STUDIO UPDATE: Here’s something I think you might like. As you know, I’m writing a sprawling family saga about one of New England’s oldest, richest, and most eccentric families—the Wythes. I’ve written 18 of the 28 chapters (possibly more, if the story takes odd turnings and needs expanding).
The Wythe’s and Braithwaites have been close friends for 300+ years. The two families founded and still run one of the oldest publishing houses in Boston: Braithwaite & Wythe. The Wythes and Braithwaites live on a 200 acre estate on Cape Haddock called Wythe’s End.
Here is one of the rough drafts for one of my favorite chapters in the book: Chapter 22: Thanksgiving.
You may be lost as to who’s who, but it’s a lively chapter to read.
I’ll be curious to see what you think.
Note 1: The Orcadian is the family’s private narrow gauge railroad that runs between the village of Peequock and Wythe’s End. Ester Pyn is the 203 year old ghost that inhabits and haunts Wythe’s End. The Aunts are lesbian lovers and wildly successful murder mystery writers and had been friends with Agatha Christie. Ester Pyn tells them the details of their bestselling murder mystery series titled: Mind Your Ps & Qs.
Note 2: Main story line in the novel: 15 year old Phineas (Phin) Wythe is determined to discover the “deep, dark secret” of the Wythe family. WHY did eleven times great-grandfather Josiah Cottington Wythe NOT get the family onboard the Mayflower when it sailed to the New World?
Note 3: I have written 18 chapters so far. I stopped working on the novel until I finish the very last outstanding picture book contracts. I am obsessed with this novel and my reward for finishing 6 last picture book contracts will be to allow myself to finish writing this sprawling family saga about one of New England’s oldest, richest, and most eccentric families—The Wythes.
CHAPTER 22: THANKSGIVING
Notes for the Chapter:
(November) –The family settles into the holiday season with a traditional New England Thanksgiving feast
–Big snowstorm over Thanksgiving
–Augustus cannot leave
–The older boys show Phin another secret passage and tell him an interesting clue
–Ester Pyn makes her presence felt more
Scene: A blizzard blankets Cape Haddock. Wythe’s End is without power. The family gathers in the library where there is a cheery, cozy fire burning as well as oil lamps and candles. They play cards, play RISK, Monopoly, and Clue. But as the night wears on they begin to tell family stories. The children plead with Aunts P & Q to tell them a murder mystery that Ester Pyn told them about.
Scene: Phineas stood and stared out the library windows. The blizzard raged on; snow swirled around Wythe’s End blanketing the house in glistening silence. All the Wythes had gathered in the library where it was snug and warm. A cheery fire burned in the fireplace. Candles and old-fashioned oil lamps gave the warm a warm glow. Everyone was wrapped in their favorite blanket or flannel robe and warmed their hands around hot mugs of coffee or hot chocolate.
Note: The above are my notes to myself as to what will happen in any given chapter.
With the arrival of Caleb and Mathias life at Wythe’s End felt livelier than ever. Uncle Itchy and his sons took turns firing up the Flying Orcadian and making several trips to Peequock for no other reason than for the sheer pleasure of being together, just the three of them and Scout.
By Monday, the temperature had dropped and the skies became dark and brooding.
“Feels like snow,” said Pab. “It wouldn’t surprise me at all if we get snow by Thanksgiving.”
“Just so long as it doesn’t snow until the turkeys and ham are delivered,” said Mab gazing out the windows. “The Aunts say that Ester Pyn predicts a severe winter with lots of snow.”
“We must be the only family with our own weather forecasting ghost,” Pab laughed.
Mab, Pab and I were sitting in the kitchen having a snack that Mrs. Goossens had prepared. A fire crackled in the kitchen hearth making the large kitchen feel cozy and safe. Mab glanced at the antique kitchen clock and compared the time to her watch.
“I do wish those turkeys would get here,” she said. “Then I can relax if it does start snowing. We have everything else we need for the Thanksgiving dinner. I want this year’s dinner to be extra special for Caleb and Mathias. I can tell that those boys are homesick no matter how much bravado they put on.”
“They’re not boys, Iris,” said Pab. “They’re grown men and they’re having a great time pursuing their own interests. Wythe’s End will always be here whenever they need a break or just want to be with family.”
Brynnie opened the kitchen door looked around. She spotted us sitting by the fire.
“Mrs. Wythe, the turkeys are here,” she said excitedly in her soft Scots brogue. “And the ham. And it’s huge!”
Mab quickly stood up and set down her mug of hot coffee.
“Thank goodness!” she said. “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”
I stared out the window and almost as if on cue the first large snowflakes began lazily drifting down from the leaden skies.
“It’s snowing!” I cried. “I can’t wait to tell the little ones!”
Winter had arrived at Wythe’s End.
The next few days brought an even more intense frenzy in kitchen with Mrs. Goossens, Nanny Bryce, Mab, and Uncle Myles all making lists as to what needed to be made, who was going to make what and when, and where everyone was going to sit for the family feast.
Wythe’s End is a large, rambling house and the rooms are a good size. Mab, Qwerty Gran, and Mrs. Goossens decided that all twenty-four of us could comfortably sit at the large dining room table that had been custom made to accommodate such a large family and guests.
“The smaller children can sit at their own table with Phin and Thaddeus,” Mab said, surveying the dining room. “What do you think?”
I had suspected that this was going to be the strategy for the sitting arrangements and I had made it my business to be on hand when the women were deciding the sitting arrangements.
“Why do I always have to sit at the kids’ table?” I complained. “I’m not a kid anymore. Let Thad sit with them and keep them under control. And you know that Sarah and Brynnie are more than willing to sit with them.”
“Hush, Phin,” said Mab. “Let me think. If Thaddeus and the three little ones have a table in the bay, Sarah and Brynnie could sit down at the far end of the table and help them with their dinner. That means that…yes… All right, Phin, you can sit at the main dining table. I think there’s plenty of room. Good, that’s settled, what’s next on the list?”
The three women pored over a piece of paper like commanders planning the next tactical move on the enemy.
I left them to their planning and made my way back to the West Library. I decided to go outside and crossed the carriageway so that I could gauge how much snow was really coming down.
There was a light dusting on the ground and the snowflakes seemed to be getting smaller, but certainly weren’t in a hurry to make us snowbound for Thanksgiving. I was worried that if it snowed too hard Gus wouldn’t be able to make the crossing across the bay and join us for dinner. If that happened it would make for a miserable Thanksgiving for Russ. This was his first relationship and his first Thanksgiving that he could share with someone, the special someone, in his life.
