Two chapters in one month‘s time? Thank SimStoCreMo and my currently unemployed status for that.So, recap time. Marsha decided she wanted to take up caring for the family garden, much to Jan‘s chagrin.Lots of babies were born, including Taddy Seiff, Lizzie‘s son, who proved to be a challenge for his mama.Victor and Jane went into wedding planning mode with Jane‘s departure for college, and she brought hermothers to tears with her choice of wedding gowns. Marsha had a son (James) and then later a daughter(Viola). And Jan found a way to get revenge on her daughter-in-law, by swaying James to favor her overMarsha.And now, I give you Chapter 18 of The Bradford Legacy.
Jason Seiff held his son, Thaddeus, in the moments before he was due to grow up to a child. He couldhardly believe how quickly time had passed. Just yesterday it seemed, Taddy was a rather fussy baby whocaused his mother many hours of aggravation. Tomorrow, his son would be heading off to school, his firststeps of independence.
Lizzie smiled at her husband holding their son. Taddy had grown to be a sweet boy, and she couldn‘thave been more proud of him. Her thoughts drifted to her own mother, Jan Bradford. Lizzie was certainthat her mother had never felt such emotions towards her. The most glaring reminder of this fact – Jan haddeclined the invitation to her grandson‘s birthday, as she and Matthew had tickets to the theater.
―Papa, when can I blow out candles?‖―Whenever you‘d like Taddy. Are you ready to grow up?‖―Yes, Papa.‖
Taddy leaned forward, giggling. He took a deep breath, and blew out the candles on his cake in one try.
After Lizzie cropped his curls and Jason helped him into his new suit of clothes, it was very clear thatTaddy was a handsome lad.
A short few weeks later, the Seiffs and Victor Hutchins gathered at the Bradford farmhouse to mark a veryspecial occasion.
It was time for James Bradford to celebrate his childhood birthday.―Well, James, are you ready to blow out your candles?‖ asked Jefferson.―Yes, Papa. Want Granma‘s cake.‖―James, Grandmother didn‘t make your cake. Mama did,‖ replied Jefferson.
The little boy looked perplexed. Hadn‘t Granma assured him that she had gotten him a cake for hisbirthday that morning? Still, cake was cake.―I blow out candles now,‖ he announced to the room. Jefferson shifted the boy so that he could do so, andJames wore an intense look of concentration as he extinguished the small flames.
James Bradford was a handsome little boy. After he donned the new suit of clothes that Jefferson boughtfor him, he came back into the dining room and made a beeline for the only person in the room notengaged in a conversation: his cousin Taddy.―Hi.‖―Hi, James. Thank you for inviting me to your party.‖―I didn‘t invite people – Mama and Granma did. But I‘m glad you came. Otherwise, I‘d have no one myage to talk to.‖―Wanna go play a game?‖James nodded eagerly. ―Let‘s go out into the foyer.‖
The two boys spent the rest of the party playing cops and robbers, tag (until Marsha politely asked themnot to run in the house), and red hands. By the time the party was winding down, James and Taddy werethe best of friends.
―You should come over to my house one day soon,‖ said Taddy as his parents said their goodbyes. ―Wehave a huge yard where we can run around and play, and there‘s tons of stuff to do.‖―I‘ll have to ask Papa and Mama,‖ said James, ―but I‘d like to. I‘d like that a whole lot.‖
―You are certainly welcome to visit whenever you wish, James,‖ interjected Jason.The small boy beamed. ―Thank you, Uncle Jason.‖―Now, Taddy, Aunt Lizzie, and I need to be heading home. Say good bye to your cousin.‖
The two boys hugged, and Taddy headed off with his parents.―Come visit soon,‖ he reminded James as the door closed.
Meanwhile, upstairs, Marsha was busy getting her daughter Viola ready for bed.―I‘m sorry we didn‘t have a party for you as well, princess, but Mama wasn‘t really feeling up to it, andGrandma couldn‘t be bothered.‖Viola, who had only learned to speak a few words at that point, didn‘t reply. Instead, she opened her armswide, and Marsha laughed.―I think someone wants a hug.‖Viola nodded with big eyes.
Viola wrapped her arms around her mother‘s neck. ―Love Mama.‖Marsha‘s grasp on her daughter tightened. ―And Mama loves you, Viola. Just like she loves James, andthe little one that will be here soon.‖―Baby?‖―Yes, Viola. Mama is going to have another baby, which means you will have a little brother or sister.What do you think about that?‖Viola just shook her head.―No?‖chuckled Marsha. ―You‘ll get used to it in time, sweetheart. Now, let‘s get you ready for bed. Mamahas a very busy day ahead. I have a wedding to go to.‖
The next morning dawned bright and clear, which several residents of Portsimouth had been hoping for. Itwas finally the day when Jane Thayer and Victor Hutchins would exchange wedding vows. Jane andMeadow had been up since before sunrise, overseeing the final details.Finally, it was time for Jane to put on her wedding gown. It fitted her as well as it had the afternoon shehad first tried it on. Meadow, after having put on her best clothes, came in to check on her daughter. Janewas busy with last minute mussing and fussing.―You look lovely, Jane,‖ she finally managed to say.Jane bit her lip. ―Are you sure? You don‘t think I need a necklace or something?‖Meadow shook her head. ―Everything is perfect.‖
Moments later, Phily came into the room as well, bearing Jane‘s bouquet of pink roses. She placed theflowers on the bed, and watched her daughter as she smoothed her hair.―You look stunning Jane. If Victor isn‘t already completely head over heals for you, he will be when hesees you.‖―Thank you, Phily. It must be nearly time now. Is the luncheon all set? And the cake? Have all the guestsarrived…‖―Jane, relax. Everything, and I do mean everything, is all set. All you need to do is show up and lookbeautiful, which should be very easy for you.‖Jane smiled at both her mothers. ―How will we know it‘s time?‖―Henri will come to get us, when Victor lets us know that he‘s ready.‖―I hope it won‘t be too much longer. I can‘t wait.‖
While Jane was busy with her toilette, Victor and his best man, Jefferson, were waiting in the study for thehour of the ceremony.―Thank you again for standing up with me.‖―Not a problem, cousin. I‘m glad to do it, and that Marsha‘s feeling well enough to join me today.Nervous?‖―Not a lick. Anxious, a little. Jane‘s got her heart set on this day being perfect, and I don‘t want her to bedisappointed.‖―No bride should me,‖ muttered Jefferson, thinking about his own wedding.―Hey,‖ Victor said, somewhat sharply. ―I‘m not having any of that today. So what if you and Marsha didn‘thave a big, fancy wedding? You‘re two of the happiest people I know. I only hope that Jane and I will beas happy and blessed as you are.‖―You will be. I know it.‖
The clock on the mantle struck the hour, and Jefferson rose.―It‘s time, cousin. Let‘s get you married.‖Victor rose and clasped his friend‘s hand. ―I can‘t believe this is really happening. It seems like foreverthat we‘ve waited for this day, and now it‘s here.‖―Well, as you once told me, some things are worth waiting for.‖Victor burst out laughing. ―That they are, my friend. That they are.‖
At that moment, Henri was walking into the bedroom that would shortly be Jane and Victor‘s. ―It‘s time.‖Jane‘s face lit up. Meadow and Phily smiled as well, but theirs were a little more subdued.―Well, we‘d best not keep Victor waiting,‖ Jane said, picking up her bouquet.
