Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chapter Forty-Two

"Sheriff?"  He turned at my voice.  "I do not wish to interrupt but if you wish to know how your sisters fair ..."

The Linder caught my words and snapped his head around and answered for him.  "John is on his way.  Does Rosalee need tending sooner than that?"

"Rosalee was not the one that was slapped.  It was Liesel."

"Yes and he'll tend her but Rosalee's nerves ..."

"Are perfectly fine so please do not overset them by making a huge fuss.  She cried more before the incident than she has since.  And Liesel has not cried at all though she wanted to.  She was very brave and should be commended."

"Rosalee is not crying?" the Chancellor asked in surprise.

"No," I replied barely refraining from snapping.

"Widow," the Sheriff said.  "Would you care to give me your statement?  We shall walk around the other side of the house to allow these gentleman to continue their discussion."

It was not a request but it didn't affront me either as I saw him trying to give me privacy to have my say.

Quietly he told me as we walked away, "I'm afraid you'll have to hold onto your anger if you wish to throw something.  John's father in law is over there and he's not happy to have found two women fighting."

I snorted.  "What he found was me all but ready to knock the stuffing out of that hateful woman and he can just deal with it.  How dare she strike that child!"

With unexpected concern the Sheriff said, "You're shaking.  Are you certain you shouldn't see John as well?"

"What?  Haven't you ever seen someone with a case of the nerves and nothing that can be done to exercise them?"

He arched a brow.  "Is that what this is?"

"Aye.  I swear ..."  I stopped and forced my breathing into a calm pattern.  "I just wanted you to know that the girls were out here looking for you.  The older one said you had promised to come see them.  Liesel was trying to convince Rosalee to return to the hall when that woman rounded on them.  None of them knew I was observing and when ..."  I stopped once again, fighting my temper.  "When she slapped Liesel I lost it.  You may have saved the woman a real trouncing.  I haven't ever been that angry ... not even when ... when ..."  I stopped and shook my head.

Thankfully it did not appear that I needed to explain what I meant to the Sheriff for he said, "Damnation.  As for the promise I did make it but got hung up playing lackey to Tomas.  I did send word that I would be up later but apparently it was not delivered in time to prevent them from wandering off looking for me."  I looked up to find him chagrined and irritated at the same time.

"They're fine and had it been explained to them appropriately I am sure that they would have waited on your appearance.  Or at least Liesel would have.  Rosalee may need more supervision.  You did say she has not completely been herself since the plague."

"No.  She hasn't.  And some of your suspicious nature is beginning to rub off on me.  I will speak with Tomas to make sure they get a Nurse that is more thoroughly vetted."

"Might I suggest a tutor rather than a nurse?  Rosalee is just a year off from what I was when I was given in marriage and ..."

"Dear God ..."

"What?" I asked perplexed at the sudden look of shock on the Sheriff's face.

"I ... it just ..."

From behind us a voice said, "I believe what Daren is trying to say is that the truth of the issue of child brides has just slapped him in the face in a very personal way."

I turned to find April Linder looking at her brother like he was a cross between someone not quite bright enough to be allowed out on his own and a beloved little brother.

I sighed.  "Hmmm.  Do you think he will remember to breathe soon or will he turn blue and need Dr. Cummins' assistance?"

"Damnation.  Don't the two of you start giving the other girls lessons.  It was hard enough with one of you, anymore and I'm not sure I could take it," the Sheriff snapped half-heartedly.

I told him, "If it is an issue of sanity I think we've already covered that numerous times and you've admitted you run shy of a full supply on a regular basis."

The Sheriff mock growled and April Linder grinned broadly and said to me, "You'll do.  You'll definitely do.  Now if you'll take me to the girls perhaps we can discuss this idea of a tutor more in-depth.  Nancee has mentioned the same thing recently and I'd like to hear your reasonings before I approach Tomas with it."  At my questioning look she explained, "I'm the girls’ primary guardian with Tomas and Gerald acting as guides for propriety's sake."

The Sheriff nodded and said, "I'll leave it in your hands April.  I've got to figure this out and do it in such a way that old Fuss and Feathers doesn't get his feelings in a hitch."

I looked at him and then came to a decision and nodded.  I startled both April and the Sheriff when I marched back over to the other men but didn't let it stop me.

"Gentlemen, please allow me to offer my apologies for my behavior.  My actions were pure reaction rather than thoughtful as they should have been.  I must admit I had not expected to feel so ... so ... "  I shook my head.  "I have no children of my own and have never ..."  I stopped and sighed.  "I saw a child abused.  I reacted.  I make no excuses.  However I do apologize for shocking you."

