sunnuntai 3. tammikuuta 2016
Chapter Two: Tom and the Tragedy
“It isn’t so nice to have all your world turned upside down in a wink”, said Louisa that night, when she was in the kitchen washing potatoes for the supper. “What do you know about him, Aunty?”
“Nothing”, murmured Aunt Maggie while setting fire on the oven. “He’s son of your mother’s childhood friend.”
“Mommy told me he’s been ill.”
“Aye, he’s had a bad cold. And Cristen Callanger wrote he’s a weak fellow — grown up in London and so on. I can never understand women who marry Englishmen.”
“I thing it’d be very exciting to live in London. Well, it may be fine to have a ‘brother’ for a while.”
“For a while!” Aunt Maggie stood up and took the plates from the cupboard. ‘myra! Come here, lassie, and make the table! Yes, for a while, but Thomas Callanger will stay here the whole summer. And I bet he cannot even work, if you ask me!”
It was very serious when Aunt Maggie said, “I bet”. Louisa stopped washing the potatoes and thought.
“Is he rich?” he then asked.
“I don’t know exactly. Take these plates, Myra. But his mother wrote something like ‘I know you have troubles with money’, so I think they’re going to pay for him. And so there’s even more reason to believe he can’t even make his bed!”
“How old is he?” asked Myra while putting the plates on the kitchen table. In everyday life the MacDonalds never ate in the dining-room.
“Thirteen, as far as I know. Tomorrow! Why, in heaven’s name, couldn’t Cristen Callanger write a week before!” Aunt Maggie splashed the potatoes into the pot. “Now Laura must run her feet off when doing the room! Those women who marry Englishmen never think.”
“Wow, if he’s thirteen I guess Geordie Kerr will be jealous!” said Myra. “Of course this Tomas will be your beau, Louisa!”
“Shut up”, cried Louisa. “I don’t want any beau, I hate lads!”
“It’s not suitable for young girls to speak that way”, said Aunt Maggie. “Where’s Ethel?”
“Helping Mommy with the room. Why he has to come just now? The holiday has just begun, and now the whole summer will be spoiled.” Myra sighed. “I promised Annie Weilson I’d make a play house with her, but now I must serve the guest all the time, I think!”
“Stop moaning now. If you have nothing to do, you can go and clean your flower beds. I passed them in the morning and saw not much flowers, if you ask me. Hurry up!”
The sisters looked at each other and, because there was not much choice, walked through the house to the little garden. Once it had been a great park with sandy paths and a summer house, but the village people had rented the lands and only some stones were left from the summer house. And the Orchard behind the Wood, of course.
By those stones were the flower beds. Louisa and Myra looked at them and sighed. None of them liked gardening — Louisa preferred dreams and romantic walks, Myra playing with her dolls. Only Ethel’s bed was fine, because she enjoyed this kind of little work.
“Well, I guess we have to do it”, Louisa said. “I really don’t want that fine London boy to come and think we Scots are untidy. Especially we MacDonalds.”
This idea gave strength to Myra, too, and they both kneeled by the poor flowers which hardly lived anymore.
Next morning all the family was at the Glennari station. There was no railway station at the village of Lochdu, so they had to come over with the carriage.
“When the train’s coming?” asked Myra for fourth time. “It can’t be late that much!”
“It isn’t late a bit”, snapped Aunt Maggie. ‘my, you’re enthusiastic — yesterday I heard a little girl tell the boy would spoil her whole summer!”
“Don’t be mean, Aunty. I’d be happy for his visit if he’d leave after a week ar two, and now I’m trying to think he will leave. Why he’s coming just here, Mommy?”
“Because he needs fresh country air and his mother was my best friend. Stop hopping that way, Myra o’mine. It doesn’t suit when you have that hat on.” Mother smiled. Myra had wanted to wear her large straw hat with three silk rosettes and some paper flowers. It was a ridiculous thing, made for a play where Myra had acted a fine lady, and she had lost her heart for it. Once Aunt Maggie had tried to burn it in silence, but Myra had arrived in the kitchen just in the nick of the time, and did not speak to her Aunt a week since. Now she was holding her head up like with a crown, though the other people on the station smiled.
