Evening's Story

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Evening's Story

Post by AnneM » Sat May 12, 2007 8:17 pm


A wee offering from my holiday. You can decide if you'd rather have had a stick of rock.

Evening’s Story

The water ran cool over her unshod feet, as she hitched her skirt above her knees and paddled in the burn. Sharp stones dug into her soles but she paid no attention, revelling instead in her unaccustomed freedom and solitude. All around her the dappled light of an early summer’s afternoon mottled the mossy bank but she was in no mood to appreciate the beauty of her surroundings. Alone and unobserved she could allow her imagination to take her far away from these hills and from the everyday grind. A gentle Gaelic air escaped her lips and she smiled to herself until she suddenly seemed to remember what she had to do.

Quickly she mounted the bank and running along till she found a deep pool of water, climbed down beside the burn and knelt down. Tipping her head forward she plunged it into the pool and as she did so the cold of the water pierced her scalp like thousands of tiny needles, causing her to gasp aloud. All around her head, her red-gold hair fanned out, floating on the surface like some exotic weed.

Pulling herself up, Kirsty Ross glanced at the sun, approaching the western horizon. “It’s late” she muttered to herself as she twisted her hair into a rope and wrung out the water, “The old witch will kill me”.

With this thought, she set off swiftly down the hill with the sure feet of one who had roamed this country since she could barely walk. As she ran she restrained her locks into a respectable plait. “Not that it will stop the old hag from calling me a wanton” she thought.

Through the village she ran, still barefoot, till she reached the door of her father’s cottage. As she tumbled in, it seemed that her prophesy would be fulfilled. The older woman sitting beside the fire clutched the arms of her chair with swollen fingers, and barked at her “And where have you been, you vain little trollop? Do you know what time it is? The supper is hardly started and the kye are still to be milked. I don’t know why we keep a lazy little slattern like you. It’s about time you were going into service.”

“Is that right?” replied Kirsty, who had long since abandoned any attempt to keep the peace, “Who would do the work around here then? Scrub the floors, milk the kye and put food on the table when father and the boys come home? What about Jeanie. She’s 9 now. Is it not about time she took her turn? A bit of work would do her good. It’s not as if she pays any attention to her lessons. At least if I went into service I’d get paid and maybe get a mistress who would have a decent word to say to me now and again.”

She threw a contemptuous glance at her chubby little half sister playing with her dolls on the worn rug and turned towards the door hearing, as she left the house, Jeanie’s plaintive cry of “Mammy, don’t let Kirsty be coarse with me.”

Her temper improved little as she milked the family’s two cows, to the extent that one nearly kicked her for her rough hands. A hen got under her feet in the straw of the barn and only her genuine affection for the stupid creatures stopped her from kicking it away. Even the rhythmic movement of the milking failed to calm her. She tried as hard as she could to remember the words of the minister when he had counselled her to pray for her stepmother.

“She has much to bear”, the Rev McFarlane had said. “It can’t be easy suffering the constant pain of arthritis. It’s hard for her not being able to run her husband’s home as she would like. Some of the old women too take pains to say in her hearing what a beautiful girl your mother was.”

“If he had to live with her, he’d not be praying for her”, she muttered under her breath. “I don’t think she’d lift a finger even if she was fit, the lazy crone. As for the women, though they’re wicked old gossips, if she ever had a good word to say to anyone they’d have nothing ill to say to her, even though she does not come from this village. They’d soon have forgotten my mother if the witch’s evil temper had not constantly kept her in their minds. She can’t have been that beautiful if she looked like me”

For years Kirsty had been accustomed to hearing everyone who looked at her sigh and remark how like her mother she was. As a result, though she had no memory of her, she had built up a picture of a young woman not unlike herself, small, slight with light eyes and long red hair.

As she reached adulthood she also tried to ignore the shaken heads and gloomy looks which accompanied the old women’s prophesies for her future. “She’ll have trouble bearing children, that one. Just like her mother. Red haired women always have problems.” There was no danger of forgetting that the mother she never knew and whose place had been taken by the twisted harridan had died trying to give birth to her brother. The baby had been lying in the wrong position. Mairi Ross had haemorrhaged badly and mother and child now lay together in the small churchyard.

