The House of Everard: part two
By the third night of his second homecoming, Richard and Peggy had fallen into a routine. He still felt as though he might be seized with an uncontrollable urge; that an impulse of lunatic atavism might cause him to flee into the woods, so burdened was he by the weight of his mother’s need to have him there.
He stood again with his arm hooked round the porch pillar, faltering, almost yielding to it, almost falling into Peggy’s camellias. His mother had tonight come through the door with Old Everard’s walking stick. Richard heard her halt, give out a heavy exhalation, the stick scrape the porch planks as she leaned all her weight on it. He heard her land like a millstone, as the wicker cried its protest. And still, he kept his back to her.
“Richard,” Peggy said, “you will have to go to Louisville. I can’t ask Mr. McCrary to do me another favor.”
Not knowing a soul in Louisville, Peggy had known of no reason to doubt the abilities of Corbett and Dossett. She had gone down to the town of Chambliss, a roll of banknotes and Haws’s letter tucked into a pocket of her skirt; she had gone down walking out her grief, to call on her minister, Mr. McCrary.
“Peggy, have you had news?”
Stricken at the open door, his mother stood unable to speak. Her iron pride had foundered. But at the touch of Mrs. McCrary’s hands, closing over her own, drawing her into the parlor, Peggy righted herself. “I need to ask your help with one or two things, ma’am. You know I have no family in this state.”
Peggy would have to post this news to New Orleans, where her Sartain relatives, at present happy and relieved, would come to regret this lapse from pessimism. Her letter would need copying, probably six times over. Lawrence, she supposed―realizing this―would arrive by flatboat and wagon.
“Well, now, you just sit down…at that desk, there, if you want, love,” Mrs. McCrary said, for Peggy had insisted she would not take tea, and that the time she could spare was short. “We’ll take care of all that.”
While in town, Peggy made her purchases. At the end of her long walk home, she stopped at the cabins and called Naomi to come up to the house. Without a word to Old Everard, the two women spent the day rising bread dough, shaping rolls, painting these with a milk and sugar glaze; rolling out pie crusts, emptying jars of preserves from the larder. Finally, with her arrangements made, with no obligations left to worry her mind, Peggy had taken on the worst of chores.
Richard felt the stirring of his father, and shortly could hear Old Everard stump in his woolen socks, through the front parlor. Bent with rheumatism, unsteady from whisky, he grunted and told himself aloud what he was about as he progressed. He used chair backs, and the molding along the wainscot to hold himself on his feet. He had not yet stoked himself to rage. That would come. It was only for the giving of vent to his rages that Old Everard roused himself from his chair by the fire. But Richard’s shoulders cringed with every imprecation and muffled footfall bringing his father closer to the porch.
The House of Everard
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)