Not without reason
It was very late when Harriet finally settled into bed. It had been a long and terrible day. Being present at Laura's baby's funeral had brought back some bad memories. It had been twenty four years since she had lost her own baby, but the pain was still there – now more alive than ever. She knew exactly how Laura felt; she understood how strong her pain was. She understood her reasons for blaming doctor Baker, for she had done the same thing. Nels had, however, convinced her that it had not been his fault, but now she was no longer sure. Her little baby and Laura's son was not the only ones who'd died under Doctor Baker's care. There was the Ingalls' son Fredrick, that poor Timothy boy that had died of acute appendicitis, Sylvie Bolton, Stanley Novak and many more. He was incompetent! He was so incompetent that he had not even been able to tell that her Nellie had been expecting twins when she was pregnant. How hard could it be? She had been so stupid, letting her family near Doctor Baker. Letting him examine Willie when he was ill, treating Nellie when she fell of that stupid horse. She would never ever let her family near him again. If one of them felt ill, she would take them to a high-class hospital in Minneapolis at once. Nothing but the best was good enough for her family. Harriet turned her head and looked at Nels. He was reading, trying hard to ignore her. He was upset by the way she acted, she knew that. He was different from her, always so kind – thinking good of everyone. Harriet reached out and touched his hand.
"Nels", she said softly, stroking his hand.
"What is it Harriet?" he replied with coldness in his voice.
"Nels, please don't be cross with me."
"You should have thought of that before you started turning the town against Doctor Baker."
"Nels, I wouldn't do it without reason."
"You have no reason, Harriet", Nels said, closing the book. He turned out the lamp, and turned his back to her.
"But Nels, you don't blame Laura."
"No I don't, because she is a disturbed woman at the moment. She has just lost her child, and you have not."
"Please be quiet Harriet, I want to sleep."
Harriet let out a heavy sigh. This was serious; he was awfully upset with her. It was like he had forgotten that they too had lost a baby. No wonder, they never talked about him. She was not even sure that Nellie, Willie and little Nancy knew about their brother. She never told them about him. It was during their way out west that Harriet had discovered that she was expecting. It had not at all been planned, and it had come at the worst moment. They had decided to build a home, a real home, before starting a family – but they had not been careful enough. Harriet had been almost eight months pregnant when their house was finally finished, and they had been able to move in. About a month later, she had given birth to a beautiful baby boy which they had named after his father. He had been a lovely baby; big blue eyes, Nels' nose, her mouth and thick dark curls. How she had loved him! She had been with him all the time, never letting him out of her sight. She used to keep him in a basket close to the counter, looking down at him at every possible moment. Harriet smiled at the thought of the little baby resting against her chest and the delightful little sounds that he used to make. He had been seven months old when Harriet had discovered that everything was not right. It had started as a cold. She had taken him to Doctor Baker at once, and he had assured her that it was nothing to worry about. However, he had only grown worse. First it was the fever and then that terrible cough had come. It had been heartbreaking to watch. Harriet still wanted to cry when she thought about the baby's little body shaking with every cough, and his breathing getting heavier and heavier which each day that passed. One morning it had all been over. She had found him dead, his beautiful face all blue. Doctor Baker had told them that he had died without pain. He had just stopped breathing in his sleep. It had taken them years to get over, each and every day had been a struggle. It wasn't until three years later, when her precious little Nellie had been born, that she had been able to let go, and four years later – Willie had come. She loved them both more than she ever thought possible, and every day, at every moment – she was afraid that they would be taken from her in the same cruel way. Even though Nellie was grown and married, and Willie fourteen years old she still worried about them. She always had, and probably always would. Nothing was more important to her than their happiness and their wellbeing. She would gladly move mountains just to make them happy. That was perhaps the reason for why they were a tidy bit spoiled. Harriet smiled at the thought of her children. She thanked god every day for their good health. Harriet nestled closer to her husband and put her arm around him. He grumbled, apparently not happy with her being so close. Harriet sighed. She didn't want to argue, she just wanted him to understand him.
"Nels, I want to talk", she said.
"I know that Harriet. That is all you ever want."
"For heaven sake Nels! Why won't you just listen to me?"
"Because you have nothing interesting to say."
"How can you say that?" Harriet replied, feeling her eyes burning with tears. "How can you be angry with me?"
Nels sat up and looked at her.
"After all Doctor Baker has done for us, you do this to him. Have you forgotten that he saved your life that time your appendix needed removing."
"He didn't save my life. Mr O'Hara did."
"Mr O'Hara almost killed you Harriet."
"He did not!"
Nels bit his lip and shook his head.
"You're impossible to talk to."
"Nels please, just listen to me. You must know why I'm upset."
"Please tell me."
"Nels, have you forgotten about our baby."
"No, not Willie! I'm talking about Junior."
"If it had not been for Doctor Baker, he would still be alive."
She wiped away a tear.
"Harriet, it wasn't Doctor Baker's fault. You know that. And it wasn't Doctor Baker's fault that the Wilder´s baby died. Children die, without it being anyone's fault. Doctor Baker is a good friend, and he has done so much for us."
"Killing everyone you mean!"
Nels looked at her with cold eyes and turned around. Harriet wiped away another tear and crept close to him.
"I can't help how I feel", she sobbed, resting her head against his back.
Nels didn't answer.
Nels turned around and looked at her. He slowly reached out his hand and patted her cheek. She knew that he could see her pain, for he knew her better than anyone. He was the only one who had ever understood her – the only one (except the children) who could open her heart.
"Harriet, don't cry", he said, pulling her close.
Harriet nestled into his nightshirt, soaking it with her tears.
"There there", Nels gently said, stroking her back. "It's alright dear. I know how much you've hurt."
Harriet nodded and put her arms around his neck. She was grateful for what she had. She was grateful for her husband – even though he was a bit thick sometimes, and her children; her Nellie, her Willie and Nancy – and the grandchildren. She had sworn to always keep them safe, and that was why Doctor Baker had to go. She would not stop until he left town. Harriet met Nels' eyes and gently stroked his chin.
"I love you Nels", she whispered.
Nels smiled and wrapped his arms around her waist.
"I love you too Harriet, but that doesn't mean that I'm not ashamed of your behavior."
"I know", she said. It would take some time to convince him that she was right, but she would succeed – she was sure of it. Doctor Baker would soon be history. In a couple of weeks, Walnut Grove would have doctor that they could trust. Harriet smiled. Everything would be alright. They would soon be safe.