Ever since Bear Week the family had been following the progress of Russ’s love life as avidly as they would follow a soap opera on television. If our family had watched soap operas.
Every visit to Provincetown was discussed and imagined. Mrs. Goossens always sent a small care package of baked goods to Gus as if she was under the impression that he was underfed or not being given enough home baked goods.
“Mrs. Goossens,” I said. “Gus’s sisters owns and runs one of the best restaurants in Provincetown. She makes sure he eats well.”
“Oh, I know, I know,” sigh Mrs. Goossens. “But, still, I don’t suppose she can make the special pastries and pies that I make, now can she?”
I couldn’t argue with her there.
Uncles Myles and Bertram and I had to repeat all the details as to what Gus’s cottage looked like, what the Leaky Lug was like, time and time again.
“You know,” said Uncle Myles. “It would just be simpler if you all went for a visit and saw the cottage for yourselves.”
“Oh, we couldn’t do that,” cried Mab. “We wouldn’t want to intrude on their privacy.”
The Wythes valued privacy and politeness and courtesy above all else.
Each time Gus visited Wythe’s End the family did their best not to hover and intrude on their privacy. Not that they seemed to need much privacy because Gus was a hard worker and more than willing to help Russ with the outdoor chores. When he saw the Flying Orcadian it was love at first sight, thus endearing him for all eternity to Uncle Itchy. Gus was as mechanical minded and as skilled with steam engines as Uncle Itchy and the two of them spent hours fussing with the engine in the train shed.
But Gus never let Russ feel neglected or unappreciated. The two of them found plenty of time to be alone in the wood shed or work shed. Watching them from the upstairs windows strolling the grounds like two burly giants with their arms thrown across one another’s shoulders was one of the best things to see.
Naturally, they liked to visit Uncles Myles and Bertram whenever they felt they needed extended privacy.
I had always known that Uncles Myles and Bertram were gay and it was never a big deal or anything out of the ordinary at Wythe’s End. And even though the Aunts never talked about their relationship everyone knew that they were partners, not only in writing murder mysteries, but in life as well. They were inseparable and had always been that way ever since I could remember.
Then there was Mathias, who was gay, but not in an overt gay sort of way. He tended to keep to himself more than the rest of the family. Secretly, I always wished that I could be more like him: tall, dark, handsome, quiet, and mysterious. Mathias did spend time a good amount of time at Gull Cottage.
Therefore, when Bear Week brought Russ and Gus together the family took it in stride and were thrilled that Russ finally had met someone. The only person who wasn’t quite so thrilled with the arrangement was Brynnie. She had lusted after Russ ever since her arrival at Wythe’s End.
“Och, that man gives me the shivers in me knickers,” was her oft said phrase every time she saw him.
The snow didn’t really amount to more than an inch much to everyone’s relief. Thad, Littie Pye, Chatty Pye, and Leaky Lou seemed to be the only ones who showed disappointment that it hadn’t snowed more.
Gus arrived late Wednesday afternoon. Uncle Itchy, Russ, and I fired up the Flying Orcadian to bring Gus back to Wythe’s End in style.
The Leaky Lug was securely moored in the harbor. Gus leapt onto the dock bundled in a thick pea coat and scarf tied around his neck. He had a woollen knitted cap pulled down over his ears that made him look like a slightly demented Santa Claus or oversized elf. Thick leather gloves kept his hands warm and he carried a large parcel under one arm.
“Bets insisted that I bring something for the feast,” said Gus, lovingly patting the large box he carried. “She made these special for the occasion. Of course, she told me that she would never forgive me for abandoning MY family on Thanksgiving, but what can I say. I wanted to be with Russ and sometimes, just sometimes, love trumps family. Right, Phin?”
“Right!” I said, not quite certain I agreed with this or not. But, then, I had never been in love so I didn’t really have anything to base my judgment on.
Gus and Russ never ceased to astound the Peequockers with their immense size and height. I felt like a dwarf walking beside them from the dock through the village to where Uncle Itchy and the Flying Orcadian were waiting for us. But, I still took great pride in that I actually knew these two ruggedly handsome giants.
Uncle Itchy was fussing with the engine and giving it one last spit polish as we approached.
“Hallo, Gus!” cried Uncle Itchy when he spotted us. “Thought we’d bring the old boy down to meet you and bring you back to the house in Wythe style.
“Hello, Itchy,” Gus boomed as he gave Uncle Itchy a firm bear hug. Gus took great delight in calling Uncle Itchy, Itchy. “I like the sound of it,” he said. “It fits. You are Itchy.”
As the Flying Orcadian huffed and puffed its way back to Wythe’s End, Gus, Russ, and I sat in the passenger carriage. Even though we wore our heaviest winter coats and gloves we could still feel the penetrating damp chill swirling around us.
“I believe it’s going to snow,” said Gus. “And by snow, I mean SNOW!”
“It sure feels like it,” agreed Russ. “Luckily, there’s plenty of food just waiting to be cooked and eaten. We won’t go hungry, that’s for sure. Wait until you see how this family does Thanksgiving.”
Russ gave me a nudge with his elbow as if it was all my doing that so much food was ordered and prepared to feed the Wythes and Braithewaites.
“And, I’m sure glad you’re here to give me a hand with all the firewood,” Russ said as he leaned in to kiss Gus on the cheek.
“I knew there was a reason you were so insistent that I come for Thanksgiving,” said Gus. “Just to put me to work so that you can slack off.”
“I can help with the firewood, too, if you like,” I said, not wanting to appear lazy or unwilling to do my fair share.
“I’m going to hold you to that, Phin,” said Gus seriously. “And when the snow is three feet deep I don’t want to hear one word of complaint, you hear?”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “Just because I’m not a giant like you guys doesn’t mean I can’t work hard, too.”
“Giants? Did you hear that Russ, he called us giants right to our bloody faces,” said Gus reaching over and grabbing me by the head and roughing me up.
Russ seemed to glow just like he did the first time we had met Gus in Provincetown. I had always heard that pregnant women glow when they are expecting. I had never seen a pregnant woman up close so I don’t know how true this is. But, I can certainly say that when two men are in love, they glow. They actually beam out the love that they feel for one another and simply glow. No doubt about it.
As the Flying Orcadian passed through the ancient Wythe cemetery it started snowing. Really snowing. And this time the snow would blanket our world and everyone in it.
By the time we reached Wythe’s End the snow was coming down fast and furious. During the short train ride two inches had already accumulated on the ground.
“You boys go on up to house,” Uncle Itchy said. “I’ll put the old boy to bed and make sure he’s snug and warm for the night. I think we’re in for quite a snowstorm.”
