Father Mackie lay back in his favourite chair. The warmth from the noonday sun filtered through the open window, giving temporary relief to his aching bones. He was an old man now and his bones reminded him of this sad fact regularly, but his mind was still as quick and as keen as ever.
He had been at Saint Peter's for many years now, and had known instantly upon his arrival that he was home. This was what God had intended for him all along. Saint Peter's was in a terrible state when he arrived and he knew God had sent him here to save her...and save her he had. Time and time again his faith had been tested and many times he had broken down and cried at the hopelessness of it all, but he had taken the bull by the horns and with the grace of God, had overcome all the obstacles in his way and had done what he set out to do. Now, when he thought he could finally relax, this old phantom from the past had returned to haunt him, and he knew he would have to tell the truth and betray his oath as a priest. It had been the most trying test of his faith yet, and he had spent many days and nights asking God to tell him what to do. In the end he knew he had made the right decision. There were too many innocent people whose lives would be destroyed because of what happened that day so many years ago, if the record was not set straight. Yes, he would tell Jason the truth. He knew it would nearly destroy him, but there just wasn't any other way.
He checked the old grandfather clock and saw he still had twenty minutes before the young Mr. Woodward's scheduled arrival, and so, decided to make a cup of tea and read the morning paper.
The tea tasted wonderful, and he sipped it leisurely while he unfolded the morning paper and began to scan the front page. Suddenly, his eyes flew open in astonishment and disbelief. The headline hit him like a shock wave.
JULY 17, 1897
STEAMSHIP BARON - CECIL WOODWARD - MURDERED
The body of Cecil Woodword was discovered early last evening by a household servant. Jason Woodward - the son of the deceased has been arrested and taken into custody and will be arraigned in county court tomorrow pending a preliminary hearing.
"Oh dear God", he wailed.
The paper dropped from Father Mackie's hand as he clutched his chest. The pain was unbearable. He tried to call out for help, but was unable to speak. He
fell to the floor, his heart pounding harder and harder, until it became one continuous agonizing pain. Suddenly the pain stopped and he felt nothing- nothing at all. He watched from unblinking eyes, as a white light began to fill the room growing brighter and brighter, until it was almost blinding.
Then he saw her, an angel so beautiful and she looked so much like dear sweet Fanny. She smiled at him, and he saw the love and compassion in her eyes and felt an incredible feeling of peace wash over him. She reached out to him and he took her hand and followed her into the beautiful white light.
Fanny stepped down from the carriage and looked up at the magnificent mansion that stood before her. Never had she seen such a beautiful house, and found it hard to believe that this would be her new home. Surely she must be dreaming. Lady Charlotte had told her about this place, but never had her mind envisioned anything so grand. That would have been impossible, for in the Merthyr district of Wales such dwellings did not exist.
After the grief and sorrow of losing her dear father and brother, it looked like God had seen fit to bestow a bit of kindness upon her, and she knew without a doubt that the dark clouds would finally blow away. This was her new beginning, and here she would make a new life for herself.
It had always been her father's dream to break away from the entrapment of the Welsh miner's life and go to America. 'The land of opportunity', and he had almost succeeded. Tin plate had been discovered in the Dakotas'. Now the Americans were able to produce their own tin cans, resulting in the shutdown of many mines in Wales. It was this happening that had almost got them to America, because the Americans were recruiting skilled miners to work their mines.
The mine where Fanny's father and brother worked caved in three weeks before the scheduled shutdown. Her father, along with sixty-eight others died in that mine. It had been the greatest mine disaster the district of Merthyr had ever experienced. It was as if the gates of hell themselves had opened up and raged in defiance against the closing of the mines. Finally, the fires of hell died leaving in their wake devastation and poverty and a land not fit to live in. The one thing that did not die in that mine was her father's dream; it still lived on and would continue to live on. For as long as she still had a breath of life left in her, she would see to it that his dream became reality. She owed it to him and to herself. The days of poverty and hunger were about to end. She would become a lady. She would be educated in the fine arts, and maybe...maybe someday marry a wonderful man and have a family of her own again.
Fanny pulled herself up straight to her full height of five feet two inches and held her chin high as she made her way to the huge oak doors of the mansion. She thought she caught a glimpse of a face in a window that overlooked the highest peak of the mansion, but it was only for an instant and then it was gone. She ascended the huge stone stairs flanked by the majestic stone lions, and with a slightly trembling hand clutched the brass knocker and rapped on the door.