Ann and Anna, (serial short story, Part 19): Peculiar Gifts

      …  Parts 18 (Mouth of Babes)17 (Testing)16 (Power)15 (Knowledge)14 (Words)13 (Interruptions)12 (Gifts)11 (Punishment),  10 (Warmth),   9 (Found)8 (Lost)7 (Rock)6 (Believe), 5 (Naming), 4 (Home), 3 (Trust), 2 (Hope), and 1 (Nightmares) have posted on previous Sundays…

     As I marveled at the wisdom of this young child, I just caught a movement out of the corner of my eye.  Anna had given Tilly the slightest of nods.  I turned to her, little Tilly still in my arms, and raised an eyebrow.


She rewarded me with her most mischievous smile.  So, then.  Not only from the mouths of babes.  My tears ended, I couldn’t help but return her smile.  My breast filled with hope, until stayed by my bodice.


“You see, my dear Miss Willow, we can indeed accomplish this task which is set before us.”


Anna’s confidence was as bracing as a cup of tea on a cold day.  Tilly seconded that thought, nodding her head so vigorously that I had to put her down.  Anna drew near, pulling us both into an embrace that no family had ever bested.


“Well, my dears.”


I looked up with a start.  It was Mrs. H.  She stood in the doorway holding a bundle of clothing.  The doctor, however, was no longer in the room.  Just how long, exactly, had I been unawares?  Had I fainted?


“While the doctor is seeing to the carriage, I have brought you such apparel as our Joe  Wright here has requested.”  She nodded to Anna, then turned to me.  “We always have diverse disguises on hand that will do for young Joe and Tilly, but nothing for this Peculiar ruse of yours.  I only keep one change of fine dress and stays, Willow, for special occasions.”


That word.  Does she disapprove?  Tilly ran over to take the bundle from her.  Mrs. H. continued across the room, stopping before a large chest.  When she opened it, a scent of lavender escaped, perfuming the room.  She pulled out a dress such as the mistress of a plantation would wear.  I gasped, finally understanding the extent of her hospitality.  Just then, a familiar sound caught my ear, somewhere outside.  I looked to the window, but all was darkness, and quiet.


“Did you hear me, Willow?”


I looked back, embarrassed to have missed what she was saying.  Little Tilly, already beginning to play her role, responded for me:


“If you please, Missus, my mistress is very devout, and was saying a prayer just as you spoke.”


She bowed her head and dropped into that perfect curtsy as she finished, drawing a scowl from Mrs. H.  I almost thought I heard the child let escape half of a giggle.


“Willow, I fear that this dress will go a little long on you, but we’ve no time to alter it.”


That dress, I knew, would not suffice on special occasions in Virginia.  But for travel, it would do.


“Mrs. H. this is the loveli-”


“You need not flatter me, young Willow.  I am no Virginia Lady.  Now, let us be about our task quickly, for I hear them in the courtyard now.”

       This is the continuation scene in my historical fiction series  Ann&Anna.  I  hope that this series will move you to learn more ways to help use our history to build new tools.

  Part 18 (Mouth of Babes) was last Sunday, and then, Part 20 (Into The Night)  posted.

I look forward to your thoughts.


Action Prompts:

1.) Share your thoughts on how this story may encourage empathy-building cooperation, and might help, or hinder, inclusive thinking.  It is my personal contribution to Project Do Better.

2.) Write a story, post or tweet that uses those thoughts.


Click here to read, if you like:

Narrative and Prose Nonfiction,     

or Holistic High School Lessons,

Creative Commons License
Shira Destinie Jones’ work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

59 thoughts on “Ann and Anna, (serial short story, Part 19): Peculiar Gifts

    1. 🙂
      Glad you like it!

      Hmmm, as the wife of a doctor, and a man of standing, I believe that Mrs. H (Fort Hood??) would have either mothballed her wedding gown, or passed it on to a daughter. We deliberately know nothing of the doctor’s family, as The Underground Railroad would have had to keep the utmost secrecy, in MD, especially at this time: 1855 was a time of upswing in legal and attitudinal oppression of both slaves and especially of Free People of Color, even having a law around that time (give or take a decade?) trying to force the free population into Term Slavery or to leave the state. So much for The Free State.

      So, I doubt that it would have been her wedding gown, but a very generous gift, nonetheless. Particularly given her distaste for this ruse.

      And, I agree, Willow *might just* do it…
      We shall see!

