Monday, July 21, 2014

Chapter Six

"Nat I feel ten kinds of foolish.  I did not even socialize much before The Linder was hauled off by the angels.  Using my status and doing so now seems so ... so hypocritical."

"And under other circumstances I would agree with you Leeda," he said surprising me.  "But this is more like a ... like a command performance.  The Sheriff stated he needed you to play a part ... be yourself as it were ... in company at the Mayor's house so he can see their reaction to your presence.  The fact that you are going in your widow's wear - patched and threadbare in places even if it is your best - will shame those that should be shamed."

I snorted, "You mean set the cat amongst the pigeons."

Nat smiled gently and set my shawl across my shoulders.  "That too."

Curious I asked, "What do you sense of him Nat?"

"The Sheriff?"  At my nod he answered, "He has the potential to be a good man, perhaps even the inclination, but in the end he is just like the rest of us and needs to make the choice of whether he will be good ... or not.  I believe, in this situation, he may feel more inclined than he was in the beginning."

"Oooo, don't get puzzling; my stomach is ready to rebel as it is."

Nat chuckled.  "You'll do fine.  But Leeda ..."

"Yes?" I asked as he tapered off.

"Do not find yourself alone with Rom ... or any man for that matter."

"Nat!  As if I would.  No sane person would want to make that kind of talk."

"You wouldn't mean to Leeda.  But guard yourself against being maneuvered into it.  Perhaps I am being overly cautious but if there is a problem, desperation may make someone ... uncharitable."

"Ugh.  As if I don't have enough to worry about.  I guess all of the politicking in the church has taught you a few things."

"A few things I wish I didn't know now about certain people ... and about people in general.  But it is not always politics that drives people.  I've found the two things that most people are concerned with even when they don't know it is assets and pride."

"Are you pinching at me?"

"No, not particularly but you do need to watch yourself.  Pride goeth before a fall.  You've grown and healed from your experiences and I no longer worry about you being anyone's doormat but I do grow concerned about the anger you still have for some people.  A righteous anger is one thing, a destructive or vengeful one is something else.  Let The Lord have it for once and forever Leeda and stopped carrying it around and letting it torment you."

I sighed.  "That's part of why I need this opportunity that has been presented to me.  I need to get away from Harper, away from these memories that eat at me when I don't want them to."

"Running away won't fix it Leeda, only give you scope to feel it about something else."

"It's not running away I want but removing what's proving toxic for me."

"And you think going back to Linderhall is healthy?!  It would seem you would have as many to be angry at there as you do here."

"From the Sheriff's words, those that I would be most angry at are no longer in this life and as for the rest ... well I have to deal with reality and not how I wish things were.  Linderhall is an opportunity.  Not to be given something but to do something for myself.  Face what brought me down.  Find some time and peace to center myself.  Figure out where I want to go next.  And I owe Mizz Marta.  I owe her more than I could ever repay.  She was my earthly guardian angel for a while and that deserves something in return now that she's in need of her own."

There was the sound of horses and then a knock on my door.  "Widow Linder?  The Sheriff wishes to know if you would mind riding, the carriage blew a gasket this afternoon and a replacement did not arrive in time."

I walked out with Nat and the Sheriff looked more than a little irritated.  I walked over to where he was trying to steady an excitable beast as tall as my Nanny was.  "I don't know who looks more peeved; you or that great horse that looks fit to toss you and run."

"Hah, laugh if you can Widow but Charger will be baring your weight as well."

"Oh no he won't.  If we are to ride I'll be doing it safely from the back of my mule.  She may not look as fine as your beastie but at least she won't toss me into a ditch."

By the time Nanny was saddled and I told Nat goodnight - he decided to stay at the cabin and await my return before going back to the rectory - the Sheriff had gotten the stallion more under control.

"My pardon but they corralled him with mares.  He was less than happy at being asked to leave them."

"You had no stable boy with you?"

"Not this time.  I did not expect to need one and I usually give Charger most of his care myself.  Is that beast you ride the 'great stead' I read about in the will?"

I gurgled a laugh.  "Yes, this is Nanny.  We rescued each other from a sinking mud pit when Ceena and Tonya insisted we visit some of their relatives near old Paduck; and, as her original owner was never found I was allowed to use her to fetch and carry for Mizz Marta or anyone else at the Hall."

"You ... were a Messenger?  A wife of the Guardian was playing messenger?!"

I shrugged.  "One does what one must and it got me outside the Hall.  And out from under prying eyes.  The constant escort I had while on Linder land was the opposite of what I was used to.  It was like having an endless stream of criticism heaped upon my head ... like I would never be worthy of the status bestowed upon me by The Linder.  Escaping ... even if it was while on someone's silliest errand ... allowed me to attain some balance."

"Tell me you had an outrider."

In an attempt at humor I said, "I will if you insist ... but I prefer not to lie.  Especially not to the Sheriff."

"What by all that's holy what were they thinking letting a 14 year old girl wander about by herself?!"

I reminded him, "I wasn't a 14 year old girl ... I was the third wife of the Guardian."

He fell silent and seemed troubled.  "It really hasn't been all that long for you has it Widow?"

"If you refer to my husband's death then the answer is a little over two seasons as well you should know."

He fell silent again then reached out and stopped Nanny.  He glanced at the two outriders that were following and one went ahead a few feet and one turned his horse and went a few more feet behind us.  "Widow ... Leeda ... I'm sorry I must ask this but my brother asked.  Was ... was my father's cousin ... did he treat you ..."

"Did he abuse me?"  At his nod I said, "Physically?  No.  He did resent my presence and had as little to do with me as he could get away with which gave others ... inadvertent permission to ... to cause me problems.  My understanding from his complaints to me is that when he agreed to the deal that brought me as his wife he reckoned without the trouble it would cause in his household.  And he was old ... and such a young wife ... irritated and embarrassed him I suppose is the simplest explanation with the fewest words.  I think ... I think at the end he came to feel sorry for me but where that would have led I do not know as it was not too long after that that he became ill.  Does this answer your concerns sufficiently that we might leave the subject?"

"You are uncomfortable speaking of it?"

Stiffly I answered, "Yes.  Put it down as ... as part of that pride issue you saw me exercising this morning."

"Very well.  But at some other time we will revisit who you had troubles with."

"Why?" I asked fully irritated once again.  "It is over and best left in the past where it belongs."

"Because it is pieces of the puzzle of Linderhall and the surrounding area that I am trying to put together.  A puzzle I must fit together if I am to do my job successfully."  He bid us ride again.  "Come, let us get this finished."

The distance was not great and was soon accomplished.  Our steads in the hands of the outriders who would care for them the Sheriff placed my hand in the crook of his arm and we walked to the staging area where it looked like representatives from most of the local families in both Harper and Beauville already waited.

My hand must have tightened letting him know how nervous I was, how much I didn't want to be there because he patted it where it lay.  But that didn't stop him from marching us directly into the lions' den.

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