Mary's Childby Celia A. Leaman
Sixteen years after Mary Jay is incarcerated in the workhouse she is apprenticed out to the Bennett's farm on Dartmoor. She has no idea it is only a few miles from where she was born, or that she will be returning to the vicinity of the man who darkened her mother's
Woven around the legend of Jay's Grave, Mary's Child is a story filled with hope, love and courage.
Sixteen years after Mary Jay is incarcerated in the workhouse she is apprenticed out to the Bennett's farm on Dartmoor. She has no idea it is only a few miles from where she was born, or that she will be returning to the vicinity of the man who darkened her mother's last days.
"Though the novel depicts the grim reality of a time when life was terribly hard for the common people, especially for women, and though dark tragedy mars its unfolding, Mary's Child is a moving, even hopeful, book. I cannot recommend it highly enough." ~ Reviewed by Jane Bowers for Romance Reviews Today.
- Paladin Timeless Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.64(d)
Read an Excerpt
Though the sun shone through the windows it did little to relieve the sadness in the Wolborough workhouse. In a chestnut tree outside sparrows chirruped and hopped from branch to branch, their freedom a stark contrast to the forlorn souls within who never celebrated any joy in living, but merely existed from one day to another.
At the end of a long corridor a young girl knelt, wearily scrubbing the flagstone floor. She paused for a moment to stretch and to ease her aching back. Unfortunately it was just as Kat Black, one of the workhouse assistants, came around the corner.
"Slacking, Jay?" Kat said. "Well, you can leave it. Brimley wants you in his office." She took a step forward and clipped Mary's ear. "You should have finished by now if you weren't slower than everyone else. Well? What you waiting for then? I said go, didn't I?"
Mary got up quickly, wondering if she should first empty the bucket, but another look at Kat's face relieved her of that decision and she scuttled along to the flight of stairs that led to the top floor where the Master of the workhouse, William Brimley, had his office. She couldn't think why he would want to see her unless it was with respect to the couple who had arrived some time ago. But what foolish hope, she thought, when she was the most unlikely candidate to be chosen.
She knocked and entered Mr. Brimley's office and he asked her to stand in front of his desk so that the couple beside him could have a look at her.
"This is Mary Jay, of whom we have been speaking," he said to them. "Mary Jay, this is Mr. and Mrs. Bennett from the parish of North Bovey on Dartmoor. They have need of an apprentice to work on their farm."
Mary's eyes dartedtowards Mr. Bennett. Of course she knew she must not stare; but at a glance she could see he was a chubby, jolly-looking man with a face as rosy as a red apple. And when he caught her quick, shy look he smiled and nodded encouragingly at her.
Harriet Bennett, however, didn't look as impressed as her husband and pursed her lips. "Haven't you got anything else?" she sniffed.
"Owing to the men going off to war laborers are in short supply everywhere," Mr. Brimley pointed out. "I'm afraid there is no one else whom I feel would be suitable for the work you describe."
"Humph, if that's the case why hasn't she gone out before?" Harriet grumbled. "She must be fifteen if she's a day. What's wrong with her?"
"Mary is coming up sixteen years-old," Mr. Brimley said, patiently. "There is nothing wrong with her except she is unable to speak, and others have not been comfortable with it you understand. That is the only reason she is still here."
As Mary listened to this all too familiar conversation her spirits fell. When people knew this they generally assumed she was also deaf, and thus too daft to take instruction.
In the silence that followed, while Mr. Bennett looked thoughtful, and Mrs. Bennett's expression seemed to suggest there was a nasty smell in the room, Mary waited for the inevitable rejection. But hope flared again when Mr. Bennett said, "Poor maid. From birth was it?"
Mr. Brimley shuffled in his seat. "Er, no Mr. Bennett, it was shock--so I am led to believe. She has no problem with her other senses."
Harriet sniffed again. "That's what I'm afraid of," she said. "I don't know that she'll be at all suitable." She lowered her voice and said to Ronald, "What about Matthew, Ronald?"
