Chapter XVII – Lillian’s Unexpected Visitor

Chapter XVII

Lillian’s Unexpected Visitor

The next morning at breakfast Lillian asked her uncle. “Father Patrick is it fitting that I should be receiving this many visitors?” 

“Lillian, it is His will that you be more of service to the parish.”

“One of the women asked for my council on a … delicate matter of which I have little knowledge. They think I have access to … information that you know. I know little about marriage or child rearing.”

“The seminary didn’t prepare me for some of these matters, either. There I was instructed to see things though the words of the Bible. I have found often listening is enough.”

“Did you know about the rampant use of alcohol in Castleton Mines?”

“Yes, I am aware. I cannot be there to stop them. To chastise will only harden their hearts beyond redemption. Many say that drink is a good man’s reward not a sin. I know our prayers will work if we are fervent enough.”

“Where does the drink come from though. Can’t the authorities control it somehow.”

“What doesn’t get made in secret, comes from St. Pierre. Smugglers.”

“Aren’t the French good Catholics? How could they …”

“France owes no allegiance to our laws Lillian. You know the history of the area. They lost the province to the British and have never forgiven that loss.”

“It isn’t right that this should be allowed to go on.” 

“It isn’t right but it does go on, my child. Even the Church needed special dispensation for the sacramental wine. It can never leave the church. Because it has been transubstantiated doesn’t make it less potent.”

“And the wine you served here … from Mrs. Donati ….”

Father Patrick reddened. “On the rare occasion I will serve it.”

“It isn’t the sacramental wine?”

“No child.”

“So you too have been purchasing from … bootleggers. Adding to intemperance.” She saw that her uncle wasn’t such an honourable man after all. That he too was capable of wrong doing.

“Mrs. Donati is no bootlegger. Besides the wine is her donation to the parish. There is a difference between a glass of wine and being intemperate.” He pushed his chair away from the table. “Just as there is a difference between chastity and purity.”

“Yes Father Patrick.” Lillian said.

“If you find the issues my parishioners bring you beyond your understanding do not hesitate to refer them to me. That is what my role in their lives is. To guide them.”

“It is difficult for me to stop them when they begin to unburden their hearts to me.”

“You are beginning to know what my life consists of. If you wish I can make it known that you do not encourage callers? Has someone told you something that you find troubling?”

“No!” She remembered her promise to Mrs. Hollerhan. “Father perhaps this is how I am to learn about life. I’m grateful God has given me this opportunity. ” Her heart was racing because she was enjoying this change in her life. The last thing she wanted was for uncle to prevent it from continuing. She was happy that she had a use other than washing dishes and maintaining the rectory for her uncle.

“I had prayed that the Redeemer would show you a way to atone for your dereliction. That is where this will help you.” He gestured to the Bible that was kept in the parlour. “All answers are in there.”

“But I don’t always know where to find them.” 

“Patient study will guide you. Do not forget that Miss O’Dowell is calling on you this afternoon.” 

“Yes, Father Patrick.” 

The O’Dowells were amongst the upper class of not only Castleton Mines but if the province itself. Miss O’Dowell’s bother,  Steven, was assistant to the local member of parliament. The family owned department stores in the towns in the area as well as one in Halifax. 

For the occasion her uncle had allowed her to retrieve one of the dresses from her trunk. He had deemed the dark green silk crape as being decorous enough for such visit. It had been airing overnight in the back veranda.

Once he left she had her breakfast. Pleased to know of her uncle’s small weaknesses.

She brought the dress in, took it to her room and changed into it. It was a joy to wear something that fit her form this well. The pale green in the embroidered detailing work around the squared off neckline kept the shift from being monotone. She wished the long sleeves were long enough to cover her hands. Perhaps she should get a pair of her gloves?

Putting her shift over it she went back to the kitchen to prepare for Miss O’Dowell’s visit. She relished the feel of the fabric on her skin. It’s softness was such a change from the coarse linen shifts she had become accustomed to wearing when doing the housework. No matter how hard she washed the shifts did they didn’t get any softer.

