lauantai 9. tammikuuta 2016
Chapter Eight: Romance of Aunt Maggie
“My heart’s in the Highland, wherever I go”, quoted Louisa while stepping up the way from Lochdhu. She had been in the mansion; the wife of the parson, a middle-aged, childless woman, used to ask Sunday school pupils for a dinner one at time, and now it had been Louisa’s turn.
They had had a marvellous time. The meal had been delicious, and after that the parson himself went to his workroom and Mrs Reed asked Louisa to the parlour. There she had showed her some old dguerrotypias about her childhood family, and those serious-faced girls and boys and women with old-fashioned wide dresses and gentlemen with wide beards had amused Louisa a lot. She was also allowed to borrow some Sunday school magazines, for Mrs Reed knew her reputation as a reader and a teller; those treasures were now in her little basket, in which she had taken over a piece of Aunt Maggie’s nut cake. Laura had said it was unpolite to visit the mansion without anything to give.
“Oh, what a day!” sighed Louisa, because she had a ridiculous way to speak aloud by herself, if there was no company for discussion. “And what an evening it will be — I go to the orchard under the cherry trees and read all those magazines over. I must read them very carefully so I can tell the stories to the others. Oh”, she stopped at the gate of Five Cherry Trees, “a motor car!”
Indeed, a real motor car, a black, gleaming, fancy one was before the front door. Nobody in Lochdhu had a motor car; Louisa had seen one only in Glennari when the doctor of the town had once passed her, when she was shopping with Mommy.
The girl shut the gate behind her. Who an earth it was? Well, luckily she wore her best summer muslin dress and a new apron with frills — a guest with a motor car could not be met in any clothes. She walked slowly through the yard though would have liked to rush inside, but now it was important to behave.
The parlour door was closed, but Laura sat in the dining-room and sewed a new dress for little Amy MacGregor.
“Who is it, Mommy?” gasped Louisa.
“Had you nice time in the mansion, dear? I see you have Sunday school magazines. Be careful with them, Mrs Reed doesn’t want any dirty fingerprints on the pages”, said Laura friendly.
“Sorry, dear. It’s an old friend of your Aunt Maggie.”
“With a motor car?”
“He’s a business man in Glasgow nowadays.”
“He? Is he — was he a beau of Aunty?”
“Now, this one is ready. I left some material in the seams, Amy’s getting fatter and fatter all the time. I think it’s tea-time soon.” Laura stood up and went to kitchen, and Louisa was left unanswered.
Of course she had been told not to listen behind the doors. But what can you do, when your mother does not answer your important question? Louisa put her basket on the table and kneeled behind the parlour door.
“Nonsense, Douglas”, she heard her Aunty say.”We are not children anymore.
”There was a time when I thought it wasn’t quite childlish”, said an unknown male voice. Louisa liked the voice at once; it was deep, tender, soft.”Weren’t we good chums that days?”
“Oh, yes! And good chums still, but nothing more.”
“As cold as twenty years ago.” The man stood up, because Louisa heard a voice of a chair. ”Well, I won’t hurry. Anyway, I’ll spend summer in the village, so I guess we’ll meet pretty often. I’ve rented my old home farm — without fields, of course.”
“I’m glad you’re back, Douglas”, said Aunt Maggie. ”And of course you’d like a cup of tea?”
“Maybe so, Maggie-o-mine.”
Louisa stood up and danced through the hall. Maggie-o-mine! Of course! This Douglas was a beau of Aunty — and now he had come back — and they would get married! Suddenly she stopped. Marriage would mean — oh, no — Aunty would leave them, she would move away to Glasgow town with her husband! Wasn’t that awful? Louisa sat on the stairs in despair.
Aunt Maggie opened the door and came to the hall followed by a tall, blond man in his fourties. He had a fancy suit and he looked friendly but firm.
”Hello, Louisa”, said Aunt Maggie. Her cheeks were redder than usual. “This is eldest of the daughters of Angus and Laura. Come to greet Mr Ferguson, darling.”
Louisa stood up, hold out her hand and courtseyed, but did not look to Mr Ferguson. He was an awful, ugly man, because he was taking her Aunty away!
”Louisa? That’s a pretty name. And pretty one you are, too. Did you know that?” Douglas Ferguson bowed and smiled to the girl, who drew herself back. She really would not be won with flatterings!
“Mommy needs me in the kitchen”, she muttered and ran away.
“Well, not a very companious one”, laughed Ferguson. Aunt Maggie knitted her brows — that was not like Louisa.
Douglas Ferguson had tea with the family. Tom could hardly drink, because he would have liked to fly to the motor car. Myra and Ethel were satisfied, because mother had taken the better jelly to table. Only Louisa sat with a shadow on her face. She was praying God that Douglas Ferguson would disappear like people in her fairytale book. But God did not like to make him disappear. Instead, Ferguson joked and laughed with Laura and Aunt Maggie.
After the tea he left and asked the children for a drive. Tom, Myra, and Ethel sat in the motor car with shining eyes, but Louisa said she had a headache and would prefer going to bed.
After a while the door of Louisa’s room was opened and Aunt Maggie stepped in.
”What’s the matter?’she asked and sat by Louisa, who lolled on her bed and tried to read a book.”You don’t look like having a headache, lass.”
Louisa did not say anything.
“Now, dear, what is it? Didn’t you like Mr Ferguson?”
“I hate him!”
Aunt Maggie winked her eyes few times after that burst.
“And for what reason?” she then asked.
