The Torch is Passed
When Lucinda was a little girl, she thought her mother and father were king and queen of everything. But before she was able to think about it, all she knew was sunshine and smiling faces. She was not a fussy child, because there was nothing at all to fuss about.
Besides, it wasn’t in her character to complain about things. This was discovered the morning of her eighth birthday, when the small flaxen haired child greeted her father in the nursery where she played with her favorite doll. It was a porcelain faced beauty, a gift from her mother a year before.
The doll was not in the figure of a child, it was shaped as a grown woman and looked a good deal like Lucinda’s mother with sparkling blue eyes and long dark eyelashes. The lips and cheeks a rose-bud pink against the porcelain skin. The pale yellow hair swept into a tidy bun at the top of its head. The doll wore a pale blue ball gown, itself a replica of the woman’s own.
Throughout the morning Lucinda heard people rushing about in hallway and in her mother’s room beside the nursery. It was unusual that no one came to wake and dress her, but obvious that all the grownups were very busy. Too busy to be bothered with a little girl’s dress.
Cindy, as her mother called her, knew it was her birthday. “Born in the Bone Moon, with the first of the budding Spring,” said Mrs. Murphy. Sometimes it seems Mrs. Murphy said silly things to hear the song of her own voice. Perhaps, she thought, now that I’m eight I should dress myself to show Mother and Father that I’m grown up and don’t need Mrs. Murphy beside me all day long anymore!
She pushed a chair beside her wardrobe to reach for her best blue dress. It was made of the same fabric as the doll’s gown and was her very favorite. She ignored the fact that it barely fit anymore, because Lucinda had indeed grown quite a bit the year before. It was at this moment she heard her mother cry out in agony.
Lucinda froze, then took the dress from it’s hook with a shaky hand. She could hear a flurry of activity from the other room as the little girl calmly and bravely did her best to dress herself. She didn’t want to be a bother to her mother now.
Mother had spoken to Lucinda about the time the new baby would arrive, and to expect a lot of noise.
“Even from you, Mummy?” the little girl could not believe her quiet mother might ever scream or cry.
“Even the bravest cry sometimes,” her mother had replied. “But then by Faith an’ you’ll know it will be alright soon.” Studying the girls doubtful eyes she said confidently, “You’ll see.”
Shhhh… Cindy whispered, now cradling the doll she named Faith like a babe. …It will be alright soon, Faith. You’ll see… These were the words of comfort she knew and repeated as she heard the cries continue until a sudden sad silence settled on the house.
The next sound was Mrs. Murphy praying from her chair in the corner of the great bedroom. She had been summoned to her lady’s bedside in the small hours of the morning to attend her labor and long awaited delivery of the child. Perhaps this would be the son the Master wanted for an heir.
But the Misses hadn’t faired the labor well, and the woman was clearly suffering by the time the mid-wife arrived. Blood was everywhere, far more than the housekeeper had ever seen attending a birth before.
When the mid-wife arrived with the Master, she assessed her patient and did what she could to ease the situation. There was little to do as what should have been born after came first and the poor baby boy arrived next, blue and lifeless.
The delivered woman passed away soon after, as if to accompany her wee babe into the next realm. Her husband was distraught. Blaming the housekeeper, he could not be convinced that she had no cause in the death of his wife and still-born heir.
“Your services will no longer be needed.” Trembling with rage, he quietly spoke to the woman who had served his family for more than a dozen years, even wet-nursed his girl-child. He made his message clear to the woman, “You will leave immediately, and never be seen in this house again.”
When he opened the door of his daughter’s nursery, the little girl was sitting quietly in the center of the room holding her beloved doll. She wore her favorite blue dress over a flannel nightgown. The dress was laced badly, and a seam had split bodice from the skirt as she pulled the dress up without thinking to untangle her feet from the long folds of fabric. Her hair was still knotted from sleep. No one had dressed the child or come to comb her hair out, he realized.
Lucinda stood to greet her father, as he sank to his knees beside her. He hoped he had done the right thing protecting his daughter from that horrible nurse-woman. Mrs. Murphy was clearly a danger to the child, he thought, and Lucinda’s current bedraggled condition only proved his theory. He could not think about his dead beloved in the other room, or the black hole that rose to eat his heart in ecstatic pain.
The little girl sat with her father on the floor, folding her arms around his neck. Despite her efforts, he had not liked the way she looked, this was plain. She also knew it was not her dress that upset him. Shhhh… she whispered to her father without knowing how or why, Faith and you know, it will be alright soon. You’ll see…
She didn’t know if it was the right thing to do, since her father started to cry after that.