“I’m happy he’s coming”, said little Ethel. “Aren’t you, Louisa, after all? Maybe he’d like to hear your stories. When one’s ill one likes just to lie down and listen stories.”
“Maybe that”, agreed Louisa. “Now, the train’s coming, I can see the smoke!”
The train came slowly forwards and then stopped with a whistle. Aunt Maggie took Myra’s hand, because she was afraid the girl would get lost in the buzzle of people, but Myra had her feelings hurt and tore her hand off.
“As if I was a baby!” she hissed by herself.
Quite a many people came off the train in Glennari. The last to come was a tall, slender boy in a coffee-coloured suit and a hat. He was very pale, and the short, black hair made his face even more colourless.
“Thomas Callanger?” Mrs MacDonald stepped to him. “Welcome!”
“Thank you. I’m — I’m glad you came for me.” The boy blushed when Mrs MacDonald kissed him.
“Of course we did. I’m Margaret MacDonald, Laura’s sister-in-law.” Aunt Maggie pushed Ethel forwards.
“These are the girls, Ethel, Myra, and… Louisa, come here at once! You mustn’t speak with unknown people — especially not with men!”
“What’s wrong with men?” Louisa said while coming from the station master, who was an old and funny man and knew many stories.
“This is Louisa”, said Laura. “Now, we must look after you luggage. Maggie, can you take the children to the carriage?”
Thomas seemed to be shy. Louisa looked at him while they went through the station building to the yard where their horse, Donna, was eating fresh green grass before the carriage. Once it had been a fine carriage, with which Angus MacDonald had taken his young wife to Five Cherry Trees, but now the paintings had gone, and though neat, it was a bit shabby. But Thomas did not say anything about it.
When all his luggage had been packed behind the carriage, Aunt Maggie took the reins and Laura climbed to sit on her side. The children sat between them and the luggage. They did not have much room, and Myra’s hat took a quarter of it.
“Please take that awful thing off”, begged Louisa. ‘the wind will take it anyway, or the needles on the paper flowers stick our eyes.”
“I won’t. All the fine ladies have a hat during a drive. Mommy has, too.”
“It’s a small one.” Louisa glanced carefully at Thomas. He smiled a little — maybe he would have liked to laugh at the country girls!
“Stop quarrelling, girls”, said Aunt Maggie.
There was a complete silence in the carriage for a while. Thomas watched around him — they drove along a narrow road, and where ever he looked, he could see only mountains or heather-covered moors. But the sky was bright, and at last they drove to a lime wood where the sun peeped through the gleaming leaves, and air was cool and refredshing. He had a long breath. Maybe mother was right after all — maybe he could get beter here. But three girls, that really was more than a fellow could bear.
Though nice they looked. The smallest watched him and smiled so shyly and joyfully he had to smile back. The one with that ludicrous head thing held her nose up as if she had been coming from Buckingham Palace, but sometimes, when a carriage wheel hit a stone, she had to grabble her hat in the middle of its way to the dusty road. And the eldest was pretty, yes, indeed. Tom had always liked girls with thick plait, maybe because his nanny had one.
“That’s Lochdu”, said Ethel and blushed. “there’s not a long way left.”
“I’d drive even longer”, said Tom. “There’s so beautiful in here.”
“Scotland is the most beautiful place in the world”, Louisa said softly. “You must stay up some night and see how the summer night comes over the hills — she has a dim veil which covers the whole earth, but not wholly — you can see everything, though only through the veil.”
Tom looked at her and grinned. But it was a friendly grin, and Louisa liked it.
“There’s Five Cherry Trees”, said Laura MacDonald at that very moment, and Aunt Maggie stopped the carriage before the front door. “Jump off, children, and help me to take the luggage off.”
Tom had always been called “master”, but that “children” sounded so familiar and motherly that he obeyed as well as the girls.
When they went into the hall and Tom took his hat off, Myra punched Louisa, Really, he was the best-looking boy they had ever seen.