Jane caught Henri staring at her. ―Is something wrong?‖Henri shook her head. ―Nothing at all, dear. I hope that you and Victor will be very happy together.‖―I hope we will be too. Before I forget,‖ she said, looking at each woman in the room in turn, ―I want tothank all of you for everything you‘ve done to make this day so perfect for Victor and I. I feel like theluckiest woman in the world, and that wouldn‘t have been possible without you.‖Meadow blinked back tears. ―Thank you, Jane. Now, let‘s not keep the groom waiting.‖
Moments later, all the guests were in their places and the groom was waiting under the wedding arch. Theonly thing missing was the bride.
She was standing behind the flower trellis, taking a moment to soak it all in. Finally, she could wait nolonger, and she stepped out and began her march up the aisle.
There are none so happy as my love and I, None so joyous, blithe and free; The reason is, that I love her, And the reason is, she love me.
There are none so sweet as my own fond love, None so beauteous or true; Her equal I could never find, Though I search the whole world thro’.
There’s no love so true as my lady sweet; None so constant to its troth;There’s naught on earth like her so dear, No queen her equal in her worth.
So there’s none so happy as my love and I; None so blissful, blithe and free,
And the reason is that I am hers, And she, in truth, belongs to me.-My Lady Love, Robert C. O. Benjamin (1855-1900)
―Well, Mrs. Hutchins,‖ smiled Victor, ―Did it live up to your expectations?‖―It did, Mr. Hutchins,‖ she replied. ―But it‘s not over yet. We still have the rest of the day to celebrate withour friends and family.‖―That we do, and, judging by the soaked handkerchief Miss Meadow is holding, our families need someattention at this moment.‖
While Jane rushed to hug Meadow, who was smiling through her tears, Victor crossed to his mother, whoalso suspiciously wet eyes.―Mama, what‘s wrong?‖―Nothing, Victor. I just…weddings are difficult for me, as you must imagine. I hope that you and Janeknow all the happiness that I never did.‖―Thank you, Mama. I think,‖ he said, looking over to his new wife, who was now chatting very animatedlywith Phily, ―that we shall.‖
―Excuse me,‖ called Jefferson in a loud and clear voice, ―as the best man, I am obligated to make a toast.As one of Victor‘s best friends, I am honored to do so. Please, grab a glass of champagne, and we‘ll getstarted.‖
―First, I‘d like to thank everyone for coming to share this special day with Victor and Jane. Victor and Ihave been friends for a long time, since our days at SimHarvard, and I cannot tell you how happy I am tosee him marry such a wonderful woman. I know firsthand what the love of a good woman can do for you,‖Jefferson smiled at Marsha at that moment, ―and Jane is the finest woman I know, excepting my own wife,of course.‖The crowd chucked as Jefferson pause for a breath. ―A wise man once told me that the best things in lifeare worth waiting for. I know that Victor and Jane‘s courtship has been longer than most, but that has justmade their love stronger, and I know that it will see them through whatever life may bring. Victor, thankyou for being a good friend to me. I wish you and Jane a long, happy life together. To Victor and Jane!‖―To Victor and Jane!‖ the guests replied.
After the toast, there was the cutting of the cake.
After the cake and luncheon, everyone went into the house where Phily sat down at the piano and playedmusic for dancing. Everyone, save Meadow and Henri, who didn‘t have partners, took to the floor as thenewlyweds waltzed around the floor.
As the music played and the couples danced and chatted, there was one couple whose attention was noton the wedding celebrations.―We really should get home, Joseph.‖―Why, Anne? He insists that everything is fine. Now, let‘s enjoy our niece and nephew‘s wedding.‖―But Joseph…‖―Anne,‖ he said with a sigh. ―Please, let‘s enjoy this day. The party‘s almost over. We‘ll stay until then.‖―Very well,‖ she relented.
As Victor twirled Jane around, he was oblivious to anything else going on around him.―Happy?‖ he asked his bride.―Extremely. Victor, I couldn‘t have asked for a better day. I‘m almost sad to see it end.‖
But all too soon, Jane was saying goodbye to the well wishers who had come out for her and Victor‘s bigday. After all, there was still one more thing that she had to look forward to with her new husband.
The reason that Anne Bear had been so eager to leave the wedding early was her son, Eldon. Eldon hadbeen born early, and always suffered a from a delicate constitution since then. His health had seemed toimprove over his teen and college years, but as of late, something seemed to be wrong. There werehollows in his cheeks that remained no matter how much he ate, and dark circles under his eyes thatlingered no matter how long he slept.
Not long after the wedding, Anne found her son sitting before a roaring fire in the parlor.―Are you unwell?‖―No, Mama. Just a little chilly.‖―Eldon, it‘s July. It must be eighty degrees out there. How can you be chilled?‖
Eldon shrugged. ―I just am, Mama. It‘s no big deal,‖ he said as he gaze returned to the flames.
Anne regarded her son for a few moments, hoping that he would speak. When he didn‘t, she made ahuffing sound, and turned on her heal as she exited the room.
While Anne was trying to get her son to open up, Ericka, Eldon‘s wife, was upstairs putting their daughterCordelia down for her nap. Rather than return downstairs, where she knew the air would be thick withtension, she decided to remain in the nursery, listening to the soothing sounds of Cordelia‘s soft breaths.She too was worried about Eldon. But Ericka had chosen to stay silent, as she saw how Anne‘s constantquestioning of his health upset her husband.
Anne, however, had never been one to leave something alone. She had a hunch that her daughter-in-lawwas hiding in the nursery, and she went to seek her out.
―Ericka, why don‘t you join me in the garden for my afternoon tea? It‘s so cool and comfortable out there,with the shade from the willow trees.‖―I don‘t know, Anne,‖ she said, glancing down at Cordelia.―She‘ll be fine. We‘ll be done long before she wakes up. Please? I feel as though we haven‘t talked inages.‖―Very well, Anne. A cup of tea does sound nice.‖
―Now, Ericka,‖ Anne said when the tea had been poured and they had each selected a few cookies tomunch on, ―I want to talk about Eldon. I know that you‘ve noticed that he‘s not well.‖Ericka sighed. ―I have, but I‘ve also noticed that trying to speak with him about it upsets him, which is why Ihaven‘t pushed him on the issue.‖―I think you‘ve learned that I don‘t give up on anything, dear,‖ Anne replied with a smile, ―but you are right.So, we both agree that something is wrong, but what can we do about it? Eldon really should see a doctor.Do you think you can convince him to do so?‖
―He has seen a doctor – Doctor GilsCarbo. I believe that he treated Eldon when he was younger.‖―When?‖―He left work early one day a few weeks ago.‖―And?‖Ericka shook her head. ―He didn‘t tell me, but it couldn‘t have been good. He was rather surly the rest ofthe evening.‖
―I wish he would let us help him,‖ sighed Anne.―What can we do?‖―Well, as he always seems to be cold, we‘ll have to keep the house warm, even if it is summer. See if youcan get him to take a walk with you in the afternoon; the fresh air will do him good. And I‘ll make hisfavorite foods, to see if we can tempt him into eating a bit more.‖―I‘ll do what I can. He seems to enjoy playing with Cordelia as well. I‘ll see if I can adjust her sleepingschedule so that she‘s awake when he gets home from work.‖Anne nodded. ―See if you can convince him to talk to you. He doesn‘t want his mother fussing over him athis age, but he might be willing to open up to you.‖
Anne and Ericka had good cause to be worried. Eldon had been doing an excellent job of keeping how illhe truly was from his family. He was frequently overcome by coughing fits that left him completelyexhausted. As a result, he could often be found napping on the sofa in front of the fire. His weakness hadeven affected his work; his bosses had even go so far as to suggest that Eldon take a leave of absenceuntil his strength returned.
