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A Daughter of Martha: Chapter 4

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 07, 2012

A Daughter of Martha

By Ivy Williams Stone

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Chapter 4

Ever since Gloria’s marriage, Anna had been a puzzle to her. Some strange malady had retarded her growth. Certain foods disturbed her; Jonas thought it was because she had drunk a can of lye when she was beginning to crawl. Still, even his memory was vague. When a man runs a sawmill and a store and a farm and writes poetry and studies law, there is no leisure to study the whims of a baby. Left to herself, Anna was self-entertaining and mild. But when her plans were disturbed, her frail body shook with unrestrained rage. Everyone had learned that it was better to leave her rabbits and pet chickens alone.

The whole family were accustomed to her wanderings. She would disappear in the morning and seldom return before dark. She ignored their calls; resented their interference. She built little castles along the creek bank, dug small caves in the hill-side. Here she carried and stored her treasures. She knew the call of all the birds; she had cared for a crippled magpie and taught it to speak a few words. She would not learn household tasks; Gloria could not even trust her with the care of the baby. Though the creek was often swollen, Anna could always cross it. She could bridle a fractious colt when the hired man failed. She possessed a direct unswerving gaze which worried many people. She would sit at Aunt Catherine’s feet, while Victoria combed her hair, and stare, until that worthy lady lost her complacency.

“I declare, Gloria,” Aunt Catherine fidgeted uneasily in her chair, “there’s something uncanny about that child. You know, all great people dislike to be stared at. Caesar was that way about Cassius. When King George came to visit my father he said, ‘Have no silent men about me. Make them laugh’. Anna never laughs.”

Anna remained complacent. She came and went at her own bidding. Francis had been kind to her and she missed him. Now she sought other diversion and wandered farther into the hills. She had often carried food and water to her creek castles, or to a wounded pet. Now day after day she disappeared immediately after breakfast, with a bucket so heavily weighted with bran mash that her frail body bent to the load. She made a circuitous route, lest someone follow her. She answered their repeated questions with a blank stare, from which there was no appeal. She returned at dark, ate a slight meal, smiled at Gloria who never scolded her, and slept peacefully until morning. The next day she would start off as before. If Peter followed, she sent him home.

* * *

Lott Gascom had no ambitions about a beautiful home or education for Lulu. She was sixteen and should soon marry. He felt certain that even her slattern beauty would soon attract a husband. So long as he could fence in public lands for free pasture he had been content. But he had a fine herd of cattle which he prized highly. A pedigreed Jersey which he had named General Grant was his special pride. Shortly after Francis Conrad went home, General Grant disappeared. Lott immediately felt that the Whitmans had retaliated, and that Grant would return. The days passed however, and there was no trace of the lost animal. Lott rode the range for miles around; he visited the Whitman corrals at night, stealthily, hoping to find his treasure. Growing bold with worry, he finally came to the ranch with his troubles.

“Meester Wheetman,” he began, fawningly, knowing well that he deserved much rebuke, “you have had your leetle joke. It is plenty. I am that cured. I kill my dogs, but still my General Grant is gone. I want heem.”

“We haven’t seen your Jersey, Lott,” Jonas Whitman still felt that the desired land had squared his score with Lott. “I hope you find him, but we have not seen him.”

“I love heem like a babee. I look everywhere, but he is not. I love heem like Lulu. Lulu and Grant are my loves.”

Here Rodney interrupted. “I tell you we haven’t seen your old Jersey. Can’t help it if he did cost five hundred. Guess he’s strayed off and died.”

Lott turned white. “I will give to anybody that finds heem ten dollars. Six hundred I pay for heem.”

Rodney looked interested. Ten dollars would buy several things which he coveted. If he just had to ride, if he did not have to work, like hoeing or milking, it wouldn’t be so bad.

The lost General Grant had been a perfectly colored Jersey. He had no distinguishing marks. The pale tan would be difficult to see against oak brush or hill-side. Still, it was worth trying. When Anna came home, carrying an empty mash bucket, Rodney had a sudden inspiration. He waited until she slept, then he carefully examined her bucket. A little tuft of pale tan hair was clinging to the hinge of the pail. With a knowing smile he felt that the ten dollars would be easily earned.

The next day he asked Anna no questions. He ignored her preparations, kept seemingly busy with work on his homestead machinery. But as soon as she was out of sight he followed her on foot, carefully keeping out of the beaten trail, hiding behind oak brush and sage when she stopped to rest.

