Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Eighteen

August 13, 2006

So Gilly and Paul spent half the night talking until the rooster crowed and little Nan came sleepily into the kitchen. Paul has gone to get dressed, and Nan is contentedly stirring some batter while Gilly gets the rest of the breakfast going.

Anna came into the kitchen soon with Sarah and sat down in the rocker near the stove.

Paul returned, followed by the dog and John who yawned as he pulled his suspenders over his

John kissed Anna quickly and followed Paul out to the barn and stable to check on the animals.

Nan finished stirring the batter and handed the bowl back to her mother who had the griddle nice and hot. The pancakes sizzled merrily next to the slices of roast from the previous night.

Andy wandered in, and Gilly sent him out to help with the animals. Nan went with him, to feed the chickens, a chore she enjoyed because she could feel the air moving around her legs as the birds scrabbled for the last bits.

Polly and Meg came downstairs with Gray and Olivia. "Mother," exclaimed Meg, "Doris says she's not coming down today!"

Gilly rolled her eyes and handed the spatula to Polly. "Thank you, Meg, I will go check on her. Gray, please go tell your daddy and grandfather their breakfast is ready."

Gilly took off her apron and hung it on a peg next to the kitchen door. Anna handed Sarah to Meg, and started to set the table.

The cat skittered across the floor between the chairs as Olivia climbed up next to Meg and played with Sarah.

The sun was starting to come through the front windows as Gilly walked up the stairs briskly.

She listened quietly at the door before pushing it open and going in.

Doris lay quietly on her bed, back to the door, her hair straggling across the pillow. Her breath came in short puffs, and every so often she coughed.

Gilly slipped back out the door and called for Anna.

Anna came quietly and quickly up the stairs, and the two women held a conference in the hall.

Soon, Anna was back in the kitchen making a tea of horehound, oatstraw and feverfew; John was hitching a horse to the cart to go into the village for the doctor; and Meg was bringing in a basin of cool water while Polly served breakfast to the younger children.

Paul washed his hands carefully and joined Gilly upstairs.

Doris was sleeping fitfully. Gilly sat next to her, putting a cool cloth on her forehead or the back of her neck.

Paul opened the window to cool the room, and pulled the curtain shut. He paced a bit, then sat down on Polly's bed next to Gilly.

"Paul, she'll be okay. The kids get these things sometimes." Gilly tried to look convincing.

"But I thought she was done having these illnesses, Gilly -- has it happened often while I was gone?

Gilly wrung out the cloth and set it again on the back of Doris's neck. "Not at first, but in the last couple of years..."

Paul stood up as Anna came into the room with a tray. She poured a cup of tea for Gilly and gestured toward Doris, "Is she ready for her tea?"

Gilly shook her head, "No, she's still mostly asleep, poor thing. Thank you for bringing it."

Paul snagged a plate and balanced it on his lap while he ate, watching Doris and Gilly carefully.

Gilly handed the cloth to Anna and stood with her plate by the foot of the bed.

Anna gently brushed Doris's hair out of her eyes, and wiped her face with the cool cloth. Doris rolled over and looked at her out of one swollen eye.

"Hi," she croaked, and wheezed a bit. "Is Mother here?"

"Right here," said Gilly and Paul simultaneously, setting their plates aside.

Anna stood up and walked to the door, "I'll bring the doctor up when she arrives."

Gilly helped Doris sit up and Paul held out the cup.

Doris coughed again, and Gilly held the cup for her to sip from.

Downstairs, Polly and Meg were trying to keep Andy and Nan from arguing about who would play with Sarah. The cat ran around the side of yard chasing a creature, and bumped into the dog who was digging a trench.

Anna whisked into the kitchen and frowned at them. Suddenly, Andy and Gray were laughing uproariously because Nan couldn't figure out why it had gotten so quiet.

Meg and Polly giggled, and shooed the younger children outside. It was too wet to work in the garden, so they wandered over to the park again to look for frogs.

Anna and the older girls were just about done with the dishes when John drove up to the gate and helped the doctor out.

The doctor was a thin, short woman, with thin gray hair and a thin nose. Her voice was high-pitched but quiet. John handed her a bag, bulging with jars and bags, and drove the horse and cart around back.

She walked purposefully up the steps and into the front room.

Anna met her and took her wrap, then showed her upstairs.

The doctor paused for a moment when she entered the room, sizing up Paul. "So -- you're home."

She turned to Gilly, "How bad is it this time, dearie?"

Gilly stood up to let the doctor examine Doris. She looked at Paul, "Perhaps you want to work on some of the harnesses, Paul? I know Owain was saying he intended to fix one, but..."

Paul smiled grimly and nodded to the doctor, "I'll be around if you need me ma'am."

The doctor didn't reply. She was looking at Doris's eyes, and feeling her neck and listening to her breathing.

Gilly sat down on Polly's bed and watched anxiously.

John came into the kitchen after handing the horse to his father and Anna fixed his breakfast. He looked at her thoughtfully.

"Anna, what will you do if one of our children is like Doris -- always getting sick like this?"

She looked at him in surprise, "Why -- I will do whatever is necessary, of course! What else?" She smiled, "But I don't think they will be ill. They are fine, strong children."

He finished his breakfast and headed out to the barn to help his father. Anna picked Sarah up from the high chair and carried her to the front room where Polly and Meg were studying.

Upstairs, Gilly and the doctor were conferring -- what had likely caused the illness, whether Doris would need stronger medicine, if it might be contagious.

A wagon went past on the road, and the sunlight made the leaves and grass sparkle.

Next door, Cathy and her mother finished clearing the dishes and Adam brought in a load of wood for the stove.

Paul concentrated on fixing the harness and John stood by, talking about little things.

It was a fresh, new day.

***end of chapter.***