Porcelain (Part 41)

Several days later Christmas came and went with little fanfare, especially at the main house.  Isaac was as frugal as ever and did not allow money to be spent on what he considered to be wasted celebration.  Wyatt did cut down a small tree and place it in the cabin for Claudia.  He also made sure she had a few simple gifts to open, but overall it was a day little different from any other they had spent in Lippelsdorf.  Claudia was sitting next to Wyatt on the porch the next day when Issac passed by with an armful of wood.

“Did you post my letter to my sister?”

“I’ve hardly had time yet father,” Isaac replied in a weary voice, “as I have had many chores around the house.  I am plenty busy despite the work holiday.”

“Well then, return it to me as I think I can manage a walk into town tomorrow and will post it myself.”

“Never mind that father, I said I will take care of it and I will.  Stop worrying about it.”

Wyatt watched his son complete the trip to the side door where he unceremoniously dumped the wood onto the ground and then hurried into the house.

“Lydia sure has that son of mine jumping for her,” Wyatt muttered under his breath, receiving an inquisitive look in reply from Claudia.  “Never you mind girl, just go back to your playing.”

Wyatt wrote several letters after that, about one a month through March, always giving them to Isaac to post as his son had stated he had a special arrangement with the post master to get the letters quickly to the states.  Something about making sure they ended up on the fastest ships.  Wyatt had liked the sound of that arrangement and had praised Isaac for getting it in place.  He would inquire sometimes, about whether any replies had arrived for him at the station, and Issac would respond that he always checked but nothing had been received.  Tension grew between them over this, mostly from Isaac’s side, as he seemingly became more and more irritated by his father’s questions, and shorter and more blunt in his replies.  Eventually, Wyatt would start asking and Isaac would just cut him off with an upraised hand.  He had considered going to the station himself several times; however, the last walk to town had been long and difficult for both he and Claudia.   By the end of March however, he was very worried about the lack of any reply and his patience with trying to get information from Isaac had been exhausted.  He understood the distance involved but he had waited long enough.  As soon as he saw his son walk into the main house that night he had promptly walked over and entered without knocking.  He caught Isaac and Lydia is an argument which they abruptly ended as he stepped through the door.  They looked flustered but Wyatt hardly noticed as he had come seeking different information.

“What is his name Isaac?  What is the name of this post master in town?”

Isaac glanced over at his wife before replying.  “Why are you asking?”

“Because I am going into town myself tomorrow and getting some information from the man.  I have posted four letters to Harriet since Christmas and have not heard one spare word back from her yet.  Maybe he can figure out why his magic delivery trick doesn’t work both ways.  Or help in getting it to work.  Or tell me something about why it should be taking so long.  I need to wire Harriet also, just to make sure she is well.”

“Really father, take it easy.  It is a long walk for an old man like you and it would be a waste of your time anyway.  I’ve told you that I check for you and I’m sure nothing has been received.”  Isaac settled down into a wooden chair and started taking off his brown work boots.  “You do realize that we live in Germany?  This is a long way from the states and mail takes time.”

“Not this long.  Her last letter arrived here barely five weeks after she wrote it so there should have been word by now.  Give me that name boy.”

“You really must be patient.” It was Lydia who had spoken and it took Wyatt by surprise.

“Well, yes, I mean, well, it has been long enough.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to ruin Isaac’s special arrangement or make any kind of a scene. I just need to know what might be taking so long.”

An unusual silence followed, one that remained as Isaac and Lydia seemed to share looks of some kind of understanding.  Finally Isaac leaned back in his chair and stretched his feet out toward the fire before speaking.

“You’re going in the morning, then? Tomorrow?”

“Yes, that is what I said.  Now what is his name?”

“Very well.  Alois Weber, ask for him at the front.”

“Thank you.  Good night son.”

Wyatt strode back out and across to the cabin, while inside the main house the strange silence remained.   Isaac stared up at the ceiling while Lydia stared intently at her husband as she leaned up against the kitchen door frame.  Ambrose came in, seemed to sense that something was amiss, and proceeded on through to his own room.  A cat, which the boy had found in the woods and adopted, but so far not named, jumped up to sit on Isaac’s lap.  Finally he spoke.

“I know.”

“You should, it obviously cannot go on past tomorrow.  And that means tonight.”

“Yes, I said that I know.”

And the silence returned and continued as the clock on the wall slowly marked off the minutes.  The cabin was always dark by ten o’clock each night, and when it was ten thirty Lydia walked over to blow out the lamp on the table.  She then retired to the bedroom and Isaac pulled his work boots back on.

 

…to be continued

Porcelain (Part 40)

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?”

“What?”

“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

Dear Sister, 

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.

Your Brother, 

Wyatt

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