Joseph Malone heaved his boat onto the shore with a grunt. Another fine day of fishing, God be thank-ed.
He walked home through the saltmarshes and meadows thick with yellow iris and purple dog violet.
Mem would be pleased.
Being a fisherman's wife on the coast of Northern Ireland was plain living, especially after her wealthy upbringing in Belfast.
And then the miscarriages.
7 years since their marriage and still no children.
Tonight Joseph would tell her about the letter.
He walked up the stone path to their cottage as Mem pushed open the door.“Ahh, look at them lovely blooms, Joseph. Much obliged to ya. And such a grand lot of fish, too! Agh, and look at yer trousers! A fine mess ya are and no mistake. Come on, then.”
“Stop yer fussin' now,” Joseph said, giving her an affectionate pat as he stepped into the house.
The kitchen was warm and rich with the savory smells of lamb stew and fresh bread.
“Is that plum puddin' ye have on the stove there, Mem?”
“Really Joseph, three helpin's?” Mem was clearing the supper dishes into the sink.
“Mem, set here for a wee bit will ya?” Joseph said “I've had a letter from the orphan house in London.”
She crossed the room “A what? Joseph, I've told ya before I ... And London of all places. Are ya daft Joseph? We're Irish, I'll be remindin' ya!”
Joseph held up his hand. “Set down Mem, let me say my piece. Listen now. There is a young lad and a wee lass needing a home and we have a home to give, Mem. Plain as day.”
“Joseph” her voice was cold. “How could you? I've told ya before. I will not raise a child that is nary my own. And from London? Well, I'll not do it!”
“By Gar, I'll not be asking your permission, Woman!” Joseph's hand came down hard on the table.
Mem lowered her eyes, twisting the edge of her apron in her lap, her lips pressed tight.
Joseph took a deep breath.
Leaning close, he lifted her chin with his finger. “Look at me, Mem,” he said. “You're a good woman and I am obliged to ya. I love ya, ya know that I do. But,” he paused. “ I don't love that bit of hardness you're carrying around inside yer heart, Mem. You've coddled your sorrows and locked yourself up in them for so long now. Can ya not open yourself up a wee bit, Mem?
You'll be a good mam to those youngsters and you'll raise them up grand. Don't you see, Love? No one else is wantin' them.”
She was shaking her head again.
Joseph blew out a sigh and stood up. “I won't be forcing it upon ya, Mem. But, there's somethin' ya need to be considerin',” he looked away, his voice breaking, “those children need a Da, too!”
Joseph walked out into the moonlit night and leaned heavily against the stone fence. A cloud of fog hung low and dense over the hills and the sea, filling the air with dampness and salt.
And Joseph prayed.
Inside, Mem sat on the edge of her bed, polishing the mahogany letterbox in her lap. It belonged to her mother and was the last trace of finery from her family home.
The words of Joseph were weighing heavily upon her. “You've got to stay soft in the hands of the Lord, Mem. You can't be lockin' Him out."
Absently, she opened the clasp on the box and drew out one of the old letters. A piece of paper fluttered to the floor. It was a bit of verse from Amy Carmichael, an old Irish school chum of mother's , and now a missionary to orphans in India.
Mem's hand started to shake as she read the faint writing.
Slowly she sank down to her knees.
“Oh, what have I done, Father?” she sobbed. “Can ya make my heart soft again? Can ya give me love in my heart and make me a good mam to those who'd be needin' me, Lord?”
Mem looked at the crumpled piece of paper in her hand and read the words again.
Love through me, Love of God;
There is no love in me.
O Fire of love, light Thou the love
That burns perpetually.
...and the door of her heart flew open!
Quoted from the poem "Love Through Me"
by Amy Carmichael
1867 - 1951
Born in Millisle, Northern Ireland
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