“Fel! Fel!! Can you hear me?! Don’t move, stay where you are! I’m coming to get you!!!”
It had been raining for three days straight. Not a little bit of rain either but the kind that brings to mind stories of Noah and his boat. The gardens were drowning, streams and rivers were flooding, roofs were leaking. The animals were miserable and so were the people. It wasn’t the kind of rain the kids could go out and play in or that men could go out and work in and expect to get anything accomplished. For two days everyone was shut up in their living quarters trying to wait it out except for when they were feeding and otherwise tending to animals.
On the third day it got worse. A nasty bit of wind was added to the rain and people were forced out into the storm whether they wanted to go or not. Shingles had to be nailed back down. Items that were getting blown around had to be brought in or secured in some way. Chimneys had to be capped to keep the rain from coming down and into the house in rivulets. It was a right huge mess.
The first two nights of the rain Cor came to the cabin as usual. He was soaking wet but the look on his face that first night dared me to say a word so all I did was help him to hang his clothes in front of the fire then tried not to tell him off when he shivered half the night with a fever. The next night he came prepared wearing a poncho and with dry clothes in an oilcloth bag. But the day the wind arrived he was called away in an emergency near dinner time when a barn used to house some estate equipment collapsed on one side and I knew I wouldn’t be seeing him that evening. I stayed awake half the night wondering if the looby had taken a rain slicker. Being unable to sleep was the likely the only thing that saved me.
In the middle of the night the rain stopped but the wind increased dramatically. The whistling of it through the trees finally drew enough of my attention that I grew concerned. I got out of bed with the intention of going to the door to check to see just how bad it was and if I needed to move to the cellar when there was a mighty crack and my world went dark.
It was still dark, both figuratively and literally, when I heard him calling.
“Fel! Fel!! Can you hear me?! Don’t move, stay where you are! I’m coming to get you!!!”
“I … I think … I think I’m stuck!”
There was a moment of silence then an urgent, “Fel?! Are you hurt?!!”
From beneath what I found out was part of the cabin roof I told him, “I … don’t think so. But … but I *cough, cough* smell smoke. *cough*”
I heard a fury of snapping and breaking and then Jonah’s voice, “Is she still in there?
“She said she smelled smoke!” Then I heard some more noise and then Cor called, “Boy, stay out of the wa … what are you doing?! Get out of there!”
I must have blacked out for a moment because the next thing I remember was Topher saying, “The fire was starting to smolder Mister Cor. Some clothes got knocked into it. I can just barely see her, it’s as dark as the belly of a black cat in there. She’s under rafters over near the bed.”
“Not on the bed?” Cor asked urgently.
“Naw sir. Beside it, but on the floor.”
I didn’t hear anything after that for a while until I could hear Lollie ordering someone about with directions how to put me on a door and carry me to the house and to, for the love of God, not be so ham-fisted as to bump me around.
“I don’t need to be carried. I can walk.” I had meant for my voice to come out stronger than that but drawing a breath hurt more than it should have.
Cor snapped at someone about being careful and then leaned over me and said forcefully, “You’ll let yourself be carried and not make a fuss about it Mistress Fel. We’ve been half the night and the rest of the morning reaching you and you’ll give us the satisfaction of treating you as we see fit before we lose what bit of sanity we have left.”
I was wondering what he was overreacting for but then bobbled off into the dark again to the sound of Cor’s creative descriptions of what would happen to anyone that jostled the door again.
I finally came all the way awake when I felt my night clothes being taken from me. Lollie and Winnie held me still and Winnie said, “Easy Dear, we’re just getting you out of these wet things so Lollie can check your ribs. Now don’t fuss and let us do this quickly. Cor is on the other side of the screen and about ready to chew the paneling off the walls.”
Groggily I asked, “What’s all the fuss about?”
Cor must have been listening because he snapped, “Fuss? Fuss?! The flaming cabin fell on you that’s what the fuss is all about!! If you had been on the bed rather than beside it …” He sputtered to a stop, gobbling like a turkey.
