Ciara stood in the pouring rain vigorously rubbing her hands along her cold and wet arms to keep warm. Two equally drenched and shivering young men removed the casket from the wagon and tried to ease it into the muddy hole they had dug by the light of a single lantern. It was just dawn on Saturday morning and the poor lads could barely see what they were doing. It was difficult to maneuver the large wooden box on the slick ground and the men were not timid about expressing their annoyance at having to bury the body so soon after death.
“We've gone and dug the grave in the middle of the night. Can we no’ save the burial until after the storm has passed?” Thomas Mulligan, the larger of the two, complained after he had lost his footing on the wet ground for the second time and nearly dropped the casket.
“No!” Ciara's comment was punctuated by roar of thunder so well timed, it made both men shudder. “She'll have a decent burial, or at least what passes for decent 'round here. She was a good woman and deserves as much. Quit yer wailin’ and get on with it!” and then another well timed burst of thunder, this time with lightning. If the men were back in the old country they would surely think her a witch. Ciara pulled her soggy shawl around her shoulders as she and Michael moved under the large oak tree thinking its few remaining leaves would provide some sort of shelter from the storm.
As the wind picked up, driving the rain directly into their eyes, the desire to get out of the weather overrode any fear of Ciara Nolan's wrath, supernatural or not. “Mr. Proctor says three days in the death house before they’re put in the ground, just in case one of these poor sod's ‘as got someone willin' to pay for a proper burial.” Joseph Buxton argued hoping the mention of the Poorhouse Keeper's name would change her mind. “Mr. Proctor will no’ be pleased we didn’t wait,” Buxton continued.
More likely he was not pleased that the general good health of the inmates and the scrutiny of the Board had left him with precious few poor souls he could sell to the medical college, Ciara thought. “Never ye mind, Mr. Proctor,” she said. “He'll be none the wiser unless one of you tells him.” At present he was at his family hunting lodge in Williamsville. When he returned on Monday, everyone would have forgotten about this poor woman. “To be sure he'll make you dig her up so that she can wait her few days in the death house.” Ciara placed special emphasis on the word wait to indicate to the two men that she knew full well there would be no period of waiting. The body would be dug up and sold if Proctor learned of her death.
The men nodded to each other as they took a minute to consider the miserable task of slogging through the mud and clay to exhume her body, which would be harder to take out of the grave than it was to put in, not to mention that, should they be caught, they’d likely be thrown in jail. “He'll no’ hear about it from us, but should he notice this,” Mulligan gestured toward the swamp that had been created by digging a grave in the pouring rain, “I'll be tellin' him 'twas you stood out here and forced us to do it.”
“The more you should hope he doesn’t,” she replied. “For if I must, I will explain my reasons to Mr. Pratt and the Board of Directors, and where will ye come out of all this if I do?” While both Mulligan and Buxton lacked any formal education, they were smart enough to know that William Proctor would likely deny any wrong doing and point the finger at them. Without another word, the men completed their task.