From The Manse Win­dow

The People's Friend - - News -

the shore. The awe­some sight filled her with the dark­est fear for her brother’s life.

That ter­ror re­mained with her even as Noah helped her close the storm shut­ters over the win­dows and bolt the storm door.

Most of the pop­u­lace had taken shel­ter from one of the worst storms to strike the coast that year. The streets were de­serted.

Even while the fam­ily ate a sub­dued meal within the house, lamps flick­ered and flared in sud­den draughts and stout shut­ters moved and clanked as the gale threat­ened to wrench them from their hinges.

But the fire burned. Some­how for Maggie the lively fire added to the threat of dan­ger. Flames flared, em­bers white hot, roused by the draught that drew the fire roar­ing up the chim­ney.

Trem­bling, she slammed home the metal damper in the chim­ney breast to check the blaze.

Her fright­ened sis­ters kissed her cheek and went off to bed to pull the quilts over their heads. Fionah and the dog re­tired to the small room they in­hab­ited in the rear of the house.

There was no sound from Lilias, gone early to bed dispir­ited and dis­ap­pointed by Alec’s de­ci­sion.

But there was no hope of rest for Maggie. The trem­bling would not stop; ter­ror would not leave her.

The room seemed fever­ishly hot, so hot it drove her to the door­way. Eas­ing the bolts of the storm door aside, she went out to share the storm with her brother.

It promised to be a fear­some night at sea, sim­i­lar to the one that had drowned their fa­ther.

The gale bat­tered her body re­lent­lessly and she wel­comed it. Rain pelted with slash­ing force and her own tears joined it. She clung to the storm door cry­ing her brother’s name, the sound torn in­stantly from her lips and lost in the mael­strom.

“Maggie, come in! Lassie, you’ll catch your death!”

It was Lilias in night­cap and gown. Sur­pris­ingly strong hands gripped Maggie’s arm, haul­ing her in­side. The storm door slammed shut and they faced one an­other in the dark­ened room lit by the blaz­ing fire­light.

“What were ye think­ing?” Lilias said in not much more than a whis­per.

Her heart was wrung with pity. The weak­ened lass needed gen­tle­ness. She was close to break­ing point, eyes hor­ror struck.

“I was think­ing of my mother and of the storm that dashed my fa­ther’s ship to drift­wood on the rock. I was think­ing that if my brother died, I would want to die.”

“Maggie, dear, Alec’s safe aboard the Float­ing Light. The ves­sel’s se­curely an­chored to with­stand bad weather. You should not be think­ing such mourn­ful thoughts.” Maggie’s head drooped. “Aye, I should. You don’t un­der­stand and you never will. I promised my fa­ther not to tell.”

Lilias looked at her grand­daugh­ter in si­lence for a long mo­ment. Pieces of the puz­zle were maybe fall­ing into place. Per­haps she was near­ing the rea­son that had kept them apart.

“Maggie, I humbly re­gret the cruel words I spoke in those grief-stricken mo­ments. I ken words can never be for­given or for­got, but your fa­ther was a fine man and those ac­cu­sa­tions were best left un­said. Will ye no’ for­give me, lass? For I love ye very dearly.”

Maggie raised her head abruptly. Fire­light blazed in her eyes.

“I knew you’d never un­der­stand. My fa­ther was pro­tect­ing me!”

Lilias stared. “Pro­tect­ing ye? From what?”

“From you, Grand­mother.”

Lilias stepped back. “Me? But why?” “Be­cause Papa never wanted ye to ken it was me who killed my mother,” Maggie whis­pered.

To be con­cluded.

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