I don't need a chapter number to tell me where I left off, I just need more chapters, soon. Thank you
I don't need a chapter number to tell me where I left off, I just need more chapters, soon. Thank you
Sorry for the delay in today's post. Woke up to a ruptured hot water tank ... what a mess! Luckily it was in the garage and the only thing that got wet were non-permeable containers like buckets.
According to my Gran, once upon a time a woman could have a baby and there would be all sorts of fancy healers and midwives and lots of old tech available to fix the things that might go wrong. Having a baby didn’t even have to hurt which sound like heaven to some of the women that listened to her stories. Things still went wrong with birthings but they weren’t as likely to kill the woman or baby with the tech from before the Dark Days and the skills to use it. I have a hard time believing it. I’ve seen a lot of girls and women die or get so ripped up that the last thing they ever wanted to do again was have something to do with baby making, some of them my own girlhood friends.
There’s more than one disadvantage of getting married off young, size and inexperience are just two of the most obvious. It wasn’t unusual for the men in the Outlands to have been married a couple of different times because they lose a wife in childbirth and turn around to take another so that they’d have someone to take care of the children they still had. The Headman who had been married numerous times said, “Get ‘em at fourteen and they’ll last enough years that you won’t have to train a new one every few seasons.” I wasn’t the only one that hated him.
My Gran, Ma, and Docia’s gran used to help take care of the women in our town … at least so long as their men would let them be helped. Supposedly it is a sign of desirable womanliness to be able to go off in the bushes and have the baby by yourself. My Ma and Gran scraped up too many dead women that listened to their men and then went off and died because of it. And I tell you what, if a man had to pass a melon through his manly parts I betcha they’d have a little more care of the issues of childbirth and what they considered desirable or womanly.
As Winnie’s labor got bad and she started to have trouble I began to wonder if we were going to lose the Captain. I finally begged Jonah to bring me some of that high test rice lightning and I used it to lace a mug of rye coffee that I had sweetened with cow cream and honey.
One sip and he looked at me and said, “Am I so bad that you think you need to get me drunk?”
“It’s not that Captain. You just need to relax a bit. I just don’t want you to bust a vessel and then not be here when Winnie and that new baby need you.” He calmed down after that but he also drank that mug of mess I fixed him.
And I will tell you, though I’m not proud of it, that I just plain knocked Francine out. She was flitting about and causing Winnie to get nervous and upset and then acting like she was going to be sick or faint herself. I finally dosed her properly as her aunts had suggested and then all but tossed her across her bed fully clothed.
In truth, I could tell Rubine and Mrs. Wiley and the village midwife – a woman named Lollie Hudson – were beginning to get worried themselves. Winnie had been in labor a full turn of the sky … twenty-four hours. The Captain was beginning to lose hope and I was afraid that Winnie was as well. Then just when Rubine was ready to do what she could to ease Winnie’s passing the baby finally came unstuck and if Missus Hudson handn’t have been right there I swear that baby might of shot across the room with the flight it finally took out of its Ma’s birthing place.
The poor little thing had a bruised shoulder where it had gotten hung up but it was all the maneuvering that Rubine had been doing with Winnie’s legs and changing her position that finally unhooked the wee girl so that she could slide on out. She wasn’t blue but she sure was floppy; it took a while to get her to act like a baby ought to, she was as tuckered and breathless as her Ma.
The Captain took one look at Winnie and the baby and I swear his bones must have melted right along with his heart. Mrs. Wiley seemed to have seen a few men like this and had a chair ready to slide in under him before he hit the floor.
We were all tired and stepped lightly to keep from disturbing the new parents. Since Mrs. Wiley and Rubine were kept caring for Winnie and her needs for a few days, I took charge of the outdoor area.
I tried to keep things quiet near the house so I sent most of the children with a couple of older boys to act as guards in case there were more grizz or other hungry things in the forest to pick blackberries and blueberries. I told them to put their back into it and strip all the ripe berries each place they stopped. “And when you come back, you can take home a sack of goodies for your family.”
I almost had more helpers than I needed but because the children went in groups it was safer, more got done, and it made the kids feel like they were doing something for their family. They might not realize what a lesson that is but I do. I know I’m not very old and when I call myself a grown woman some snicker even though I’ve got a paper that says I’m married but the fact is I am grown, certainly more grown than many my age here in this settlement where the people have it safe enough that they can afford to be soft about some things. And since I am I can look back and see how important it was to me that I helped my Da, Ma, Gran, and Gramp do for our family. I am glad and proud that I don’t have to regret not having had a hand in our surviving for as long as we did. And when they were taken from me I can say it is through no fault of me not working to try and prevent it.
That’s how I see my life right now, or at least some of it. On my own my life doesn’t mean much. It could be my time to go and I wouldn’t leave much of a dent in the road for the next storm to fill in. To give my life some meaning, to make it worth my while to keep waking up in the mornings, I need to feel connected to something bigger. Some might be content to live out in the brush and alone. I met some like that that would come to the forge to have Gramp or Da fix something of theirs or trade something they found. Most of them were men but there were a few women as well though it was hard to tell the difference with a couple of them. But that isn’t me. That’s not the way God made me or Da raised me.
I have to be able to do for people. I know I’m prickly and I know I have walls and boundaries that I don’t like people to cross. I’ve got good honest reasons for the way I feel. But I do like to do for other people. As selfish as it may sound it isn’t so much to make them other folks feel better though that is part of it. I’m no saintly person. Doing for other people, being part of something bigger than my personal misery, makes me feel better. It makes me forget just how miserable and angry I could be if I let myself sit down and mope.
That is one of the reasons I have a hard time understanding Francine. She is her own worst enemy. I can understand that because I am too. But this moping and holding herself back from things, setting herself so far apart that there isn’t any connection at all … that I can’t understand. And I think over the last couple of days I understand Francine a little more … and at the same time a little less.
Working outside so much I missed all the little dramas that were going on inside. As much as I had learned in June about all the new foods I had never seen and didn’t know what to do with July was even more of that. The blackberries and the blueberries were gathered by the children and split between the estate and the families that loaned their kids for the work. Cherries continued to ripen and now that we had all the preserves and dried cherries we could handle some of the men were taking them and turning them into wine.
Winemaking used to be a big trade for the Corman family even before the Dark Days. The last few years they hadn’t done much of it except for the rice lightning but the men and women of the estate and village seemed happy to start it up again. Cherries, blackberries, blueberries, plums, and nectarines that were in excess of what were needed to feed folks were sweetened and set to ferment then later to be racked and bottled.
And this month we could add raspberries and a fruit that was like a nectarine only fuzzy that I was told was called a peach. I had a hard time biting that one because the fuzz just about made my skin want to crawl off; but, it tasted as good as the nectarines.
I was listening to Jonah report to the Captain that the first of the grapes were set to be harvested the next day when I noticed the new Da looking a little ragged around the edges. After Jonah had left I asked the Captain, “New baby keeping you up at night?”
