Monday, July 21, 2014

Chapter Eleven

"I warned you that your insistence on spending so much time on the platform would lead to this."

I shrugged while attempting to shake most of the coal dust from my hat and my hair.  "I don't care.  I was not going to sit and stitch while the world went by.  I may never have the chance to do this again and don't want to miss anything."

"As you wish Widow."

I looked at the Sheriff and noticed he seemed a bit distracted.  "You're as bad as Nat.  I don't need a babysitter.  If you have work to do or papers or just would like some other company beside my own I won't pitch a fit ... nor will I pitch over the railing.  I'm perfectly capable of standing without someone standing over me."

Curiously he asked, "You do not care for my company do you?"

I looked at him.  "Is the Sheriff asking or the man who wears the title?"

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"It means that the one appears to feel compelled to be nice for some reason and the other may be nice but is not above using me for his own ends which makes me ... cautious.  Both seem to be a bit silly on occasion and neither seem to consider that I may be concerned at what I will find when I return to Linderhall and how quickly I will need to make plans for when I leave there."

"You assume that you will leave."

I looked at him closely.  "That statement could be perceived as a threat."

He sighed in frustration.  "It was not meant as such.  Must you be so suspicious?"

"I have found it healthier to be so."

"How so?"

"Let us just say, I do not like being used and certainly not for purposes I do not understand."

"You are still angry about the Waverly event."

"Not angry ... let us say disappointed.  I thought I had left all that nonsense behind me.  Now here I am returning to it.  I agreed to come for Marta's sake, but I have no wish to play the politics game.  I will not be used like that again.  Do not expect me to attend events."

"You are family.  Your presence will be expected."

"I am family only by marriage and barely that.  I am much more comfortable below stairs and will keep to myself."

"People will talk."

I shrugged.  "Let them.  It's not like it wasn't that way before."

"Ceena and Tonya did not moderate it?"

I snorted.  "Cenna and Tonya instigated most of it ... to keep me in my place."

The Sheriff was quiet for a moment then said, "We got off on the wrong foot.  I have already said that the Waverly event did not go as I expected it to but you've never allowed me to explain why."

"No explanation is necessary,” I told him having already worked out his purpose some time past.  “You expected me to reveal something about myself, some inner flaw perhaps.  You had some preconceived notions about my character or personality.  You left me so that I'd have no protection and would have to fall back on what I knew best.  And you thought then that you'd have me nailed down.  Am I wrong?"

With pinched lips he muttered, "No.  But ... damnation you are hardheaded.  You have forced me to completely re-evaluate the whole of it that Tomas, James, and I spent long hours working out.  And it does not reflect well on my family."

"What has your family do to with it?  My husband was your father's cousin.  Forgive me for being blunt but both are dead.  I knew your father not at all and my husband barely any better.  That is not family Sheriff ... that is an accident of birth and marriage, nothing else."

"We still have a duty to right some of the infernal ... damnation you are hardheaded."

I shook my head.  "You are beginning to repeat yourself."  I stepped to the basin of water set there for washing then turned to him and said, "I am going to help Mizz Marta get back on her feet.  And because I feel some loyalty to those Below Stairs that eased my life in the small ways they were able to.  I am not going there with plans to stay Sheriff.  I don't belong there."

"And just where do you imagine you belong?  Harper?"

"Not Harper, not any longer.  And where I will go after Linderhall I am not yet certain.  Perhaps I have many places I have yet to go before I find where I belong.  Who knows?  Whatever or where ever ... it is not your problem, nor will I take any actions that would cause the Sheriff of Tentuckia to consider me his problem."

"What of Daren Linder then?"

I looked at him in surprise and then sighed before I started chuckling.  "Oh Sheriff, you are good I will give you that but I have had the desire for romantic theatricals ground out of me.  Go practice your play acting on someone else.  You are merely bored.  Once you get back to Linderhall there will be plenty for you to do."

The Sheriff tried to look offended but ended up smiling instead.  "Well, it was worth a shot.  Most sixteen year olds would have fallen for it.  Nancee rather expected you to form an infatuation for me.  But a word of warning, do not try any playacting of your own with my brothers for they are both married."

"Tell you sister Nancee she is giving you an undeserved oversized head.  Besides, for all I know you are married though why you think I'd bother being concerned about it or the matrimonial status of your brothers is beyond me."

"Ceena and Tonya seemed to consider it important."

I snorted.  "Ceena and Tonya could recite the genealogies of most of the old families in Tentuckia and many of the not so old families.  Even some of the families in other regions.  They kept volumes on the subject."

"You exaggerate."

"I assure you I do not.  And when notices of births and marriages came in for recording they would not allow them to be filed until they had approved the entries.  It was one of the few things our husband twitted them on."

A man I recognized as one of the Sheriff's outriders came into the rail car and said, "The conductor says there's a disturbance on the track up ahead."

The Sheriff became all business and snapped at me, "Stay inside the car."  He left going forward to the engine.

In less than a minute the rail began to slow and then it jerked to a stop.  I heard some shouting and then several men running to the front of the train.  Less than a minute later the car door facing the back of the train opened and I turned to find a man rushing at me.

I dodged and as I did so I released the knife I carred in a sheath on my wrist.  It was one my father had made for my mother and Nat had suggested after her death that I start carrying it, partly as a reminder and partly for my own protection since he was still working long hours in the church hospital.  It wasn't a large knife by any means but it was sharp and when the man grabbed me and tried to pull me backwards out of the car I used it to stab the big artery in his leg.  I stabbed twice more before he became smart enough to release me.  I gasped for air from where I lay and watched him flail and pass out before he could get further than the rear platform.

My throat and neck were sore but not dangerously so.  I turned sharply as I heard the other door open and a man step in with a revolver in one hand but not held aggressively in my direction.  "Easy Widder Linder.  I'm a friend."

I croaked, "Forgive me sir if I'm unwilling to take that chance."

"Aye ... there's some rough characters amongst us for true that have deep grudges against the Linder family and wouldn't mind taking what they can get from you over it.  But that's not me.  I've a message for yer."  When he saw I was listening he said, "These new Linders ... they bain't be like the old ones that knew their place and kept to it.  They be getting up in everybody's bidness.  They be messing with things they have no bidness messing wiff.  Mark my words, they'll use you like an old saddle and leave yer out in the wet and cold."

"Everyone uses everyone."

"Mayhap ... but there's ways and then there's ways."

"Agreed.  But if you expect me to go from the frying pan to the fire ..."

The man gave a surprised chuff of laughter.  "It'll be fun ter hear how yers makes out.  That attitude ought to give 'em pause ... or mayhap they'll have ter lose a nose or finger 'fore they figure it out.  You just mind yerself.  Thems is gonna get lessoned for butting in where they don't belong.  Yer give 'em the message."

At a noise the man rushed passed me, out the rear door, and off the train.  Outside I could see men scrambling for the ditches as a repeater gun blasted the side of the train.  Being no fool I ducked as well but must have struck my head on something because everything went black.

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