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Unconditional Chapters 9 and 10

by judie 

Posted: 02 November 2016
Word Count: 4374
Summary: The twin birth is a true story - happened to me!

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BTW The twin birth is a true story - happened to me!

The story so far:                  ;
It is the middle of the eighteenth century in a small village of Puritan pilgrim descendants, in northern New England. Religion, Calvinism, rules people’s lives, theoretically, but the truth is somewhat different. The story reveals how deceit and hypocrisy unravel lives.
So far, Hannah and Verity appear to be suffering under a burden of guilt from something that happened two years previously.  That something is not revealed.
The story switches to the prior period. Hannah has had a baby (called Pamela) and named Matthew Price as the father. She reveals that the father may not be Matthew but a stranger in Boston.
Matthew agrees to marry Hannah.
Polly, Matthew’s twin sister is introduced, and she helps her aunt Susannah, a midwife, with a  (different) dying baby. Hannah and Matthew get married and Matthew gains an apprenticeship.
Matthew and his cousin Jack attend a hanging. Prior to that the young people read through the execution sermon (a sermon given at meeting a week before the hanging).
In the next chapter  Hannah overhears an argument between the town’s Congregational (Calvinist) minister and her father. There is a new minister in town, a Universalist or Arminian, who is challenging the Reverend.
Polly is in the weekly Sabbath meeting, wishing she could go to hear the new minister. She feels too unwell to attend the afternoon meeting and stays home.

The Price Family
Thomas (Local Magistrate) and Hitty (sister to Susannah)
Cousins to Adams children
Verity (21)
Polly and
Matthew (twins) (19) - married to Hannah Mason, children Pamela and Sam
Nabby (9)
Tom (7)
Henry (5)
The Adams Family
Increase and Susannah (local midwife and nurse)(sister to Hitty)
Cousins to Price children
Jack (20)
Genny (18)
Sarah (16)
Isaac (13)
Peggy (8)
The Mason Family
George (Mill owner) and Tabitha
James (22)
Beth (20)
Sally (19)
Hannah (18) – married to Matthew Price, later children Pamela and Sam
Keziah (8)
The Parsons Family
Henry (Land surveyor) and Rebecca
Jack (23)
Josiah (22)
Jonathon (18)
Prudence (15)
Lucy (13)
The Woods Family
James and Martha
Eunice (married to Pat) (21)
Nathan (18)
Suse (12)
Jesse (10)
Samuel (dec) 
The Reverend Doctor James Milne, (Calvinist) boards with
The Widow Black (Ruth) 
The Paxton Family
Reverend Paxton (Arminian) and Merriam
Doctor Tom Foster
Nathanial, friend of Paxton, lawyer.