I expected he would smile but instead he seemed to hunch up on himself a bit and then he asked if I would walk with him to the area they called the front lawn though why it was called that I haven’t a clue when it wasn’t anything but garden and fruit trees right up to where the drive went off into the forest. When we got there I saw that it wasn’t so much fatigue but worry that was plaguing the Captain.
“Fel, I do not wish to leave you with this … this …”
His lack of words more than anything told me how bad off he was. “Captain, just spit it out. We don’t have to stand on ceremony and you know it is awful hard to hurt my feelings.”
He gave me a small smile. “Yes and I appreciate it more than I can express, especially now.” He drew a breath and then straightened himself. “Fel, I have spoken with Rubine and she agrees with me that while it is very early for Winnie and the baby to be traveling, we need to get them to the fort and under Mona’s care.”
I was shocked. “Is something going wrong? Has … has she got childbed fever?”
“No,” he assured me. “It is not her physical health that I am currently concerned with but it may turn to that soon. I am rather afraid that our choice to support this scheme of the Council’s is turning on us.”
The only scheme I knew of involved me. “You mean I’m bringing trouble on you? Or has something gone wrong? Did them Lathrop cows say something?”
“No my Dear. You are bringing a great deal more than I ever imagined possible to this situation and all of it as far as I am concerned is good. This has more to do with the … the reality of the position we put you in.”
Shaking my head I said, “I’m still not understanding Captain. I haven’t complained, not after the first little bit anyway.”
“No you haven’t but Winnie and I are not completely inured to the fact that you are in a very difficult position. As much as I love the boy, I begin to see that Cor could do a great deal better than he has with Francine and not even because he sought it out. It is right under his nose and …”
Whoa. I had no intention of going there and pretending things that weren’t just to make myself out to look good. “Captain, Cor and I have worked things out between us. Please don’t go on so. It is what it is and we have both figured a way to live with it. It is what life has handed us. And frankly, not that I’m not appreciative that you are concerned for me and Cor, but why would that prey on your minds so?”
He put his hands behind his back and stared off to the far tree tops. “Fel, it is Francine. Winnie mentioned that you said we would understand your plight better if our child turned out to be a daughter. You could not possibly have known how right that would turn out to be. But still I believe that with the way you have chosen to handle it we could have … have been more at peace simply because we believed that is was an isolated incident of forcing that type of situation on someone.”
Quietly I asked, “And now you don’t?”
Just as quietly he responded, “I am as sure as I have ever been that it should be a personal choice between families and individuals, that a young woman … or man … should have the freedom to choose if that is the life for them. That neither family nor society should be able to force someone to participate, or not, in free will choice between the people involved and God. But even I admit that the women were not really given much of a choice during the Dark Days. Then it could be rationalized as a matter of survival. Today there are other options for those that care to grasp them.”
“You don’t care for the Lathrops’ way of doing things?”
“It is not my way, no. And unlike some others, so long as I am not asked to give up my freedoms in order to support their choices, I have no problem with them practicing their chosen lifestyle. What I do not care for is the direction that some of the Lathrops are beginning to take in making it, in essence, an evangelical process that they mean to see everyone living that lifestyle¸ perhaps even ‘for their own good’ as it happened during the Dark Days. They are using the spread of their lifestyle as a measure of their influence and to spread their family’s influence. That I cannot abide.”
“Well,” I said. “Isn’t that what having me here is all about? To stop that idea from coming true? Cor and I are the stop gap measure, the sacrifice, until the estate can get out of debt and this Council of yours can put other things into effect that finds the balance the way it used to be.”
“You are,” he agreed even though I could tell he didn’t like the word sacrifice at all. “And even more than in the beginning I believe that it will work. The problem is Winnie is …” He stopped, like he was bracing himself to say something he didn’t care to share. “Fel …” He sighed again then finally was able to say it aloud. “Francine has been … spending too much time with Winnie and the baby. We were all happy to see Francine once again engaged in what was taking place around her but what has thrilled her and made her happy has actually destroyed some of Winnie’s pleasure in having a little girl.”
Becoming disturbed by the turn of the conversation I asked, “Francine’s been talking? About what?”
“Her dream of the future of the Corman family. She honestly expects the estate to become a mimic of the Lathrop’s lifestyle. She goes on quite at length at how wonderful it is going to be for little Rachel to grow up and be part of a multiple wife family, that she will not be lonely, overburdened, and quite a few other things that I would find insulting if I didn’t know much of what she inadvertently complains about is more a function of her own behavior and choices rather than the fact that Cor does not have a multitude of other wives for her to interact with.”
I was silent for a moment, chewing on the facts that he had given me. I looked at him and said, “You know Francine isn’t happy. I don’t know why she isn’t happy. Maybe it is just that she is used to being in a big family and now she isn’t. I can kind of understand that; I miss my sisters even though we aren’t blood kin. But it is like she either won’t or can’t be happy and maybe because her life here is so different.”
The Captain shook his head. “Fel I will be quite blunt. I am no longer interested in making excuses for Francine. Making herself unhappy is one thing. Frightening my wife and upsetting her when she has just experienced a difficult birth is quite, quite another.”
“Winnie is that upset?”
“Rubine said that part of it is that some women sometimes take a while to return to a normal behavior pattern after the birth of a child. Winnie also has the added stressors of remembering the three babes that we lost, coming to terms with the successful birth of Rachel when she had been preparing herself for the worst, and that in addition to all of the issues of being a first time mother at her age when we had given up the idea of having a child of our own at all. But yes, Winnie is upset and Francine’s thoughtless dissertations on what she expects for our daughter’s future as if she will have no other options has caused my wife’s nerves to be so overset that she is beginning to have trouble sleeping which affects her ability to nurse which affects her view of her ability to be a mother. It is having a domino effect. Next will be Winnie’s health. While she is improving she is still fragile and Rubine is worried that there may be a tipping point which could decrease Winnie’s chances of a full recovery.”
The Captain was angry. He tried not to show just how angry but growing up around the kind of men that I had I’d learned to read the signs. “Well, how quick does Rubine think she can have Winnie and Rachel ready to travel? If she needs Mona, that’s exactly what we’ll get for her.”
He looked at me and asked, “You do realize we cannot leave the estate unattended and that we cannot take Francine with us?”
“Of course I do. I’m not helpless. Besides there is Jonah and Mrs. Wiley and they care what happens. They won’t just up and run away because you aren’t around Captain. And you know what I don’t know now I can learn.”
He nodded briskly, regaining his composure. “Which is what I told Winnie. We will be leaving tomorrow of a certainty now that I am sure that you can handle things here. I’ll make certain that weekly couriers are available for correspondence and I will handle any council issues directly while we reside at the fort. I will inform Francine tonight after dinner. I doubt it will be pleasant so you may wish to take your dinner in the cabin.”
Sounded good to me though I was a little surprised at just how bad it got. I found out the next morning when I came to help Mrs. Wiley with breakfast and saw a wash tub full of nearly a whole stack of the good dishes that were all smashed to pieces.