As we walked up to the house Gus stopped and stared.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite as beautiful and magnificent as this house. With the snow coming down it’s like walking into a fairy tale. How lucky am I that I get to be here during the first big snowstorm.”
And then before Russ or I could respond Gus bent down, scooped up and handful of snow and smashed it over my head.
“Not fair!” I cried. “I wasn’t expecting that and you’re…”
“I’m what?” laughed Gus. “Bigger? Stronger? Faster?”
While Gus was taunting me Russ had scooped up a large snowball and pushed it down onto Gus’s head.
“Pick on someone your own size, pipsqueak,” he said laughing and turning to make a mad dash up to the house before Gus could retaliate.
“I’ll get you, my pretty,” Gus called after him. “Don’t you worry. And you’re little friend, too.”
We stomped the snow off our boots on the back porch of the East Wing. When we entered the kitchen the smell of bread baking assailed our noses and Gus breathed in the fragrance deeply.
“Ah, just smell that,” he said. “Real home cooking by the best Belgian cook ever.”
Mrs. Goossens turned and beamed at Gus.
“Oh, I’m not the best by far,” she said smiling. “But, I don’t think there are too many that can touch my cooking skills all that closely.”
Gus gave Mrs. Goossens one of his famous bear hugs and a wet kiss on each cheek.
“I just love a man in a beard,” sighed Mrs. Goossens. “It brings back memories of Mr. Goossens, let me tell you.”
Mab and Qwerty Gran and the Aunts entered the kitchen talking quietly amongst themselves. When they saw the three of us standing there they fell silent.
“Gus, we are delighted, absolutely delighted, that you could join us,” said Qwerty Gran.
“We hope you didn’t have too wild a crossing,” said Mab. “Thankfully, you made it here safely. Welcome, Gus.”
“Hello, Gus!” said the Aunts. “You are in for a Thanksgiving like you may have never seen before.”
Gus kissed all the women once on each cheek like a real blue blood gentleman.
“Thank you for inviting me,” said Gus. “I’ll try not to eat too much.” And he winked at Mrs. Goossens. “Bets sent this as the McBride contribution to the dinner. It’s her own special pickled herring and a few other delights. She says she hopes that you’ll enjoy them.”
“How did she know that we love pickled herring?” said Aunt Pru.
“I think a little bearded bird told her,” said Russ. “The same little bearded bird that caught those herring in his nets.”
“Gus, you really shouldn’t have,” said Mab. “But, thank you. These will only add to the feast we have planned.
“Now, you men scoot on out of here,” said Qwerty Gran as Uncle Itchy came in through the kitchen door. “We have a lot to do to get ready for tomorrow and you’ll only be in the way. Mab, do you think we should call Tobias and have them spend the night? It looks like this snow could turn into quite a storm.”
“It might not be a bad idea,” said Mab. “I’ll call right now and tell them to pack up everyone and the dogs and plan on spending the night here. It’s like an early Christmas with everyone here under one roof. Well, almost everyone.”
“Let’s just say a prayer that John William and Sparky are all right over there on Mt. Everest,” said Qwerty Gran. “I do wish they were here with us.”
Note: John William and Sparky are two Braithwaite boys that are searching for Yeti in the Himalaya Mountains.
That night, as everyone slept, the great snowstorm began. Silent and white as ghosts the snowflakes swirled and drifted down onto the house quietly blanketing it in thick white layers. As the night wore on the snow fell faster and thicker so that by morning ten inches of snow covered the ground as the snowflakes relentlessly continued to float down from the leaden sky.
“Oh, my!” cried Mrs. Goossens, who was the first to awake so that she could begin the preparations for the feast. “It’s a blizzard out there!”
One by one the family awoke to the Winter Wonderland that had appeared overnight outside the windows of Wythe’s End.
“Thank goodness everything we need to make dinner is already on hand,” said Mab as she stared into the swirling whiteness.
“It’s snowing!” exclaimed Littie Pye. “Leaky, look! It’s snowing! And it’s snowing hard!”
“Wow! It really is coming down hard,” said Thaddeus peering out the front door. “It looks like there’s a foot of snow on the ground already.”
“We’d better call Gull Cottage and Grebe and tell everyone to pack what they might need and head over here now, if they want to share Thanksgiving with the family,” said Qwerty Gran. “I have the feeling that this snowstorm is going to get worse and we may be in for a long day and night of heavy snow.”
“Phin, would you call your uncles and tell them that they should not wait until this afternoon to come over,” said Mab.
“Sure,” I said. “What should I tell them to bring?”
“Anything that they think they might need for the holiday weekend,” said Pab. “We’ll be lucky if we don’t lose power. And if we do, it’s best that we all stay put in one house.”
“It might be a good idea to ask Russ and Gus if they would mind helping Myles and Bertram get here with the springers,” Gramps said. “Henry can make sure that Tobias and the others get here from Grebe. Did anyone know this snowstorm was coming?”
Wythe’s End became a beehive of activity. Mrs. Goossens had things under control in the kitchen—turkeys were roasting, pies and breads were made, the side dishes could be made an hour or so before dinner was to be served.
“Brynnie, we’d better get the spare rooms ready on the third floor, so that everyone has a place to sleep,” Mab instructed. “Oh, Caleb, Mathias, there you are, do you think you could give Brynnie a hand with the spare rooms?”
“Of course, we can!” said Caleb energetically. “Whew! The snow is really coming down fast and furious.”
“Caleb can help Brynnie,” said Mathias. “Perhaps I should head over to Grebe and see if they need any help over there.”
“That’s a good idea,” said Qwerty Gran. “Chatty Pye and her four little dogs will be a handful. And Nanny Bryce will need assistance, I’m sure. Mathias, thank you, perhaps you should head over there now before the snow gets any deeper.”
“Phin, why don’t you and I get the fires lit so that we can make the house feel cheery and warm when everyone starts arriving,” said Pab.
Pab and I lit fires in the fireplaces in the downstairs rooms. Later, Caleb, Mathias, Russ, Gus, Thad, and I could stack firewood on the back porch so that it could be easily brought in to keep the fires burning bright and warm.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to go outside in order to move about between the two wings. The upstairs gallery became the main thoroughfare for the household. Qwerty Gran and Mab thought it would be best if we all planned to spend the afternoon in the parlor and West Hall while waiting for dinner to be served. Add something more here.
By ten o’clock Uncles Myles and Bertram had arrived with Molly and Gabe. They brought cameras and bags filled with Uncle Myles’ manuscripts so that he could work in the library here.
