Porcelain (Part 29)

Harriet stood there for a few long moments, a series of memories from her daughter’s life flashing by in her mind.  As they did, she kept her hand on the doctor’s arm, as he seemed torn between going to help her and turning away in embarrassment.  She knew that despite the uncomfortable nature of the situation, she was going to need his assistance with Olivia.  Taking a deep breath, and dismissing the memories, she stepped forward and grabbed the quilt to wrap around her daughter.  Once she had it situated in a way that provided some modesty to the situation, the doctor came over to assist her.  Working together, and against the dead-weight of Olivia, who seemed oblivious to the struggle, they managed to get her into the bed and covered completely back up.  Falling with a sigh into a chair, Harriet wiped the sweat from her forehead before speaking.

“Thank you doctor.  I think I’ve got it from here.”

“Yes, well I will check up on her just for a minute.  Just to make sure that she didn’t injure herself.”  He started toward the bed but Harriet raised her hand to stop him.

“Really doctor, it won’t matter, doesn’t matter anymore.  Leave her to me as she is.”

“Ma’am, I know you are tired from all of this.  Go lay down and I will check on her.  A little rest will do you well.”

“You’ve been good to her, you really have.  And me.  All of us. You truly have done your best to help and I appreciate it.  But we both know that there is nothing that can be done for her, nothing of substance anyway.  She is as she will be, and there cannot be much of life left for her.”

The doctor had started shaking his head half-way through Harriet’s comments and continued as he replied. “You are over-tired and despondent.  There is no reason to despair here.  She is ill, that is certainly true, but good medicine can assist and I am here to provide it. We owe,”

Harriet interrupted him, her voice starting to harden.  “You owe her nothing.  You have provided well for her and I release you from your service to her.”

“I cannot just walk away from this.  I have an obligation to provide my best care.”

“Doctor, I release you and bid you farewell.  You need to learn to understand when you are wasting your time.  Such a lesson will serve you well through your medical career.  Some living things cannot be saved.”  Harriet’s eyes, more a metallic steel now than their usual soft grey, met his, and they silently considered each other for several moments.  Finally he dropped his eyes and replied.

“My time is never wasted on trying to preserve the life of any person.  I do see here that you no longer want me to look after her and I will go, for now anyway.”  As he turned and picked his medical bag back up, Harriet briefly closed her eyes, steeling herself to dismiss him.  As he walked out of the room she called after him, her voice filled with a bitterness that reflected her own distaste for having to say it.

“Stay gone.”

The room closed in on her after that, the dreariness of a day that had turned from sunny to overcast adding to the somber feeling she felt in her heart.  It was just her and Olivia, her daughter, whom not so many years ago had been such a vibrant young woman, one full of enough adventurous spirit to strike out from the east coast toward the unknown territory of Kansas.  Harriet’s other cares and worries slipped into the background as she concentrated on being right there, next to and with her daughter, who had faded back into sleep.  She rose and went to sit on the bed, stroking Olivia’s hair, feeling her face and breathing in the slightly musty odor that emanated from her skin.  Her finger traced the ridge of her daughter’s nose, a sharp edge that had always given Olivia a slightly hawkish look.  She remembered when she would tweak it when her daughter was a little girl, calling her bird-beak in a way that would send Olivia into a playful pout.  Carefully she turned her daughter’s face, so she could see all of it, the way the wisps of her hair hung down and tickled her cheeks, the slight downturn of her lips, the mole next to her left eye.  It was so peaceful as she saw it now, soft and relaxed in repose.  She could feel her daughter’s ribcage against her own side as Olivia’s shallow breaths continued without seeming to notice her mother’s attention.  Leaning over, she kissed her daughter on the forehead, a kiss she held for almost an entire minute before rising and walking to the kitchen.

Once there, Harriet set about her mission without any delay or hesitation.  Taking out her remaining supply of dried belladonna, she began crushing it in her mortar, her strong but thin hands working the plant over and over again, until it became a fine powder.  Finally satisfied that is was soluble, she poured it into a tea cup and then added warm water and several teaspoons of sugar.  As she stirred this solution, she watched out the window as a large crow bobbed up and down on the top branches of a Inkwood tree.  Setting down the spoon, she walked back toward the bedroom, where she set the cup down on the nightstand.  Pulling the portrait from under the covers, she tucked it in her daughter’s arms after slowly pulling Claudia’s torn dress out of her hand.  Waking Olivia up with a sharp shake of her shoulder, she coaxed her into a partial sitting position before placing the cup to her lips.  Taking it without question or even a glance at her mother, Olivia drank it down quickly, choking slightly as the last of it crossed her lips.  Laying back down, she pulled the portrait of Claudia close into her chest with a small smile on her face.  A short time later, with her mother watching her from the doorway, she trembled briefly and took one last troubled breath.

… to be continued

Porcelain (Part 28)

The time since Claudia’s departure had passed slowly and less than gracefully, both for Harriet and Olivia.  Although her daughter’s condition did continue to deteriorate, Harriet remained adamant that she stay at home.  Doctor Warren had argued, vigorously at first, and then in a way that seemed determined to satisfy his professional conscience.  He did continue to provide what help he could, although that of course fell short of bathing Olivia and cleaning her up when she refused to get out of bed to relieve herself.  Those tasks fell to Harriet and she performed them as well as she could, given her age and remaining strength.  Olivia’s lack of grace during this time was about more than her physical needs, as her mistreatment and abuse of her mother escalated sharply once Claudia was gone.  As Harriet had described it to the doctor, her daughter was always either asleep, delusional or frothing at the mouth with rage and obscenities.  Olivia was most quiet when she was lost in that fantasy world she had constructed, carrying around her daughter’s portrait and dress.  She would talk to these objects constantly, or set them up somewhere and play a game of marbles or jacks.  Never once, among all of that illusion, did Olivia ever ask about Claudia or how she was actually doing.

The weather had turned cold by the fourth week after Claudia left, and several wood stove’s were going all of the time to fight off the unseasonable chill.  She had been up late, sitting near the cooking stove and sipping tea when a piercing scream from Olivia cut through her reverie.  Reaching her daughter’s bedroom door, she found her thrashing about in bed, the double quilt she usually covered up with hastily strewn off to the side.  Wanting to avoid Olivia’s flailing arms, she stopped several feet short of the bed.

“What is it?  What is wrong?”

“The cold is coming for me, it comes for me again!  Bring me to the fire to warm my bones!”

These words brought Harriet abruptly back to that scene in the bedroom following Claudia’s birth, those similar strange visions that had accompanied her high fever.