“Did the boys finally drop something?!”
Mrs. Wiley giving me a pinched and outraged look shook her head and said, “Miss Francie wasn’t … er … pleased fer the Captain ter say she couldn’t come with ‘em ter the fort or that theys wouldn’t drop her off at that Lathrop estate on their way.”
“Um … I’ve never been but it is my understanding that the Lathrop estate would be far out of the way of going between here and the fort.”
She sniffed. “Yer mayn’t have been there but yers not wrong.”
Mrs. Wiley was beating the eggs so hard I was sure they were going to be grateful to finally see the hot skillet so I backed away and went in search of the Captain to see if maybe the plates hadn’t been dropped on his first. Instead I met Rubine in the hall and she pulled me into an empty guest room. “From the look on your face you’ve heard.”
“I knew yesterday that you would be leaving and why. The only thing I know about last night is that there is a lot of broken dishes and Mrs. Wiley can be scary with a whisk.
Rubine put her hand on her mouth and looked away. Then she looked back and I saw the smile in her eyes. “I know it is no laughing matter but … after last night I tell you it is welcome to see it from a different angle.” She sighed and became serious once more. “Fel, I don’t envy you. There are things going on beneath the surface in this family that …”
She stopped and I picked it up. “We’ll get things set right. It just takes time. How is Francine this morning? Should …” I swallowed really not wanting to but knowing I couldn’t shirk my responsibilities. “Should I go see her?”
“Don’t bother. She became completely hysterical last night … we were leaving her, no one understood how hard it was, Cor had promised her, why couldn’t she go to the fort, why couldn’t she go to her aunts, and on and on … and I forced her to drink a sedative. As late as it was she will probably sleep until noon and we will be gone by then. I am not trained in such things but it seems to me that more than half of her behavior was self-induced.”
I shrugged, “I haven’t been able to figure it out either. But it isn’t your problem to work out. All I want you to do, if it is my place to want anything, is for you to see to Winnie and Rachel … and the Captain too as he seemed a little ragged around the edges yesterday … and get them to the fort.”
She gave me a hug, surprising me, and then said, “That I can do. I am sure the Captain will send you word once they’ve settled in. The Captain keeps rooms in the building he rents out to the college of midwifery so they’ll have lots of help close at hand should they need it and Mona will be right there as well.”
“Well that sounds like a good plan then.”
She gave me another look and said, “Take care. Perhaps you are the no nonsense influence than will be what Francine needs.”
Francine's actions remind me of somebody I used to know...all about her...all the time.
If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under... Ronald Reagan
Forgive me Kathy, I should have mentioned that I'm sorry you woke up to such a mess...and I'm glad there wasn't more damage than there was. I was just so caught up in the STORY !
My bad manners are a testament to you skill at weaving a wonderful tale. :-)
If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under... Ronald Reagan
Stupid water heaters. They ought to have enough decency to not burst until you have at least had a chance to have your first cup of coffee or tea in the morning. Thank you for the chapter under duress.
Juco, I have a friend just like that. I have remained her friend over the years because I figure everyone needs to have at least one friend. When the day comes and I meet my maker, I'm not looking for a lot of rewards but I sure expect I'll get a pat on the back for that one.
“What do you mean they left?! They left without me?!!”
I sighed. I had a feeling that the Captain and Winnie had made a good escape and at that moment I really couldn’t blame them. “Francine, the Captain explained this to you already.”
Like a little girl upset at having missed a treat she said, “He … he couldn’t have meant it.”
I looked at her. “Are you sniffing dream powder? Of course he meant it. Winnie is fragile, she needs quiet and to be under Mona’s care. Think for a moment will you. They had to leave and get to the fort quickly and without a lot in the way of drama or anything else.”
Switching tactics she moaned, “Cor promised me …”
Refusing to bite that bait I asked, “Cor promised you what? It was already explained to you that there are no letters of credit with the merchants at the fort. It was explained to you that this is harvest season and men can’t be spared to carry you places. It was explained to you that anything you could absolutely need right now can come from the estate or the village. It was also explained to you that you need to stay here and fulfill your responsibilities.”
She threw the back of her wrist against her forehead and then slid gracefully into a chair and said, “It is just all too much. The stress … the loneliness … the work … no one understands. I … I just don’t know what to do.”
I was momentarily distracted wondering what I would look like trying to pull off a move like she just did. More than likely I would wind up in a heap on the floor with everyone laughing their loin cloths off. I sighed. “Francine, do not try and fool me. Trust me when I tell you you will have to be a much earlier bird if you want to catch that worm. You pressured Cor into taking a second wife to address all the issues you are still complaining about. I heard the stories and now I’ve witnessed the facts. You even worked it out behind his back and he returned to an unwanted proxy marriage that still has him up in arms except for the fact he loves you so and wants you to be happy. So here I am. I’m doing all of the work that you normally would have done.” I did not say if she could be bothered to actually do it because I thought it was obvious and wouldn’t create any productive discourse. “You have no more excuses. From here on out you have to pick a different tune to sing.”
“You have no idea how difficult my life has been. A fragile mother who left me too early. Married too young to a man that …”
“Ohhhhh noooooo,” I laughed. “No one forced this marriage on you. You were free to say no or yes. There’s no excuse as far as not knowing Cor because you’ve known him since you were both children.”
Desparately she tried to continued her litany. “I’m too young for …”
“Francine,” I told her trying really, really hard not to laugh. “You’re twenty years old. I’m sixteen, won’t be seventeen until nearly the turn of the year. That means that you are four years older than I am. And you’ve been married two full years. Are you trying to tell me in all that time you couldn’t have figured out some of this stuff?”
Getting irritated at my lack of the so-called finer sensibilities she said, “Under proper circumstances there would have been an older woman to guide me through all of this.”
“Oh puhleeeeze. You married Cor knowing he intended you to be his only wife. You certainly knew you were his first wife.”
She sniffed delicately. “I did not know how tragically difficult this would all be.”
I rolled my eyes and tried to find the humor or I was going to be seriously considering dosing her so full of tea she slept until Cor came home. “Francine if I’m too old to act like a child, you certainly. Think will you? What happens when you have a child of your own to raise? Are you going to get up to all of these strange starts then? And as far as tragic, the only thing tragic about this situation is that you are wasting precious time feeling sorry for yourself when you could be learning and doing and just impress Cor all to pieces when he comes home.”
“Is that what you are doing?” she snapped. “Trying to impress Cor? Your language certainly has improved since you’ve been exposed to me. But that is the only thing that has improved. I can tell you for a fact he isn’t particularly impressed by the rest of your Outland ways.”
I refused to be pushed around. “Well, if you hadn’t gone and tried to pick someone for him then maybe he would have found someone more to his liking but since you took it out of his hands I guess you are the one to blame for that aren’t you?”
She then tried the crying pitifully routine. “Oh you are so horrid. I want my Aunt Muriel. She is the only one who understands me.”
