Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter 113

written 19 Jan 2008

Jane sat at the window, humming softly in annoyance. Her husband was late getting home. Three weeks late. She'd had word by him, five times, one delay after another. She listened for a moment, and hearing her son and daughters laughing in the garden room, went back to her work.

The intricate lace took shape quickly, her skilled hands moving automatically over the little pillow, adjusting pins every so often, weaving bobbins back and forth. It was one of her favorite patterns. She was working this for her younger sister's new baby. She clicked her tongue against the back of her teeth in annoyance. Of course no one had told her Polly was expecting... until after the fact. Still, she had to admit that it often took much longer for news to get back and forth. So she smiled, and kept working the blue and green center, linking it in to the white border.

A movement near the door caught her eye. Two women, one old (how old?) and one young, about her own age, she thought. And a man...


She rushed to the front door, reaching it before the knocker clicked once. A second and she flung the bolt back and jumped into her uncle's arms.

Tor stumbled back in surprise, then laughed and swung his niece around. The women paused on their way up the steps and looked at each other. Apparently they weren't used to such displays of affection. Jane's eyes were wet with tears, but she quickly recovered, and patted her hair back into order as she looked around her uncle's broad frame.

"Welcome Uncle! I am so pleased to see you again." It was spoken as she looked pointedly at the elder woman, who quickly stepped forward with a small bow.

"I greet, you, niece of Tor," Ysbel said formally, "I am Ysbel, and this is my niece, Carlota. We are librarians from a distant city, journeying to locate new materials. We were told your city was a good source of literature."

Jane looked at her uncle, who gave her a conspiratorial wink. It was another of his schemes, no doubt. Still, Jane longed always for news of her family, and quickly rang the bell for a servant to take the horse and cart to the stables in back.

Once inside, Ysbel drew herself up, and Carlota pulled off her cap. Jane looked critically at them both.

"Librarians, you may be," she was sober, "But you are also Watchers. What business do you have here?" And she made a small mark with her hand on her breast.

Tor shuffled his feet, "Jane, I brought them here for your help. We are on a mission to save more than just books."

Ysbel's face was stern as she added, "I was told you were an intelligent young woman. If, however, your superstitions make you uncomfortable, we will seek shelter and assistance elsewhere."

The scolding hit home, and Jane blanched.

"Lady, I would not dream of it. I am merely surprised and foolish. My husband has been gone longer than I am used to, and I fear I am not at my best."

A clatter on the tile announced the childrens' arrival in the hall.

"Lady, may I present our children? This is Annalee (a girl not too much younger than herself, Ysbel noted), Auralee, Amalee and Janalee," Jane took a toddler from Annalee's arms, "And this is Paul."

The three older girls curtsied quickly, and Janalee copied them. Paul looked at the strangers and cuddled into his mother's embrace, his sturdy arms wrapped tightly around her neck. Laughing, Tor scooped up Janalee and hung her upside down, showing her mother's handiwork to good effect as the petticoats and bloomers bounced and whirled.

"Oh, Uncle Tor! Do behave yourself for once!" Jane tried to be stern. "Annalee, our guests will need to rest a while from their journey. Will you and Auralee show the ladies to the sunny rooms in the front? Uncle Tor may have his usual room -- close to the kitchen for his midnight snacks."

She shot him a knowing look, and added, "But not too close, Cook still hasn't recovered from the raid on her storeroom last time!"

Ysbel bowed again to Jane as they took their leave, and Carlota smiled briefly. Jane thought she saw a gleam in her uncle's eye as the smile turned a plain girl into a lovely one. She determined to chaperone her uncle as much as possible while the guests remained.

"I will send some tea and cakes to your room in a little while," and she motioned to Amalee to notify the cook. The girl smiled and danced off toward the kitchen with Janalee in her wake. Janalee's first word had been cooky and for good reason!

Tor drew her aside before going to check on the horse and bring packages in from the cart.

"Jane, I am sorry to unload this on you without warning, I didn't expect Yurgen to be gone this time of year. But," he glanced around to be sure they were alone and patted Paul's cheek, "Many things have happened in our family since Sebastian disappeared, and these ladies, somehow, are part of it, I am sure. They are also much in need of assistance and protection."

Jane motioned to the sitting room and handed her son to Tor as she sat again at the window, picking up the bobbins again.

"I am sure much has happened, Uncle Tor, and we will do what we can. I don't know how long it will take Yurg to arrive, he is not usually gone so long. But then, there have been many strange things lately..."