“Be careful dipping that water out of the cistern.”
At the rate he was going with all of the “be careful” rules he was creating next he’d want me to tie a rope around my waist any time I went near the cover. It was strange to have someone that concerned about my well-being. I hope I am able to prove to him over time that I have no desire to be a burden to him.
The reason I was taking water from the cistern was because I was using so much to clean the cabin with. My primary focus today has been the kitchen and the sleeping quarters. I took a page from his story about him and his uncle cooking outside and lit a small cookfire in an old cooking pit on the patio behind the kitchen and that is where I fixed his breakfast. The chickens had given a couple of eggs and there was some yarrow not too far from the patio so I made a yarrow omelet by chopping some freshly picked yarrow, dicing some onion, and the fresh eggs. Gid stopped short when he saw it on his plate and then grinned broadly. He tried to feed me half but my stomach is still not used to large amounts of food and I put most of what he had portioned me back on his plate. He growled a bit but accepted the compromise.
While I went about my work Gid went about his which included repairing the fowl runs so that the birds could free range more and save feed. He also relieved the wagon of its load, piling its contents in the foyer until I could find a place for it.
The noonday meal could not come quickly enough for Gid who had been working hard. He was already a man that was whipcord lean with little fat to spare. Mam and the Sisters were always quick to point out that men and growing children were particularly vulnerable to poor nutrition. I knew I would need to make sure he got both protein and fat in sufficient quantities.
To that end I used my sling to bring down a few squirrels. I kept two for Gid and gave the rest of them to the pup and cat who carried them off together. To go with the fried squirrel I sautéed chickweed that I had found not too far from the cabin with a little butter that I had found in the food basket that Gid’s sisters had sent with him. I also poured Gid and I tall glasses of milk from the cow’s morning milking. When I called him to eat the noonday meal the look on his face was worth the effort that I put into setting a table.
I asked him, “I fed the pup and cat. Did I do wrong?”
With his mouth full of chickweed Gid shook his head. He swallowed and said, “No. But don’t spoil them so that they won’t hunt for themselves. Sabrina says her cats and dogs hunt together. I hope these two will take up the habit. And you need to eat more than what you have in that trencher.”
We continued to eat and then I asked what had been on my mind. “Gid, I promise not to run away. May I please look around to see what other plants in addition to yarrow and chickweed I have to work with?”
He gave me a fiery look. “I told you I don’t intend to own you.”
I looked down and nodded. “But you do. I want you to know that I won’t take advantage of that.”
He sighed. “You’re stubborn.” After another brief pause he added, “But I suppose if you weren’t you wouldn’t have survived with that evil heifer for an aunt.” After a moment he said, “Yulee, look at me.” I looked up. “You mentioned that your father taught you both the sling and the bow. I’ve seen you use the sling, can you still use the bow?”
“Some,” I said before admitting “Aunt nearly beat me senseless the last time she caught me with one and she broke one of my fingers on the hand I use to draw with. That was right before … before Jubal got taken by the angels. It’s why I was so long at my chores that night. If I had been faster I would have been there to protect him.”
I sighed. The wound wasn’t old but I was beyond crying about it. Sometimes things just hurt too bad to cry. But apparently Gid didn’t know that as he was just there and holding me and though I went stiff in surprise at first the next moment I just relaxed and let him. It felt good to have someone care, or at least say they did. “I didn’t mean to bring up a bad time Yulee.” It felt strange to be tucked into his arms. I wasn’t sure that I was supposed to want it much less enjoy it the way I was. His next words though changed the directions of my thought. “It would be a helpful thing if you can still use a bow. There are animals in this forest a sling just isn’t good enough for and I can’t stand over you with a gun all day.”
I nodded. “I understand Gid. Do you have a bow? I can make one but it will take me time to find the right wood.”
He pushed me away so he could look down into my face. “You can make bows?”
“Papa said that it was no good knowing how to shoot one if I didn’t know how to take care of it first and I’d only truly appreciate taking care of a bow after I did all the work it took to make one. The community fletcher liked the first one I made so well that he had me help to make the simple bows that the boys were trained on. Papa said work was good for the soul and that idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”
“Well neither of us are likely to have idle hands until the snow lays deep on the ground. Come. We’ve finished the food so now is as good a time as any to show you the armory.”
I had made trenchers out of the day-old bread that was also in the food basket so there were no dishes to clean, only the spit that I had cooked the squirrels with and the skillet I had used to sauté the chickweed. While I moved them away from the coals, Gid picked up a small coal oil lamp and lit it.
My cleaning had been confined to the first floor and I had barely gotten a glance at the second floor but that was enough to realize I had my work cut out for me. Walking down below stairs was even worse. Gid looked at my carefully neutral face and grinned sheepishly. “Still think any woman would have jumped at the chance to live here?”
“If she had any sense,” I told him seriously. “Yes, there is a great deal of dirt and grime and it will be the work of a season to clean it up properly but I’ve seen no wood rot or killing mold. All of the walls and beams look sound. The doors and windows are hung and properly square and there are no weak places in the floors or stairs. I have seen no signs of damp which says the roof is as sound as the rest of the … er … cabin.”
Gid smiled. “The fields are not the only things that I have been working on for the last couple of years. And Uncle Fid used to keep me hopping with repairs and upkeep as well. He never wanted a woman on a permanent basis but he said since it seemed I did he told me I had the responsibility of having a home to bring her to once I found her.”
I caught myself reading something into the phrase “permanent basis” and quickly turned my attention to what was around me … or at least what I could see by lamp light. Without thinking first I asked, “It doesn’t need to be this dark. Are there any large mirrors upstairs?”
“A few. Why?”
“The Brothers used them below stairs to expand the light of their lamps … oh. I … I … I didn’t mean to criticize Gid.” I knew he wouldn’t hit me for being mouthy but I almost wished he would I felt so bad.
“Don’t do that … don’t cringe Yulee. It bothers me. I’ve already told you I’m not the kind to hit females.”
“I know,” I told him quietly. “That doesn’t mean I should take advantage of your forgiving nature by having a thoughtless mouth. I truly didn’t mean to be impudent.”
I jumped when he put his arm around me. “You weren’t being impudent, just the opposite and I thank you for it. You have any idea how tiring it is being the only one thinking? It’s as bad as being the only one working. And it is more worrisome. In truth I’m a bit irritated but not at you. Someone should have thought to use mirrors down here long before now. They get used in the mines outside the valley all the time to save on candles. There are scones on the wall down here that can be used but that much candle power generates a lot of heat and makes the air smoky and noisome if the wax or oil isn’t good quality.”
I nodded but I reminded myself to be more careful of getting overly familiar with Gid. It wasn’t very respectful on my part and if I knew nothing else of men – both the good ones and the bad – they lived to be respected. “You said you wished to show me your armory.”
“Aye, I did. Come here. Do you use a short bow, a long, or a compound bow?”
“I can use all three but I am best with a flatbow.”
He lifted the lamp and I saw a wall of pegboard that held many different bows, knives, short swords, and other hand to hand weapons. There were three flatbows and I picked the shortest of the three. I didn’t see any strings so out of habit reached into the pocket purse on my waist and pulled out a bow string. “I hid the ones that Wash didn’t find. I think they’ll work with this one.” I followed words with action and then pulled the string.
I let the string go back and shook my head. “I need practice and I need to limber my hand. I felt muscles pulling that I haven’t felt since Papa first taught me, especially in my draw fingers.”
“Can you hit what you’re aiming at?”
“There’s only one way to see.”