By a circuitous route Anna arrived at the top of Cripple Creek Canyon. At the point where Jonas diverted the waters for his ranch, a spring flood had once washed a considerable hole in a clay hillside. Here Anna stopped, sat and rested. Soon she cupped her hands and emitted a long drawn, “MOO!”

Much to the surprise of her brother a sound, similar in accent but mournful and long drawn, answered her. Anna smiled, picked up her bucket and entered the washout. Rodney followed her and stood spellbound as he watched his sister. At the bottom of the wash lay the prostrate General Grant. Anna raised his head and fed him from the bucket of mash. This formidable animal that had inspired a fearsome respect all last summer, that had required a heavy barbed enclosure, was gratefully accepting the ministrations of the little girl. And to render this service, Anna carried a heavy bucket for three miles. Bruce saw that General Grant had broken his leg in the fall. While Lott had scoured the countryside for miles, the weakened animal had lain less than a quarter mile from his own door.

Lott Gascom’s eyes filled with rage when he learned of the whereabouts of his valuable Jersey.

“He like to be dead!” cried Lott, “For what can I use him now! I have to shoot heem — there where he be. The hole is his grave.”

That night Gloria soaked the laundry in the tubs. Jonas had purchased a washing machine. You pushed a half wheel far over one way and pulled it back. It revolved a wooden dolly in the tub. It was marvelous. With store soap, washing was now a simple task, if you soaked the clothes overnight. Jonas was always kind, when he remembered. While she hurried with the dishes, watching the lamp where the oil was low, Jonas read aloud of a marvelous new invention. Some man back east, named Edison, had tinkered with electricity until he had invented a lamp that needed no coal oil, or matches, or gas. You turned a switch and light came into a little glass vacuum. It was called carbon incandescent. Gloria said the two words over and over to herself, as she mixed the bread and sliced the bacon and set the mush to soak. And her father had written that a diamond, weighing 280 carats had been dug from the blue soil — down in a mine, not in a river bed. They called it “Tiffany Yellow.” Surely the world was full of wonders.

Jonas went to bed, leaving her to follow when her tasks were finished. She worked more slowly now, felt too heavy for rapid movements. Little Nancy was two. As she poured the last water over the tubs, there came upon the silence the unmistakable sound of horses’ hoofs. A queer, scraping sound accompanied them. Not the creak of a wagon, but a dragging sound. Their private road led to the main road, and sometimes people used it in the daytime. But never before at night. Hastily Gloria put out the light and cupped her hands against the window. A flat sled was being dragged by four straining horses. A large round mass lay on the sled. Gloria recognized the man who walked along by the horses. Lott was easily recognizable by his wild, unhatted hair. Why was he using this private road? Why didn’t he take the other road — this one led to the railroad tracks. He had better be careful. The Overland Limited passed in the early morning. That crossing was dangerous.

The next morning Anna set out with her bucket of mash. Rodney, starting out to his farm, soon returned with news.

“Lott’s General Grant was killed on the railroad track last night!” he cried. “Cut to pieces! Like to nearly upset the train, too. Nobody knows how he got through the fence. No wire was cut, and no gate was open!”

Jonas looked grave. “That will cost a pretty penny,” he volunteered. “That really was a valuable animal.” Further discussion was interrupted by the sudden entrance of Anna, wild with anger. Her frail body trembled, tears blended with dirt and mud. Bran mash was smeared upon her clothing.

“He’s gone — “ she wailed. “My pretty’s gone!”

Her father and Gloria looked at her in amazement, while slow understanding crept over Rodney’s face. “Don’t you worry, Sis,” he began, but Anna again interrupted:

“My pretty was so sick. I fed him every day. He took it from my hand. His foot was hurted. He was Lott’s big cow. He’s gone. I loved him.”

Lott enjoyed a nine day popularity when he showed the check the railroad sent in settlement. There had been no questions. Lott had papers showing the value and pedigree of the Jersey; he was killed on the tracks, just inside the crossing. And Rodney said nothing, but bided his time. He had plans forming in his mind, in which Lott’s money played a part.

Rodney’s reading had not been confined to novels. He had gotten some serious books, among them a copy of the state laws. Also, he read a book on pre-emption and homesteading. He began to watch the calendar. Jonas, worried over what proved to be the failure of his store and Gloria’s weakening health, did not pay as much attention to the lapse of the fourteen months of residence as Rodney did. He was secure. He had paid the fees required for short term residence. The land was cultivated, and Rodney faithfully made it his place of residence. The final proof for patent could be attended to at any convenient time.