“You boys made it!” cried Gramps. “Did you drive or use snowshoes?”
“We couldn’t get through the deep snow with the car,” said Uncle Bertram. “So, Russ and Gus helped us carry everything we thought we’d better bring in case we get snowed in.”
“In case?” laughed Gramps. “I think you already are.”
“Oh, Myles,” cried Mab when she saw them standing in the back hall brushing snow off their coats. “I’m so glad you’re here. We would be worried sick if you two were stranded alone down at Gull Cottage. “If you didn’t drive, how did you get here?”
“Molly and Gabe ran ahead of us and we followed them,” said Uncle Myles laughing. “You know how much they love the snow and they know their way here even with the snow coming down as hard as it is.”
“Let’s get you boys something hot to drink and some a bit to eat,” said Qwerty Gran.
“Mrs. Wythe, should Gus and I head over to Grebe to see if they need any help getting here?” Russ asked sounding concerned. “It’s pretty bad out there.”
“Oh, Russ, would you two mind?” said Mab sounding relieved. “Henry may be able to plow the road between here and Grebe, but still, extra hands would be appreciated over there.”
“No problem,” said Russ cheerfully. “It’s at times like this when it pays to be big. Right, Gus?”
“You said it!” replied Gus clapping Russ on the back.
“But, have some hot coffee first,” said Mab, handing them each a mug of steaming coffee.
“Thank you, Mrs. Wythe,” Russ and Gus said together.
They gulped down the hot coffee and headed back out into the snowstorm. No one would rest until everyone was safely gathered at Wythe’s End and was accounted for.
Qwerty Gran stood at the windows in the East Library watching for Uncle Toby, Chatty Pye, Nanny Bryce, Sarah, Henry, Mathias, Russ and Gus to return. She would not be able to relax until she saw them trudging through the deep snow to the house.
“Here they are,” she cried. “They made it!”
There was quite a bit of commotion on the small back porch as the newcomers stomped snow off their boots and exclaimed how cold and snowy it was. Chatty Pye burst into West Hall with her four small dogs.
“It’s snowing!” she cried. “Everyone had to carry a baby so that they wouldn’t freeze to death in the snow. And Russ had to carry me so that I didn’t drown in the snow!” The four small dogs barked happily and ran around Chatty Pye to show her that they were eternally grateful not to have been left behind in the snowstorm.
Everyone was talking at once as coats were brushed off and hung up to dry.
“Coffee and sandwiches are in the Hall,” Mab called out over the hubbub. “No one is allowed in the kitchen so that Mrs. Goossens can get everything ready. Sarah, why don’t you get Nanny Bryce settled by the fire where it’s warm. And would you mind getting her something hot to drink. I don’t know if she prefers tea or coffee.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Wythe,” said Sarah. “I’ll make certain that she is comfortable and has everything she needs.”
“Sarah, what would we do without you?” Qwerty Gran said.
The East Hall was filled to capacity as everyone sorted themselves out, got something hot to drink and something to eat.
Nanny Bryce was settled in a large comfortable armchair by the fire with a fleecy throw over her lap to keep her legs warm. Sarah and Brynnie rounded up the three little ones and the small dogs as well as Scowther and got them settled by the fireplace as well.
Gramps, Grumps, the Aunts, and all the uncles took their mugs of coffee and sandwiches and joined Nanny Bryce. Caleb, Mathias, Thad, Russ, Gus, and I remained standing, talking and watching the snow falling thickly outside.
“Who’s up for working on the snow shoveling brigade?” Russ asked. Of course, we boys and younger men as well as Uncles Myles and Bertram said we all
were ready to tackle the task of shoveling pathways to the wood shed as well as clearing off the steps to the back porches and verandas.
Outside the snow was falling faster and thicker than ever. We were bundled in coats, scarves, and gloves as we each found a snow shovel and began tackling the path to the wood shed so that more firewood would be able to be brought up to the back porches.
Even with all of us shoveling it seemed that as soon as we cleared a path the snow quickly began filling it in behind us. Finally we reached the wood shed.
“We need to shovel a path to the chicken coop behind the garage so that the chickens can be fed and watered,” said Uncle Myles. “Bert and I will tackle that job.”
“Let’s start hauling firewood up to the back porch,” said Mathias. “I don’t think we’ll be able to keep this path cleared for too long with the snow coming down so hard.”
Russ found the wooden cart that was used for hauling. We quickly filled it with firewood and set off back to the house. Thad, Caleb, Mathias, and I shoveled in front of the cart that Russ and Gus pulled through the deep snow. It took six more trips before Russ was satisfied that we had enough firewood to last into the night at least.
Scowther, Molly, Gabe, and Sophie bounded through the deep snow not seeming to be bothered by the cold.
When Uncles Myles and Bertram returned from shoveling the path to the chicken coop we all tackled the massive task of clearing snow from the carriageway that ran between the wings of the house. The carriageway provided protection from the falling snow but the winds blew it into drifts beneath the Gallery.
“Look out at the water,” Uncle Myles said.
We stopped shoveling and stood in the swirling, blinding snow and looked out to where the ocean could be heard but not seen.
“See what I mean,” Uncle Myles continued. “You can’t see anything in this blizzard. Gus, I don’t think you’ll be heading back to Provincetown tomorrow. You might as well make up your mind that you’re going to be stuck here for the weekend at least. I’m sure Russ won’t mind.”
Russ grinned at Gus.
“I don’t mind at all!” he said. “Besides an extra pair of hands will come in useful when there’s more shoveling to be done and more firewood to be brought up to the house.”
“How romantic,” said Gus pretending to be annoyed. “Whatever happened to cuddling in front of a cozy fire?”
“There’ll be plenty of time for that,” said Uncle Bertram. “Trust me.”
While we outside shoveling and hauling firewood, Mab, Qwerty Gran, the Aunts, and Brynnie crowded into the kitchen to give Mrs. Goossens a hand with the feast.
Brynnie and Sarah set the long table in the dining room and made certain that there were fresh beeswax candles ready to be lit when the feast was ready. They lit the fire in the fireplace. Brynnie and I had gathered wild rose branches with the red hips still on them as well as various dried wildflower stalks to make festive table arrangements. Pumpkins and squash clustered in the center of the table and would be moved once the turkeys were ready to take their place.