“Please stop throwing yourself around like this.  I cannot help you unless you stop.”

“You cannot help me mother, not now, not ever!  It’s the cold that comes for me and I need the fire to warm my bones.  Find me the god-damn fire!”  Olivia finished with a howl while reaching upward with her arms toward the ceiling and beginning to bang her head backward into the headboard.  Seeing her opportunity, Harriet dove onto her daughter, attempting to grab her head while Olivia bucked in rage underneath her.  Ultimately, her strength failed, and Olivia was able to cast her off the side of the bed, where her head slammed into the nightstand and she was knocked unconscious.

When she came to, the house was quiet but getting cold and her daughter was asleep, curled up with Claudia’s portrait and dress.  Easing herself into the chair, Harriet felt the gash in her temple and then attempted to stretch out her limbs.  Finding herself relatively intact, she walked slowly to the kitchen and tended to herself as best as she could.  When the doctor asked her the next day what had happened, she merely shrugged and waved off his attempts to look at the dressing she had placed over the wound.

Following that event, Olivia’s moments of wakefulness decreased significantly.  Her mother, relieved of some of the strain of constant care by this change, was able to tend to a few details that had been neglected.  One of these was to send a telegram to Wyatt, inquiring about her granddaughter’s welfare.  The reply she received, which reflected the better parts of the situation in Denver, cheered her up significantly.   It had been the right thing to do, the correct decision, to send Claudia to her brother.  Certainly there would have been nothing good that could have come from having such a young child endure the continued downward descent of her own mother.

The final day of that descent was signaled in a way that Harriet understood could mean the end was very near.  Just after midnight she was awakened by a sharp, high-pitched whistle, one that seemed close-by, just outside the house.  Instantly wide awake, her heart beating rapidly in her chest, she held her breath and waited.  The whistle sounded again and this time she rose, grabbing her blanket around her and sitting down in the rocking chair.  She whispered quietly to herself.

“Not again, not the third time.  Not again.”  She knew that three strange sounds in the night, if they came closely together, foretold the death of someone.  This signal had announced the death of four other people close to her, and each time it had been a similar whistle.

When it did sound the third time,  Harriet shuddered, her teeth briefly chattering as she fought the realization that this may well be the last day of her daughter’s life.  When she had stopped trembling, she went to check on Olivia, who remained alive and asleep in her bed.  Too much on edge to sleep, Harriet waited in the sitting room for the sun to come up while keeping an uneasy eye on her daughter’s bedroom door.  It was past ten a.m. before she gave up her vigil, after once more checking on her daughter, and went to sit on the porch.  Nibbling on cold toast, she passed the remainder of the morning in an effort to convince herself that this one time the omen was going to be wrong.  As Doctor Warren strode up toward the house she rose to greet him.

“You look worried, and worn out ma’am,” he stated, jumping past the usual formalities.

“I am.  It has been a long evening.”  Her voice was barely a whisper and the doctor had to lean in to hear.

“Olivia then?  Another episode?  Is she ranting again?”

Harriet shook her head.

“What then?  Are you ill?”

A long moment passed, one in which she considered telling him about the whistle and what it meant, or could mean, but she knew it would have no effect on him.  He was not someone prone to believing in such things.

“Just a long night.  Sometimes I cannot sleep well, you know.”

“Yes, well, it will not do to have you getting ill.  Come inside and rest and I will look in on her.”

As they walked into the house a sound from Olivia’s room was followed by a cry, one that sounded more like a child than a grown woman.  The doctor pushed Harriet into a chair.

“Please, I’m sure she is just getting herself wound up again.  Sit here and I will go see.”

Harriet reluctantly complied and her weary eyes followed the doctor.  He was one step into the room when he stopped short with an exclamation.

“What the devil is this?”

Quickly getting up, Harriet was at the door several seconds later, to find her daughter sitting on the floor.  Olivia was naked, except for the small dress, which she had somehow managed to get over her head, with one arm also burst through where the armhole used to be.  The portrait was held against her chest.  As Harriet entered the room, her daughter looked at her, eyes younger than her years and an innocent but hurt tone to her voice.

“Mommy, my dress doesn’t fit.”

Porcelain (Part 27)

The train ride to Boston passed in much the same manner as the six weeks at the house had, with Ambrose taking whatever opportunity he could to torment Claudia.  The boy, cruel but clever enough, had realized that he did not need to touch Claudia to get her to tears.  Instead, he would just maneuver himself into her line of sight whenever he could, and then mock her, usually by pulling his arm out of his sleeve and then trying to pick things up with the empty cuff or poking himself where his arm used to be.  Although Wyatt saw great strength in the girl when dealing with adult condescendence and mistreatment, the actions of children around her own age had a very great effect on her, although she always refused to speak with him about it.   In the final weeks at the house, Wyatt had foreseen that the coming trip was going to present such opportunities for abuse and torment toward Claudia and had managed to change his ticket to a separate compartment for himself and the girl.  Such arrangements did minimize the chances that Ambrose had to torment her; however, the boy took full advantage of what he did get and by the time the train pulled into Boston, Claudia had not not spoken in five hours.  Her face had remained pressed up against the window for that entire time, her fist curled in a ball as she wet herself, refusing to walk out and down the corridor to the restroom, where she knew the boy would be waiting.

As the whistle of the locomotive shrilled to announce the train’s arrival, Wyatt stepped out of the compartment after handing Claudia another dress to change into.  Standing outside the door, he glared at Ambrose, who stood near his parent’s compartment playing with a tin whistle.  The smirk on the boy’s face had Wyatt clenching up his own fists, trying to resist the impulse to walk over and box the youngster’s ears.  Isaac and Lydia emerged moments later and walked past him without a word.  Wyatt collected Claudia up several minutes later, hoping that his son’s family had gone far enough ahead to be lost in the crowd, a wish that fortunately came true.  That left Wyatt and the girl once again standing together outside a busy station looking for a hansom.