During his father’s absence Rodney took two of the hired men and rode to the land office. He was an American citizen. He was well past twenty-one. He had witnesses to prove he had complied with all requirements. He said nothing of his action to his father. Within a short time Mr. Rodney Whitman received patent from the United States to the quarter section which fulfilled a long cherished dream of his father’s. But to Rodney it was merely land. Land that you had to plow and furrow and rake and sow and irrigate. And Lott Gascom coveted that land, and Lott had money.

Choosing an auspicious day when Jonas was again away from home Rodney and Lott traveled to the county seat. It only required one simple signature to make Lott the legal possessor of one hundred sixty acres of land, and from Lott’s greasy pockets the General Grant money was transferred to Rodney Whitman. To him it was money; money to carry him far away from detested farms and cows, from woodcutting and plowing.

* * *

Gloria had worked at high tension all day long. Rodney was so elated over something, he did nothing but whisper to Victoria. Aunt Catherine was buried deep in her eleventh reading of Under Two Flags.

“Ah, Gloria,” she called, whenever the busy Gloria came within earshot, “if Cigaretta had been a princess, she couldn’t have acted more regally. And speaking of princesses, did you know that Queen Victoria has had nine children? What a marvelous queen! She buried her husband. Princess Alice died because she kissed her diphtheria-stricken son, and the future king. Prince Arthur, died. Still Queen Victoria carries on, alone. I would love to return to England for her jubilee. It will be grand. Ah, me, my eyes ache. I think I shall play a little on the piano before supper. Do you know how to make a Yorkshire pudding, Gloria?”

Gloria went down to feed the chickens. Little Peter and Nancy trudged along. Peter was getting to be a fine sturdy boy now, able to keep Nancy from the irrigation ditches, and to carry small armfuls of wood to the house. Perhaps there would be more eggs tonight. The grass was green. Old Spotty had stolen her nest away. If she could find it, there would be more eggs to sell, and a little more money to drop in the crock on the cellar floor.

Gloria climbed to the loft over the mangers. The cackle of a startled hen led her on — surely Spotty had chosen a secluded spot. Gloria stepped on a loose board, tripped and fell, not through to the mangers, but only half way. The narrow aperture would not let her through, gave her no chance to draw herself upward. There she hung, calling piteously to little Peter to run for help. Peter could hardly understand. But he knew her voice was queer and muffled, and he ran back to the house. Aunt Catherine’s voice guided him to the parlor. She was lustily singing and rebuked him for interrupting.

“If you had been properly reared,” she admonished, “you would not speak until spoken to. These modern children have no respect for their elders.”

“Send her victorious
Happy and glorious
Long to reign over us
God save the Queen!”

She took up her solo again, feeling that Peter should be impressed into silence. But he merely screamed, louder than before:

“Mama! Mama!”

“May she defend our laws — ”

Peter became desperate. He could see his mother dangling above the mangers, could hear her voice growing fainter. He looked around for something to rouse this lady who did not like to move. His glance fell on the twelve gourds which he had been taught to revere. They were not heavy. He grabbed one and threw it with all his puny strength directly in the face of Aunt Catherine, who had opened her mouth wide for another line of the song.

The effect was all that Peter had desired. The gourd rolled harmlessly to the carpeted floor, but Aunt Catherine sprang up to punish the boy who dared affront her in that manner. Peter ran from the house toward the barn, with Aunt Catherine following with all the speed she could muster. It was really a pity that there were none to watch her marathon. Down the dusty path to the barn she followed the nimble Peter, into the barn where he pointed to his mother. A look of horrified understanding came over the features of Aunt Catherine. The butter and cream and hot biscuits had produced a broad, plump shoulder. With one supreme effort she extricated the unconscious Gloria.

Gloria never really knew what happened in the succeeding few hours. The world moved around her in a sickening whirl, with pain laughing mockingly, with the voice of little Nancy calling, as if from deep water. She must stay for Nancy. And Peter. And poor little Anna — and the gourds must be cared for. Jonas’ voice sounded far away, muffled like hers. Had he fallen too? Eggs — a carload of eggs, rolling over the road to the station, falling off into the hands of eager children. In the early morning hours, two little babies lay wrapped in blankets on the farther side of the bed.