"Aw, you don't have to worry about him," he said. "He's sweet on that maid Clara, at the Manor."
Harriet frowned. "Oh? And how long's that been going on?"
"Now, don't get in a huff. I only mentioned it so you would give the maid a fair chance."
"We aren't here to give anybody a chance," Harriet said. "We are here to find someone to suit our needs, and if she's simple..."
Mr. Brimley cleared his throat. "Mary is far from simple," he said. "To the contrary, I would say she is very bright. She has been a good, willing worker and learns quickly."
"Well, that's the main thing..." Ronald began.
"I'll thank you not to interfere, Ronald," Harriet said, sharply. "It isn't you who'll have the trouble of her."
"Trouble you say? It's help we have come for, to save your legs. If you're that put off we'll go home and say no more about it," Ronald replied, his color rising.
"Now wait just a minute," Harriet said, staying him with her hand. "It's just that we've hardly been given any choice, and she isn't what I came for."
Mr. Brimley cleared his throat. "It is better," he said, "not to come to the workhouse with any preconceived ideas Mrs. Bennett. Especially with the war on. As I have tried to explain..."
"Everyone blames Napoleon for everything and anything!" Harriet snapped. "I don't count him as an excuse for anything at all."
"It will be all right my dear," Ronald said. "I'm sure Mary will work out very well."
Mr. Brimley shuffled the papers on his desk and stood up. "Well, if it's settled then I do have rather a lot to do and I'm sure you'll want to be getting along. We'll just get these papers signed."
"Yes, indeed," Ronald said, also rising. "I do believe the matter is concluded well enough, and I thank you for your trouble, sir. "
Mr. Brimley turned to Mary. "Fetch your things, child," he said. "You'll don't want to keep these good people waiting."
Mary could hardly believe what she had just heard, and it was as if someone else curtsied and left the room, not her. Not her, because she was so dumbfounded, and she had to lean against the wall outside for a moment to recover. They had accepted her! Well, Mr. Brimley had persuaded...But though Mrs. Bennett might be reluctant now, Mary was sure she would change her mind when she saw how hard she worked; it was only Kat who said she was slow.
With a sudden burst of energy, and feeling something near to happiness, she skipped along the hallway and down the stairs. However, Kat was waiting for her at the bottom and Mary automatically dropped her smile and cringed away from her.
"Turned you down then did they?" Kat said. She scowled and raised her hand, as was her habit. "In here a bit longer then are you?" She smiled her ghastly smile then lowered her voice to a growl and said, "I knew they wouldn't take you. No one will ever take you out of here. You're stuck here for life. And so you should be, the child of that..." She stopped, and her hand fell to her side as she saw her sister Tilly coming down the corridor.
"Start putting your things together dear," Tilly said to Mary. "I'll come and help you in a moment." She turned to Kat. "For your information they did accept the girl. Now, thanks be to God, she'll be free of you."
Mary crept away as the sisters fought their private battle. She had no idea why Kat was so mean to her. Tilly, who was as different to her sister as cream was to coal, had told her it was jealousy. But Mary doubted this because she couldn't understand why anyone would envy such a miserable existence as her own.
Meet the Author
Celia Leaman was raised in Devon, England. After moving to Canada in 1980, she had short stories published in magazines in the UK, Canada, the United States and South Africa. One of these was translated into Braille. She also wrote and co-directed a play, performed on Galiano Island, BC.
Celia writes in several genres. Her more serious novels, her first being Mary's Child, reflect her love of the South Devon moors in England. When Mary's Child was first released, it was a Frankfurt eBook Award and a Reviewers Choice Award nominee.
Unraveled is a lighthearted mainstream novel with a touch of fantasy and humor, as is her short story ebook, "Island Stories." Celia has created a whole new island community on Gale Island, a fictional Gulf Island situated between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island.
"Who is Margaret? What is She?" is a book of quirky/alien/fantasy short stories.
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