Emily's Chronicles: Part 29: The Frozen Time
By Trish and Tammy
Disclaimer: The following is a work of fanfiction. Emily of New Moon was created by L.M. Montgomery and is the property of her, her estate, and her heirs, not me. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit was made.
The weeks following the New Year's Day double wedding saw Blair Water
nearly paralyzed under a visious and bitter cold spell. No one who had
lived in the small island town for any length of time could remember a
winter so harsh. The snow which had fallen before Christmas still blanketted the
ground as the air was too frigid to allow the sun, which shone very
infrequently, to melt it. The ocean looked like a solid sheet of ice. There
was not even the churning which usually broke up the frozen surface into
sharp jagged chunks. It was as if the island, the world, even life itself
had stopped moving. Reports began to filter up and down the coastline of
livestock freezing to death not only in the fields, but in their stalls.
Jimmy and Silver Fox worked day and night at their Collie Farm, keeping the
for the livestock. Silver Fox showed Jimmy how to dig a round pit into the
floor, about three feet deep. Then lining the bottom of the pit with twigs
spokes-style, and then piling more twigs on top of them with leaves and
straw sandwiched in between the two layers and placing the large round
stones, Silver Fox had gathered on the cliffside just beyond New Moon...then
he lit the fire in the pit as he had Jimmy blow on the newly lit ambers,
inorder to get a good fire burning.
Joe worked without rest at New Moon keeping warm fires lit and tended inside
his barn which presented another danger for if the flames got out of control
there would be no water to put them out since even when wells were freezing.
The ladies of the town were melting snow fordrinking, washing, and bathing.
Even Allen, Malcolm, and Francis were heating their small barns for the few
necessary animals they tended, and just as at New Moon and the Collie Farm
the larger ones were kept blanketted as an extra precaution agains the cold.
News had even filtered up from some of the larger towns, people were
succumbing to the numbing cold, and in Stovepipe Town...entire families were
dying, because there were not a proper shelter to protect them from the
elements. P. E. Island and the northern provinces were being held in the
grip of an icy hand, that refused to let go.
The school had been temporarily closed since it was feared that the
children would sustain frost bite walking to and from, many came from great
distances. Francis was just glad. He did not like the idea of leaving Isabel
and the babies alone under such hostile conditions, now that Malcolm was
living in Avonlea with his new bride. Each week, however, he did oblige
Isabel's fears by driving over to check on her father and step-mother. He
would take a wagon full of supplies, and do any odd chores they might need.
Several times he had met Jimmy along the way, having been sent on the same
errand by Eve. They had both been happy to find that Perry had ridden over
to stay with the old couple and Gussy Dan while the weather played out its
worst. Gussy Dan was now attending the school in Avonlea which had also been
closed because of the weather, and he was thrilled to see his friend again,
and here news of the others in Blair Water.
Elizabeth, never one to abide idle hands, found much work for Emily
around New Moon while they awaited the reopennuing of school. She barely had
time to write the events of the time down in her Jimmy Book. She also missed
Ilse terribly. Ilse was of course confined to home along with her father and
Laura. Little did Emily know but Ilse was also miserable, not at spending
time with her family, but she did not realize just how much she loved her
best friend until she was forced to spend weeks without seeing her. She
begged her father to take her with him on the house calls that would send
him past New Moon, but he always refused requesting instead that she stay
home and look after Laura, who was now quite hefily along. She agreed, but
still missed Emily terribly.
Feeling terribly concerned about the fridget cold weather, Eve and Jimmy
persuaded their Nez Perce family to close-up their tipi, and to move inside
into their home...especially for the sake of their young daughters, Star
Dancer and Buffalo Child. Also convincing them that the more warm bodies
there are in the house, the warmer everybody will be. Since Laughing
Water, Silver Fox, Star Dancer and Buffalo Child never slept in real beds
like the Whites are used to doing...Eve thought it would be a great idea for
Jimmy and Silver Fox to temporarily disassemble the beds in Judith's and
Gussy Dan's old rooms - moving the frames and bottom mattreses downstairs to
the cellar, and then placing protective covers over the bedding equipment.
Then Eve and Laughing Water remade both beds, with sheets and quilts. Also
moving into the house were the three Collies; Princes and Laddie, and their
daughter, Lassie. Lassie loved to curl up at foot of the bed now occupied
by her two young mistresses, Star Dancer and Buffalo Child...therefore,
keeping their feet warm from the cold. Princess and Laddie, followed suit,
by sleeping on the floor of their mistress' and master's, Eve's and Jimmy's
Since school was temporarily closed down, due to the deep freeze, Eve
automatically became Star Dancer's (and Buffalo Child's) in-home
teacher...so she can be all caught up with her studies. As well as teaching
the younger child her ABCs and how to read - much to the thrill of their
Isabel worked tirelessly to keep the cottage warm and free of drafts for
the twins. Blankets were hung over windows, cotton stuffed in the key holes
of the doors, and the fires in all the fireplaces kept continuously stoked.
Her efforts were not in vain as little Byron and Lucy seemed warm content
and happy as usual. Their cribs had even been moved back into their
room as an extra precaution against drafts since the fireplace was larger.
