Title: Never Done
Word Count 481
Disclaimer Mary is my creation
A man may work from sun to sun,
A woman's work is never done.
Yesterday she had carried the wood, and made the fire, in the rock circle in the yard.
She had carried the water, filled the great kettle. She had used some of the potash soap from the year before. (She only made soap once a year now.) With the acrid steam burning her face, she had boiled the doctor's laundry clean. She had put on her largest apron, and stirred the clothes with a sturdy stick. She knew them all, had mended and watched over them: the sheets, the trousers, the shirts, the tablecloth, the napkins, and the bandages. Dr Hornblower was particular about his bandages. They and his clothes took a lot of washing. Over the years she had washed away buckets of mud, and blood, and other things.
“ Oh, women don't mind blood.” She had said that once, long ago, when doctor Hornblower had asked. It was true, for the most. It was men who fretted and fainted and carried on. Blood was a woman's lot. It came, or it didn't, and you were sorry, or relieved, or inconvenienced. In any case, there was work to do.
Her shoulders hurt, her hands were chapped. Someday she would be too old to do for the doctor. Not that he would complain. Dear man. Still, someday soon she would have to get a sturdy girl in to help. But not today. Today Mary was strong enough.
Today, as she clasped the clothes-pins in her mouth, she was thinking of the past.
Horatio's little smocks had flapped just so. His little drawers and stockings had been hers to mend. It should have been his mother's task. But Horatio had had no mother. His mother had been carried away by child-bed fever. Her blood had filled with corruption, there had been nothing anyone could do. Blood did that sometimes too. No one knew why. So, Horatio had had only had the doctor and Mary. And she had been given the love that might have been his mother's portion.
Her arms had fit around him so easily. She had bathed him, and made his meals, and she had put him to bed at night. She had watched over his little boy prayers. He had taught him his letters. Those years had been busy ones.
Things were not so busy now. But there was still work to do.
There was a good breeze today. It was a good drying day. The heavy wet cloth slapped her wrists as she pinned it up. She worked quickly, mechanically. Here, in the doctor's side yard, she could look a long way. She could see in the distance, the winding coach road. Usually it was empty. Today, in the distance she could see a coach coming.