Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Chapter Thirty-Eight

"I ... well ... for whatever reason I did look at the Linder genealogies which for your information are contained in no less than five volumes with the older volumes written in other hands and in the Old Language rather than in today's Common."

Incredulously the Sheriff asked, "You can read the Old Language?"

"Not as fluently as Nat but he taught me so that I could read some of the older manuscripts in the college library pertaining to gardening and cooking.  The genealogies are very repetitive and once you figure out the words and recognize what is a name and what is not, it really isn't all that difficult."

The Sheriff snorted.  "Not difficult?  Not even James can read the Old Language beyond a few words that look similar to what we have in today's Common or those that have obvious Latin roots and even then he says that half the time you think a word should mean one thing and a professional translator says that it means something else entirely."

I shrugged.  Nat was just a very good teacher.  "Suffice it to say that your brother would find the genealogies interesting as far as how the various alliances were formed and it might give him an insight in to how to continue and strengthen them.  One thing I will tell you whether you are curious or not, the Linder genealogies are free of most of the mutations suffered once beyond the generation that survived the Days of Destruction."

"The genealogies go back that far?!"

"Indeed, and further actually listing individuals that lived during the Days of Destruction and report names they claimed to be descended from.  And with the obvious age of the genealogies and how they are written in multiple handwritings I would say that they are fairly accurate at least back to where people were quoting from memory their ancestors.  Which is what makes my husband stand out."

"In what way?"

"First it is the number of wives ... I now know with certainty that I was number fifteen ... and none of them ending in a broken contract, not even the first wife.  And let me add this.  The woman protested her innocence until the very end, including in the midst of her execution.  She claimed someone bore false witness against her; that despite her heart break and anger, neither of which she denied, she would never stoop to murder.  Can you guess who she claimed bore false witness?"  When he did not answer I said, "The newest wife at the time, Ceena Bovista Linder."

The Sheriff rubbed his chin then asked, "And you know this how?"

"I went to the main Linderhall library, where copies of all of the legal documents are kept, and pulled the old files."

"Your cousin taught you how to research legal cases as well?"

"There is no need to sound so put out.  Mostly it was the necessity of learning so I could complete my self-directed studies at the college.  I couldn't just wait for a Brother or Sister to do it for me you know."

"Of course," he said with an odd twist of his lips.  "Heaven forfend that you should have to wait to learn something."

Choosing to ignore his tone I told the rest of it.  "Less than a year later Tonya was brought into the marriage.  And from what I understand from reading a few of the other wives' journals the pair often seemed in the middle of some contretemps or other ... usually with their sister wives.  And their religious practices also caused a great deal of discomfort in the family."

"This agrees with what Wendolyn discovered during some discussions with the Vanburens who seem inordinately grateful to have seen the cessation of those practices."

"Did she also mention the senior Mrs. Vanburen being related to my husband's first wife?"

"It was hinted at."

"She is, on her mother's side.  And they remained close for several years after their respective marriages before responsibilities and status had them occasionally working at cross purposes and supporting different coalitions."

"Now that's a bit of history that Tomas might find useful."

"Indeed, but back to what I was saying.  Looking in the genealogies I found the 'damned' symbol on a couple of my husband's wives, not all of them however.  It was then I noticed a very tiny symbol by the name of some of the wives and many of the children."

"Another symbol?"

"Yes.  It is the same symbol that the apothecaries use to denote a poison ... a circle with an x directly beneath it."

He was silent then shook his head.  "You are not implying ..."

"I'm rather afraid that I am.  The wives and children that died in childbirth, were stillborn, or died of some other natural process do not have that symbol.  The unexplained deaths ... do."  I swallowed and you could hear my throat click.  "I cross referenced everything in the library.  I found no contradictions though the death certificates of those with the symbol had various causes of death that were on their surface quite plausible except for one that is listed as death by misadventure by person or persons unknown.  This was the wife that I eventually replaced."

The Sheriff became very, very silent.  "You have no proof other than innuendo?"

I closed my eyes and then opened them resolutely.  I turned the clasp of my lap desk and from within it pulled out a small volume.  "This is Tonya's journal.  I found it in her room when I was looking for the genealogies, which if you are concerned I have locked away from prying eyes.  The entries are usually brief, more like a schedule of social engagements, but there are some comments contained therein that ... that are suspicious.  The journal covers a five year period."  He reached to take it.  "I ... I ask one thing of you."

"And that is?"

"There are certain entries in there that pertain ... pertain to me.  They are ... disturbingly graphic.  The sisters were ..."  I shook my head and finished, "The sisters were apparently attempting to determine whether I was fertile or not.  Tonya also mentioned intentionally distracting my husband from ... from paying ... attention to me and of 'adding to his medicine' at various times."

Quietly the Sheriff asked, "What would you have of me?"

"I know that ... that you will ... you will have to share this information with your brothers but ... but could you ... will you ... please ... see that it goes no further?  This is painful enough ... it ... it reminds me of the humiliation ... and I've had quite a bit of trouble controlling ... my ... my anger and I ... when I left Harper I told myself I was leaving those feelings behind as well.  I do not wish to ... to feel like everyone is laughing at me again.  I don't know if I can do my duty if all ... all I can think of is what other people know of me that should be private."

With more compassion than I expected the Sheriff said, "My brothers and I are many things but gossips is not one of them.  Nor are we blackmailers, extortionists, or anything else of that nature."

"I did not mean ..."

"I know you did not but I just want to assure you that that is how we would view someone that broke that kind of trust with a person ... regardless of their status.  It would be a very terrible abuse of our honor and our own status."

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