Even Duke nearly refused to move three feet from the warm flames in the
study hearth. It seemed to Isabel that her little family was handling to
weather just fine.
However, on a day late in January things at the cottage changed
drastically. Francis had left on his weekly trip to Malcolm's, and Isabel
went about her normal morning routine of tending to her children. Lucy was
happy, squirmy, and boisterous as always. She took her bottle hungrily as
well as the mush cereal her mother had prepared. She had gotten her
bath,seemed to revel in being dressed in a fresh cotton gown, and was
happily entertaining herself with a stuffed rabbit. It was Byron who gave
Isabel much cause for worry. He had awakened early, and was unusually
cranky. He refused to take his cereal, or even to drink from his bottle,
he screamed when she tried to but him in the bath as if the water, although
it was pleasantly warm as usual, were hurting him. All morning she tried
get him to eat, to no avail. The little boy cried so long that he wore
himself out, but still would not go down for a nap. Even Duke seemed to
something wrong and refused to leave the bedroom...whining whenever Byron
was brought near him. Isabel's worry grew by the hour, and she wished
desparately that Francis would return home.
By mid afternoon, Byron had calmed, but Isabel was still not relieved. His
calm seemed more listless than content. She put both children in their
cribs and went quickly to the pantry for a moment to check on the stores
She had to make certain she had the necessary ingredients for whatever
her son may require. There were mixtures, and tonics for illnesses. She knew
them well from the old country, and prayed she would not have to use them.
was hastily laying out bottles of liquid and spices when her heart relaxed a
bit at the familiar sound of her husband's boots on the back porch steps.
He walked through the door with a smiling Perry trailing behind him.
"Look who I've brought back from the frozen tundra." He laughed at Isabel
who was half buried in the pantry. He had not taken the time to notice just
what it was she was doing.
Perry smiled. "Yeah, Gussy Dan can handle things over there fer a while. I
better be getting over to New Moon and see if the place is still standin'."
"But not before a good dinn...." Francis stopped in mid-sentence as Isabel
emerged from the pantry and he realize the unusual state the kitchen was in.
He could tell immediately from Isabel's expression, and from the piles of
glass bottles on the kitchen table that something was not right. "What's
wrong?" He asked.
Isabel looked intensely at her husband. She did not want to voice the words,
as if saying it would make it worse, but she had to. "It's Byron. He's
Francis crossed the kitchen in two strides and took Isabel gently by the
elbows, half in an attemp to comfort her, and half trying to brace himself.
"What do you mean he's sick?" He asked, suddenly consumed with fear for his
Isabel could no longer force the tears from her eyes. They rolled down her
cheeks as she sobbed. "He won't eat, he won't sleep, he wouldn't have his
bath. He acts as if my just touching him hurts him. I don't know what's
wrong with him." She said.
"Holy, Gee." Perry exclaimed in the background.
"How is Lucy?" Francis asked trying to take it all in.
"She's fine." Isabel answered, also reeling. "I'll go get them." She nearly
ran out of the kitchen and up the stair to where the babies were sleeping.
"Maybe you'd better go get Allen, if you wouldn't mind." Francis said,
turning numbly to Perry.
Before Perry could answer his agreement, the moment was rocked. "Francis!"
Isabel screamed from upstairs. She came running down the stairs carrying her
son limply in her arms as her husband, and Perry entered the dining room.
"He's burnin' up." She cried frantically, her eyes nearly wild with fear.
"I'm on my way." Perry announced grabbing his hat off the kitchen peg as he
ran out the back door.
Francis rushed to meet Isabel on the steps. He took them both in his arms.
She was right. Byron's tiny little body was raging with fever.
"Dr. Burnley!" Perry yelled, not even waiting to reach the door. "Dr.
It was Laura who openned the door, before Perry was even up the steps. His
frosted breath came hard from his lungs. He had run all the way in the
frigid weather, his sides ached, and he had to force himself to blurt out
words. Before Laura could even ask what was wrong, she was joined by Allen
and Ilse at the door. Together they ushered Perry into the warmth of the
"You got to get over to the cottage quick." Perry told Allen. "LIttle Byron
is horrible sick. He's boilin' with fever. Isabel's half out of her mind
"Oh, dear." Laura gasped, clutcing Ilse to her.
"I'll get my things." Allen announced, he took only seconds to gather his
instruments, and throw on his coat. "Perry you stay here and catch your
breath, then you'd better go fetch Elizabeth, Isabel will need someone."
"Please." Laura begged. "Let me go too."
"Out of the question."Allen announced. "I'll not take any chances with you
around sickness right now."
She knew he was right, she could not expose their unborn child to any
danger, but it did not make her worry less for her cousins. "Please let us
know as soon as you can." She said urgently, as he took her in his arms and
kissed her, before giving Ilse a quick hug, and then dparting hastily.
"Be careful." Laura called after Allen.
She turned back to her step daughter, and Perry. "Oh my dear." was all she
could say her mind racing with worry for Isabel and the babies.
"Come on Perry. Let's get you warmed up." Ilse said taking him by the arm.
