It was getting late in the day when we turned into the final stretch of very old road that would lead us back to Gid’s cabin. I noticed his excitement but there seemed to be an element of humor to it as well. I kept a watch on him from the corner of my eye as in my experience the combination of the two in a boy or man usually spelled trouble of some type.
Then he stopped and I looked for the cabin. He said, “It’s around this turn and down a short lane. Keep your eyes open as I want to know your opinion of it as soon as you see it.”
My opinion? It took everything I had to keep my mouth from falling open and my seat from sliding out of the wagon. Something of my surprise must have shown on my face however as Gid howled in glee as if he had pulled off some huge prank. I turned to look at him and as calmly as my shock would allow I said, “You told me it was a cabin.”
“And it is. It’s made of logs isn’t it?”
It was … nearly a forest of them if I were to count them all up. “This … this is not a cabin.”
“Sure it is. Haven’t you ever seen a log home before?” I turned and just continued to stare at him. For his part he grinned at his great joke then said, “Stay with the wagon while I check everything out. If there’s no trouble we’ll unload and I’ll explain.”
While he went to reconnoiterer I looked at the structure in front of me. The only thing that it and what I had assumed it to be had in common was that it was indeed made of logs and it was in a forest but that is where the similarities ended. As Gid had mentioned it was made up of more than one story, three to be precise with an attic as well if he was to be believed; and at this point I would not have put much passed him. There was a foundation level that evened the ground so that the first floor had something to sit on; it was neither basement nor cellar but some hybrid that was only partially visible from the exterior. The first floor was the main entrance and had what looked like large, metal studded doors as its primary opening. A second floor rose above the first. A sharp pitched roof capped off the structure with three chimneys rising from its surface.
Gid came back before I could truly grasp what I was looking at. “I’ve got the barn open. Let’s take care of the animals and then see how much we can get unloaded before full dark. The rest will just have to wait until tomorrow.”
He pulled the wagon around to the side and I realized that the “barn” was attached to the “cabin.” He looked at me grinning. “Uncle Fid said that back in the old days this would have housed four automobiles. One day I will build a detached barn but for now you can’t beat the security this offers and it is well sealed which means that so long as it is kept clean the animal smells don’t reach into the cabin.”
I shook my head. “This is not a cabin.”
“You’ve already said that. But I say it is. That’s what we’ve always called it.”
“This … this is some kind of castle or … or …” Then I turned to him and realized with horror, “You’re a rich man. How am I ever going to get you to keep me when you can have anyone you want?”
“e HEase up there Yulee,” he said as he took the basket that I had been carrying and set it to the side. “I’m not rich … at least not in the way you mean. My mother’s family is all died out in this area, so there was only me to inherit after Uncle Fid died, but when my uncle and mother were children there were a fair number of them, only few were interested in the cabin as they preferred the safety and social life to be found in the towns of the valley. How it came to be in the family was that Mother’s family gathered here during the Great War. The story goes that a couple of brothers were the hired caretakers for the place before the bombs started falling. The cabin was originally built as a hunting lodge for wealthy men though it was also used for something called ski season which happened when there was snow on the ground. Sometimes it was leased to a single family and sometimes it was leased to more than one at a time. As I understand it from the old documents businesses would sometimes lease it for parties or for a thing named training events though what those were the papers don’t say. The first and second floors could be leased separately. The foundation floor was a common area set for different uses. The interior has many spaces and rooms whose original purpose is of no use today. It has its drawbacks such as needing more fireplaces, especially on the second floor, or that the great room can be hard to heat during the coldest months. And the lighting down in the foundation level is a problem. The interior has seen a great many renovations over the years but still needs improvement. Getting this place sound enough for modern living is going to take some time and effort but I’ve chalked it out and it can be done a lot better than what it currently is.”