Nothing seemed to be able to lift Eldon‘s spirits. Nothing, save one small thing. Whenever he heard hisdaughter‘s voice, he smiled. Consequently, he passed as much time in the nursery with Cordelia aspossible.―Papa! Up!‖ she cried.―Yes, Cordy,‖ he said.
―My, you‘ve gotten big. When did that happen?‖―It‘s my birthday soon, Papa. I‘s gonna be big girl.‖―Yes, you are,‖ he sighed.
―Papa loves you, Cordelia. Very much. You are my life, sweet child.‖―Cordy loves Papa.‖Eldon smiled. ―Now, let me put you down, and I‘ll teach you a song that my Mama taught me. Would youlike that?‖―Yes!‖
Eldon was relieved that Cordelia agreed to his plan. She had grown quite a bit, and Eldon‘s arms weretired from holding her for those few short moments. Soon, he knew, she would be too big for him to pick upand hold, and that thought terrified him.
Anne prepared pork chops, Eldon‘s favorite that night. She had also made sure that the dining room waswarm enough to suit Eldon, though the rest of the family was rather uncomfortable. Ericka kept theconversation steered away from the elephant in the room, Eldon‘s pallor and the growing dark circlesaround his eyes, and Joseph interjected with comments about his work.
Still, dinner was a somewhat forced affair that night. The conversation and good food couldn‘t hide the factthat everyone was thinking about Eldon‘s health.―Is something wrong with the pork chops, Eldon? I prepared them the way you like them.‖―No, they‘re delicious, Mama. I just don‘t have much of an appetite this evening.‖―Well, do the best you can. You‘re getting dreadfully thin, Eldon. Maybe the blueberry pie I made fordessert will tempt you.‖―I don‘t think so, Mama. Please, excuse me. I think I‘m going to get ready to retire for the night.‖Eldon left the table, and the rest of the family stopped eating, all three pairs of eyes following his exit.―I‘ll clean up,‖ Ericka said quickly, gathering up the plates. ―I need to get Cordelia her bottle anyway.‖
Joseph rose from his chair as well, and went to pour himself a glass from the decanter that sat on thesideboard. He threw back the contents of the glass in one gulp.Anne, on the other hand, remained frozen in her chair. They soon heard the door to the kitchen open andclose, and the sound of Ericka‘s shoes going upstairs.
Anne let out a strangled, mournful noise. ―My little boy. My baby.‖
―Shh,‖ soothed Joseph.―I can‘t, Joseph. I just can‘t.‖―I know, Annie. I know.‖―There must be something…‖―Anne, I don‘t think there is. We‘ve done everything we can. It‘s out of our hands right now.‖―Poor Cordelia. Poor Ericka. I don‘t know how they‘ll bear it.‖―We‘ll help them as best we can, Anne. It‘s all we can do.‖
Ericka had never been what one would call religious, but she had learned to say her prayers every night.Even as an adult, she mostly repeated the rhyme she had learned as a child.Now I lay me down to sleepI pray the Lord my soul to keepIf I should die before I wakeI pray the Lord my soul to take.Nowadays, though, the childish prayer was replaced with a simpler one.Please, let my husband live. Let him grow strong again. Let him see his daughter grow up.As she knelt by her bed that warm summer night, her hands tightly clasped, tears leaking from her eyes,she repeated that thought over and over in her mind.
―Ericka, is everything all right? Why are you crying?‖―I‘m not crying,‖ she insisted, getting up from her knees.―Yes, you were,‖ he said. ―What‘s wrong?‖She recoiled from his touch, and climbed onto the bed. Eldon followed her, and wrapped himself aroundhis wife.
―You‘re not getting better.‖―No, I‘m not.‖―You‘re not going to make it through the summer, are you?―I don‘t think so, love. The doctor, thought he couldn‘t be certain, is pretty sure that I‘ve got consumption.‖Ericka made a strangled noise, and Eldon squeezed her shoulder. ―I don‘t want to live without you,‖ shewhispered.―But you have to. Cordy will need you to be strong.‖Ericka muttered something unintelligible. ―What was that?‖ Eldon asked.―It‘s nothing. Just me being silly.‖―What do you want, love?‖―You can‘t…‖ she began, but the determined look in Eldon‘s eyes stopped her. ―I wish we could haveanother child,‖ she said softly. Eldon sighed. ―I know you‘re not strong enough. It would just be nice tohave another piece of you here.‖―We can try. I‘m not making any promises, but we can try.‖―Thank you,‖ she whispered.
While the Bear family struggled silently, the rest of Simsfield continued to function normally. One lazySaturday, James finally kept his promise to his cousin to visit.―Taddy, see who‘s here to see you,‖ Lizzie announced.
―James!‖ he cried, abandoning his game of chess to rush over to his cousin. ―You came.‖―I promised you I would. I can‘t wait to play in your yard.‖
―We‘re going to have so much fun today. Oh! Let me introduce you to my other friend who came overtoday. He‘s a year or two ahead of us in school, but he‘s still loads of fun. Sterling?‖
Sterling came into the room, and immediately walked over to James.―I‘m Sterling Alcott. I live in the big house near the town square. You‘re James Bradford, and you live infarmhouse over that way,‖ he said, gesturing.―How do you know who I am and where I live?‖―Everybody knows who the Bradfords of Simsfield are. That‘s what my Mama says. She says you‘re likeSimerican royalty, which is why you can get away with so much.‖James frowned. ―My family‘s not royalty.‖―But you‘ve been in Massimchusetts for ages. Practically everybody in town can trace their roots back toyour family.‖James shrugged. ―And the same is true about the Gavigans and the Thompsons. My family‘s old, but thatdoesn‘t make it special.‖Sterling regarded James for a moment. ―I guess you‘re right. Say, Taddy and I were going to play tagbefore you came. Want to join us?‖―Would I!‖
The rest of the early afternoon was consumed by a rousing game of tag. Despite Sterling‘s initialmisgivings about James, he found that he was quite the athlete. James never did get tagged, and poorTaddy was ―it‖ more often than he would have liked.
―Boys,‖ called Lizzie, ―I think it‘s gotten too hot for you to be running around so much. I made somelemonade, and then you can play on in the solarium for a while.‖―Aw, shucks,‖ said Sterling. ―I was winning, too.‖―Can we play the new game Uncle Jefferson brought for my birthday?‖ asked Taddy.Lizzie nodded. It‘s all set up for you boys.‖―Come on, you guys. Uncle Jefferson‘s games are the best!‖
The boys played and chatted.―Why does your Mama talk about my family like that?‖ James asked, thinking of what Sterling said earlier.―I don‘t know, but she doesn‘t seem to like them very much. Especially your papa. I wonder why.‖―That‘s strange, because I‘ve never heard Papa or Mama talk about your family.‖―That is strange,‖ interjected Taddy. ―I‘ll have to ask my Mama – she is Uncle Jefferson‘s twin sister afterall. She and Uncle Jefferson talk all the time. I be she knows something.‖
At that moment, Lizzie walked into the room. She had worried when James and Sterling were introduced,that Sterling would say something that would make James and Taddy start asking questions, and itseemed that her fears were founded.―It‘s getting late, boys. I think it‘s time for you to be heading home.‖
―Thanks for letting me come over, Aunt Lizzie.‖―Yes, thank you Mrs. Seiff.‖―Come back soon,‖ she smiled as the boys took of running towards their homes in opposite directions.
