The Lighthouse
(A Christmas Carole)

Construction of the Lumdenburgh Lighthouse began in 1852, a few years after Robert Stevenson's retirement. Architecturally and aesthetically it is nothing special, a conical tower of stone surmounted by, naturally enough, a large lamp room. It was however built using Stevenson's pioneering methods and thus still stands when most of its contempories have been marked dangerous and closed. The lighthouse itself lies thirty miles north-north-west of Gallen Head, Lewis, on the largest of a small group of islands known locally as the Gannetry but more formally by the Ordnance Survey office (once they had realised someone had gone and built something on one) as Innis Dubh. Whether the individual islands had unique names at any point has never been recorded. They are as a whole inhospitable, craggy, and isolated. They are home no more interesting a species than morus bassanus, the northern gannet, which is famous in these parts mainly for its ubiquity and not for any iridescence of plumage or gastronomic usefulness. In short they were so far away from the nearest trawler route that it was practically inconceivable why anyone would take the time and money to build a lighthouse there. And for precisely those reasons Methos had done so.

The year is 1926. It is the tail end of December: a thick billowing blanket of fog has settled over the area obscuring what little there is in terms of scenery (a rusting old jetty, a crumbling outhouse). Even if the miasma should lift there would be nothing but blackness from horizon to horizon alleviated only by the lidless eye of the lamp and the fog horn's behemoth cry. Inside the lighthouse is identical to any other: light sconces, quasi-circular rooms, an unrelenting spiral of a stepped spine running from top to bottom.

The only external sign of any significance is a small brass plaque beside the door bell (one of Methos' amusements) inscribed with the phrase 'please ring twice' in a language that would have the Royal Academy lost for translators.

In the events of the world at large there have been few item of note: an obscure Scottish inventor claimed to have sent pictures by radio (it'll never catch on thought Methos), India had been hit by further rioting (that's off the holiday list); Chaing Kai-Shek was winning the battle in China (that too); Harry Houdini had died of a burst appendix (now there was a master of legerdemain); Britain had been paralysed earlier in the year by a general strike (imagine: tanks in Glasgow! He could picture Mac's face at that news); and some dizzy woman novelist had managed to get herself lost and send Fleet Street into a tizzy at the same time. He was much better out of it, he thought, with his stores of malt whisky and tinned provisions, and hundredweight of his favourite books. Actually it was probably slightly less than a hundredweight now. He remembered throwing the Gibbon off the railings of the lamp room in a drunken rage last week. It would be pulp now on the rocks, if the darned Gannets hadn't crapped all over it. Pity. It would have been fun to go over the text in a red censor's pen, correcting Gibbon's more appalling mistakes. Well, if push came to the shove he had the two volume set of Doughty's Travels in Arabia Deserta. That should be good for a chuckle or two. 'Theluls' indeed.

He was almost dropping off when the doorbell rang. To begin with he checked to see how much liquid was left in the bell-bottomed decanter. Half. He'd almost managed to persuade himself his tired brain had imagined the idea when the caller at the door rang again, this time persistently. Methos was half way down the staircase when he remembered where he was. There was an 'authentick' suit of armour in the radio room (the inside right leg read Messrs Smith & Greenwood) with an entirely genuine claymore in its grasp. Historically incongruous he knew but if you are well off enough to ship that kind of nonsensical bric-a-brac across the Atlantic Sea to an old damp folly who was going to complain? Discretion being the better part of valour he also doused the stair lamp before descending, the tip of the sword wobbling alarmingly before him.

"Who is it?" he called, then deciding the question was completely asinine threw open the door.

"Me", said Duncan, dripping. "May we come in?" Methos stepped back still holding the claymore up.

The Highlander entered, shook his head vigorously to shake off the rainwater. His black locks hung like seaweed off his face. Despite the chill and the dampness his smile appeared genuinely warm. “You took your time in answering.”

“It does clearly say ‘ring twice’”, crossly. At this point he noticed a second, taller person standing in the doorway. Most of the figure was obscured in the outer darkness but in the dim light he could make out it was carrying a pile of boxes of increasing size, strangely reminiscent of a stack of saucepans. As the figure bent to enter the lighthouse so Methos turned on the sconce.

She was female, of Latin appearance, though there was a slight epicanthic fold to the eyes. The boxes she was carrying, all five of them, had been at one stage carefully wrapped in green paper however the dampness had long since rendered them piebald.  Her hair was a lighter brown than her skin, cropped almost to an afro style: severe but modish. For dress she wore what would best be described as a misshapen fisherman’s jersey and a pair of heavy trousers of indeterminate cloth. What Methos found harder to deal with was her height.  She was almost six feet eight inches tall.

“Good Lord”, he exclaimed and took an involuntary step back. Manners reasserting themselves he smiled with what he hoped would be taken as politeness.

“Oh. This is Wednesday” said Duncan. “She was found floating down the Amazon in a hat box. Brought up by missionaries”. That seemed to be the end of the introductions.

Wednesday thrust (there was no other word for it) the boxes at him. “Presents. For Christ Mass.” She appeared to expect him to take them. Obviously the sword was failing to make an impression. “Erm. Drawing Room,” said Methos. “Upstairs, second floor”. Sniffing the Amazonian thumped her way up the stone stairs to the living quarters.

“I like the decoration. Very you,” Duncan laughed, looking around. Above the entrance to the boiler room someone had chalked ‘Now wash your hands” in a very childish hand. The older immortal felt the blood rush to his face. Before he could say anything Duncan closed the iron outside door with a resounding clang. “There. Sorry about the bunting. The ink ran in the damp so I left it in the foc’s’ile.”

“You have a ship?” Methos asked wonderingly. Events were rapidly running out of his control.