"Mother, you too." She said to Laura. "You need to sit down." The young girl
was actually surprising herself at how well she was handling this crisis.
"I'll make some tea."
Perry smiled warmly at her. He too was noticing the changes in Ilse.
"Let me see him." Allen said alarmed as Francis ushered him into the bedroom
where Isabel was washing little Byron all over with rubbing alcohol. She was
reluctant to leave him, but Francis took her gently by the shoulders and
helped her to stand. They watched helplessly as Dr. Burnley examined their
son. Allen's expression changed from urgent worry to fear almost immediately
as he felt the extent of the little boys fever. Listening to his lungs gave
him no cause for relief. He took a moment to gather his thoughts before
standing to address the infant's parents, as the little boy began to whimper
in pain. Isabel took him in her arms and sat once more with him on the bed,
Francis's hand never leaving her shoulder.
"It's influenza." He said. He knew no other way than to come out with it.
"Oh, my Lord." Isabel said, her mind reeling. "No." Tears exploding from the
depths of her heart. Francis could only sink on the bed beside his wife.
Suddenly from downstairs a Elizabeth's familiar and welcome voice echoed.
"Isabel!" She called out, her footsteps sounding up the stairs as she
continued speaking. "Perry got back to New Moon and told us Byron was..."
Elizabeth's voice failed her as her worst fears were confirmed at the sight
of her cousins' faces. "What is it?" She asked.
Allen caught her as she came through the door. "Byron has contracted
Influenza." He informed her.
Elizabeth's stomach wrenched. That dreaded disease struck fear into the
hearts of all humans. She had seen it take others, seen adults succumb to
its twisting hands. The fever, the pain, the stolen breath were just some of
it's horrible affects. How could such a tiny baby survive, and if he did
would the fever leave behind? She had known of children who had gone blind
and deaf from the heat of their own bodies. She prayed that they would not
laying a small coffin into the frozen ground of the Murray plot within the
next weeks. 'No,' she forced that thought out of her mind. She knew,
however, that Isabel was trying valiantly to do the same. She crossed the
room, and put her arms around her cousin.
"He's a strong little boy." She said trying to say anything to give her
hope. "He'll be fine."
Isabel seemed to rally a bit at Elizabeth's kind words. Enough anyway to
lookup at Elizabeth. She saw her as if through a fog. "What am I going to
Elizabeth was not used to seeing Isabel so helpless. It broke her heart.
"You're going to get your baby through this." Elizabeth encouraged. "Both of
you." She said seeing Francis's stricken face. She layed her hand on his, as
he too tried his best to comfort Isabel through his own fears.
For a moment Isabel seemed to come to herself. "Lucy... What is she gets
It was then that Allen spoke up. "That is precisely why she cannot stay
"What?" Isabel asked her voice pained. "My little Lucy."
"If she stays here, she runs the risk of catching it too." Allen tried to
calmly. He knew Isabel was aware of that fact, but now faced with losing
one child, she would be forced to be seperated from her other. He cursed the
miserable disease that was causing so much pain.
"She'll stay with us at New Moon." Elizabeth said as if the matter was
decided. "You know Emily and I will take good care of her. Then when Byron
is better, she'll be right back with you like nothing happened."
Isabel sat staring at her daughter for a moment. The little girl was so
blissfully unaware of what was happenning, but how would she handle being
away from her mother and father. She knew she could not take a chance with
her life, and as much as she wanted Lucy near, she could not be selfish, not
in this. Of course Elizabeth would watch over Lucy as well as she would, and
Isabel knew she needed her full attention on Byron right now. Even that
thought racked her heart with guilt. She could not even fathom how much she
would miss her little girl.
"They're right." Francis whispered in Isabel's ear.
"I know." She said. "Alright." She looked at Elizabeth silently begging her
to take care of her daughter. Elizabeth did her best to give Isabel a smile,
understanding the importance of the trust that was being placed in her.
Allen walked over and picked up Lucy out of her crib. He handed her to
Elizabeth who had stood to meet him. The little girl only smiled. As
Elizabeth went about bundling the girl up, and collecting her things Isabel
rose to say goodbye. It was Allen who stopped her.
"It really wouldn't be a good idea." He said, feeling as though he had to
actually physically hold her back.
"What?" Isabel cried. "I can't even kiss my little girl goodbye?"
"You've been holding Byron, you may be carrying the Influenza germs." Allen
said medically. "You don't want to take that chance do you?"
Isabel looked helplessly at Francis. Who jumped to her aid. "Come on Allen.
She only wants to spend some time with Lucy. The last bit of time for
"Are you willing to risk your daughter's life for a kiss on the cheek?" He
hated to be harsh, and he understood Isabel's feelings, but better than
anyone knew the medical facts and it was his job to make them see them.
At his words Isabel burst into tears once more, and could only watch as
Elizabeth carried her baby out of the door. The older lady stood outside in
the hall, as Francis again could only comfort Isabel and Byron with his arms
around them. "Joe went to fetch Malcolm and Judith, and Perry rode over to
tell Jimmy and Eve."
"Tell Jimmy not to come here either. He may carry the germs back to Eve."
