The tough old fisherman was kind in his gruff way and had a soft spot for babies. He liked nothing better than taking a baby on his knee and giving the infant a sip of stout beer to ease its burps. If they were old enough for school, he assigned regular chores to all children under his roof and expected stoic compliance. The austere harshness of Simon Fraser’s early years in Northern Cape Breton had been good preparation for a life of physical adversity on sea and land.
Christmas was a mere twenty-four hours distant and they had been in Point Aconi since school ended on December twentieth. These dog sled rides were their favourite outing and all three of the children fit into the snug sled, cozy under thick wool blankets. Although most rides were daytime adventures, They had once harnessed old Rusty for a night time tour of the snowy coal fields behind the house. Grandpa’s mighty but ill-tempered horse was reserved for pulling logs from the forest. Old Jack was known to bite and had once sent his owner sprawling with a wicked back kick to Grandpa’s chest.
The children’s youngest aunts, Judy and Ginny, had lived with them in Baddeck from their mom’s November hospital admittance to the end of school in mid-December. They only returned to Point Aconi on weekends after Dad returned from his work in Point Edward on Friday evening. He would drive them home and stop to pick up A&K fried chicken for dinner, and this had become their latest family ritual. Though their mom had been in the VG now for seven weeks, their dad was coping well, or so it seemed to the children. They doubed if their dad would have shared his fears with them, and they were well-cared for in any case.
Morgan was profoundly relived to be free of school and the fawning pity expressed by certain teachers for the little boy with the sick mother. They meant well but he really just wanted to avoid the topic, as did Eric and Marie, who were dealing with the situation in their own way. The three were blessed with a love of reading and this literary escapism did much to alleviate their constant worry. In spite of all the adult assurances they heard, the three really just wanted their mother back at home, healthy and active. While they had been told this happy outcome was inevitable, they sensed that the adults were filtering reality for their protection. Morgan’s thoughts turned to Halifax and he tried to picture his mother’s hospital room as he sat snuggled up with his brother and sister in the warm sled blankets.