“We didn’t get here in a sleigh, if that’s what you mean.” Duncan laughed. “In fact, if it wasn’t for Wednesday’s navigation skills we would have missed you by fifty leagues in this weather. Now are you going to drop the broadsword or are we going to have a miserable Christmas again this year.”

“It’s a claymore” said Methos defensively, wondering where he’d put the receipt.

“Aye right” came the amused reply. “Now where can I change out of these wet clothes?”


"You weren't really found in a hat box were you?" Methos said trying desperately to make small talk as he watched the tall woman sink her arms up to her elbows in soap suds in an effort to clear several days' worth of dried food off his best bone china.

"You would be surprised, Mister Methos, on how few people question that." She handed him a cup and motioned for him to dry it. "When I was five our village was invaded. My father who was Elder decided it would be best if I were to be raised by my uncle on the coast."

"Warring neighbours?"

"Worse." A cough of utter distain. "Anthropologists." She spat the word out. "Father thought there were few worst things in the world than to be brought up in the company of well-meaning white people running around questioning every little thing we did." A pair of side plates came his way. "Some years we saw so many of them they'd actually fight amongst themselves for the privilege of taking photographs of us. It could be quite violent."

He asked after her real name. She paused, amused. "You'd never be able to pronounce it correctly."

"Try me."

She did, and he couldn't — at least not well enough after half a decanter of spirits had numbed his tongue.


"Wednesday has put dinner on," Duncan said, snuggling down into Methos' favourite red leather armchair. "That's the wonderful thing about sailors. Immensely practical." He tutted a bit at the number of burns on the chair's armrests. "Your domestic arrangements haven't exactly impressed her."

Glowering Methos slunk over to the seat by the window and folded his arms. "If you'd only have telephoned ahead my butler would have seen to things." No answer. "I'm not sure I like being pushed out of my own galley."

 A laugh. "I found early on it's not worth arguing with Wednesday." The Scotsman's eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly. "You didn't try, did you?"

"I was the perfect gentleman," Methos said, beginning to suspect an ulterior motive to the Yuletide festivities. "Cigar?" He used his foot to push a box over the table towards his guest noticing the slight look of disappointment that crossed his face. "Don't tell me. I was supposed to start an altercation whereupon she'd fillet me like a fish with my own steak knife."

"Would I be that duplicitous at this time of year?" Nimble fingers picked up a silver cigar cutter and neatly decapitated the object.

"Yes," said Methos, having seen Duncan dispatch many an adversary with the same ease as the cigar tip.


"Roast goose," Methos said surprised after finally being shown the contents of the piebald boxes.

"Knowing your taste in provisions I thought it safer if we brought our own victuals." Duncan handed a saucepan to Wednesday. "There's just so many times in a man's life when he can stomach smoked gannet." From the interior of the range came the unmistakable smell of parsnips. "And as we've provided the food the least you could do would be to open your wine cellar for the night."

"Oh," said Methos, genuinely alarmed at the thought of having his prize collection broken into. "Must I?"

"Yes," a heavily accented voice replied from the stirring of a saucepan. "You do."


For the first time since its installation the round table in the dining room saw more than one chair in use. Wednesday had made it quite clear that her earlier incursion into domesticity had less to do with charity and more out of a desire to be in hygienic surroundings and the washing of the dishes was in no way to be seen by either man as a subservient act. Thus Methos found himself butling in his own home with his best Spode and several bottles of precious brandy laid out on a fine linen tablecloth.

"Come and sit down, man." Duncan commanded, patting the seat next to him. "Your sprouts will get cold."

He sat down, and was in the middle of propelling an impaled slice of goose into his mouth when he found his hand slapped back down with considerable force.

"We have not said Grace yet," said Wednesday, looking as if she was in the presence of devil worshippers. "Duncan will say it now."

Duncan, to Methos' delight, was entirely nonplussed. "Err…" Desperately searching for something appropriate to say. "Is fheàrr teine beag a gharas na teine mòr a loisgeas."

"Amen," the older immortal said before Wednesday could say anything further and bit into the bird with relish.

The static on the wireless cleared sufficiently for the sound of a hymn to descend like a warm mantle over the repast, and the crackle of the fireplace carried them over the threshold of midnight to chiming of a brand new day.


"Merry Christmas," said a pair of lips, tasting of Armagnac and cranberry. A strong pair of arms encircled his neck.

"Yes, you too." Methos tried to wriggle out of the embrace. "You're drunk. And what would Wednesday say to that?"

Something hard bumped into his crotch and bent him back over the table top, knocking over the salt in the process. "I've had less to drink that you have. And she's gone back to the ship for the night. She doesn't sleep well if the ground isn't moving."

There was something sharp pressed into the small of his back which Methos hoped wasn't the dessert fork. "Look, shall we retire upstairs where there's more room?"  He felt fingers tearing at the buttons on his trousers. "Careful, Mac. I haven't exactly got a tailor nearby."

"Fuck…" The Scotsman backed off giving him room to stand up. "I knew I ought to have worn a kilt." He scratched at a long bulge in his own trousers. "Help me get these off, laddie. They're killing me."

Never one to pass an opportunity to get the upper hand Methos sat down and picked up his brandy glass. "What's it worth?"

Duncan stopped scratching. "C'mon man, I'm in agony here. What do you want?"

Well, said Methos, feeling a manly twinge of sympathy between his own thighs. "Up until now I think you'll agree I've been most accommodating." The light from the fireplace made the liquor appear to flame in his hands. "And now it's your turn to be—"

"Accommodating?" asked Duncan, swaying slightly.

"Quite," said Methos reaching over the table for the butter.