A Last Goodbye by Dee Yates
Published: 1st May 2018
Available on Kindle
A heart-breaking saga set against the backdrop of World War 1, perfect for all fans of Katie Flynn.
In a remote hill farm in beautiful Scotland, Ellen and her father Duncan are enjoying a peaceful life away from the belching mills and hustle and bustle of the growing towns. In time they’re joined by rugged farmhand Tom, come to lend some muscle to Ellen’s aging father, who has begun to find sheep farming hard to manage alone. Almost inevitably romance grows between Ellen and the new arrival but once married however, Ellen discovers that Tom has a brutish side to his character. As war in Europe spreads, she begins to dream of him leaving for the trenches as a way for her to escape.
Even with Tom fighting abroad however, the family cannot hide from the realities of war as a group of POWs are brought to their valley to build a reservoir. And amongst the men, sworn enemies and shunned by all the locals, Ellen finds a gentler heart that she is difficult to resist…
He glanced at Duncan, but the man was staring into the distance as though lost in thought and Tom didn’t like to disturb him with questions of what awaited him at the farm. He knew what these shepherds were like… lone, silent men, though whether it was their chosen career that made them like this or their self-contained nature that led them into such a solitary occupation, it was impossible to say. He was himself a man of few words. He was sure he’d rub along well with this shepherd and his family.
Making their way down a steep road, they crossed a long narrow bridge that spanned the river. Their way wound on into the hills that had appeared grey in the distance but now turned green as they neared. They were speckled white with sheep, as far as the eye could see. The wagon followed the track along one side of the broad base of a valley. When Duncan turned down a smaller track, just a cart’s width, that crossed the valley floor, Tom could see the farm up ahead. A copse of trees surrounded the farmhouse so only the roof was visible. Over a wooden bridge and up a slight incline, two white cottages stared out across the valley, standing sentinel as though ready to warn the occupants of the approach of inclement weather.
Duncan turned to Tom. ‘This is your cottage, next to ours.’ He nodded to the first of the two low dwellings. ‘You’ll come for your tea first. Ellen will put the kettle on, won’t you, hen?’ He looked round, but Ellen had already jumped down and was disappearing into the cottage. He turned back to Tom. ‘Tomorrow we’ll see about you getting in some supplies so you can look after yourself. I gather you’ll no' be bringing a wife with you?’
‘No, not yet.’
‘Och! That will come soon enough. Well now, Kenneth Douglas is still at market. He’ll be back soon and then I’ll take you down the hill and introduce you.’ Duncan swung his legs round slowly and stepped down from the wagon. ‘Go on in and find Ellen. I’ll join you when I’ve put Archie away.’
Ellen had laid the table with a clean cloth and set out crockery and cutlery. As he entered, she was cutting slices from a loaf of bread. A blackened kettle hung over a low fire. He stood at the door watching her, uncertain what to do.
Glancing up, she smiled a welcome.
‘Come away in and sit down.’ She indicated a chair by the fire.
‘Is there owt I can do to help? After all, I’ve been sitting all day and I think I’d rather be standing.’ He also had no wish to be too near the fire, which was pumping out yet more heat into an already stiflingly hot room.
‘Aye, you can reach down three mugs from the shelf there and you'll find a jug of milk in the pantry. Oh, and there’s a fruit cake in the tin… the one with the flowers on. Bring that out, will you?’
When Tom had done her bidding, his eyes took in the neat room… the floor swept clean, the row of boots inside the door, the absence of any dirty dishes cluttering up the draining board. He pondered the whereabouts of Ellen’s mother, who must have made the cottage so pristine prior to his arrival.
‘Is your mother not joining us?’ he said, to fill the long silence that accompanied their preparations.
‘I don’t have a mother. Well, of course I had a mother, but she died giving birth to me… so I never knew her.’
Tom, taken aback, immediately wished he hadn’t spoken. ‘I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked,’ he stammered.
‘Why not? It’s only natural to ask. I’m sorry too… sorry that she wasnae here to look after me. But it’s all right. I’ve always had my father. Him and me get along just fine.’ She wrinkled her nose. ‘Father says I’m just like her, so I suppose that’s nice for him. My mother was called Janet.’
At the frankness of her information, Tom was lost for words. He pondered her as she went about her jobs, trying to imagine, and failing, what it must be like to be brought up without the comfort and care of a mother. He had always been very close to his and that closeness had remained, even when his sister had been born several years later.
‘Did you stay with your parents before you came up here?’ Ellen asked.
He smiled at this indication of how their thoughts had proceeded along the same lines. ‘Aye, I did.’
‘It will be hard for you with no one to look after you. I’ll come and help you sometimes if you like.’
‘Oh, happen I shall manage well enough,’ he said and then, because the words sounded overly blunt, added, ‘But thank you for the offer.’
‘That’s all right. Anyway, I shall bake you a cake next time I do one for us.’
She stopped in her preparations and looked at him frankly.
‘Don’t you have a sweetheart in England?’
Tom felt himself blushing. This young lass was far too straightforward for comfort.
‘No… no,’ he said hurriedly. ‘Leastways… no, not really.’
‘That’s a shame. It would be nice to have a lady living nearby. There’s Mrs. Douglas… that’s the farmer’s wife. But she’s a bit above the likes of us! And there’s Margaret Murdie… but she’s along the valley a mile or two. Do you have brothers and sisters?’
‘Aye, I have one sister… Annie. She’s much younger than me. I shall miss her though. We were reet close.’
Ellen filled the teapot and placed it in the middle of the table. ‘I shall have to pretend to be your sister then. I sometimes think I’d have liked a brother or a sister. But then I’d have to share my dad with someone else, instead of having him all to myself.’
The object of her affections could now be heard taking off his boots in the porch and a moment later he appeared in the doorway.
Ellen ran over to him and kissed him.
‘Come along, Feyther. Tea’s ready. Sit yourself down.’
He responded by enveloping her in a bearlike hug. He regarded the newcomer over his daughter’s head. ‘She’s a good girl, this one… looked after me since she was old enough to stand, she has.’
Ellen laughed, pulling away from her father’s embrace and crossing to the table, where she started to pour the tea. ‘I think you were looking after me for a good while first.’
‘Aye well, you were my little ray of sunshine in a dark sky in those days.’ His eyes misted over and then, himself again, he went on, ‘Now, how about offering our visitor some of that delicious cake you made specially. He must be thinking you’ve only put it there for decoration!’
About the Author
Born and brought up in the south of England, the eldest girl of nine children, Dee moved north to Yorkshire to study medicine. She remained there, working in well woman medicine and general practice and bringing up her three daughters. She retired slightly early at the end of 2003, in order to start writing, and wrote two books in the next three years. In 2007 she moved further north, to the beautiful Southern Uplands of Scotland. Here she fills her time with her three grandsons, helping in the local museum, the church and the school library, walking, gardening and reading. She writes historical fiction, poetry and more recently non-fiction. Occasionally she gets to compare notes with her youngest sister Sarah Flint who writes crime with blood-curdling descriptions which make Dee want to hide behind the settee.
Links to buy
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2JIkGbL
Follow Dee Yates
Sign up to the Aria newsletter: http://bit.ly/2jQxVtV