Every year Mrs. Goossens outdid herself with preparing a feast that could easily feed the two families of Wythes and Braithewaites. This year’s feast included three roasted turkeys, the large Smithfield ham, baked sweet potatoes, candied yams, Brussels sprouts sautéed in lemon and butter, pickled beets, fresh cranberries (not the canned cranberry jelly), squash, collard greens with small red potatoes cooked with salt pork, freshly baked breads, cornbread, New England brown bread baked in cans, and apple pie, cherry pie, and pecan pie as well as an assortment of pastries and cookies that Mrs. Goossens had been baking all week.
It truly was a feast fit for Pilgrims, had they been so lucky.
Mrs. Goossens timed all the cooking and baking so that dinner would be served exactly at four o’clock. This was earlier than the usual dinnertime at Wythe’s End and Mrs. Goossens said that more time was needed to digest so much rich food therefore dinner should be eaten earlier rather than later.
Exactly at four o’clock Brynnie rang the dinner gong, another Wythe family tradition for big, holiday meals.
The family made quite a procession to the dining room.
When we entered the dining room we saw that it was filled with a warm glow from the candles and fire in the fireplace. Sideboards groaned under the weight of the turkeys and ham and various side dishes. Mrs. Goossens, Brynnie and Sarah would be kept busy bringing hot dishes out and would be the very last ones to finally sit and enjoy the feast.
Once all the food had been brought in and everyone’s glass had been filled with champagne or Ginger Ale for the younger Wythes, Gramps stood up and raised his glass.
“To Mrs. Goossens and kitchen helpers: We raise our glasses to show our gratitude and appreciation for another delicious feast prepared for Thanksgiving.”
“To Mrs. Goossens and kitchen helpers!” everyone said enthusiastically.
“And let us add our prayers of thanks for this bounty that we are about to enjoy,” Gramps concluded.
There was a moment of silence then everyone took another sip of champagne and lively conversations erupted all around the table.
“Mrs. Goossens, you outdid yourself again,” said Qwerty Gran. “I believe we must be the most fortunate family to have such a delicious feast.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Wythe,” said Mrs. Goossens pleased with the compliment. “I’m more than happy to do it. I’m thankful that this snowstorm arrived after all the foodstuffs were delivered or bought for the meal.”
Gramps, Grumps, and Uncle Toby each carved one of the three turkeys. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that they would not be eaten and whatever was leftover would be used for making sandwiches or soup. Everyone was either eating or talking. Sarah sat with Thaddeus, Littie Pye, Chatty Pye and Leaky Lou and kept them focused on their dinner.
“Phin, I hear that you are probing the depths of darkness of Wythe family history,” Mathias said to me. We were sitting next to one another and this was the first chance I had to have any real conversation with him.
“I am,” I laughed. “I’m going to find out once and for all why eleven-times-great grandfather Josiah missed the boat.”
“Making any progress?” Mathias asked biting into a warm piece of cornbread slathered in butter.
“A bit,” I said. “I’ve been reading as many old diaries and journals as I can find in the library as well as studying as many of the old documents as I can find. I even visited the public library in Boston just in case there might be something there that we might not have here at Wythe’s End.”
“Sounds like you are going about in the right spirit,” said Mathias smiling. “Leave no stone unturned. And, I mean…no stone, understand?”
I watched his face for a sign as to what he was hinting at, but could see nothing that gave me a clue as to what he wanted me to say.
“Caleb told me that he showed you the secret hiding place in the West Library,” Mathias continued. “Any luck with the diaries in there?”
“He did?” I said not quite believing that Caleb had divulged this information to his brother. “I mean, did you know about that secret hiding place, too?”
“Of course,” Mathias said. “Caleb and I grew up here, too, remember and we must have scoured this house for every secret passage and hiding place we could find. I bet you haven’t found them all yet, have you?”
“I don’t think so,” I said. “I even found the old architectural plans of the house but the secret passages don’t seem to be shown on them.”
“Which ones have you found?” Mathias asked taking a bite of turkey and stuffing followed by a mouthful of cranberries.
“I know about the secret room beside the fireplace in the West Hall,” I said, before taking a bite of ham and sweet potato. “Thad and I found the two secret hiding places in the upstairs hall as well. And a couple months ago I discovered the secret passage opposite the main stairs between the reading parlor and the gallery.”
“Impressive!” said Mathias. “You have done well. But, listen, before Caleb and I leave at the beginning of the New Year, if this blizzard doesn’t keep us snowed in until Spring, we’ll take you down to the cellars and will show you one of the longer, deeper and more mysterious secret passages. I have to tell you in all honesty, it’s creepy.”
“Wow!” I exclaimed under my breath, not wanting everyone at the table to hear what we were talking about. “Mathias, that would be great. We might even find more diaries and papers down there older than the ones in the library.”
“Possibly,” said Mathias cutting into a slice of ham. “I have to say that I do miss good ol’ American cooking sometimes. I haven’t eaten this much since I left Wythe’s End for Edinburgh. Scottish food is good, but nothing like this.” Mathias studied my face for several long minutes before continuing. “But, listen, Phin, I’m not joking when I say that it’s creepy down there. Both Caleb and I felt a presence down there, and it wasn’t Ester Pyn. To be honest we didn’t stay in that secret passage long enough to explore all the nooks and crannies to see what might be hidden down there.”
“Really?” I asked, not believing what I was hearing. “So, there really might be documents down there that no one knows about or has read.”
“Could be,” said Mathias taking a large bite collard greens and red potatoes. “Maybe with three of us down there together, it won’t feel so eerie.”
“Mathias, how are your studies coming along in Edinburgh?” asked Aunt Pru, interrupting our conversation.
As I finished my dinner my mind was reeling from what Mathias had told me. Would the answer to the mystery be down in that secret passage?
Once everyone had finished eating it was the men’s turn to clear the table since the women had prepared the food and set the table to begin with. There was lots of teasing and a big show of putting on aprons to clear away the dishes. Once this was done Mrs. Goossens, Mab, and the Aunts disappeared into the kitchen in order to take the pies out of the ovens that had been warming. Freshly brewed coffee was poured into the coffee urn on the sideboard for easier serving. When the pies and pastries and Belgian chocolates were brought into the dining there was a loud chorus of “Oooohhhh, they look delicious!”
“It’s still snowing hard!” said Chatty Pye staring out the window with her nose pressed against the glass. Leaky Lou pressed his nose against the glass, too, and stared in wonder at the swirling whiteness outside.
“We might be snowed in for weeks!” said Littie Pye excitedly. “I read a book about a group of climbers in the Swiss Alps that were snowed in for three weeks by an avalanche! They had to eat strips of their own shoe leather to survive.”
“Well, if we do get snowed in for three weeks,” said Uncle Itchy. “I don’t think any of us will be reduced to eating shoe leather. I think there’s enough food to last at least three months.”