An older man harrumphed but then unexpectedly unbent.  "My daughter has already spoken of your care for her feelings during her husband's recent injuries.  From what I've heard I grant you have a protective nature.  Just take care as we would not want to see such a generous nature endangered."

The Linder looked over at me and said, "Your graciousness is noted Widow."

I sighed.  "Graciousness has nothing to do with it Guardian.  The purpose of my status is not to cause problems.  Though I may have stepped in to stop a danger, the way that I did it has the potential to cause other issues.  Therefore it is my duty to alleviate that potential by whatever means necessary.  I certainly do not wish to create any problems for Mrs. Linder and particularly not in her condition.  Since I have just been told that Miss Linder has the care of the girls, perhaps it would be wise to ... to mitigate the circumstances of the recent contretemps so that Mrs. Linder will not expend energy where none need be expended by her.  I leave that decision up to you and Dr. Cummins however.  Now if you will kindly excuse me I need to introduce Miss Linder to the woman that is currently caring for the girls."

The men nodded and I turned and passed the Sheriff who seemed to want to say something but did not in my presence.  I asked April Linder if she would follow me and once we turned the corner of the house she said, "That was a pretty apology."

I shrugged.  "It needed saying."

"Did it?"

I looked at her and said, "Yes.  I spoke truthfully."

"Well had it been me old Fuss and Feathers could have sucked wind.  Daren had best deal with that hag post haste or he may find I go behind his back and order her to the quarries."  Hearing pure honesty in her voice I began to understand perhaps a little why her brothers step lightly around her.

We spoke briefly about the tutor idea but soon enough we came to the kitchen to find Tiffen had the girls laughing at some silly word game.  I recognized it as one designed to teach children the names and purposes of herbs.  Tiffen stood as soon as she saw April Linder but April was quite different once out of company of the men, including her brothers.

She nodded kindly to Tiffen and to the girls she said, "Excellent.  I used to play that game with your mother.  Did you know?"

Rosalee asked, "Did you really?"

"Yes.  Really.  But right now I think we should return to the house.  Supper will be served shortly and if you manage to eat it all - including the salad Liesel," she said giving the younger girl a maternal eye.  "Then I believe there may be a bowl of custard with berries awaiting you both before bed.  Now tell Mrs. Talbot and Widow Linder thank you and let us return to the hall.  Alright?"

As the girls said their good byes April whispered, "I'll catch up with John as I know which path he'll likely take.  He can get a good look at the girls without having to play doctor.  But do me a favor?"  At my nod she said, "Until we decide on a tutor or not - and thank you for your piece as it has given me something to think about - see if there is someone you trust to look after the girls a bit.  Please?"

I nodded again and then waived as the girls followed her down a path designed to go around where the men would still be discussing things.  I turned to Tiffen and smiled.  "Thank you so much.  How are things at your home?"

We spoke briefly then I asked, "Do you think your mother in law would have a good recommendation for a temporary ... well ... companion I suppose you would call it for the girls?  I could ask Mizz Marta but I don't know that she is really up to all of that interviewing just yet.  I hate to see them with another nursemaid as they're both old enough that they should be beyond that stage even if Rosalee does have a few limitations."

Tiffen told me, "Miss Rosalee doesn't have any limitations.  What she's got, if you don't mind me being blunt and Joel says you prefer it, is people telling her she'll never be what she was before.  Just now here she wasn't wanting to play the game 'cause she claimed she'd lost it all but once she got started she started remembering lots she thought she'd forgotten.  Right proud of herself and little Miss Liesel sure seemed happy to see her sister playing along."

"Well that's good to know."

"And again being so bold, if Joel's mother gives me leave I'd like to look after the girls.  She's said she wants me out of the fields so I can build up my strength so that Joel and I can catch again."

"A ... again?"

She looked sorrowful and then determined.  "I lost twins during the plague.  It was the loss more than the plague that almost took me off and Joel has been too careful of me.  Mother T and I figure that he won't stop it until he sees that I'm all healed and that won't happen if we're both tired from harvesting.  It'll mean less coming in from the harvest money but if I can make it up being the girls' companion for a bit ..."

I smiled.  "And they already know you and you've got enough commonsense that Miss Linder will like you as well.  Let me speak with her and see what can be worked out."

"Thank you Widow," she said with a grin before leaving.


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