Ian fell silent and thought back over the years of backbreaking toil that had gone into clearing the land. Poppa and I worked side by side until one day Poppa sat down on a stump and said, "I cannot do this anymore," and died. After that I married Belle. She was a pretty fragile girl who wasn't able to work in the fields. She wasn't able to do much more than keep a clean house. Oh, but she was pretty and sweet, and wonderful to come home to. His heart yearned momentarily for a return to the days with Belle. Life was so easy then. At least until the baby wouldn't come, and now the two of them are lying in the same casket, the baby's bones still nestled in the curve of its mother's bones, never born.
"Come in then, dinner's on the table." Mary's voice through the open door interrupted the melancholy flow of his thoughts.
"Sit in to your usual place, Ian," said Mary. "I'll just pour the tea."
Angus pulled the extra chair from behind the stove and placed it for himself and left the stool for Mary.
Mary poured the tea and passed the cups, then settled herself comfortably on her little stool. "Angus, will you return thanks?"
They bowed their heads and Angus began a long prayer of intercession, thanks and apology. The food steamed and cooled in the serving dishes as Angus strolled on through his list of requests. Ian's stomach rumbled and his mouth watered. He swallowed hard. Angus paused to collect his thoughts and mentally review his petitions. "Oh, Lord," he began, then paused again.
"Amen," chirped Mary into the brief silence, a sparkle of mischief in her eyes. "That was a fine prayer, Angus. Pass Ian the potatoes. It's a shame Donald wouldn't join us today."
Ian spooned a generous helping of mashed potatoes onto his plate. "He was invited. He didn't even come to church as he said he would."
"Och, well, maybe something came up that he had to attend to," soothed Mary. "He's always been a responsible lad." She passed Ian the platter of chicken. "See, it roasted up well. It's so tender it's falling off the bones."
"It's a miracle then," Ian helped himself to a thigh. "The squawking and complaining that was coming out of the poor beast when Donald was butchering it, I was afraid it'd be like shoe leather."
"Well, it isn't. It roasted up just fine." Mary helped herself to the vegetables then passed them to Angus. "So, are you all snug for the winter yet?”
"Not yet," said Ian around a mouthful of potatoes and gravy. He swallowed, then said more clearly, "I was just thinking this morning that the banking isn't done and the storm windows aren't on and the storm doors need repair, and I don't know when I'm going to get to it all." He poured his steaming tea into his saucer to cool, then lifting it with his characteristic three-fingered grip, sipped noisily.
"Anna'd be ashamed of the house too. I'm sorry that I've had to let it go so. There's dust in the corners and the dishes are still there since the day before yesterday. Donald won't do them and I was so tired yesterday that I just didn't do them." He looked around Mary's tidy kitchen. The curtains were bright and fresh, the floor was swept, the wood box was filled to overflowing and there wasn't a speck of dust anywhere. Anna's kitchen used to look like this, he thought.
"I've been thinking," said Mary. "There's a few of us ladies who haven't a lot to do these days. If it wouldn't offend you, we could come over some day this week and do the fall housecleaning for you."
A ray of hope leaped into Ian's eyes. "Would you? I'm afraid I've not been able to keep up with the housekeeping too."
"What do you have over there for cleaning supplies?"
Ian's face fell. "I don't know. Anna took care of all that."
"Never mind then, we'll just bring it all."
Anna Gillis, the midwife and neighbour in Mattie's Story, has been found killed. The close-knit community is deeply shaken by this eruption of violence, and neighbours come together to help one another and to discover the perpetrator. But the answer lies Anna's secret, long guarded by Old Annie, the last of the original Selkirk Settlers, and the protagonist of An Irregular Marriage. Join the community! Read Anna's Secret and other novels by Margaret A. Westlie.
Genre – Fiction, mystery, historical
Rating – G
More details about the author