Voices in the Walls 28

Chapter five, continued

She sat beside me and said, “Would you like to tell me what is troubling you?”

“Lots of things.”

“Such as?”

I couldn’t look at her. She went on, “Have I done something wrong?”

“No. Not at all. It’s just that you look and sound so much like Mother that sometimes it makes me feel strange.”

She smiled a gentle smile – like the gentle smile Mother had – and said, “There isn’t much I can do about that. What else is bothering you?”

I told her about my dreams of a naval career. She said, “I am sorry for your disappointment, but I can’t have too much sympathy for the thing you have lost. A naval officer’s job is making war, and I can’t condone that.”

“That is because you are Quaker.”

“We don’t care for that name. It was given to our faith years ago by men who used it to belittle us. We are the Society of Friends.”

“Mother was a Qua . . .  a Friend. She opposed war and slavery, didn’t she?”


“Yet she married Father. I don’t understand.”

Aunt Rachel laughed. “Matt, there are mysteries none of us will ever comprehend, and love between a man and a woman is the greatest of them. Why did she marry? She married because she loved Thomas Williams more than mother and father and sister and home. That is why women have always married. And she still loved him until the day she died, despite all the terrible arguments they had. I know; she told me so in a letter she wrote from her sickbed just a week before the end.”

“Arguments? They never fought.”

“They may not have fought where you could hear them, but they fought like cats and dogs, and it was always over slavery.”


“Yes. Oh, yes. She wrote me long letters during the later years. She was troubled that God was punishing her for her lapse of conscience, but she never once considered abandoning your father. Through everything, she loved him.”

Aunt Rachel let me digest that for a bit, sitting silently nearby but not intruding on my thoughts. I had never known! I had always thought of Mother as a quiet person who gave over all the governing of the household to Father. If I thought of her background at all, I assumed that she laid her old religion and her Quaker conscience aside when she took her wedding vows.

Even more than I had realized, she must have been like Aunt Rachel.

“You have to understand something about your mother’s side of your family history, Matt,” Aunt Rachel went on. “This house is nearly a hundred years old, but when your great great grandfather built it, Darbys had been in America for decades. They came over with the original settlers who followed William Penn in 1683 to escape religious persecution in England.

“For nearly two hundred years, there have been Darbys in America, and for the most part, they have remained members of the Society of Friends and have opposed both war and slavery. But not every Darby has been strong in the faith, and some of them have lapsed and then come back.

“Your mother had a strong personality – your grandfather called it a rebellious nature. Your mother and your grandfather fought over everything. And, since he was such a strong abolitionist, it was only natural that she would not be. At least she wasn’t when she was a young woman.

“As soon as Amanda was able, she left home.    continued tomorrow


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