A Daisy for Hannah Jane: Chapter XXIV

From the novel A Daisy for Hannah Jane.

Art+by+Rachel+St.+Louis.
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A Daisy for Hannah Jane: Chapter XXIV

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, Executive College & Career / Creative Writing

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A Daisy for Hannah Jane

Chapter XXIV

The sky was overcast and so was my mind, whirling with the ferocious gusts outside. Burdened with the news, Grandmother and I climbed into the elaborate carriage, or, as Grandmother called it, a “coach.” Timothy, our best stable boy and a few years my junior, caught the reins just as Grandmother’s butler closed the carriage doors. Grandmother spoke to the butler in rapid-fire Chauldings language. Then Timothy yelled, “Hya!” and the last thing I saw was Caleb waving to us from his garden.

“I cannot believe Jamison got himself arrested. In jail, of all things,” Grandmother snapped, as if I had said something.

I licked my lips with determination. Whatever Jamison had gotten into, I was positive it must’ve been some mistake. But I couldn’t resist saying, “Well, jail is the place where police keep the arrested in.”

She turned her head sharply, making her hairdo wiggle a bit. “What did you just say to me?”

“I was simply agreeing with you.” We went over another bump. Grandmother leaned out her window, one of her white-gloved hands securing her fancy hat on her head. “A bit slower, Timothy,” she called.

I leaned out my window and my hair was whipped by the harsh wind. “No, Timmy, faster!”

“Miss,” Timothy sighed, “I got to obey the missus.” But, of course, nobody heard him.

“Timmy,” I shouted from the back of the carriage, “go faster if you want to beat the weather! We need to get to the” we went over a hole in the road and puddle water splashed onto my bonnet “prison.”

Grandmother scowled. Leaning out her window once again, she hollered, “Pay no attention to that Rapunzel sitting with me, Timothy! Oh, oh, my hat,” she exclaimed when her ostrich feather flew away.

I ignored her puppy-like whining of “my dear, precious hat, oh, cruel world” and the Rapunzel nickname she’d given me. So what? It was her own fault she forbade me to get a bob cut like everyone else. And I mean everyone.

Finally giving in to my grandmother’s plea, Timothy eased on the reins, but I felt his hesitation. Grandmother looked on the verge of tears as she examined her hyperbolic hat. I had a hard time not laughing, because it was obvious my hair was an “unladylike mess” and my bonnet strings were uneven. For my grandmother, the world was ending.

Besides that, the weather was horrible. Especially for an August day. But what worried me most was the look on poor Timothy’s face right before he got in his seat. Young Timothy had always been trustworthy. If something bothered him, it was something worth watching out for.

Timothy had a hard time navigating. The carriage bounced and bounced with Grandmother’s negative mood. At one point, mud was pasting itself onto the fine carriage doors bearing my grandfather’s Chauldings seal.

“No, not the doors. The beautiful doors,” Grandmother moaned. She was the sight of pity. I tried not to look at her as completely pathetic because that would be rude and disrespectful, but…

“Sit still, Hannah Jane. You are like a junebug in May.”

Harmlessly, I replied, “I thought the saying was about junebugs in July.”

“The blasted junebug is in May because it is too energetic to be a JUNEbug!”

“Sorry. I didn’t know junebugs were so variable.”

She lifted her chin. “That is a worthless apology.”

“Yes, I am.”

It was a burn to her fiery lips, but instead of disinheriting me or erupting, Grandmother paled, sat perfectly still for the rest of the chaffing ride, and kept her eyes on the window drapery. She did not look at me when we exited the carriage or when we walked into the prison. Justice!

The building was less brutal of a place than others I’ve heard of, housing many bricks and a lengthy set of iron gates. But the managers weren’t unfriendly, and though they had scars, I felt that they were for justice and not for brutality. Somehow I knew I would get Jamison back. Somehow.

My grandmother was beside herself, but apprehensive wasn’t the right word to use. Right now, apprehensive was still my word, but displeased was hers. Then again, when isn’t it?

“Mr. Jamison, you got visitors,” one bald man with a jingling ring of keys hollered when they approached Jamison’s cell.

Jamison’s hands, once rough and red, clenched the rusty prison bars, now cold, grimy and white. “Janie, you came,” he croaked.

“Of course,” I whispered, wrapping my fingers around his and forgetting all about Grandmother. “Oh, your hands,” I gasped. “I can feel how cold they are through my gloves.”

So I peeled off the long, ladylike gloves Grandmother had given to me. I dropped them into my parcel, much to Grandmother’s dismay.

“Here, Jamison, give me your hands,” I commanded in a motherly voice like Harriet’s.

He didn’t hesitate like I’d expected him to, so without a pause I rubbed my hands together until I felt the friction create heat. Despite the warm prison air, Jamison shivered a bit. Grandmother said nothing when I grabbed his bigger, colder hands in mine and did my best to cover his with my warmth. I focused on his pitiful fingers he wrapped around my knuckles and I winced inwardly. This looks like such a nice prison, compared to the rumors I’ve heard. So why is he so frigid and freezing?

