Angus walked home that evening through the gathering dusk. The red clay path was dark with dew. Overhead, the first stars shone through the last of the clear sunset, and the moon steadily gained in brightness, already beginning to cast deep shadows all around. In the woods an owl hooted, and then was silent. A dark shadow winged its way overhead, the wind of its passing ruffling Angus’ grey hair. It plummeted to earth. A sharp squeak, and the shadow rose again clutching a field mouse in its claws.
It was on a night such as this that Anna was murdered, thought Angus. For all I defended him to Paddy, I hope that Ian had nothing to do with it.
A branch fell in the woods across the brook. Angus started. It was nothing, he reassured himself. He quickened his pace. The noise came again. I still have to go through those woods to get home. I wish I had a stick with me, he thought, trying to calm his heart. He trudged onward. I could go around by Lochie’s. It would take me longer, but it would be all open country.
He reached the fork in the track and stopped, still undecided about his route. Mary’ll be worried about me if I’m too late. I promised her I’d be back before sunset and it’s already past that. I stayed too long at Ian’s. He started down the path toward the woods. A creak and another thump, louder than the last, sounded, and Angus retraced his steps and took the path by Lochie’s. Mary’ll just have to worry.
Murder’s a terrible thing, he thought as he swung past Lochie’s barnyard. The dog challenged him with bared fangs and a low growl. Angus stopped in his tracks. “Quiet, Buster, it’s only me.” He held out his hand to the dog. The dog continued to growl.
Lochie came to the door, his bulky figure silhouetted in the door frame by the candle within. “Who’s out there?” he shouted over the fierce barking of the dog.
“It’s me,” replied Angus from the moon shadows by the barn. The dog stopped growling and snuffled around his feet. He pushed it away and trudged across the dooryard.
“Is that you then, Angus?” Lochie peered out into the moon-bright yard. “You’re a long way from home.”
Angus laughed. “Aye, I was over at Ian’s and I stayed too long. I didn’t want to walk home through the woods so I came this way.”
Lochie sighed. “It’s a terrible thing when a man can’t even walk out at night without fearing for his life. Will you come in?”
“Not tonight, thanks. I promised Mary I wouldn’t be long and I’m already later than I’d planned.”
“She’ll be worried about you,” said Lochie, “and about herself too, no doubt.”
“No doubt.” Angus turned once again toward home. …
He climbed the little hill on the other side of the brook. In the distance he could see William MacMillan’s farmhouse. The candlelight glowed softly from the kitchen window. He’ll be reading just now. Angus pictured William poring over the heavy Gaelic Bible, his thick and calloused finger underlining each phrase, his left hand stroking his long brown beard streaked now with grey. Eliza would be sitting in the rocker, rocking gently to and fro, her hands folded in her lap, her thumbs turning one around the other as she stared into the dark shadows in the corners of the kitchen listening to the rise and fall of her husband’s voice. It’s the only time of the day that she’ll be idle, thought Angus.
Anna Gillis, the midwife and neighbour in Mattie’s Story, has been found killed. The close-knit community is deeply shaken by this eruption of violence, and neighbours come together to help one another and to discover the perpetrator. But the answer lies Anna’s secret, long guarded by Old Annie, the last of the original Selkirk Settlers, and the protagonist of An Irregular Marriage. Join the community! Read Anna’s Secret and other novels by Margaret A. Westlie.
Genre – Fiction, Mystery, Historical
Rating – G
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