Featured extract

Source: Featured extract

 

Anne put her hands into the water too and grasped mine tightly. My instant reaction was to retract – both my hands and my bodily frame – but kneeling on the ground like that the latter was impossible and the former was prevented by the surprising strength of Anne’s grip, which initially seemed to push my hands down deeper still. It was the first time that I really noticed that – the first occasion on which I really had the chance to notice – but she had the grip of a farmhand and not of a temporary one either; one who had put in hour after hour. From whence had that come? Perhaps from years of work as a child on the Hardman farm in Bury, protected from the sun by extra layers of clothing so that she had kept that blanched, child-like complexion from the teasing taunts of the sun whilst in her hands she still wore like all the rest in the fields. Then she raised my hands above the surface of the fluid. Brierley now spoke something but so quietly that only his ears were near enough to his mouth to hear his words. Anne hardly seemed to notice but she was probably more accustomed to Brierley’s mumblings in such personal circumstances than I was. It might have been something from the Bible or else perhaps from some obscure, ancient, hitherto untranslated text. I could not even judge what language it was in for it could have been in another tongue. Actually, did she speak other languages too? After all, he had intended that I should help her study Latin. I looked up at him, confused – perhaps genuinely intoxicated by the familiar and yet unnamed and overly-pungent, warm herbal odour – but he now seemed openly joyous; his painful joints now quite forgotten, put to one side for another day. Meanwhile Anne’s hair, now partly damp and with patches that were frankly wet through which she had run her soaking fingers, fell forward again, this time in heavy soaked clumps, and was re-lit by the fire. She leaned further forward, took my chin in one hand with that overarching odour of hot herbs upon it and kissed me quietly and gently on my cheek.

—Dear Matthew! Thou art beloved in Christ amongst us!