He thought such an association beneath her.
Isabel called the afternoons idylls. "You're a ghostly girl," she prattled intimately.
"Will you write to me from Malden?" said Frances.
Isabel stopped oddly with her neck jutting forward.
Isabel said that the vows she would take at the nunnery were a safeguard against the corruption of adulthood. I will not take adulthood, he heard Frances chant softly. I will forswear the modern world, Willard added as if for his record.
"Indeed, Mrs. Heald, are you listening or absorbed in collaging." He made a remark of it.
"For in that time," he continued, regardless of her permission, "children were born who were more old-fashioned than their parents."
("Do you mean our time, Willard?" she had inquired when he read the same passage on another occasion.
("Ah, Mrs. Heald," he stalled and she continued.
("You see us already set into place like so many gravestones. Are we so soon finished?"
("Not finished, but to remain as we are. Constant against Time in our Moral Nature.")
"Such children," he resumed after a pause she thought gave him ample satisfaction, "were the acolytes of the past and they became spinsters and hermits. They were born this way because it was the beginning of a new Century and because of a world stripped of whimsy and because, simply, they abhorred the thought of growing older."
Dear Isabel, wrote Frances. I have come late to the crossroads. I must now make a choice. You have preceded me because of your angelic nature; what shall I do? Write to me of the practical life of the nunnery. Have you achieved anything in prayer? Isabel, I am greatly confused. It seems my father will take in boarders from New York City for the summer. I am to serve their meals and make their beds. They will pay five dollars a week, a portion of which will go into a bank account for me. What if some of the young men make advances?
In the postman's mind's eye was the erudite author's particular penmanship. An address to a young woman called Frances because the women of America have more of the future in their hands collectively than any other group of people in the world.
"A noble thing for him to say," said Willard quietly, or in a voice that seemed to his wife oddly thick.
She might have asked how he knew such a detail but she bowed her head to continue her handwork.
* * *
In the evenings, Frances's father and brothers talked over
the new planning Ordinances. Willard Heald recorded such conversations.
Our town is no longer somebody's kitchen garden, the selectmen said, and the postman recorded this also. We must plan for growth. As with a child, our town needs a strong hand to guide it. Now a farmer could not do two things unless he told the town planning board. The exception was syrupping. But beekeepers would be taxed. Three or more fruit trees of a kind would be recorded. Extra cream was to be called surplus.
The new Ordinances are for the birds, said Frances's father. We'll build where we please. We'll not count our apple trees.
A daughter in a nunnery. Now is that a loss or a gain for the household? What do the selectmen say?
Frances's brother Wright snorted.
I won't marry, said Frances.
Pine board additions may be made to the original structure if they are approved in advance by the planning board, wrote Heald the postman.
Sugar maples may be tapped in the earliest spring regardless of property lines. Wool-cards and bobbins (the latter by the factory-folk) can be made from any maple, but save your sugar for its sap. Men come from the sugar house covered in sticky film that any good dog will lick at if you let him.If someone wants to make syrup, he is a more virtuous man than you but despite your lassitude, your children will be treated to maple syrup on snow at the first possible occasion. they are approved in advance by the planning board, wrote Heald the postman.
The fiddleheads of certain ferns may be collected by the children and had for a light supper. Native cuisine, as native as wintergreen berries, Indian cucumbers, the green layer of black birch bark in spring.
Chewing the bark, you could eat winter. Set your teeth against its ache, thought Willard.
Red Oak for shingles. The last of the Balm of
Gilead sighted on the west ledge of the Jewett Farm.
From Garner by Kirstin Allio, pages 11-25. Copyright Kirstin Allio 2005. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher, Coffee House Press.
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