Allen said, knowing that he too would have to take special precautions to
keep the disease from Laura and Ilse. "I'm sure Judith will be happy to stay
with you and help. I'll stay until she and your father get here." He assured
Isabel as he took Byron from his mother's reluctant arms and went about
tending the baby.
It broke Elizabeth's heart to take Lucy from her parents that day, even if
it was for the best. She prayed Isabel would understand, and she prayed that
Byron would truly be fine, although in her heart she knew the dangers.
Isabel stood choking on her tears. Her son was gravely ill, and now her
daughter would be taken from her. The road to New Moon had never seemed
so long before. They had not even let her say goodbye. Even with her
husband's protective arms around her she had never felt more helpless and
alone. All that mattered now was getting her son well.
The days that followed were an exhaustive daze of prayers, remedies, and
tears. Judith had indeed agreed hartily upon staying with her new step
daughter to help her tend to little Byron. She was joined without
hesitation by Malcolm. He would not hear of being apart from his daughter
grandson at such a time, and Gussy Dan was more than happy to spend some
time with Eve and Jimmy at the Collie Farm. Isabel was eternally grateful.
was a highly capable woman, and could usually handle a crisis. During the
pox epidemic it had been her who largely held things together, doing the
ten people. However, now when it was her own son who so desperately ill,
she feared all her courage and confidence would leave her. It was nice to
have someone to lean on. Infact there were so many things that Judith new
about caring for a sick child that Isabel did not. She marveled at the older
woman's quiet calm as she helped her give medicine to Byron, clear his
lungs, and work unceasingly to bring down his fever. She had obviously done
this several times before. Isabel doubted she could ever feel so at ease and
used to such a thing.
However, through all of that Byron worsened. His fever refused to break.
His tiny lungs and chest were so congested that he began to wheeze when he
breathed, he was too weak to take any food, and even too weak to cry.
Isabel and Francis felt that they were watching their son slip away, and
nothing they could do. Isabel refused to put the boy down, and prayed
constantly. Through it all, she thought of Lucy. Her darling daughter
seemed so far away. She may as well have been on the other side of the
One morning, Isabel turned to her husbans, from having been deep in thought.
"Do you think she will forget my touch?" She asked gravely quiet.
He knew exactly what she meant for he too had been worrying over their
daughter. "No, I don't." Was all he said for a moment, although he did not
truly believe it himself. Then he tried to give Isabel some more words of
encouragement, hoping they did not sound as empty as he felt. "She knows her
mother. You'll see, she'll nestle right back into your arms just like normal
when she's home."
"That is if she ever comes home. What if she..." Isabel had not meant to
sound so dire, but her heart was so filled with fear.
Francis put his arms around her to try to quiet her fears, although his own
were churning like the rough sea. "Now, none of that talk." He said, kissing
her temple as he stroked Byron's hot cheek. "You'll see, the only thing
you'll have to worry about is how badly Elizabeth and Emily will have
spoiled her." They both chuckled a little at the thought, and held each
close neither wanting to speak more of the possibilities infron of them.
After a few minutes Judith came into the room carrying a tray of tea and
toast. "Please, both of you eat something. You need to keep up your strength
too." She smiled, as she checked on Byron who was for now sleeping fitfully
in his mother's arms.
"I couldn't." Isabel said. She had for some reason unknown to her determined
not to eat until her son was better. She had no appetite anyway.
Francis also refused the breakfast, but tried to give Judith a thankful
smile. Judith understood, and left the three alone together. She knew Allen
would be along shortly to check on the boy, and she hoped that perhaps he
could make them be more watchful of their own health as well, although she
doubted it. Allen had been monitoring his small patient daily. He donned
surgical mask before entering the house, and had even taken the precaution
of changing into fresh clothes in his barn upon returning home, after which
boiled the his dirty suit of clothes and hung it on the line to freeze any
remaining germs. Isabel was glad that the disease would not find it's way
to Laura or any other member of the family, as Allen was also checking in at
New Moon, the Collie Farm. So far the Murray family had been spared save
one tiny brave soul.
"Aunt Elizabeth?" Emily asked quietly, pondering things in her mind as they
stood in the kitchen at New Moon bathing a very healthy baby Lucy.
"Yes, dear." Elizabeth answered. She knew the tone with which Emily
addressed her, and knew she was in for a soul searching conversation.
"It isn't fair really, is it?" Emily said, not looking up as she splashed
warm water over Lucy's back.
"What isn't fair." Elizabeth inquired taking Lucy from the water and
wrapping her in a thick towel. She cradled her little cousin in her arms,
kissing a soft place behind the baby's ear, sat her on a blanket which had
been placed on the table.
"Well, why God would let some people be sick, and not others. I mean little
Byron has never done anything to anyone, and he could...." She trailed off,
not wanting to speak the horrible words.
Elizabeth looked at her niece. "God doesn't make people sick, Emily." She
"But, he doesn't always make them well." Emily answered, thinking of her
"It isn't up to us to question the will of God." Elizabeth said. "Perhaps
he's using this for something greater. "
"Like what?" Emily asked, slipping a little flannel gown over Lucy's head.
