Anna’s hands traced across the gilded lettering on a book cover. She loved David’s cabin. It had a wood-burning stove in the front room, an old sofa and even older chair, and books. Short and fat books, long skinny books, books about history and kings. When she had thought David might ask her to marry him, Anna had decided she would say yes on the basis of his library. David was the same age Anna’s father had been years ago when he died after falling from a ladder, but not very much like her father.
Anna’s father had been warm and jovial, but plagued by fits of madness. He was often so happy that it alarmed Anna, who did the best she could to look after her father. Anna’s mother had died in childbirth, a story Anna had read about in detail in the midwife’s journals. By contrast, David seldom smiled. He had lived as a bachelor since the death of his wife and child in a terrible birth. Some said he blamed Joanna, though Anna knew from reading the journals that there was nothing Joanna could have done. The cord had wrapped around the baby’s neck in the womb, and his mother was small and frail and did not survive. Under Joanna’s care most women and babies survived these days. But since the loss of his family, David had been cordial but cold toward Joanna.
“Hello child,” Joanna’s voice called out. Anna stood from her gardening to open the garden gate for Joanna. “Make me some tea and we’ll talk, shall we?”
Anna’s hands carried out the practiced motions of making tea while she listened to Joanna talk. “Mary’s babe is growing well. She has fat toes.” Joanna smiled. She loved babies, truly loved them, yet could never have one of her own because she was the midwife. Anna wondered how much that had cost her. “And of course, Sarah is expecting in the next weeks. I hope this one knows how to be born in the afternoon.”
Anna smiled and handed a mug to her dear friend and mentor. “Do you know what’s to become of the minister’s house?” she asked. She poured sugar into her cup and spilled some on the table in the process.
“Well the new minister shall live there, of course.” Joanna answered. “Lisette is to move in with her daughter’s family. They’ve an attic room for her.” Poor Lisette, having to leave the only home she’d known since leaving her father’s household as a young woman, the home where she’d raised her children and lost one, the home her husband lived and died in. She would not be moving far – just a half mile down the road. But she would be a perpetual guest in her son-in-law’s home and never the lady of her own house again.
“Do we know yet, who the new minister will be?” Anna asked while keeping her eyes down, her fingers tracing through the grains of sugar sketching patterns.
“Oh the men will decide. They’ve been in conference with Peter and David and should make up their minds soon. Don’t worry child, it’s only been a few days. We’ll have certainty again soon.” Anna nodded. It wasn’t uncertainty that plagued her thoughts, but worry that neither Peter nor David would do the job like Micah had, with cheerful grace and somber compassion.
Peter was a nice man – Anna had to keep herself from thinking “boy”. He was young, a few years younger than Anna, and most people in the community still saw him as the barefoot boy catching bullfrogs he had once been. David was less exuberant and joyful, but more thoughtful and calculating. He had already been exposed to the wider world’s sins through his books, and could probably handle the dealings for the community.
“Now enough of that gossip,” Joanna said. “It’s time to review your herbs. What would you give me for an upset stomach?”