Books, Characters, General, Location, Research

MacDougal snippet Christmas 1871, part 2

Ross and Amelia MacDougal have just married in person, replacing the contract she’d signed before coming West.

“What’s this?”

Ross took the heavy object from Amelia’s hands. It felt like a book wrapped in thick white cloth, now yellowish with age. A leather strap kept it closed.

“My family Bible. For some reason it was hidden in my father’s library. I finally found it right before I came west. I didn’t have time to look inside. I started looking for it when you told me about arranging a real marriage ceremony and found it last week.”

“You haven’t looked inside?”

She shook her head. “Never. Mother only spoke of her family once, telling me her father had wanted to erase her wild grandmother from the family Bible. That’s the only reason I knew about it.”

Ross had seen the MacDougal family Bible every Sunday, when his father would read from it after supper. He’d never dared to open it himself, but Louisa once told him that all their names were in it, back centuries. It gave him some comfort to know he was important enough to be part of the family history, no matter how they treated him. But this was Amelia’s family.

He held it out. “You should open it.”

“Let’s do it together.”

He set the heavy book on the table by the fire. The leather strap had not been oiled in some time and resisted. He took his time, easing it through the metal buckle. He moved it close to Amelia so she could open the linen covering.

Her face glowed in the lamplight. She ran her fingers over the material, looking for an edge.

“It’s sewn shut. I need my scissors from downstairs.”

She’d barely finished saying the words when Ross handed her a thin blade.

“You wore your knives during our wedding?”

“A man never knows when he’ll need to unsheathe his blade.” She rolled her eyes at his suggestive comment.

“You unsheathed it so often that I don’t have any lap left.”  She grumbled the words but used the knife to slice the threads. She set it down and it disappeared just as quickly.

Amelia folded the linen back to reveal the thick, leather-bound Bible. She placed both her hands in her lap and stared at it.

“Aren’t you going to open it?”

“What if there’s a good reason why my father hid it away?”

“Other than he didn’t want anything to do with your mother’s family?”

Amelia looked at him with a frown. “What if there was something horrid in my family, something that my children could inherit.”

“Like madness or some vile disease?”

She nodded.

“Isn’t it better to know about it, than to wonder?”

Amelia looked back at the book. She stared at it for a few moments. Finally, she sighed, lifted a trembling hand and opened the cover.

“Sixteen-fifty,” she breathed. “Over two hundred years of my family is in here.” She turned the pages as if they were made of gold foil, delicate and irreplaceable. Rows and rows of names and dates. She kept turning until she came to empty lines.

“Amelia Esther Smathers. That’s me, at the bottom! And on the line above, here’s Prudence Letitia Smathers.”

Her smile faded. She turned to him and swallowed hard. “There’s another baby on the line. William Leander Smathers. They have the same birthday. William’s death is recorded two days later.”

“Your sister had a twin brother.”

Something cold ran down Ross’s spine. He was a big man, as were all MacDougal men. Amelia was tiny. You never knew if a woman would die in childbirth, though chances were higher if she survived the first birth. What if Amelia, whose belly was already bigger than expected, carried two babies?

What if he lost Amelia and both babies? He gulped as the cold radiated to the tips of his hands, feet, and skull. Just because her mother had twins, didn’t mean she would.

“There’s more,” continued Amelia in a hollow voice. “My mother was a twin, and she had twin brothers, though one of those died after a few weeks.”

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