That confrontation set in place a new paradigm, one in which Wyatt and Claudia stayed out of the main house almost entirely, Wyatt going to collect their afternoon and evening meals from Lydia at the side door. At first he had refused to return to the shared table out of anger for Claudia’s treatment, but then it had simply turned into a matter of mutual agreement and convenience. Everyone was just happier with as little interaction between the two family groups as possible, and Lydia seemed to delight in presenting the meal plates to Wyatt like he was some kind of wayward beggar. Isaac did still keep contact with his father, sitting with him occasionally to smoke a pipe, or asking him for assistance on work around the property. There was underlying tension though, as Isaac tried to assert his authority as master of the estate without directly invoking it again as he had tried at the dinner table. Wyatt figured that he did not want to risk another opportunity for his father to make any more noise about who may have a vested interest in the estate, and that suited him just fine. Wyatt even continued to contribute small amounts of money to specific needs around the property, as he had promised to do originally. The rest of the month of December thus passed in relative calm, with both sides of the family staying largely apart. It was just a few days before Christmas when Isaac returned from work with a letter for his father.
“I stopped by the post station today during our mid-day break, just to get some information, and they told me this letter was being held there. They apparently did not have any information on where my estate was, although how that could be possible I do not know. Incompetence I suppose. The man there seemed to be a dullard. Anyway, here it is. From your sister it appears.”
After reading it, Wyatt composed a reply, handing it to Isaac that night as they smoked outside the cabin. After saying good night, Isaac returned to the house, where Lydia sat quietly in front of the fireplace. She turned as he entered.
“What is that you have in your hand?”
“A letter, that is all dear. My father has written back to his sister. Would you like some more tea?”
“Have you read it?”
“The letter. Did you read it?”
“Why would I do that Lydia? It’s to his sister, and little of my concern. Probably all about that damn girl anyway.”
“Hmmm, yes. Still, give it here. If you won’t read it, I will.”
“Drop this nonsense. He’s already sealed it anyway. Do you want the tea?”
“You are dense as always husband.” Lydia stood up and walked over to Isaac, a demanding look in her eye. “Now, give it to me.”
With a shrug he complied, going to sit down in the chair she had just vacated. After steaming open the letter, Lydia returned, standing over him.
“Now I will read this to you and you will see why I was so insistent.”
Isaac sighed and closed his eyes.
Lydia cleared her throat and began.
December 22, 1883
We have arrived, and as I told you in my telegram, are residing here in Lippelsdorf. You should be able to post letters to me here, and I will have to assume they shall arrive, although the time it takes for such mail to travel to me, or from me to you, could well be great indeed. My deep sympathy for the passing of Olivia. It must be a great sadness for you, and I am certain you will be in mourning for quite some time. I know that you must recall the lengthy mourning period mother served when Hannah passed away when we were young. I do hope that your daughter suffered little toward the end.
As for Claudia and I, well it has been a mixed experience. I will write you later with the details of our travels; however, tonight I shall only tell you a few things. First of all, know that Claudia is well and under my close care. Her and I get along well and I have gained a great affection for her. She has learned several letters and talks rather well for a girl her age, at least in my estimation. And she loves horses. She has indeed grown and some of the clothes you sent with her may not fit her for much longer. I suppose I shall have to figure out just how to have others made for her around here. My son’s wife will surely be no help in that, as she is as surly and ill-tempered as ever, and has quite a distaste for Claudia. Quite frankly, our young girl has been poorly treated by Isaac and his family, a fact I concealed from you in my last letter to spare you any worry. Now though, I have reconsidered that position, and believe it best if you do know the true situation. I also have some worry over their boy Ambrose, who appears to have a malevolent streak in him, one which someday could put Claudia in danger.
All of this will, I know, cause you concern, but know that I am here, healthy and doing well, and shall protect her as I said I would. I will send more later, and hope all is well with you.
Lydia lowered her arms after finishing. “We certainly cannot send this letter to her.”
“No, no we cannot,” Isaac replied, a dark look on his face.
…to be continued