Chapter 4

Written by: Ray Stone

In the silence, the crackling wood in the grate and tiny red sparks of ash shooting upwards gave rise to an eerie feeling of mixed emotions. I sat forward but said nothing while rubbing my hands and feeling the heat on my face. Without looking up at Joshua, I knew he studied me while sucking his pipe. 

“You be angry with me, and that be normal, but I beg you not judge me until you know all,” he said at length.

“I do not judge you, Josh, but am indeed angry, more for my own acceptance that my mother was dead. I should have searched her out.”

A long shrill whistle came from the cracked doorframe as fisting winds blew more intensely inland from the sea.  A muffled bell rang in the distance. Josh crossed himself. 

“A raging sea be brewing. The old Saint James bell and tower fell to sands many years ago, and now it be swallowed by water. Strong tides ring the bell for all the poor buried souls who were taken with it.”

I crossed myself also and shivered at the thought of scattered bones on the seabed. Josh tossed a rough woollen blanket into my arms.

“You be needing that if you are to hear the truth of your Mater, for it will take the night to set your mind at ease.”

Handing me a small earthen pot and wooden spoon, he poured steaming vegetable soup from a kettle settled at the side of the grate.

I thanked him. “Please tell me, Josh…tell me all.”

Huddled close to the fire, we gazed into the flames as he spoke.

“Well now, it was late afternoon when a carriage arrived outside the church, and a woman of good build alighted.” 

Josh gave me a sideways glance.

“Not what one would call a lady of substance by her dress but a lady just the same by the way she stepped across the track holding her skirts. No carriage ever went into the courtyard, and so she walked to the rectory of Father Droon and entered as though expected. It was the following morning that Lianda visited our hospital and met myself and father Michael, my assistant.”

Josh stopped for a moment to sip soup from his spoon. 

“I take the liberty to call your Mater by her name and shall do so from here on. It was at her request that I call her Lianda, something that fills my empty life with joy each time I think of her.” He breathed deeply. “Plain but with a smile that lit the room, she spent time with each of those afflicted with the leprosy. She also helped me in all duties as she became more experienced during that first year. My vows were strong, but love proved stronger, and despite her iron will, I knew she harboured the same feelings for me.”

“Did you tell her?” I asked.

“Nay, not until after she was attacked and I killed Father Michael.”

Comments

Love the phrase, fisting winds. That is a great description. You have a real knack for capturing the time frame with the dialogue and the storytelling.