boston 1883 courtesy geographicus.com

boston 1883 courtesy geographicus.com

Having come in on the New York & New England Railroad, the final transfer of their long journey to the coast, they emerged directly into the heart of the wharf district in Boston.  The sharp smell of the salty air was mixed with the pungent odors from the wet docks and the decaying fish that pooled along the edges.  The noise was startling and overwhelming, both to Wyatt and the young girl, and they both simply stood on the edge of Atlantic Avenue for fifteen minutes, wide-eyed and slightly slack-jawed.  The water traffic along the wharf was varied, with fishing boats, tugs and small sailboats competing with cargo ships that seemed to move in slow-motion compared to the other boats.  Slightly farther off in the distance were several large passenger ships, moored at the foreign docks and awaiting the crowds that would soon temporarily move in for their voyage across the ocean.  Behind them, toward the land side, all kinds of large buildings rose up, with the Old Colony Depot, the Post Office and the United States Hotel being most prominent.  Denver might have seemed like a large town to Wyatt, but he had to admit that this was beyond anything else he had seen in his life.  Claudia, initially just as shocked as her great-uncle, recovered more quickly and was well into asking questions before Wyatt shook himself and began to pay attention to her.  As they walked toward the U.S. Hotel, which Wyatt had arranged on his own after finding out about Isaac’s plans for their one and a half days in Boston, he had to admit that he was enjoying the experience despite its strangeness.  Having been on the move for much of his life, he thought that maybe he had been content for too long with his settled-down home in Denver, and that this trip was going to revive some of his spirit.  As they walked into the hotel Claudia had looked up at him with a one word question.

united states hotel boston 1883 courtesy goodoldboston.com

united states hotel boston 1883 courtesy goodoldboston.com

“Ambrose?”

Patting her hand, he happily replied, “Not here dear, he is most definitely not staying here.”

commercial and fleet boston

commercial and fleet boston

 

boarding house boston

boarding house boston

The next day, their only full one in Boston, Wyatt was determined to go out and walk the town with Claudia, and they had set off directly after breakfast.  Although he was pleased to be away from Isaac’s family, at least until they were aboard the ship, some malicious part of him wanted to see where his son had managed to put his own family up for their stay.  Knowing the address, but of course not the town, it took them two hours  of walking to find it, a dilapidated and leaning building on the corner of Commercial and Fleet Streets.  At first glance Wyatt could not determine which part of the structure was most likely to fall in first, although it all seemed to be leaning away from the water.  Shaking his head, the two of them kept on walking and were able to see many of the nearby sights, including Faneuil Hall and the famous Common and Public Garden.  When they returned to the U.S. Hotel that night, both of them worn out and hungry, they took advantage of the restaurant and ate well, with Claudia finishing up with two bowls of chocolate ice cream.  Before they retired for the night, Wyatt asked the girl to sit down on his bed.

“You know that tomorrow we are going to be sailing away, across the ocean, on a ship.  I won’t bother to promise you that this trip isn’t going to be rough.  Although we have our own compartment on the ship also, it is small and we certainly cannot stay in it for all of the six days we will be aboard.  Besides, I want you to see the ship and have what fun you can.  I am certain that Ambrose will be up to his usual games.  You do understand me Claudia?”

The girl just nodded her head.

“So, let’s just promise each other this.  We stick together okay? And I will keep that boy off of you as much as I can.”

In response, Claudia just took his hand and squeezed it.  At about that same moment, her mother, one arm wrapped around the portrait of her daughter, shuddered and let out one last breath.

…to be continued

Porcelain (Part 26)

And so went most of the next six weeks of Claudia’s time in Wyatt’s house.  Torment, outbursts and silence.  Isaac, his wife and son spent virtually no time with Claudia other than at meals, and the whispered conversations they had in the hallways were certainly pointed in her direction.  It had not been apparent to Wyatt initially; however, he soon grew to understand that Isaac himself considered Claudia to be a burden, both to his family and his future plans.  The discussion they had in front of the fireplace two weeks after her arrival was typical.

“I ask you again father, what provision have you made for this girl?  What about her care and room and board once we are away from this place and the two of you are living under my roof?”
“I have provided you and your family with a home for some time and you seem to be rather ungrateful for that consideration and kindness.”

Isaac wrinkled up his nose.  “That is hardly the point as I have done my fair share around here to earn my keep.”

“Fair share of eating for sure, and using my firewood and other provisions.  Certainly not your fair share of providing for your family.”

“I’ve done my part,” Isaac replied lazily, “but that’s in the past and we need to talk about the future.  What about that girl?”

Wyatt took a long look at his son and let the pipe smoke escape out his nose in a billowy wreath of contemplation.  The expectant look in Isaac’s eyes, one that demanded only the answer he was looking for, made the older man grimace in disgust.  Finally he snorted and replied.

“She’ll be provided for, don’t you worry your pitiless heartstrings about it.  I have money enough to provide for her room and board, and I’ll take care of her myself.  You can go about showing her no more attention or consideration that you have up to this point.”

“That you will do, but it’s not what I am concerned about.  What about when you die, and you certainly will, you’re an old man and have no business taking on a child.  What about then?  Whatever money you have won’t be enough to see me through the trails of raising her up the rest of the way.   Children are expensive.”

“Yes, they certainly are,” Wyatt replied ironically, a tone that was lost on his son.  “If I do go, and there is no saying I will before she’s grown up, then you damn well better believe I expect you to finish the job and see her into the adult world properly.”

“You expect too much father, much too much.”  With that, Isaac pushed himself out of his chair and walked from the room trailed by a wary look from Wyatt.

writing slate

writing slate

 

During those weeks leading up to the departure for their voyage, Claudia continued in her somber way, although she did at least begin to speak with her great-uncle, asking him questions about books he would read her and listening to his stories from his gold-mining days.  As the two of them spent most of their time together, either taking walks or sitting by the small stove in Wyatt’s room, he soon came to understand that Claudia was much more intelligent than she appeared.  She had a definite knack for assessing the world around her and was poignantly aware of the feelings that Isaac and his family shared toward  her.  As she had put it, they did not want her around, a truth that Wyatt reluctantly affirmed, not seeing the sense in disputing something the girl clearly understood quite well.  She also could talk much better than Wyatt expected from a three-year old and could make a decent effort at writing the letters A and B.  They were practicing that, sitting on Wyatt’s bed with a battered double-sided writing slate between them, when Isaac stopped outside the room on the night before they were to leave for Boston.

“Be ready at ten.”

“Yes, I know.  We’ve already packed.”

“More teaching of nonsense to that girl I see.  She’s too young to understand letters.”

“She does well enough,” Wyatt replied, lifting the slate up to show Claudia’s erratically drawn letters.

“Unrecognizable.  I know your answer but I must ask you again.  Have you considered my request that we drop her off at the Orphan’s Home tomorrow instead of dragging her across the ocean with us?”

denver orphans home courtesy denver library

denver orphans home courtesy denver library

A cold look from Wyatt was the only reply.