“Not bad, and he still is half-a-Scot, if you ask me”, muttered Aunt Maggie, when she hurried into kitchen to boil some water for tea with her shawl.
“Now, I’ll show you your room, so you can wash yourself and have a little rest before tea”, said Laura. “Get off your Sunday bests, girls, before they’ll get dirty.”
Ethel looked at her muslin dress and sighed. She had secretly wished she could have worn it all day long.
“Hurry up, lassies”, shouted Aunt Maggie from the kitchen. “Change your clothes and come then to help me.”
At the same time Laura opened one door by the upstairs corridor and let Tom in.
“This room is yours. I hope you enjoy it. Now, I leave you, but in the first place — shall we call you Thomas?”
“Mother wants me to be called Thomas, but I prefer Tom. My nanny uses Tom when mother can’t hear.” The boy looked guilty. “And, please, let me help with the chores. My father told me to help as much as I ever can, but mother said I must only rest.”
“You can help as much as you have strength to”, promised Laura. “But you must play, too, as the girls do. There’s many boys in Lochdu, so I’m sure you’ll have friends here. One of the girls will come up and call you for tea, when it’s ready.” Laura shut the door, and Tom sat on the edge of the bed.
It was a nice, light room with two large windows. Between them was a tall looking-glass with washing-stand, and by the wide bed a little table for reading-lamp and a glass of water. On the table before one of the windows was another lamp, and there was a bookshelf, too, though now empty, just waiting for his books.
Tom seemed satisfied. He would like this room. He had been afraid of a female chamber with laces and rosettes and soft carpets, but this one was almost like father’s room in their London house. Father had never liked fancy halls, like mother.
Tom had just washed dust from his face and was standing before the other window, when the door was knocked and the girl with the thick plait peeped in.
“Tea’s ready”, she said. “And then you must have your luggage taken upstairs.”
“Of course.” Tom turned around. “You are Louisa, aren’t you?”
“Aye. Mommy said we can call you Tom.” Louisa stepped into the room. “You must come quickly, before the cakes get cold. In that case Aunty never forgives you.”
Tom laughed and came to the door.
“I’m sure I want her forgiveness.”
The tea table was ready in the dining-room — this was a special situation — and Aunt Maggie served the tea, while Laura asked Tom about his mother.
“Well, she hasn’t changed much, I suppose”, she said at last. “When we were little girls in Oban she used to dream about a rich man who would fill every wish of hers. Now, who’s coming over? Is it Mrs Macaulay?”
“Can’t be”, said Aunt Maggie. “It was only yesterday, when she said she’ll never step into this house again.”
“The frog wasn’t enough”, murmured Ethel. “Next time we must find some bees.”
“Be quiet, lassie.” Laura rose to have another cup. “She’s so curious she cannot stay away. You’ll be a great wonder here in Lochdu, poor Tom! Now, children, take the bread and cakes with you and go to the summer stones. Mrs Macaulay can wait a little.”
With a giggle the girls took their meal and teacups and rushed into the garden followed by Tom, who had no idea which was meant with the name “the summer stones”.
“There was a summer house once”, said Myra, when they sat on the stones by the flower beds — luckily they had been cleaned! “But now only the stones are left, so we call them summer stones.”
“That’s very practical, admitted Tom. “What’s the story about the frog and this madam?”
“Louisa may tell you, said Ethel with a voice which told it was a great honour for Tom to hear Louisa telling.
While Louisa did tell, Mrs Macaulay stepped into Five Cherry Trees. She was a tall, fat woman, who seemed to fill every room she came in.
“Laura, my dear, how are you?” she asked, as if she had not been over a day before.
“Fine, thanks. That’s surprise, I thought you wouldn’t visit us after the little joke of the girls.”
“Joke, indeed! Well, children are children. And when I saw you driving through the village with that boy — what’s his name?”
“Anyway, I thought I have to come over to give you some good pieces of advice. You see, Laura, you have never brought up a lad — I have had five. So you must understand there’s some difference.”
“Wouldn’t you like a cup of tea, Moira?” asked Aunt Maggie. “We were just drinking.”
