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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Feeding the Soul

So I mentioned that I like dramatic stories with heavy emotional content. The one I'm working on right now has all that and more. It's set in the Victorian era (1850s and '60s) in Australia. James is an English Protestant; Eliza and her friend, Molly, are Irish Catholics. Despite the differences, James has set out to court Eliza.

Both women work as domestics and only have Thursday evenings free. Because their employer is Protestant, she insists that they skip their dinner (in Australia, "tea") if they wish to go to mass -- and of course, considers herself magnanimous for letting them go at all. After the first Thursday evening, when James visits with hungry Eliza, he makes a small correction before his next visit. Here's what happens:

James grinned at her gratefully and sat down next to Eliza on the side porch swing. Then he produced a small package wrapped in paper. “I’ve a small gift for ye, Eliza.”

“Ah, James, ye know I can’t accept –“

“You can accept this one,” he said. He untied the string and a pair of warm meat pies sat there between them, so fragrant Eliza thought she might almost be able to eat the smell.

“Oh! They smell delicious! James, how did you --?”

“When we sat here together last week, I heard yer stomach growl.”

Eliza blushed. “I’m sorry. I –“

“After I left, I got to thinkin’ about what time ye leave for mass and when Mrs. Pembroke likes to serve tea. When Cooper and Elsie came in to pick up the grocery order, I asked Cook if what I suspected was true, and she told me the two of you go hungry every Thursday, just so you can attend mass. Is that true?”

“Aye, sure ‘n it is, but I can’t have ye feeding me, James.”

“I bought two meat pies. I thought perhaps I could share a meal with you.”

Eliza looked around, saw Molly sitting a few yards away. “James, if ye don’t mind too much, I’d like t’ share my pie with Molly. She is powerful hungry, as she went without dinner, too.”

James’ expression fell. “How foolish of me. I never thought.” He called out, “Molly girl! Come over here and eat! I’ve food for ye.”

When Molly arrived, smiling brightly, James handed one pie to Eliza and the other to Molly. “I already ate a full dinner,” he explained. “Missus Hogan had me over tonight. I only brought the second pie so we could share, but I can’t eat it if I see either of you two going hungry…”

“We can’t eat in front of you,” said Eliza.

“I can!” Molly eagerly took one pie from the package, made the sign of the cross in a quick prayer of thanksgiving, and began to eat greedily.

“I s’pose we can.” Eliza chuckled as she ducked her head and crossed herself, giving thanks. Then she turned to her benefactor. “Thank ye too, James. This is a great kindness.”

James’ lips twitched in a wry smile. “It seemed the Christian thing to do.”

Stay tuned to hear more about James and Eliza. I think you'll enjoy them.

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