Chapter  9

When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob. Genesis 25:24-26

Polly and Matthew had squabbled and fought since before they were even born.
Their Aunt Susannah had told them the story of their birth many times, and they never tired of it.
Well, everyone said your mother was pregnant with twins, although we didn’t know for sure. She started her pains, and went on for twenty hours! That was a long time. The baby or babies weren’t coming out. So I decided I would have to feel inside to try to find out what might be going on.
I told Hitty. It will hurt, my dear, but we must know more about what is happening.
I reached carefully inside and felt a foot. That meant one of you babies was breech, which was not the usual way a baby is born. Babies usually turn themselves round and their head comes out first. A breech birth is difficult and often dangerous.
At this point Matthew always hissed to Polly: that was you.
I felt again, and suddenly realised that behind the foot was not a leg, as I expected, but a head. My first thought was horrific: Hitty, my own sister, was giving birth to a monster. She was surely damned, as a monster birth meant the revelation of unconfessed sin. I had never seen a monster birth but had heard stories of babies with two heads, minus arms and legs, feet attached to heads and all sorts of abominations.
Here Polly and Matthew begged for more descriptions, but never got them.
Oh God, I prayed, thou who are merciful, Lord, strengthen me, oh strengthen me my God and Father. How had Hitty sinned? She hadn’t, I knew your mother was a model of virtue, much better than me. I took a deep breath, decided not to say anything to worry Hitty or the others.
Then I had a second thought, a much better one.
At this point Polly and Matthew always sighed with relief.
Here Susannah would pause dramatically.
If there were two babies in there, I thought, then maybe after the waters broke they had become tangled up. The breech baby had wrapped its foot around the head of the other baby, blocking the birth process. What was I going to do?
Well, I said to your mother, and there was a whole room of women there to help, and they were all listening. I said I never did hear the like of it. I think one of your babies is trying to stop the other from being born first!
Now Polly was gloating: It was me! I wanted to be born first and I was determined to stop you!
Matthew gloated back: But it didn’t work, did it!
This was usually followed with a punch on the arm, reciprocated.
The women got your mother to roll over to try to make you babies move. They rolled her, walked her round the room, squatted her on the chamber pot, and the birthing stool. Eventually her cries and moans changed and she wanted to push, so we all cheered her on!. A head appeared and I announced as the rest of the slippery little soul emerged, It’s a boy!
Me, first, Matthew reminded them.
Then came the feet, just poking out. I knew that this was going to be both difficult and dangerous. There is no substance to clutch on to such as a head, to guide the baby out. You cannot pull too hard on a leg, or you might break it. Eventually and thankfully the pushing worked and a little girl literally popped out.
A little girl, I announced. Then I prayed, I was so emotional! And so relieved.
God be praised, thanks to thy providence we have two new souls.
They never got tired of hearing this story.
Polly’s closeness to her brother was both a blessing and a curse. They were best of friends, and worst of enemies. They were both hot-headed, emotional, quick-tempered and passionate, they fought over toys, food, friends. They defended each other as passionately as they fought. When one was accused of wasting water by spilling the kitchen door basin, the other explained how it was an accident and could have been his fault as well. When Matty was spanked for hitting Nabby, Polly insisted on being spanked as well.
Polly had been told how they had early on developed a special language in which they communicated and which no-one else understood. They were very late to start speaking plainly, which Polly knew had worried their mother as she became more and more concerned that they never would. Of course when they did begin to talk, she told Polly, she wished the opposite!
Now Polly and Matthew had secrets from each other. Polly was happy that he and Hannah were now married and that Matthew seemed to be besotted with Pamela. But she had been worried sick about them both before the birth, and knew how much tension there had been. There was something going on that they were keeping a secret. Now that Matty was cheerful and happy again, she wanted to confront him.
She found him on Sunday after afternoon meeting, which he hadn’t attended, as he walked back from the tavern. He still went to have his rum at the tavern. Hannah had told Polly she didn’t mind, as long as he came back sober. Which he had been doing, perhaps thanks to the delight of seeing tiny Pamela with her huge smile and luminous blue eyes.