“Be careful what you ask for,” I told her with gritted teeth which caused her to look up. “Your aunts told me what I should do if you start showing the same nervous issues as your mother. I don’t believe you are that fragile mentally – and I would hate for Cor to get the idea that he might have to …”
I saw a look in her eyes I hadn’t meant to put there. She was afraid. It struck me then that for all the fact that it was true that Francine was twenty she didn’t really want to grow up and take a leading role here at the estate. She didn’t want the responsibility because in a real sense she was frightened of it. She learned to enjoy the attention her mother received but why she received it and perhaps what some of those attentions were wasn’t something that Francine included in her view of herself.
But the fact was that Francine had made her bed and now she must lie in it. For all intents and purposes she all but made my bed too. I had to remind myself not to forget just what she was capable of even if she had no idea of the consequences of her actions. I sighed and tried to put my anger to the side. “Francine, the time for playing at being married is over with. This is serious business. People are counting on us to take care of them, not the other way around. You are going to have to choose. Your aunts can’t help you with this anymore, they never could do it for you. It is passed time for you to start helping yourself.”
Thanks Kathy. I have had my Fel fix , maybe I can get to sleep now.
If we ever forget that we're one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under... Ronald Reagan
Oooooooohhhhhhhh, will Francine keep running away?
Will Cor's eyes be opened?
Is Cliff hiding Fels father's family?
So many maybes and only Kathy knows which way her story will turn!
It's Exciting waiting for each chapter.
Thank you so much for taking the time to post while dealing with your water issue!!!!!
I hope everything got resolved to your satisfaction!
Thanks Kathy. Sorry about your water heater. Hope Fel can knock some sense into Francine. Fel needs to flirt with Cor in front of Francine and make her jealous. Maybe Francine will find out she really doesn't want a sister wife after all. We can hope can't we?
Don't mean to hound about numbers, I am just trying to make sure I didn't miss anything.
Maybe you ought to take up numbering them in Roman Numerals, after the fuss they put up about not understanding them for the Super Bowl, you could do many a favor, they would learn them to read your stories!
Thank you for the effort, wish I was close enough to help with the clean-up sometime.
Fel dropping the hammer on Francine, love it; more please
Just checking in for my daily Fel fix.
I fell like I'm turning into a thread stalker.
Toward the end, some of my Gran’s days were really bad. As awful as how she died was, I don’t think she actually regretted dying all that much. She was ready. None of the rest of us was but she seemed to be. My Da used to joke with her and say, “For an Outlander you sure are unnaturally cheerful.” Gran would smile and say, “Humor is about the only thing that gets a body through their time here on Earth when life rolls along like a broken wagon wheel.” The longer I live, the more true I find that to be.
The next few days after the Captain and Winnie left I came to realize you just can’t change people. You can either learn to like them for who they are, or who they aren’t. You can love them in spite of something or despite something or because of something. You can even try and help them to make themselves more “lovable.” But until they are willing to help themselves you might as well be falling in love with the moon and talking to the wind. By trying to change people to make them lovable for you, you just make the same mistakes they do of thinking the world revolves around you and what you want.
A part of me had come to want so much to find a replacement for my sisters in Francine but the more realistic portion was beginning to learn that I was just going to have to forego that and accept Francine for who she was. It wasn’t my place to show anyone who I saw her as; they would either see it or not. It wasn’t for me to understand why Cor loved Francine like he did; I just needed to understand that he did. I needed to do what the Padre said and take care of the log I had in my own eye instead of telling other people they had splinters in theirs.
So I let Francine be Francine. I didn’t try and tug her out of bed or out of her lonely sitting room. I didn’t tell her that she shouldn’t dose herself with those teas she was forever sipping on “for her nerves and headaches.” I didn’t force my company on her after she started taking her meals in her rooms; I ate in the kitchen to save the work of having to mess up an entire room when it was only me that would be in there.
Besides it was more fun to have my meals with everyone else. I might not have been completely part of the family of estate people but I wasn’t completely on the outside anymore either. It made me feel a part of things. There were empty places in my life I knew that in a sense would always be there so I did the best I could to go about filling in around the holes so that they didn’t feel quite so big. If I couldn’t have a real husband or my sisters around me I’d find something else. If I couldn’t birth a family of my own then I would create one from what there was around me. I would have to walk a careful line but then again my sisters and I had been forced to walk carefully or be torn asunder.
I learned a lot sitting and listening to the estate people. I learned about their families, the geography of the area, the history of folks other than those called “First Families.” I learned that it was sometimes difficult to find brides because of how closely everyone was related, especially in the smaller farming outposts. I learned that old tech had still been pretty common until about fifty years ago. It wasn’t really used in individual homes but in “libraries” and “communication centers” so that it could be shared by all. Then there was a huge storm in the sky and most of it just stopped working.
“It hurt some families more’n others but truth be told a lot of us had been forced to give up the old tech by the time the Sky Storm came anyway. The old stuff had started to wear out before the Dark Days were over with. There are places that still build tech, but it is on a small scale and they’re using parts harvested by the scavengers, not really making their own. ‘Tis how Young Cor started out before he got enough coin to get into other bartering. Scavenging is dangerous work and takes yer ter places like hot zones and graveyard cities. Yer can make a living at it but better do it quick and enjoy it as fast as you can because you’ll die afore too long. Never was so relieved with Young Cor gave it up.”
That sentiment was echoed all around the table. It told me even if they were disappointed in some of Cor’s lack of training and response to their needs, they still considered him integral to the estate and important in their lives. It meant there was hope for both sides of that cypher. I deemed it my job to give Cor time to pay off the debts and secure the estate while at the same time making sure the people of the estate were taken care of or at least listened to.
It was about a week after the Captain had left that I received a letter by courier. The man said he was told that it was to be delivered into my hands alone. I noted that the packet had been sealed with wax and stamped.
I asked, “Do you need to head out right away or do you have time to grab a bite to eat?”
The man stopped, looking a bit surprised. “Well, trufe be Mistress … well … I could use sumping to eat. Been cutting across a couple of different estates for the last few days and the weather hasn’t been good for a fire so me meals have been slim.”
“Well then you’ve got to the right place on the right day,” I told him. “Mrs. Wiley fixed a blackberry cobbler to go with the rice and beans we had for lunch. There is also some fried squash or baked cucumber slices that I think are delicious. And I’m sure Jonah can make sure that you get the right … um … beverage for your meal.”
He grinned and then said, “Thank ee Mistress. Most kind of yers.”
I led him around to the back of the house and Jonah came forward eyeing the man suspiciously until the man produced the badge that showed him to be an official Kipling Courier. I debated whether to open the packet immediately but decided to wait until I was finished braiding the wreath of hot peppers that I had been working on before Topher had fetched me.
I had finished up and was looking for the next half done task when Jonah pulled me aside. “Gilly, not that in the end it didn’t turn out all right, but yer should have more care for yer safety. Yer is right when yer say that Kipling ain’t the Outlands but it still ain’t always safe as a cradle. Thet boy should have knowd better and gotten me or one of the other men afore he bothered yers.”