Taking out his watch and then snapping it forcefully closed, Isaac turned with a curt “Very well then,” and walked toward the kitchen, where his wife stood by the table with glowering eyes.  She started to speak to him as he approached; however, Isaac held up his hand and motioned her to silence.  Grabbing her arm, they both walked off toward their bedroom.

The next morning was warm for the season, and with winter having set in earlier than usual, the change was a welcome way to begin their journey.  Two hansoms and a larger cart for luggage had been arranged and there was much activity as drivers assisted with loading while sloshing through the melting snow with their stovepipe boots on.

stovepipe boots courtesy espinoza boots

stovepipe boots courtesy espinoza boots

Wyatt had arranged for his place to be sold once he was gone and the man who would be handling that for him was also there, with some last minute papers needing a signature.  Lydia had a firm hold of Ambrose, refusing to allow him out into the muddy roadway, where Claudia was walking around stomping into mud puddles and smiling to herself.  Her unusual activity and cheerful manner were odd enough to cause both Wyatt and Isaac to pause and watch, Isaac in consternation and Wyatt with a large grin on his face.  Turning to sign the papers, he muttered, “good to see that girl smiling,” just as Isaac announced they better all get aboard the hansoms or they were going to miss the train.  Wyatt lifted Claudia up, ignoring the mud-spattered dress and wet shoes she wore, and then climbed up beside her, patting her knee and chuckling.

“We’re going to be okay girl,” he stated as they pulled away.

… to be continued

Porcelain (Part 25)

The trip itself, which should have been full of wonder and awe for the young girl, at least that was what the doctor had been expecting, passed instead in almost complete silence.  Although she would occasionally indicate that she was thirsty or needed to relieve herself, she asked no questions about the wonders of the large locomotive, spent no minutes wandering the cars of the train to admire the rich collection of persons aboard, and spent little time wide-eyed at the windows as the scenery flashed by their compartment.  Quiet and somber, Claudia sat with her hands in her lap, singing songs under her breath or staring at the floor.  When she slept, she did so curled up in her seat, drifting off without even a quiet goodnight to the doctor.  After exhausting what limited repertoire that he had for eliciting responses from children, and consulting quietly with himself in his head on how to get Claudia into better spirits, all to no avail, he turned to reading newspapers and smoking his pipe.  As the train pulled up in Denver, and the doctor assembled the young girl’s limited belonging and the packer trunk, he caught her looking at him with intensely curious eyes.

“What is it Claudia?”

Instead of responding, she pointed to his medical bag which was stashed underneath his seat.

“That?  I always bring it with me dear.  You never know when someone is going to need a doctor.”

“No.”

“No?  People need doctor’s all the time.”

“No.  Why you didn’t help her?”

Unable to give any answer that he felt would mean anything, he instead just shook his head and replied, “Let’s get you off this train.”

Although she returned to silence as they walked, she kept her eyes turned toward the doctor, a look that provided enough guilt for the doctor to remember the moment for the rest of his life.  Emerging out onto the station platform, he shaded his eyes from the sun and looked around.  Having been briefed only generally on what to look for, a tall man and he says he will be wearing a brown bowler is all Harriet had been able to provide, the doctor expected there to be several minutes of searching.  Instead, a tall man man with long sandy hair and a tan, weather-worn face approached them immediately with his hand out.

“Doctor Warren, I take it?”

“Indeed.  You are Wyatt Coburn then, good to find you so quickly!”

The two men quickly shook hands and then Wyatt knelt down to Claudia’s eye level.

“Hello Claudia.  I suppose that your grandmother has told you about me.  I’m your great-uncle Wyatt.  Did you enjoy the trip?”

denver map courtesy davidrumsey.com

denver map courtesy davidrumsey.com

Claudia’s silence caused him to glance up at the doctor who said, “Same way with me all the way out.  Hardly a word spoken.  I think she’s having a pretty hard time with what happened to her mother.  That and leaving Harriet, quite a bit of shock for such a young girl.”

“Yes, I suppose so.” Standing up, he continued, “Well, thank you doctor for seeing her out here safely.  I hope your return trip is safe.”

Reaching out he grabbed Claudia’s hand and they walked away.  After about fifteen steps though, she pulled away and ran back, grabbing the doctor’s leg in a tight hug.  After a long moment, during which he stood there, slightly embarrassed and entirely unsure how to react, she let go, ran back to Wyatt and never looked back after that.

hansom cab courtesy getty images

hansom cab courtesy getty images

 

As they walked along, her great-uncle pointed out some of the sights along the platform as they waited for a hansom to bring them back to Wyatt’s house.  Having come in at the Denver and Rio Grande Depot near 19th and Wazee St., a busy place at almost every time of the day, there was a considerable crowd of people looking for transportation and the wait stretched out past thirty minutes.  Finally, with her great-uncle agitated by the delay and mutterings curses under his breath, Claudia was helped up onto the seat and they took off toward her new, although temporary home.  The transient nature of her current situation was made apparent as soon as they arrived at Wyatt’s house, after he had paid the driver through the trap-door in the roof without a thank-you or a good-day to you being offered in either direction.  As they stepped through the entry, Isaac appeared out of the study.

“So this then is your little burden from your sister.  She hardly looks sturdy enough to survive our journey but I will leave that up to your attention and worry.  Don’t bother settling her in too much as there won’t be time for feeling at home.  We leave in only six weeks.”

“Yes, I suppose we do,” Wyatt replied to the empty space where his son had stood, Isaac having turned on his heels immediately and retuned to the study.  “Come along Claudia.”

Dinner was called a short time later, Wyatt going to get the young girl who had remained sitting on the small bed he had purchased from a second-hand store for her use.  Her truck remained unpacked on the floor and the only concession she had made to having arrived was the removal of her bonnet.  Offering his hand, which the girl took, Wyatt escorted her to the table where she took her seat next to Isaac’s son Ambrose.  Lydia Coburn was at her insincere and ungracious worst right from the beginning.

“What a beautiful little girl you have brought us Wyatt.  It’s a good thing that Isaac was able to find that old chair in the shed or she would be sitting on the floor for her supper.  How are you dear?”

Met with only a stare as a reply Lydia muttered, “charming, a mute,” before stroking her son’s head and saying, “You be sure to play nice with this little girl Ambrose.”

Wyatt remained standing behind Claudia’s chair as the meal was served and then went reluctantly to his place at the head of the table as Isaac also took his seat.  As usual the meal was filled with silence, although this one was interrupted several times by Ambrose poking at the empty spot where Claudia’s arm was missing in her dress and laughing in his high-pitched manner.  As the boy received only half-hearted admonitions from his parents to stop, and with the young girl not eating and in silent tears, Wyatt finally slammed his hand down on the coarse wood table loud enough to make Ambrose squeak in startled response.