It was fortunate that Kirsty was usually too well occupied to dwell on such matters. The cattle milked, supper now had to be made before her father and brothers returned home from trying to scrape some kind of living from their patch of land. As she stirred the pot of oatmeal and laid aside the herring her uncle, the fisherman, had brought she regained some level of contentment.

It was as she was engaged on this homely task that the hullabaloo from outside on the road disturbed her. The noise of dogs barking, children shouting and someone singing badly out of tune penetrated the dark of the cottage. “What’s that hellish racket” asked her stepmother and, forgetting in her annoyance that she had just been railing at her for idleness, “Kirsty, go and find out what’s happening!”

Needing no second telling to desert her work, Kirsty put a complaining Jeanie in charge of her wooden spoon and headed out of the door. A motley procession met her eyes. Coming down the road singing loudly were two untidy, ragged boys, one beating the bottom of a cooking pot, stolen from his mother’s kitchen, with a wooden spoon and the other holding a spurtle across his lips in a poor imitation of someone playing a flute. Behind them capered a taller, older lad, long limbed and tousle haired, pretending to affect a military gait. In the wake of this unlikely and undignified marching band had inevitably gathered every dog in the village and most of the younger children, who were crowing with pleasure.

However when the focus of this attention spotted Kirsty at her door he slid to a halt and reddened to the roots of his sandy hair, as though caught out in mischief.

“Duncan McLeod,” she asked in mock disapproval, “What is this racket? It sounds as if every demon in hell was on the road”

The answer came from one of his brothers. “Duncan’s joined up. He’s to be a soldier and fight for the queen.”

Kirsty frowned and looked for confirmation to her friend. “That’s right” he replied defensively “I signed the papers today and must report to Fort George in a fortnight.” Then seeing her frown, “Kirsty, don’t be angry. There’s little here for me now and I’ll get to see the world and come back when I’ve made my fortune. I’ll bring you presents, jewels from India and Africa and places like that…….Elephant tusks and tiger skins.”

“Duncan McLeod, if you saw an elephant or a tiger you would run for your life and anyway who says I’d want jewels from you. Once you’re a soldier you’ll give them to any little…..”

“Kirsty!” he interrupted, “Don’t say things like that.” Under his breath he murmured, “Meet me this evening in our place.”

Aware of his brothers giggling and pretending not to hear and the all too acute ears of her stepmother just inside the house, Kirsty nodded quickly and added aloud, “Well, you little boys may have nothing to do but a woman always has work. Get on with you!”

As she turned to go back into the house, the little procession continued down the road, somewhat more soberly, to the disappointment of the yapping dogs and clamouring children.

It was not until the family was gathered round the table at their meagre supper that Kirsty had the opportunity to tell her news. Usually it would have been greeted with a good deal of interest. However, her father was just shaking his head and her younger brother Murdo predictably announcing that as soon as he was 18 he was going to join up too, when Ann Ross decided that Kirsty had had enough attention.

“I’ve got news too and more important than some silly boy going off to get himself shot by savages. A travelling pedlar came through the village today.”

“Did you buy me any ribbons?” chirped Jeanie.

“What would I buy you ribbons with?” responded her mother impatiently, “And that’s not the point. He said that he heard the old laird was dead.”

“How would an ignorant pedlar know something like that?” asked John Ross.

“You know that these tinkers know everything. Anyway once the Reverend McFarlane is back from the Assembly we’ll hear more. He’s bound to know if there’s any truth in the story.”

Her husband again shook his head gravely. “I doubt if the old laird’s death will be good news for us. They say his son is a prancing dandy, always lording it around with his grand friends in Edinburgh and even London and him without a guinea in his pocket most of the time.”

“And what would you know about gambling, dancing and such sinfulness in Edinburgh, John Ross, you who have never been further than Fort William and then only to the market?”

“I know more than you think, woman. You should hold your tongue and remember that at least you have a husband who can read both the Gaelic and some of the English.”

This silenced Ann as she preferred not to be reminded that she had never learned to read. Kirsty, who had been fortunate to benefit from a good schoolmaster for the first few years of her life, felt superior in her own minimal learning.

