Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chapter Forty-Three



It had been an unpleasant experience and I still felt unreasonably agitated.  The upset in my stomach was too much a reminder of what I had felt on a regular basis my first tenure at Linderhall, and then as now I sought a way to manage the unhealthy energy I felt.  I thought to myself, "I’ll focus on my own work that I keep putting aside."  I turned off the gas lamps and shut the bottom of the half door.  This allowed natural light and breeze to enter the kitchen without the unnecessary heating of the room.  I turned to pick up my folio of notes when I heard a scuff on the kitchen path.  Holding my patience with both hands I turned and tried to present a pleasant face until I saw who it was.

"You know Widow, I'm beginning to get a complex."

I told the Sheriff, "You should.  Your timing lacks something to be desired."  Sighing I asked him, "Now what have I done?  Was the apology not good enough to mend things and move them along?"

"So you didn't mean what you said?"

"I always mean what I say.  The purpose of my status is to solve problems not create them."

He grinned sardonically knowing exactly what I meant which was that I was sorry my temper had been witnessed, not for doing what I did.  "Actually you timed it well.  Old Fuss and Feathers is actually saying that you were admirably penitent and reminded him strongly of his hunting dog when she bit after he'd come too close to her new puppies.  You don't slap a good dog for exercising her maternal instincts."

"Well ... I'm just breathless after that piece of flattery."

And I was too.  Not even the little boys in Harper would have had the temerity to compare a human female to a hunting dog.  The Sheriff laughed.  "I thought you would appreciate it.  Now invite me in, keep your door open if you must, but I wish to hear the whole of things from beginning to end again if you please."

So I told him once again what had occurred, filling in the few details he asked for but then was struck by a thought.  "Sheriff what did the woman mean by calling the girls 'useless spares'?  It is a puzzle I cannot find the beginning of to unravel."

The Sheriff leaned back thoughtfully and stretched his legs under the table startling me with how close our knees were.  "I don't suppose you would know it.  It is an old phrase concerning inheritance."

"You mean like an heir and a spare?"

Only mildly surprised he said, "So you have heard of it."

"Yes.  History is chock full of such stories but why would the girls be called 'spares' as they are so far down the chain of inheritance?  First would be The Linder and then ... then your brother Gerald correct?"

The Sheriff nodded.  "On Father's side yes, but only because Melissa and Marjorie signed over their inheritance status to marry into the families of their choosing.  Father gave them the choice and when they chose their husbands he settled their portion on them as their dower.  Had they stayed unmarried then one or both of them could have inherited Father's holdings but they weren't interested.  Tomas then became the direct heir and Gerald the spare though now his own wife is with child the holdings will go down his line."

Still confused I mumbled, "But ..."

Explaining the Sheriff said, "The hag was referring to Dwen's estate.  Rickerson is the heir of Dwen's estate from her second marriage which abuts Gerald's lands - there were no children from that match and none left in the man's family to inherit - and then Nance is the spare though she has her own inheritance from Father and from Dwen that will allow her to choose whether she wishes to marry or not."

"Making Rosalee and Liesel extra spares as it were."

"Precisely.  But it is curious that this issue of inheritance keeps getting raised."

"Inheritance is a serious issue as your brother reminded me earlier today.  And one you will find forever fascinating to some people of certain status.  Certainly my conversation with The Linder agreed with my memories of those on the Mayors' Council and the Great Council as well, the few I met."

"You spoke to Tomas today?"

"This morning."

"May I ask about what?"

He sounded odd but when I looked at him he looked completely normal.  "I wanted to read my husband's journal to see if I could find any additional clues."

"Oh."

"Your tone says you knew he would deny my request."

Carefully the Sheriff stated, "The contents ... to put it bluntly Leeda was worse than that journal of Widow Tonya's.  No need to torment yourself with it."

I decided to let it go as this generation of Linder men seemed intent on thwarting me and I wasn't ready to puzzle out whether it really was to protect me or not.

I shrugged and then noticing the time told him, "You will be late for supper."  At the mulish look on his face I told him, "You cannot use me as an excuse you know."

"I do not see why you get to get out of attending yet I must go.  All it is going to be from start to finish is damnable politicking."

"Do not sound petulant Sheriff.  If I can sit through a cocktail hour with Mrs. Vanburen and her daughter grilling me and staring at me like I was a bug they were contemplating squishing then you can go smoke cigars or whatever it is you men do during one of those dinners."

"No cigars.  They cause Chell to puke.  She's carrying again ... number four if you're counting.  The others are all boys and she's praying for a girl."

"Mrs. Linder will have someone to speak with then concerning her condition."

"Or puke with," he said with a slightly mischievous grin.  "Maybe I'll ..."

Noting his look was perilously close to what I had seen on young boys right before a prank I told him, "You must have spent a great deal of time in the woodshed."

He laughed and replied, "My fair share certainly."  The he sighed.  "I suppose I must be off.  You could accompany me.  I'm sure none of the ladies would think it exceptional."

I shuddered and tried to hide it by saying, "I have too much work to do before the Barter Market tomorrow."

"Oh, you are going?"

"Yes and please get that look out of your eyes.  I will be duly chaperoned by Mrs. Talbot and several others though why on earth ..."

"Because, and leave it at that.  And don't fight your traces and wander off alone either.  The last couple of markets we've seen some Borderland types moving in.  I'm not happy they're congregating in this area though now that we have the history of Ceena and Tonya's antecedents I can see why they'd be interested in the outcome of the succession.  The Guards make their presence known but it hasn't stopped some incidences unfortunately."

"I hadn't heard but it does not change my intent to attend the market.  I will however refrain from wandering off on my own."

"There's a good girl ... er ... Widow ... er ... I mean ..."

With some perception I looked at him and said, "Either you have indigestion or you are still upset by what I said earlier with regard to Rosalee's age."

He stood and sighed.  "Both.  I'm not looking forward to this damn function I've been commanded to attend and ... and yes, it shocked me to compare your circumstances to one of my sisters.  Damnation."

For some reason I felt compelled to put my hand on his arm.  "My past is MY past Sheriff.  And it is over with.  The same will not happen to Rosalee or Liesel.  You father's consort made certain of it and your sister April would not allow it either."

"No, she wouldn't ... but that isn't precisely ..."

We both heard the chapel bell chiming the hours.  The Sheriff shook his head, made his bow, and then left.  He can be so strange at times that I wonder if insanity is less of a joke than I had been making it.

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