“Jonah?” His attitude had completely caught me off guard. “You’ve seen me fight a bear … or you would have if you hadn’t been knocked out. You don’t really think I walk around unarmed do you?”
“Yeah I know yer keep that little sticker o’ yers close ter hand and thets a good thing. But yer jest never knows so yer just let us men make sure afore yer go gallivanting and having talks with strangers.”
I felt like he was being a little silly but he was so serious and so honest about it I had a hard time telling him to go to hades which is likely what I would have said to anyone else if they had tried to rein me in like that.
Before I could look at the packet I helped with the tomatoes. Tomatoes were something I knew and knew well. Gran, whose ancestors had immigrated into Saburbia from the south during the Dark Days, had grown them in abundance. I had taught Mrs. Wiley and the other estate women how to make salsa by the gallon; a real hit that livened up some of the duller dishes like plain white rice. I also taught them how to make tomato preserves and tomato beer.
After Jonah had a sip of the first batch to finish he said, “Bain’t like rice lightning but not ter bad on a hot day likes terday.”
That was the consensus of almost everyone and it also helped us to use up the unexpected abundance before they went overripe; it was getting hard to keep up with everything, the more we picked the more the plants produced. To make tomato beer you mash up ripe tomatoes and then strain them through a thin cloth to take out all the skin, seeds, and most of the pulp. For every gallon of this juice you add three pounds of brown sugar. Mix it up real good and then let it stand for nine days. All of the remaining pulp will have fallen to the bottom by that time and you want to siphon off the clear liquid that sits on top. Well, not clear because it is still tomato juice but the watery part that the pulp has separated from. You take this watery juice and bottle it up tight. When you are ready to drink it you take a half tumbler full and add it to a gallon of cold water … spring or well doesn’t matter. Sweeten it some more if you want to and you can even add a little cider vinegar for some whang. Each batch of tomatoes comes out a little different so you have to learn to play with it to create the flavor you want.
The potatoes also started coming in that day and we were all tired. Supper was a quiet affair and then we all went our separate ways. Mrs. Wiley shooed me from the house saying, “Go on Gilly. The boys have already fetched Miss Francie’s tray down so there’s no need fer yer ter stay. Jonah’s widder friend is trying to curry some faver with me and I’ve a mind to have a talk with her to see if she be true serious about my brother before he gets his fool old heart broke. Whoever heard of a man his age falling in love fer the first time. Honestly, might jest hang him on the side of the tanner’s shed and get it over with.” She sighed. “Might as well do the talkin’ over a tub o’ dishes as anything else. ‘Sides, I know yer itchin’ to see what the Cap’n has to say.”
I thought about objecting for half a second but instead told her, “Thanks Mrs. Wiley. I’m not quite as curious as a cat but it’s pretty close.” She laughed and shooed me with her broom and I headed to the cabin feeling tired but satisfied that we’d accomplished so much that day.
It was too hot to light a fire but I could have done with a cup of tea. I wouldn’t have minded a cup of willow tea in particular to take the thump out of my foot where one of the boys had dropped a bucket of potatoes they had been passing along. I almost decided to chew a piece of the dried bark and then just the thought of the taste was enough to make me realize my foot didn’t hurt near as much as I imagined it did.
Still, I thought it a good idea to take my moccasins off and prop my feet up on the overturned bucket that I used like a foot stool. I held the packet in my hand for a moment feeling the weight of it and then broke the wax, untied the string, and began to read.
"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."---- Robert A. Heinlein
Aaaack! Aaaack! Help, I'm falling of this darn cliffffffffffffff.......
It's later than you think!
(Fr. Seraphim Rose)
Ack... how mean to stop there....
Lynn mom to 10 and counting
Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it. — George Bernard Shaw
Joining the chorus of ACKKK! Please post the next chapter soon!
If we aren't showing a little love, His love, then what are we doing calling ourselves Christians?
Psalm 73: 25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
The cover letter was from Winnie, surprising and pleasing me a great deal. It was all about how they had arrived and settled in and were doing well, how she and baby Rachel were both gaining strength, and for none of us to worry.
It was short but reassuring; however, the next note in the stack came from the Captain and told how Winnie’s nerves were still rattled but she seemed calmer so long as you didn’t bring up the subject of second wives or the Lathrops.
“Fel, this sojourn here at the fort may take longer than I expect and not simply because Winnie is having a rather difficult reaction to the situation that we’ve already discussed. The Lathrops have been busy. In my absence from the fort, and from the council, certain events have taken place that I won’t bother to explain because they wouldn’t really mean anything to you. Their result however is to have even more thoroughly divided the council, even causing some division within the families themselves. Some is a result of what I consider to be bully tactics where the Lathrops are using their status as primary fuel producer in Kipling to force families to take sides. Some is a result of foolishness where others believe if they support the Lathrops now they will curry favors for later. While this sounds bad for us, the reality is that forcing people to choose sides does not mean that they always choose the side you desire them to. We now have allies that we did not have before and some that were trying to stay neutral are beginning to understand that the Lathrops will not, in the end, allow neutrality.”
“What has also come to the attention of some is that all is not as harmonious as the Lathrops are making Cor’s proxy marriage out to be. I have intentionally refused to say ill of Francine but at the same time several that have met you have had good to say about your influence. Do not take this the wrong way but I must say I am surprised as Outlanders … well, we will not dwell on that. Your sisters have gone a long way towards adjusting people’s attitudes about those from west of the Mississippi.”
“Now for the difficult news. You will be receiving visitors from various families during the coming weeks, perhaps up until the snow flies unless Cor returns earlier than expected. On the surface these visits are strictly for courtesy’s sake. Out of necessity Cor and Francine’s marriage was quiet and small. Cor didn’t have the funds or the time for a lavish honeymoon trip which is usually used to introduce the new couple around to the other First Families. Now with his second marriage, and this one by proxy, there has been some argument that the visits are needed to cement approvals and other meaningless social flotsam.”
“You will need to work this out with Francine. You must try to at least appear to work in harmony. I imagine that right about now that may be the last thing you wish to concern yourself with but the estate cannot afford to offend anyone even if it is for what I personally view as a waste of time and funds. Usually the estates having the visitors try and use it as an opportunity to showcase their particular specialties. Speak with Jonah, he will bring you up to speed. I cannot offer any dates at this time as I suspect that visits will be used much like a pop inspection to ascertain the true situation at the estate. The first visitors will be the most critical, as well be the last ones I suspect. I will send word as soon as I hear anything definitive.”
“If you get into any difficulties send a rider to the fort and we will try and manage a maneuver or two of our own. At the very least I expect weekly reports so that I can stay apprised of what is occurring on the estate, who visits, when, for how long. I should have thought of this and discussed it with you before I left but I allowed my worry for Winnie to override everything. Hopefully we can carry out a campaign that will prevent further incursions by those cursed Lathrops.”