Everyone laughed. I saw Gramps and Grumps exchange worried glances and knew that this snowstorm was of some concern.
Three hours later everyone had eaten as much as they possibly could.
“Mrs. Goossens, that meal was beyond extraordinary,” said Pab giving her a hug. “I don’t know how you do it.”
“With lots of help,” said Mrs. Goossens smiling. “With lots of help.”
The table was cleared and Mrs. Goossens, Brynnie, and Sarah began the washing up and putting away of whatever food hadn’t been eaten. There were actually quite a lot of leftovers.
“I’m going to give them a hand in the kitchen,” said Mab, dabbing at the corner of her mouth with her napkin one last time. “The rest of you should head over to the parlor for one last bit of coffee and cookies later.”
“Iris, let us help,” said Aunt Que. “We’re old, but we can still work as hard as anyone else and it’s not fair to let those three do all the drudge work in this house.”
Uncle Toby and Henry helped Nanny Bryce up the stairs and got her comfortably settled once more by the fire that had been built up by Russ and Gus. We all followed in twos and threes and everyone found their favorite place to sit. Qwerty Gran fussed over Nanny Bryce and brought her a small cushion to put behind her back. Thaddeus and three youngest ones sat on the floor in front of the children’s fireplace and began to play cards.
Uncles Myles and Bertram, Caleb, Mathias, and I set up card tables so that we could play card games, Monopoly, RISK, or CLUE to pass the evening and let our big meal digest. It was the perfect night to play games with two cheery fires blazing in the fireplaces and a snowstorm raging outside.
Gramps, Grumps, Uncle Toby and Uncle Itchy retired to the library where they could smoke their pipes and have a bit of peace and quiet amongst the books and discuss the snowstorm. Russ, Gus, and Henry made the rounds of each fireplace, added more firewood where needed, brought in more firewood from the back porches, before settling down in the library with the uncles and me.
The kitchen workers could be heard on the stairs laughing and talking animatedly amongst themselves. The women entered the parlor bearing large trays of cookies and more Belgian chocolate as well as mugs filled with hot coffee and hot chocolate.
By seven-thirty everyone had settled in the parlor sitting on sofas or on chairs or sprawled on the floor. Those who wanted to play games or cards sorted themselves out at the various tables. All eight dogs joined us and were pleased to have all their humans in one room where they could keep an eye on them.
“This is the last time you menfolk get waited on like this,” said Mab. “Next time all of you can do the washing up while we women sit by the fire and put our feet up.”
“Hear! Hear!” cried the women and girls.
As the grandfather clock in the West hall struck nine the game playing members of the family took a break from a marathon of playing Monopoly and Clue. Brynnie had made more hot coffee and hot chocolate as well as hot sugar cookies right out of the oven.
“Where’s Russ, Gus, and Henry?” asked Mabs looking around the room for them. “They should be in here with the family where it’s snug and warm.”
“They’re outside shoveling snow,” said Pab. “Russ doesn’t want it to get too deep around the house.”
“But, it’s a blizzard!” exclaimed Mab. “Thaddeus put your coat on and go find them and tell them to get in here this instant and get warmed up.”
Thaddeus reluctantly got to his feet off the floor and left the room.
In a few minutes we could hear him and the three men stomping snow off their boots on the back porch. When they entered the parlor their faces were red from the cold. Russ’s and Gus’s moustaches were iced over.
“You boys get some hot coffee,” said Mab. “And change into something warm and comfortable. We’re camping out here in the parlor for the duration.”
It was getting late, but no one felt like going to bed.
“I’m tired of being beaten by Leaky Lou,” said Littie Pye. “He always wins at Monopoly.”
Leaky Lou solemnly nodded in agreement. Littie Pye sipped her hot chocolate thoughtfully and stared into the fire. It was true, Leaky Lou was one of the best Monopoly players in the family and he never said a word, but he seemed to understand the rules of the game nonetheless.
Suddenly, the lights went out. Except for the warm glow from the fireplaces the large room was plunged into blackness. A hush fell over the family as if we, too, had been snuffed out with the lights.
“Damn!” said Pab. “I knew this would happen sooner or later. Power outage.”
“Don’t panic,” said Mab. “Brynnie and I made sure that candles are in every room and the oil lamps are in the back hall, filled and ready.
The only light in the room came from the two fires burning in the fireplaces. Leaky Lou and the two girls sat at Nanny Bryce’s feet with all the small dogs and Scowther crowded around.
“Phin, you and Thad bring in the oil lamps, please,” said Mab. “Sarah would you mind giving Brynnie a hand going upstairs and checking the fires up there. And, Brynnie, perhaps you could bring down some comforters and blankets. We might as well make ourselves as comfortable as possible in here until bedtime.
“Slumber party!” cried Littie Pye.
“Slumber party!” cried Chatty Pye.
Leaky Lou had fallen asleep, wedged between Nanny Bryce’s blanket covered leg and Scowther.
“Slumber party it is!” cried Grumps. “What better way to spend a dark, snowy night, eh?”
“We’ll give Brynnie and Sarah a hand with the blankets,” said Mathias. “C’mon Caleb. And you, too, Phin.”
“I have a suggestion,” said Aunt Pru. “If we’re going to have a slumber party we should all change into warm flannels and robes before settling down here in the parlor.”
Everyone agreed. With candles in hand we all made our way to our rooms to change, grab extra blankets and pillows, and return to the parlor. Card tables were cleared and put away. Extra candles were found. Sofas and chairs were arranged so that everyone could be as close to one of the fireplaces as possible.
As excited as Littie Pye and Chatty Pye were at the thought of having a slumber party the two girls could barely keep their eyes open. Within minutes of having spread out their blankets and pillows on the floor in front of the small fireplace, with all the small dogs buried deep under the blankets with them, they were sound asleep. Sarah, picked up Leaky Lou and gently carried him over where the two girls were soundly sleeping. Scowther stretched out alongside Leaky, keeping his back warm.
“Those two are going to be so disappointed that they slept through the slumber party,” laughed Grumps. “Chatty Pye has been begging for a slumber party for months.”
The Aunts sat in chairs on the opposite side of the large fireplace while Nanny Bryce began to doze in her chair on the other side. Mab, Pab, Thaddeus, Uncle Itchy, and Scout squeezed together onto one sofa. While Uncles Myles and Bertram, Mathias and I settled on the other sofa. Sophie wedged herself in between Molly and Gabe that were stretched out on the floor near Uncle Bertram’s feet. Thaddeus and Caleb sprawled on the floor with their backs against our legs. They were wrapped in thick, fleecy blankets and pillows underneath their heads. Sarah, Brynnie, and Mrs. Goossens commandeered the third and smaller sofa with fleecy throws and cushions. That left Gramps, Grumps, Russ, Gus, and Henry to pull up armchairs or claim a place on the floor.
