August 15, 1880
Nathaniel Miller, if you are reading this, you are a villain fit only for hanging. You are a vile tattle-tale, a viper nourished in the bosom of our family and I would sooner have as a little brother one of the frogs God sent as the plagues to punish Egypt.
This is my diary and should I catch you reading it again I shall make your life a misery beginning with telling Grandmother what I saw you and your nasty little friends doing into the well. She will be happy to blame that for the terrible cough that has racked her lately, and you know well that God hath not half so much vengeance as Grandmother!
(Be also assured that the next time I see you do “that” into the well I will draw up a bucket of water and I will see to it that water is in every drop of the water you drink and wash with for a week!)
(Not that you wash enough!)
And furthermore, no one cares that you hate sleeping on a pallet. Cousin Fanny lives with us now and we must make room for her so yes, the upstairs room is hers alone. Refrain from running in the upstairs hallway when she lies down for a rest. She is ailing, poor dear and is not being lazy you horrid little swine!
September 15, 1880
Aunt Grace has moved into the upstairs room alongside of Cousin Fanny. We do not have room enough for guests, let alone more family! The boys were exiled to the attic that the ladies might have the upstairs room, but neither likes that they are obliged to share one narrow bed together. Mother was adamant that the boys gave up enough sharing their room and that giving up the biggest bed was more than should be asked. The Lord knows, the boys sleep packed in their beds like matches in a box.
I fear Uncle William is sure to join them which surely means Cousin Fanny herself will be exiled to a trundle bed. His and Aunt Grace’s store is failing and their creditors are emptying Uncle William’s pockets at a terrible rate. He hopes to find work in town, but work has been scarce lately even for young, strong men.
We are already filled to bursting in this house and Mother is adamant that neither I nor Fay shall be allowed to go off to the Teacher’s College. She says we are proper young ladies and that taking up such work shall give a poor impression of our family to the neighbors. I think it shall give the correct impression to the neighbors of our economic state—does she lie to herself about the daily economies we are forced to practice? Eleven children plus extra relatives would try the pockets of one of the Three Kings who brought incense and gold to our Lord!
September 20, 1880
Aunt Grace and Cousin Fanny have coughed all night again. They have such an odd crackling cough!
Mother says to have patience. I say that they might at least close their door that those of us who are obliged to rise early to light the fires may get a decent night’s sleep. Poor Fay needs her rest as she is ever so delicate!
October 1, 1880
The cold has settled in properly. Mother says it is only fall, but I already feel the bite of winter and Father says he feels it too in his rheumatism. Mother has to be the stingiest woman in all of Creation when it comes to the coal for the fires!
For once I am happy to have to share a bed with Susanna and Fay though little Susanna snores like a barrel of pigs rolling down a staircase! She sleeps so soundly though that Fay and I have our only moments of privacy to whisper our observations and secrets of each day! We share who we fancy (I the miller’s oldest son and she the preacher’s youngest!) and our thoughts of what fashions we would buy if we had but the money to do so.
We both are still kept awake by the rattle of Cousin Fanny’s cough at night and are lashed by her terrible temper during the day. She is not taking having to make do with a cramped trundle bed—as I forecast, Uncle William now lives with us and despite what he says, I know he is to stay. His search for work is further hampered by the fact that he has now joined the coughing choir.
I pray good health to them all and hope that is good enough Christianity to please both God and Mother. Fay is better than I am and such patient thoughts come to her without the effort it does to me.
October 5, 1880
These past weeks, all the youngest babies have cried constantly, Nathaniel the Demon Boy of New England has started two fires, the goats got into the side yard and pulled down the wash line, and one ate a bit of Grandmother’s Sunday petticoat. She has been in a Biblical rage all week! (Nathaniel has waved so many frogs at me that I feel certain I would prefer a whole rain of them!) Cousin William has been bedridden this week but knowing him and his love of work, that says little.
October 7, 1880
Cousin Fanny was too sick to rise this morning, so Fay and I are elected nurses to help Aunt Grace. The older girls are all helping Mother with the babies as all seem to have a runny nose or cough right now.
