The woman before marked her “X”.
“Yes, then, this is from…” and the scribe scanned down the pigeon parchment down to the end… “Hellia.” Then he read,
“Dear Great Auntie, I’m so sorry, but Great Grandma has passed just one and a quarter weeks ago. Her last thoughts were of you and of all of us. We gave her a lovely burial, lots of flowers such as she liked. We love you so. Hellia.”
Then the scribe let the parchment roll up in his hand and handed it to the woman.
“Missus, you have my condolences.”
Tears ran down the wrinkled older lady’s face, her bottom lip quivering with grief as she turned away.
Cartie hoped with sudden desperation that whatever her parchment said, it wasn’t anything to do with a death in the family.
The scribe looked up at her expectantly.
“Yes, sir, a courier called by my home? I have a bird, he said?”
The scribe nodded. “Name?”
He pushed through the parchments and found hers. “Very well, Cartie, have it here. And do you read?
“I – have my letters. Don’t use them much, but I can read when I need to.”
“Well, then – I could read it to you, if you’d prefer….” The scribe trailed off expectantly.
“No, no. I’ll just – my husband can read it if I can’t. Here, I’ll put my mark here, shall I?” And she put a “C” instead of an “X”. Her cheeks stained with color. It had been a long time since she’d written anything. She decided just to leave it with a “C”, and grabbed the pigeon parchment.
Outside, she unrolled it. After a time, Cartie finally worked the entire message out. It was from her cousin, whom she hadn’t seen in a day and ten.
Soldiers been comin thru regular. They say theres lots of ships bein built and soon they’ll be floatin – but they mean not in a good way. They been stayin at our house lots of times now and they talk like maybe theres war comin. Watch and listen, see if you hear the same where you are. Send this same message to all your kin too, just be quiet about it. Be safe – love to all – Hettie and the fam
Cartie looked up from the message, alarmed. War! Her boys were in the Navy. How was she ever goin’ to sleep now?