―Did you have a nice afternoon?‖―I did, Mama. James and Sterling did too, I think.‖―I‘m glad to hear it.‖―Mama, why doesn‘t Mrs. Alcott like Uncle Jefferson?‖―Taddy, the answer to that question in very complicated, and I don‘t have the time to answer it now. It‘stime for you to get washed up and ready for dinner, because your Papa will be home soon.‖
While Taddy rushed upstairs to get ready for dinner, Lizzie went to the hallway where the telephone waslocated.―Hello? Jefferson? It‘s Lizzie. No, nothing‘s wrong. Not really.‖ She sighed. ―Jefferson, I thought youshould know that James met someone while he was over here today. Who? Sterling Alcott, Melanie‘sson.‖
The next morning, Taddy brought up the subject of his Uncle Jefferson and Melanie Alcott again.―I‘m not sure that‘s something that you need to know, Taddy,‖ replied Jason to his son‘s questions.―Jason, I think it‘s important for Taddy to hear the facts from us, instead of any gossip from outsiders.‖―Please?‖Jason nodded, giving his consent for Lizzie to tell the story.
―A very long time ago,‖ Lizzie began, ―when your Uncle Jefferson and I were in college, your UncleJefferson and Mrs. Alcott were very good friends. Of course, she was Miss Miller then. They were suchgood friends, in fact, that your Uncle Jefferson asked Mrs. Alcott to marry him.‖Taddy gasped. ―But he married Aunt Marsha instead. Why?‖―I‘m getting to that. You see, Uncle Jefferson had always liked Aunt Marsha, but they had a little fight.Uncle Jefferson asked Mrs. Alcott to marry him while he was still mad at Aunt Marsha. But then, UncleJefferson realized that he cared more for Aunt Marsha than Mrs. Alcott, so he changed his mind, andmarried Aunt Marsha instead.‖―When did he change his mind?‖Lizzie took a deep breath. She had hoped that Taddy wouldn‘t ask that. ―Uncle Jefferson left Mrs. Alcott atthe alter.‖
―Uncle Jefferson jilted Mrs. Alcott? No wonder she‘s still steamed!‖Lizzie nodded. ―Do you understand now why she might say not nice things about our family?‖Taddy nodded, and returned his attention to his pancakes. After a few bites, he spoke again. ―But thatwas years and years ago, wasn‘t it Mama?‖―Yes.‖―Seems like an awful long time to stay mad about something. After all, Mr. Alcott is a nice man, andSterling is a good boy. Things worked out okay for her in the end, didn‘t they?‖―They did, Taddy, but some people have long memories. Now, I‘m sure you understand that this is aprivate family matter, so you shouldn‘t talk about it to your friends.‖―Not even James?‖―Especially not James. I‘m sure that Uncle Jefferson and Aunt Marsha will tell him when they‘re ready.‖
―I didn‘t know that he would be there, Marsha. I wouldn‘t have let him go if I had.‖―I know that, Jefferson. But Melanie‘s dislike of you is well know around town. I‘m sure that Sterling‘sheard her slandering you, and I‘m sure he said something to James – you know how children are.‖―So we explain it to him. It‘s not that big of a deal.‖
―It is a big deal, Jefferson. Don‘t you see? James is already weary of me, because of your mother. Thiswill be just another reason for him to dislike me!‖―Marsha, you don‘t know that‘s what will happen.‖―But it could! Your mother has already done enough damage – damage that I don‘t know if I‘ll be able toundo. But now his friends…no, I won‘t stand for it.‖
―Marsha, I know that this is difficult. But let‘s look at the facts for a moment. We knew that James wouldfind out about Mrs. Alcott and I at some point. Would you rather he hear the truth from us, that I was thecad in the whole mess, or believe the gossip?‖Marsha sighed. ―I just wish that she‘d decided to settle elsewhere. It would make everything so muchsimpler.‖―I know, but the damage, so to speak, has been done.‖She nodded. ―I‘m sorry I was cross. I just don‘t feel like myself of late,‖ she said as she placed her handson her midsection.―That‘s understandable. Now, I‘m going to go talk to James. Join me in a little while?‖
Over in Portsimouth, Victor and Jane had returned from their honeymoon in the mountains just in time forMeadow and Phily‘s birthday party.
As the two youngest members of generation four prepared to make their transition into elderhood, both hadto agree that they were rather content. Both wished for their daughter and her husband to know as muchjoy as they had.
After the party was over, Phily found herself in her and Meadow‘s room, thinking. Things had turned outquite well for her, but she still felt like something was missing.
―What‘s bothering you?‖ asked Meadow as she came into the room.―I was just thinking about Alex. It‘s been so long since I‘ve seen him. I wonder if we‘ll ever see each otheragain.‖―We can go and visit him if you‘d like.‖―Not for a while we can‘t,‖ retorted Phily.
―You know that Jane would never forgive us if we went off gallivanting while she‘s carrying our firstgrandchild.‖
―You‘re right,‖ relented Meadow. ―You always are. We could write and invite them to visit us.‖Phily shook her head. ―They‘ve got no reason to come back East now. Maybe in a year or so, I can go outthere and see them. But now, we‘ve got our daughter to think about.‖
A few days later, the family was enjoying Meadow‘s showing off the latest music she had learned. Thedoorbell rang, and the group looked at each other in surprise.―We weren‘t expecting any callers today,‖ stated Henri.―Do you want me to get the door, Aunt Phily?‖ asked Victor.―No, I‘ll go see who it is.‖
―I hope they‘re home,‖ a white-haired woman remarked.―They are. Can‘t you hear the piano playing?‖ the man with her replied. ―Someone will get the door in amoment.‖
―Yes?‖ asked Phily as she opened the door. When she saw who it was, she took an involuntary stepforward.―Hi, baby sister.‖
―Alex!‖ Phily cried. ―Oh, Alex.‖―It‘s been a long time, hasn‘t it?‖―Far too long. Come in. Everyone‘s here.‖―Wonderful. You can meet Peter, our son, and his fiancée, Lenora, as well.‖
―Look, everyone,‖ she beamed. ―Alex is here, and Katie and Peter, and Lenora are with him.‖
The room filled with excited shouts. Introductions were quickly made, and the family enjoyed a happyafternoon filled with overlapping conversations, retelling of old stories, and a new generation getting toknow each other.
―I really wish Jane was feeling up to joining us tonight,‖ said Victor, as the family sat down for dinner. ―It‘sso great to have the Western branch of the Bradford family here with us at long last.‖―Thank you, Victor. Your Aunt Katie and I couldn‘t leave Portsimouth until we‘d called, of course.‖―You should have told us that you were coming,‖ chided Phily. ―There was no need for the expense of ahotel when you have family in town.‖―Phily, I already told you,‖ replied Alex. ―With Peter and Lenora‘s graduation from college, we were here forseveral weeks. That‘s too long to impose on anyone‘s hospitality.‖―It‘s too bad Mr. Thompson couldn‘t be here too,‖ sighed Meadow.―My father wanted to visit his family in Simsfield,‖ replied Lenora. ―He hasn‘t seen his brother Abraham injust as long.‖―Understandable,‖ replied Henri. ―Are you calling on anyone else while you‘re here?‖―No. We sent letters to Anne and Diana, but I guess Eldon‘s unwell. Besides, all the family that I reallycare about is right here,‖ stated Alex.