“Enough boy!  Leave her along and eat your meal.  There will be no more of this tormenting you so enjoy!”

“It’s going to be a tough run for that girl if all it takes to get her to tears is a few pokes,” Isaac replied before they all returned to silence and then finished the meal overshadowed by tension.

…to be continued

Porcelain (Part 24)

Shaking herself out of that reverie ten minutes later, she rose and went to look in on Olivia, who lay asleep in bed.  Leaning on the door frame, Harriet reached out her hand, mimicking touching her daughter’s face, something that she did not want to actually do as it might awaken her.  She was fairly certain that asleep was the best place for Olivia.  Turning away, she approached the doctor.

“Could you assist me in getting a telegram sent?”

“Well, of course, however, perhaps you should do it yourself.  Get out of the house for awhile.  I can look after her.”

“I, well, I have not done much of sending telegrams in my day.  I’m a bit behind the times.  It would probably be better if you went.”

Doctor Warren reached out and touched Harriet’s shoulder.  “It really is not that hard.  Just go down to the office and tell them what you want to do.  They will help you.  And you really do need to get out for a bit.”

With a small smile she turned away, grabbing a shawl to wrap around her shoulders before stepping out with a quick word back at the doctor.

“Thank you.”

 

leader dry goods and clothing courtesy hiawathapics.com

leader dry goods and clothing courtesy hiawathapics.com

As she walked the road toward Oregon Street, Harriet took time to enjoy both being out of the house and also the sights and sounds of the town.  Knowing that she would be unwilling to commit her daughter to any kind of a care facility, she understood that once the doctor left, her life would be bound to caring for Olivia.  It would certainly be awhile before she had time or opportunity to stroll along and admire Hiawatha again.  Arriving at the telegraph office forty minutes later, the clerk helped her send a short message to Wyatt informing him that Claudia would arrive in five days.  On the way back she stopped by the small park across from Leaders Dry Goods, sitting on the small bench and watching the pigeons scramble around after some loose horse feed that had been spilled on the ground.  As the sky started to darken with rain clouds, she sighed deeply and walked back home, arriving to find the doctor packing up his medical bag.  As he departed ten minutes later he promised to stop by daily for awhile and check on Olivia.

The next morning Harriet found Claudia sitting next to her mother in bed.  Olivia had been reading a children’s book to her, but closed it when she appeared in the doorway.

“Where is my picture, mother?”

There was an edge to Olivia’s voice although she appeared calm enough, running her hand through Claudia’s hair as she spoke.

“Yes, well, I have it. I will bring it to you.”

When she returned and presented the portrait of Claudia to her, Olivia looked at it for several minutes before turning to look at her daughter who still sat beside her.

“This will be all that remains of you my dear, all that I will have to remember you by.  This is what I will keep.”

With that, Olivia closed her eyes and began to hum softly, before drifting off to sleep, still clutching the portrait.

Over the course of that day and the next, as Harriet took care of the business of packing things up for Claudia, it became apparent that Olivia had no further interest in her real-life daughter.  She ignored all of Claudia’s attempts to speak with her, or interact in any way, spending time instead reading books to the portrait and carrying it around on the few occasions she did get out of bed.  Her discussions with Harriet during this time were curt, at least until she walked past as the last of Claudia’s clothing was being packed in a large leather packer trunk that had been purchased the day before by the doctor and brought over to the house.

“I hoped to get one thing before you finished up.”

“What is that Olivia?”

“The dress, her dress, the one you made.  I want to keep it here with me.”

“Maybe you should ask Claudia if she cares that you keep it?”

As Olivia glanced down at the portrait she held, Harriet cut back in.

“You need to talk to that girl Olivia.  The real one.  The one in that other room over there who you have been ignoring these past few days.  She leaves tomorrow and you need to say good-bye to her.”

“I won’t ever have to say good-bye mother.  I have her here with me always.  Now I want that dress please, just to help remember her.”

They locked eyes for several moments and then Harriet gave in, remarking to herself that the dress had little use left in it anyway.  She had made it big so it would last for awhile but now it just barely fit the young girl.  Although she worried that possessing it might remove Olivia even farther from reality, she also saw little point in arguing about it.

“Thank you.  I am returning to my room.”

“You do understand that she leaves tomorrow, early, and she won’t be coming back.

Met with only silence and her daughter’s back as a reply, Harriet finished up and then went to spend the remainder of the day with Claudia.  She also slept next to the girl that night, spending over half of the time awake, holding Claudia’s small body next to her and silently crying.  There was no doubt that she would miss her granddaughter, as they had grown very close over the three years she had been alive, especially as Olivia’s condition worsened.  Harriet also felt great sorrow for her own daughter, who she knew was unable to cope with Claudia’s leaving and would probably never truly understand, or admit, that the girl was forever removed from their lives.  So much loss and sorrow had washed across her life during the decades she had been alive, and yet there always seemed to be just a little bit more to bear.  First Olivia had disappeared into the fog of her present condition and now Claudia would fade off into a distant land.  This was for the best though, for her granddaughter anyway, and maybe this would be the last great heartache of her life.

As the sun came up, Harriet drew upon her inner strength and showed no more than surface emotion as she readied Claudia and saw her to the front door at nine a.m., where the doctor waited.  He had agreed to ensure that the girl made it safely onto the train and then to her stop in Colorado, even agreeing to purchase his own ticket.  He arrived just as Harriet and Claudia stepped out onto the porch.

Reaching down, he took the young girl’s hand.  “You look lovely today Claudia.  Are you ready for our trip?”

The girl just nodded and stared back at him, the look on her face similar to the one she had shown to the camera in the portrait.

“Thank you again doctor.  Please ensure she is safely to Wyatt for me.  I am certain he will meet you at the station.  He is a reliable man.”

“I’m sure he will.  Did Olivia?” and he finished with a downward glance at Claudia.

“She refused to open her eyes, so I left her in bed with her delusions.”

“Very well.  Then we must go.”

A final hug, as strong as she felt her granddaughter could bear, was given by Harriet and then she stood up to watch them leave, tears in her eyes, but frozen there, refusing to fall.

She whispered softly to herself.  “Good-bye.”