Finally, everyone was settled and ready to enjoy the peace and quiet. It really was like camping out in the parlor. The oil lamps added extra warmth to the room, the fire crackled and created the focal point for everyone to watch as if mesmerized by the leaping flames. Everyone had blankets and pillows tucked around them. I lay my head against Uncle Myles’s shoulder. He put his arm around my shoulders and pulled me in closer.
For a few minutes no one said a word. The only sound came from the fire. Outside the snow continued to fall, it had not slackened in the least. Gus said that there must be more than two feet on the ground already. It was going to be a long weekend of eating and playing games.
“Well, what do you want to do now?” asked Gramps, sipping his coffee. “Anyone want to play games or cards or even charades?”
No one felt like stirring from their warm nook and was content to just be still.
“I know,” Uncle Itchy said. “Let’s tell stories. This room is crammed with more writers than most book stores and one of them should be able to tell us a good story until we get sleepy.”
“That’s a great idea!” chimed in Uncle Bertram. “Perfect night for storytelling. It’s a shame that the little ones will miss out.”
“You mean you want to hear about a deep dark murder that we’re writing?” asked Aunt Pru, her eyes sparkling with mischief.
“Yes!” I said enthusiastically. “It’s the perfect night for that kind of story and the little ones are asleep so you can make it as gruesome and graphic as you like.”
“Wait a minute,” said Caleb, raising his head. “If we’re going to listen to a murder mystery may I make a suggestion?” He looked directly at the Aunts as he said this. “I know that family tradition always has the Aunts tell the “Sad Tale of Ester Pyn” on Halloween. But, I know that they always tell the G-rated version for the sake of the little ones. Tonight, may we hear the R-rated version?”
He smiled over at me. I knew exactly what he was up to.
“Well, I don’t know,” began Aunt Que. “The unedited version is a bit, um, racy, you know.” She glanced at Mab, knowing that Mab always edited the racy bits out of any story.
“I know,” said Caleb. “Remember, you told it to me right after I graduated from Harvard before I headed over to Basel. I think Phin would find the “no fading to black version interesting.”
“Oh, yes!” I said leaning forward and giving the Aunts my most imploring look. “I would love to hear this version. And nothing scares Thaddeus, you know that, he can handle it. Can’t you, Thad?”
“Of course, I can,” he said yawning. “I’ve heard this ghost story so many times.”
“Ah,” said Caleb smiling. “But, not this version.”
“Well, if everyone really wants to hear it,” said Aunt Pru. “We can tell it. But, we don’t want to be interrupted while we’re telling the story. It’s best to hear it all in one go.”
“Should we turn down a few of the oil lamps?” asked Grumps. “Atmosphere is everything when listening to a good ghost story.”
“All right,” said Mab whose famous “fade to black” phrase was used whenever a conversation or story became too racy or too graphic and was often quoted in fun by most of the family. “I promise not to say ‘fade to black’.”
Pab nodded to Russ and he got up and went around the room turning the oil lamps down low. He blew out most of the candles as well. The parlor seemed to shrink as we all crowded around the fireplace eager for a good story. Russ sat on the floor with his back against Gus’s legs. Gus ruffled his hair and gave his shoulders a squeeze.
“As you all know,” began Aunt Que. “Ester Pyn Wythe died two hundred three years ago. The circumstances of her death only came to light about a hundred years ago. And Ester herself has confirmed what was read in the letter written by the groundskeeper’s son in 1823.”
“Here is the true story of Ester Pyn’s … murder!” said Aunt Pru in a hushed voice. “I believe this is the first time the entire story will be told to the entire family.”
“This is Ester Pyn’s Story,” said Aunt Pru quietly. “Listen and know that she walks among us still.” She paused, took a deep breath, and continued. “Ester Pyn Wythe was born in 1771 in the original house that is now called Gull Cottage.”
“She was a dutiful and obedient daughter in all things except for having fallen in love with the wrong man,” said Aunt Que, picking up the narrative. “Her life was uneventful and dull, her daily routine never varied. She was expected to excel in all the domestic skills deemed appropriate to a young woman of her station in life. However, she longed for something more and found it in a bold, adventurous sea captain.”
“Ester Pyn had fallen in love with a romantic burly sea captain—Captain John Wright. Their love affair was kept secret because the family would never approve a marriage to a sea captain. The two lovers met in secret in the village or Boston,” said Aunt Pru looking around at us with a twinkle in her eye.
“Captain Wright was duly entertained by the Wythes without their knowing of the affair between him and Ester Pyn,” said Aunt Que. “He was a respected sea captain and well liked by everyone.”
“His ship was anchored off the tip of Wythe’s Point,” continued Aunt Pru. “Late one night, thinking to surprise her lover with an unannounced visit to his ship, Ester Pyn had the groundskeeper, Rollins, row her out to Captain Wright’s ship in the dead of night so that she could surprise him.”
“And the family would be none the wiser,” chimed in Aunt Que. “Secrecy was of the utmost importance in this daring escapade.”
“Rollins was very fond of the young woman and willingly did as she asked,” said Aunt Pru. “He understood why Ester Pyn wanted no one to know of her midnight escapade. He had been instructed to return to shore and wait for her signal to row back out to the ship in order to fetch Ester Pyn back to shore.”
“When the small dinghy reached the ship Ester Pyn quietly climbed the ladder and boarded the ship,” Aunt Que said breathlessly. “She knew where the captain’s quarters were and made her way there unseen by the sailor on late watch. When she slipped into the captain’s quarters she was stunned to find him naked in the arms of another man!”
Mab gasped and opened her mouth as if to say ‘fade to black’! But, Pab nudged her in the side and she kept silent.
“Yes!” exclaimed Aunt Que. “In the arms of another man and both of them quite bare. Bare bears you boys would say,” she smiled at Uncles Bertram and Myles and then at Russ and Gus.
“Ester Pyn grabbed a small revolver that was lying on the captain’s desk,” continued Aunt Pru, ignoring the interjection about bare bears. “The two men covered themselves and leapt up and tried to reason with Ester Pyn but she would not be reasoned with. She sobbed and wailed and threatened to kill them both and then throw herself into the sea. If her life had been dull, her death would be dramatic. A brief struggle ensued and the firearm was discharged by accident mortally wounding the distraught young woman.”