October 11, 1880
In school we learned about Sisyphus and washing dishes for this family, I feel as if I understand his plight– the moment I empty the dishpan it seems that it’s time for another meal and another mountain of dishes to wash!
October 12, 1880
Huzzah! Though it is my week to do dishes again, Nathaniel has sinned again within my sight and well he knows it! I will receive two days of his labor for my silence! Hopefully he will meditate upon his evil ways and mend them in some fashion, or at least grow wiser in their commission.
Fay has slipped off to the woods again—I would take her to task for neglecting our other tasks but I can never be angry with her for long! She is a changeling who must commune with the spirits of nature when beset by the trials this family imposes on her.
She will be back soon, her pockets brimming with wild nuts, her hair pouring from her braids and leaves clinging to her as if she were a dryad. She will have a thousand tales of creatures nesting for the winter and she will have me laughing desperately all night trying not to wake Susanna.
October 12, 1880 (late)
Aunt Grace, Uncle William and Cousin Fanny have all grown worse. I came upstairs tonight to enjoy my hour of freedom and from the stairs I heard Father talk in a low voice to Mother about calling a doctor. He never does so for not only has he faith in Mother’s remedies, he could make a penny cry from his merciless pinching. They are both worried about the croup that has broken out in the youngest children, it has gone on far too long.
October 14, 1880
The Young Ladies’ Choir practice was most disrupted today. As Fay and I and the other young ladies waited to begin our practice, word arrived that old Miss Minor who plays the organ for us is too ill to play. She has been coughing for months now but never so badly that she could be dissuaded to stay home with a hot flannel on her chest.
As Fay and I gathered our winter things, I heard Mrs. Minor the pastor’s wife whispering to Mrs. Kubler that Miss Minor has contracted consumption. I pray this is not so. She has ever been kindly to us girls.
October 17, 1880
Word has reached us that Miss Minor indeed has been stricken with consumption and that her case is dire. She has been taken by her nephew to the hospital in Wilkensburg, the next larger town over. He plans to take her to a sanatorium in Arizona when she has gained a bit of strength. Hopefully the dry air out West will prove as a balm to her lungs and help her regain her health.
Fay and I cried and pleaded to see Miss Minor and Father let us have time enough from our never-ending round of chores to visit her. Our poor organist looks like a loaf of sugar dissolving in hot water. She is dwindled terribly from her former self and was too frail to even rise from the bed. Fay rushed right over to her to take her hands, but I will admit to hanging back as I found myself almost frightened by the scarecrow figure in Miss Minor’ bed. Fay gave her a thousand kisses and embraces, then had Miss Minor laughing with great cheer in only a few moments.
I shuddered at the hectic glint in her eyes, the awful look to her as if she were a cup with all the vital essence poured away and had to force myself to step forward to give her my wishes for her well being.
I have no faith in the pure air of the West restoring Miss Minor for I have little faith that the brittle husk lying in that bed has enough of the stuff of life still left to her to ever make it there.
October 19, 1880
Miss Minor always told me that she dreamed of being carried away by a handsome stranger. (She used to allow me to hide novels from Father in the choir music cupboard—I suspect she read and enjoyed the romances even more than I do!)
Tonight Miss Minor has eloped at last. She has thrown caution to the wind and eloped with the Pale Horseman himself and I pray that he is as handsome and kind to her as she dreamed.
Fay is much comforted by my vision of Miss Minors’ elopement with her swain and she is gone into the forest to sing wedding songs to Miss Minor and Death. She has been weeping all day and even Nathaniel has carried in her share of the kindling tonight—can the Terrible Beast Boy actually be human? I think even he is touched by the depth of Fay’s grief. No one can bear to see Fay cry for she holds not a single particle of her existence back from her sorrow.
October 25, 1880
The doctor has come and gone twice now first for Uncle William and his family and now for Grandmother. Aunt Helen has gotten up from bed and seems much improved but Uncle William’s breath rattles and crackles as if he is stuffed with dry leaves and branches.