      Liked by 3 people

        1. Well, I don’t know about that: we really are not meant to know who Dr. H. is, although in the historical tidbits on Anna Marie Weems escape, she drove a Mr. H. in his carriage out of MD, so who knows?

          Liked by 1 person

        1. *whew*

          Ok, I just realized, later, that many of my readers might not read this type of historical fiction, since Regency is so popular, and thus might not recognize their Peculiar Institution. I think it’s a bit of a balancing act, trying to be subtle enough to characterize correctly, but also to ensure that most readers ‘get’ those subtleties.

          Liked by 2 people

            1. True. I know that some historical novelists use an appendix or a glossary, but I didn’t want to offend readers who would take that phrase for granted, as it is very well known. Yet, Millenials, or even readers of non-slavery related history, might not catch this inter-textual information, which is important to the scene. So, I felt a bit stuck in a catch-22.

              Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm, interesting way to look at it.

      From my outlook, Anna has been more of the power behind the scenes, placing little Tilly into a position to help Willow succeed, and building up Willow for the danger ahead.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. But you were right: Anna appeared to be in the background, and that is exactly what I was hoping would be the case, so again, you are helping me tremendously in learning my craft, Petru!

          Thank you!

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Oh, hey, Petru: did you catch the reference in this scene to the word “Peculiar,” and did you understand what it meant?

              (I need to know whether I ought to have footnoted an explanation on Southern language in the 19th century…)

              Liked by 1 person

            1. We certainly *can* learn, given the right circumstances and encouragements. Right now, we live in a world that has always encouraged violence in some form or other as a solution, and we are not used to finding creative ways “to cooperate and non-cooperate,” as Gandhi put it. Part of Dr. King’s brilliance, in his last book especially, was adapting those strategies that worked in India to an American context. That’s what we need to continue doing, and that is what Project Do Better is all about. Historical fiction is one tool for building the empathy that underlies the whole thing.
              Join us, B.?

              Liked by 1 person

            2. I am following you and the Project so far. I am busy reading right now … 😉
              Just now I am not sure, what to do to participate, the material is quite overwhelming. I have, of course, my own thoughts about improvement, and would like to put them down and then send them to you. Then you can see, what might be useful and what does not fit in.

              One thing is certain, we have to get off the competition thinking and this sorting people into winners and losers. This is not as bad in Europe as it is in the US though. Cooperation is what we need, not competition.

              Liked by 2 people

            3. Exactly! Thank you!
              Did you mean you are reading around the blog site, or that you are reading the 5th draft?
              (if you are reading the 5th draft, comments on that page are perfect, as are comments on any post that you see, any thoughts at all are fine! )
              And comments on anything that is overwhelming or confusing is also most helpful!
              Thank you so much!!

              Liked by 1 person

            4. Coolness! Thank you! No worries, take your time: I don’t want to rush or overwhelm you -I find that even when I was teaching in the classroom, I tend to want to give too much information too quickly, sorry!

              Liked by 1 person

            5. Oh, and I’ve also started a preliminary/testing site for the Project, on, although I’m not thrilled with what I see there, it was the only place I could think of to put up a temporary portal, as I mentioned on the Call for Helping Hands post. I don’t know if it helps or makes things worse?

              Liked by 1 person

            6. Because a friend told me to.
              Well, she was the only person to that point, back in November, taking an interest in the project, when I first began looking for Beta Readers, and I didn’t want to offend her, and I also figured she might have a point that I didn’t understand, so I did it, though now I wish that I’d just continued focusing on getting the book finished.
              It’s really hard to find Beta Readers, especially, I guess, for a book that will not be traditionally published. I want to publish it straight to the Public Domain so that anyone can download it, read it, and even modify it for their own community’s needs, as long as they don’t sell it (ok, if there’s a market, which I highly doubt, I’d try to sell it, as long as it’s always free online, but no publisher would accept that, I think).

              Liked by 1 person

            7. I think you are right, if a book is free of charge online, a publisher won’t touch it. I like the free of charge online idea. It won’t make you rich, of course, but it might help many people.
              I will read the 5th draft next, so I know what we are talking about 😉

              Liked by 1 person

            8. Thank you so much!
              That’s alright, about not getting rich, I’ve carefully stewarded my savings and am ok for a year or so, and I might get hit by a bus tomorrow, so I want this work ready, and the baton passed on to someone or a group of people (an extrovert or three, I imagine) who will take it and run with it. My part is really, as I see it, just writing historical fiction!

              Liked by 1 person

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