“Thank you.” Jamison’s voice snapped me back into the present. I looked up and saw that his eyes were filled with amusement.

“Why are you so cold?” I asked, ignoring his playful mood despite his condition.

He shrugged and let my hands go. I felt let down for some reason. “When life hits a man hard, it makes him realize what’s worth worrying over.”

I wrapped my fingers around the bars, letting my eyes adjust to the dimmer light inside the cell that he had. “And?”

“For heaven’s sake, Hannah Jane,” Grandmother huffed suddenly, “don’t stick your head between those germy metal rods if you can help it.”

Jamison spoke up. “Try Caroline out, Mrs. Chauldings.” Then he turned away from us and sat on his cot, his back facing us. He bent over something I couldn’t see and remained there for a few minutes.

“Well, I am leaving. If he has no desire to speak to us, Granddaughter, we are wasting our time.” Grandmother straightened her feathered hat again. “I’ll ask about his bail,” she declared before marching down the hall we’d been led through.

I looked to the bald guard and he got the message. He flashed Jamison a warning written on his stoic face, then followed Grandmother out, shouting, “Ma’am, please wait for me. Ma’am…”

I glanced around the row of cells I stood between. Surprisingly, there was only one other prisoner apart from Jamison, a rather scrappy-looking man three cells down who appeared to be asleep, facing the cell door and sleeping as if he were already dead.

I waited for Jamison to say something, to get up or acknowledge me because he knew Grandmother was gone, but there was silence.

I waited longer. By this time, I didn’t really care whether Grandmother was done paying for Jamison’s release or not.

And longer.

“Jamison?” My voice was barely below a whisper and I figured I’d cut straight to the chase. “Jamison, what did you realize?”

He didn’t turn around or stop doing whatever it was he’d been doing for the last fifteen minutes or so. I think he was writing something. “I realized it’s not up to me.”

This wasn’t like him, to be so vague and not mincing words when he was supposed to. He didn’t explain himself, being rather rude. I longed for him to get up and give me some eye contact, at least. But I could tell there was something hindering him.

What isn’t up to you?”

He laughed softly. The sound echoed in the cell and in the others around us. “The police have to find ‘The Men,’ not me. I was immature.”

He didn’t say abutting else. I felt like I knew what he was saying until he said something else that didn’t make sense. “Immature? You? Please, I need to know what’s eating you up.”

Abruptly, he jumped up and dropped what looked like a stub of a dark pencil onto the floor. He slipped a piece of paper between the bars and I caught it eagerly. “What is it, Jamison?”

He shoved his hands into his muddied pockets. “I trespassed without knowing. Maybe you should read the signs I never saw.”

I loved how he used figurative speech. Like Jesus. “I’ll try,” I said, holding the parchment closer to my face. Jamison’s beautiful cursive hand spelled itself out before me like Jamison was actually speaking.  

Janie,

I’m sorry this letter is so long, but some things can’t be condensed. I thought you were a fierce fighter when I met you. I got to know you better, live under your grandmother’s roof only because of you, and I still believe you’re a strong young woman. But the truth is, you and Raymie, the brother I never knew, had puppy love the size of a Great Dane.

So I was stupid enough to think I could catch Raymond’s killers myself. I didn’t ask God what He wanted or what His plans were for us. Now look who’s behind bars.

I’ll cut to the point now. Never since I first saw you making Sir Henry a fool would I ever think of writing this. It’s pretty much breaking my everything already. But, Janie, I have to let you go.

Mrs. Chauldings approves of me, but she’s realizing she’s getting older faster. She wants her estate taken care of first thing, so wants you married in a little less than four months. That means planning a wedding right this minute where Mrs. Chauldings is concerned.

Because of all of this, I don’t want to rush you. With Raymie, it was bliss and it was right. With me, you are forced to make a decision based on circumstance. You’ve faced too much tragedy in your life already and I don’t want to be the reason why you may be unhappy later on in life. I’ve prayed over it. I love you to the point where I want what’s best for you, and not what I want.

I’m trying to be like Jesus. It’s not feeling like a crucifixion, but you need to find out whom you love for yourself. Maybe it is not me, but if it is, I will wait. You need to take care of your family first, like others should have long ago.

So don’t worry about me. I’ll be here when you need me and unless you make up your mind otherwise, I won’t see any girls and Mother is sure of that. She adores you. I’ve taken a job at the nearest mercantile, Bosney’s. Seeing you and your grandmother slowly coming back to the way it should have been has out me in my mother’s house once again. She’s telling me more about my father. I am such a prodigal, but God is still shaping me. Although Mother is making me pay for my boarding, though. Typical Mrs. Jamison.

Get the estate taken care of. Make your grandmother at home. Love her. Respect her. I know you care. Just let her see it. Tell Harriet and Caleb I give my best wishes. Ask Caleb to pick you a daisy from his garden. It represents innocence. Roses are common and pretty, but daises are rare and pure. Remember that.

Love,

Charles

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