Mother’s lips are a thin, pale line in her face all the time now and she has terrible little patience for the constant needs of her brood. We are all in fear of her quick tongue and evil temper these days but I have heard her cry in the pantry and I know that we are all afraid of that which terrifies her.
October 31, 1880
Fay slipped back into bed tonight and her feet were icy as a grave. When I asked her to tell me where she has been, she said she has seen Miss Minor in the woods, that she was young again, filled up with sweet life and that she shall stand watch and wait for all of us until we join her in the land where no sorrows come.
Fay fell asleep quickly. In spite of her feet, she gives out heat like a brick tonight and even in the dark her eyes seemed unusually bright and glittering in the moonlight.
God in your mercy, let Fay not catch the malady in this household. Fay is so fragile, so delicate. Every year I must nurse her through every variety of malady and ague. Perhaps if I do not name what I fear, it shall pass us by like how the firstborn of Egypt were spared. O Lord, extend to her thy mercy!
November 10, 1880
Fay cannot get out of bed this morning. She is burning with heat and her nightdress is soaked through with sweat. Her eyes are like jet buttons and I can hear every breath that enters and leaves her chest whether or not she coughs.
I want to weep when she coughs for every time she does so it is like watching a great hand seize and shake her frail body.
October 26, 1880
She tried to hide it in her handkerchief, but today as she was tucked in a chair by the fire in the sitting room my dearest Fay has coughed up blood.
Not Fay, O Lord! Not Fay! Not she who is the best and kindest of all this family!
October 28, 1880
Father called for the doctor again. I do not even think he gave his precious purse another thought when I flew to him and told him of Fay’s plight.
Father would not let me listen in as he consulted with the doctor. When they saw me and Mother hovering nearby, Father shut the door to the parlor as he and the doctor consulted. I slipped into the coat closet—the wall between the closet and parlor is quite thin.
To my horror, I heard the doctor confirm that tuberculosis is rampant in our home, and that Fay not only has contracted it but that with her, it is the galloping variety! It has set its dread hand upon her swiftly and he fears for her life. The doctor says it is no use to move her to a asylum or hospital—as in the case of our dear Miss Minor, the journey alone will lay her in the grave.
I ran to Mother who held me, rocked me and dosed me with a spoonful of Water of Life to cease the flow of my tears. Mother says she has lost one of us children to an early illness and that it is a bitter cup to have to think of losing the best amongst us. I grew hysterical again at her words but Mother shook me and told me God’s will can be a terrible thing to bear. She says while I stand to lose but one sibling, she loses a child of her bosom.
Fay is the only one who understands me. Who shall I speak to if she dies? If I lose her, I shall lose my best and dearest friend and sister! God must know what a delight she is that he thinks to call her to him, but how can he rob us of our treasure on earth?
November 1, 1880
Every night now, Fay needs a fresh nightgown or even two as she is constantly bathed in sweat. Every hour her breath sticks harder in her chest. We try every remedy to help her breathe—open windows, a mountain of pillows to recline upon, hot and cold compresses, the remedies of every granny and wild Indian within a hundred miles, and every patent medicine and potion that can be gotten. Not a pill, not an herb, not a single thing has brought ease to Fay. Laudanum reduces her pain, but places her into a feverish stupor.
I sit by her bed day and night praying. Aunt Grace and Cousin Fanny both still cough but have risen. Uncle William fades and grows thinner as if the kindling and leaves that stuff his chest were burning and burning him away. He comes and sits by her too and says nothing, but watches her with a strange, knowing eye.
November 10, 1880
The gentlest bloom, the finest bud in God’s kingdom is gathered to his bosom. Fay strangled all night and gasped to draw breath. I bathed her with cool water and raised her up in my arms trying to find an angle of ease for her to be able to rest but all was for naught. In the soul’s midnight, that terrible time in the darkest portion of the night, Fay at last seemed to relax.