She laughed as the baby tried to play with the sleeves.
Elizabeth knew that Emily always had a million questions on most subjects
and she silently reproached herself for playing right into her hands. "I
know, maybe it's to make things stronger."
"What things?" Emily continued.
Elizabeth was not sure herself why all of this was happening, but she knew
that Emily needed answers of some kind. "Well, maybe Byron. You know that
which doesn't kill us, makes us stronger." She was instantly sorry for her
choice of words.
"It would make more sense if it were, well me or something. I've done some
pretty horrible things." Emily said.
Elizabeth chuckled. "Just what horrible things have you done lately?"
"I've been terrible to you in the past, and to cousin Isabel. I've not
always told the truth, and I've stuck my nose in where it doesn't belong."
"Hmmm, true." Elizabeth wanted to laugh, but held it in. "But those are
hardly causes for such a punishment." She said.
"Still, I wish there was something we could do." Emily sighed. "Poor cousin
Isabel, she must be so worried, and she must miss Lucy so much." She said,
playing with her little cousin's hands.
Elizabeth thought for a moment, and looked outside to where the sun was
beginning to show some promise of warming the day a bit. "Perhaps there is
something we can do for her." She said.
Later that same day Malcolm found Isabel sitting with Byron on her bed. She
had the boy loosely wrapped in a thin shirt and blanket to allow the heat
from his fever to escape. She was stroking his tiny arms, and rubbing him
once more with alcohol. The old man stood in the doorway, listening to the
sound of the choked lullaby she sang. His heart wanted to burst, he wanted
to curse at something for what was happenning, but knew that it would not
help. Instead he walked quietly over and stroked his daughter's hair,
bending down to kiss her head, he moved to hold his grandson's hand tightly
as he sat down beside Isabel.
"Why is this happenning?" Isabel asked without looking up from her son.
"I wish I could tell you I know why." Malcolm said to her. "But I do not, it
does not make any sense. None of it makes any sense."
Isabel looked up at her father, suddenly realizing that he knew exactly how
she felt. Her greiving heart went out to him. "Is this how is was...with the
Wee Angel?" She asked.
Malcolm's words would not come for a moment. He was afraid that if he told
her the truth, he would steal her hope which was obviously running out, but
he owed her the truth. "Yes." He whispered. Isabel lowered her face into
her hand, and wept while her father held her.
A few moments later Francis, who had been, helping Judith downstairs walked
into the room. HIs heart broke once more at the sight of Isabel's tears, but
there was something he wanted her to see.
"Darling." He said. "There is something you need to see."
Isabel looked up at him and tried to give an understanding smile. "Not now."
"I really think you'll want to see this." He said quietly. "Please, and
Malcolm looked at his son in law, not understanding what was so urgent.
Surely Francis would not be concerned with trivialities at a time like this.
He trusted that the young man did have something important to share with
Isabel, perhaps something that would give a bit more hope. He stood and
helped Isabel gather Byron in her arms. She complied and followed her
husband and father down the steps.
Francis led Isabel to front parlor window that looked out onto the porch,
never taking his arm from around her guant shoulders. Her confusion still
enveloping her mind, she walked numbly toward the glass, her son in her
arms. The vision that met her weary eyes, made her gasp with amazement and
Emily stood on the other side of the window, staring into the cottage,
Elizabeth and Joe behind her. Bundled in her arms, awake and lively, was
Lucy. The smile that had been absent from Isabel's face over the past days
reappeared. "Oh my beautiful precious girl." She exclaimed as the tears
rolled down her cheeks. Emily smiled up at Elizabeth and Joe, who nodded at
Lighty and carefully Emily moved Lucy closer to the glass so that one tiny
hand rested on the chilly glass. Understanding the gesture Isabel did the
same with Byron, and then placed her hand over the same spot on the window
as Francis too rested his hand atop hers. The family stood together for a m
oment, to them there was no one else there. Isabel imagined she could feel
the heat from her daughter's hand radiating through the glass, and willed
hers through to the other side as well. Lucy made every sign of recognizing
her mother, father, and brother though the window. Malcolm and Judith
watched from the background each trying to hold back tears.
After a few minutes Elizabeth touched Emily's shoulder. She gestured to
Isabel that it was too cold to remain any longer, and she immediately
understood that they had to be getting Lucy back to the warmth of New Moon.
"Thank you." Isabel mouthed to her cousin, who smiled and cupped her hands
together to say that she was still praying. Silently she took Lucy from
Emily, whose arms were beginning to tire under the weight of the six month
old baby. She held her up once more to her mother, and then solemnly turned
to leave. At the foot of the steps Joe helped his wife into the wagon where
she wrapped another blanket around Lucy. Emily jumped into the back seat,
and Joe slowly drove the horses away, back to New Moon. Isabel watched at
window, until she could not longer see them.
