A Daisy for Hannah Jane: Chapter XVI

From the ongoing novel A Daisy for Hannah Jane.


Rachel St. Louis

Art by Rachel St. Louis.

Rachel St. Louis, Copy Chief

 A Daisy for Hannah Jane

Chapter XVI

Hannah Jane wandered the Chauldings halls aimlessly. She found her feet by Jamison’s office and her mind wondered if he’d just own up to not having a job and live in the Chauldings’ mansion for good, like her. She’d found out that Sir Henry fired him right before Raymie had come home. How he managed to keep his mother alive, she had no idea.

Hannah Jane visited Mrs. Jamison frequently, but the woman’s conversations always left her edgy. Like the lady was piercing her soul somehow. And I believe she is.

A voice made her nearly jump out of her skin. “God, let Hannah Jane see the Truth. Please.”

Disturbed, she poked her head through the door silently and peeked in just enough to see Jamison mumbling to his unseen God on his knees by… A bed?

She backed into the hall and raced to her chambers, more than startled. Maybe he’d moved in and she hadn’t noticed. Maybe she hadn’t been in his “office” for a while. Am I going mad?

She clenched her teeth, throwing herself on her bed. From where she was, at her bedroom window, Hannah Jane could hear Harriet speaking to her beau. Hannah Jane took soft strides to the open shutters and looked down upon Harriet with old Caleb, since she was two stories above them. Their voices drifted up to her ears.

“You’re the best gard’ner on this side of New England, Caleb dear.”

He turned his head before sitting up straight, hindered by his bad hip. “New England has sides?”

She chuckled but didn’t toss him a biting retort. “Caleb, laundry’s been all washed up. I don’t need to oversee anyone for a bit.”

“You want to sit?” he asked, gesturing to a bench laced with untamed ivy. He sat heavily and with a long sigh. “My back ain’t what it used to be. Do you ‘member when I was a boy and I could do all kinds o’ tough work?”

Harriet patted his hand. “I do.” There was a smile in her voice that made it sound as if they were being married. “I used to watch you throw the bales o’ hay over the big walls your father built. Strappin’ lad, you were.”

Caleb grinned. “I ‘member when you an’ your sisters brought us the dippin’ barrel o’ water fer us male folk. Pretty as pansies, you were. Stood out among those older stalks o’ corn.”

“Did you just call Martha and Anna stalks of corn?”

“Sure as dawn I did. They were always so tall like yer father.”

Harriet shook her head. “I’m s’prised you haven’t gotten yourself into a heap o’ trouble yet, old fella.”

“Not much, that is.”

Harriet laughed. “You know we’ve been courtin’ longer than Janie’s been alive?”

“Methinks I do.”

“I do?”

“Yes.” Caleb’s tone grew solemn and he slowly went back to the garden. The old man bent down to touch the plants gently, his old hands reassuring the harvest of his firstfruits. A crown of white and stony gray hairs circled his head, exposing a bald spot on the very top. He plucked the frayed straw hat lying next to his hoe and settled it just above his heavy salt-and-pepper eyebrows. He was kind and caring, yet looked rough around his many edges. He was a weathered man in general. Like Harriet’s kind of man…

“I think it’s time.”

Hannah Jane’s heart thumped wildly and she held her breath, willing Harriet to give in to this long-awaited summer day.  

Instead, Harriet’s mouth twitched. A warm feeling filled Hannah Jane’s stomach.

“Oh!” Harriet cried, falling into the beautiful rows of flowers. Despite his cranky joints, Caleb scooped her up quickly. Hannah Jane climbed out of the window and mounted the tree, ignorant to the new tear in her expensive Chauldings-approved dressed and mussed hair. She stumbled over her bare feet, kicking her flats off into the grass.

“My dear, oh, my dear,” Caleb moaned, hurrying to her with Harriet resting contently in his arms. Her mouth kept twitching.

“What’s happening to her?” Hannah Jane whispered, wishing she could take Harriet’s place. “Have you ever seen like this before?” She scanned Caleb’s face. He didn’t show emotion but hardened his jaw and set his green eyes on his lady. The lady who’d taken Hannah Jane in and scrubbed her knuckles off at the washtub just so Hannah Jane could wear her favorite, jelly-stain-free dress…

“I’ll fetch the doctor.”

“No,” Caleb gasped. “I fear for her.”

She was about to say something, but Caleb finally made eye contact and she could see no panic in him. Truly, it was worry out of adoration for the strong woman who looked frail. Harriet was never frail.

Half of Harriet’s face twitched and then sagged a bit. “Janie,” Caleb rasped. “Please.” He held her out to Hannah Jane. Suddenly wanting to be called Janie for the rest of her life, she took the burden of Harriet willingly. She was terrified at the sight of Harriet so sickly and unresponsive.

“Your bad hip,” Janie said.

Caleb turned and simply looked at her. “I don’t care ‘bout no bad hip.”

He limped off without a word, leaving Janie to contemplate. She took Harriet inside, and, terrified of what her grandmother would do if she was the situation, carried Harriet into her own bedroom. She laid her on the neat bed and worried over her. Did she need water? A wet cloth on her forehead? A blanket? Janie wished she’d finished her schooling when Grandmother had planned and regretted taking high school classes as a young woman.

She wondered what Harriet would do and rang the bellcord to summon her, but quickly realized Harriet was sick on her bed. I hope I’m not going crazy.

Jamison. She needed Jamison.

“Jamison!” she hollered, praying he would come. “Jamison, help! Help!”

He came huffing into the room, hair aloof and clothes disheveled from running. “I’m here.” His voice was rusty. “What is it? Oh — Harriet,” he gasped, staring at the patient.

“I don’t know what to do. Caleb is calling for the doctor, but I…” Hannah Jane started to cry. “I’m sorry, Jamison, I don’t know what to do. I love Harriet, but I can’t help her. I don’t know what to do,” she repeated.

He touched her shoulder, as if he were waking her up. “Listen to me, Janie. It’s all right. We’ll talk about this later. I care for Harriet, too. We must focus on her so she can recover.”

He looked straight into her eyes and she nodded, suffocating a hiccup. “What do we need to do for her?”

Jamison forced a smile. “First, let me check her temperature. Will you get me some smelling salts?”

Janie nodded and did as she was asked, while Jamison prayed Harriet wouldn’t die.