She touched my face and told me that she knew the Kingdom of Heaven called now. Though I cried and begged for her to try and resist, she told me she must go and be with the angels. I wept at that and chided her that as I have never been so good a soul as her that I shall never find my way to her if she leaves me.
With the last of her strength, she drew me into her embrace.
“Anna,” she said. “Put aside your fear and only keep love in your heart. When I go before you, no matter how long we are separated, I shall wait and keep watch for you that I may guide you safe to bide with Him. We will be together again someday.” She kissed me, then bade me lie down beside her that she might rest with the comfort of me near.
All that night I listened to her breath grow slower and slower till before dawn, Fay drew breath no more and lay still. Her flesh seemed to glow in the pale light of the candle and she seemed so beautiful, so made of utterly shining porcelain that I found my breath catching at the strange loveliness that had come over her.
She dwells now in peace and I shall exist in Purgatory hereafter.
November 12, 1880
My most precious Fay is not to find her eternal resting place yet. The ground is frozen hard as my dead heart and graves cannot be dug for the rest of the New England winter. Yesterday we took Fay for her burial service, then laid her in the winter burial crypt to wait for the coming of spring.
I shall visit her tomb as often as I may and though there are no more flowers, I shall leave fresh pine boughs about the door of her tomb that she may have the scent of the woods that she so loved. Her tomb shall be my treasure vault, the keeping place of my sentinel angel who shall watch for me always.
I told Father of her promise to stand watch for me. He seemed oddly disturbed, but then seeing my tears he kissed me and caused that to be painted upon her casket and said he shall have that carved into her tombstone. He praised her saintly nature that she should put aside the delights of the Kingdom to make certain I too am saved.
December 1, 1880
I have consulted the almanac to find it is already the coldest winter in a score of years. It is God’s mercy that Fay is spared the suffering of it. No one in this house seems ever to be warm though we feed the stoves and fireplaces like we are serving a glutton a king’s banquet. There is always ice in the washstands. Every morning when the milkman leaves his goods upon our doorstep, we find the bottles of milk frozen solid, the cream often lifting the caps of the bottles high up! Mother laughs and says that if she wants to strain the cream, she has but to cut the tops off to do so.
I lay fresh boughs around the door of Fay’s tomb every day. Sometimes Nathaniel even cuts them for me and helps take away the drying ones. I find them in our fires later and the scent of pine smoke drives me to my room to weep.
December 12, 1880
All night I have had the most terrible dreams. I cannot remember most of them mercifully, but I woke screaming that we had locked Fay into the winter burial house by accident, that I had heard her beating against the door, crying to get out.
Susannah ran from our little room to get Mother. She said I was raving about saving Fay and had risen from our bed screaming that I must go to her and free her. Mother said that I was soaking with sweat and have taken a fever. I am in bed this whole day with a series of hot compresses on my chest. I feel drained from my midnight exertions and have only just woken now in mid-afternoon to write this entry.
December 26, 1880
I fell asleep by the window this Christmas Eve, grieving that the lace collar I was knitting for Fay wasn’t even done in time for her funeral.
I woke somewhere in the dead of night with Fay’s comforting voice in my ear telling me not to fret, she’d peeped in my workbasket and had seen it already.
It is so like Fay to ease my mind about such things. I am weaker today. I feel as if I am a river with the better part of me siphoned away. Mother again keeps me in bed, this time with a cool cloth to soothe my brow.
January 1rst, 1881
Uncle William has died and is now to join Fay in the winter burial crypt. Two of the Maiden Aunts (Delilah and Mary Susan) now show signs of the consumption. Neither I nor Aunt Grace shall be able to attend the burial service and I can hear coughing up and down the nursery wing of the house.
Sickness stalks us like winter deer in a cold forest.
January 30, 1881
Two of the littlest ones were called within days by fever and Aunt Grace is sinking. I have heard Fay singing in the forest every night this week. She comforts me so and it cheers me beyond measure to know she is near. I am of no use to Mother in this terrible hour and have become a burden for every morning she finds me pale as skimmed milk and with all strength gone from me.
