Lillian Bakes Revenge
Lillian watched the two young miners walk down the lane. What would life be to have a day with nothing pressing to worry about? From their reaction, the bruise on her cheek must appear much worse than she thought. Without a mirror she had no way to tell how bad it looked. It was tender to her touch. She hoped it would be there for a while as a reminder to her uncle.
During the night, between fitful moments of sleep, she was caught up in thoughts of what to do. Miss O’Dowell had offered a refuge but that wasn’t the escape Lillian wanted. What was she going to do there? Become a house drudge to some local family? She could return to Boston but would her family allow or even welcome her back? How could she afford passage home? She wasn’t going to beg anyone for funds.
In the house she wrapped the broken pieces of the mirror in newspaper before putting them into the dustbin. One shard was large enough for her to see how bruised she was. It covered most of her left cheek and was darkest on the cheekbone. Her eyelids were darkened and her left eye was redder. Much redder than the right eye. She touched it but there was only tenderness but little pain. The bone was solid. There were no fragments she should sense.
Her Uncle would have to pay for this. It was bad enough to be banished here but this wasn’t penance. It was suffering. This was …. an abomination. Yes, that’s what the Bible called things that were an offence to God. She couldn’t recall if striking a woman was included in that Leviticus list, but if it wasn’t it should be. Yes, her uncle would have to suffer for his actions, too. Even if he was a man of God he had no right to mete out such punishment. None.
Later in the afternoon her uncle came into the house.
“Lillian?” he said meekly as he stood in the kitchen door.
“Yes Father Patrick.” she kept her back to him as she washed potatoes in the sink.
“I trust you had a productive day?”
“Yes, Father Pat.” She merely glanced over her shoulder. “I did the washing. I’ll be bringing it in soon. Then there be the ironing, of course. Dinner will be ready at the usual time. There will be rabbit thanks to one of the parishioners.”
“I wish to say once again that I deeply regret …”
“Think nothing of it.” She turned then, knowing the full sun would be on her face.
“I …” he gasped. “I didn’t know that I had injured you that severely. Should I have the doctor visit?”
“No, Uncle. I will be fine.”
“I remember that you do have some hats with a veil. You will wear one when attending mass. I wouldn’t want my parishioners to see you looking thusly.”
“I may have something suitable. The black one you liked?” A hat she abhorred when he said he liked it because it wasn’t too frivolous but she could absent-mindedly remove it, or possibly forget it, the next time she attended mass.
“Very good. I received word from Mr. Gregory, that there would be another of those union meetings at St Agatha’s Hall this evening. In all likelihood there will be a strike.”
“Yes, miners across the Island have voted to stop working because of these recent company changes to the tonnage rates.”
“Yes, but how will a strike help their cause?”
“If they stop producing coal the company will have nothing to sell.”
“But can’t the company hire other miners?”
“They won’t, at first. They will save some capital by not having to pay the miners. They also have stockpiles of coal that will satisfy their customers for a some weeks. No, the miners are not in as strong a bargaining position as they think.”
“Oh. I can’t say as I fully understand all this union and company conflict. I do know the miners find it hard to feed their families though.”
“That has always been the way of the world. Jesus says ‘For ye have the poor always with you.’”
“Didn’t He also say that they would inherit the earth?” she asked.
“Not exactly. He said ‘the meek shall inherit.’ These people are far from being meek, my dear.”
“Shall I prepare some refreshments for the meeting?”
“Yes. I think an urn of tea and some biscuits will be adequate. The women will provide some food as well, so be restrained with the biscuits.”
“Am I to serve tea as I did at the last gathering in the hall?”
“I think not. Not with your …” He brushed his own cheek.
“Yes. Wearing a veil to serve tea might attract attention.” She laughed as a plan formulated quickly in her mind. “But I do have cosmetics in my trunk that would easily cover this. I believe the corner in the hall we usually use to serve tea isn’t that well illuminated.”
“Yes.” she longed to get at her toiletries, particularly to the hand lotions, if it wasn’t too late to reverse the damage that had been done to her hands. “May I try?”
“Very well.” Father Pat said reluctantly. “We can’t confine you to the house.”
Lillian dashed to the cellar where her trunk was stored and eagerly opened it. The damp that rose from it made her want to hang her remaining dresses before they become too mildewed to wear. She tugged her cosmetics case out and brought it up to the kitchen.
She put it on the table and opened it.
“I can use this as base.” She took out her hand mirror and a jar of face cream. Opening the jar brought back a clear memory of her Boston life. She spread the cream over the bruise. “Then,” she opened a container of pale rose talc. “I pat some of this on over it.”
She dabbed at her face with the pale blue power puff. The smell also brought back nights of preparing to dine, to go out to visit with her friends.
“Amazing?” her uncle said. “It is as if I …” he stopped and looked away.
“Yes, it is.” Lillian couldn’t quite believe her eyes either. The bruised cheek appeared redder than the other but the bruise itself was almost unseeable.
“Very well, you can serve the tea this evening. I’ll go now to make sure the hall is ready for the meeting. I don’t think the venting windows have been opened since the last rain storm.”
When her uncle left she stepped out of the dim kitchen into the sun. In the direct light the disfigurement didn’t look as bad in the mirror but it was still visible. She tried a bit of pink rouge and another few dabs of the power puff and it became much less distinct. If her uncle thought her devious then she would prove to him that she was.
Humming to herself she breezed through her household chores. She caught herself singing while dusting the the chairs in the dining room. She couldn’t wait to see her uncle’s reaction if her plan unfolded as she hoped.
For dinner she had prepared the rabbit with spring potatoes. She was grateful that the parishioner who donated the rabbit had also cleaned and gutted it. A job she had done twice now with reluctance. She had found the smell of the blood impossible to clean off her hands.
She made sure the house would smell of baking bread as well. Suppers would be eaten in the dining room. The one meal of the day her Uncle said a family should eat together.
As she was taking the bread out of the oven her Uncle came in the back door.
“You have had a productive day, Lillian?” her uncle asked.
Over the weeks she come to hate his questions. It was his way of checking on her, to make sure she was learning whatever it was she was to learn about being a good Catholic woman, one that might make a good wife for the right man.
“Yes uncle. I even had time to bake some bread fresh for this evening.”
“I told you we would be serving them biscuits with the tea.”
“The bread is cheaper.”
“Hum.” Father Pat nodded. “Quite right.”
“Were you of service at the church office?” She had learned this was the best way to have him tell her a bit of what he did during the day.
“Yes. After I saw too it that the women did the cleaning of the hall, I went to my office there and have been writing a sermon on the importance of honest work, of how difficult it can be to balance one’s energies between spiritual and material demands. In this way I trust I can prepare the congregation for the hardships to come if there a strike.”
“You can’t tell them not to strike?”
“Not directly. God’s will is for his children to be happy. I can tell them how to do that spiritually, but it is not fitting for me to go any further than that.”
“You can tell them what the Scriptures say about the evil of drink but you cannot tell them not to drink.”
“They are unhappy as things are and will be unhappy if they try to change them by striking.”
“Quite perspective of you Lillian. I doubt if they will be happy once they get their way. The solution to their bodily hunger is spiritual not material. If they satisfy that spiritual need they are sure to receive the sustenance they need.”
“Until then we have bread for them.” she forced herself to sound cheerful. Would her revenge bring her happiness or not.
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