Before there was the novel, there were the stories...

by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at

Friday, July 3, 2009

Old Stories: The Usurping - Caitie Takes Ill, May 769 AD

My favorite memory of this story is Laura's absolute delight when she read of Ropry's recovery. Her letter started, "Nan! Rory! I mean, Rory!"

It was evening. Josephine out of pure loneliness had allowed Peter to say up past his bedtime. She sat now at her tapestry concentrating all her efforts on keeping the stitches even and her mind off other things. Peter sat near her playing some game lost to the adult world and mumbling quietly to himself.

The needle slipped in Jo's fingers and she pricked herself. Josephine bust into frustrated tears and cast aside the tapestry.

"It is of no use. I cannot, cannot." She stepped to the window, then came back, sighing.

"Oh my little Peter. What am I to think?" My mind is going in circles. I cannot keep it all straight. I know not if what I think has happened. I only think might happen and what I think will happen has really happened. Perhaps what happened and this morning I only wished to happen. Oh Rory, Rory, have I gone mad? Dost thou really live? No, no this is all a bad dram. Lawrence be not in a dungeon cell and Elerde is no traitor. How can it be! The three I love best on earth all here at once. Prisoner, captor and rescuer? " She ceased to address Peter, indeed she seemed not aware she spoke out lout at all. "No, no, no….it's all a charade, a charade! Yes, yes…all is just a charade."

One of the children in bed coughed. She mumped, startled and then remembered where she was rushed to Caitie's bedside. The child went on coughing and coughing with crying intermingled. Jo was frightened. She had notice the child coughing a good deal that day and thought it was only a cold. But this was different. Caitie was coughing and choking now.

Jo ran to the door crying for help. Within an instant the room was filled. The physician seemed to be the last there. Caitie was sputtering now, and coughing blood. Jo was frantic. "Oh, my God, oh my God, somebody do something! Caitie, Caitie!"

The physician gave the child some potion, and her coughing ceased momentarily. She was unconscious. A thin trickle of blood seeped out of the corner of her mouth and down her chin and neck. Her little nightdress was red blood.

Jo was sobbing hysterically. "She's dying. Dear God, she's dying!"

The physician motioned for her to be removed.

"No, no, I shant leave her. No, let me be! Let me go, let me go!"

The tall priest entered just then. "Here, let me," and took a firm grasp on her arm.

Jo's desperation melted she allowed him to lead her like a child into another room. He closed the door behind them.

"It's all right, Josephine. They know what they are doing. Caitie will be all right."

Josephine glanced uncertainly at him. "Rory?"

"Yes." Jo tried to sort her thoughts. Everything was confused. But the face frowning down at her with concern was Rory's all right.

She could not quite remember how he got there, but it was he. She went to him like a child and he automatically took her into his arms. They sank down onto a couch and he rocked her gently, reassuring her that Caitie would be all right.

The door burst open. Elerde, on hearing the ruckus had come at once, and upon learning that Jo was in a distraught state wanted to see her immediately.

He stopped in mid stride, dumbfounded at the sight which greeted him. His expression changed from disbelief to anger.

"What business do you have with the Queen?" he demanded.

Rory slid quickly back into his role. "It is my office to give comfort, wherever I must, my lord."

"Bah! Twas no priestly comfort I saw! He observed Rory more closely. "And likely it is no priest I see here before me! Do I guess rightly then?"

Rory shrugged and said nothing, but fire burned in his eyes. He had figured out who Elerde was.

Josephine could not believe her eyes. Elerde and Rory…and herself in one room. She put her hand to her forehead. Instantly both her lover jumped to her side to support her.

Jo withdraw her arms from Elerde. "Thank you. I'm quite all right now. I think I understand everything now." She exchanged a fiery look with Elerde which turned into something else than she had meant and she withdrew her eyes quickly. "You misunderstand me, my lord. This priest is a dear friend of mine from Ratherwood. Lawrence has never met him. I am sure you will allow him to pass freely, will you not?"

Elerde nodded and departed. He quite understood. The situation was very delicate. He must keep Rory in sight so that their plans might not clash, yet he must not let them realize that he knew the truth.

Yet, who could this man be? Not Shannon, but who else? In love with the Queen, obviously. And she with him. Elerde was a man who knew these things. Elerde stopped dead in his tracks. That meant another worry. H knew the King well enough to know what it would do him should something happen. Yet he knew not, that at nearly the same time, Rory was forming a similar plan of making sure that nothing happened between the Queen and Elerde. And Josephine never guessed how safe she was in the days and weeks that followed, with each watching the others.

In the morning, the physician came and said she might see Caitie, in fact she could stay with her. There was nothing more he could do. Matter-of-factly he said, she might die, or she might live. She was in God's hands now.

And so Jo spent the day and evening beside the still white child. Filling in her tapestry, inch by inch.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Buy on


Buy on

About the author

Nan Hawthorne now writes under the name Christopher Hawthorne Moss. You can contact Christopher at .