February 4th, 1881
Fay tapped at my window last night, but would not show herself to me. She wishes to come in and lie with me in our narrow bed where it is warm and she can hold me tight to her. I would open the window that she may come in, but have not the strength to open it as our window sticks badly. Oh how I wish Fay would remain here with me and not go away again!
Mother turns so pale when I tell her of Fay’s sweet visits. Is she jealous that Fay does not visit her as well?
February 1881, unknown day
Terrible dreams all night filled with grasping hands and phantasms. I saw Fay outside my window all night, crying and crying for me to let her in. I fought with the window and at last broke a pane and called out to her “Come in Fay! Come in to me!”
I wake to find one pane of my window blocked with a bit of plank. Susanna has been moved to a pallet in the kitchen. Mother will not talk to me about what went on.
I feel so drained again today. Even writing this has exhausted me. How I wish Fay would just stay by my side instead of calling me to her.
February (?) 1881
I joined Fay tonight by her burial house and danced with her in the bright moonlight all night long. She is hale and healthy and well pleased with her prank on Mother and Father. She says she has just removed to the burial house so that she might finally have the luxury of a room all her own.
My heart soars with happiness to see her so well. She embraced me again and again and it did my soul immeasurable good to see her bloom with health and life.
I woke again in my cold and lonely bed. My feet were smutted with leaves and forest soil and another pane of glass is blocked up. Mother will not look directly at me but buries her face in her apron. Father has called that sawbones down upon me and he pokes and prods and bothers me.
Why will no one listen to me? I do not have consumption, just a small fever. It is them keeping Fay from me that so takes my strength and turns my bones to water. Fay is all that is alive and she is the very embodiment of the essence of strength. Whenever she is by, I am well again. Why do they insist on keeping her away from me?
March 1, 1881
Father sits by my bed and strokes my hair. He has told me what day it is today and that all of the Maiden Aunts have in swift order begun to file to the burial house as well as one more of the little ones. I asked about Cousin Fanny and Aunt Grace and he has said they keep company with Fay now.
I told Father how I visit with Fay every evening, that she comes and lies beside me. I tell him of how bright her eyes are and how blooming her cheeks are and that she always laughs and is merry.
He looked most grim at that and eyed the boarded-up panes in my window. I told him how her visits are such a comfort to me and relieve my heart. He asks if they tire me.
I thought a bit and said aye, it always seems to take something out of me when she goes. The parting from her is every painful and it makes me weep that she will not stay by me.
He seemed to think terribly upon that and his face grew fearful. He squeezed my hand and bid me sleep, that he will look into matters.
Huzzah! Is he looking into talking Fay into returning to our house? I shall tell her this when next I see her dear face in the moonlight, dancing outside my window.
She calls to me all the time to come kiss her, that she needs me so.
March (?) 1881
I have heard strange people coming and going from the house all day. I woke from a fitful slumber to find Father and Reverend Montgomery standing over me talking earnestly. The blankets were drawn over my head so neither man knew when I woke.
Father looked at me with hollow eyes. “She has reported hearing Fay call her. I fear others in the house have seen her as well.”
The good Reverend nodded and looking over me he said gravely. “I fear she is calling Anna and the others. Unless she is stopped, Fay will keep calling others to the grave.”
“How should we know she is doing so?” Father gripped Reverend Montgomery’s arm. “Are there any signs by which we may know our Fay does not rest?”
The Reverend nodded. “We will have to examine her body in the burial house. If she shows signs of decay, of the ravages of the grave then it is not her that calls your family to the tomb. But if she be fresh and beautiful, if her cheeks are rosy with life, or if shoots of vines rise from her body, then it is her that is stealing the essence of life away from your house.”
Father glanced over at me, but as the blanket covered me completely neither man could see me watch them. “You do not say…she is physically rising from her coffin…?”
“No no!” Reverend Montgomery shook his head. “I have…heard of cases such as this. The spirit rises as a mist from the grave and draws the very life forces from the sufferers!” He gestured upwards as if conducting an unseen object towards the ceiling. “Such is their thirst for life that when they lose theirs they still cling to their existence by taking it from the very ones they know and love.”
