Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chapter Forty-Eight



"Sheriff?"

"You insist on riding?"

I looked at him closely and said slowly, "That had been my plan but if you are truly against it I will relent and ride with the other ladies."

My response surprised him and some of the sharpness left his face.  "That was prettier said than I had any reason to expect.  I ... I was rather foul to you in front of your ... friends."

"Friends?  In all honesty I have few.  Those men were friends of my father and grandfather or at least knew him and our family through the Woodsmen Guild.  To them I am simply the last of a family that had carried the title of Woodsman with honor for several generations.  And a curiosity I'm sure ... an axe wielding lady ... axe wielding widow ... or something of that nature anyway.  Woodsmen find the most curious things humorous."

He came down from Charger and boosted me up onto Nanny's saddle.  "You sure you feel well enough to ride?" he asked.

"Sheriff tell me honestly.  Are you concerned for my health or is it something else?"

He looked at me strangely then returned to his own saddle.  "You were kidnapped, trampled, and helped bring down a water tower to thwart a dangerous fire.  Most females I know would be decidedly ... er ...  unwell after such an experience."

"I am rather more worse the wear from shopping to tell you the truth.  My feet are killing me and I'm glad to be off of them for a while."

"Shopping," he said in a bemused tone.

"Yes," I told him nodding.  "I dislike pushing my budget as far as I had to.  I had based my spending expectations on what I had experienced during my first time at Linderhall and upon the prices more recently in Harper.  To find out how shockingly inaccurate I was has been ... disturbing."

"Did you apply to James for the stipend I set up?"

"That's not the point Sheriff, though yes I did or there would not have been a shopping excursion.  Regardless of where the money comes from the prices are not as I expected and I need to re-evaluate some of my plans."

"You do not like taking Linder coinage do you."

It was more a statement than a question.  I looked at him as we began to follow the wagons and noticed outriders that I had not seen before.  Pointing at them I asked, "You are still concerned?  Is that the reason for the Guards?"

"Don't ignore my question Leeda."

Startled by his use of my given name I responded, "I am not ignoring it, I simply don't know exactly how to respond.  I am not against being paid for a job well done and I am doing a good job for the Linder family.  I am earning that money so it would be beyond foolish to pitch a fit because of where it comes from."

"This is not a job, this is family."

I sighed.  "Nat said much the same and I'll tell you what I told him ... it is more ... comfortable shall we call it for me to consider it a job."

"That makes no sense."

"Argh.  I am so tired of hearing that phrase.  It makes sense to me even if it is the long way around to accomplish something.  There is going to come a time when I leave Linderhall and I will need to be as self-sufficient as possible.  Dependency is the exact opposite of self-sufficiency.  I do not wish to have to repeat the transition I made when I left Linderhall the first time.  I was not spoiled but I had forgotten what it was like not to have to do everything alone."

"It still makes no sense.  Why do you feel you must leave at any point?"

His tone was odd.  "Must I leave?  I suppose ... not.  I could use my status and expectations to remain in the Dower House until my end of days.  But ..."  I stopped and shook my head.

"But?" he prompted.

Instead of answering him I asked a question of my own.  "What of you?  Will you remain at Linderhall?"

After a moment of quiet his said, "That is my future.  I am the Sheriff of Tentuckia now.  Ronald asked me the difference between what I was doing before as a Guard Investigator and what I do now.  It is added status but that status comes with greater responsibilities and time constraints ... and less luxury of moving about as I wish.  Tomas seems pleased enough with my performance for me to remain the Sheriff.  And in all honesty ... the responsibilities ... they do not bother me as much as they did in the beginning.  Both Tomas and James have relented their constant need to oversee my business.  Were they like Father - acting like I was still in a training harness - it would be another matter.  I believe this status that has been thrust upon me is turning into something that I can live with."

Quietly I told him, "I'm happy for you.  But in the Spring - at the latest - that which makes my life tolerable here at Linderhall will be at an end.  Mizz Marta will be well ... or in retirement and another in her place if her health and mental faculties to not fully return.  The house will be set to rights.  The heir will be born, the succession secured.  You'll never be completely rid of the Mayor's Council or the Great Council as that is the nature of politics but they should have found some new outlet for their energies by then.  But my job - my reason for being here - will have ceased.  I am not the type that can be decorative Sheriff.  I must have purpose, it is the only thing that has ever kept me going.  When I came to Linderhall the first time ... the early weeks were not healthy ones for me."

"You were a child."

"Stop obsessing on that.  I would not wish it on any other but it was my reality and I've dealt with it and it is over with.  And, in all honesty, I was not your typical fourteen year old to begin with but one prematurely matured by the loss of all my family but Nat.  I had my college at first which gave me a purpose.  When that was taken from me ... well Mizz Marta helped me and I found purpose in running errands and being useful and while it wasn't a perfect dream it did reinforce the facts of life as I learned them.  Then when my husband died and I returned to Harper I found purpose in helping those that came to me and supporting Nat in his pursuit of higher service in his Order.  And even as the season changed yet again God allowed me a purpose here ... to help those that had once helped me.  But that too will end just as everything else has ended at some point in my life ... and I must be prepared to face it."

"Alone?"

"We are never truly alone Sheriff."

"That's religion."

"No, that's faith.

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