The Wedding Quilt – Episode 37

Long after she should have been tucked up in bed above the Burkes’ store, Stella stumbled off the train at what the conductor assured her was the stop she wanted.

She could just make out a station, scarcely more than a shed, and beyond it a house with a light in a downstairs window. What should she do now?

Standing beside the track with a lantern in his hand, Frank Carmody stared at the vision that emerged from the train.

The girl wore a clinging drop-waisted dress that was far too short by local standards, with a squashed cloche hat atop her head.

The brakeman had just deposited luggage at the station door, and was now climbing into the engine where the engineer and fireman awaited him.

Frank blew his whistle and the train disappeared into the gloom.

“Can I help you, miss?”

Tears came to Stella’s eyes.

“I don’t know where to go.”

“Is somebody expecting you?”

“I sent a telegram this morning. I was sure they’d come.”

“Ah.” Frank scratched his forehead. “The telegraph is broken. Dad has spent all day trying to fix the thing. Come into the house with me and we’ll figure out what to do.”

Seeing her hesitation he went on.

“You’ll be quite safe with me, miss. My sister is in there. Where are you supposed to be going?”

“To some people called Burke. Do you know them?”

Frank laughed.

“I certainly do. I’m Frank Carmody. I went to school with Beasie Burke, and you must be the cousin from Toronto. If you wait while I hitch up the horse I’ll take you up there.”

Stella had no choice but to wait. Shivering, she sank down on a nearby bench while Frank disappeared into the darkness.

In a short while she was handed up into a buggy and they were on their way. Under other circumstances this might have been a romantic interlude, sitting beside a man while the horse plodded along a country road through the warm night air.

The lanterns attached to the buggy cast shadows before them, and strange noises in the distance made her blood run cold. Surely those couldn’t be wolves she could hear?

“Here we are,” Frank said at last. “It looks like they’re all in bed. Sit tight while I go and wake them up.”

“Don’t leave me,” Stella quavered. “I don’t know how to stop the horse if it runs away.”

“I’ll only be a minute, and that animal isn’t going anywhere.” Indeed, the horse already had its head down, pulling up tufts of grass. Frank pounded on the kitchen door.

A light appeared upstairs  and moments later the kitchen window was illuminated.

“All right, I’m coming! Keep your hair on!”

“It’s all right, Matt! It’s me, Frank Carmody! I’ve brought you a visitor.”

Frank helped Stella down from the buggy and propelled her to the door, which now stood open to reveal an older man wearing an old-fashioned nightshirt.

Peering over his shoulder was a plump woman wrapped in a blanket, wearing a thick black hairnet on her head.

“Meet Stella,” Frank said, with an air of producing a rabbit from a hat. “Special delivery, all the way from Toronto!”

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.