Father sighed and rubbed his face. “Fay was a strange little creature who loved life and supped fully of every joy it contained. It breaks my heart to disturb her rest!”
The man clapped a hand on Father’s shoulder. “Do comfort yourself then that Fay hasn’t even been laid in her eternal resting spot. The winter morgue is only a temporary stop on her journey to eternity. Could this not be considered an ideal time to cure any…problems that threaten her journey to Glory?”
“We will do what you have recommended.” I could just see Father drop his head and take a couple steps away from me. “This cure is such a strange one and so alien to me. I can scarcely countenance that a man of science like you has recommended it to me.”
Reverend Montgomery folded his arms across his chest. “I will admit this is not a cure that you will find in medical journals. I have heard of instances like the one besetting your family before and in those cases, the deaths were stopped by following the….treatment that I have spoken to you about.”
I struggled to stay awake, but sleep was a rope around my ankles, pulling me into dark waters. What treatment do they speak of that is so dire? I woke again when they were gone.
I must keep a record of this for Fay. She will know what to do. I must tell her when she comes.
March 25, 1881, late in the day
I write this upon our return from the terrible thing that they have done.
I do not know if it was morning or evening when they took me. I was awakened by Mother and Father lifting me from the bed. Mother dressed me quickly and then Father and two of the older boys carried me down the stairs and placed me in a waiting sleigh that stood before the house.
Mother, Grandmother, Father and my brothers got into the sleigh and then with a strange glance at me, Father cracked the whip and started the horses.
I struggled to sit up properly as the cool rush of air revived me. “Father…where are we going? Where are you taking me?” Were they taking me to a hospital? Was I that ill? Surely I only needed a bit of rest and for Fay to come and sing to me. Surely I would be well again if Fay would not leave me.
“Hush Anna. We are saving you. What we do today, it will cure you.” Father would not meet my eyes and I could hear both Mother and Grandmother weeping.
“Father, where do we go?” I stared at the gray clouds rolling low over me like gray stones that crushed out all the light and air. “Where are you taking me?”
Father would not answer, just cracked the whip over the horses and urged them into a trot over the pale, frozen road.
I thought knew the road we were on….after a few more twists and turns I was sure I knew it. The horses’ hooves pounded over the old covered bridge and I realized we were at the burial ground. Why had we come here? Had they brought me here so that I might have the comfort of visiting dear Fay in her cold tomb? I felt a chill pierce my belly. Was I to die? Had they brought me to the winter crypt to let me die here beside Fay?
Father lifted me down in his arms as one of my brothers leapt to hold the horses’ heads. Mother fussed over me, laying another quilt around me, tying my neck with a scratchy wool scarf and having to scramble to keep up with Father as he ducked his head down against me and plowed through the drifts of snow.
The Reverend Montomery, two of my cousins and my brothers waited by the winter crypt. Edgar, my oldest brother was sweeping the last snow off a huge flat rock that lay nearby.
“We’re here. Open it up the crypt and let us do what must be done quickly.” Father’s voice boomed out against my ear and I cried out, fear tasting copper upon my tongue.
The Reverend unlocked the crypt and two of my brothers ducked inside swiftly. They came back out carrying Fay’s narrow little coffin between them. I wept to see it. “What are you doing? What do you do to Fay?” I struggled to see but only began to cough in the cold air.
Mother tucked a shawl around me. “Hush Anna, we only do what we must. We do this for you!”
The boys laid Fay’s coffin upon the huge stone. Reverend Montgomery and Father took two crowbars and pried the lid open roughly. Did Fay scream or was that the nails in her coffin lid. “Stop, you’re hurting her!” Hot tears ran into my hair and froze as I tried to struggle in Father’s arms.
Mother laid out an oilcloth and a stack of quilts on the ground by the rock. Father laid me on it, then he and the Reverend turned to Fay’s coffin. They forced the lid aside and both men bent over her. Father gasped raggedly at the sight over her, falling back into the snow with a terrible cry. “She is not dead! She is just as she was when we laid her into this grave!”
