“Oh Mr. Deadman hanging from the tree,
won’t you cut yourself down,
and sing to me?”
Mother always said I was witty at a moment’s notice, but something tells me she wouldn’t appreciate that one. Sometimes, I can’t help the thoughts that crawl into my ear. It seems the traveling musician Mother hired for my sister, Eleanor’s wedding, has decided to hang himself on my favorite climbing tree. I stare at the bloated, blue figure until I hear footsteps crinkling and cracking the fallen leaves. I slowly turn around on my heels, making sure to plaster a frown to my face as the occasion merits sadness.
“Mary!” Mother curses, paling. Father and Eleanor are at the tail, but not quite close enough to fully realize the scene.
Father sets himself silently behind me. Then there’s a high-pitched squeal of terror from Eleanor. I turn around and witness her fainting. I try not to roll my eyes at her ridiculous sensitivity.
“Jaqueline, get away from there,” Mother finally notices me poking the corpse with a fallen branch. At her reprimand, I quickly drop the branch, backing slowly away on my toes.
“The wedding is ruined!” Mother says.
Yes, even though we all know Eleanor will surely die of shock once she finds out what is expected of her in the marriage bed! I chuckle inwardly at this thought, attracting everyone’s attention. They all stare at me and I curse myself for attracting their attentions.
“Do you not think now is an inappropriate time for a laugh?” Mother scolds me again. I immediately purse my lips into a solemn expression. Her threatening gaze lingers on me a moment longer.
“Sometimes, I think you’re possessed by the Devil, Jackie, ” my sister says, as she recovers from her shock, our maid, Isabel, fanning her as she lay in a pile of dead leaves.
“Now that’s quite enough! Everyone back in the house,” Father says, taking charge of the situation like the admiral he is.
Mother couldn’t be happier to herd Eleanor and me back to our samplers, and Eleanor couldn’t be happier to be led. I, on the other hand, am a bit miffed that I won’t be climbing trees this afternoon. I wish I wouldn’t have startled and screamed earlier, attracting everyone’s attention to the spot in the first place. I could have lived with the rotting corpse, probably. Damn depressive minstrel! I will have to find a way to escape an entire afternoon of sewing in mother’s parlor, while she writes letters to every musician, singer, and acting troupe in Edinburgh, trying to get a replacement in a week’s time. And how I loathe sewing! I hope they cut him down soon so that mother will let us go for a stroll in the garden. That way, I can slip away into the forest while Mother and Eleanor are “oohing and aahing” over the roses! It’s much too stuffy and dry inside and nice outside to sit and sew the whole afternoon.
* * * *
I started working on this story series a few years ago when I had an account on Mibba, and have decided that perhaps I will give it another try. I will try to post the next chapters regularly.