“Ah, thank you… But where are the children?” Mrs Macaulay sat down while looking carefully around — maybe another frog would jump from under the table.
“I told them to go and have their tea in the garden, so they can get acquainted faster.” Laura MacDonald sat down, too. “I hope they will be good friends.”
Suddenly they heard an enormous crash in the garden. Mrs Macaulay was almost suffocated with her tea, Aunt Maggie dropped a piece of cake into her hem and Laura flew up.
“What’s going on?” she cried and ran to the garden.
The children stood before the summer stones and looked very, very guilty. On the stones and the ground before them Laura saw her tea-cups — or pieces which had once been tea-cups.
“We had a competition”, confessed Louisa. “The one who wouldn’t hit the dishes with a stone would win… Tom lost.”
“I’m awfully sorry, ma’am”, said Tom with a shivering voice. “Really, I didn’t mean… I’m sure father will buy you new ones.”
Laura had bowed down and taken some pieces on her hand. Her engagement cups — the cups Angus had bought her, cups of the finest old-fashioned china.
“I’m afraid you cannot buy that like cups anywhere”, she whispered and tried to hold her tears. “Well, it’s no use to cry over spilled milk.”
“That’s fine, indeed!” sniffed Mrs Macaulay, who had followed Laura to the garden. “And let the children have real china outdoors, well, I wouldn’t have thought even you so stupid, Laura MacDonald! And that lad — half-English, that’s what!”
“No, he’s half-a-Scot”, snapped Aunt Maggie. “Come in and finish your tea, Moira. I’m sorry, we’ll have a busy day, but maybe you’ll drop in some better time.”
“Are you going to drive me out, Margaret MacDonald?”
“That’s exactly what I’m going to do. Hurry up!” Aunt Maggie said, as if Mrs Macaulay had been one of the girls.
Laura picked the pieces of china into the hem of her skirt and stepped in. She did not dare to look at the children — they could have seen tears in her eyes. In the kitchen she put the broken cups on the table, sat by it and burst into tears.
The door was opened, then a hand was put on her shoulder.
“Ma’am… I’m so sorry. If I could do anything…”
Laura lifted her head and tried to smile to Tom.
“No, darling, I’m a fool when crying, but… Oh, those cups were the first thing my husband bought me after the ring… They’ve been my treasure for fifteen years… It was my fault, dearie, I shouldn’t have put them on the table in the first place. But your mother liked them so much… Don’t worry, I’ll forget them. God doesn’t want us to cry for broken things.
“Oh… oh ma’am!” Tom kneeled before her. “I — I was such a fool when taking the stone… But I didn’t think they would be broken… It was childlish… Please, ma’am, forgive me!” He put his black-curlied head on her hem and cried so that his narrow shoulders shivered. “I understand, if you want to send me back now!”
“I don’t want to send you back”, said Laura tenderly. “Don’t cry now. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t call my ‘ma’am”! You are not our hired boy. Now, stop it. Crying that way cannot make any good to your health.”
“I’m so unhappy!” sobbed Tom. “I like you — mother has always told me so much about you — and now you must hate me!”
“I don’t hate you, you dear wee fool! Stop the crying now. Well, that’s better.” Laura smoothed his gleaming hair. “The cups are broken, but maybe I can make some of them all right with glue. Of course one cannot use them for drinking anymore, but I’d like to have them as memories. Here’s a handkerchief, darling.”
Tom took it and used it very hard.
“Mother always says I’m like a girl — she says men never cry”, he muttered with a shame.
“Nonsense. A real good fellow can cry as well as laugh. Now, we’ll get your luggage upstairs.” Laura stood up.
“Ma’am… I mean, how I’ll call you?” Tom asked.
“How would you like call me? Maybe just ‘Laura’ would be best.”
“Yes ma… Laura.” Tom grinned a little. “Oh, I forgot — mother put some presents in my chest for all of you. Is that woman gone?”
“If you mean Mrs Macaulay, I can see her stampering down on the way to Lochdhu. Maggie spanked her quite a bit.”
“Just in spirit. Where are the girls?” Laura opened the kitchen door. “Come here, I’m not angry. Tom has something to show us.”