―Here, here!‖ said Victor. A toast to family!‖ he said, raising his glass.―To family,‖ the rest of the group chorused.―Well, dig in! Aunt Meadow worked very hard on this dinner, and it would be a shame to let it go to waste.‖
―I wish you didn‘t have to go so soon,‖ sighed Phily a few hours later. ―It doesn‘t seem quite right.‖―We‘ll be in town a few days longer. Lenora‘s got her heart set on getting married in PortsimouthCathedral. You all should come. It will be nice to have family there.‖―We‘ll be there. Me, Meadow, Henri, Victor, and Jane, if she‘s feeling up to it.‖―Wonderful. See you soon, sis.‖―See you soon, Alex.‖
A few weeks later, Lenora and Peter exchanged wedding vows in Portsimouth Cathedral, just as Lenorahad wanted. Jane was well enough to attend, as was the rest of her family, and Lenora‘s Uncle Abrahamand Aunt Gretchen were there as well. It was a lovely ceremony, and the small luncheon at one ofPortsimouth‘s restaurants was fine as well.Not long after the wedding, Peter, Lenora, Alex, Katie and Isaac hopped on a train to head back to SimtaFe.
Over at the Bear household, Eldon was growing weaker and weaker. He had been forced to take a leavefrom his job, and even getting out of bed in the morning had become a chore. Still, he forced himself to doit every day, if only so that he could spend a little time with Cordelia.
Soon, it was time for Cordelia to become a child. It was a bittersweet moment for Eldon. He wantednothing more than the best for his little girl, and to have her grow up happy and healthy made his heartsoar. Still, he knew that this could be the last of Cordelia‘s birthdays that he saw made him sad.
She grew into such a pretty little girl too, so much like her mother. But her eyes were Eldon‘s, a fact thatbrought Ericka great comfort.
―Mama, why can‘t I go over to Cordelia‘s house? And why doesn‘t she come here?‖ demanded CallaMenon, daughter of Esther, Eldon‘s twin, and her husband Jason.―Calla, your cousin can‘t have visitors right now, because your Uncle Eldon is unwell,‖ answered Jason.―He‘s getting better, though,‖ insisted Esther.Jason closed his eyes and counted to ten before he replied. ―So, you can see why Cordelia wants to stayclose to home right now.‖Calla nodded. ―Can I go play with Muriel tomorrow then?‖―The Gavigan‘s daughter? Of course you may. Remember – you need to be home by supper.‖―Yes, Papa. Thank you, Papa.‖
Later that night, as Esther was cleaning up from dinner, she thought about what she‘d said to her daughterthat night. She wanted to believe more than anything that her brother would be okay, that he wouldrecover from his illness, but in her heart, she feared the worst. He had never been strong, even as a child,and Esther had protected him from everything to classmate‘s taunts to carrying heavy books home fromschool. For the first time, there was nothing she could do to help her brother, and that was what botheredher most of all.
Please, she thought, please let my brother survive. His wife needs him. His daughter needs him. Hismother and father need him. I need him. Please, let Eldon live. Please.
―Look at me, Papa! See how high I can swing.‖
―I see, Cordelia. Very impressive.‖―She‘s a spunky one, just like her grandmother,‖ smiled Joseph.―That she is,‖ Eldon smiled, and suppressed a yawn.―If you‘re tired, why don‘t you take a nap? We‘ll wake you up in an hour or so.‖―Thanks, Father.‖
Eldon reclined in his chair, and was soon snoring.
The rest of the family, save Cordelia, sat rather quietly, their thoughts on the man now sleeping in thechaise. They sipped at their tea, and occasionally took a bite of a sweet, but the only other noise was thechirping of the birds and the gentle creaking of the swing set as Cordelia played.
Later that night, the family gathered for dinner. Eldon didn‘t join them in the dining room.―Why isn‘t Papa joining us?‖ demanded Cordelia.―Cordelia, don‘t be quite so forceful with your tone. Your father is tired, so he resting right now,‖ repliedEricka.―But he napped all afternoon. How can he still be tired?‖―He just is, Cordelia,‖ said Ericka in a tone that clearly indicated the matter was closed. Still, Cordeliawasn‘t satisfied with her mother‘s answer. As soon as dinner was over, she rushed up the stairs to theroom her father and mother shared.
Cordelia hesitated for several moments before she pushed open the door to her parent‘s bedroom.―Sweetheart, what are you doing here? Isn‘t it dinner time?‖She nodded. ―Why didn‘t you come down? I missed you.‖―I‘m very tired, honey. That‘s why Mama brought a tray up for me,‖ he said, gesturing with his hand.―You‘ve hardly touched it.‖Eldon sighed. ―No, I haven‘t. I‘m not very hungry tonight.‖―Papa, what‘s wrong with you?‖―Come here, Cordy. Take my hand.‖
She did, and quickly dropped it. ―Your hand is like ice, Papa. Why?‖―I‘m ill, Cordy.‖―But you‘ll get better, right Papa?‖Eldon shook his head. ―I don‘t think so.‖―You have to, Papa!‖ she cried.―Cordy, I would like nothing more than to tell you that I‘ll get better, but you‘re a big girl now, and I don‘twant to lie to you. I‘m very ill, and I‘m probably not going to live for much longer.‖―NO!‖ she exclaimed, running towards the window.Eldon rose off the bed with some difficulty, and made his way to the chair by the window. ―Come sit withme, Cordy.‖She shook her head.―Please, sweetheart?‖
Cordelia moved towards her father, and climbed into his lap. Eldon stroked his daughter‘s hair, and thetwo were silent for a long time.―I don‘t want you to die, Papa,‖ she whispered at long last.―I don‘t want to die, either, Cordy. There‘s nothing I want more than to see you grow up and get married,and have babies of your own. But I was never strong like you. I‘m lucky to have lived as long as I have.‖―Are you scared?‖ ―A little. A lot. Mostly, I‘m going to miss the people I love, like you, Mama, and Grandmamma. But I knowthat I‘ll see all of you again someday.‖Eldon could feel his daughter‘s tears seeping through his robe, and he tightened his hold on her with hisweak arms. ―It‘s okay to be sad, Cordy. But you need to be brave, too.‖
―It‘s easier to be brave with you around.‖Eldon kissed her black locks. ―I know, sweetheart. Just remember that I will always be with you, no matterwhat happens. I love you very much.‖―I love you, Papa.‖―Would you like me to read you a bedtime story?‖―You don‘t have to, Papa. I know how tired you are.‖―If my little girl wants a bedtimes story, I‘ll find the energy to read it to her. Now, go downstairs and pick outa book and meet me in your room.‖
Eldon hadn‘t made it to Cordelia‘s room by the time she had retrieved the book, so she dragged herottoman over to her bedside for her father to sit on. He smiled gratefully, and settled in to read hisdaughter to sleep one last time.
Over at the Bradford farm, Marsha was finally feeling well enough to play with Viola. Like her pregnancywith Viola, Marsha was very tired this time around. She was hoping that it would mean a sister for Viola,because Marsha had always wanted a sister of her own.―Sing again, Mama.‖―You liked the song, sweetness?‖―Yes, Mama.‖Marsha began to sing the song again, and Viola sang along with her. For someone so young, Viola had asurprisingly good voice.
