosy to me, young lady. Take off these things — a curtain! What next, I wonder. What happened to your hat?”

“I dropped on it.”

Aunt Maggie stared her niece, then she gave a sarcastic sigh.

“Well, at last we got rid of that one. Stop crying now, I’m not really angry, just ashamed of you. And how could you speak Mrs Macaulay that way? You have been told to respect your elders.”

“She spoke me first, and not so friendly!” Myra sobbed.

At that moment Laura came to the veranda. “

“Well, lassie-o-mine, I’ve heard some tales of you. According to that l’d best to tie your up for the rest of the holiday.”

“Mommy, I’m so sorry!”

“Calm down now.” Laura helped Myra to step out of the petticoat and curtain. “I need some silk to repair Ethel’s best collar, so I can take it here. And those laces can be used, too. Calm down, lassie!”

Myra did slowly calm dom. Mother told her to take the pins off her head and then go to Ethel, so Louisa could have a little rest.

“I’m sorry I didn’t see you in the petticoat”, muttered Ethel, when Myra sat on the edge of her bed. “You should have come and shown yourself to us.”

“Please, don’t speak of it anymore”, asked Myra. “Aunt Maggie said she’s ashamed of me, and that’s the worst. I didn’t think there was any harm in going to the village with those clothes!”

“You never can guess what’s harm in the adults’ view”, little Ethel said solemnly. Her toothache had almost gone, but she was still a little melancholic. “I can tell you a story now. Louisa told it to me.”

“If speaking doesn’t make you feel worse.”

“Oh no, I’m quite all right. It’s a story of the very first MacDonald and King Kenneth.”

And Ethel told the story, till Myra felt it a little easier to stand her adventure. But the straw hat was ruined, nothing could repair it, and in all silence Aunt Maggie put it into oven when she lighted the fire for the dinner.

“I’ve heard every cloud has silver lining”, she told Louisa, when the girl came in to help with cooking and asked what she was burning.