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!”

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