was market day and business was slow, the townsfolk all off at the main
square with the farmers and fishmongers. Will stood at the doorway of the
quiet smithy, watching the gaggle of children play a raucous game of tag in
the small, dusty courtyard. A twinge in his heart and a bittersweet curl of
a smile in the corner of his mouth, as always.
It had been nearly eight months since Elizabeth's last miscarriage, her
fifth in the three years of their marriage. It had been six months since the
Governor had taken him aside and said the words he had already known were
"William, even if she begs it of you, do not. You know I lost her mother
that way." Weatherby had paused and swallowed over the lump in his throat,
"If Elizabeth ever carries a child to term, it will mean her death. I
thought that Sophia would live on in her child, and in a way she has. But
nothing can ever replace the ache in my heart when I miss my dear wife. If I
could go back, if I could change what I have done..."
"I know, sir. I understand." Will had always imagined the sons he would
have, the daughters dandled on his knee. An only child himself, he'd hoped
to have a dozen offspring to guard and guide and grow to maturity. Elizabeth
had objected fiercely to his refusal, and tried various devious methods to
convince him to tup her again, but even the night she got him drunk on the
sweet ale spiked with rum, she was unable to sway him. He had found other
ways to sate her carnal desires, and eventually she had responded in kind.
They had a happy life, and many marriages were barren. It could be borne.
Will's reverie was interrupted by a ball whizzing dangerously close to his
head. "Oh no! Sorry!" A gap-toothed lad of six or so called, and dashed to
retrieve his toy. "I'm very sorry, Master Smith! I'll watch out next time!
Picking the ball up from the ground, Will passed it back to the boy. "It's
Mister Turner, and I'm still a journeyman. Master Brown still rules the
smithy. And whose son are you? You're new around here."
"Widow Kennedy is my mother, sir. She's among the ladies at the Governor's,
Mister Turner." The little blond lad had manners that spoke of breeding, but
clothing that spoke of poverty. A well-born woman, widowed young and in need
of a position in life might well take a place as a ladies' maid in the
colonies, far from her usual social circles. Hard work, but a secure
place if the connections were made appropriately, and better than stooping
to the trades, to be sure. Will snorted at himself inwardly. He must be
spending too much time with Elizabeth's father again, to have such thoughts.
But the boy was speaking again. "I have a secret, Mister Turner," the boy
leaned in conspiratorially, and Will stooped to hear his whisper. "Shall I
tell it to you?"
"I think you'd better," said Will, bemused. "Is it a secret about the
"Oh, no no. Something much better. It's something I found. A very special
Elizabeth returned home from the market, several hours later, to hear sounds
of laughter and general ruckus coming from behind their front door. Juggling
her packages, she called out, "Will? My arms are full! Can you get the door
Her husband's voice replied in a strange muffled quality, "I'm afraid I
can't, but maybe Archie can disentangle himself. There's a lad, get the
latch for Mrs. Turner, would you?"
Elizabeth nearly dropped her parcels when she glanced over the impish little
boy's head to see her husband, pinned in the corner of the parlour, nearly
covered in a blanket of squirming, squealing, sprawling puppies. Grinning
broadly at her shock, Will tried to speak, though it was difficult with a
wagging tail bashing him in the face, repeatedly:
"Can I keep them?"