For a moment I gave into the luxury of panic then I kicked myself for being a fool. “They are just people Fel. So they might be a different kind of people than what you are used to but since you haven’t heard of any people eaters here in Kipling your worries are only as big as you make them.”
The situation did leave me feeling a little lonely. I had no one here that I could discuss all the layers of it with. Jonah would hopefully understand some of it. Mrs. Wiley would hopefully understand the meat and potatoes of having so many visitors come through. I knew I would have to speak with Francine about handling the people as they came through as I couldn’t just sit around entertaining folks all day long when there was so much work to do. But the bottom layer, the real reasons why all of this had to be pulled off successfully, I had no one to speak with about it. The closest would have been Cor and he was off saving the estate and I wished him luck at it. As far as I was concerned, the sooner he saved it the sooner my neck came up off the chopping block.
I tossed and turned all night and was not looking forward to cornering Francine about visitors we were expecting, especially as I didn’t know when the first one would arrive. At the breakfast table I announced the proposed visits and everyone froze looking at me.
I shook my head. “It’s not my idea. Apparently the estate has suddenly become due some past due attention by the other families of Kipling.” Turning to Jonah I said, “The Captain wasn’t real specific but he said that you would know what he meant when we were supposed to ‘show case’ the specialties of the estate.”
The man snorted. “And here I was all set to have a good day.”
I asked him, “The visits are bad news?”
After a look around the table he said, “Not supposed to be Gilly. Supposed to be all friendly like but … well … with things being like they are …”
I smiled. “And how are they? The cellars are getting full to bursting. The rice and cotton crops are well on their way to being bumpers. The smokehouses are filling. And we aren’t dependent on the other estates for the farm equipment fuel or fuel for our lamps.” I continued looking around the house. “A speck of dust or lent wouldn’t dare land anywhere near Mrs. Wiley because it knows its life would be forfeit. The village is getting well turned out too. What more could they possibly want to see.”
Jonah rubbed his ear and then said, “An heir. Doesn’t matter if it be boy or girl right now though they’d prefer a boy for the namesake.”
My mouth got dry as we all knew for a fact, the way that a close household does where everyone’s laundry is mixed, that a baby wasn’t in the making in the moment. “Well, that is certainly none of their business. And if they weren’t all in such a hurry to get paid back it would have probably gotten taken care of some time ago. I can’t exactly make one appear out of thin air so let’s focus on what we do have.”
Mrs. Wiley nodded briskly, “Good sense Gilly. We can feed ‘em both plain and fancy using what we grow here on the estate. Show ‘em we don’t need ‘em as much as they think we do. Maybe throw some of them recipes yer been showing us. Jonah, you know the ones that likes to drink. The heavy drinkers you can dose ‘em with rice lightning, them that are more picky can get a dibble of whats we been stashing in the spirits cellar onct its ready. A couple o’ the real high flyers we can dose with the old stuff that was bottled when Young Cor was a boy.”
Jonah’s buxom widow added, “We can show off ther textiles too. My oldest boy is a worker out to the paper mill. I can send word that we need lots o samples of the prettiest stuff and the coarse ever day stuff. They cans be sat around or folded inter pretty flower shapes. I used ter do it fer Young Cor’s mam.”
Other people around the table added more bits and pieces and a basic plan was made. Now it was time for me to deal with Francine. And it proved considerably less difficult than I had expected.
“Well, it’s about time,” she said.
Sighing and waving a fan made of painted rice paper she said, “Of course you wouldn’t know but this is what is proper and right. My aunts were actually quite offended on my behalf that I received so few visits from the other families and it certainly hasn’t been rectified since then. But if you said the Captain … and why would he be writing to you anyway?”
I can dance real fast when I need to … and sometimes I just don’t care to. “Does it matter Francine? He gave the information we needed. You handle these guests since you seem to know how to play lady of the manor. I’ll keep things running smoothly as possible in the background. Deal?”
She himmed and hawed and then finally said, “It is what Cor would want.”
I told her “Most likely.”
Oh No! Cliff is so mean. Thank You for another chapter, Kathy.
OOOOHHHHH, cliff must be just waiting to pop out of the woodwork!
This is neat!
That Francine's going to get her uppity self blindsided...
And I can't wait to read about it
Thanks for the two great chapters, Kathy!
"That Francine's going to get her uppity self blindsided..."
And its about time, and I also can't wait to read about it. This story just gets better and better.
Kathy, I know you do a lot of research when you write, but where in the world did you hear of tomato beer? lol. You have had some really neat and useful recipes in all of your stories, but I was wondering have you actually tried this one? Just curious.
Thank you for the new chapters.
Kathy my dad was from the mountains in PA. He used to say the same thing about being so far back they had to pump sunshine in. He has been in Heaven for 16 years now. Sure do miss him. Thanks for the memory. This story keeps getting better with each chapter you write. Thanks for sharing.
August is a sweltering month even for an Outlander like me. Breathing is like what Gran and Ma would do when my little brother Georgie would get the croup. They’d put a pot of water on to boil and then put a blanket over him and the pot so he’d have to breathe the steam in to loosen the junk up in his chest and throat. August is like breathing steam without having to put a cover over your head; with no place to run and escape it except down into the lowest reaches of the cellars and basement of the house and outbuildings. As bad as it was, at least I wasn’t all cooped up in the house with a bunch of self-important, nosey, busy bodies like Francine was. I swear if she wasn’t so happy I would feel sorry for her.
Not only is the month sweltering, it is busy. The last of the blueberries were picked the first week of the month. Even though the season started early there were still some left even into August if you knew where to look and by this time the estate children were expert harvesters and knew just where to look. I had them leave the berries that were in the deepest parts of the forest for the animals. My reasons were that I was hoping that by leaving the animals a share that it would draw them away from the estate and the farms at least long enough for us to harvest the vineyards and orchards that everyone had worked so hard on. The last thing I wanted was for a grizz or some similar beasty to work its way closer to the animal pens and the houses and outbuildings of the estate.
Even harvesting as we did we still had some trouble. Dogs can only do so much. I’d never seen such a collection of animals come in where the boys and girls acted as sentries. The raccoons that live around here are fat and almost too lazy to be bothered to hide during the day compared to the mean and scrawny ones that I used to peg for Gran and Ma. Mostly the coons seemed to like the melon patches but they weren’t averse to climbing the fruit trees or yanking down thorny fruit canes to get at what they wanted.
And if it wasn’t coons or possums or squirrels it was deer in the precious corn crop or smaller animals like ducks, black birds, and ravens in the other grains. We were eating well just trying to keep nature from taking over the gardens, orchards, and fields.
We did still get our share out of the garden however. I had my face buried in a slice of watermelon making the children laugh as they taught me to spit the seeds when our first set of visitors arrived. What a mash up that was. Not only was there a family to feed and house but their outriders and other attendants had to be taken care of as well. I got out of most of the hoopla except for the evening meal.
