The Lost Bairn
by: Munro, Mary
Jeannie snuggelt doon aneth the pile o’ blunkets, keepin her taes awa fae the steen-cauld “pig” at the boddom o’ her bed. Through half-shut een, she watched the watery licht o’ the early dawn come seepin through the windaes.
There wis a different soon an a different feel tae the air. Nae the howlin win or snaw that hid battered the hoose for lang months that winter. There wis a harsh-like roar comin fae the Dee o’er the dyke doon past the ferm-yaird. The win hid saftened o’ernicht an the Dee wis in full spate.
She yarkit up the windae sash an, instead o’ a bitin North win, the safter air o’ an April mornin caressed her face. Fae her upstairs windae, she could see the waater, broon an swirlin, heich up the banks, bits o rubbish an branches bein cairried doon unner the Brig.
The snaw bree fae the corries an glens o the mountains wis stoorin doon the Dee valley wi a coorse, ill-naitured roar. There wis aye snaw lyin in the gairden an the banks o’ the Dee, bit it wis meltin tae a slottery slush wi the different air. “Spring is comin!” Jeannie could gey near smell it as she fummelled her wey intae her winter claes.
On the road up tae the squeel, the bairns pleitered an slooshed aboot in the grey-fite slushy snaw. Jeannie saw the loonie at the gate at the boddom o’ her road, jist like she did ilka day.
Geordie wis maybe three year auld an Jeannie hid a saft spot for this wee loon, for she wis an only bairn and files she got tae tak Geordie oot for a wee file in his push-cheer - nae far mine, bit jist up the road as far as her ain hoose.
He wis a taakin loonie, still wi the faulds o’ puppy fat on him, chubby an rosy-cheekit wi a bonny heid o’ fair curls. That mornin, she stoppit as usual tae news tae Geordie in his “pidgin-Scots”, then hid tae leave him safe ahin the latched gate. He chuckled an yelled at her as she hashed tae catch up wi her pals.
Aa mornin, the win blew doon the valley, the snaw slidin aff the reefs wi a deid sploosh, an the dreeps o’ melt-waater splootered oot o’ the gutters.
Denner-time cam, an Jeannie ran doon hame for her maet. Mam, at the cooker, lookit reed aboot the een an dished oot the denner withoot a wird. Then she sat doon in front o’ Jeannie an jist lookit her in the ee. “Peer wee Geordie’s missin,” she sighed. “His mam found the gate aff the latch an fan she followed his wee fitprints, they led tae the Dee, richt tae the edge through the slush, an then naethin.”
Jeannie stared at Mam, her hert thumpin in her breist. “Bit far is he noo?” she stuttered. Quaet-like, Mam jist said, “I doot he’s doon the waater - he maun hae been trickit wi the waater in spate an wannered tae the edge. I doot he slippit in - there’s nae sign o’ him yet - his Mam is in an awfu state - peer quine.”
Jeannie hid tae get roadit tae ging back tae the squeel an, as she passed Geordie’s gate, there wis nae loonie lookin o’er the tap tae wave her up the road. She sat like a steen a’ aifterneen, nae hearin a wird the teacher wifie said. The ither bairns hid heard aboot lost Geordie an’ there wis a deadly quaet in the class a’ aifterneen. Jeannie couldna wait tae get doon the road. “Maybe he wis aricht - he micht hae grabbed a branch an’ pulled himsel oot ontae the bank!” That hope died wi ae look at Mam’s face. “Yer faither an’ a lot o’ the village fowk are oot lookin the banks, bit wi the Dee in sic a spate, dinna look for miracles, quinie!”
Jeannie’s feet led her tae the river bank. Steeny-faced villagers, young an’ auld, were strung oot baith sides as far as ye could see, pullin back bushes an’ undergrowth, hopin against hope that they wid find the wee loonie cauld an’ weet, bit still alive. Jeannie jist stood an lookit at the sploor o’ broon, spate waater still roarin aneth the Brig, an big, saut tears fell noo. She grat sair for the bonnie loonie, an’ she grat for his Mam an Dad, for onybody could guess foo they maun feel.
Lang hoors on, they found wee Geordie, doon by the Islands awa oot o’ the village. There wis a black clood o’ quaet hingin o’er that end o’ the village that nicht - a’body feelin the waste o’ thon young life lost an’ hert-sorry for his fowk.
Jeannie hid niver lost onythin close tae her yet, barrin the sharger o’ a cat she’d brocht hame fae the corn-yaird - the ane that wis that far gane, it dwinled an’ pined awa in a feow days. Her hert bled for the wee Geordie she’d kittled an’ lauched wi ilka day on the road tae the squeel.
Young as she wis, it wis comin hame tae her that life is nae aye couthy an’ fine, bit can be coorse an’ hard for some fowk. She lost a bit o’ her childhood then an’ did a gweed lot o’ growin up oot o’ the land o’ fantasy.
She didna see Geordie’s mam for a lang time - nae until ae day fan she met her comin slow doon the road tae her hoose. She wis lost an’ sad-lookin. Jeannie didna hae ony wirds for her, bit she jist slippit a haun intae the mither’s haun an’ walked aside her. Geordie’s mam strokit Jeannie’s heid an’ a she said wis, “I ken, my quine, I ken!”
They didna bide lang aifter that. Jeannie niver really heard far they’d flitted till, bit Geordie’s mam couldna thole tae bide in thon hoose, nae wi the sicht o’ the green-wid latch gate an’ the soon o’ the river in her lugs ivery time she opened her door.
Maybe, a new place an’ a lot o’ time wid heal the sair hert a bittie, bit she wid niver forget - ilka Spring fan thon mild April breeze cam birlin o’er the land, she wid mine - an’ sae wid Jeannie.