However a problem for which no schooling could prepare her now had to be faced. How would she slip away to meet Duncan without attracting the attention of her suspicious minded stepmother?

She leaned over to where Ann Ross sat and murmured in her ear. “Mother,” she said though the word nearly choked her, “I’ve a cramp and must walk a little to make it better.”

“Get out then but don’t be long.”

Kirsty slipped quietly out of the door and hurried down the road to the edge of the village, to the thickly wooded area at the foot of the hills. In the clearing which they fondly believed no-one else knew, Duncan lay propped up on his elbows.

“I thought you were angry with me and were not coming” he said.

“The witch kept me working” replied Kirsty as she slipped down beside him, “But I am angry with you.”

“Don’t be, please” murmured Duncan as he began to bite her neck gently.

Kirsty firmly removed his hands which had mysteriously found their way into places where she knew they should not be.

“Please Kirsty”, he whispered, “I’m going away soon and may get killed.”

“I thought you were coming back to bring me jewels.”

“I will. Of course I will but there’s always danger if you’re a soldier and I mean to be brave.”

In a rather detached way Kirsty was aware that one of the hands she had so firmly dealt with had now found the hem of her coarse linen skirt and was beginning to inch its way up her leg. She knew she should push him away and wriggle free but her stepmother’s words calling her a slut and a trollop kept coming back to her.

“If that’s what she thinks of me, maybe that’s what I am” she told herself “and anyway Duncan’s right, he may not come back. What would I do then?”

To his surprise, instead of twisting away, she turned closer to him and wound her arms round his neck, kissing him. For a moment Duncan hesitated, slightly taken aback and unsure what to do. However, like the good soldier he meant to become, he soon pursued the unexpected advantage he had been offered till her gasp of pain marked the end of the innocence of their childhood relationship.
Last edited by AnneM on Sun May 13, 2007 6:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Researching M(a)cKenzie, McCammond, McLachlan, Kerr, Assur, Renton, Redpath, Ferguson, Shedden, Also Oswald, Le/assels/Lascelles, Bonning just for starters

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Post by PaulaD » Sat May 12, 2007 9:28 pm


You can't just leave it there :shock:
What happens to Duncan? and poor Kirstie does she die in childbirth like her Mum?
Please let us know what happened to them.

Searching for Barclay Aberdeenshire, Stewart Edinburgh, Brown Edinburgh & Uphall, Finlayson E Lothian, Fairley & Renton E & W Lothian for starters!

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Post by AnneM » Sat May 12, 2007 9:50 pm

Hi Paula

All will be revealed.....eventually.

Researching M(a)cKenzie, McCammond, McLachlan, Kerr, Assur, Renton, Redpath, Ferguson, Shedden, Also Oswald, Le/assels/Lascelles, Bonning just for starters

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Post by nancy » Sat May 12, 2007 11:04 pm

Anne,what a lovely little story :)

Can't wait for the next installment!

Please dont take too long :)

Cheers Nancy

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Post by JustJean » Sun May 13, 2007 12:28 am

Ah'm hoping we dinnae hiv to wait for your next holiday to get chapter 2.... :?

On second thought...why don't you just take the whole summer off and do it up right!! 8)

(In other words).....THANKS for sharing :!: .....it's been way too long :D

Best wishes

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Re: Evening's Story

Post by Alison Plenderleith » Sun May 13, 2007 9:47 am

AnneM wrote:Hi

A wee offering from my holiday. You can decide if you'd rather have had a stick of rock
No, thank you Anne, enjoyed the story much more than rock, even though I am rather fond of it :oops:
Next instalment soon please :)

Kind regards,


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Post by joette » Mon May 14, 2007 2:02 pm

Much better than rock.I just started reading & thought who is writing like Anne?Glad to see that your back with an offering & we have to know what happened to the pair.
CARR/LEITCH-Scotland,Ireland(County Donegal)

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Re: Evening's Story

Post by AnneM » Sun Nov 28, 2010 6:56 pm

See next instalment of this story.


[link added, Admin]
Researching M(a)cKenzie, McCammond, McLachlan, Kerr, Assur, Renton, Redpath, Ferguson, Shedden, Also Oswald, Le/assels/Lascelles, Bonning just for starters

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