“Poor Ester Pyn collapsed to the floor, shot through the heart,” sighed Aunt Que. Captain Wright and his lover, a young man from the village, wrung their hands and decided that the best thing to do was to return her body to shore and bury her secretly on the property.”
“The last thing they wanted to face was her father’s wrath,” said Aunt Pru. “More likely than not, five-times-great grandfather Theo Atticus, would have killed both men if he knew what had happened.”
“They wrapped her body in a large piece of canvas sailcloth, carried her on deck, and gently placed it in a small dinghy,” Aunt Que continued. “They lowered the dinghy and rowed back to shore not realizing that the groundskeeper, Rollins, was watching, waiting for his mistress’s signal to return to fetch her.”
“Unseen by the two men Rollins watched as they hefted Ester Pyn’s body out of the dingy and up the bluff,” said Aunt Pru looking directly at Thaddeus. “The groundskeeper hid behind a tree and watched as the captain and his lover dug a deep grave, deeper than most graves, at the very tip of Cape Haddock.”
“Ester Pyn had been wearing a loose, flowing chemise that reached her ankles,” Aunt Que added. “The same chemise she wears now as she prowls the house and cellars.”
“At the graveside,” said Aunt Pru giving Aunt Que a knowing look. “The captain and his lover tied the sailcloth around the corpse, binding it at the ankles, across her waist, and at the top of her head.”
“Then,” said Aunt Que quickly. “The two men embraced and kissed in the moonlight, weeping with guilt and shame. As they stood beside the grave saying a silent prayer of forgiveness for what they had done, Rollins crept up behind the men and struck each a fatal blow with the shovel they had used to dig the grave. He rolled the men into the grave on top of Ester Pyn and silently filled the grave in with dirt.”
Aunt Que had been leaning forward as she told this part of the story. Now she leaned back and wiped her hands together as if she had done the deed herself.
“Rollins, the groundskeeper, had been a loyal friend to Ester Pyn,” continued Aunt Pru. “And he, too, was fearful of the wrath he knew would come if Ester Pyn’s father knew what had happened. When Ester Pyn’s absence was noted the next day he kept silent and never betrayed her secret. He preferred to let the family think that she had fallen off the bluff and drowned or had been captured by Indians.”
“Ester Pyn’s parents never discovered what had become of their daughter,” said Aunt Que sadly. “Their other children prospered and grew to adulthood and carried on the Wythe legacy.”
“In 1823, as Rollins lay on his deathbed,” said Aunt Pru quietly. “With his final breath he told the entire story of what he had seen to his wife and oldest son. He had his son write the story down, seal it in an envelope, and hide it amongst the family papers in the library until the day might come when a family member might discover the piece of paper and learn the true fate of Ester Pyn.”
“And so that envelope was found and opened?” I said, not being able to keep silent.
“Oh, yes,” said Aunt Que with a twinkle in her eye. “It was found by someone sitting in this room at this very moment.”
We all sat up and looked around, expecting to see the ghost of Ester Pyn hovering in a dark corner about to reveal herself to the family at last.
“Who found the envelope and read the true story of Ester Pyn’s murder?” asked Uncle Myles suddenly very interested in the story.
The Aunts turned their heads and looked directly at Gramps.
“Gramps!” I cried. “YOU found the envelope!”
“I did,” said Gramps smiling. “And let me tell you, it gave me quite a shock. But, I don’t believe that’s the end of the story, is it Pru?”
“Oh no,” said Aunt Pru. “There’s a bit more.”
“Before Wythe’s End was built family members sometimes thought they saw the pale figure of a woman standing at the edge of Wythe’s Point staring out to sea,” said Aunt Que in a soft voice. “Everyone who saw her said she was the saddest and most forlorn ghost they had ever seen.”
“It was about sixty years later,” interrupted Aunt Pru. “Unknown to great-grandfather Theo, well, OUR great grandfather, that is, Wythe’s End was built over the grave of Ester Pyn and the two men that had betrayed her.”
“And when the builders discovered the bodies,” chirped Aunt Que. “The ghost of Ester Pyn appeared and forbade them to move her body or those of the two men. At her instructions the workmen dug beneath the bodies so that they slid deeper into the ground.”
“When the stone floor of the cellars was laid they marked the silent grave with a thick slab of stone as part of the flooring and marked it with an “X” in one corner,” added Aunt Pru with a knowing nod. “The workmen never spoke a word to anyone as to what they had done for fear of the ghost coming back to seek revenge on them.”
“To this day,” said Aunt Que in a reverent voice. “Ester Pyn haunts the cellars of Wythe’s End and can still be heard weeping and moaning. On a pale moonlit night her ghost can sometimes be glimpsed standing at the edge of the bluff staring out to sea as if waiting.”
Both aunts sat back, nodded to one another as if they had concluded an important deal, and waited for the family’s reaction.
Everyone started talking at once.
“That story gave me the goose bumps,” said Mrs. Goossens, shivering slightly. “I know I’ve felt her presence more than once in the kitchen.”
“Gramps, you knew about Ester Pyn’s murder all this time,” I said excitedly. “And never told anyone about it.”
“I told your grandmother, of course,” said Gramps. “And, Matthew, as well as Pru and Que. Who else should I have told?” he asked mischievously.
“Me!” I cried. “You should have told me.”
“Well, now you know, Phin,” said Gramps. “Remind me to show you that document one of these days.”
“One of these days?” I said a bit too loudly. “Why not now. Or, at least tomorrow.”
The family laughed at how excited I was to have learned this bit of news. I wasn’t sure how it might help me solve the mystery I wanted so desperately to solve but there was something that Gramps wasn’t telling us.
Mab and Pab stood up and stretched as everyone began to stir and stand up as well.
Pab strode to the windows and looked out.
“Still coming down hard,” he said. “This is a honest to goodness full blown nor’easter blizzard, if ever there was one. You’re all here for the duration until the snow lets up and we can dig ourselves out.”
We all walked over to the windows and gazed out into the whiteness. There was nothing to be seen but snow falling fast and furious and laying in deep drifts on the ground.
As we stood watching the snow come down a soft moaning could be heard coming from the West Library.
“Did anyone hear that?” whispered Caleb.
“Hush,” said Aunt Que. “It’s Ester, I know she was in this room while we were telling her story. I’d know that moaning anywhere.”
We turned to look toward the library. Without a doubt a soft moaning and weeping sound came from the other side of the wall.
Outside the snow swirled as the wind whispered around the chimneys.