Learn more about some of my favorite secondary characters from Hope for Charity, my upcoming novel set in 18th century England, in this new series, The Backstory.
Emily Pratt: True Friend
by Sandy Kay Slawson
Emily Pratt stomped into her family’s cabin with a furrowed brow and down-turned mouth, then slammed the door. Her mother startled and dropped a wooden bowl to the floor. The clatter reverberated throughout the small space. Emily suffered a moment’s contrition before she plopped into a chair and crossed her arms.
“What be the matter, daughtah? Ye ken better than t’ slam thee way into the 'ouse. Thank the Good Lord I hadn’t filled that bowl yet.”
“Pardon, Mum, but that man is horrid. A liar and a scoundrel he is.”
“I suppose ye mean the merchant’s boy. What has he done this time?” Mum said.
“He’s a grown man. Two years older than me at least. Anyway, ‘tis Charity’s place to say or not say. She’s the one he torments,” Emily said.
“Then ‘tis also Charity’s place t’ be angry with him. Let thy friend handle her own problems. Thee cannot fight her battles. The Good Lord shall fight them for her.”
“Aye, I know it full well, but she’s my best friend. Would you have me ignore her distress?”
“Nay, but let it not keep thee from thine own responsibilities at ‘ome.”
“I’m not ignorant of my duty.”
“Then thee must remember ‘tis time t’ bake the bread for supper.”
Later that evening, Emily washed the last dish while mum readied her younger siblings for bed. Father and her elder brother spoke about the upcoming apple harvest on the front porch. Mum’s sing-song voice soothed her little sister, who fought sleep, as well as Emily’s still taut nerves.
Charity hadn’t asked for help, but the altercation had upset her friend more than a bit. I’m not afraid to tell him to leave her alone. Lord knows I’ve done it before. The man’s not as high ‘n mighty as he thinks.
Emily stepped into the mercantile a week later and scanned the store for the merchant’s son. His father greeted her instead.
“Good day, Miss Pratt. How may I help you?”
Emily recited the list of five supplies mum had sent her after. The merchant circled the counter and gathered items. Emily peeked into the storage room, but the merchant’s son appeared to be absent altogether.
The merchant’s grumbles brought Emily’s attention onto him. “Is there a problem, sir?”
“With my son gone to university, I must hire another assistant. I cannot find two of your items. Go on home, and I’ll have them all delivered before eventide, and put the charge on your account,” he said.
“Your son is gone?”
“That’s what I said, lass. Are you aware of someone I might hire to take his place?”
“Um, no. Sorry. I’ll tell mum you’ll send our things later. Good day to you.” Emily left the store with her spirits lifted. After next morn’s chores, she'd visit Charity and share the good news about her nemesis’ departure. “‘Twill be the best news she’s had in awhile.”
“What ‘news’ and who is ‘she’?”
Emily fought to hide the glee which surged at the voice of the man she’d loved since they were but children. With as much self-control as she could muster, Emily spun in his direction. They’d not seen each other in a fortnight, and she thanked God for the deserted street. He appeared to have grown taller and more handsome with the time away.
Phillip Carle removed his workman’s cap, bowed, then placed the woolen cap atop his tawny curls once more. Emily covered her grin with the back of her mitten.
“You, Mr. Carle, have nary a right to ask me questions after you’ve kept your distance these many days,” Emily said.
Phillip motioned toward the delivery wagon behind him. “They’ve hired me as a delivery driver at the mill. My father keeps me busy on the farm early mornings. I work for the mill until the afternoon, and then on the farm again. Papa has consented to let me help with your family's apple harvest, though. Whenever I can be there, I’ll pick apples with you, if you don’t mind.”
“Hmm, mayhap I’ll be too busy to notice where you pick or don’t pick.”
“Aww, now… if you ignore me I might hit you with a rotten apple to gain your attention,” Phillip said.
“You wouldn’t dare—”
“Let me take you to the harvest celebration.”
Emily near about melted at the gleam in his eyes. Still, she turned her back to him and lifted her chin. “After you threatened to throw rotten apples at me?”
Phillip grabbed her arms, twirled her around, and pulled Emily close enough to whisper in her ear. His warm breath fanned the golden ringlets there as he said, “I’d nev’r do anything to harm you, and you know why I must earn the extra money, love. The more I work, the sooner I’ll build us a home and make you me wife.”
Tingles travelled along Emily’s spine and she shivered. With a slight adjustment, her smooth cheek met his scruffy one. “Is this a proposal, then? If so, you’ve a load to learn ‘bout how ‘tis done proper like.”
“Nay, not yet. Not until I’m ready. But when I do propose, you’ll not have to ask.”
Emily stepped away and met his serious gaze. All desire to jest fled, and the truth spilled forth. “O Phillip, I’d live in your parent’s cellar if it meant we’d be together. Why must we wait?”
Phillip stroked a lock of Emily’s hair, then let his arm drop to his side. “Nay. If I were a selfish clod, I might entertain the notion, but I’ll nay treat me wife like a hunk o’ meat or a sack o’ potatoes.”
A mix of emotions from thankfulness that such a good man loved her to disappointment at the wait ahead made Emily blink at the burn behind her lids and attempt to swallow the lump in her throat. With blurry vision set on the watch pinned at her waist, she breathed in and out with slow purposeful breaths until the threat passed.
“I suppose I must be patient. Perhaps the apples I sell at the Apple Fair might help add to our coffer.”
“Nay, that money belongs to your family,” Phillip said.
“I’ll find another way to earn coin. ‘Twill be my home, too. I ought to contribute somehow.”
Phillip scanned the area, then pressed a quick kiss to her lips. After the brief and unexpected intimacy, Emily pressed gloved fingers to her bereft mouth and stared wide-eyed at her beloved.
“Your contributions shall be made after we are wed, love,” Phillip said with a wink, then returned to his wagon.
Emily found her tongue as the two horses passed with the conveyance in tow. “Aye, I’ll go with you to the harvest celebration, and you’ll find me at the far end o’ the orchard.”
So glad you joined me for this glimpse into the backstory of one of my Hope for Charity characters. Let me know if you enjoyed this short story about Emily Pratt, and come again next time for a look at a different secondary character. May the Lord God bless you and your families with FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE. In Jesus' Name.