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A Daisy for Hannah Jane: Chapter XVII

From the ongoing novel A Daisy for Hannah Jane.

Art+by+Rachel+St.+Louis.
Art by Rachel St. Louis.

Art by Rachel St. Louis.

Rachel St. Louis

Rachel St. Louis

Art by Rachel St. Louis.


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A Daisy for Hannah Jane

Chapter XVII

Jamison and Hannah Jane tried everything they could to help Harriet Beatrice Kimbley. The smelling salts were of no use and nothing else could aid the suffering woman.

Hannah Jane fluffed the biggest pillow for probably the eighteenth time, never taking her eyes off her caretaker for a millisecond. Jamison held his breath every time he dared turn around, too.

Neither of them noticed Caleb hobble in until the old man was at Harriet’s bedside. Jamison saw the pain in his every move, hindering each breath, and saw the same reflection in Hannah Jane. Surely Harriet changed them. But was it Harriet? No. It’s the Spirit of the Lord in her that they see. There was no doubting Caleb was a Christian, too. Jamison pondered over the Christian influence all three of them had on Hannah Jane. And when she would come to terms with it.

“Is there nothing more we can do?” Hannah Jane asked yet again, this time to Caleb.

“Pray,” he rasped. “It’s the best healin’ for mankind.”

“I don’t think prayers heal people,” she countered softly. Her brows were knit.

Caleb sighed, smiling slightly. “Naw, but the One we’re prayin’ to does the healin’. Did Harriet teach you anythin’?”

She rolled her eyes. “That woman’s teachings make me want to crawl out of my own skin.”

Caleb laughed lightly and Jamison heard the hope filling his voice. He caught Harriet’s eye as she moved her strange, silent stare on him. Can she hear and understand everything we’re saying? What’s happened to her? Jamison’s anxious thoughts climbed. He walked out of the room, unnoticed by all except Harriet.

He knew he had to tell Mrs. Chauldings, despite Hannah Jane’s feelings. But Caleb would understand.

He spotted a maid who was walking through the same dimly lit hallway. She was short for her evident age, most likely near his own, and her skimpy bob cut made her appear even less dignified.

“Excuse me, miss?”

“Yes, sir? Do you need something, sir?” she inquired politely, her tone sprinkled with education. She stopped her abrupt strides and raised her head over the full basket of linens she carried.

“Would you happen to know where the lady of the house is?”

She looked him over for a few moments and he waited, impatient on the inside.

“Has something happened?” Her voice dwindled to a whisper. He bent down, bowing, so his ear aligned with hers.

“The head maid has taken ill.” He saw integrity in her and added, “Very ill.”

Her eyes nearly popped out of her head. “Not Miss Harriet,” she gasped.

Jamison couldn’t look at the poor girl. Fixing his eyes on the wall behind her, he said, “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, miss, truly. But Miss Harriet needs desperate help.”

“What can I do?”

He noticed the sympathy in her eyes, not as strong as Janie’s, but it was still there. “You can help her most by fetching Mrs. Chauldings right away and bringing her to Miss Hannah Jane’s room.”

“But I can’t do that. She’ll — ”

“Life is more important than a mistress’ cold glares, miss.”

She looked ready to cry and Jamison immediately felt sorry. “As you wish,” she sniffed, raising her chin.

“Not a word to anyone else, miss.”

“Of course.”

Jamison wandered back to the room, hoping with everything in him Harriet was still conscious. God, save the woman who brought us all to our senses.

• • •

Mrs. Chauldings stalked into the bedroom. But as soon as she saw the situation, something compassionate took control of her body and she turned into the most helpful person yet. Someday, Jamison would figure out where that compassionate side came from and why it’d been so hidden.

“Get those blankets off her. Hannah Jane, go get me some smelling salts.”

“But they’ve already been used. They’re on the dressing table.”

“It doesn’t matter exactly where they are! This is urgent. Of all people, Hannah Jane, I would’ve thought you would be the most useful in here,” Mrs. Chauldings huffed on, making Jamison want to drop out of his own skin and leave. “After all, wasn’t it Harriet who raised you once your parents were gone?”

Hannah Jane turned her head sharply, her eyes boiling with “righteous” anger. She did not open her mouth but stared past her grandmother’s head.

