Here’s the next part. This is all coming out in print differently than it has been banging around in my head for the past two years. All the twists and turns are still waiting to emerge from my thoughts. I just hope I can piece them together well enough.
“Well, it’s really just one story with lots of parts. I used to ask my dad to tell me the stories in little bits so they would last longer.”
“So, start with the first little bit,” Ian said with a smile. “I won’t mind if you make the story last longer.
“It’s all about Abigail. My dad always called the story Aunt Abigail the Constant Widow.”
“Dad, it’s been a while since you told me about Aunt Abigail. Will you tell me the first part, please?”
“Kathryn, surely you are tired of this story by now. You’ve heard it so many times.”
“Oh, no, Dad. She’s a legend in this family. Come on, please.”
“Alright. But just one part and then you are going to bed. Got it, kiddo?” Kathryn nodded her head and sat up in bed.
“Aunt Abigail was my great, great, great grandfather’s older sister. She was the eldest of four children. The rest were boys. My ancestor, Fergus, was two years younger than Abigail. The youngest boys were already in the British Navy although they were just 13 years old. Can you imagine? Leaving home just three years from now, Kathryn?”
She shook her head. “Go on, Dad. Get to more about Abigail.”
“You never were very patient. Alright.” Kathryn’s dad tossled her head and kept telling the story. “Abigail was a pretty girl. She did all the things that girls did back then; she could sew, paint, and played the piano. But, she was a bit different in that she sat in on the lessons that her brothers got each day from a tutor. She knew Latin, French, and Italian. Everyone always said she was better at math than her brothers. I can imagine she was jealous that her youngest brothers got to travel the world while she stayed in Scotland.
“She was probably a bit lonely, too. When the twins, those were the boys in the navy, left home, Fergus was packed off to school. Her mother had died when she was young, so all she had was the servants in the house and her father.”
“Dad, didn’t she have friends?”
“I don’t remember any part of the story that told about her friends. I guess she didn’t have many or that whatever friends she had weren’t very close to her.”
“Yes, it is, but she may have had friends that we don’t know about. There’s a lot about Abigail that we don’t know. I don’t even know the color of her hair or if she was tall. All I’ve ever been told is that she was pretty. But, I’m getting sidetracked. Let me get back to the story, okay?”
Kathryn nodded her head, “I’ll stop asking questions.” Her dad smiled at her.
“Abigail’s father had some pretty large gambling debts and was worried about how to keep his estate for his son. When Abigail was 16, her father found a way to pay his gambling debts. He was going to marry her off to a wealthy man who had always thought Abigail was pretty. Abigail wasn’t happy about not having any say in the matter of getting married. She had no mother to protect her, no aunts to stand up to her father about marrying her off while she was so young. And, although she knew that Robert Halsey was a good man, she was angry and scared. With the help of her lady’s maid, an Irish girl named Ciara, Abigail ran away.
“When Mr. Halsey, who was much older than Abigail, came to finalize the marriage arrangements Abigail’s father told him that she was ill and not fit for a visit. But, Mr. Halsey didn’t believe him. Knowing a young girl would hardly relish the idea of marrying an older man, he politely accepted the explanation, but he was determined to find the truth.
“Mr. Halsey had his coachman talk to the house servants. From the information they gave, Mr. Halsey pursued Abigail. He didn’t do this out of anger. You see, Kathryn, it was very dangerous for a young woman to be alone. He was worried about her safety. It only took a day to for Mr. Halsey to find Abigail. Not long after he found her, they were married.”
“Dad,” Kathryn yawned, “you haven’t ever told me what made her decide to marry him. I mean, she ran away so she wouldn’t have to marry him. Do you know why she changed her mind?’
“No, Kathryn, I don’t know why. But I do know that Abigail and Mr. Halsey had two children, a son and a daughter, before Mr. Halsey died.”
“How did Mr. Halsey die?”
“Ah,” Kathryn’s dad shook his head, wondering if he should tell his young daughter. Kathryn’s beseeching look was all he needed. “Well, I was always told that Abigail poisoned him so she could marry a young sea captain.”
Kathryn’s eyes were wide. “She, no. She really killed him?”
“I don’t know if it is the truth. That’s just what I’ve always been told.”
“Is it true? Have you ever tried to find out if it is?”
“You know, I haven’t. Your mom and my mom once got the family history together. They got as far as when my great, great grandfather came to America. I don’t think they got any further. You’ll have to ask your mom if she found any information about Abigail.”
“Well, did you ask your mom what she had found?”
A look of sadness fell over Kathryn’s face. “Yeah. My mom only told me that she had read in a family bible that Abigail had been married five times. I’ve got the names of the husbands.”
“That’s a great story. I can see why you came all the way over here to Scotland to search for what really happened.”
Kathryn tilted her head, “You don’t believe that she killed him?”
“I guess I don’t. And, I’ll wager that the rest of the story gets even better.”
“Oh, it does. But, that’s all I’ve got time for tonight. I have a deadline to make.”
“I’m writing a weekly column about my time here for a newspaper in the states. I have to send the story to my editor by tomorrow, and I’ve got edits to make.”
“Ah,” Ian decided to try his luck a bit further. “I’ll get in touch with my friend who deals with historical records. She’ll be able to tell you where to start searching. When I find something out how do I get in touch with you?”
Kathryn knew that she was about to let this man into her life. As she wrote her phone number on a scrap of paper and slid it across the table to Ian, she told herself, “This will only be a professional relationship. He’s only going to be a friend. Just a friend. Just a friend.”