The tavern was in clear sight of the meeting house, and many men gathered there for the duration of the Sunday meetings. Polly had seen them and suspected a lot of men like her father would prefer to be there than having to bear the discomfort and boredom of the minister’s sermons. The Reverend Doctor often called on his congregation to try to persuade these revellers in earthly drinking that they had a duty to God, and they should cease their sinful ways.  He would then go on to describe in great and gory detail just where these men were headed, and the devout men would feel finally justified in their decision. Polly would shrink in her seat at the thought of Matty going to hell, but when she thought again of her strong-willed and compassionate brother, she could not imagine it at all.
She pounced on him from a side track. Mathee, I want to talk to you privately. I know there’s something not quite right still between you and Hannah.
God Poll, you gave me a fright. Nothing’s wrong.  He seemed to be moody again.
Leave me be.
It’s Hannah and the baby isn’t it? Something’s not quite right. You’re hiding something and so is Hannah. You can tell me, I won’t tell anyone. You know that. It’s best to confess, you know, even if you don’t believe anymore.
Nothing’s wrong Polly, now go away and leave me alone.
He increased his pace so that she could not keep up on the rough track.
Later, he found her, washing up, and said, I do want to talk to you Poll. Come out to the barn where we can talk privately.
Then he told her: Polly you must keep this a secret. Hannah wants to tell you herself, so come over and she will talk to you. We agreed you should know why we have been behaving so badly.
And another thing, he said. I am worried about you Polly, you have not been well, and you cannot hide it from me.  You look awful pale all the time.
Matthew was suspicious. But she didn’t want to discuss it with him now.
There was a smell of burnt toast in the air. Hannah confessed she was so on edge that she had burned three pieces. There was cheese and cider on the table. She poured cider into a mug for herself and Polly and beckoned Polly into the parlour, where they could have some privacy. After a couple of large gulps of the cider she told Polly what had happened. Matthew held Pamela, saying, tell her everything, Han, she’ll understand.
Hannah took a deep breath:
Do you remember about a year ago Beth and I went to Boston for a shopping trip, when we stayed at a hotel near my brother James’s lodgings. I honestly did not know it until we got there that Beth had arranged a secret assignation with her betrothed Herbert, when she was supposed to be chaperoning me.
She swore me to secrecy and you know yourself Polly what she can do when she has your wrist in her grip. I was actually impressed and amazed that Beth was capable of such subterfuge, I had not thought Beth to have it in her to disobey our parents.
James was recruited to look after me for the evening. If only Beth had known how James had changed, and not for the better. He took me immediately to a lawyer friend’s lodgings where it looked to me as if a frolic were happening.
His student friends, men and women, were partaking of hard cider and rum, and everyone was acting very loose and friendly, I thought. We’re all used to frolics at the tavern and partying at barn raisings and corn huskings, but I thought this party was a bit too intimate, and I felt quite uncomfortable. I liked the rum, and had too much of it, James’ friends were encouraging me to drink up.  Then a man, who was a friend of James started to make advances to me, stroking my hair, my hand, and telling me how beautiful I was.  The rum made me drowsy and weak, and I hardly realised it but he drew me from the parlour into the bedroom. Then he threw me on the bed.
Polly gasped. Oh no Hannah. How terrible for you.
I think I must have fainted then, I felt the room spinning and then I can’t remember much. When I did come to his hands were all over me and I screamed, but the noise was too loud for anyone to hear me. The next thing I knew was that he was in me carnally. I must have fainted again, because I don’t remember after that, until I felt him picking me up and walking me out the door. The rest of the party had gone, except for James who had passed out on the floor. He sat me down on a chair. I asked him, what have you done to me?
He said he had enjoyed me. When I told him he had violated me he replied that I had willingly come into the bedroom with him. What did that signify, he demanded, but that I wanted it?
Later, the man took me back to our lodgings, James was far too worse for the drink, and he told me that what they had done was not at all sinful, and that he hoped I would be interested in his courting me further. Luckily Beth was not back and I was able to get into bed.  I heard Beth return and pretended to be asleep but I did not get a single minute of sleep the whole night. I doubted that that he would pursue me, he seemed to me to be the sort of rogue who probably boasted of the women he had conquered.
We finished our shopping the next morning, Beth was in a very gay mood, I remember and I thought, just as well she is so selfish, she doesn’t notice my misery.  
Oh Hannah, Oh Matthew, Polly was crying now.