As early evening fell on the third day after Byron had fallen ill, Isabel
was standing over her sleeping son as he fought for life in his crib.
had stepped outside on the porch for some fresh snow with which to once
again try to bring down the boy's fever, and Judith was washing some fresh
linens in the kitchen, as Malcolm stoked the fire. All there had been to
endless, agonizing waiting. Moments stretched into hours, and hours had
become days without notice, and without change. Isabel touched Byron's
fingertips, and once more whispered a prayer to the sky. She thought of
Lucy. How happy she had been even in the midst of this struggle to see her
little girl's face. She was so beautiful and full of life, a stark contrast
twin brother at that moment. She looked down into her little boy's face, and
could only cry.
Suddenly Byron began to gasp. He tried to cough but all that eminated from
his throat was a liquidy gurgle. Isabel startled from her thoughts. She
instinctively picked up her son to try to aid his breathing. The limpness
his muslces terrified her, and her mind went blank. She chastized herself
for the helplessness she felt, and cried out as she ran to the door.
"Judith!!!" Screamed Isabel. Her step-mother heard her anguished cry fro
first floor, as did her husband and father. At once they all dropped their
chores and came running up the stair.
"What's wrong with him?" Isabel pleaded as they entered the room with
Judith took the boy from his mother and held him on his back in her hands.
Isabel and Francis clung to each other as they watched the older lady
examine their son. Malcolm stood solemnly with his hands clasped, praying.
"His lungs are filling with fluid." Judith said gravely.
"Pnuemonia?" Francis asked hoarsely.
"Not yet." Judith answered.
Malcolm sprung to action. "I'll ride for Allen. This young one needs him."
"There's no time." Judith exclaimed.
"What." Isabel begged. "How do I help him?"
Judith did her best to calm her stepdaughter but knew it did no good. Isabel
needed to feel that she was doing something, anything, to help her son.
Judith hoped that she could help her. She took Isabel by the shoulders as
calmly as she could, and started to lead her toward the door.
"We'll make a poltice for him." Judith said. "Come, let's go to the
"No, I can't leave him." Isabel cried in tears.
"Isabel, you need to do this, for him. Byron's with his father and
grandfather up here." Judith comforted. "It won't take long, and I need your
Isabel looked at Francis, unsure of what to do. "Go ahead. She's right,
we'll be here." He squeezed her arm tightly and urged her on her way.
Judith and a near hysterical Isabel ran to the kitchen where they began to
gather the arrid ingredients for the poltice to open the little boy's chest.
They put the skillet on the stove to fry onions, and added mustard seed and
other spices. When the stinking mixture was ready they tied it in a heavy
towel, and started toward the stairs. They had barely made the second step
when there came a quick knocking at the front door. Isabel continued on as
Judith hastily crossed the dining room to answer it.
"He can't die, Malcolm." Francis muttered as he sat on the bed holding his
Malcolm stood beside his son in law, his jaw steeled. He was afraid he would
rage at the air for the disease that was theiving his grandson's life away
from under their very eyes. "'Tis a hard, and bitter, cruel thing." The old
man said. He could think of no words of comfort.
"It's worse than that." The younger man said. "Look at him, he's so little,
how can he keep up this fight?"
"He's a Murray." Malcolm said proudly.
Francis half chuckled to himself. He should have known that's what the old
man would say. Although over the past months he had seen it many times in
Isabel,the Murray pride and will was something that he still marveled at. "I
don't think even that can help him now."
Malcolm looked a but perturbed, but let the feeling pass. "Don't be too
quick with your doubts." He said. "It's that pride that's gotten many a
through worse, and don't forget it's that pride that got these children into
the world." Malcolm said thinking of how determined Isabel had been.
Francis also thought of Isabel. How would she react if Byron died? How
would he? They had found so much happiness. Suddenly he was fillled with
rage. "It isn't fair, and once more...it isn't right. I just don't know
what else to do."
"Pray, ma lad." Malcolm said.
"Oh, come on Malcolm." Francis was not a religious man. Perhaps his
education, or his past had driven any spirituality out of him. Even after
all these wonderful months of joy with Isabel and the twins, it was the one
thing that still seemed foreign to him.
"I believe that it will." Malcolm encouraged him. "Isabel's been doing
nothing but these past days. What have you got to lose?"
His son in law considered his words for a moment. He felt himself wavering,
but was still not sure. "I wouldn't know how." He finally said.
"Just talk, my lad." Malcolm smiled patting him on the back. "You've got a
way with words. He'll hear what's in your heart." The old man stepped back
and then turned as he entered the hall. "I'll go see what's keeping the
Francis sat staring down at his weak and dying son. He had been correct, he
had no idea where to begin. He could not even remember the last time he had
prayed, maybe when he was a boy, but he was not sure. He took a hestitant
deep breath and began.
"God." He whispered, unused to the sound of his voice speaking to the
creator. "Please, I beg you don't take my son." He said, tears beginning to
flow down his face at the thought of what he was saying. "He's only a baby,
he hasn't even started to live. Take me instead. The children and Isabel are
the only good things I ever did. I know it wouldn't be an even exchange.
He's so perfect. He can't die yet. Please don't let him die." He was
suddenly overcome and could not continue.
His words were silenced by the familiar and welcome touch of Isabel's hand
on his shoulder. She had heard his prayer, standing in the doorway. She
layed her face against his and their tears mingled together over their son as they
layed him on the bed, and loosened his gown. Isabel gently layed the warm
poltice over Byron's chest. The baby started a bit, not from the heat but
from the unaccustomed feeling of pressure on his chest. Isabel and Francis
clasped their hands together and both prayed silently.