Aunt Catherine bent over her with more tenderness than she had ever used and whispered, “Girls, my dear. Two of ‘em. This is only four. Queen Victoria had nine.”

Aunt Catherine lay down to rest on the children’s bed. Victoria had taken the children to bed with her. Rodney was supposedly back in his homestead cabin. A great stillness hung over the house. Victoria should be getting up. There were many tasks for all this day. The sun rose brightly. Birds began to twitter, still Victoria did not come. Aunt Catherine rose, sleepily.

“That boy Peter is bright, like all the Whitmans. He took me by the hand and led me to you, Gloria, I’m glad your babies have no hint of your red hair, Gloria. They really look beautiful.”

She went out, complaining faintly that she needed her breakfast. Victoria should be here to comb her hair. Her feet padded softly down the hall. In a minute she returned with heavy tread. “Victoria is gone!” she cried, forgetting that she might alarm the sick Gloria. “Where is Jonas? Where is everybody? The three children are asleep in her bed. She left a note!”

Jonas and Aunt Catherine held a council in the parlor, as far away as possible from the sick room. The note was all too self-explanatory:

I have gone away with Rodney. He does not want to own a farm. I do not like to comb your hair. He sold his farm to Mr. Gascom. We will be married in the city.

Greek faced Greek over the big piano, the cold Franklin stove, and the brittle, ever-lasting daisies. Jonas picked up the gourd which Peter had thrown at his Aunt, and replaced it with the others.

“He couldn’t sell his farm — it’s mine!” Jonas struck the piano in his anger, unconscious of his jumbled pronouns.

“She can’t get married — who would comb my hair?” wailed Aunt Catherine. “I won’t let her marry. She shall stay with me, always.”

“She was over eighteen,” Jonas looked at his sister coldly. What difference did it matter that Catherine had lost a daughter?

“Rodney was over twenty-one, too,” countered Catherine. “I remember now, they were talking together all yesterday afternoon. He showed her money — a whole roll of it.”

“Rodney has sold my quarter section to Lott Gascom.” Jonas mulled the sentence over and over.

“Your daughter has stolen the affections of my son!” he glared at Catherine.

“And your son has stolen the affections of my daughter!” retaliated Catherine, in a tone fully as angry. Then they remembered the sick woman upstairs and the two little premature babies. Gloria must be cared for. Time moved on irrevocably. Youth had asserted itself. Rodney and Victoria had taken the right to live their own lives. They were married by now. Rodney would never be a farmer. Victoria would never be a hair dresser. Lott Gascom had recorded his deed, of course. It was all proper. The title was legally in Rodney’s name. You could lead a horse to water, but you couldn’t make him drink. The treadmill of life — inexorable — exacting.

Aunt Catherine dressed little Nancy, and persuaded Anna to help Peter. Then she fed all the family the bacon and the mush and the milk that was their daily breakfast. She prepared a little breakfast for Gloria. Upon her own dish of mush she added two spoonfuls of clotted cream.

Jonas felt the pressure of financial worries. Yet he was really worried over Gloria. She had been too sick this time. He bought her a gift — a queer box, with a funnel-like horn attached. There were round cylinders covered with tinfoil which you put on a frame work. Then you turned a handle, and presto! music came out of the born. Songs, voices just like a human being talking. “Darling Nellie Gray”; “Little Annie Rooney.” They called it a phonograph. The same man who had made that carbon light had invented this also. Gloria decided she was living in a wonderful age. She had time now to finish the Prince and the Pauper, to learn all about little Edward the VI and Tom Canty: to understand the period of superstition and witchcraft in which people then lived. She also had time to knit. Socks for Peter. Anna and Nancy. Even Aunt Catherine said she would try a pair to see how they felt.

With Rodney gone, it became necessary for Jonas to have help around the place. A young boy, Bruce Knight, an orphan nephew of Jonas’ was sent for. He was an unpleasant lad, and seemed to delight in doing unpleasant things, so that his presence added little comfort to Gloria, but in an incredibly short time he seemed to ingratiate himself into the heart of Jonas, who treated him like a son. It was one more for Gloria to take care of, but he helped Jonas, so she did not complain. But there was no sympathy between Bruce and Gloria or Gloria’s children.