Matty said he would put Pamela in her cot as she had fallen asleep. He did not want to hear the rest, he said.
Count the months, Polly, he said.
Hannah continued: When I came back I was so ashamed I told Matthew. Confession is the best thing, I knew I could never keep it bottled up inside me.
How did he react? Polly asked, already knowing the answer.
Oh he was angry! He called me a whore, a trull, a strumpet and worse. He said he thought he at least had my love, as I had lain with him only the night before I left, not for the first time. I had promised him I loved only him, and wanted to marry him. He had believed me, and now this happened. We had a terrible fight, she said, he hit me but I must admit I hit him back too.
Then as you know Poll, we stopped speaking to each other.
But you were raped, Polly cried. Why didn’t you swear a rape?
That’s what Matty thought I should do too.
When we realised I was pregnant it all became too complicated. See, there were no witnesses, and I found out from James that this man was a famous lawyer, very rich.
Did you tell James?
No, just asked about the man. So if he was so rich and famous the courts would likely believe him, if he said I went with him willingly. And he would be sure to find someone to testify that I had lain many times with Matthew, which would make me a loose woman.
She hung her head in her hands.
Polly said grimly: It’s good you have confessed to me Han. We must have no secrets between us.
Her insides twisted as she said this, not yet, not yet, can’t tell her yet, but I will, I will, in good time…
Now I understand why you two were not speaking. But it seems Matty has forgiven you Han. And I am sure that Pamela is Matthew’s child. She looks so much like you both, don’t you think? But Han, you need to confess to God, and ask for forgiveness.
Polly, I’m not sure I believe in God anymore. What if there is no such thing as hell? All this guilt that’s put upon us might be just to frighten us into being good.
Polly picked up the cider mug and took a couple of mouthfuls.
I worry about you Han. Aren’t you scared you might be wrong? What about Pamela? Don’t you worry about her? Will you have her baptized?
Hannah blushed. That’s a problem I haven’t worked out yet Poll. If we have her baptized we will both look like hypocrites. But you know our parents will insist.
Chapter 10
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; Ecclesiastes 3:4
Hannah heard the commotion from fifty yards away:
Sarah! Genny! The washing is destroyed, the pig’s got loose and has muddied it all. You will have to do it again. And please help me round up that swine.
OOOOh Ma. We can’t. It’s the quilting for Hannah, had you forgotten?  Please ma, don’t make us. 
Oh dear, girls this mess made me forget. Well you must promise to do it first thing in the morning.
Yes, yes Ma, they chorused, thankyou, thankyou.
Hannah ran in to help them, plonking Pamela in the kitchen with young Isaac, who was just old enough to hold her. They raced into the muddy yard and found the pig entangled, very comically, in a sheet with a woollen stocking on its snout. They quickly grabbed the animal in front and behind, pushed and shoved it back into the pig yard and secured the gate. How had it got out? The sheets were piled up and stuck in a basket and thrown into the kitchen corner.
Now quick, we have to get ready. Hannah, is anyone there yet?
I don’t know girls, I’ve been to store as we had run out of tea.
We have new dresses Hannah, wait while we show you.
Genny and Sarah had recently had new dresses made by their Aunt Hitty, who had confided in Susannah that they each thought theirs ought to be made first, so she annoyed them both by making them together, bodice for bodice, skirt for skirt. Clever, said Susannah. Hannah thought it hilarious: Genny and Sarah were so close in age, they were competitive about everything.
She walked quickly back home with the tea.
The quilting of a marriage quilt was an excuse for a major frolic. And this time it was for her. The top had been pieced by nine of the girls, which had caused no end of tension and tears as red was said to be bad luck placed next to yellow and blue flowers did NOT go with orange stripes! In the end there were only a few clashes, but the stitching was a cause for concern in some places. Hannah’s twelve year old sister Kezia had insisted on piecing and as she was Hannah’s sister the rest of the girls had not had the heart to refuse her. They had hidden those pieces around the edges. 
The quilt was placed on the frame, and the quilting pattern had been chalked onto the first part. The Widow Black had chosen the pattern for Hannah as she was the noted expert in the field, and it was a glorious pattern of feathers and leaves with small sections reserved for urns filled with roses.
The chatter began as the sewing started.
Hannah sat to one side, nursing Pamela and listening to the girls’ speculating about who  would and who would not come tonight and trying hard to sound impartial as various Josephs and Jameses and Jeremiahs, and Georges were named. She was married, no longer a girl, and she had a baby. Tabitha, Susannah and Hitty were all fussing in the kitchen.
