A short story from long ago. A lady gets on after the loss of her husband.
|The lady parted the wispy curtains at the window and stared out over the hills, her heart one vast empty chasm. She felt dark inside, barren of all emotion. Every tear she once had was already shed. What was left was the realization that he was gone. Her husband was really gone.
She thought back a fortnight ago when the vicar had brought the devastating news to her door. Her husband had died while fighting valiantly in battle. Accompanying the vicar were her husband’s two closest friends. They hadn’t said much and sadness was written all over their faces, but they were quick to catch her as the shock took her over and she blacked out, falling to the floor. She woke up to both men standing nearby watching her worriedly, and a kind village woman dabbing her forehead with a cool, wet cloth.
Now looking out at the hills, she remembered her husband’s favorite places to take her on picnics. He had loved surprising her with the most beautiful scenery, and it was during those times when they had felt the most freedom. They would enjoy views of the loch, listen to a rambling stream, or sit under a tree in a meadow, watching for deer to come and feed. The birds and other wildlife were plentiful, and her favorites were the butterflies that would flit from flower to flower. While they ate they would regale each other with stories and laugh like children. Then they would make the sweetest love on his plaid, under the bright sun and the bluest of skies.
Her husband would plan the trip, tacking up their horses and bringing them to the front door, while she prepared a lunch that often consisted of crusty bread, cheese, ham, and apples. To drink she would pack water in case there was none nearby, along with some wine or ale. Depending on the season she would also include some grapes still attached to the vine, berries, or pears. Now and then she’d have some freshly baked cakes, nut breads, or biscuits on hand, from her own kitchen or from the kitchen of one of the very generous village women. Everyone loved the knight and his lady, and they came around often with a treat or two to share.
She turned away from the window and went back to the rocking chair where she picked up her stitch work. As she threaded the colored threads through the fabric, her mind continued wandering to days past. Ever since they had spent their first day together, she and her husband had been inseparable. He adored her, and he had wed her as soon as respectability had allowed. He was fierce in his love, protecting her with his life. And she was his, all his. There was no other man she ever had eyes for.
She worked on the cloth with diligence long into the night. It was the way she spent her sleepless nights, working on a cloth to honor her husband and the great love they had shared. She had no guilt for using up the precious candle wax. The villagers knew of her plight, and they had offered her quite a supply of candles that she kept in a back cupboard. The people were more than kind to her during her grieving period, as they were also affected from the loss of one of their own, gone too soon.
As dawn approached she set the cloth down and went to stoke up the fire. She put water in the kettle and prepared tea leaves for her cup. She thought back to all the times she and her husband had enjoyed drinking tea together. It was a soothing way to spend some quality time. Just about everything they did they had done together, and they hadn’t been just lovers but the best of friends.
The next days went on pretty much the same. The lady got through with the help of the villagers, who respected her right to privacy, yet found ways to show their kindness through the delivery of food, firewood, warm blankets, or services she might need. The men of the village came forth to do various tasks, like checking the roof for leaks, tending the animals, harvesting the wheat she and her husband had planted, and cutting the grass around the small house with a long sickle to keep the area neat. Eventually the lady ventured out and helped where and when she could.
She never felt pity from the villagers. It was just kindness and generosity offered to her like she would have offered to anyone in need. The village people had always pulled together so that no one suffered hardship in regards to basic needs. She had given much to them in recent years, and they hadn’t forgotten her compassion. It was their honor and privilege to help her now to get through the difficult days.
The years passed and she never remarried. It was well understood that her heart belonged to only one man. Many would have loved to have her for their own, but not one man disrespected her when she made it clear she would not take another husband. They kept a proper distance, and chose instead to offer help to her when a man’s strength and expertise were needed around her property.
The lady aged quietly and gracefully, but she never made it to a very old year. A village woman found her one day in her bed, gone from apparent natural causes, but many suspected it was from her broken heart. The people gave her the same honorable burial they had given her husband, and they laid her body to rest right next to him at one of their picnic sites in the hills.
Two village women fashioned a flag from the lovely stitched cloth the lady had made many years ago. One of the men fastened it securely to a staff with a point at the bottom. A few of the men rode back up to the burial site to plunge the staff into the ground, further marking the site where these two memorable people were laid to rest.
For many years the cloth remained fresh and lovely, even with the severe weather that reigned in the hills. It was said the cloth symbolized the love of this devoted couple. Those who occasionally visited the site would tell of the colorful floral banner portraying thistles, lavender, and heather, flowers of the motherland the knight and his lady had loved so much, their precious Scotland.
Today a pair of eagles soar and utter their cries over the place where the bodies of the honored couple rest, and the memories of shared love and joy blow through like a breeze along the hills, laden with the scent of wildflowers.