She brought the Royal Worcester tea pot, cups, saucers and serving platter for the sandwiches out of its cupboard. As she dusted them her mind went over the events of the past week. Something had altered her uncle’s attitude towards her since the mining accident. Had he finally realized she was capable of more than baking bread. 

She recalled the two men she had spoken with in the Mudside area on her way to the colliery. Their smell and the dark danger that came with them. Not that they had said anything untoward to her at the time but she had sensed their eyes on her. The dark hair of the smaller one. The bright white smile of the taller one. She knew few men who were not Catholics. Did they live as righteously as she did? 

Her revere was broken by a knock at the door. She waited a moment for it to be answered then went to it herself. She was so accustomed to having one of her family maids answer the door she sometimes forgot that it was up to her. 

As she opened the door she noticed that she still wore her dirty shift.

“Come in Miss O’Dowell. I’m sorry I didn’t have time to …” she began. She stopped when she saw that Miss O’Dowell was accompanied by her brother. Her uncle had said nothing about Mr. O’Dowell.

“Please accept my apologies Miss McTavish.” Miss O’Dowell glared at her bother. “I had no intention of being accompanied by anyone.”

“But when I heard where Aggie was going I insisted on at least coming this far with her.” Mr. O’Dowell gabbed Lillian’s right hand and brought it toward his mouth

She pulled it away before he could kiss it. She hid both her hands in her smock. Letting the women see how chaffed her hands were was one thing, but not one of the men regardless of whether she wanted to see him or not.

“I have arrived safely, Steven you may leave us now.” Miss O’Dowell pulled off her gloves.

Mr. O’Dowell pushed past his sister and entered the house. “I will only stay a moment until you get settled in Aggie dear. I know you women have important things to discuss.”

“This is far too much.” His sister said sternly as she following him.

“That’s quite alright, Miss O’Dowell. I’m sure I have enough tea for another guest. That is if Mr. O’Dowell insists on staying.”

He had already removed his tweed coat and put it on the back of a chair. “Thank you for your pleasant invitation.” 

Miss O’Dowell shrugged apologetically.

“I have come to talk to you about the Catholic Ministries in Africa.’ Miss O’Dowell began. “We are holding an afternoon tea social in June to raise further funds. A strawberry social.”

“Father Patrick has spoken to me about the importance of this missionary work.” Lillian poured tea and saw she only had cups and saucers for two, not three.

“I hope this is more of your delicious bread.” Mr. O’Dowell took one of the sandwiches without being offered one and bit into it. “You truly must get the recipe from her, Aggie. You could fund all the missionaries in Africa and China by selling this bread.”

“Thank you. Let me get you a plate for that Mr. O’Dowell. You’ll also need a cup and saucer if you wish to have a cup of tea.” Lillian went to the kitchen. 

She had to get away from him. The smell of his cologne was over-powering. She couldn’t stand his constant smile and that look in his eyes. Each time she saw him he reminded her more and more of James Dunham. She was now glad she hadn’t taken off her shift.

“Can I be some assistance.” Mr. O’Dowell had followed her into the kitchen.

“No!” she said sharply. 

“You must know I find you very attractive.” He backed her to the counter. 

“Mr. O’Dowell, I do not return those feelings. Nor do I encourage them.” She couldn’t breathe as his scent filled the room. She reached into the cupboard for a cup and saucer.

“I’m sure you would if only you give me an opportunity.” He forced her to turn around and face him.

“Any such opportunities will have to be permitted first by my uncle, Father McTavish. With out prior approval to insinuate yourself in here in this way, uninvited, and assault me in this way, is … an affront to his position in the community.”

Mr. O’Dowell stepped closer to her. “Is that what you told James Dunham?” 

Lillian gasped.

“I meet Mr. Dunham in Halifax this past month. He was there on business and we dined together. He was most eager to hear news of you.” He slipped his arms around her waist and pulled her close. 

She struggled to push him away.

“There is no need to play the coy maiden with me.” He whispered in her ear.

At that moment her uncle entered through the back door.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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