I made a face then remembered he couldn’t see it. I sighed. “The wind started making some odd noise so I got up to … to …” Then what he said struck me and I yelped, “What do you mean the cabin fell on me?! What happened to the cabin?! Stop Lollie I need to get up … I need …”
That was too much for Cor’s equanimity. The screen was moved with a crash and before I knew it I was being wrapped up in a quilt and carried out of the parlor where I had been lying and up the stairs. As he pounded up the stairs in a royal snit he said, “You’re not going anywhere, not a dem place,” he growled. “You …” He stopped to clear his throat and I suspect that is when he realized he’d just seen me naked because he stumbled on the last stair before the landing; but then he shook himself and continued on.
“Jonah must have lost the last few hairs the top of his head could still lay claim to. Topher was driving us all mad with his frantic scrambling in and out of the rubble. We had most of the village tromping all over the yard and threatening to help if we didn’t hurry up and get you out in one piece.”
He’d been progressively holding me tighter and tighter until I finally had to tell him, “Let me go or finish squeezing me to death will you … this inbetween stage is starting to get downright uncomfortable.”
Lollie and Winnie who had followed him up said, “You’re holding her too tight, let the girl breath for heaven’s sake.”
“Oh! Wait … did I hurt you? Here let me loo … uh …”
I patted his shoulder and told him. “I’ll take it from here. You’d better go tell everyone I’m fine before they start tromping through the house and giving Mrs. Wiley palpitations. And then come back and tell me what’s wrong with the cabin and what I’ll need to do to fix it,” I ordered.
He opened his mouth to say something but I caught Winnie shake her head. “What?” I asked.
“We’ll talk about it later Dear.”
“Oh no we won’t. We’ll talk about it right now. I … OUCH!”
I would have continued but Lollie had decided the best way to deal with me was to start poking and prodding and discovering every bruise I had on my body. By the time she was finished I was exhausted but still determined to find out what was going on. They had left thinking I was too weak to get out of bed but they were wrong. I was trying to rig some clothes for myself when Cor knocked quietly then entered with a bundle under his arms.
“They don’t know you very well do they?” he asked.
I wrapped the blanket around myself tighter and said, “Apparently not.”
He shook his head and said, “I brought your clothes. Uh … I’ll step out or … if … uh … I can just turn my back.”
I sighed. “Turn you back … and no peeking. If you go out they’ll just wonder what I’m up to. And remember I said no peeking.”
He slowly turned his back and I heard him mutter where I wasn’t supposed to hear him, “Stop saying it and I wouldn’t be tempted to.”
His words should have caught my attention but they didn’t because the only clothes he had brought me was another night gown and a wad of my underthings. “Hey!”
“I know Fel, I know,” he said. “But Lollie says your ribs are bruised. And to be honest it isn’t worth you going down there right now. It is starting to rain again and … and it is a mess. We’re getting out what we can but we have to be careful not to bring the walls down.”
That brought me up short and as I finished dressing and tapped him on the shoulder I asked quietly, “Just how bad is it?”
Turning slowly he said, “Bad. It’s … it’s repairable but it is going to take some time. A tree washed out near your creek and when the wind got into the top that was already heavier than usual from all the rain, it just toppled.” He got upset and finally choked out, “One of the main ceiling beams came down right on the bed. If you’d been in it …”
I saw he was really upset and told him bracingly, “Well I wasn’t.”
“Almost,” he said.
“Almost only counts in horseshoes and …”
He finished, “… and fire pots. Yeah. But you could have been …”
“But I wasn’t.”
“But you could have been.”
I shook my head, “But I wasn’t so just stop worrying it to pieces. And neither were you so unless you want me to make a fuss about that just let it go.” I turned away to look out the window of the bedroom I was in and saw that it was raining just as he’d said. I leaned my head on the glass pane and asked myself more than him, “Now what am I going to do?”