“You finish chores,” said Ian after the milking was done. “I must go to a meeting at the church, and I’m late as it is.”
Donald shrugged and kept on working.
“I’ll not be late. Don’t forget to skim the milk and wash out the buckets.”
Donald didn’t reply.
Ian turned away. He’s so sullen these days I don’t know how to approach him. Ian reviewed the events of the last few months as he hurried into the porch and poured a dipperful of water into the battered tin wash pan. I wonder if I should trim my beard, he thought. I haven’t done it lately. He regarded himself in the watery mirror and rubbed his hand across his face. I don’t have time if I’m to meet Angus. He dipped his hands into the cool water and rubbed a little soap on them. Clean will have to do. We’ll soon be out of soap. Anna was just about ready to make soap when she died.
His heart seemed to turn over in his chest at the sudden memory of Anna tending the soap kettle in the yard, her auburn hair, made a little untidy by the wind and the heat of the task, shining in the sunlight, her strong body bent and turned as she wielded the paddle. He remembered his surprise that she knew how to make soap when he married her. She seemed so young to know the things she knew. I thought I was marrying a child and it was a woman I married. The knot of pain in his heart seemed to tighten. He turned and scrubbed vigorously at his face with the rough towel to banish the tightness. He forced his mind on to practical things. I wonder would Mary make me some soap when she’s making her own if I gave her the fat Anna’d been saving. He buttoned on a clean shirt, the wrinkles in it a testament to his ineptitude with the smoothing iron.
At last he was striding up the hill and was soon passing the place where so few months ago Anna had lain in such stillness. He hurried past the spot and did not look at it. He shivered. A hint of night cold was already on the breeze. Somewhere an owl hooted and the rustle of small animals sounded softly in the stubble of the hay field. A twig cracked in Old Rory’s wood. Ian’s heart raced then slowed. It’s nothing, he comforted himself. He looked in the direction of the woods. The rustle of leaves ceased and a faint glow seemed to disappear as Ian turned his head to look directly at it. His heart raced again. He looked straight ahead and strode on even faster. He looked out the corner of his eye. The glow seemed to be still there but when he looked at it directly, it disappeared. He hurried on until his shins began to hurt and he was forced to slow his pace. I’ll walk backwards for a bit. He turned around. The glow that wasn’t there turned with him and seemed to hover over the path he had just traversed. He stopped his backward pace and stood, frozen there by his imagination. The light continued on toward him. Rough voices sounded on the night air but in his fear Ian was unable to take them in.
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