Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Thirty Six

We learned on Sept 4 of the passing of a fellow babbler, so I wrote this chapter directly here.

Gilly's parents had seven children in all -- she was the youngest, of course. Cathy was the eldest girl, and there was also another sister, Nancy.

Nancy had been born premature, but the love of her family nurtured her well and she prospered and grew into a warm, loving (and lovely) woman. When she was 16, she caught the eye of a young man in the village -- the son of one of the village council members. When she was 17, they married and moved into his parent's house, which was more than big enough.

Though Nancy was good with children, sadly she and her husband were not able to have any of their own, and after many years of hoping and waiting she made up her mind to spend her time helping other families instead of growing her own.

So she did. She helped at the school when a teacher was ill. She helped care for young children when their mothers needed to spend time with a new baby or an ill relative. She helped care for any villager who was taken ill, and was known for anticipating the needs of those in her care.

And she was well known for her story-telling.

History was her passion. She loved the interesting places and people of history, and could tell stories that made it seem the listeners were in the middle of the action.

She had learned most of the village history as a young child at her grandmother's knee; and had spent much of her time as a young woman in the town library and town hall, reading and re-reading the histories.

She could tell any person in the village when their ancestors arrived on that side of the mountain.

She could tell any couple hoping to be married how closely they were related; this was a benefit in the small village where most people were cousins to some degree.

Eventually, she was employed by the village as the official record keeper, and so she could often be found at the hall, taking notes at meetings.

Though only a few years older than Gilly, she had turned gray early, and that, along with her status as the wife of the scion of a prominent family, gave her great dignity in her appearance.

When the whisperings began about the strange man at her sister's house, she was not surprised. The twins were known for directing wanders seeking work to their mother's house. Since Paul had been gone, she always had some chore or another that could be done in exchange for a couple of good meals and a comfortable bed.

When the whisperings came about the strange man who drove the doctor back to the village, she assumed it was the same man -- they all did; but again (knowing her sister) was not surprised.

When her husband, now a member of the town council came home, saying that Esmeralda had faced down even the head councilwoman... and told them to leave Gilly alone, she was surprised.

For all her stern nature and somewhat forbidding appearance, Esmeralda was known for her tact and patience. It was unusual for her to so forcefully confront anyone.

So the next morning, she paid the good doctor a brief visit.

Very brief, for the doctor did not answer her door, though Nancy stood outside ten minutes.

She lifted the latch, which was not pulled fast, and peeked in. The ladder was down, and some preparations were on the long counter. It was as if Esmeralda had stepped away just for a few minutes. But Nancy knew, from the diminished aroma of the herbs in the mortar, that it had been quite a while.

Perplexed, she called down the cellar stairs. There was no answer.

She called up the ladder -- there was no answer.

She convinced herself that there had been some emergency and the doctor had left in such a hurry she did not have time to close things up properly... though the bag she used was still by the door.

She left, and went to the market, and found herself in the crowd of people watching Andy's performance. When things had calmed down a bit, she walked up to Paul and greeted him as if he hadn't been gone at all, except to ask him to "stop by" soon.

Meaning, of course, that if they didn't see him for tea by the end of the week Nancy and her husband would be by to check on them.

Paul understood. He also understood when Nancy remarked that the doctor didn't seem to be in her usual place in the market. And he told her he needed to drop by Esmeralda's after the market closed to give her news of Doris's recovery. He did not enlighten her on Nan's miraculous cure.

Satisfied that Paul was back, and that he was "the same old Paul," Nancy took her leave and went home to ponder this turn of events.

And Paul went home with a small box of treats for Doris and a set of pot holders Nancy had made for Ava...