If I were to tell thee about a day in my life – I, a mill girl not yet twenty – thee might not want such a life. The noise of the mill leaves my ears ringing and after standing for ten hours, my feet ache. It helps that my friend Annie Beaumont and I stroll away together after our shift. She tempts me with one of her pretty colored ribbons, but Quakers believe in plain dress, so I cannot accept the gift, although I long to. She convinces me to roll one into my pocket and keep it close, even if hidden.
We walk by the thrumming water wheels turning in the Powwow River and down to Market Square, careful not to step in a pile of horse manure left by the creatures who pull the graceful carriages for which our town of Amesbury is known nationwide. Then Annie returns to her family, all French Canadians, in their tenement down on the Flats, and I trudge uphill to make supper for my father and my four younger siblings. If I’m lucky, my beau Zebulon pays a visit on his way home from his position in the Babcock Carriage Factory.
He is a Friend, as well. We often walk together to the Meetinghouse on First Day, sometimes encountering John Whittier on our path. John is famous across the land both for his abolitionist work and his poetry, but to us he is simply the kindly old man with the twinkle in his eye whom we have known our entire lives.
The night of the Great Fire of 1888 was a fearsome one. After I saw a shadowy figure that afternoon, I was grateful that the Light led me to uncover the arsonist who was responsible for killing a dozen men and destroying so many of the carriage factories. We are blessed that the owners decided to rebuild so soon after.
My aunt Rose has said she will come to live with us. Father invited her to use our parlor as an office for her midwifery practice. We both miss Mother – Rose’s sister – so much, and having another woman in the house will be a comfort, especially one so near my own age. Perhaps together we will at last discover the true cause of my mother’s death.
Faith Bailey appears in “Breaking the Silence,” the Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold from Level Best Books. The anthology is edited by Barbara Ross, Mark Ammons, Katherine Fast, and Leslie Wheeler.
Stone Cold presents twenty-eight delicious crime stories from a bevy of award-winning New England mystery writers along with several exciting new voices. Drop dead funny or stone cold deadly, the inventive and sometimes twisted tales in Level Best Books’ eleventh anthology leave no stone unturned-a not-so-innocent trivia game, blood-red geraniums, an army of angry skunks, spousicides, lousicides, arsonists, rum runners, hackers, witless wonders, and even a diabolically well-trained pooch.
Meet the author
Edith Maxwell writes the Local Foods Mysteries. A TINE TO LIVE, A TINE TO DIE introduces organic farmer Cam Flaherty and a Locavore Club (Kensington Publishing, May 2013). Edith once owned and operated the smallest certified-organic farm in Essex County, Massachusetts.
Tace Baker, the pen name of author Edith Maxwell, is the author of SPEAKING OF MURDER (Barking Rain Press) featuring Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau. Edith holds a PhD in linguistics and is a member of Amesbury Monthly Meeting of Friends.
A mother and technical writer, Edith is a fourth-generation Californian but lives north of Boston in an antique house with her beau and three cats.