Monday, July 21, 2014

Chapter Nineteen

All I did all day was run back and forth.  Making sure Nanny and my cluckers were taken care of.  Meeting with Mr. Holman, Mizz Cooksey, and Mr. Tosh, and then an early supper with Mizz Marta.

"I'm glad you insisted I stick with those infernal classes even when it meant missing a morning ride on Nanny.  I know it was to keep my mind active and to finish out my training but believe me, I'm scrambling to remember all of the lessons now and very thankful for what I do remember."

Mizz Marta smiled tiredly.  "It isn't memory you need but practice.  Managing your own home is very different from managing an establishment the size of Linderhall.  Even I find it challenging after so many years of few people living under this roof."

I shook my head.  "It's not the size - I never had problems with those exercises in school - it is all the personalities ... especially the ones that seem to run cross purpose all the time.  I just don't understand the need to make things more difficult than they need be naturally."

"Have you had any more issues with Mrs. Kinsey?"

"No, at least none that I've run into myself.  I believe she had thought to out wait the staff guarding The Linder's private quarters but then was dumbfounded to be informed that the Guardian and his wife departed their quarters from a different exit and would be visiting away from the Hall for a few days."

"She is going to make a formidable enemy if you keep this up.  I never understood why she left her former position.  She does not seem to have any serious attachment to the Linder family singly or as a whole."

"You said she got along well with the Widows Ceena and Tonya."

"She did which surprised me.  I'm not certain but perhaps she meant to go to them at the Dower House."

"What of her brother the valet?"

"They weren't brother and sister, they were former spouses."

"What?  Are you sure?  I was told ..."

"Oh yes.  The local priest brought a copy of the marriage and divorce papers that had been forwarded to him so that they could be included in the staff files.  In case of problems or some such was his reason I suppose."  She sighed.  "You need to be careful Leeda.  Mrs. Kinsey can create problems.

I shrugged.  "She started this tug o' war.  If I back down now my status will mean nothing to the other staff and we'll be back to square one before we've barely left it."  Rifling through the lists that I'd been given I shook my head.  "I find it hard to believe that things got so bad in such a relatively short period of time.  Every list speaks of shortages that are unnecessary.  I've requested a meeting with the Chancellor."

"Gentle with your words Leeda."

I looked up and smiled.  "I will."  Then I bit my lip.  "I am to meet him and his wife for a late dessert.  I've met him but what is she like?"

"A new bride, painfully shy.  It was arranged shortly before the old Guardian - your husband - became ill.  She comes from a well-to-do family that bordered their other holding.  I do not think she ... hmmm."

"Not another theatrical," I sighed.

"It is not like that.  But she is young ... not too much older than you, perhaps eighteen.  I also don't think she was allowed much training.  She does like stitching and is actually quite talented at it."

"That's something to start with.  And now I must go.  You need your rest and I ... must beard one of the lions in their den."

She waved me off and her eyes were closed before I closed the door to her quarters.  I almost backed into the girl named Alyce startling us both.

"I beg your pardon," she gasped.

"Actually it is I who should beg yours.  I was not paying attention.  May I ask you something?"

She nodded nervously.

"How is she really?  She seems so unaccountably weak."

"Several of the old staff are ma'am.  Dr. Cummins said it must be their age.  But ..."

"But what?"

"But we've staff that came with us that are older and they've put off the illness faster.  I worry ... Mizz Marta ... she's been kind to me.  We weren't led to believe that anyone here would be.  But ... but they have been.  I hope the tonic Dr. Cummins has been prescribing works.  They just keep getting weaker."

I patted her arm then walked away.  My mind was going places it didn't want to.  I had some time before I met with the Chancellor and I was going to change but then without really deciding to I found myself at the door of the Sheriff's office.

Before I could stop myself I knocked.  There was no answer and I turned away.  I was three steps down the hall when the door was opened and the Sheriff stuck his half shaven face out.

I turned and said, "Obviously I've ... I've come at an inconvenient moment but ..."

"What's this?  What has you upset enough that you are being polite?" he asked with a friendly smile.

I don't know if he was trying to put me at ease or just what but it didn't work.  I sighed and answered him, "Memories of having to be so suspicious of everyone and everything."

"Are you saying this to the Sheriff or to the man who wears the title?" he asked throwing my words back at me.

I shook my head and admitted, "Both.  Please, a ... a moment of your time."

Becoming serious he opened the door and I stepped through as he wiped the remaining shaving soap from his face.  It was a Spartan room done mostly in dark paneling, dark wood, and dark leather.  Not even the gas lamps helped to lighten the atmosphere very much.  A perfect office for an officer of the law. "Please, sit down."

I sat in a chair in front of the desk and he pulled a chair around and sat beside it.  "You really are troubled."

"What can you tell me of Dr. Cummins?"

"He's married."

"If I didn't have so much on my mind your immediate assumption that I would care about that bit of information would irritate me."

"Perhaps you should simply tell me what is on your mind and I can tailor the information I have to your needs."

I looked to the heavens for guidance.  "I haven't even been here a full day and I feel like I've been here a year longer than I was married."  Shaking my head then looking at him I said, "Can you promise me that what I say here goes no further if it is just my imagination getting the better of me?"

"It depends.  I don't like to give promises about things that I've not yet heard."

"Oh botheration."

"Easy Widow, just spit it out."

"You'll likely think I'm fit for a drama troupe but here it is.  Based on who is getting well and who is not it seems that only the original staff here at the hall are still faltering.  I mentioned something to Alyce ... she is a staff member from your father's holding ... and she is actually the one that brought it to my attention and she mentioned that Dr. Cummins stated that it was likely age ... but the new staff that were ill and of equal age or older have recovered in a way that far surpasses the existing staff of Linderhall.  And then she let slip that Dr. Cummins had prescribed a tonic for those that were still ill but the old staff are only weakening.  Do ... do you see what I am wondering?"

The Sheriff steepled his fingers.  "I see it but John would never intentionally harm anyone.  He takes his vow to do no harm so seriously he was nearly jailed for refusing to pick up a gun in defense of the university when he was still at studies.  Father took John on to try and afford him some protection.  Our society does not make it easy for men like him to live comfortably."

Guessing correctly, I asked, "He's a pacifist?  You are sure?"

"Oh yes, definitely.  And so is his wife's family.  They are part of a small but very vocal group on the Mayor's Council."

I rubbed my forehead.  "Then I need to speak to Dr. Cummins directly and pray he doesn’t take affront at my questions."  I looked at him and said, "Thank you for your time."

"Slow down.  If you are still serious about this then I'll go with you."

"There's no ..."

"... every need."

I shrugged.  Under normal circumstances I probably would have told him to stuff his presumption of what I needed him for but these weren't normal circumstances I was thinking.

"Very well."

"Humph.  You must really be concerned if you aren't throwing a fit."

I looked at him cautiously. "Yes, I am.  And I'm also worried about creating a situation that could be ... detrimental to the peace of the household and my own existence.  But ... I just can't shake the concern and if something is wrong and I let status and fear of losing it keep me from my moral obligations ... I don't think I could live with myself."

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