The Wedding Quilt – Episode 18

Much later Beasie tried to apologise to her father.

“I shouldn’t have let him get away with it, Dad, but I didn’t know how to stop him. I’ve probably lost us a customer, too. We’ll never see our money now.”

“Good riddance!” Mamie said. “Just let him try getting credit in town and see how far he gets.”

“What beats me is how he managed to run up a great bill like this,” Matt muttered. “Eighty-three dollars. It’s a fortune!”

“That’s my fault,” his wife admitted. “His wife used to come here with her little ones, promising to settle up as soon as he returned from the lumber camp with his winter’s pay.

“The lot of them looked half-starved and I couldn’t bear to think of those children going to bed with empty stomachs. Suppose it had been our Beasie?”

“We’re not running a charity here,” Matt said. “You’ll need to develop a harder heart if we’re to stay in business.”

He put an arm around his wife’s shoulders and kissed her on the cheek before leaving the room.

Mamie smiled at the sight of her daughter’s woebegone face.

“Cheer up, Beasie. Tomorrow is another day. Into every life a little rain must fall.”

Beasie wondered how long her mother could keep up this relentless optimism.

If her encounter with Sam Beckett was anything to go by, their fortunes were unlikely to get any better.

*  *  *  *

The day of Paddy Ryan’s wake dawned bright and clear. Outside the store purple buds on the lilacs promised a magnificent display of blooms in the near future.

When she went to her window Beasie was delighted to see a barn swallow fluttering near the eaves.

With any luck it would build its nest there and she would have the joy of watching the tiny nestlings that would hatch there in due course.

When breakfast was over her father tacked a notice to the door of the store: Closed out of respect.

There was no need to say more. Everyone was aware of what this day would bring, and unless some passing stranger stopped by there would be no customers.

The Burkes didn’t keep a horse, so Matt and Mamie meant to travel with their neighbour, a widower who took them to church on Sundays. Beasie would be collected by Drusilla and her father.

“I’ll be glad when today is over,” she told her mother.

“Won’t we all?” Mamie agreed. “But we have to face it. If it’s hard for us, think of his poor mother. She can’t even see him laid to rest.

“How can she accept that he’s really gone when there’s no grave to visit? She’ll keep expecting him to walk through the door, poor soul.”

The families in the district had lost more than their fair share of sons during the recent war, but somehow those losses were tempered by pride.

Following the shock of the horrid telegram, and the letter of condolence from some overworked commanding officer, came the realisation that the lost son or husband had given his life for King and country in what was being called the war to end wars.

*  *  *  *

“Are you ready, Beasie?” Drusilla’s voice wafted up the stairs.

“Coming!” Beasie jabbed a hat pin through her felt cloche. There, that would have to do!

She pulled a face at herself in the mirror and turned to leave.

“Surprise!” Drusilla trilled when Beasie emerged from the kitchen.

Beasie’s eyes opened wide as she realised that the man holding the reins wasn’t Drusilla’s father but her brother.

“Hello, Beasie! Are you pleased to see me?” His tone was arch and she felt herself blushing.

“Hello, Frank! I didn’t expect to see you,” she murmured. “I thought your father would be coming with us.”

Drusilla had scrambled into the back seat, which meant that Beasie was forced to sit in front. She could hardly snub him by going to sit with Drusilla.

“I managed to get leave at the last moment,” he said, before clicking his tongue to set the horse moving. “Dad can’t come because of expecting the trains, of course. Paddy and I were close chums in our school days and it’s only fitting I say goodbye.”

“I remember. The pair of you were the bane of our lives, teasing the girls!”

“I’ve grown up since then, Beasie. My mind is on more serious matters these days.”

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.