The pies were mounting up as Martha Woods and the Widow Black arrived to add to the pile. Martha looked pale and teary still. The loss of Samuel had been hard on her; she had lost two in a row now.  The others gathered round and plied her with cider. It was good of you to come, dear, we know how bad you feel.
Shrieks from the parlour frequently interrupted the ladies’ talk, and they smiled and remembered their own quiltings and the excited anticipation of the party afterwards. They fussed over the food again and finally went in to see the quilt as it was finished off. Gushings and praise for the quality of the stitching were bandied around (Keziah had not been allowed to do the quilting stitches), and Hannah felt happy for the first time in ages.
The frame was dismantled, quilt hung on display and girls rushing to find a rare looking glass to check hair, pinch cheeks, and straighten ruffles.
Matthew had been the first male to arrive; he took Pamela in his arms and Hannah fed him pie with a spoon. She watched as Tabby and Hitty squeezed hands. She heard them muttering a prayer. She supposed they must be really relieved. They looked relieved. She guessed she was relieved as well. This change in Matty was amazing. She just hoped it would last.
After eating, the chairs and tables were pulled back and the dancing began.
Susannah said to Hannah: I will not tell Increase that Sarah and Genny are here; with luck he will have forgotten about the whole thing and anyway the girls told him they were visiting their aunt Hitty, which they did, for half an hour before coming here. I won’t lie, she reassured Hannah, just won’t say anything, unless he asks.  
But the sorrow was, her best friend Polly was not here enjoying it. She was so worried about Polly, who was sometimes not well at all. She would be on the point of telling her to confide in Susannah and ask her opinion (though not really a doctor, she was a midwife and did have lots of remedies for various ailments) and then Polly would pick up and be cheerful and get rosy cheeks again. If this had only happened once she would not worry, but it was several times now.
Beth asked in a sneering tone. Where’s little Polly? Suppose she’s indisposed again.
Sister, I know you don’t like Polly, but she is my friend and I won’t have you insulting her to me.
Beth sniggered and went out to the kitchen.
She’s so cold, thought Hannah, why is she such a nasty person? It’s a wonder any man will have her. Hard to believe she is getting married soon. Poor man.
There was Josiah Parsons, she thought him a smirking character and not at all trustworthy. He was dancing with Genny Adams, Susannah would be furious. She didn’t like him either. Not many of the parents did, except of course his own, and Hannah knew that even they did not approve of his goings on.
At the end of the dance everyone took a break to devour more of the delicious pies and refill their mugs with rum or cider. Josiah parted with Genny and sat beside Hannah, who was nursing Pamela.
Hannah accepted that in the eyes of most of the unmarried girls, Josiah was one of the most desirable males in the town, so good-looking and such smooth manners, designed to promote swooning in any girl he fixed his eyes upon. Genny Adams, for example, was floating through the kitchen, alternately red cheeked from blushing and pale from excitement.
Hannah heard Josiah respond to Genny’s offer of a piece of apple pie.
My dear, I am not at all hungry. My eyes feasting on your sweet face is enough for me.
Hannah groaned inwardly. Genny looked as if she would faint; she blushed and excused herself to run outside. Hannah knew exactly what she must be thinking. Josiah Parsons had fixed his eyes on her! Hannah also knew that Genny had never been paid this sort of attention before. She was very young and vulnerable. And Parsons was very evil.
Hannah was breathing in some fresh air at the back door when she suddenly heard loud voices coming from one of the bedchambers upstairs. The voices were male, and she tried to recognise who they were. She moved closer to the staircase.
She is ill, and she is pregnant, I am sure of it. But she is too ill for it to be just her pregnancy. Something else is going on.
It was Matthew.
What do you mean, something else is going on? And how can you be sure she is pregnant?
I have seen her being sick behind the barn in the mornings for the last two weeks. A sure sign.
Oh my Lord. (it was Jack Adams, Matthew’s cousin,  Hannah realised.) Oh my Lord, the poor girl. What do you suppose is happening?
I suspect, said Matthew, lowering his voice so that Hannah had to climb two of the stairs to hear him, that Josiah Parsons has had his way with her. You know she fancied him, and you know her, if she wanted to sneak out and find him, she would. I suspect also, he added, that he is forcing her to take the trade. Parsons would want to get rid of it for sure.
How do you know all this, Matt?
I don’t for sure, but she is not well and it seems worse than just pregnancy symptoms.
Hannah started as he heard the men’s footsteps and quickly moved back into the parlour. She knew who they were talking about. Why hadn’t Matty told her?