The following winter when the snow lay heavy in the hills and the February thaw had set in, Jonas went to town about his store. During December and January when the snow was frozen and tightly packed, Bruce had been driving up Cripple Creek Canyon to bring down parts of the abandoned sawmill. Jonas had a chance to sell it to advantage. His store worried him. The raucous laughter of Lott Gascom galled him to distraction. He wondered how he would face the next spring, watching Lott’s cows grazing on the fields where he had planted wheat. It was to be a new experiment – frost proof, winter wheat, they called it. You sowed it in the fall, and it matured early the next summer. Bruce, ever anxious to please his employer, and really stirred to some consideration by the sight of Gloria’s white face, voluntarily offered to continue hauling the mill parts, during Jonas’ absence.

“No, Bruce,” Jonas’ parting instructions were emphatic. “I know weather conditions in Cripple Creek Canyon. We have hauled all we dare. The thaw is on – slides may come anytime. You would not have a very pleasant time waiting while we dug you out.” He spoke lightly, but Bruce knew orders when he heard them.

Thus the days dragged slowly by, without interest for Bruce, a high-spirited boy who was gradually making himself a part of the Whitman family. To be confined with an old lady who wept and wrung her hands over her lost daughter, who hinted that she would even let a boy comb her hair, palled on him. He longed for action. He wanted to be doing something! Suppose he did get caught in a slide. Suppose he got caught on the other side of a slide that blocked the road, and food had to be lowered from the cliff beyond. Supposing, many and weird ideas and situations fertilized in his brain until Lott Gascom coming down added the last temptation.

“Bruce, I saw a bear out lookin’ at his shadder. ‘Twas the second of February too. He won’t go back, ‘cause he couldn’t see his shadder. Maybe you could get heem, with that fancy gun.”

Anna, who had grown quite attached to Bruce, stood listening.

Early the next morning Bruce set off. He chose a strong young team, put the wagon bed on the bobs, and went to the pantry for provisions. he gave no note of explanation to anyone and was just getting away when Anna suddenly appeared. She was fully dressed, ready to join him.

“I know – I know,” she half whispered, half giggled. “I go with you. You can’t kill poor bear. Nice bear!”

Bruce rushed off and jumped into the sled and was off. As he glanced back Anna still stood looking after him.

As the day wore on Gloria became distinctly worried over Bruce’s non-appearance. She knew he had eaten – knew he had taken provisions, but when he failed to appear for dinner, she felt a queer, unnameable foreboding. The other hired men only knew that a team and the bobs were gone. Anna was silent, refusing to talk. The short afternoon was drawing to a close. Drip-drip-drip, fell the thawing snow from the roof. The slush ran over your rubbers when you stepped out doors. In the silence of the winter afternoon, when she stood in the opened door, Gloria distinctly heard the heavy, reverberating thunder of a snow slide in Cripple Creek Canyon. She wondered if Lott Gascom’s home was safe. She had always wondered how he managed to escape, year in and year out, from the many slides in the canyon beyond him. Still Bruce did not come. Where had he gone with those two fast horses? Had he defied Jonas and gone to the mill site? Perhaps he had gone to see Lulu – he had been before. If only Jonas were home! An hour later Lulu Gascom rode wildly into the Whitman yard. She had no bridle or saddle, but clung to the horse by the mane, and froth flecked his mouth and nostrils.

“Oh-oh-oh!” she cried. “My daddy – Bruce – they are caught. They trailed a bear!”

Gloria took command. She summoned the two hired men – sent one for volunteers to the village, gathered their equipment. There were lanterns to be filled, food to be packed; straw and quilts for the sleds. Shovels and picks; extra coats for the men. Hot drinks to be packed in crocks and jars. A telegram to Jonas.

The necessity for work kept her cool. In a short interval they were off, five sleds of willing, eager men, anxious to help, confidently assuring the shivering women that all would end well.

Gloria and Aunt Catherine went back into the house. It was silent with the hush of death. Peter and Nancy sat subdued and round-eyed. The two tiny babies slept peacefully, unconscious of tragedy. Lulu sat in a corner, her thin shoulders shaking with sobs. But something else seemed wrong. There was no Anna.

“Anna!” called Gloria, knowing even as she spoke the futility of calling. Wherever she was, she would not reply. “Anna,” she called again. “Anna, come to supper!”

They searched all the premises. Under the beds, out in the stables, even into the chicken coop. But no little girl with searching, penetrating eyes sat before Aunt Catherine that night.