Malcolm and Judith stood in the doorway, unable to bare the grief that
haunted their family. They were not alone, behind them stood Laughing Water,
"Isabel." Malcolm interrupted.
His daughter looked up and was shocked to see the Nez Perce woman enter her
bedroom with a bag of what appeared to be weeds.
"I come with herbs and medicines for the baby." Laughing Water
"What?" Isabel asked, she was a bit annoyed at the intrusion. "What are you
Laughing Water stepped forward understanding a mother's anguish. "We
make medicines to bring down fever and heal." She held up the bag.
"Please let me use them for your son."
Isabel did not know about Native American medicines or rituals, but she had
no intention of allowing her baby to be given anything she was uncertain of.
"No." She announced, "thank you," trying to be civil.
"Please, I can help him." Laughing Water begged.
"Have they worked before?" Isabel asked. "Are they safe?"
"Yes. I give them to my children." Laughing Water assured her.
"What do you do with them." Isabel asked.
"This is for tea." Laughing Water said, as she held up some dry herbs. "This you
give to baby with spoon." She informed Isabel showing her some odd looking roots.
She then openned a little skin bag and sifted through something that looked like dirt. "This makes a paste, to rub on his body, to draw out the poison." She continued and held up a handful of tree bark. "This we burn for the great spirit."
Desperate for anything that would help Byron, Isabel agreed as did the rest
of the family, and Laughing Water went about quickly preparing the mixtures.
The tea was spoonfed to Byron who barely managed to keep it down. However,
Laughing Water assured them, that he had taken enough of the tonic. She
layed him on the floor infront of the fire and covered him from head to toe
with this awful smelling mud. Next, she wrapped a white sheet around the
child, saying "Keep baby wrapped in blanket all night. Morning, he be
better. You bathe him in warm water."
After Laughing Water had applied the muddy substance onto Byron's body, she
placed him in his mother's arms, who was sitting down in the rocking-chair
Francis had provided for her by the fire in their bedroom. He sat on the bed wathcing her with Byron fighting the blanket of darkness that urged his eyes to shut. It was of no use. They had all been awake for days, and soon Isabel the familiar sounds of his sleep from behind her. As exhausted Isabel was, she tried valiantly not to close her eyes. Her mind and body begged her to sleep, but her heart was trying to force her to stay awake as she rocked her son...who was already beginning to feel the healing effects of Laughing Water's medicine. His breathing had eased a bit, and he layed once more peaceful in his mother's arms. She watched his face, and again felt some small reason to hope. Soon, Isabel and her son, were fast asleep.
Amazingly the next morning, when Francis awoke to check on his son and
wife, he found as he picked Byron up...his son's fever had come down quite condiserably. Although it had still not broken, the baby was much cooler and seemed more comfortable. Discovering this, he immediately woke his sleeping wife, "Honey. Honey.
Honey, wake up!" said he, as he nudged her awake.
Rubbing her eyes, Isabel started, "Wha...what is it?" Then she was suddenly aware that her husband had taken their son in his arms, and that he was smiling, nearly in tears. "Is Byron alright?" She questioned sitting up on reflex.
Francis now, wearing a huge grin on his face, replied "Is Byron alright!?
I'll say he is!! Darling, his fever is almost gone!"
"It is??" asked a surprised Isabel. Then she looked over at Laughing
Water, who by now had awakened from her sleep by the hearth because of all the commotion from her young patient's parents...realizing that this lovely Native American woman had most probably saved her precious child's life, after rubbing her eyes and stretching - shegot up from the chair and went over to her, giving her loving hug. "How can I ever thank you, Laughing Water, for saving our son's life?"
"You did, already, Mrs. Carpenter." replied Laughing Water, as she returned
the hug. "With your happiness." "Now, we bathe him in warm water." Then she reminded Isabel, "He is still not well yet, but he will be soon."
"I hear you, Laughing Water," said Francis, as he took the empty bucket
outdoors to fetch the water from the well, he and Isabel nearly giddy with excitement.
"Laughing Water, you can hold Byron," said Isabel happily. "While I run
to the nursery to get him some clean clothes."
Soon Francis had returned with the buckets of water, and then he poured the
water into a large pot on the stove to heat up. He also brought a
childsize tub upstairs to the bedroom for which to sit Byron in. As the water was heating up,Laughing Water removed the sheet from around Byron, and took off his cotton diaper. Isabel had already returned, with her son's clean clothes; washrag and
towel. After the water was heated, Francis poured the water into the tub.
He also poured the colder water in, testing it as he poured the water. Not
wanting it to be too hot or cold, but pleasantly warm. He then had Laughing
Water place Byron in the water feet first, seeing that he didn't cry as she
slowly lowered him into the water, sitting him down - she began washing the
dried muddy substance from off of his body.