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Comments by other Members

michwo at 16:35 on 05 November 2016  Report this post
I've just favourited you as I think that "Unconditional" is now turning into a cracking good read.  I'm started to read an Alexandre Dumas novel, "The Black Tulip", with the probably far-fetched idea of having a tulip fancier emigrate from post-1672 Holland to Geneva suspected of having pro-French sympathies and duly bumped off by a Protestant fanatic who is no friend of anti-Protestant King Louis XIV.  But what you're writing is far more down-to-earth and human and I guess that you can command a much wider audience for it.  Is this lawyer who took advantage of Hannah in Boston Nathanial by any chance, the friend of the Paxtons?  Just a trifling thing really, but isn't Nathanial normally spelt Nathaniel?  Keep up the good work.  I for one enjoy reading what you write very much.

Chestersmummy at 22:21 on 05 November 2016  Report this post
Hi Judie

I agree with Michwo.   The main problem I have with it is that I can't work out the POV.   Is it God's eye?  I know that it is Susanna speaking in the first Chapter but after that I lost track. 

I also think that the dialogue is excellent but some of the narrative sounds as if it is being told and not shown.  However, it is gripping me and I am really looking forward to seeing how the story pans out.

Best wishes


judie at 01:51 on 06 November 2016  Report this post
Thankyou, Michwo and Chestersmummy.
Michwo, I absolutely love novels which take me into an obscure world that I know only from dry 1960s textbooks and humanise it, populate it with characters I know, and especially focus on what the women were doing. I love all your ideas for stories and hope to read them!
The POV in Unconditional switches between 5 characters: Hannah, Verity, Polly, Matthew and Josiah. These are all the young ones, and this choice is deliberate for reasons which may become clear (I hope!). I've really tried to make it clear in the first sentence or maybe second, as to whose POV we are in for this chapter. The POV usually goes for the whole chapter, but not always. Please let me know if it is not clear whose POV we are in.
Thanks again, Judie

salli13 at 07:29 on 06 November 2016  Report this post
Hi Judie,
Enjoying reading this. Loved the description of Mathew and Polly's birth and their relationship.  Are you a twin or do you have twins?  See you Tuesday.

judie at 22:18 on 06 November 2016  Report this post
Hi Salli,
I was 24 hours in labour then Finally a Caesarian. My daughter had her foot wrapped around her brother' s head! 
Cheers Judie

Catkin at 21:19 on 03 December 2016  Report this post
Two chapters that are both interesting in themselves, and also move the story forward. It’s coming on really well, Judie. I can’t find much wrong with these chapters, just these little nit-picks below.

Of course when they did begin to talk, she told Polly, she wished the opposite!

- I don’t think you need the ! mark

In the previous chapter, we left Polly crying in despair because she believes that she is pregnant. Now Polly seems to be behaving as if nothing is the matter. I think you need to say something about how she had to pull herself together in order to go out to see her brother, or how she is still feeling very upset and frightened.

the tavern. He still went to have his rum at the tavern

- how about, “the tavern, where he still went to have his rum” because you have a close repeat of “the tavern”?

Hannah had told Polly she didn’t mind, as long as he came back sober. Which he had been doing

- not sure about starting a sentence with “which” here.

would prefer to be there than having

- I think “rather than” would be more elegant.


- is this a pet name she has for him, or a typo?

Do you remember about a year ago Beth and I went to Boston for a shopping trip, when we stayed at a hotel near my brother James’s lodgings.

- needs a ? mark. Also, the “when” sounds unnatural. I’d phrase it: “Do you remember about a year ago Beth and I went to Boston for a shopping trip? We stayed at a hotel near my brother James’s lodgings.”

I was actually impressed and amazed that Beth was capable of such subterfuge, I had not thought Beth to have it in her to disobey our parents

- comma splice. There are quite a few of them throughout.

but the noise was too loud for anyone to hear me

- but the noise of the party was too loud

James was far too worse for the drink

- from the drink? And was he there, or was he still passed out at the other place?

Oh he was angry! He called me a whore, a trull, a strumpet and worse

- the rotter. I suppose it’s a reflection of the times, but it really doesn’t make him seem at all sympathetic. Couldn’t he be angry that she had been silly enough to get drunk instead?

Her insides twisted as she said this, not yet, not yet, can’t tell her yet, but I will, I will, in good time…

- could you say “Polly’s insides twisted”, because at first I thought there was a viewpoint jump, and we were suddenly in Hannah’s thoughts.


- why so many capital Os? Why not “Ooooh”?

I’ve been to store

- missing “the”?

I didn’t really understand what they were actually doing in the quilting scene. It sounds as though it is a lot of intricate sewing, yet it seems to be finished very quickly.

The frame was dismantled, quilt hung on display and girls rushing

- maybe “the frame was dismantled and the quilt hung on display. Girls rushed to find ..."