…to be continued

Porcelain (Part 23)

Upon receiving them, Harriet stood for several minutes with the closed folders in her hand as Mr. Holmes’ assistant stood on the porch, a look of worry on his face.  He was used to people immediately opening the photos when they were delivered, eager to look upon the portraits and, at least for the most part, remark upon the skill exhibited in their execution.  Harriet’s reaction, a long, quiet pause with a troubled look of reflection on her face, was atypical enough to give him some worry that the old woman may be as unstable as her daughter.  The display put on by Olivia the previous day, and the aggressive action needed to get her under control, had been a new experience for him and not one that he cared to be involved with again.  To his relief, Harriet’s eyes cleared and she carefully opened the folders, giving all the usual, and in his eyes anyway, proper reactions.  He departed with a tip of his hat and Harriet walked back into the house still looking at the photo of her granddaughter.

Olivia remained asleep in her room with the doctor sitting in a chair outside the door, dozing off from a long night of keeping vigil over his patient.  She had awoken several times since he sedated her at the portrait session, seemingly becoming more and more able to fight her way out of the stupor brought on by the drugs he administered.  He had already informed Harriet early that morning that if Doctor Fitzsimmons were not already scheduled to arrive later in the day he may have needed to take more drastic action with Olivia.  It had already been necessary for him to physically hold her in bed on several occasions and he had only managed to get her back to sleep about twenty minutes ago.  Harriet sat down quietly, not wanting to disturb him, and pulled Claudia onto her lap to show her the portrait.

The young girl smiled and poked at it, although her grandmother quickly pulled it out if her reach, not wanting the clarity of the image to be marred by Claudia’s rather dirty fingers.  After a few minutes the young girl’s babbled talking awoke the doctor, who smiled and waved when Harriet turned the photo around for him to look at.  A sharp knock at the door got him up out of his seat with a whispered “I do hope this is who we have been waiting for.”  Several seconds later Doctor Fitzsimmons, a tall thin man with an elegantly trimmed silver beard,  walked into the sitting room.  Putting her granddaughter down and carefully tucking the two photos into a drawer by her chair, Harriet rose to greet him.

“Thank you so much for coming doctor.  I’m sure it has been a long journey.  Would you like some tea?”

Removing his jacket and hat, he replied while reaching into his medical bag.  “That would be fine ma’am.  I will, however, go to see the patient immediately.  Doctor?”

The two men walked into Olivia’s bedroom without another word, and although she was thanked when the tea was delivered, Harriet considered Doctor Fitzsimmons to be a rather gruff and unlikeable medical man.  She liked him even less when he emerged back into the sitting room.

“She’s in poor condition madam, more mentally than physically, although I would say that I believe she will stay fairly docile for what remains of her life.  It would be important to manage her interactions with people as she should not be placed into any kind of a stressful situation.  Those are likely to elect another of her outbursts.  You may want to consider placing her into a facility for the mentally deranged.  And the girl, this girl,” and he pointed toward Claudia who sat on the floor with her doll, “the situation with her must be settled very soon.  Doctor Warren tells me she is to be sent away?”

Harriet took several deep breaths before answering, her inclination to bluster fading away as she did so.  Finally, she folded her hands together and replied.

“Before we go on, tell me just what exactly is wrong with her doctor.”

“As I said, she is mentally unstable and deteriorating physically, likely as a result of that mental condition, and will be a fair amount to deal with until she passes.  It is probably too much for someone of your age.”

Harriet took another deep breath.  “Again doctor, tell me what is actually wrong with her.  I can ascertain her current condition well enough on my own, and having you tell me of it hardly helps me understand her illness.”

“Madam, this is a medical matter and Doctor Warren called me in to review this case, which I have done.  He has improperly medicated her obviously; however, given his general lack of experience in these matters he did well enough.  His general assessment, that her mind has broken with reality, seems correct and I have given him guidance in her further care if you do choose to keep her in this home.  Although again, I would suggest that she be removed to a more appropriate facility.”

“Perhaps you misunderstand me.  How did she become ill?”

Now it was the doctor’s turn to take a deep breath.  “These are medical matters as I said, and I have consulted with Doctor Warren on them.  He will be able to care for her.”

“Doctor,”

“Listen madam, you ask far too many questions.  It if satisfies your curiosity then I will tell you that she likely is suffering some kind of neurotic condition associated with her pregnancy or the birth of the child.  Doctor Warren advised me that you had related some disturbing tales involving the delivery and her condition during it.  That break may well have hidden itself for years, with recent events or some unknown other condition finally causing this decline that has become so obvious recently.   Also, he tells me you are a homeopath?”

“I am.”

“Then I shall hope that none of your concoctions, whatever they may have been, aided in her deterioration.  You will do well to watch yourself.”

Harriet had not seriously considered punching anyone in quite a long time, and she found herself enjoying the thought in this moment.  Once the doctor left, giving her a curt nod before stepping out the door, she sat back down slowly while considering what had been implied by his last statement.

…to be continued

Porcelain (Part 22)

Harriet walked down to the studio the next day, waiting patiently with Claudia while a newlywed couple had their portrait taken.  Once that was finished the shop’s owner, Albert Holmes, sat down to speak with Harriet.  More than willing to travel down to her house, he also suggested that it might be a good idea if he brought along one of his canvas backdrops, as these kind of staged photos were popular at the time.  As Harriet looked though his selection, Claudia seemed especially taken by one that displayed a forest setting with a lake and some blurry industrial buildings in the background.

“I guess that one will do Mr. Holmes.  She rather seems to like it and the portrait will be of her after all.”

“It will just be the one then, of the girl?”

“Yes.  Please stick to that arrangement.  My daughter, her mother of course, will be there and may well ask that you take others; however, I do not have the money for it.  Just the one portrait and the two prints we spoke of.”

“Very well.  I have a nice prop I can bring along with that canvas, one that will add to the picture.”

Taking their leave, Harriet went for a walk down Oregon Street before returning home with Claudia.  Receiving the news that the photographer would arrive tomorrow afternoon brightened up Olivia’s mood, which seemed to be slipping back into the darker regions it had occupied prior to her outburst on the porch.  As a precaution, Harriet did not allow Olivia to play marbles in the backyard with her daughter, an activity she had permitted over the last several days while keeping a close eye out from the kitchen.  On this evening, she insisted that the girl remain indoors and help her with baking pies, one for Doctor Warren and another for the photographer.  Harriet still believed in these social graces which seemed to be starting to slip away from society as everyone became busier and busier with their daily lives.   As they finished up, Olivia walked into the kitchen and announced that she was going to bed, stating a need to get up early and prepare herself to be photographed.  Nodding good night to her daughter, Harriet made a mental note that she needed to have the doctor present tomorrow afternoon, just in case things did not go well when Olivia figured out it would only be Claudia getting her portrait taken.  Several minutes later a knock on the door announced the delivery of a telegram, one that informed her that Doctor Fitzsimmons would be arriving in two days.  Tucking it away in her dress, Harriet cleaned up the kitchen and placed the pies on the window sill to cool before tucking Claudia in and heading to bed herself.