As she was cleaning him, Isabel and Francis prepared a cleaner tub of water
for their son, to finish bathing him in. After the mud was washed off of
him, Laughing Water lifted him out of the tub and into the cleaner
water...forwhich she followed the same procedure. As she teasingly
squeezed the warm water from the washrag atop of his head, Byron squilled
with delight. Isabel laughing remarked, "He certainly is feeling much better,
"He is," replied Laughing Water.
After he was clean, as Laughing Water put the towel around him, she lifted
him out of the water and fully wrapped the towel around him. Then so that
he wouldn't get cold, she quickly dried him off, and then Isabel powdered
his bottom. Then she put a clean diaper on him; then his undershirt and
nightie, and wrapped him in a blanket.
Laughing Water said something to Byron in her native Nez Perce
language...something, Isabel didn't understand. Then she thanked Isabel
and Francis, and turned to quietly leave.
"But what about you." Judith asked. "You can't leave now, you might take the
germs back to your family, and to Jimmy and Eve." Isabel looked up, she knew
she could never live with herself if something happened to Eve or her baby.
Laughing Water simply smiled a with a far away look that Judith did not
understand, as if she knew something the older island woman did not. "No, I
will not take any germs with me." At that she slipped silently down the
stairs and showed herself out of the house, leaving the family to tend to
They watched over Byron throughout the next day and night, holding their breath at his every movement and sound. Isabel and Francis would not move from his side. They
held their son, and did what they could to comfort him. Sometime after
midnight, Byron began to squirm, and cry. Isabel's heart sank once more,
how much more could her little boy take. Then unexpectedly Byron began to
cough, it was a loose churning and he was able to bring up some of the
congestion that had been clogging his lungs. Then he sneezed. Isabel held
him upright on her shoulder, with a cloth placed near her neck as his tiny lungs
continued to drain. Judith placed a warm poltice bag against the boy's back
to help him with his coughing. By first light his breathing was steady, his
little chest moving up and down rythmically, and his color better. Isabel and
Francis did not even dare to hope. However, by noon, Byron's fever had broken, and
the little boy openned his eyes. He even smiled and cooed at his parents and
grandparents. A little while after that, he took a warm bottle hungrily.
Malcolm had never seen a brighter smile grace his daughter's face, and this
time her tears were ones of joy.
On his rounds that day Allen was surprised and happy to find his patient,
and the boy's family, much improved. He was overjoyed to confirm that Byron
had come through the sickness, and was now on the mend. He also gave them the
good news that the fever had neither damaged his hearing nor his vision. He
was, however, at a loss to explain just how it could have happened so fast.
Isabel, Francis, Malcolm, and Judith simply smiled at each other. Isabel
made a quiet promise that somehow she would find a way to thank Laughing
Water, but how could you thank someone for your child's life. Francis suddenly
understood, that it was more than just herbs and potions that had made their
son well again. He could barely believe it, and he promised himself that he
would take a far greater interest in church beyond just sitting proudly in
the pew and showing off Isabel, Bryon, and Lucy.
He quietly looked out of the window into the bright white sky. Although it
seemed grossly inadequate, "Thank you." was all he could manage to whisper.
"Two weeks?" Isabel cried, shocked. "My little Lucy can't come home for two
weeks?" She glared at Allen.
"I'm sorry." The doctor apologized. "I wish there was some other way, but we
have to make sure that none of you are carrying the disease. You don't want
to give it ot her too, do you?"
"No of course not. How could you even ask such a question?" Isabel said,
holding Byron closer. She looked down at the floor, her heart sinking a bit
Francis noticed the sudden change in Isabel's glee and moved to put his arm
around her. "It's just that she's been gone so long." He said, missing his
daughter as well.
Allen's compassion took hold. "I know, but we have to make sure it's safe. I
know you were hoping to bringing her back today. I hate to be the one to
force your seperation from her any longer, but we really must."
It was Isabel who spoke up. She had very nearly lost her son, and she was
not going to endanger her daughter. "I understand." She said. "It won't be
easy, but I understand." Francis squeezed her shoulders.
"Thank you." Allen said. "I'll see what I can do about some more window
visits." He smiled. The family laughed together, and realized just how lucky
The two weeks seemed an eternity. Elizabeth and Emily brought Lucy everyday
to the front window, where Isabel, Francis, and a much improved Byron stood
waiting. Each day she greeted them with the same happy smile. Byron mended
back to normal under the care of his parents and grandparents, who had also
been quarantined within the walls of the cottage. Isabel and Judith scrubbed the cottage from top to bottom with lye to kill any germs that remained.
When the forced seperation was over all of the family gathered at the
cottage to celebrate Lucy's homecoming, and Byron's restoration to health. It was
Emily who joyfully handed little Lucy over the arms of her eager mother at
the end of the two weeks. Isabel wrapped her daughter in her arms, and
buried her face in the baby's neck. The little girls laughed and smiled and
cooed just as she always did. She had not at all forgotten her mother's
touch as Isabel feared she might. Francis joined his wife with Byron bundled in
his arms. They stood on the porch of their cottage , Duke playing at their feet,
in the rays of a sun that has become warm again.
Isabel looked up at husband and stoked his face. "We are so very lucky." She
Francis took her hand and kissed her fingers. "No." He corrected her. "We