A Daisy for Hannah Jane: Chapter XIX

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A Daisy for Hannah Jane: Chapter XIX

Art by Rachel St. Louis.

Art by Rachel St. Louis.

Rachel St. Louis

Art by Rachel St. Louis.

Rachel St. Louis

Rachel St. Louis

Art by Rachel St. Louis.

Rachel St. Louis, Creative Writing Editor

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 A Daisy for Hannah Jane

PART III

Chapter XIX

I watched Caleb and Harriet, touched. They were a blessed couple in many ways: First, they had loved each other since their youth. Second, they had somehow managed to find each other again when Caleb got a job from the infamous Mr. Chauldings, who had employed a young lady named Harriet Kimbley. His Harriet Kimbley.

Work lasted a long time for both of them. They loved me as their own child and waited to marry. Now, Harriet survived an extreme stroke. I believe God did heal her miraculously, no matter what Dr. Handen was puzzled about. She lived.

Lived to be at her wedding, that is! I gripped the bouquet I held, taking my place with Ethel. Her name, which meant “noble,” fit her perfectly. She was the maid who’d helped Harriet’s state during the time of the stroke and gotten my grandmother to help. She was Harriet’s good friend, despite their ages and their positions in the household. We were proud to be Harriet’s bridesmaids.

But the best part? Caleb insisted they marry on Harriet’s fifty-seventh birthday, and Harriet complied only because Caleb’s sixty-first would conveniently fall on the last day of their expensive honeymoon (paid willingly by my rich granny after my insisting) to the North Carolina beaches.

“…we gather here today,” the minister’s voice droned on. Finally, vows were exchanged and he asked for the rings, supplied by Jamison. Within seconds the husband was giving the bride a quick, prudent kiss to signify the marriage. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Ethel bounce with excitement and wished I could as well, knowing I’d probably fall off the stage if I tried.

I smiled at everyone standing in the dahlia-adorned pews: Every house servant, including our beloved (but skinny) chef. Then there were Caleb’s three younger cousins and Harriet’s sisters, Martha and Anne. Mrs. Chauldings clapped openly and Jamison was beaming almost as much as the bride and groom were.

Even Dr. Handen had shown up… as Caleb’s best man. No, it wasn’t planned. Until we found out Caleb had already outlived all his other brothers. Caleb, more stubborn than Harriet, said he wanted Jamison to do it. Surprisingly, Jamison wanted to be the ring-bearer. Overhearing the last-minute conversation, the doctor graciously asked Caleb if he could “be of any help.” Men these days.

Mr. and Mrs. Caleb Graham proceeded down the flowered aisle as the roar of celebration cascaded from the high church ceilings to Harriet’s white shoes on the old wooden floors. The newlyweds’ faces held an amount of light unearthly to humans. I couldn’t believe how much their happiness floated off to everyone else. Even the sunlight seemed to dance around them.

Soon enough, the final moment came. Before being shipped off by horse-and-buggy to the reception in the Chauldings garden, facilitated by me, Harriet waved her bouquet of dahlias and calla lilies. Ethel and I raced each other to an open spot like schoolboys to the lake. A crowd of young women who served the Chauldings mansion under Harriet’s supervision swamped us. Ethel persisted, but I stayed where I was. Let the lucky girl get the bouquet.

After all, I was a few years older than the maids who had their own beaus. I never willingly listened to gossip in the mansion, but then again, I knew how many of the Winthrop cousins Della had seen and not seen in the past three months. Now she was seeing Norman, but I knew she’d never last with that man. Besides, “Norman and Della” sounded like a performing couple from the Barnum & Bailey.  

Sweeping her gaze over the ladies, Harriet smiled like a loving mother. Her thoughtful expression told me she would be a wonderful mother if she adopted, or the unlikely possibility that she and Caleb could have children. Harriet turned to her husband, who smiled back at her tenderly. It looked as if she’d never been at the brink of death. And here she was, married. Harriet was finally getting her happily-ever-after.

I began to silently soak it all in and thanked God for healing her when, all of a sudden, a bundle of white and purple flowers tied with a golden ribbon landed in my hands.

• • • 

 

My grandmother started spewing off information before I got the chance to sit opposite her or even look at the forbidden office.

“I’ve put Ethel in charge of the servants while Harriet is gone, and Simon will tend to Caleb’s duties. I have decided to keep our chef, despite his paltry and skinny looks. I’ve realized his food hasn’t made me look sickly or thin yet, so it wouldn’t matter anyhow. He’s a good man, I would say. This whole experience has made me reshift my focus. For one thing, Harriet’s terrible stroke got me thinking. If anything were to happen to me, granddaughter, my entire estate would fall on you.

“Now, I understand you have matured greatly in the past few months, which seems impossible to the untrained eye. But I do not have complete confidence that you will be able to handle the same responsibilities I have set upon myself. Besides that, I have made another decision. I am afraid you will not be too fond of it, but I am getting old and you must accept it with the open mind I desperately hope you have.”

I barely had time to breathe between my grandmother’s sentences. Is she being serious, or was is some sort of test? “I will try my best to keep an open mind, Grandmother.”

Her eyebrow poised itself. “Try?”

“Will. I will keep an open mind,” I said quickly.

“Fine. Our previous deal stated you would live here, without pay, as long as you marry within a year. You came to me close to the end of April.”

My heart and stomach switched places.

“Based on some new …circumstances… you will be married by the end of this year, 1917, instead of April of 1918, as our original deal prescribed.”

“December? But that’s nearly four months away, Grandmother, and most women spend a longer time planning a wedding, considering the fact that I haven’t even been proposed to!”

“Yes, I am aware.” She straightened her position and clasped her gloved hands on the oak desk.

I started to speak, to let out everything boiling up within me, but her calm yet sour tongue was swifter. “As you know, I have not summoned any more financially potential suitors for you. Mr. Jamison, whom you found as a suitor without my help, has proven to be honest and trustworthy with a good supply of integrity. There now, Hannah Jane, stop squirming. It seems you and Mr. Jamison have been getting along quite well?” she inquired, smiling just a bit.

Heat rose to my ears. For a long moment, I didn’t care what she would or could do to me. “If you want Jamison to ask me for my hand, perhaps you should tell him to do so yourself.”

Anger flashed across her eyes. “That is not what I am saying.”

“Then what solution do you have to this problem you’ve created?” I had already gone too far, and there was no backing down now.

“I thought you loved Mr. Jamison.”

“If he did not love me and if I did not love him, would he still be here? Besides, it’s absolutely none of your nosy business.”

“Nosy! I am your grandmother. Your business is my business. I am the only relative you have left. Do you hear me? The last one!”

“So why are you doing this to me?” I retorted, jumping to my feet. “Of all the things I’ve learned, love is the most important element in any relationship. Especially in one that goes from grandmother to daughter.”

“Don’t be sappy and foolish, Hannah Jane. I do love you,” she clenched her teeth  slightly, “out of duty to my own daughter and obligations to our family. Now stop being so irrational and childish. A six-year-old in this day and age could behave better than you. I am shocked at your lacking of ladylike etiquette.”

Livid, I retreated to the door. I couldn’t think straight and wished she knew just how much her words tore me. I was ready to raise my voice and say words only an angry heart could create.

But the silent Voice rescued my thoughts and spoke for me. “Real love does not come from duty and obligations.”

 

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