The next morning, Olivia was indeed up early, although still not before her mother, and took a considerable amount of time preparing herself for her anticipated portrait.   The last time that she had occasion to purchase any kind of formal wear had been in 1874 for the last Merchant’s Ball that had been held in Hiawatha.  Although not a store owner herself, she had been invited to attend by John Coe, who was a friend of Tom Drummond.  She had accepted of course, more in the hope of running into Tom than anything else, and spent far more than she should have on a dress and all of its accompanying paraphernalia.  That left her now, in 1883, with an out of fashion dress that also fit poorly due to the weight she had lost during her recent instability.  Still, she put in on faithfully, and emerged into the sitting room well in advance of noon.

“Well, you certainly look nice.”  As she said this, Harriet felt a combination of sorrow and pride rise up inside of her.  Olivia looked radiant despite her weight loss, a flashback to previous times, with her hair brushed to a shine, pulled up high on the sides and hanging in a series of ringlets down her neck.  Her skin was glowing and complimented the gentle peach hue of the dress, which had the full back stylish in the previous decade, a bustle holding the many overskirts in place and which was going to make for a long day for Olivia.

“You intend to stand all day then?  You certainly will not be sitting down with that affair on, although it does compliment you well.”

“I am going to take a stunning portrait mother, me and my daughter.   I am prepared to stand as long as it takes to await that.  Where is she?”

“I sent her out back to play.  We have several hours before Mr. Holmes arrives and she was getting rather bored.”

“She must come in!  I have to clean her up and get her ready.”

“You will hardly be doing anything of the sort my dear.  I think you had better just stand there and remain looking pretty.  I will see to Claudia.”

By the time that the photographer arrived, Harriet had both ensured her granddaughter was ready and also managed to get a message to Doctor Warren, asking him to stop by after lunch.  He had done so and remained after a whispered conversation with Harriet.  Mr. Holmes and his assistant had proceeded directly to setting up their gear and the canvas backdrop in the sitting room, accompanied by Olivia’s protests.

“What is this thing you are hanging up?  We are hardly by a lake nor do I wish my portrait to be taken in front of such a thing.  This will be a proper portrait of my daughter and I, here in our home.”

“Miss, I really need you to get back and there won’t,”

Harriet cut in before anything more could be said.

“Move away Olivia, this backdrop is just for the photo of Claudia.  She picked it out herself down at the studio and I think it will look very nice.”

“But mother, what is the point?  We are here, in our home, why have it be a photo in a forest?”  Olivia’s voice was rather loud by now and Doctor Warren had taken a few steps into the sitting room.

“It is just the thing these days.  You do want it to be modern, don’t you?”

“Well, yes I suppose.  But our picture together will be proper.  It must be.”

Her mother gave no reply to that, turning instead to watch the photographer’s assistant as he placed their prop, an actual branch from a tree, into location in front of the canvas.  With that, all seemed in order, and Harriet motioned for Claudia to come over from where she was watching by the doorway.

She was in the dress which her grandmother had made for her, and which had already been altered to account for her missing arm.  After an admonition from both Mr. Holmes and his assistant that she must stand still once they had her in place, the young girl walked up to the canvas and then turned around.  Without being told, she reached out and placed her hand on the branch, which stuck up from the very foreground of the scene.  Her grip, though on the edge of the prop, seemed tight, with her fingernails appearing slightly white from the pressure.  Claudia stood straight and tall, looking directly into the camera with eyes that showed a depth of understanding uncommon at her age, touched with just a shadow of fear.  The plate was exposed and the image sealed, a well-taken portrait with a sharp foreground and a slightly out of focus back, shadowy buildings and a mirrored lake lighting up the top.

Olivia did have to be sedated once it was clear that her picture was not to be taken, and she was put to bed and tended to by the doctor once again.  The cabinet cards, carefully tucked into a think folder, were delivered the next day, several hours in advance of Doctor Fitzsimmons arrival.

Young child Hiawatha, Kansas

Young child Hiawatha, Kansas

…to be continued

Porcelain (Part 21)

Harriet leaned back against the wall and stayed silent while conflicting thoughts ran through her head.  Doctor Warren, and certainly his colleague also, were clearly from the new breed of medical men, ones that eschewed the practices of homeopathy she had been raised on and practiced throughout her life.  It was also true that there was no time for consultation with Doctor Martin, as he was no more modern than she and only communicated via letter.

“Can you contact him doctor?  I am not much of one for the telegraph and prefer to write letters, which I know will take too long in this case.”

“Very well.  I will send a message to him tomorrow.  For now, do not mention today’s incident or the details of what has been going on as you had related to me earlier.  Let’s just try to keep her calm and resting.”

Harriet nodded her assent and they returned to the room, where Claudia had managed to put her mother to sleep and was now sitting quietly in the chair by the bed.  The doctor left for town several hours later, convinced that his patient was going to remain relatively docile for the immediate future.

By the next morning it was apparent that Olivia had indeed experienced some kind of a breakdown, one that left her understanding that her daughter was going to leave her but unclear as to the specific reasons.  Over the course of several hours of talk, filled with vague references and partial truths, Harriet had managed to convince her daughter that she was generally sick and unable to care for Claudia any longer.  She had been extremely nervous as this truth took shape in Olivia’s mind, bracing herself for another attack and wishing the doctor was near at hand.  No anger or rage had shown itself though, and her daughter passed from realization into despondency and fits of tears.  Claudia was in and out of the room during this time, understanding that something different was wrong with her mother, but still preoccupied with smaller things as young children tend to be.  Occasionally she would bring a toy into the room and sit on the floor, playing with it while her mother and grandmother talked.  Whenever the tears came to Olivia, she would begin  singing again, her soft voice echoing in a strange harmony with her mother’s sorrow.

Doctor Warren returned later that day to check on Olivia’s condition and to inform Harriet that his colleague had been contacted and would be making his way down to Hiawatha within the next several weeks.  When he pointed out that this was being done as a special favor to him, Harriet understood that meant it was going to be particularly expensive.  She did, however, realize that in this case it was perhaps necessary for modern medicine to intervene and that the expense was worth it if the doctor could determine the root of her daughter’s problems.