”He — he will take you away!”
“Young lady, I will never be taken away without my own will! Tho put that like stuff in your pretty head?”
“I heard you talking”, Louisa sobbed and let the tears roll down her cheeks. “I know he proposed to you and you said you were just chums, and then he said he will live the whole summer in Lochdhu. I know you will agree some day, and then you’ll move to Glasgow with him and we lose you foreve-e-e-er!” She buried her face to the pillows and wept so that whole her slender body shivered.
Aunt Maggie sat quietly and caressed her hair.
“I should be flattered”, she then said with a gentle voice.”I mean, if you really like me that way.”
“I love you best after Mommy and Daddy, as much as Myra and Ethel!”
”Well, dearie, you mustn’t cry so. Stop it now, so I’ll tell you a story instead.”
Louisa lifted her wet, red face.
“A story?” she said with a little briskier voice.
“Yes, a romantic story. Now, sit here just by me. Once upon a time, exactly twenty years ago, right here, in Five Cherry Trees, lived a very romantic young girl called Margaret.”
”Yes, me. She had a younger brother called Angus, who was a real rascal, so Margaret never paid any attention to lads — all of them were just trouble, she thought. But when she turned eighteen, she suddenly noticed there was a very nice boy in the village. He was called Douglas.”
“Don’t interrupt me, darling. Yes, it was Douglas Ferguson, son of the shop-keeper — you never knew old Gordon Ferguson. Well, Margaret used to do the shoppings for the family, and very often it was Douglas who stood behind the counter, when she went to the shop,. And these two became very good friends. They used to walk together from the church and the prayer-meetings, and in the weddings of the village youth they always danced together, so everybody was sure they would get married.”
”But they didn’t.”
”No, they didn’t. Margaret was sure Douglas would propose to her, and so he did. It was a very attracting moment; he proposed to her in the old orchard, just under those five cherry trees, and promised to make her happy, if she only agreed to become his wife.” Aunt Maggie quietened for a while, as to look back to that sunny summer day twenty years ago, and Louisa did not dare to speak.
Then Aunty continued again.
”Margaret was about to agree, because she liked Douglas so very much. But then he said he would take her to Glasgow — he was going to set up a shop there, and was sure to become a rich man. And that was it. Margaret didn’t want to go to the town. ‘No’, she said. ‘If you marry me, you must stay right here in Lochdhu — the only place in the world I could live — and set up a farm instead of a shop.’ But Douglas got angry, because there was not a drop of farmer-blood in him, and said Margaret should be grateful of having a chance to became a fine lady. Margaret said she would never be grateful of that, and that there was no use to ask her anymore. She would stay a friend of him, nothing more. So Douglas Ferguson left, and became rich, and Margaret stayed in Lochdhu and never got married, but took care of her silly little nieces.”
“So you won’t go to Glasgow?”Louisa asked slowly.
“Never. I was there once, as a young girl before I even knew Douglas — and hardly could breath in that smoke and noise. Douglas has come back just for a summer holiday, and I’m happy to meet him after all these years, but nothing more. Are you still worried?”
”No, Aunty — I’m just glad you’ve got your old friend here for summer. Oh, I’m so sorry I was so cranky to him!”
Aunt Maggie rose.
“That’s a good girl. I’m sure you’ll see him many times, so you can apologise.”
That evening, when Douglas Ferguson came from a walk through the old places he had so often remembered in his fine, cold, unfriendly Glasgow house, he found a little girl on the steps of his old home. The girl rose and courtseyed, and Mr Ferguson noticed it was Louisa from Five Cherry Trees.
”Good evening, Miss MacDonald”, he said.
Louisa blushed. Nobody had ever called her Miss MacDonald before.
“I — came — to — apologise”, she stammered. It is hard to apologise when the other is so kind. ”I — was — mean — to — you — today.”
“Oh, I just thought you were shy. So why you were mean? Did I do something wrong?” Douglas sat on the steps.
“I thought… I thought...” The colour on her cheeks got darker. ”Please, don’t ask me to tell the reason, it’s so stupid and, besides, it’s really a secret of Aunty and me.”
“A gentleman never urges ladies’ secrets. So, Louisa MacDonald, I guess we are friends now, ain’t we?”
“Sure. I — took some flowers to you. I asked Mommy how a gentleman must be apologised, and she said flowers are good in every situation, though it isn’t usually the lady who gives the flowers. I picked these up from the Wood and the orchard — under the cherry trees.”
Douglas started a little when Louisa hold out a fine bucket of forget-me-nots, bluebells, and wild roses. Did this wise child with so thick hair know something? In any case, she was a nice one.
“Thank you, dearie — I hope I can call you that way? I’ve often missed flowers of my homestead. Now, would you like to have some sweets? You can take them to your sisters and brother, too.”
“Tom’s not really my brother”, told Louisa and followed Douglas to the old house, which had been shut for so long time. ”He’s a son of my Mommy’s friend. But we play he is our brother.”
”A nice play, I think. Here, some peppermint and honeysticks. And now, you have to rush back home before your mother gets worried. But you must come back soon.”
”I’ll come.” Louisa was going through the living-room, when she saw an opened wood-box. ”Oh, Mr Ferguson — are those your books?”
”All of them? Oh!” Louisa stared them with shining eyes.
“You like books? In that case you must come and help me with putting them in order in the library. And then you can come over to read any time you wish.”
Louisa gasped. This was heaven for her.
“I — think — you — can call me — ‘dearie’”, she murmured, blushed and ran away.