―That was lovely, dear,‖ cooed Marsha.―Wanna go play now, Mama.‖―With your xylophone?‖―No, Mama. I wants to draw pi‘tures.‖
Viola favorite way to pass her days, when she wasn‘t being coddled by her parents, was to scribble awayat the artist‘s table that Jefferson had brought home for her, after he discovered her trying to get into the oilpaint they kept for the easel. Her concentration was amazing – she would spend hours with her crayons,and would often angrily cross out something that she wasn‘t fully stratified with. Marsha proudly displayedthe drawings on the walls of the nursery.―Soon, I big girl,‖ Viola would say. ―Make big girl pi‘tures with big girl e‘sel.‖
Marsha would have liked to spend more time with James as well, but he was so often passing the finesummer days with his new friends. She was glad that he was getting out of the house so much, because itmeant that he wasn‘t spending much time under Jan‘s influence. That eased Marsha‘s mind greatly,especially since she was spending so much time in bed, exhausted from her pregnancy.
Marsha needn‘t have been so concerned about James and his grandmother‘s influence over him. Jameswas a very observant boy, and he had noticed something that had him confused. His grandmother, whoprofessed she was the only one who truly loved him, was often not the one who took care of him. Mamawas the one who cooked, Papa the one who went to work to earn money that bought James little gamesand trinkets that he liked, and Grandpa the one who got the books on the high shelves in the library thatJames couldn‘t yet reach.Grandma would often take credit for many of these things, but James knew she was fibbing. And he hadalso noticed that Aunt Lizzie rarely came over to visit; instead, Papa always went to her house. He hadasked Taddy about it, and Taddy said that it was because Aunt Lizzie and Grandma didn‘t get along.James had come to think the world of his aunt, who always welcomed him warmly whenever he went overto her house, and her cookie jar always seemed to be full for him and Taddy to swipe from after they gothungry from their afternoon romps. So, if Aunt Lizzie wasn‘t too fond of Grandma, James thought thatthere must be a good reason for that.
―Why are you inside on such a nice day, James? Shouldn‘t you be out playing with your little friends?‖―Taddy got a really bad sunburn, so Aunt Lizzie made him stay in bed all day.‖―Well, that was very smart of your Aunt Elizabeth,‖ replied Jan, putting emphasis on her daughter‘s fullname. ―But it‘s far too nice a day to be indoors. Would you like to play catch with me?‖James knew that catch with Grandma meant her throwing the ball, and them him running over to hand itback to her (really, Grandma should call it throw instead of catch if that was how she insisted on playing it),and that wasn‘t what James wanted to do at that moment.―No, thank you,‖ he said politely. ―I think I‘ll go take a walk into town.‖―Would you like some pocket money so you can buy some candy.‖―Papa already gave me some.‖
James rushed out the back door, intent on heading to the general store to fill his pockets with candy. Hepaused as he passed the garden plot that Marsha was tending as of late. The tomatoes were ready to bepicked, but he knew that his mother wouldn‘t get to it until later. The neat freak in James couldn‘t bear tosee the fresh produce wilting in the sun. He went back into the kitchen for one of the baskets that Marshaused when she harvested, and began to carefully pick the tomatoes off the vines.
Marsha came out a few moments later, a basket of her own in hand.―What are you doing, James?‖―Picking.‖―You don‘t have to do that. I can manage.‖James shrugged. ―Taddy can‘t play today, and I was bored. Besides, Grandma said I should be outside.‖―Well, it‘s very sweet of you to help me. I really appreciate it.‖―You‘re welcome, Mama. Say, why doesn‘t Grandma help you?‖―Grandma really doesn‘t like gardening.‖―Oh.‖ There was silence a comfortable silence as the pair focused their attention on the plants in front ofthem. ―Still, she ought to help you, even if she doesn‘t like it.‖Marsha turned so that James wouldn‘t see the smile that was crossing her face. It seemed that Jan‘s holdon her son was slipping.
―So you feel better?‖ asked James as he chatted with Taddy on the telephone that night. ―Good. Weshould go play ball on the common tomorrow. Yeah, I‘ll get Mama to pack me a lunch. Okay, see youthen.‖
―You‘re going to spend the entire day with your cousin tomorrow?‖James nodded. ―A bunch of us are going to play ball.‖―Shouldn‘t you be thinking about getting ready for when school starts in a next week? Academics areimportant.‖―I read a bunch of books this summer, Grandpa. Besides, school starting up again is an ever better reasonfor me and Taddy to enjoy summer while we can.‖Matthew shook his head. ―Young people these days.‖
That night, after what seemed like weeks of trying, Viola finally took her first tentative steps into Jefferson‘soutstretched arms.―That‘s my big girl,‖ the proud papa applauded. ―I‘m so proud of you sweetheart.‖―Big girl e‘sel now, Papa?‖―Not just yet, Viola. You still have another year to go before you can use the big girl easel. But when youare a little older, I‘ll get you one of your own. How about that?‖―Yay! My own e‘sel!‖Yes, when you grow up. Now, it‘s time to put you down for bed.‖
A week later, Jan was still upset over James‘ earlier refusal to play with her. James, until very recently,had always wanted to spend time with her. If the boy insisted on playing with his little friends, how wouldshe be able to keep his affections away from his mother?―You‘re doing horribly,‖ commented Matthew as he entered the billiards room.Jan sniffed. ―I am aware of that fact, dear husband.‖―What has you in such a foul mood?‖―James would rather play with his friends than me.‖
―I told you that your plan was risky, Jan. I don‘t know why you‘re so surprised that it no longer works.‖―I can‘t understand it! He worshiped me when he was a toddler...‖―And now he has playmates his own age. Is it any wonder he‘d rather play with them?‖―I suppose you‘re right. It will be even worse now that he‘s in school most of the day. Still, that presents anopportunity of its own.‖―Oh?‖―Of course, silly. With someone due to give birth soon, who but Grandma will step in to assist the boy withhis schoolwork?‖
Moments later, Jan heard the front door open and then James appeared in the game room.―Did you have a nice first day of school?‖James nodded. ―Taddy and me are seatmates.‖―You meant to say ‗Taddy and I,‘ didn‘t you?‖James shrugged.―Well, did the teacher give you any homework?‖The boy nodded again.―Would you like me to help you with it?‖
―I don‘t think that will be necessary,‖ interrupted Marsha. ―James asked me last night if I would help himwith any schoolwork he might get.‖―Hmph,‖ sniffed Jan. ―Are you sure you‘re feeling up to it?‖―I‘m perfectly well. Now, we should go someplace quiet to work on your assignment, James. May we useyour study?‖ she asked, looking at Matthew.―Of course you may.‖―Very good. Come along, James.‖―Yes, Mama.‖
―Do you understand now, James?‖ Marsha asked as he put the finishing touches on his essay.―Uh-huh,‖ he muttered. ―I bet that my essay is the best one tomorrow!‖―I hope so, James. Now, why don‘t you go practice the piano for a little while?‖―Aw, can‘t I play outside for a while?‖Marsha shook her head. ―I‘ve been very generous this summer, letting you play with your friendswhenever you wanted. Now that fall is almost fully upon us, it‘s time for you to focus a little more on yourskills, like homework and the piano.‖James made a face, and for a moment, Marsha thought that James was going to pitch a fit, and demandplaytime. His feature tightened, but after a very long moment, they relaxed. ―Okay. If I practice the pianotonight, can I play with Taddy this weekend?‖Marsha smiled. ―Yes, you may. Now, go practice while I see to dinner.‖
After dinner, James insisted on showing Marsha the new song he had learned.―Very good, James.‖―So I can go play with Taddy on Saturday?‖―Yes, you may. But now, it‘s time for you to go to bed.‖James closed the cover of the piano, and blew his mother a kiss. Marsha smiled as she closed thecurtains in the room, readying it for the night ahead.―That‘s strange,‖ she commented to the empty room, as she shut the drapes on the windows facingtowards the main part of town. ―The Menon‘s house is all lit up. Jason usually works nights, so Estherretires not long after her daughter. I hope that nothing‘s wrong.‖
―Oh, Papa,‖ sobbed Esther.―Shh, darling. You‘ve known this was coming.‖―But he‘s my twin brother, Jason. And he‘s gone.‖Joseph put his hand on his daughter‘s shoulder. ―I know, sweetheart. I wish that I hadn‘t had to come heretonight to tell you our sad news. But Eldon‘s in a better place now, a place where he isn‘t suffering anylonger.‖―You‘re right, Papa. I‘m just being selfish. How are Ericka and Cordelia holding up? And Mama?‖Joseph sighed. ―As well as can be expected, I supposed. Your mother…she‘s heartbroken. We had tocall the doctor to get a tonic for her nerves so that she could sleep.‖―Poor Mama.‖
―You should get back to Mama, Papa. She needs you more than I do right now.‖―Take care, sweetness,‖ Joseph implored as he hugged his daughter and shook his son-in-law‘s hand.―I will. I‘ll be over first thing in the morning to help with the arrangements.‖―Your mother and Ericka will appreciate that. Goodnight.‖
After Joseph left, Esther found herself in her daughter‘s room, watching Calla sleep.