MarisaTaylor at 03:05 on 16 December 2016  Report this post
Hi Judie,

I really like the story told in the first part of Chapter 9, the birth of the twins. You transition into the telling of the tale nicely, and I felt like I was there in the room watching the story being told. Susannah's descriptions of her fears is a nice touch, it tells a lot about her character and that of her sister, and her expertise as a midwife really comes through. One point at the end of the telling: Susannah says she was "so emotional". Is that a true-to-the-time description? Would people describe themselves as emotional? It seems quite modern to me.

BTW my husband was born breach, only he was doing the splits, one leg up and one hanging down.

Overall, that introduction is a nice way of giving more background about the relationship between Matthew and Polly before starting to talk about how they had drifted apart in recent years. "Now Polly and Matthew had secrets from each other" is a good transition into the present-day situation. We know what Matthew's secrets are and we have some idea of Polly's from the previous chapter. Then we see some of the antagonism between them: She can be a nuisance, shown in her bluntness in pouncing on Matthew from a side track and just blurting out her thoughts, then badgering him in spite of clear signs he doesn't want to talk. It's nice to see this side of her personality, the one that can sometimes grate.

The complexity of the relationship you're portraying deepens when Matthew approaches Polly to talk privately. Clearly he has discussed the matter with Hannah first and they both feel there are reasons they can trust Polly. And he is worried about Polly, wants to talk about that, too. This is the first point, though, where Polly's physical condition is discussed since the end of the previous chapter, and I feel you could have had some of this earlier, when she's thinking about Matthew going to hell, or when she's trying to find him. Her anxiety and her physical condition (especially if not just pregnancy is going on) would work against one another and keep that thread of her own situation going instead of dropping it and picking it up again. How does the smell of burnt toast make her feel? Then when Hannah pours Polly a cider and you show Hannah drinking it, but what's Polly's reaction? Does she drink anything at the start? (She does at the end of the telling, without it seeming to upset her gut.) Keep that thread of her physical condition going.

The transition from Matthew approaching Polly to the conversation between them and Hannah is a bit awkward. You say:

Matthew was suspicious. But she didn't want to discuss it with him now.

It seems a bit obvious. Yes, he's suspicious, we can see that clearly from what he has said to her. Then she has the thought about not wanting to discuss it; at that point, it's pretty obvious she's avoiding thinking about her situation. Is there a way to show her denial? Perhaps just rushing on to see Hannah? Maybe her telling him to hurry up, Hannah will be waiting. Polly has many concerns, but to some degree she is focussing on one concern (Matthew and Hannah) to avoid dealing with the other (her pregnancy).

Now the next part is something you've been intimating since the start of Unconditional and it's good to see the pieces fall into place, to read the detail of what you've seeded previously. There's no inconsistency with what you've told of the story already. One issue I have with the telling of it is that it's very rushed. It might well be rushed in the telling because Hannah would be so uncomfortable, but can we see more of Matthew's reaction? The first we see of Matthew's reaction is his leaving the room, stating he did not want to hear the rest. Can we see more of Hannah's physical actions as she's telling, where she speeds up, slows down, takes another mouthful of cider?

A nice bit of showing about Matthew's character is that he chooses to leave the room not during the uncomfortable relating of the rape of the woman he loves, but of his own behaviour when he finds out. He's not proud of himself, and that shows a lot about him.

I found the first part of chapter 10 very busy, which I suppose is appropriate given the quilting and the party that follows. It builds a picture of the wider community and it does pull together quite a few threads from earlier in the story, but you don't have much about how Hannah feels about this until she wishes Polly were there. This is an important event in her life, can we find out more about how she feels about the details? The only insight we get into her feelings until you say "Hannah felt happy for the first time in ages". Could we see her journey to that feeling?
  • It starts out with a bit of chaos in the form of a pig and bedsheets. Is Hannah exasperated by this (typical scattered-brained Sarah and Genny?) or amused (oh those girls)?
  • The girls want Hannah to wait while they show her their dresses. But Hannah's in a bit of a hurry? Had to go to the store to get tea. She loves the girls, wants to let them show off her dresses, even if it does slow her down?
  • How does she feel about Kezia's efforts?
  • How does she feel about the Widow Black's chosen pattern? It is described as glorious, but is it something suited to Hannah's liking? Or is it something imposed on her by the "noted expert in the field", a description that has a whiff of snobbery attached to it?
  • She listens to the girls talking about the boys. Yes, Hannah is no longer part of that life, but how does she feel about it?
  • How does she feel about Martha Woods presence? The death of Martha's baby in Chapter 4 had a profound effect on Polly, but how does Hannah feel about it? The others show tenderness towards her, but you could have Hannah want to get up to do something for her but the others are faster? After all, Hannah is limited in her movements by a nursing Pamela.
  • How does she feel about the end result, the finished quilt?