I kept as quiet and in the background as I could manage but when they asked me a direct question I couldn’t help but answer. “Really Mistress Fel, don’t you miss Captain Uhl taking care of the paperwork for the estate?”
I don’t know where that boy-man learned to talk but he sounded more like the headman’s wife than the headman. I gave him a half smile and shrugged but then turned to his Da and said, “We don’t always get to pick and choose our responsibilities. The Captain has familial responsibilities as well as responsibilities with the council. There are weekly reports detailing events and activities here at the estate and on the farms. There are experienced members of the estate that lend me their expertise. The Captain, of course, is available for any unusual situation that might arise that cannot be handled in his absence.”
A bit more conversation ebbed and flowed around me and I was making plans for my nightly escape when the elderly gentleman that traveled with them – an uncle of some type – brought something to everyone’s attention, “Mistress Fel, I saw today that you converse quite comfortably with the estate staff. And here tonight I see you quite ably avoiding some of the rudder statements by my grandnephew while remaining exceedingly polite.” The grandnephew in question looked like he’d have a thing or three to say to his uncle if he could ever find the courage. “Yet we are supposed to believe that you come from the Outlands.”
Statements that weren’t a question yet nevertheless seem to require an answer. I sighed and sat back in my chair and gave him the simplest answer I could without revealing anything he wanted to know. “Different people, different circumstances, different settings require different responses. You people are unused to the rough ways of the Outlands. You are guests here at the Corman estate. I do not wish to embarrass Francine and Cor - nor the Captain and Winnie - all of whom have accepted me and given me their confidence. Therefore, when in polite society I behave politely. However, I am perfectly capable of behaving … less politely … should the situation warrant it.”
Strangely enough the old man started chuckling and then outright laughing. “Touché Mistress Fel. Touché. Now, tell me more about how the winemaking is going. You mentioned that the primary liquor in your area had been something called Mescal … made from a plant called agave. I’ve had it and was not particularly impressed. I’ve always kept a bottle of Corman rice wine in my cabinet since I was a lad my nephew’s age but I hear that you are bringing some of the other varieties back into production.”
The old bushel britches was really just wanting to see if he could be first to get in on the new stock of spirits we were putting back. Would have been a lot easier if he had simply said so than dancing around it and snooty. But that’s people for you. Why make something easy when you can complicate it all out of proportion?
They left after nearly a week only to be replaced by another family. These were mostly men with only two young women with them and a different sort of people from the first group. The girls were not starchy at all and kind of nice, but silly enough to be irritating for me to talk to when all I could think about was work that I was wasting time being away from. I left them to Francine and they all got along well. The men I took hunting several days running just to keep them from being bored and grumpy. Jonah always came with us and it was he that told me that the unmarried son of the family was a boyhood friend of Cor’s.
“You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard that Cor had taken another wife.”
I know I should have been offended but it wasn’t worth it. I wasn’t sure if the man – his name Luke Jackson – meant it how it came out or not. “Why is that Mr. Jackson?” I asked as I continued to cut down cattails to bring back to Mrs. Wiley so that we could add another starch besides potatoes or rice to the table.
“Well,” he said finally having the sense to think about what he was saying before he fell out of his mouth. “I suppose that might have sounded rude but really he was just always in love and completely snout over tail with Francine and … uh … that … I mean … hmmm …”
I shook my head and realized that Cor’s friends were even more ham-fisted with their words than he was. They all still seemed to have a lot of boy attached to them compared to men of the same age where I came from. “He is still head over hills for Francine.”
“But … er … he married you too … um …”
I looked at him and said, “It is a proxy marriage Mr. Jackson and you well know it. Cor was given no choice in the matter. It was either that or … or consequences for the estate that he has devoted his whole life to avoiding.” I shook my head, part of me irritated with the fact that people seemed blind to the reality Cor and I had been force to face. Turning back to the man I said, “Cor chose responsibility or personal preference. And that is as far as I will go to satisfy you curiosity on the subject. I would prefer not to carry this conversation any further.”
I started to walk away but he grabbed my arm. Had I felt the least bit threatened I would have scalped him then and there as I did not appreciate being manhandled. He saw the look on my face and dropped his hand like he’d grabbed a hot skillet. “Sorry … just don’t … I didn’t mean to …” He stopped talking and then really looked at me. “Cor and I have been our whole lives. I never understood his … infatuation … with Francine. She’s a nice girl but … I don’t know … just not my type. I was surprised to hear that family of hers let her marry someone they hadn’t chosen for her to be honest. But looking at you and knowing Cor … you just don’t seem his type at all … and I have to say it even if it does sound insulting, but I don’t mean it that way. I just don’t … it just doesn’t seem like him to … to …” He faltered not knowing how to continue.
I gave him look for look. He may have been ham-fisted but at least he’d been honest enough with his questions. Finally I answered him, “I refuse to be insulted by the truth Mr. Jackson. You are correct. I’m not Cor’s type. Anyone that knows him at all will know that. I wish you had talked to Cor about this yourself. Perhaps if more people had stood with him then maybe none of this would have happened. Maybe he wouldn’t have been forced into something so … so alien to what his life was meant to be. But we are well beyond being able to change things, they are what they are. Cor and I have worked out a way to live with the situation. It is not our problem that other people now can’t understand how we live with what they stood by and allowed to be done to us.”
He nodded with a serious look on his face and in his eyes and said, “I … I think I’ll look Cor up when he gets back. See how he’s doing. It’s been too long and I’d like to rectify that.”
There was a brief lull when the Jackson family took their leave and I was thankful for it. The apples and pears were coming in and they added an enormous amount of work on top of trying to find something constructive to do with the last of the fruit like nectarines, peaches, and raspberries. And to get away from the house and Francine’s complaints of being bored with no company to keep her entertained I went harvested in the woods with the children and they taught me about wild black cherries, ground cherries, mayapples, mulberries, pawpaws, and ground nuts. I dug peppermint plants and trimmed them to dry for tea and then replanted the clumps around the cabin to fill in the empty spots. Sumac, lambs quarter, and sweet flag also came home in my basket.
Every day it seemed we added a crock of cucumbers in the cellar, pickled squash, and then began to add dried corn and cornmeal by the sack. I ate fresh tomatoes to my heart’s content – like some ate the apples – and what didn’t get used fresh was used to make tomato juice, tomato sauce, salsa, and tomato preserve. We dried no small amount of all of the produce, keeping the large drying shed full to bursting with no let up. And if a fly flew too close to the wineshed it seemed unable to go in a straight line for several minutes afterward.
Great wagon loads of grapes were brought in every morning and it was a joy to watch the faces of the men and women in charge of that operation. A lot of grapes made it to the table as well and I don’t think we’ll run out of raisins until the Mississippi decides to run east and west. As a matter of fact so much food was so handy that I was “sampling” in between meals. I wasn’t used to that much access to food with little to no restriction. Suddenly my boney areas were getting padding and I was struggling to keep everything covered.
I was putting another crock in the cellar when I discovered that I couldn’t raise my hands as far over my head as I used to. I finally figured out why and let go a rather rude word.
