Van Reid

author of The Moosepath League Saga, a series of historical novels set in 19th-century Maine

A Premise (August, 1859)

“Aunt Flora?”

“Yes, Toby?” Flora heard her nephew come into the kitchen. She had just taken the tea kettle from the stove and was pouring hot water into the stoppered sink. With a flick of her wrist she knocked the cake of soap in its little wire basket in with the dishes, gave the water a few swishes to encourage some suds and wiped her wet hands on her apron as she turned.

His small, round face was looking down at a folded piece of writing paper with an expression wavering between the bemused and the amused. Flora recognized the paper from her own desk and even across the room she knew her own handwriting.

“What is it?” she asked.

“My mother said to bring this letter to you,” he said, “and find out what you wrote, here.” He walked toward her but she met him halfway, reaching with one hand for the letter and affectionately frisking his hair with the other. She did not entirely let him go as she raised the paper in the light from the kitchen windows and glanced at the date on the letter’s first page: June 28, 1859.

He leaned his curly brown head toward her and pointed to the passage in question.

The paper was what would be termed “well used”; in the common (and conservative) fashion of the day, she had filled a page with thoughts and news, then turned the paper ninety degrees and filled it again. It was an old trick that used less paper; the human eye had a remarkable ability (especially with practice) to untangle the two layers of writing, though occasionally the confluence of certain sweeps and loops at separate angles made it a challenge to know to which word which elements belonged.

Flora laughed lightly. In this case, the very accuracy and beauty of her handwriting (in which she took deserved pride) had helped to confuse matters for half a line running in one direction. “Oh my!” she said. “That is a muddle.”

from Moss Farm: Or the Mysterious Missives of the Moosepath League by Van Reid (The Moosepath Press)