“But … it is … Gid …” I shook my head. “Any woman that saw this would have done everything in their power to have you. They would do anything you want, be anything you want …”
Gid made a face and snorted which said a lot about his opinion of such women. “Don’t want one that wants the cabin more than she wants me. Don’t want one that don’t appreciate freedom the way I do. I made a fool of myself once and nearly ruined my life going after such a flighty bird. Saw you, a quiet wren caged and treated cruelly. Knew you would appreciate freedom the same as I; the cabin is just the means to an end, a warm nest to share. Now enough of your senseless fears and worries; you’re mine and I mean to have you and keep you. Help to get these animals down so they can go about their business so I can show you the inside. You might not feel so disposed to be overawed when you see the mess ahead of us.”
Once the smaller animals were cared for and shut in secured areas for the night, Gid had the oxen back the wagon into one of the bays and then he unhitched them and put them in a bay of their own where they munched placidly on feed he had brought along for the purpose. Rook was a little miffed at the lack of attention but Gid told him not to act so spoiled, that he’d be worked enough in the coming days that he’d look back on this day of leisure with longing.
To me he said, “Follow me, I’ll show you where the water for the cabin comes from.”
I followed him a little way from the door yard up an incline to a large cistern. He told me sternly, “This stays covered at all times. It is very deep and there is almost no purchase on the sides to climb out with. You see the sluiceway that travels off that direction?” At my nod of obedience he said, “There’s a stream and waterfall that are fed by a spring. The sluiceway can redirect the water in two directions; to fill this cistern or to an irrigation ditch used for the house garden. Pipes from the cistern carry the water into a sand filter and then from there into a reservoir in the kitchen area.”
We entered the so-called cabin by the large, intimidating metal doors. He looked at me and grinned at my expression. “I know, they look like the village gates. They are nearly as sturdy too. You can’t leave them open in a breeze without risking them shutting on someone and doing some serious damage to flesh and bone.” He closed the doors and then lowered a heavy, wooden cross bar into slots on either side to brace against a direct attack on the door itself.
“I know it’s dark but hold on and I’ll open a couple of shutters as we go. I figure we are in for the night. The barn can be accessed through a door near the pantry. There are bars that can be thrown on the inside of the bay doors and I’ll do that in a bit so we’ll be secure on both ends. Watch your step until you get your bearings.” After he had opened a shutter there was more light. “The cat and dog are already exploring. I can see their paw prints in all the dirt underfoot.”
I looked down and around and indeed there was an unfortunate amount of filth … on the floor, on the walls, and on most of the flat surfaces that I could see. Gid saw me looking and said, “You see what I mean about it needing a woman’s touch. Let us take our packs and these baskets to the master’s bedroom and we’ll start your tour there.”
We walked into an area that was bigger than most of the houses in my village had been. He opened two of the shutters to air the collection of rooms out and to let light in. “Most of the glass still remains downstairs because the shutters stay closed most of the time though a few of the windows on the second floor are boarded over. It will take a few seasons but I’ll get the measurements and take them to the glass blowers in the village and eventually everything will be weathered in once again. Until then that is what the woven mesh is for that I purchased at the market. It won’t keep rain out but it will prevent bugs and birds from taking up residence with us inside when we have the shutters open for light. And this hay tick is fresh as of the beginning of summer. I filled it myself though it is a little lumpy. We can use the blanket and our cloaks again for tonight and tomorrow you can housekeep with the linens from the painted chest.”
Through a door he showed me an indoor privy. “This bath has its own reservoir and a small stove to heat a bucket of water over so that you won’t have to cart water in from the kitchen. And those two doors are cedar lined closets for clothing and linen storage.” He stopped and pointed to an archway opposite the privy and told me, “Through that door over there is a sitting area with its own brazier; much easier to keep warm than the Great Room during a winter storm. We’ll likely spend most of our time there or in our bed to conserve heat.”
I turned to look at him and his eyes sent a shock through me. I was still unused to his heated gaze being focused on me and me alone. He stepped close and lifted my chin. “Has this day been too much? Sabrina sent a salve for the ant bites to help with the itching. I shall put it on you before we take our rest for the evening.”
