Chapter 9

Written by: Ray Stone

Mr. Kirkman paused. 

“I am sure your mater set everything out in the letter she entrusted to me. I know this revelation is yet another shock, but the truth reveals your mater as a truly remarkable and loving woman who went to extraordinary lengths to protect those close to her including your pater.”

I shifted awkwardly and clenched a fist. “But my fathe-”

“Nay, Wilber…say nothing of your pater, for if ever true repentance were shown by a sinner, it was paid in full by him.”

“My mother’s self-imposed sentence was far harsher than that of the man who forced her into it, surely?” I replied with impatience.

With a quiet and patient tone, Mr. Kirkman continued, his hands rested on the table as he slowly leaned toward me. “Your pater took up with a whore before your sister was born. The woman’s passing of wetness of the lips and perspiring flesh caused him to carry the disease on to your mother and after she was born, Mary too. It was not until your sister was two years old that leprosy showed itself on her and your mother. By that time you were conceived and your parents, fearful for your safety, made plans for your upbringing through grandparents.”

“So why did my father not accompany my mother and sister here?”

Mr. Kirkman shrugged. “I do not know, but I am sure the letter will explain much. What I do know is that your mater said something strange and perplexing as she died - ‘I love you, my dear husband, with my last breath and hope you forgive me.’

***

It was with an absolute dread that I stood before a large door marked with the word ‘Visitor.’

“Mary cannot talk but does hear. She covers her head except for a fold where her eye can see you. I have told her you are here.”

Mr. Kirkman opened the door and stepped inside, beckoning me. What was immediately apparent was a  foul smell of disinfectant and as I turned into the bare whitewashed room a single chair stood in the centre and sitting upon it, a figure draped from head to toe with a large gray woollen blanket. Her body moved slowly back and forth accompanied by wheezing breath.

It seemed an eternity before I spoke. “Hello, Mary. I’m Wilber…your younger brother.”

The head turned, and I caught a glimpse of an eye as she nodded. “Perhaps I might hold your hand?” I asked.

Her head shook, and she turned away. 

“Mr. Kirkman related to me how you and our mother came to be here. I am so sorry and wish I knew you sooner.”

“She is without thought,” whispered Mr. Kirkman. “She fights for air. Soon she will go.”

Mary remained motionless. I left, feeling sad that I would never know her.

***

As my coach traveled to the railway, I opened the letter. What amazing testimony lay before me would change my life forever and make me a wiser man. 

Comments

Oh my goodness what is in that letter. Ray, please write the next chapter soon. I found your description of the single person in the room compelling. You captured the smell of the room, the look and feel perfectly.
Thanks. I hope the contents of the letter surprise you.
Ray, I've just been catching up with your serial after being absent from The Story Mint for a while. What a great story! So many wonderful details that really bring the period to life.
Thank you. I love writing in this style. Welcome back.