Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Nineteen

August 14, 2006

In yesterday's chapter, the doctor came to see to Doris, who took ill over night. Lots of comings and goings this morning. The younger kids are at the park, Polly and Meg are sitting with John's wife talking about books and doing needlework while Paul and John tackle harness repair and other basic farm work.

Adam is out in his back yard this morning, looking at the firewood situation, and Cathy and Ava are finishing clearing the breakfast things.

Adam hefted another load of wood for the house, and then paused, hearing the rumbling of men's voices next door.

He set the wood on the back porch, then went through the back gate and sauntered over to the barn.

"Good morning, need any help with that harness?"

Paul looked up miserably at Adam, "Oh Father, I wish you would -- Doris took sick over night, and I just can't concentrate on this."

Adam pulled on an extra work apron and sat down on the bench next to Paul.

"Son, a lot has happened since you were gone, and there hasn't been time to share it all with you."

John came up from the back of the barn with some extra leather and rivets, "Doris is sick fairly regularly, actually -- the doctor has said it's something she eats."

Adam grunted and continued, "Our Gilly has a good level head on her shoulders, though, and that doctor is pretty good even if she's from the other side of the mountain." He winked at John conspiratorily, "Doris will be fine."

Adam looked at the leather straps John was holding and selected a thin one and three rivets. Paul handed over the metal-tipped mallet and Adam drove the rivets home -- one, two.... three.

Satisfied, he held up the harness and Paul ran his hand over the mend.

John explained, "Doris sometimes pretends she is ill to get out of going to school. But Anna told me her eyes were swollen this morning, and she was having trouble breathing -- "

Adam looked up, "So, not as bad as last time?"

John shrugged, "I don't know, Grampy -- the last time must have been after our last visit."

Paul stood up and hung the harness on its hook, taking down a bridle that looked a little worse for the wear.

He started shaving off the end that was frayed, while Adam picked up another new piece of leather and twisted it. John sat down on the opposite side of Adam and started whittling a toggle.

The three men sat in companionable silence, working in the bright morning light.

Soon, Andy, Gray and Nan wandered back from the park.

John looked up suddenly, "Where is Olivia?"

Andy looked around in surprise, "I thought she was with Gray!"

Adam set down his leather strap and Paul sucked on the nick he made in his thumb when he looked up.

John and Adam started up. Paul was about to join them, but Adam gave him a look and he sat down again.

"We'll take Andy and Gray to help us look. You and Nan can go tell Anna where we are. But stay here in case Gilly or the doctor need something."

Adam and John strode purposefully back toward the park, Gray on John's shoulders and Andy anxiously trotting behind.

Paul wiped his thumb on his apron and took Nan's hand. They walked up the steps and into the kitchen as Gilly came in to boil a fresh kettle for more tea.

"Mother!" Nan exclaimed, "Olivia's lost in the park!"

Gilly turned round in surprise.

"It's okay, dear," soothed Paul, "Father and John have gone back with Gray and Andy to find her. I am sure she will be fine."

Gilly set the kettle on the stove and sat wearily at the table. "The doctor says Doris will be okay, but it's going to be several days before she can go out. Her face is still swelling, but the doctor had some medicine with her that is helping her breathe."

Paul turned Nan toward the front room, "Please go tell Anna and your sisters that Doris will be okay and John and Grampy have gone to the park to fetch Olivia."

Paul walked around the table behind Gilly and put his strong hands on her shoulders. He rubbed gently, and she relaxed into the back of the chair.

They heard the front door open and close, and Meg came into the kitchen holding Sarah. She looked a little embarrassed at finding her parents so close.

"Anna, Polly and Nan have gone out to help find Olivia, may I sit in here with you for a while?"

Gilly smoothed her hair and Paul smiled. "Of course, dear," Gilly said holding her hands out to take Sarah.

Paul looked at his hands and made a face. "Oh Gilly, I forgot I had a cut on my thumb. Now there's blood on your shoulder..."

Gilly laughed, "I guess some things never change!"

Paul stood at the sink, washing his hands with the soft homemade soap and hummed a little tune.

He turned, drying his hands on a towel, and picked up the kettle, which had started to harmonize. "What type of tea were you making, Gilly?"

She stood, handing the baby back to Meg. "I'll get it, the doctor just wanted something to help her wake up. Will you reach in the cupboard and serve a nice slice of that berry pie? I know she's probably hungry, too."

**her being the doctor...**

Paul did, grinning at Meg as he walked around the kitchen, "See? I bet you thought I had forgotten how to do things like this!" he joked.