There is one awkward paragraph I had trouble making sense of:

Shrieks from the parlour frequently interrupted the ladies’ talk, and they smiled and remembered their own quiltings and the excited anticipation of the party afterwards. They fussed over the food again and finally went in to see the quilt as it was finished off. Gushings and praise for the quality of the stitching were bandied around (Keziah had not been allowed to do the quilting stitches), and Hannah felt happy for the first time in ages.

Do men shriek? The "they" smiling and remembering and fussing over the food is the women and the ones praising the quilt will be the women, it's the description of the sounds from the parlour that distracts me. Not specific enough?

When Hannah's thoughts turn to Polly, we start to move into the real core of the chapter. The possible/probable father is described in terms that paint him as anything other than desirable. He is introduced in terms of Hannah's distrust of him, and I think that's effective. We know enough of Hannah at this point in the story to give weight to her appraisal of a person. And then we're told she's not the only person who sees him this way - just above everyone is suspicious of him, except the really naive.

I think how you've moved the story of Polly's pregnancy forward in this chapter is very effective. Up until this point, I was thinking that she was in a similar situation to Hannah a year earlier (although not raped). I was shocked (as shocked as Hannah) that poor Polly is possibly being forced to take an abortifacient. The situation has become much more serious, as Polly's life is at threat. The question Hannah asks of herself at the end of the chapter is "Why hadn't Matty told her?" There could be another question: What were they going to do? or something like that that could show that Hannah will want to help Polly, would be there for her, or some degree of the intensity of the feeling she must have for the situation right at that point. Of course, her head might be swimming with all sorts of questions, after a shock like that, it can take some time to get thoughts in order.

A final note, this about Genny's age. Looking back to the start of the chapter, the Genny and Sarah are speaking to their mother like younger children, which is reinforced by the bickering over the order in which their dresses are made. In the cast of characters, you have her as 18 and Sarah as 16. Their behaviour earlier on the in the story had me thinking of them as younger (13? 14?), but in the dancing scene, Genny is old enough to be Josiah's target. Hannah thinks of her as "young and vulnerable", yet in the cast list, you have them being the same age. I don't know if this is something that needs fixing (a comment about their maturity??), but something useful might be to extract all the paragraphs about Genny and Sarah and consider them together to see how old you're describing these girls as. The easiest solution might be to "youth" Genny and Sarah, make them 16 and 15. But this might conflict with other aspects of your story, and I'm sure there are many other possible solutions.

When I read Chapters 7 and 8, I felt like your characters were really coming to life. Reading these two chapters they are becoming even more so. I'm excited about where your story is going and learning even more about your characters. Well done.


Catkin at 11:05 on 16 December 2016  Report this post
Judie, I see that you have read Marisa's really excellent and detailed critique. I don't know if you noticed that I also gave you a critique of this chapter? You may not have noticed if you haven't been around in CC for a while.

judie at 00:07 on 17 December 2016  Report this post
Catkin and Marisa,
Thankyou so much again for your wonderful feedback. I agree with most of your queries Catkin. 'For the drink' was the phrase they used. I agree Polly needs to be worried more about her own issues. I've also changed the way Matthew reacts to Hannha's infidelity - more blame on James. I've tried to explain the sewing of the quilt better for anyone who isn't familiar with it.

The chatter began as the sewing started, with nine young women placed around the quilt with a small area each to sew. Nine women could quilt a quilt top in two hours.

I'll work on the age thing of Genny. You're right Marisa, it's not quite consistent. You have also raised some good points about how Hannah is feeling during the quilting. I will also work on that aspect.
Thanks again, and i will post the next 2 chapters today.
Cheers Judie

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