We can pray for them and that will bring them safe through. Now lass put away glum thoughts and brighten that pretty face with a smile.”
It took no time at all for Calum to set up his easel, open the paint-box, sharpen half-a-dozen pencils and ready the pallet with a dozen dabs of paint.
The girl perched on a large boulder, her back to the loch, hair blowing in the wind coming up the burn, swirling, dancing over water and land.
Gulls wheeled and cried; terns, twisted, turned in aerobatic antics and Calum using swift deft strokes sketched in clouds, birds, rocks and loch. He slowed when it came to the girl, catching ever delicate angle of face, every lithe bit of form, every nuance of light and shadow.
Pencils discarded for the moment, replaced with pallet and brush. Blue and white mixed together, red and white blended until they matched the girl’s complexion.
It was more difficult to achieve the exact eye color. Satisfied for the moment, Calum began to paint. Brush stroke after brush, sure and exact laid down the sky, the loch and the wheeling birds.
“How did your brother Hendry die?” Abigail fidgeted with the hem of her kilt, keeping eyes downcast.
Calum stopped midway in a delicate brush stroke, “It was a damn silly accident…..please pardon my strong words, Lady Abigail.”
Smile met smile, taking a bit of sadness out of the air.
She stood up, curtsied, “Your gallant apology accepted, Sir Calum of the heather.”
Bright shiny laughter burst forth from the pair of them, rolling across the gentle waves of the loch, rolling down the burn towards the sea, rolling away to the distant hills, coming back, thin, faint, but still holding some of its brightness.
When it died, Calum’s solemn, sad mien returned, “It happened a month after he came safe home from Dunkirk. It was a desperate frightening time then, because much of our modern artillery was lost and many of the rifles as well. It was a time when we had to make do with what could be found here at home.”
He stopped, took several deep breaths, “The politicians, the generals decided to dig the world- war-one cannons out of the moth balls. Well Hendry and four other soldiers were testing one of the damn things.” Grey eyes settled onto her steady gaze for a moment.
“Apology accepted Sir Calum.”
No laughter to echo back from the hills this time.
“The five of them polished it, cleaned it up as best they could,” Calum’s voice broke. “Hendry,” he sobbed, “Hendry ordered his mates to stand clear. It blew up into a million pieces and him with it when he pulled the lanyard. Two soldiers that hadn’t moved far enough away were injured.”
“Oh how sad,” Abigail cried. She rushed to Calum and put her arms around his trembling body.
The Laird took it hard, harder than I thought possible. It was the first time in my life that I saw him weep. There wasn’t any sound, just big tears streaming out of his eyes, falling onto the study floor, falling like a September rain.”
Shaking finger fished a clean red chequered hanky out of the right trouser pocket, the girl’s tears were wiped away first, his were next. “Well lass, would you sit down again please so I can finish your portrait. We’ll need to be making our way back to home in a wee bit.”
Abigail looked long at her picture, admired the way he had captured her face, her spirit, her life’s essence, how he’d turned it into something lovely, “Do I really look like that?” she asked, gazing intently into his eyes.
He laughed, “I’m afraid my poor humble attempt doesn’t do you justice.”
She hugged him one more time and dashed back to the shore of the loch, perching like a gull on the boulder, ready to take flight.
The girl’s enthusiasm, her joy for his work filled the air between them, flowed into Calum, inspiring him, flowed to his fingers, flowed through his brush, flowed to the canvas, each deft, swift stroke adding more life, more realism to the girl’s portrait.