Meg grinned back, "No Father - I remember you once baked a pie to surprise Mother -- the crust was soggy but the filling was fine!"

Paul put the rest of the pie back in the cupboard, "Me? a soggy crust? NEVER!"

He tried to frown, but could only manage a sort of surprised expression. Gilly laughed out load and nearly dropped the tray with the teapot and pie.

She handed the tray to Paul, "Just for that, young man, you get to climb the stairs and visit with the doctor for a while!"

Paul groaned and rolled his eyes, and Meg nearly fell out of her chair laughing. Gilly caught Sarah before she could be dropped. "I'll take the baby over to let Mother and Cathy know how exciting our day has been. Meg, please pull out the rest of the roast and get some sort of luncheon ready, I am sure we will all be hungry when Grampy and John get back with Olivia."

Paul poked his head around the door to Doris's room, and the doctor said, "I'll be right with you, Gilly."

She turned, holding a damp cloth, and put her free hand on her hip. "Oh -- it's you. I see you brought my tea."

Paul set the tray down and collected the rags and cloths that were draped over the rails at the foot of the beds. "I'll go get more clean towels and such for you."

The doctor sat down, and glared at him. "You'll do no such thing. You are going to tell me why you bothered to come back while I have my breakfast."

She picked up the teapot and poured out a cup, holding it in her thin hands.

Paul shuffled his feet. "I came back because I missed my family. What you really want to know is why I went away."

The doctor kept glaring at him, but gestured for him to sit down.

"And you want to know why I stayed away so long." He sat, and rubbed his hands together as if to warm them.

"I left because I needed to know about my past -- what brought me here when I was a child, where I came from, who my parents might have been."

The doctor took a bite of pie and looked a little less severe.

"I stayed so long because things across the ocean, where I had traveled to learn the answers to these questions, were not peaceful and it took a great deal of effort and," he paused, searching for the right words.

The doctor took another bite of pie and a sip of tea. Doris coughed gently and put a hand to her forehead.

"And 'persuasion' on my part," Paul finished. "Even once I secured passage back to this side of the world, I had many hundreds of miles to travel to get home."

The doctor finished her pie and stood up to set the plate on the tray.

A gust of breeze came through the open window and freshened the air in the room. Doris coughed again and rolled over so her father could see her face. He stifled an exclamation.

Doris's eyes were swollen shut, and her cheeks were red -- they resembled a squirrel's in the autumn, when the seeds and nuts are ripe.

The doctor's face softened a bit as she watched Paul's reaction. She put a hand on his shoulder.

"Doris will be fine. The worst times are when her breathing is bad -- this looks bad, but she can breathe again, and in a few days she'll look fine."

Paul gestured helplessly toward his daughter, "But what? this happened only once or twice when she was little, and never this severe!"

The doctor sat down opposite Paul and looked him in the eye.

"Many things change as a child grows. Sometimes healthy children get bad allergies as they reach adolescence. Unfortunately, Doris is one of those."

Paul shook his head, "Allergies to what? What can we do to stop them?"

Doris coughed again and whispered, "May I have some water please?"

The doctor quickly helped her sit up and held a glass for her.

Satisfied, Doris lay back down and turned her face toward where she thought Paul sat. "Father," she croaked, "It's something I ate. Last time this happened, I had eaten chicken soup, mother's spoon bread and cake. This time, I ate roast, stuffing and pie."

The doctor looked thoughtful. "What sort of cake was it last time, do you remember?"

Doris shook her head gently and winced. "Sorry doctor," she replied.

The doctor put her hand on Doris's forehead and snagged a cool cloth again. She looked at Paul, "Doris really needs to rest now, Paul. I will call if I need anything else."

Paul nodded and picked up the tray. "Thank you."

As Paul entered the kitchen, Meg was setting the table.

Anna came in the front door, carrying a tear-stained -- and grass-stained -- Olivia, followed by Nan who was carrying Olivia's straw hat.

John, Andy and Gray could be heard coming along the side of the house to the back stairs.

The kitchen was filled with lively chatter and happy smiles as Polly returned after stopping by with Adam to relay the news. Gilly and Sarah followed her through the kitchen door and everyone sat down to lunch.

Except Gilly, who couldn't help taking her plate (and one for the doctor) upstairs.

Next door, Cathy, Adam and Ava sat down to their much quieter meal, with their cat daintily drinking a bit of milk out of a saucer.

The sun moved slowly overhead, and birds flew over the village, on their way to the plain below the mountain.

[renfield: to be continued....]

**Yep. Ren. knows the routine. Life goes on, but the chapter ends.**