“Gilly!” Mrs. Wiley said in pseudo shock. “Yer may be grown and married ter Young Cor but I hear such a word from you again and I jest might feed you cleaning paste for ter clean yer mouth with.”
I snorted. “Jonah says it all the time and you don’t wash his mouth out.”
“Use ter. But then I had ter do it so often he grew ter like it and it weren’t no use no more. No whats the matter thets put you in such a foul mood.”
I sighed and tried to wiggle the shirt comfortable again and she figured it out before I had to explain it. “Ah ha, thet leather shirts giving yer fits. Noticed ta other day it were looking a bit snug.”
Irritated I said, “I don’t have time for this.”
“No, yer don’t. And why should yer when we can make yer up a nice cotton blouse in less’n half the time it would take to cut and sew another like the one yer have.”
“I like my leathers,” I whined. “They’re mine. I made them. And besides, I’m an Outlander and …”
“Yer were an Outlander. Now yer belong to Kipling … and ter the Corman estate in particle … ter us. Tis no crime to put aside something in faver of something else when it jest plain makes sense. ‘Sides, if yer wish ter keep them infernal leathers, jest split it and use it as a vest or jacket. It look like it just be the chest were it is growing too small.”
I looked down and realized she was right. Somehow or other I was finally looking like a woman and not like a flat chested pole. I growled, “At least my skirt still fits.”
“That’s a cause it is just a wraparound tie up. My mam used ter be fond o that style too. Leaves room for a growing belly when yer is with child.”
I squawked, “I’m not with …”
She laughed. “Yer take on so about the strangest things Gilly. Let’s go get yer measured. The women will be fightin’ over who gets ter fix what. They’s always complainin’ that our Gilly won’t let anyone do fer her.”
By the next morning there wasn’t one, not two, not even three … but five blouses waiting for me to try on. It was so strange and I didn’t know what to make of it. But as soon as I had gotten over my snit I realized I was being foolish and the cotton blouses were much more comfortable though it meant more laundry as they showed sweat and dirt much more than the leather ever had.
It was especially nicer in the evenings when I would sit and write the reports to the Captain. Each week he would respond, congratulating us on how well things were going and share what news he could.
“Rachel is a wonder. I’ve begun to forget what my life felt like before my daughter came into this world. Certainly it was less colorful … and less noisy. Winnie is so much better that I have hopes of returning to the estate once the weather cools. For now it is still better if she does not have to deal with the realities of so many guests and what their purpose is. She still becomes agitated when the subject that we avoid speaking of comes up but not to the same extent she did when we first arrived here at the fort.”
“I am gratified to report that the estate’s reputation has not been hurt in the least by the two sets of visitors. Quite the contrary in fact though I try not to insert myself into such conversations when I hear them. I prefer to let nature take its course.”
“A rather strange thing has happened. Luke Jackson sought me out here and I was quite surprised to see him. He and Cor were as close as brothers before the marriage, even going on a few early runs together. We had a nice chat and he admitted that his father and older brother were quite impressed by how things are being run at the estate. It may be slightly different than in recent history but the results are more than sufficient to show that it has been a needed change.”
“Frankly my dear I am not sure how to broach this next subject except crudely. As you are well aware women of suitable age are not numerous in the settlement. As I am sure you are also aware given how you handled the troops that were with me when you first came to Kipling, young men can be rather single minded on certain subjects. Luke Jackson isn’t the only man to mention that it is a shame that Cor has two fine young women as their wives when they have none but he has been the first to have done so in such a way that makes me think that perhaps he could be a serious suitor for your hand.”
“By that I mean that it is not beyond some men to perhaps pursue you – or Francine – for themselves. While I am aware that you and Cor are far from a love match you and he both agreed to the commitment of marriage and it would be unwise to allow any of the men to believe that they have a chance in changing that.”
“Please do not be insulted by my warning as I mean no harm or disrespect to you. In fact it is a testament to you that so many, on such short notice, would have the temerity to say anything to me at all. And Luke, for all he is a bit wild, is a fine young man from a good family that have stood friends with the Cormans for many years. I know the situation was not of your choosing or Cor’s but I would not like to see either of you hurt should you, perhaps, develop feelings for someone else in his absence.”
The letter continued on a bit and then closed again with “I mean no insult” and some more kind words trying to make me feel better because he was basically saying I needed to be careful not to act like a saloon girl. I was mad for a long while until I calmed down enough to see his side of it. It didn’t make me feel much better that someone would think I’d do such a thing, but on the other hand I put it down to the Captain maybe finding out he was more upset at what he’d let happen on his watch than he’d figured on being. Maybe Winnie wasn’t the only one thinking about their daughter’s possible future.
There were things I had come to accept were out of my reach. To be reminded of that hurt a bit and made me angry all over again. At the same time I’m pretty sure I believe the Captain is only looking out for my best interest in his own way and just being clumsy about it. It was a bad place to be in but I’ve been in bad places so much in life I eventually just shrugged it off and let it go as nothing particularly new. Lord knows I’d had men take an unwanted attention to me in the past with no expectation of being treated honorably. And Luke Jackson may have been a grown man in body but he still seemed to have some growing up to do if he thought he could just look at a gal and she’d toss all of her personal honor over the cactus heap just to be with him.
I just hope I don’t have too much of that nonsense get in the way further down the road. It is hard enough to keep up the problems I already have without people wanting to add more to the pile.
thanks for the new chapters, good stuff as usual Kathy
Fantastic as ever, Kathy! Thank you! Fel has been doing a very good job so far and she sure has a lot of hard-won inner strength....this is a very intriguing story and it sure is fun to come home to a new chapter! Thanks again
All that is gold does not glitter....
I can't wait to see the interactions between Cor and Fel as the story plays out. I have my thoughts but will refrain. Thank you for the stories...
Last edited by Landcruiser; 02-11-2012 at 01:13 AM.
Thanks so much for the new chapter, Kathy; I look forward to each and every one of them!
Thank you for more story.
ok, some thoughts on this and current events.
given the recent court developments in California, and unfortunately my state, are we going to be seeing multiple marriages fought out in the same way?
in a pre-shtf world, what impact will that have?
I think that you've struck on something here that in a chaotic society will happen, has happened in the past.
As groups bond together, and, if violence ensues the male population drops, this would be one of the natural ends.
Just something to make people think.
God Restore The Republic
Thank You for more of the story. You have made Francine so real that even though I want to dislike her.. I can't. Really looking forward to where you will take this.
As always with Kathy's stories, we get entertainment, new and unique recipies, as well as food for thought that's relevant, yet normally out-of-mind. The changing political landscape of "marriage" is definitely happening in our society, and has been for a while.
It's interesting to note that in this story, there is a shortage of suitable available females; yet, they forced a plural-wife marriage on someone who didn't want it.
Kathy, with your busy life, I don't know how you find time to write, but thanks and please keep it up. Oh, and don't forget about Gurl!