The Carding Chronicles are stories about the little town no one can find on a map. When you subscribe to the Chronicles, a new story will be delivered to your inbox every Friday. If you’re enjoying the Carding Chronicles, please share them with your friends!
Previously on the Carding Chronicles: Town librarian, Jane Twitchell, has discovered a trove of stories hidden in books scattered throughout the library. They were written and gathered and researched by Hanson Willis, a noted 19th-century author, but only privately published during his lifetime because of their potentially scandalous nature. Unsure what to do with them, Jane seeks advice from the wisest woman in Carding, Edie Wolfe.
When you’re considered the wisest person in town, you come to accept it as normal that people seek you out for advice. Such was the case with Edie Wolfe.
At the time of this story, she was the latest in a long line of woman named Wolfe, all of whom were considered exceptionally wise, and all of whom were held in the highest regard, even by people who didn’t like them.
The original Wolfes (should we write that as Wolves?) arrived in Carding on the crest of the Civil War. At the time, the Wolfe family consisted of a widowed mother (the first Edith Wolfe), and her three sons, Rupert, William, and David. When they arrived, Rupert was an all-arms-and-legs fifteen year-old, William had just turned ten, and David had barely made it out of his toddling pants.
Edith, the mother, chose Carding deliberately, expecting to find help raising her brood from the faithful who populated the area at the base of the Crow’s Head Falls known as the “Campgrounds.” After all, her late husband had once been the keeper of that observant flock, and had taught them to be kind.
For their part, the congregants expected to—planned to—help the widow and her children, and if soothing words and warm wishes had been enough, everyone would have been satisfied with the arrangement.
However, as Edith once noted, “Good intentions make thin stew.”
Fortunately for Edith Wolfe, war started and drained the town of able-bodied men. That left plenty of room for the woman to grow unhindered in both skills and experience. Mrs. Wolfe was not one to sit and bemoan her fate so it didn’t take long before she ran the best boarding house in the county, situated right next to the Burlington & Northern railroad tracks.
In exchange for clean sheets and well-baked bread, her boarders—long-timers and transients alike—brought her gossip, news and stories from afar. And so Edith the Elder learned a lot about humanity without the bother of stirring from her seat at the head of her table.
You can learn a lot and get taken for wise if you’re willing to listen. Edith was an excellent listener, and before you knew it, folks in town were seeking out her advice.
Sometimes, they even took it.
This tradition of wise women stuck with the Wolfe family from that first Edith to the namesake that we now find sitting in the kitchen of her family home on Carding Green, watching the town librarian, Jane Twitchell, pace the sidewalk in front of her house.
It was obvious to Edie that Jane would eventually knock on her front door. But until that moment, she tried to imagine what in the world had rattled the poor woman.
Edie held the librarian in particularly high esteem. Jane was an energetic fundraiser. She was adept at treading the fine line between buying books of high quality to add to the collection while sprinkling in just enough lesser works to satisfy the town’s taste for trashy romances, scandalous mysteries, and rather shabby (though popular) fantasy novels.
And best of all, to Edie’s way of thinking, Jane had developed a way of suppressing the censorious tendencies of the town’s self-appointed moral watchdogs with nothing more than grim looks and steadfast stares. It was a talent that came in handy on many occasions.
But the Jane Twitchell she watched pacing the sidewalk was anything but steadfast. The librarian clutched and re-clutched a hefty cloth bag to her chest, now turning to walk back to the library then turning toward Edie’s house. Jane looked wretched, as if her mind wanted to come to two different decisions at the same time.
She needs cake, Edie thought, lemon pound cake and good, strong tea. If that doesn’t do the trick, nothing will. So she quickly filled the kettle, set it on her stove’s back burner, and hurried to open the door.
“Jane,” she called, “I’m about to have my second cup of tea. Care to join me?”
The librarian jumped when she heard her name, hesitated for a moment but then stepped down the walk, feeling relieved. In a few moments, her burden would be placed in someone else’s hands.
The next installment of the Carding Chronicles will be published on December 4. If you are enjoying these stories (they’re a great break from politics, eh?) please encourage your friends to subscribe.