After the babies were in bed the two women and Lulu watched and waited all through the night. From her corner Lulu finally spoke in a frightened whisper:

“I told Anna about the bear. She said it was wrong to shoot the poor bear. She said she would nurse the bear, after they shot it. She said she tended General Grant that way, but I don’t know what she meant.”

Memory of the months in which Bruce had been with them flashed over Gloria’s mind as she waited news of his fate. The wood he had cut; the water he had carried. He was only a boy, and had not had the best judgment always, nor a very keen sense of responsibility, but he had lived in their home, and Gloria was worried. Poor Jonas – if anything happened to this boy. He took things so hard. Why did Anna add to their troubles by staying out all night? Drip-drip-drip. The monotonous repetition of the melting snow became almost maddening to the waiting women.

Toward morning another rumbling thunder broke the silence.

With the dawn the rescuers returned. They were all there. Bruce had left his team at Gascom’s. Together Lott and Bruce had gone trailing the bear. The tracks led into an old mine shaft and out again. It was a queer old shaft, not down into the earth, but circling a mountain-side, with another opening which few people knew about. Bruce wanted to find that bear, and to use his gun. They sighted him and Bruce shot at him, wounding him. Then they heard a rumbling noise and knew they were caught. They ran back into the mine —

Bruce’s brave front gave away at this point and one of the hired men took up the story.

“When he got there, we was surprised to find Anna under the quilts. She said she knowed all about that canyon, and I reckon she did. The slide was so big there wasn’t no use digging against it. It would be like trying to dip up the ocean with a bucket. Anna, she said she knowed where that other end to the mine was. She led us around the hill, and there sure ‘nough was another hole. There was her old doll and some little dishes and a rag or two, that she’s toted up there last fall. She took us in and we hollered and hollered, and finally we heard an answer. They was safe and sound and we got ‘em out — but –” here his voice failed also, and another man took up the tale.

“Well, Bruce got to telling how he’d shot that bear, and he bet he was over a certain ridge and maybe they could get him when it was light. You know we was all standing round with the lanterns, and it was awful hard to see good. Well Anna come up to Bruce and calls out to him:

“‘Did you shoot that poor bear? That purty bear? I’m going to find him — I’m going to take bran mash to him, like I did to the purty cow!’ And ‘fore we knowed it, Mam, she rushed off into the dark, over toward that little hill. And you know there was another slide. I guess you heard it. We can’t do no good now, Mam, ‘cept to go back and dig!”

Drip-drip-drip. The water fell from the eaves. The horses pawed restlessly in the slush. A fine wet rain clung to the men’s hats and coats, while Bruce, unashamed, let his tears mingle with the moisture on his coat.

“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away — blessed be the name of the Lord.” The words of the Bishop sounded remote and muffled as they gathered in the little church-school house. Aunt Catherine remained at home, peacefully rocking in the big chair, a baby on each knee. Jonas looked white — half beaten. Rodney’s look of near success was chastened with pity for his father. Bruce was all contrition.

“Lord, into Thy hands do we commend her spirit.” The dedicatory prayer blended with the dripping snow from the pine that sheltered the grave. Peter’s feet were wet. Gloria could hear the water ooze as he walked. Princess Alice had kissed a dying child. To the rich, to the poor, death came alike. Jonas had spoken no word of censure to Bruce. In death, as in life, Anna was an unsolved mystery to her father.

Victoria prepared the supper. She seemed changed, self-reliant and happy. Gloria stuffed Peter’s shoes with paper, and put them to dry slowly, so they would not shrink. Already they were none too big for the growing boy. Aunt Catherine got a brush and comb and seated herself in the old rocker, but Victoria did not offer to comb her hair. Rodney had brought some fresh lettuce, hard-centered and sweet. It seemed queer to have green food in the winter. He had gotten it from a train. There were cars on the trains now, where meals were served as you traveled.

The next day Stephen Kirkman arrived, bearing a death letter from Africa. Gloria’s father had been killed, two months before, in a cave-in of a road that had been undermined by the diamond mines. Gloria went into the parlor alone, and sat gazing at the twelve gourds. She thought of the Kafir rebellions, of the sudden floods, of the predatory animals, of the hostile Dutch and the chirping monkeys. Greed sent men to early graves. Only last week Jonas had said, “I will never rest until I re-possess that quarter section!”