“You don’t need to bother yourself when you must be more tired than I. I will do it.”
“No. You are mine to take care of and it gives me pleasure to do so.”
He seemed to be expecting some type of reply so I whispered, “It shall be as you say.”
That seemed to satisfy him and he guided us back to the foyer where we entered and with the shutters open on a few more of the windows I looked up and realized that the ceiling was high overhead and open to the second floor. “Upstairs it is even worse so we will skip it until tomorrow. Uncle Fid used it for little else than a storage area. As I said I got rid of all of the rotted rugs and furniture but there is still enough up there that it needs to be seriously organized and gone through with a feminine hand. I know little about the textiles and whether they are reparable or need to be replaced. My mother’s room is up there and still mostly untouched.”
It sounded like Rook was coming down the stairs and we turned to find it was the pup making all of the noise. The cat was only slightly behind him and wasn’t nearly as dignified as I expected a cat to be. They twined about our legs and I bent down and lifted the cat to keep her from being trodden upon by the pup. She seemed to like that and took refuge on my shoulder leaving the pup to grumble at the unfairness. We stepped into an area that was obviously the kitchen and I looked around trying to hide my dismay.
“Aye, it’s disgusting. Uncle Fid and I did most of our cooking outside; we ate there as well. He was free to live as he wished but I’ve come to appreciate living free of fleas, bed bugs, and creepy crawlies trying to take up residence in my food. If you can set this to right you would make me happy.”
I nodded. “Mam and Grandmother would already have buckets of soapy water heating and scrub brushes laid out. I mean no disrespect but even the Sisters, used to all manner of filth from the travelers, would be scandalized at the conditions in this food area.”
Carefully dislodging the furball, Gid pulled me close. “You say nothing that I’m not already aware of. Anything will be an improvement. It is growing too dark to see but through there are the rooms that were once the laundry and some other storage area and it is now used as a pantry. The space is good sized but we’ll still need to store much that we brought below stairs. Beyond the kitchen is the Great Room and dining space. I won’t take down the shutters tonight but in the light you can see the long table that was used for family meals. Most of the matching chairs have broken or rotted over the years and now it is mainly benches that fit around it except for the chairs at either end and those need some repair, certainly the cushions are near about destroyed.”
We walked past the pantry and he showed me the stairs that led both up and down. Up was to the second floor and down was to the foundation level. “Below stairs we will need a lantern even during the day. We’ll be in and out of there enough tomorrow to satisfy any curiosity you might have. In general though there is a wine cellar, what Uncle Fid called the trophy room – I got rid of most of the moth eaten, stuffed animals after he died – and an area the family used as the armory. Were there more light the large center area would look more like a tavern than anything else as there is a bar in front of the wine cellar, a few decrepit gaming tables covered over with all manner of household flotsam, and a room where they once showed the moving pictures that were so popular before the Great War.”
“Those rooms for the movies are called theaters.” I looked at him cautiously and asked, “Have you ever seen a moving picture?”
I’d startled him. “What?”
“Some of the Brothers of our church enjoyed tinkering with antique devices. Every once in a great while they actually would get a piece to work. What they called audio files were the easiest to get to work but some of the old picture files would work as well. Getting power to run the devices was an interesting academic exercise as well. Papa said it was a waste of time because it added little to make our lives better. The only exception to his opinion was when one of the Brothers built a battery that could power lights so that the surgeries at the hospital could be used day or night.”
Gid nodded. “Uncle Fid used to speak of such things as well. There are books upstairs that tell how to build batteries but it is a long, involved process that takes patience I’m not sure I have … and for sure time I don’t have to spare right now.” He yawned. “And speaking of time, we have a long day tomorrow and I would like to see our bed before I am too tired to enjoy caring for you so let us leave the rest of this until another time.”