If your brother can’t give you grief, who can?
August 25, 2013
A VG Serial: Nelson & Cora
McGinnis Plantation, Kentucky, 1866
George didn’t want to talk to talk to Nelson about Miss Ross. He thought about telling him he hadn’t seen her. George hoped that with everything going on at the plantation that would be enough for Nelson to keep his mind off of the Ross girl.
Nelson met him at the front door. Apollo was lying on the porch, stretched out, sleeping soundly. George reached down to scratch his belly.
“He’s not moving around too much right now. But, he’s getting better,” Nelson said.
Apollo raised his head when George touched him. He rolled further on his back.
“I think he is on the fast road to recovery,” George said.
He walked through the door and started taking off his boots.
“Well, did you see her?” Nelson asked.
“I wasn’t supposed to see her. Remember? She doesn’t live at the courthouse, contrary to what you seem to think. The case her brother tried is over,” George sighed as he spoke.
“But did you?” Nelson asked.
“Good grief man. Yes. Yes, I did see your Cora Ross,” George said.
“Not so loud, Georgie. Gert’s sleeping and Mattie is resting too,” Nelson said, smiling.
He made no mention of their father or mother.
“But, you did see her? Where? What did she say? What did you say? Did you tell her what I said? Did you tell her exactly like I told you to tell her?” Nelson asked.
George tried not to laugh. He thought that Nelson sounded exactly like he used to on Christmas morning when they were boys.
“Yes. Yes, I saw her. At the courthouse. Maybe that is her residence after all,” George said. He walked passed Nelson and into the kitchen.
Even as bad as Mattie was feeling, there sat the pitcher of milk. George poured himself a small glass.
“George, I swear. Stop stalling and tell me,” Nelson said. “If it’s bad, I need to know it. Is it bad? It isn’t bad, is it?”
“No, ninny. It isn’t bad,” George said. He sat down at the table, finished his glass of milk and poured another one.
“Tell me what happened, exactly,” Nelson said. He sat down at the table next to his brother.
George grinned. He couldn’t help it. It wasn’t too often that he was in a position to give his older brother grief. He wasn’t going to just let it pass by.
“She said she did not even want to hear your name, under no circumstances was I to even utter your name in her presence,” George said.
George continued. “So, you can imagine how difficult it was for me to tell her what you said without saying your name. I think she was a little offended when I referred to you as bootlicker. It may have been when I called you a scrub. I can’t remember. Oh, wait.
It was when I said you were a toady. That was what offended her,” George said. He laughed.
Nelson stared at him. He wanted to get mad, but he couldn’t. His brother had gotten over on him. He let George have his fun.
“And, what did she say?” Nelson finally asked.
“Alright, alright,” George said when he quit laughing. “Do you want me to try to sound like her too?” George asked.
“No, that won’t be necessary,” Nelson said.
“She smiled a lot,” George said.
“Smiled at you? Smiled before you started telling her what I said? Or after?” Nelson asked.
“She wasn’t smiling when I started talking to her. In fact, she acted like she didn’t really want to see me at all,” George said.
“Keep going. At this rate it will take you all day,” Nelson said.
“Fine. I told her you said you hoped she was well. She said thank you very much. She appreciated it. And, she smiled,” George said.
“And the other? Did you tell her the other? Please, George, tell me that you didn’t forget the other part,” Nelson said.
George had never seen his brother like this. “I didn’t forget, Nelson. I told her. As embarrassing as it was for me, a grown man, a lawyer, to tell her, I told her,” George said.
“And?” Nelson asked.
“And, she smiled some more. She said for me to tell you that no one has dared to shush her again. That’s what she said, exactly,” George said.
He pushed himself back from the table and stretched out his legs.
“That’s not all. She thanked me for telling her,” George said.
Nelson’s smile was so wide all his teeth were showing.
Mattie came in the kitchen.
“George, you just make it back?” She held her arm out to the side. The splint Dr. Edwin put on her wrist was bulky, but she seemed to be making do with it.
“Yes. Just now. How’s Gert? How did she manage last night?” George asked.
“You should ask that man there. He stayed with her all night. Wouldn’t let me do anything. Said I needed to rest too,” Mattie said. She went to the stove and started boiling some broth to take to Gertrude.
“How did she do?” George asked Nelson.
“Good. Compared to the other night, real good. She is drinking Willow Bark tea, like
Dr. Edwin said for the fever. Awful smelling, but I guess it’s working. She’s been awake a lot this morning. Had some broth last night. That seemed to help her,” Nelson said.
When Mattie finished making the broth, the three of them went upstairs together.
“Look who made it back, Gert,” Nelson said.
George stood next to her bed. “You look better already. You’ll be up again in no time,”
Mattie sat in the wooden chair closest to the bed. Nelson moved behind the bed and carefully adjusted Gert’s pillow. Mattie spooned the broth into Gert’s mouth.
Nelson told her they would be back in a bit. George patted her hand before they walked into the hall.
“How long will she be like that?” George asked.
“You know as much as I do. You heard everything same as me,” Nelson said.
“It’s not right. Her lying there, suffering like that,” George said.
“I will take care of it,” Nelson said.
“What’s Father said?” George asked.
“About what you would expect. That Mother’s not well. That Gert will get better. That life will go on,” Nelson said. He couldn’t repeat it without getting furious all over again.
“What are you planning to do?” George asked.
“I’d rather not say, in case you’re planning on talking me out of it,” Nelson said.
“What if I would like to help you?” George asked.
“George, this is something I have to handle on my own. I am the oldest. I left her here, her and Mattie both. If I had been here, this wouldn’t have happened,” Nelson said. He leaned against the wall next to Gertrude’s door.
“Fair enough,” George said. He turned to go back in and sit with Gert.
Nelson started down the hall to the stairs. George called out to him.
“Nelson, however you handle it, that’s your decision. But, think it through. How far are you willing to go in this? How do you think it will end up for Gert? Don’t make it worse for her,” George said.
Nelson started back down the stairs. “She will never be alone with them again,” he said.
Chapters of the serial are published on Sunday.
You can learn more about Nelson & Cora on Amazon.