It was several hours later when Jason found her there, tears silently streaming down her face.―Esther,‖ he said softly, not wanting to wake the sleeping girl.Esther shook her head. ―I don‘t know how Mama can bear it. If something happened to Calla…‖―Nothing‘s going to happen to our daughter. And you have a lot to do tomorrow to help your family; youneed your rest.‖
―Why are you dressed like that?‖ demanded Calla a few days later.―Your mother and I have to go to your Uncle Eldon‘s funeral today,‖ replied Jason as he straightened histie. ―Esther, I‘ll be downstairs. We need to leave in a few minutes.‖―Can‘t I go?‖―I‘ll be right there, Jason. No, Calla. It‘s going to be a very small affair. Family only.‖―But I‘m family!‖ she insisted.
―Yes, you are family, Calla. But Aunt Ericka and Grandma didn‘t want you to miss school for this.‖―But he‘s my uncle.‖―I know, Calla. But we have a very important job for you. We need you to go to school, and take very goodnotes, and get all the assignments that Cordelia‘s going to miss. Can you do that for us?‖―Yes, Mama. I can make sure that Cordelia get everything that she needs so she doesn‘t fall behind inschool.‖―Thank you, dear. Now, Papa and I might not be home when you get back from school. Can I trust you tobe a good girl while we‘re gone?‖Calla nodded. ―Give Grandma and Auntie Ericka and Cordelia big hugs for me?‖―I‘ll do that, Calla,‖ Esther agreed, kissing her daughter on the forehead. ―Now, you need to get off toschool, and your Papa and I need to be going.‖
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past, I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,And with old woes new wail my dear times waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,For precious friends hid in deaths dateless night,And weep afresh loves long since cancelled woe,And moan the expense of many a vanished sight.
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone, And heavily from woe to woe tell oerThe sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan, Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend, All losses are restored and sorrows end.—William Shakespeare, Sonnet 30
Esther and Jason were not back from the funeral by the time Calla returned home from school. Calla didher homework, copied her notes for her cousin and set them in a neat pile with a copy of the homework,and then settled into the parlor with a book, content to read until her parents came home.
Esther and Jason arrived home about an hour and a half after Calla had. Jason immediately headedupstairs to change for work, but Esther saw the swath of red hair sticking out over the top of the couch, andshe went to sit with her daughter.
―Thank you for being a good girl while we were gone.‖―You‘re welcome, Mama. I made a copy of my notes for Cordelia, and the homework too, and I left themon the table in the foyer.‖―I saw that. I‘m sure that Aunt Ericka and Cordelia will appreciate it very much.‖―How is Auntie Ericka?‖―Still sad, but she‘s doing a little better.‖―Do you think we can go see them this weekend, so I can bring Cordelia her schoolwork?‖―I think that they would like that very much.‖
And as the summer waned, Ericka and Anne‘s spirits continued to increase. True, they still deeply missedthe man who had touched their lives as husband and son, but they soon discovered that life would moveon, and they had something to look forward to.
―It is a brother or a sister, Mama?‖―I don‘t know, Cordelia. We won‘t know until the baby arrives in the fall. What do you want? A sister?‖―No, I want a brother, so we can name him after Papa.‖Ericka smiled. ―I‘m not sure that‘s what your father would have wanted. But if it is a boy, we can use Eldonfor his middle name. How does that sound?‖―I like that, Mama. I like that a lot. And if it‘s a girl?‖―All I care about is that the baby is strong and healthy. But,‖ she confessed, ―it would be nice if it had yourfather‘s blue eyes.‖―Like me!‖―Just like you.‖
―Oh, dear God, make it stop!‖ screamed Jane. ―Please, make it stop!!!‖―What can I do? What can I do?‖ Victor repeated over and over again.―My little girl,‖ cried Meadow and Phily in turn.―Everyone, quiet!‖ demanded Henri. ―Except you, Jane. You can scream all you want. Victor, I say thiskindly, but get out of here and go make yourself useful by calling the doctor. Stay downstairs when you‘vedone so. Meadow, help Jane back into bed. Phily, see to linens.‖Grateful that someone had taken charge of the situation, each member of the household rushed off to theirappointed task.
―See, it was all worth it, wasn‘t it?‖ asked Henri when the baby had safely arrived.―Yes,‖ Jane smiled, her eyes only for the bundle in her arms.―Victor‘s hair and eyes,‖ sighed Meadow. ―I had hoped he‘d get your eyes, at least.‖―He has Jane‘s skin tone,‖ Phily said in consolatory tones.―He has a name, you know,‖ returned Jane. ―Asher. Asher Hutchins.‖―That he does,‖ agreed Henri. ―And I had better go get Victor before he wears a path in the carpets fromhis pacing.‖
What’s taking so long? Should I go up there? Is the baby okay? Is Jane okay? Why hasn’t anyone toldme anything?
―Victor.‖ Henri‘s voice broke through her son‘s thoughts. ―You can go upstairs now and meet your son.‖
―I‘m a father!‖ he cried with joy.―Yes, you are. And I‘ll wager that you‘ll be a fine one. Now go upstairs. Your darling wife is eager to showoff your boy.‖
―There you are, Asher. You‘ve been fed, you have clean nappy, and now, it‘s time for you to go to sleep.Sweet dreams,‖ Jane cooed.She looked up to see Victor watching her, his eyes darting between her and Asher. ―You can come overhere and get a closer look,‖ she teased. ―You‘re not going to hurt him.‖
―He‘s so small,‖ muttered Victor, as he looked closer at his son. ―I don‘t know,‖ he muttered softly.―Don‘t know what?‖―I don‘t know if I‘ll be a good father to him. It‘s not like I had a glowing example myself.‖
―Victor Hutchins, I‘ll not hear you talk like that. You‘ll be a wonderful father. Who cares what yours waslike. Do you love your son?‖―Yes, I do.‖―That‘s all that matters. The rest will come.‖―Thank you, Jane. I don‘t know what I‘d do without you.‖―And I love you too. Now, I‘m going to bed – I‘m exhausted. Join me?‖
Viola‘s birthday had finally arrived, and she was toddling around the first floor as she waited for her party tostart. She found her way into the parlor, where the ―big girl e‘sel‖ was kept, and she looked up at it infascination. Very shortly, she would be able to use it, and that would allow her to make even morepictures.