“Janie? You a’right?” Caleb touched her shoulder gently. The trance broke and she shook her head over and over again.

“Fine,” she hissed, looking at Mrs. Chauldings. “I am fine.”

Harriet moaned and everyone jumped. Everyone, that is, except for the twenty-year-old orphan who lacked love from her grandmother. Janie knelt by Harriet and slowly took her rough hand in her small white one. “Harriet, it’s all right,” she soothed. “We’ll get you better in no time at all. You just have to rest. You’ve been working way too hard.”

Harriet moaned louder and squeezed her hand. Janie drew breath sharply, digging her eyes into Harriet’s.

“Leave the poor woman alone,” Mrs. Chauldings snapped. “You all are overworking her. She needs her rest. She could get worse.”

The third moan. This time, Harriet squeezed even harder.

“No.” Her voice was defiant and firm, making Jamison proud. “She is trying to tell us something.”

Harriet moved her eyes from Janie to Mrs. Chauldings many times. “I think we should leave Harriet an’ Lulu here alone fer a li’l while,” Caleb piped up, watching Harriet with longing.

Harriet didn’t moan. Jamison nodded to wise Caleb. “I got the same message.” He and Caleb led Mrs. Chauldings out, despite her protests. Jamison peeked around the door and winked at Harriet. “You’ll be all right.” He smiled at the two of them before clicking the door shut.

Once they were gone for good, Harriet sighed. Her face still looked distorted,” Janie said quietly. “In spite of myself, I think their prayers are working. They’re stubborn men, but they mean well.”

The good side of Harriet’s mouth curved into a lopsided grin. “You… fun….”

Janie leaned closer. “Are you trying to say I’m being funny?”

“Yeh… yeh…ssss…”

“I’m so glad you can talk, even if it’s on one side of your mouth. Harriet, how many fingers am I holding up?” she asked, putting two fingers by her good side.

“T…t…”

“Two?”

“Yeh…ssss.”

“How about now?” She held up three by the other side of her face, where the slight sagging was.

Harriet didn’t speak. She tried to shake her head.

“It’s okay, Harriet. I was just trying something.”

She laughed brokenly.

“You know something’s wrong.”

The grayness of those penetrating eyes confirmed it.

“And you aren’t afraid, either.”

That grayness again.

“What about Caleb?”

“Li…Li…”

Janie shed a tear and wiped it away quickly. “I’m sorry, I can’t understand you. I know you can understand me. I just wish I could’ve taken your place, Harriet. You don’t deserve whatever’s happening to you. I’m sorry for ignoring you and I’m sorry for being so distant. I should’ve listened to you from the very beginning. I’ve been sulking and R-Raymie would’ve wanted me to be happy. I have to not hate my grandmother. I have to fix things. I have to fix my life and my relationship with Jamison, I was rude to him lately and I don’t know why and — ”

“Jeee…”

Janie sobbed, hiccuping. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be crying. I’m such a baby and I — ”

“Shhhh. Jee…ssss…”

“I want to know what you’re trying to say.” Janie wiped her face rapidly.

Harriet remained calm, a comforting presence even when she herself was supposed to be comforted. “Jee-sss.”

Jamison, just outside the door, put the pieces together. He couldn’t let it go on any longer. Bolting into the room, he caught Janie by the shoulders and held her. “She’s saying Jesus, Janie. Jesus.”

Janie, surprised but in love with him all over again, let herself be held. Harriet gave a lopsided smile at the two of them.

Janie let the words sink in. “You want me to know Jesus, don’t you?”

Harriet made an indecipherable sound, but Jamison knew exactly what she meant. “She has so much joy even in her sorrow,” he said, smiling back at the sick maid-in-chief.

“Because she has Jesus.”

“Yes.”

Janie breathed deep breaths, in and out, until the crying subsided. “I understand now. I finally understand,” she murmured, looking up at Jamison. Confused but elated, he released her from his embrace and she went to Harriet.

“Don’t you worry, Harriet, you are going to be up and around soon, hollering at the maids again and giving me what’s what. Because you’ve got another set of lips praying for you.”

Jamison had never been happier in all his life.

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