The Price of Peace
The final in the trilogy which begins with Suzannah's Gold, this story is about the battle for peace; within and between family members, and then through The First World War, which takes the family into the pit of despair and finally to a hard won peace, with a price beyond understanding.
It had already been a dreadful morning for the delivery boy. Five notices, four of them deaths. He never got used to that look of horror, when the front door opened and he was recognised as the deliverer of death. Women screaming and collapsing to the floor in front of him, men who would appear to be so close to lashing out at him that he'd tip his hat, murmur his condolences and back away amost at a run.
He'd been warned about this address. He well remembered the tall, stocky farmer who'd waved him down months ago and told him if he ever had a notice to deliver to this address he was to bring it to the farmer's house instead. He didn't want his mother receiving any bad news when she might be alone.
He'd marked down the directions to Beehive Farm and as he made his way there now he wondered how he'd be received. The farmer was a big man, not one he'd want to have attack him, but then he'd hate to have a woman on her own have a heart attack. Either way it was not going to be an easy one.
The door was opened by a young woman with rosy cheeks and a bright smile. She had obviously been cooing at the infant who was perched on her hip but her face paled and the smile distorted to a fearful frown the moment she registered who the visitor was. As his hand went to his cap he thought how inane it seemed to be making polite gestures at a time like this, but then how was one supposed to greet a person to whom they were about to deliver bad news? He heard her call 'George!' in a shaky voice and within seconds the farmer was at the door, glaring at him.
'You s-said I was to b-bring them here.' He'd never stuttered before he had this job and he wondered if he'd ever be able to hold a normal conversation with anyone again.
'Them?' George thundered. 'What do you mean, "them"? How many of those are for us?' He held out his hand and tried to control his voice. He didn't mean to make this more difficult for the poor fellow. He'd felt sorry for him often enough.
'Two, I'm afraid. I'm sorry.' The boy lifted his shaking hands to his cap again. Behind the farmer her saw the tiny wife shrink away, holding the child tightly to her shoulder. Backing down from the front porch he repeated his regrets and headed quickly for his bicycle, leaving the farmer standing in the doorway, immobile, the envelope unopened. He rode away from the front gate without knowing whether he'd delivered death notices or news of injuries.