Extracts from Mrs McKeiver’s Secrets


Extract 1
An example of her thinking: ‘a little help is worth a lot of pity’, especially for the poor day labourers, after they’d walked miles in the day, looking for non existent work.  As Clement, her son, was the Parish Guardian, they had to report to him to go on the Parish List for assistance.

            What she’d started to do was make a thick any flour batter cake, sweet or savoury and flavoured with anything she had. This, beaten with one egg, herbs and onion; or sweet cooked fruit and well fried, made a tasty thick cake. Hot from the big frying pan, a good quarter dripping with honey or fat, was so welcome it drew tears from the eyes of grown men, after they’d walked cold miles.
            Logan had informed the Vestry of this kindness and was hoping she would receive a few shillings, to pay him for the flour? Surprisingly, the Vestry paid both of them, as Logan was now the biggest donor of meat and food to the Parish Poor.
            Of seasonal hedgerow fruits, Mrs McKeiver received many warm dirty pocketfuls, which she usually cooked before using.
            In many ways, Mrs McKeiver was a woman who dealt with life’s setbacks. Her favourite saying was, ‘timmer y’self woman’. Why she had to be faced with so many problems, she didn’t know. People said she set herself on; which she knew to be true. One particular service she provided, was never mentioned at all!


Extract 2
Edward and Hester’s first evening together, cleaning and preparing one of Logan’s cottages, which was handily next door to Mrs McKeiver.  They would move in on their wedding night.

He smiled and kissed her cheek gently. Alone together in the fire lit parlour, both were nervous, yet secretly overjoyed. Edward solved the tense situation by smiling, what he hoped, was lovingly. She was carefully unwrapping a fresh roll and butter, unaware of the smile.  He’d remembered his father’s words and decided to test them.
            ‘Women and girls must be praised, be it true or not’.
            But his congratulations were true praise.
            “D’you make this bread at the Vicarage? Be a shame to eat it. So light and tasty,” he said. “My Ma woulda called you a ‘good bread hand’.”
            He ate from her hands, as the privy work meant he wouldn’t let his hands touch his food. Small bites were best, he decided, and tried to touch her fingers with his lips or teeth as often as possible. She let him eat right down to the last bit, enjoying the game he was playing and the attention of his teasing eyes. He kissed her fingers and nibbled her lips, for any crumbs. Hester’s legs went to water and she began to panic. At least, she thought it was panic, but really she wanted to kiss him. And, something else, more mysterious and exciting; originating deep in her belly. She longed to share the secrets of the marriage bed, with this so handsome young man.
            “Shame on me,” she said to herself, as she cleared up. “I must be a sinner.”
            Never had she been to bed with any man. And she was pregnant. Even she saw the bitter humour.


Extract 3
The start of Edward and Hester’s wedding night.

Nobody had really kissed her, ever, except when! She flinched at the memory of that pain. Loving, but still awful pain, as the man had so urgently entered her. And so embarrassing for them both, as she’d been in pain and had tried vainly to stop him. But too late! How he’d cried afterwards, for causing her that pain.
            Urgently, she kissed Edward’s eyes and face, wanting whatever kindness he would give her. Was she a hussy?
            The rush dip cast a beautiful glow over his drawn features. Hester was facing him now, not sure of the look on his face. He seemed totally relaxed; but you never knew with farm men. Without a word he moved her closer to him; kissing her between the breasts again. She swallowed hard, her countenance losing some of its forced primness. He hugged her gently, treasuring the baby within. He didn’t care at all that it was another man’s; for it made Hester his. That’s all that mattered to him. He’d prayed for her for months.


Extract 4
The men from Logan’s farm trying to continue doing business, without being stopped on the road to market by hungry men and women.  Many farmers held on to their wheat, hoping that would make the price rise. 

Edward feared the wild desperation in men’s eyes. The women upset him the most though, having sickly grey dead faces; when not contorted with the rage of hunger. Logan sold a few bits of cooked fat bacon to them, for next to nothing, but he stayed quiet; even when they’d triumphantly found the small amount of wheat he always carried, especially for them to buy.  He’d been clever enough to send good amounts of wheat to the miller, in the very late evenings.  Eldest and Young’un, with two half full sacks usually obliging, with Noah and Saul carrying it.  Noah tended to rear at the least human approach, so Edward had trained him to do just that, until whatever threat had gone away, frightened and swearing.

mrs mckeiver's secrets