―There you are!‖ exclaimed Jefferson. ―Papa has been looking everywhere for you.‖―I use big girl e‘sel, Papa.‖―As soon as you have your cake and grow up, I have a surprise for you.‖―E‘sel?‖―Yes, Viola. I got you your own easel. Now let‘s go have your cake. Do you like the sound of that?‖―Yes. Cake, then e‘sel so I make pi‘tures!‖
So Marsha, James, and Jefferson gathered in the dining room to celebrate Viola becoming a child.Matthew and Jan, however, were nowhere to be found.
As had her brother, Viola grew up extremely well. As soon as she had finished her cake, she rushed up toher bedroom for the surprise her father had promised.
The little easel was the perfect size for Viola, and she squealed with delight. She immediately picked upthe brush and began to paint as she had been longing to do for quite some time.
But the evening‘s excitement wasn‘t over yet. Suddenly, Marsha went into labor with her third child.
Before long, Marsha was holding another brown-haired, blue-eyed baby in her arms.―Hello, precious,‖ she cooed at the child. ―It‘s nice to meet you at last.‖
―Everyone, say hello to little Cyrus.‖―Another boy!‖ boomed Matthew. ―Excellent work.‖Jefferson put his hand on Marsha shoulder. ―No more?‖―No more. Three is enough. Especially after what I went through the last two times.‖Jefferson nodded. ―Why don‘t you go get Cyrus settled? You look exhausted.‖
With James and Viola both old enough to need a room of their own, Cyrus‘s bassinette was set up inMarsha and Jefferson‘s room. Jan, who had shown little interest in babies since James, decided thatCyrus warranted her attention.―So malleable,‖ she muttered. ―I‘ll win you over too, just like I did with your brother.‖―Step away from my son.‖Jan looked up, shocked that Marsha had managed to slip into the room without her noticing. ―I beg yourpardon?‖―I said, step away from my son.‖Jan blinked at Marsha, not believing what she was hearing.―Have you gone deaf in your old age? Step. Away. From. My. Son.‖
―You‘re overreacting as usual,‖ stated Jan as she took a small step away from the crib.―Overreacting? Overreacting??? I know what you did with James, when I was so ill while carrying Violathat I had to keep to my bed. You tried to tell him that I didn‘t love him, and that you were the only one whodid. Well, in case you hadn‘t noticed, it didn‘t work.‖―You‘re delusional.‖―Really? Then why did I just hear you say that you would win over Cyrus like you did James?‖
―Because you deserve it! You ruined everything I had planned for my son. If it wasn‘t for your meddling,he would have married Melanie, the woman I wanted for him. But no, you had to step in where you weren‘twanted, and steal him away from her. I was humiliated when he jilted her; I couldn‘t go out in society forweeks. And it‘s all your fault.‖―Did it ever occur to you that Jefferson left Melanie and ran off with me because he loved me, and not her?‖―What does that have to do with anything?‖―If you had ever really loved someone, you would understand. Love is about wanting the other person tobe happy, no matter what. But you wouldn‘t understand that – you married for position, had childrenbecause you were obligated to, and tried to force them into marriages for your own benefit. But it stopshere. You will never influence my children again. If I catch you near them again, so help me…‖
Cyrus let out a cry.―Look what you‘ve done now,‖ chastised Marsha. ―Your shouting woke him up, and now I‘ll have a dickensof a time getting him to sleep again.‖
―There, there, little one. It‘s all right. Mama‘s not going to let anyone hurt you.‖Jan sniffed, and swept out of the room.―I don‘t care about being polite anymore,‖ Marsha confessed. ―Your grandmother is a horrible woman, andI will not have her hurting anyone else.‖
Marsha went out to the yard, where she found Matthew watching the fish jumping in the pond.―You look sour. Any particular reason?‖Jan ―hmphed‖ and sat down next to her husband. ―She’s being unreasonable. Can you believe that shedoesn‘t want me near the children?‖
―Well, what did you expect was going to happen? You meddled with her children. Don‘t you rememberhow frustrated you would get at my mother when she would go against what you were trying to teachJefferson and Elizabeth?‖
―I don‘t believe this! You‘re taking her side?‖―I‘m not taking anyone‘s side, Jan. But from the beginning, you failed to see the flaw in your plan. Marsha,any mother for that matter, was never going to let you get away with trying to sway her children for long.The best thing to do now is to leave them be, and hope for the best. The children aren‘t turning out thatbad, after all. James is well-liked throughout the village, Viola has quite the artistic eye, and Cyrus, well,young as he is it‘s too soon to tell about him, but if his siblings are any indication, he‘ll be fine as well.‖Jan stared at her husband for a long time. ―You‘ve gone soft, Matthew Bradford,‖ she snapped, andstormed back into the house.
―Tell me again why you want to play with me,‖ asked Viola one day just before fall started.―Because, Aunt Lizzie is making Taddy study ‗cause he didn‘t do good on the last exam.‖―You ought to say ‗didn‘t do well.‘‖―Do you want to play or not?‖―Yes, I do. Red hands?‖―Red hands. I hope you‘re ready to lose, little sister.‖
―I can‘t believe you beat me,‖ said James an hour or so later.―Why, because I‘m a girl?‖―No, because I‘m older than you.‖Viola laughed. ―That doesn‘t mean anything. I‘m better than you at loads of stuff, like painting and spellingand…‖―Yeah, I know. You‘re a genius, and I‘m just average.‖―You‘re better than average James. Say, Grandma always seems to try to spend time with you. Has shetold you why she and Mama are fighting?‖ James raised his eyebrows, and Viola nodded. ―Yeah, theyhardly spoke before, but now the never do, and Mama watches Grandma any time she tries to talk with usor goes near the baby.‖―I don‘t know. Now that you mention it, Grandma hasn‘t tried to spend time with me like she usually does.That‘s strange.‖―Yeah it is.‖―Children,‖ Marsha‘s voice called through the open window, ―Time to come inside to celebrate yourbrother‘s birthday.‖―Yes!‖ exclaimed James. ―That means Mama baked a cake. Come on, Vi!‖
With the family gathered around, Jefferson brought his youngest to the cake that his wife had baked.
Little Cyrus was an adorable boy, but like his Aunt Lizzie, extremely shy. He was also a tidy boy, whocleaned up after himself without being told, and was just as nice as his father.Cyrus‘ main interest was playing with his blocks, and he seemed to have a knack for building tall, elaboratestructures. His favorite books included trains, and he seemed fascinated by the iron horses.―My little mechanical genius,‖ chuckled Jefferson. ―We‘ll have to keep a close eye on this one, or he‘ll starttaking things apart just to see how they work.‖
*************************************************************************************************************************That‘s all there is of Chapter 18. I hope you liked it.As the picture of Carolina scaring Jan was such a hit, I thought you would all enjoy another Bradfordmatriarch taking her shot at Simsfield‘s Public Enemy #1. This is Uma, generation two wife, getting hershot at Jan. As I already have 4 knowledge graves, I don‘t think I‘d mind too much if someone managed toscare Jan to death.Thank you for reading. Please leave all comments on the Bradford Legacy thread at Boolprop.com. Untilnext time!