That Which Wills Thee [Chapter 16]
The week dragged on. Jane attempted to get out and explore the village, but the cold winds that still blew reminded her of the journey there. That, and she hadn’t the desire to leave behind the children any more than necessary. After their paid-out days had run their course, they were approached by the inn-keeper. Despite knowing only a few details of their story, the keeper felt sorry for Jane and Bryna and the children and allowed them a few more days in the room.
Bryna and Jane spoke again of departing to the old house during those days, but before they could find the courage to do so, a visitor arrived. That evening there came a knock to the door of their room.
“There’s an older bloke by the name of Lewis lookin’ for ya’s,” the merchant from the store next door called out to them.
Bryna ran out to find her husband. The older man returned to the room, his face tired and covered in graying whiskers. He offered a smile to Jane and the children, who had spent many restless hours in the solitude of the room that past week.
As the old man took a seat on one of the beds, his wife called to the children. “James, why don’t you help me? The cart is here, I suppose we can help out… picking up and paying for some supplies.”
“Jane, I’ll handle Marie, too. Get her some air for a while.”
Jane couldn’t help but look into Lewis’ tired, studious eyes. She was able only to turn away for the moment to scoop up Marie and push her into Bryna’s arms. The old woman exited with the children in a hurry, shutting the door with a clack behind her.
“Lewis, where is William? Is he at the house? Couldn’t he make it this way? I’m sorry about the fire.”
“The fire was not your fault, not your worry,” Lewis said calmly. “Jane, William… did not make it.”
Jane’s lips curled. The old man reached across the gap between the beds and rubbed at the back of her hand. The tears began to flow, and she collapsed to her knees, shoving her face into the rough, pungent covers. The old man pulled back her hair and allowed her wails to sound out.
As the violent, sorrowful energy inside of her subsided, Lewis spoke again. “The wound… was infected. The snowy road held us up too long, and by the time we got to Manchester, it was already past the limb. I… we were able to meet your father and his doctor, but they couldn’t do anything to stop it from progressing. All we could do was keep him comfortable. His thoughts were on you and the children, though. Before we lost him, he kept speaking of… guiding you, saying that he hoped for you to find your way. Allowing you to see the light. Not any prayer I heard before, but his heart was in it. Whatever his intention… I’m surprised you made it all this way. The roads this way are even worse than those out to the city.”
Jane cried more. Half the village must have heard the sounds of loss that day. When she composed herself, she could only think, however, of her children. “How… how do we go back after this?”
Lewis took Jane’s hand in his own. “Your father made sure that you would be taken care of. He passed on a mighty sum of money for me to bring this way. You may or may not wish to return to our home- you are certainly welcome- but of course, it will take fixing. Your father also said you are always welcome back… if the little girl’s condition is good enough.”
The last few sniffles worked themselves out of Jane’s nose. “If… if I could just stay here the rest of my time, that would do. Pay off this innkeeper to allow me to stay indefinitely. Watch the children grow up here, and play with the other children of this village. I do not wish to travel the roads ever again. Your acceptance of us in your home and on your property will always be appreciated, but… I do not think I can live with the memories of these events.”
“Think nothing of it,” Lewis said back. “I understand. At the very least, I can ask around the village and see what we can do here… for you.”
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