Her father had sought diamonds. Jonas sought land — land and more land. He seemed unconscious of the family’s needs. He had only one vision — a complete section of land, strongly fenced, well cultivated, well watered, where pedigreed cattle should roam in rank pasture, and full-headed grain ripen in the mountain sun. But in her heart Gloria knew that Jonas’ passion for acquiring land was not mere greed. Something else was there, too. Someday she would talk it over with him and understand.

(To be continued)



8 Comments »

  1. I don’t even think I know where to begin. If I was supposed to understand that Gloria’s sickness = pregnant with twins, I somehow missed it, and was wondering what was up with the new babies. And what the heck is a third trimester pregnant woman doing crawling around up in the rafters of the barn?

    Catherine is too much the comic book character to take very seriously, although some shred of humanity does seem to drop on her unexpectedly. I should be used to Ivy Stone’s dysfunctional families and totally weird plot developments at this point, but it is still just really jarring to read some of this.

    So my guess that Gloria’s father would step in and save the day at some point is off, but I should realize by now that Ms. Stone is not into telegraphing her plot points well. She is aspiring to that level of mediocrity in my humble opinion.

    But what this lacks in good writing (ie, plot development, fully developed characters, etc) is somewhat compensated for with just plain watch-the-train-wreck weirdness. Maybe if she turned her story ideas over to Joss Whedon (Buffy, FIrefly, The Avengers), we might have something more interesting. Like fully empowered heroines, an appreciation for the unappreciated, and truly developed characters, quirky or not. Whedon could have done something more with the poor Anna. I kept thinking of Cipher in ths Snow when I read about her.

    Well, I am in it up to my knees at this point, might as well keep going forward, as I really have only one idea of what is going to happen. I’ll just have to wait and see what will next make me drop my metaphorical popcorn. I have already figured that there is a stand-in for her father already on scene. Gourds, anyone?

    Comment by kevinf — May 7, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

  2. You’ve hit on the only real value I see in this story, kevinf. It’s like anything by Dan Brown: What weird thing is going to happen next? I don’t really care, but I can’t resist turning the page to find out!

    The other thing I wonder is how stories like this were received by readers of the Church magazines in the 1930s. Did they think they were great? Did they pull out the popcorn the same way we do? Did the editors ever think twice about publishing them? I just don’t know.

    I promise you that neither the Easter Bunny nor anybody’s fairy godmother will make an appearance in this story. Other than that, though, I make no promises.

    And I’ve already picked out a lighter, much more recent, more Mormony story for our next serial.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 7, 2012 @ 4:24 pm

  3. This story has so much going on that when I start reading the new part, I don’t recognize the names of key players. So, I have to go back to the preceding chapter to get caught up on what is happening and to whom.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — May 7, 2012 @ 10:05 pm

  4. It would be easier if the characters were named

    Spoiled English Woman with Hairdressing and Clotted Cream Fetishes, and

    Bizarrely Handicapped Little Girl With Special Skills Needed In the Plot, and

    Lazy Adult Son, and

    Father in South Africa Who Probably Tears His Own Envelopes to Fool Family Into Thinking He Tried to Send Money,

    wouldn’t it?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 7, 2012 @ 10:29 pm

  5. Needs illustrations. Oh how I wish it had illustrations.

    Comment by Mina — May 8, 2012 @ 6:04 am

  6. Yeah, this story is just weird. But I have to keep reading to see if my theory that the gourds are full of D1AM0NDS!!!! is correct…

    Comment by E. Wallace — May 8, 2012 @ 6:38 am

  7. They’d better be, because I don’t see any other way out for all the trials that lie ahead in Gloria’s future …

    Yes, Mina, pictures! Now who do we know who is something of an artist who could provide those?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 8, 2012 @ 7:04 am

  8. Clotted cream never sounds very good to me, but is it somewhat like cottage cheese?

    Ardis, I loved your alternate names for the characters, so I am now imagining how their voices sound. Catherine sounds like the nasally falsetto English voices used by the Monty Python cast when they were dressed in drag playing older female characters. Lott Gascom now sounds like Manuel the waiter from Fawlty Towers, and Jonas looks and sounds like George McFly from the first Back to the Future movie.

    And your prediction that there are even more trials to come sounds exciting, just like watching the movie Santa Claus vs, the Martians. “Make it stop, no, wait, don’t make it stop!”

    Comment by kevinf — May 8, 2012 @ 11:20 am

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