My brothers clustered around the coffin, shoving each other to gain the best spot to stare at poor Fay. The babble of their exclamations sent clouds of steam rising into the air. Grandmother held Mother back, then hobbled to the coffin to still the boys. She glanced in, clutching Edgar’s arm and I could see her shaking, trembling in the mercilessly biting wind as she did so.
“Oh God bless us. She looks as if she were but asleep!” The wind tried to snatch away Grandmother’s voice but it rose to me, sharp and filled with pain. “She does call us to her! Oh merciful God have pity upon us!” She gave a terrible wordless cry and two ravens at the edge of the cemetery answered her as if in mockery.
Father bent over Fay’s coffin and I could hear him weep aloud. “We must purify her. Father Montomery, let us do this act swiftly and stop this scourge that destroys my household!”
I saw Edgar, Reverend Montgomery and Father lift Fay from her coffin. “What are you doing to her?” I screamed at them. Mother seized me hard and forced her head towards her bosom, but not before I saw Father advancing towards Fay with an axe.
“Take her heart out and lay it upon the stone. You boys get the kindling. We will need to burn it that we may give Anna the ashes.” Reverend Montgomery’s voice was a hard peal of a bell tolling out in the chill air. Amongst my brothers, I could see Nathaniel with an armload of kindling, weeping as he build a fire upon the stone.
I screamed again, fighting Mother and the swaddling blankets. How could they touch Fay? Why did they want to kill her? I found my feet for a moment and saw Fay lying upon the rock, Father standing over her. She lay across the cold stone uncomplaining. Her beautiful pale hair came loose from her braids and spilled out over Edgar’s hands as he arranged her. I could see her face, pale and beautiful, relaxed in peaceful sleep.
The world turned as if balanced on a child’s top. Mother forced me away back towards the pallet and I could hear the terrible noises as the men hurt poor Fay. I must have swooned like one of the fine ladies in my romances, for shortly I woke to smell meat burning. I could hear even the men weep around me.
Father lifted me, putting a cup to my lips. “Drink Anna. Drink to end Fay’s power over you.”
I could smell ashes in the water he held out to me. “No, I will not! How could you hurt poor Fay? Let her come back to me! Please don’t hurt her! She would never hurt me!”
Father’s face was grim. “She rises from the grave to take life from you. Drink Anna, you will follow her to the grave next! Drink and end her power over us!”
I cried out and tried to struggle, tried to kick loose of the blankets, of the arms about me and get away from the terrible stench of that cup.
“Drink Anna! Drink the medicine and get well!” Mother begged, throwing her body over mine, trapping me, forcing me back against the cold pallet.
Nathaniel came forward, seized my upper body and hauled me up till I was partially sitting. “Anna, you must! Don’t let anyone else die for Fay!” I could see tears running down his cheeks, leaving tracks of ice. “You have to drink the ashes so she has to stay in her grave!”
Father forced my mouth open, his fingers cold and hard upon my face and jaw. Mother keened again, the crows mocking her cry too as she took the cup of water and ashes and poured it into my mouth, forcing death and bitterness upon me.
I thought I heard another cry, far and distant upon the winter wind. Was poor Fay objecting to the cruelties they visited upon her? I was glad to share my life with Fay, how could they deny that one little thing to her? How could they steal life from one who held it so precious, who loved every thing she got from it? How could they be jealous of one so free and pure as to destroy her?
“Forgive me…” I shot a glance towards the crows who stood witness to my family’s crime. One took flight into the cold air. “Tell her to forgive…” The bitter cold water and ash poured into my throat and thankfully I knew no more.
Late night, perhaps the same day?
I woke here in my room again. Night looks to have just fallen and I watched the moon rise as I wrote in my journal.
I weep, wishing away the taste of ash upon my tongue, desperately listening to the cold wind, and weakly I rise from bed. I call her name and feel the terrible cough seize my chest, but I call again and again, though I hear no other answer but the soft mournful keening of the wind.