Olivia’s condition remained stable in the days that followed, and all previous intentions to harm Claudia or get her to react in any particular way, seemed to have vanished.  She interacted gently with the young girl, showing more affection and love than had ever been previously present.  Harriet had small moments of hope; however, these were always tempered both by her own memories and by Doctor Warren’s warning that Olivia’s tranquil state may only be temporary.   In general, she remained unconvinced that her daughter’s recent behavior reflected any actual change in her underlying condition.  It was five days later, as Harriet sat with her daughter in her room, both of them having a cup of tea and remarking upon innocuous details, that Olivia posed the question.

“I know that my Claudia must leave me soon, and I am so going to miss her.  I know your decision to send her away cannot be undone due to my poor health; however, I will always want her by my side.  Do you think we could all go to the photography studio and have a portrait done of her before she leaves?”

Harriet considered this request carefully before responding.  Her practice over the course of Olivia’s mental and physical deterioration had been both to allow her out in public as little as possible and to not let Claudia to go anywhere with her mother.  This appeal to have the portrait done would violate both of these rules, which had served her well in mitigating the damage Olivia could do to herself, Claudia or the family’s reputation.  In her daughter’s current state it was, however, a reasonable request and one that she had entertained herself.  If nothing else, she would have a photo of her dear Claudia to treasure once she departed, and if it served Olivia’s needs also, then the idea had that much more merit.

“Well, mother, can we?”

Harriet decided that she still did not trust Olivia enough to allow all of her request.

“Perhaps we could instead have a photographer come here to the house.  It would be so much more comfortable for you and easier as well.  I’m sure they can work just as well in our sitting room as in their studio.”

Her daughter’s face lit up.  “Perhaps we could have several taken even.  I would love to have a photo of her and I together.”

“Yes, we will see.  Now, I must go look in on Claudia and you need to rest daughter.  The doctor will be here in about an hour to check on you again.”

…to be continued

Porcelain (Part 20)

Olivia slowly stood up, setting down her cup of tea on the porch railing and taking two steps forward.  “Just what does that mean mother?”

Harriet took several deep breaths before continuing, gathering what strength she had left.  “It means that I cannot stand much more of raising that girl, and no more of protecting her from you.  She is being sent away to live with my brother Wyatt and she is to leave with as much haste as I can arrange.”

The scream that emanated from Olivia was high-pitched at first, a howl, which then descended in tone to a deep growl as she strode across the porch.  Olivia’s arms failed toward her mother, fingernails tearing grooves in Harriet’s face and fabric away from the shoulder of her dress.  As she reached back to deliver a slap across her mother’s face, Harriet summoned everything she had left and stood up forcefully from the chair, grabbing her daughter’s arms and then pushing her onto the wooden boards of the porch.  She had her pinned face-down and was trying to find something to hold onto that would give her better leverage when she saw the doctor striding toward the house.  She shouted to him.

“The trouble has come doctor, hurry, as I cannot hold her down much longer!”  Olivia was bucking underneath her, fighting frantically to get up and continue her attack.  The doctor was on the porch two minutes later and knelt down next to Olivia.

“You must settle down now.  Stop trying to get up as you are going hurt your mother.  Stay still!”

Olivia’s answer to that was to grab his right calf, slipping her hand up inside his pants and digging in her nails.  As she did so, she managed to wiggle out from underneath her mother, who collapsed on the side of the porch, blood running down her face and arms.  The doctor proved to be of fairly tough stock, as he hardly reacted to the tearing at his legs, instead reaching down and removing her arm forcefully, then grabbing the other and pinning both behind her back.

“I do not want to hurt you miss; however, you must stop all this flailing around.  Do you hear me?”

Another scream came from Olivia and she continued to struggle to escape.

“Miss, I, what’s her name again?”

“Olivia,” her mother replied faintly.  Beyond the doctor, she could see Claudia watching with terrified eyes from the other side of the bush at the bottom of the porch stairs.

“Olivia, my name is Doctor Warren, do you hear me?”

The only reply was another scream, after which the doctor used his strength and leverage to maneuver Olivia to her feet and then pushed her into the house, dodging the backward kicking of her legs.  Several minutes later, after more screams and one sound that must have been a slap, the sound of the struggle ceased.

When Olivia awoke later that night, the doctor still remained at her side.  Harriet had only asked that he come over to deal with what she expected was going to be a difficult moment; however, he had insisted on remaining after seeing the severity of Olivia’s response.   Although she knew she could hardly afford his services, Harriet was relieved to have him in the house.  After tending to the wounds on her face and arms, he had insisted that she lay down and Harriet had gratefully taken a peaceful nap with Claudia.  They awoke shortly before Olivia did and were also standing in the room as the doctor greeted her revival.

“Hello Olivia, how do you feel?”

After brushing a sluggish hand across her face, Olivia replied with a groan.

“Olivia, do you know where you are?”

She had appeared to go back to sleep and the doctor shook her shoulder while repeating her name.  Finally Olivia opened her eyes again.

“I’m here, in my house,” she said faintly.

“Good.  How are you feeling?”

“Tired.  Why am I in bed?  What day is it?”

Harriet started to reply to that, however, the doctor waved her to silence and continued with Olivia.

“Let me just check your pulse okay?  I am going to grab your wrist here for a moment.”  As he spoke he looked over and gave Harriet a look that cautioned her to remain silent.  Claudia walked over to the other side of the bed and began rubbing her mother’s back, softly singing her favorite lullaby.  The doctor released Olivia’s wrist and then bent down to look into her eyes, after which he straightened back up and beckoned to Harriet.

“You stay here and watch after your mother while I step out and talk to your grandmother okay?”

Claudia answered with a small nod and continued singing.

Once they were out in the hall with the door slightly opened, so that an eye could be kept on Olivia, the doctor answered Harriet’s questioning eyes.

“I am not certain that she remembers what happened and I do not think it is wise to remind her.  It may well be that she has experienced some kind of break with reality, something I thought might be a possibility due to the severity and aggressive nature of her actions on the porch.  I do not have much practice with situations such as this and you will need to telegraph to a colleague of mine, Doctor Fitzsimmons in Virginia, and ask that he come out and examine her.”

“Will she be okay?  Will she stay like she is right now, or is that still just effects of the sedative?”

“She is still under the effects of the drug, although that will wear off soon enough.  I shall remain here until she is completely lucid and see how she behaves then.  If necessary, I can administer more to keep her under control; however, I would urge you again to contact Doctor Fitzsimmons as I do not know the longer term effects of these drugs I am using.”

…to be continued