The Wedding Quilt – Episode 04

It was Saturday morning and spring was in the air. The lilacs had suddenly burst into bud and the lawn behind the house already showed patches of green.

Beasie’s spirits lifted at the thought of seeing the back of winter at long last, although experience told her not to count on it.

They sometimes had snow in May, and she always felt sad for the poor robins who had returned from southern climes, only to suffer because they couldn’t dig for worms.

The bell pinged and she hurried to hold the door open to admit two children, struggling in with a pail.

“Hello, Edmund, Mary Kate! What have you got there, then?”

“Mammy sent the butter,” the little boy told her importantly.

“And we’ve to take back the pail from last time, Miss Burke,” his sister added. “And put this butter on our account, please.”

“And does Mammy need any groceries today?”

“No, she doesn’t, but Mammy says –”

“We can have a pennyworth of candy to eat going back,” Edmund interrupted. “Each!”

Beasie waited patiently while the pair debated the merits of peppermint balls, horehound candy and liquorice boot laces.

Catherine O’Neill always treated her children as a reward for carrying the butter to the store, a whole two miles from their farm.

Knowing there were younger children at home, Beasie put a few fruit gums in a paper bag for them, giving it to Mary Kate with strict instructions to hand it to Mammy for distribution.

When the youngsters had gone, Beasie went into the kitchen. Mamie was stirring something on the stove and she looked up when her daughter appeared.

“Who was that, then? I thought I heard the bell.”

“The young O’Neills with the butter. I thought I’d put it up now, while there’s a lull.”

“Good idea. It’s a long old hike for those wee ones toting a heavy pail, but poor Cathy can’t leave the others to come herself.

“I don’t envy the poor soul having to look after the farm and five children all on her own, with her man away at the shanty. Still, he’ll be home soon.”

It was the tradition in the district for the farmers to spend the winter in the lumber camps of the northern woods.

It was known as “going to the shanty” because the men lived together in a bunkhouse, presided over by a camp boss and a cook.

Their earnings supplemented the income derived from their land, but it came at a cost. Wives and mothers were left alone for months to run the farms, and when their children were too young to be of much help their load was heavy indeed.

Taking up two wooden paddles, Beasie scooped the pale butter into the wooden mould, eventually turning out a perfect pound of butter ornamented with a little rose.

She wrapped it in wax paper and placed it in the ice-box before repeating the process. It was work that she usually enjoyed, but today she felt downcast.

She knew what it was: she was envious of Catherine O’Neill. The young woman had a loving husband, some adorable children and a home to preside over. Beasie would have given anything to be in her shoes.

She very much wanted a husband and family of her own.

She was so deep in thought that she was only barely aware of Mamie coming in from the kitchen.

“What’s up, Beatrice?” her mother asked. “You’ve got a face on you that would sour the milk!”

Beasie shrugged.

“Nothing, Mum. I’ll be glad when spring is here.”

“Aye, it’s been a long old winter. Maybe you need a spring tonic. Sulphur and molasses will be good for what ails you!”

Beasie pulled a wry face and her mother relented.

“Why don’t you go and see Drusilla? She’d be glad of your company and you’ll both feel all the better for a good old natter.”

Beasie brightened.

“I’d love to, if you can manage without me, Mum.”

“Of course I can. No need to hurry back. Take some of those oatmeal cookies I baked this morning; I know the girl likes them. I’ll expect you when I see you!”

Alan Spink

I am a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. I enjoy working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, I also write fiction and enjoy watching football and movies in my spare time. My one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.